Weeks had passed, I constantly walked around the house on pins and needles, afraid to breathe the wrong way. In the most recent weeks there had been plenty of talk about Val’s plan to find out who in the house was giving the Irish valuable information. The key factor in this insane plan was me, I was the pawn and simply just a part of their twisted chess game. By the time the day game that I had to proceed with the plan, I was feeling more nauseous than I ever have in my life. It was a terrifying feeling not being in control of your decisions, I probably never would be again.
I stood in front of Val in nothing but my bra and underwear. He was connecting wires to me but doing it in a very time consuming process, slowly and cautiously. He linked the wires under the padding of my bra and the batteries were hooked right where the clasp of my bra was.
Val stepped back to examine his work, leaving me feeling highly uncomfortable at his eyes on me. Something about this man made me feel something I could explain, a hatred so strong that it brought me to tears. He was selfish, vile and downright terrifying. He knew the affect that he had on me and I could see in his eyes that he liked keeping me on my toes. At any time I could get slapped across the face and he could do it without reason, because Val never needed a reason for anything.
More recently, I’ve reviewed my options. It seems that every time I disagree or argue with him, I end up in an ever worse situation. How hard could it be to just listen to him and not disobey? Well, now I’m standing in front of him with wires all over me.
There was no limit.
“Mmm... I think this will do for now,” He muttered.
I raised an eyebrow, looking down at my form, “For now? Val, if Coilin--”
“Do you think I’m stupid?” He asked me.
“What? No... I just--”
“Then Sta ’zitto. ”
[Translation: Sta ’zitto - Shut Up]
Truthfully, I was scared. Val was carelessly risking my life and I couldn’t do anything about it. I just had to bite my tongue and listen. He might as well put a gun to my head and shoot.
“Put the dress on that I have set out for you, I want to make sure that the wires don’t show,” He motioned towards the bed where a black cocktail dress was laid out, “You’ll also wear a shall, it’s better to be safe.”
“You take the safe route?” I commented sarcastically but stopped when I realized the boundaries I was crossing, “It looks lovely.”
When I walked to the bed, I heard the door close behind me. Val had disappeared from the room, leaving me to change privately which I was grateful for. Rarely did I get any kind of privacy lately.
The dress was tight which concerned me. If it was too tight, the wires would show but this dress was an extreme tight, causing the wires to press into my skin so deeply that there wasn’t a single hint of wires being on my body.
It felt fine, but I knew that after a few hours it would surely pain.
Val had the evening planned out right to the finest detail. I would be dropped off at the casino, one that was famous for mafia members going to do business and bidding. Val had gotten a tip that Coilin would be there tonight, so it seemed like the entire plan was rushed. Val wouldn’t be there, though. Instead, he would be listening to everything from the comfort of his office here at home.
Gustavo was going to drop me off outside of the Casino and from there, I was on my own. It seemed extremely reckless in my opinion.
My eyes adverted to the door as it creaked open and Gianna popped her head in and she was frowning, “Elaina... I can’t tell you enough to be safe. I can’t believe he’s doing this to you. It’s extremely dangerous.”
“Trust me, I know.”
I felt an aching in the pit of my stomach, fear and dread. The last thing I wanted in this entire world was to take on the mafia world at all, let alone by myself.
“I’m almost certain that he doesn’t care if I die doing this, as long as he finds out who the rat is...” I muttered, hating the man whom I shared a last name and a bullshit promise.
“That’s why you’re doing this? To find out the rat?” Gianna seemed surprised which made me feel like I finally wasn’t over reacting for once, “I’m sure there’s more ways than this.”
“That’s what I said, Val only told me not to question him,” I explained to her. “I just want my freedom back, you know? I want to be able to make decisions for myself for once or be normal. You may have chosen this life, but I didn’t.”
Gianna gave me a sympathetic smile, “Well, I also go the good brother, remember.”
She was right about that. Stefano and Val were opposites. Good versus evil. Of course Stefano wasn’t perfect, far from it, but you have bad guy, and then you have Val. Val exceeded every horrible word in the dictionary.
After speaking with Gianna for a handful of minutes, my time had come to leave. The dreaded moment finally arriving. As Gianna hugged me, I heard her voice speak in a comforting tone, “You’ll be okay... Just be careful, please...”
One good thing had come out of this horrible life and that was meeting Gianna. Even in my years of normality, I never had a friend as dedicated and compassionate as she. She loved hard and in the darkness of my life, her friendship was the light that I needed.
“Here’s a burner phone,” Gustavo said was he reached between the front seats of the SUV and passed it to me, “The code is 1306, as soon as you unlock that phone it activates an alarm on Val’s phone which will let him know if you’re in danger. Remember, even if you unlock it to look like you’re busy, the alarm will still go off so don’t use this phone unless it’s an emergency.”
I stared at the phone in my hand, it looked like a regular phone. I didn’t bother to ask Gustavo how this alarm thing got set up, I only nodded. The sooner I left this vehicle, the sooner this night would be over and if I was lucky, I’d survive to see morning.
“Keep in mind that Val hears everything through the mics on you, speak clearly but don’t make it seem obvious,” He added.
“Yeah... Got it.”
“Alright, I think that’s covered. Now, what’s the code?” He asked me.
I took a deep breath, “1306.”
“Good.” Gustavo kept it short, motioning towards the casino, “Get going. Coilin is supposed to have arrived already.”
I didn’t bother to say another word as I stepped out of the SUV. This was the first time in months that I was in public alone. A part of me wanted to run but the more intelligent part of me knew that I wouldn’t get far. As I weighed out my options, I settled for the smart alternative and headed directly into the crowded casino.
I was surprised to have not been ID’d, which was good because I didn’t have an ID anyway. The again, this is an illegal casino, so I’m sure IDs are the least of their worries.
This was my first time in a casino and the atmosphere was extremely intimidating. Everyone had serious looks on their faces as they played with fate, tossing wads of cash onto blackjack tables. Many of the men had guns visible in their holsters and I tried my best to avoid those people, but any time I turned there as another.
“You look lost,” A voice said closely to me, a strong accent was heard and goosebumps trailed up my arms.
It wasn’t a terrifying Italian accent, but French. The kind of accent that rolled beautifully off of the tongue.
I looked next to me, seeing a handsome man in a suit. His hair brown and eyes hazel, “Tell me you’re not here alone. This is not the place to be for a beautiful young woman on her own.”
I didn’t know what to say. I was stumped and I knew I had a role to play, but I wasn’t sure how. “I can take care of myself just fine, thank you.”
It came off more sassy than I intended, but I was pleased with my quick response and the man seemed intrigued also, “Finally, a woman that can speak up for herself. It’s a pleasure to meet you, love. The name’s Andre.”
“Nice to meet you, Andre,” I answered, leaving it at that.
“I see you’re not so eager to introduce yourself?” He asked me, “Then again, I suppose you don’t have to Mrs. Acerbi.”
My air got caught in my throat when he said Val’s last name. Of course he knew, this place was flooded with mafia, everyone here knew of me because of my monstrous husband, “You can just call me Elaina.”
“Elaina... The name suits you.” Andre nodded his head slowly with a soft smile, “Elaina means bright and shining light, which is why I was drawn to you. I knew from the moment you walked through those front doors that you were different than the rest of the women in here.”
Normally when someone says something so strange, I would be concerned and slightly creeped out, but Andre said it in the most oft way possible that I couldn’t take it as anything other than charming, “Different?”
He nodded his head and pointed towards a woman with pitch black hair, “She killed her own father so she could be inherited his billions...” Andre then pointed to another woman, she had a gun holster on her leg and it didn’t take a genius to know she was a badass, “And she, well... I doubt it’s a coincidence that all three of her husbands died from suspicious deaths.”
I hadn’t realized that my mouth was gaped open. This new found information was frightening, I didn’t just have to worry about the men here, I also had to worry about the women, “Oh god... You must come here a lot to know that.”
Andre shook his head ad took a long swing of his alcoholic beverage before responding, “Everyone knows everyone. You should know that by now.”
He was right. Everyone did know everyone and this was no exception. Everyone would look at me and recognize me from being the wife of one of the most dangerous and hateful people that walked the Earth.
“Don’t be scared, love. Anyone would be stupid to mess with Valentino Acerbi’s wife,” Andre reassured me, but it still wasn’t very comforting.
I tilted my head slightly, “Who are you?”
“I know that... I mean, are you...” I wasn’t sure how to ask someone if they were in the mafia but I was almost certain of the answer.
“Yes, darling. I am what you call the mafia,” He answered for me, “French quarters.”
“No... My brother became capo after my father passed,” Andre was surprisingly open, it made him all the more easy to speak to, “He’s the eldest, so it’s his role.”
Just like Val is older than Stefano.
“Well, I’m sorry about your father,” I responded softly, unsure what else I could say after he spilled his guts to me.
“Don’t be. He was a son of a bitch.”
I couldn’t help but giggle as how casually Andre said that about his own father, but at least he wasn’t blinded by family. Even the worse people have someone standing by them, all because of the blood that runs through their veins. I knew that Val would always stand by his father, no matter the traumatic childhood he had, just as Stefano stood by Val even through his hateful nature.
“Elaina... Well, isn’t is a surprise to see you here,” The voice of the one person I didn’t want to see tonight, aside from Val. It was Coilin which meant my work was about to begin but as I turned to look at him, the fear that had been coursing through my body became so much stronger.
It was too late to go back now. Coilin was standing right in front of me and I had mics and wires tangled all over my body. This was it, either the beginning of solving Val’s mystery or the end of my life.