Chapter Four - The Thoughts of One
Including the underground unit, the club is sectioned into three stories. The club itself is the first, where the underground is a floor of its own, and then we have the second story. The second story is only authorized through only myself and my blood related family. If anyone else is to set foot on the stairs, they’d have to be present with me and me only. It is closed off to anyone else, otherwise, they are killed on the spot. Simple, nothing else to it.
When I came back to the club, there wasn’t much guests as there were when we first opened the doors. I was heading towards the stairs and just about set my foot on the first step when my brother, Leonov, came up from behind.
“Boss, you should really take care of things more cautiously,” Leonov said as he held up my only ring I ever wore.
I snatched the heavy ring from his open palm and quickly settled it where it should always be: right on my ring finger. I didn’t even notice it was missing.
I shook my head at my unthoughtful self, wishing I could have paid more attention before. I promised myself that I would hold onto this ring as if my life depended on it, but it didn’t matter anymore since I broke that promise. What the f*ck is wrong with me today? This ring holds more value to me than all the money I possess or all the territory I own. This ring was passed down from Father to Father as a sign who is who. It’s been through the line of the Dmitrievich Family for generations and now here I was, the one dumbass that screws it up.
“Apparently, Artem told me it was the girl you were with earlier found it,” Leonov explained, “Keep it safe, Boss. Don’t want it lost forever.”
Today has been shit. First Mosin is unconscious in the infirmary, I lost my ring that I didn’t even know I lost, and the Irish-scum has acted against my seaport that I’ve had since my grandfather’s reign. And all of this because of a fucking traitor who’s been working under my nose for who knows how long. I almost attacked out irrationally when I realized that I needed to make a meeting with my Brigadiers... What a great way to end the night, Ivan...
The glass stairs led to a one-way hallway that contained a door at the end. On the other side of the wooden door was an empty room. Nothing grand like the rest of the club; just an empty room. There was no furniture to decorate the room, no windows to reveal the life of my city, and no televisions to watch the entertainment that came with it. All there was, was nothing, but dust. However, I knew what secrets that laid in plain sight.
Located in the middle of the right wall structure, behind the torn-up wallpaper that littered the walls, was a door. To the normal eyes, it would be hard to locate since it blends in.
Once I entered the lone and secluded room, I was revealed a room to what I’ve seen far too many times. The room was barely decorated; might as well be just like the room this one was hiding in. But, that’s what she liked. She hated crowded and large rooms.
The room only contained a mahogany desk that was settled against the wall, and that’s where the fun was. A whole panel of screens were hooked up on the wall where it revealed the secrets of the club. A small fridge, that I knew contained bottles of water and sandwiches, was settled next to the desk, and next to the desk was a blowup mattress. On the other side of the room was a bathroom where I could hear the shower just about turning off, where she was.
I checked the monitors where she would stalk us, and found one of them already watching the infirmary. Mosin was laying unconsciously on a bed that I knew was uncomfortable, with an oxygen mask covering his mouth. Tarasov was by his side, sleeping.
I looked down at my crossed arms at the sight. I hated seeing my men like this. It wasn’t the first time I’ve seen them as such, but I always wished that it would be my last. These were my men, my brothers. There will be lost, but the thought doesn’t help the blow.
The door to the bathroom was opened, but I kept my gaze on the camera where I was watching my two brothers.
“He will be fine,” her Russian accent rasped out, “He should be awake by tomorrow morning, but he’ll be a bit dazed.”
Here in Verdic, too many things are restricted. Not only does Martial Law restrict our very movement during the night, but it also keeps others cautious just by hearing our own accents. You hear the Russian accent apparently, it’s a cue to run for your lives. You hear the Irish accent apparently, it’s a cue to hide and make sure you never make a sound. Even those that aren’t even associated with the mafia or the mob are taken in for questioning just because of their accents. As much as it is to see people squirm, it doesn’t help us one bit.
Now, there’s the difference between her and us. We keep ourselves more restricted and cautious. She doesn’t give a single fuck on what the hell she does. She’ll speak to you with her authentic accent and if you run off in fear, she’ll fall to the ground in tears laughing herself to death. Nothing can get under her skin and never will she let anything do so.
“We have a traitor,” I informed her as I kept my gaze on the one specific screen.
“I know,” she said as she grabbed a bottled water, “Just give me the word and I can track them down for you.”
“And giving you that word will cost me,” I growled irritably under my breath, “There’s always a price.”
All she did was scoff. That little...
“That is all,” I sighed as I brushed my hair back with my hand, “And another thing, don’t roam around as much.”
“Is that it?” she asked in strict boredom. I observed the way her eyelids were dripping in what I could only figure as drowsiness and the way her figure was relaxed in my presence. As much as it looked like she was relaxed, she was always on alert no matter what.
I gave a small nod in response and she said, “Good, now get out. I have better things to do than associate with you.”
I narrowed my eyes at her tired tone and dared her to say something else. She knew how to push my buttons, but there was nothing I could do about it. If she were some other person giving me that tone, I’d have their tongue ripped out in seconds. However, she’s not just “some other person.” She was our secret.
Not wanting to deal with her any longer, I turned away from her delicate looking figure and towards the closed door. But, before I could leave, her voice rang out in her regular bored tone, “Ivan, another thing: her name is Eleanor Maedric.”
Eleanor Maedric... I felt my familiar smirk appear at the intricate name. You can’t encounter much people with the last name “Maedric.”
For the past two weeks, my mind has been racing. Restless nights and my own clumsiness does not mix well, and all of that has been because of him. My mind has been constantly thinking of the stranger that I met at the club and I can’t get him out of my head. He was the first person that willingly spoke to me ever since Martial Law was set up, other than Kat. My grandmother and I don’t interact with each other ever since my parent’s death. They weren’t quick deaths; I should know better than anyone else.
“Eleanor, what’s wrong?” I heard my grandmother ask from behind me as she settled her gentle hand on my shoulder in some type of comfort. I held onto it tightly and dearly as I wiped my tears away with the back of my other hand. I never want to let go of his hand, ever.
“It’s nothing to worry about, grandma,” I said as I looked back at her with my most convincing smile, “I just yawned.”
The next day I noticed Kat giving her full attention on me than on checking the money in the cash register. I had my back towards her where I wouldn’t be able to see her following stares, but my hands couldn’t stop shaking with the pot in my hand. Whenever Kat knew something was wrong, she’ll let you know that she knows in her own way. Because of my clumsiness and nervousness from her stares, the ceramic shattered when it felt out of my fingers. The shattered pieces were spread everywhere and I felt deep regret when I realized that I broke my first pot. I never once broke anything during work. I may have tripped here and there, but never have I broken anything.
I knelt to pick up the pieces, but I dropped them once again when I felt a sharp sting on my fingers.
“Alright, that’s enough Eleanor,” Kat stopped me as she hurried over with a broom, “Go to the bathroom and clean yourself up. I’ll clean up the pieces.”
As I purposely took my time cleaning my bleeding fingers, I kept my eyes away from the mirror. I knew that if I looked I would look exhausted and dead. Pathetic, I know. I knew there would be dark rings under my eyes, slight bags, and droopy eyelids. And I also knew this would all accommodate with a small frown. But that shouldn’t matter since my “every day face” is always a small frown.
After I cleaned the cuts, I watched from the doorway of the bathroom as Kat hurriedly cleaned the broken pieces. She was humming my childhood memory’s short-film theme song that I grew up watching: Popeye the Sailor Man. Kat would do the most random things, but today she seemed more determined than usual.
“Alright, what’s been going on with you Eleanor?” Kat asked after she cleaned up with a hand on her hip, “I’ve noticed the different changes in you recently and clearly you haven’t been getting enough sleep. What’s going on?”
I directed my gaze anywhere else, except at her. One dark, piercing gaze from her and she could unravel you like a scroll. I stayed where I was, leaning against the doorway and fiddled with my thumbs. She knew I was nervous when I did that or rubbed my arms; she’s that observant. She may be childish most of the times, but when she needs to be serious, she will be. That was one of the features about her I respected and slightly feared.
“Is there something going on between you and grandma?” Kat asked in sudden concern. Kat was practically family; she usually called my grandmother “grandma” as well.
“No, you know I would tell you if there was,” I mumbled quietly.
“Then tell me what the hell is going on,” Kat demanded in exasperation, “You worrying the hell out of me and it feels as if there’s nothing I can do about it. Eleanor, you literally look like death and it hurts me to see you like this. Tell me what is -”
She stopped in the middle of her sentence as her eyes narrowed and looked away with a thoughtful look. She turned away from me as she started mumbling under her breath on possibilities that ranged from me getting laid to her hurting my feelings while she was drunk. But not even ten seconds later did she abruptly turn around with her eyes as wide as the sun, as if she finally found out a long-lost mystery.
With a smile defeating the wideness of the Cheshire Cat’s from Alice in Wonderland, Kat exclaimed excitedly, “What happened back at the club?”
“Nothing happened,” I said cautiously as I took a step away from her.
“Yes, something did!” she shouted as she jumped up and down, “Who was the guy you were with?”
“You remember him?”
“There was a guy!”
“Look, all I know is that he’s somehow associated with the club. That’s it,” I said with a tired sigh as I grabbed the broom from her flinging hands.
As I put the broom back in the supply closet, Kat pulled out her phone and started typing away. If possible her smile was growing even wider.
“What are you doing?” I asked as I viewed her from behind the counter.
“Wait...” she simply said in the middle of the store. After a few more seconds, she crossed the room with long strides and pushed the phone in my face. I quickly recognized the face on the phone.
“Please tell me this is the guy you were with,” Kat said with bubbled up excitement, waiting to blow up.
“Yeah, that’s him,” I replied as I stared into the perfect picture. Everything about that picture hit me like a raging storm as I stared back into those playful eyes that burned a bright blue. It felt as though the picture was staring into my soul, finding my deepest and darkest secret.
Feeling uncomfortable, I pushed Kat’s hand away that held her phone and stared down at my feet.
“He’s the hotshot owner of the Inferno,” Kat informed me as she scrolled through the pictures of him, “Did you have sex with him?”
“What? No!” I exclaimed as I stared at her, “No, I don’t even know his name.”
“It’d be best if you didn’t,” she said, “He’s bad news, Eleanor. He goes through women like girls go through clothes and shoes together.”
I looked away at the casualness she said it. It hurt deep within me to know that the man I was thinking about, the man who made me loose two weeks of precious sleep, was the man I couldn’t and shouldn’t be with.
I already knew he was bad news from the start; I just didn’t listen to myself. I wanted to forget him, forget everything about him, but my mind wouldn’t let me. I wasn’t obsessed with him; it was his different persona that drew me towards him. The same persona that held a dark mystery was the same persona that made me want to know more. I like that: Dark Mystery. I think I’ll stick with that.
Kat noticed my immediate disappointment in my eyes before I could even reveal it through my facial expression. Over the counter, she pulled me within her arms and squeezed me as hard as she could. I brought my face to her slender neck where I met my comfort in a disappointment because that was all I felt: disappointment.
He was the bait and I was the fish, and I was too stupid to let go. And what made everything worse was that I didn’t want to let go.
I sighed into her neck where she tightened her hold on me. Not usual I would receive comfort since I’m the one who usually gives it. I never did like depending on others and that did include comfort. It was usually something I gave myself, but this time it felt different. It felt true and warm, not like my usual cold and regular comfort that I give myself.
“One day, you’ll find a man that will give you the comfort that you’ll want and need. You’ll never know, he could walk into your life in an unexpected way,” Kat said as she rubbed my back, “What’s the worst that could happen?”
What’s the worst that could happen?
For the past two weeks, I detached myself from photography. I was too caught up with my self-problems that I didn’t take time to do the one thing that brought me joy. So, I decided that I would try tonight.
When everything was settled, I bid my grandmother goodbye, and ordered me a cabby. Since it was the weekday, I went downtown and settled myself within the heart of Verdic. This time, I wasn’t watching from the top of a bakery and captured life from afar. I knew this time I would get perfect pictures that would settled myself and others down. This time I will be taking pictures of life up close.
The sun was just about to disappear into the horizon and it made the city look magnificent, despite its situation. The warm colors of the sun shine onto the buildings or how it reflected off the corners of the mirror buildings made everything feel like a movie. Seeing the sun set behind the horizon was a beautiful illusion. An illusion that captured everyone within its grasp and I always prayed it would never let us go.
Kat would consistently wonder how I’m able to walk around the city or the park for hours and never die out in exhaustion every night. Since I’m almost always on my feet every day, it made it seem almost impossible to be able to suck it up and go out into the night where I would usually stay pass midnight.
And I would always respond with, “There are people who find hope through pictures and experience, not through others who continually tell them ‘everything will be alright.’”
With that said, she would go back to work without saying another word. If people can’t find the hope they need or are looking for, I’d give them what they might need and that would be through my pictures. My pictures aren’t just something for entertainment; they’re for hope. When I started photography, it wasn’t before Martial Law was set up. It wasn’t after my parent’s death, but it was one of the causes.
You can live without love from another, but once you lose your faith and hope, then you are just blindly walking through a field of thorns, missing the path that is covered with petals of flowers. My father used to tell me that, as well as, “If you can find your hope and faith, then there’s nothing that can stop you.”
The sun was already set and I still hadn’t had enough pictures that could satisfy me. It was 11:32 and I was walking around the city for a little break. There wasn’t much people where I was, but there were others here and there. This was the night where the freedom fighters would express themselves and live their lives as they want to. There were groups of men and women walking side by side, couples taking a nightly stroll, hand-in-hand, and then there was me: stressing over what I was going to do next.
After I walked around aimlessly, I stopped myself and rested on the sidewalk beneath me. I was a bit exhausted and my stomach was starting to rumble from being empty. Not caring if others were around, I pulled out my camera and skimmed though my pictures over the passing hours. I had pictures ranging from the setting sun, buildings, people, and the sky. I needed to end the night with something spectacular, but my hands were a bit shaky.
But for now, I settled my camera on my lap and enjoyed the night breeze. It was almost always cool during the nights and it would be warm in the mornings and afternoons, but it becomes easily humid. Summers are always a pain in the a*s and the humidity makes it worse. Every year I would try to convince my grandmother to move away: away from Florida, from Verdic, from the war, from our memories. But she’s too emotionally attached. Whenever I start up the conversation, she ends it.
Deciding to wait a few more minutes before walking around, I supported myself on my palms. The concrete was cool and the night breeze rushing through the air made the atmosphere better. It’s nights like these that relax me from the troubling world of reality. It’s nights like these that gives me serene peace. It’s nights like these that I knew my parents would have loved strolling through.
But of course, it’s the best times that can’t last forever. Across the street from me was when I heard them: a group of men walking around. I noticed the way how some of them were wearing suits, with or without their jackets, but the jackets are what dictate who they were. The night light of the stars and the moon reflected off their guns that were holstered at their hip or shoulder straps. Some were even holding their guns in plain sight, and they were all enjoying themselves, laughing and shoving. It was everything about the group that made me nervous, but it was their distinct accents that screamed “danger.” My whole head was screaming me to run and that’s what I was planning to do.
No one could mistake the Irish Mob. No one.