Chapter 31 - Tears of an Angel (part one)
24 HOURS LATER
It feels as if there’s something weighing down on my chest, an object so heavy that it’s suffocating me, compressing my lungs to the point of where I’m silently suffering.
It’s as if drowning underwater.
“I don’t think you’ll like this,” Gio says as he shuts the metal door. It’s rust makes a loud creak as it seals and locks in place.
My eyes flutter open, staring blankly at the concrete floor that can barely be seen from the small amount of light that we have down here.
Slowly I sit up straight, repositioning my legs. They feel sore from this shipment box that I’ve been sitting on for the past few hours.
This shit better be worth it.
“Tell me.” Giving Gio my attention, I see him wiping his hands carefully against a dark wet cloth, his knuckles are bruising and his skin is split with blood trickling down his forearm.
It’s not all of his.
“He’s not with Andrik,” sighing, shaking his head.
His body language gives off frustration.
My jaw clenches, face slightly scrunching as I reject the idea. “He’s lying,” simply stating.
He has to be.
There’s no way that this man can be with anyone else but with Andrik Petrov. The Petrovs’ are the only people my family has issues with, and it stems from that night of chaos.
“What?” The offense in Gio’s voice has me almost regretting my words.
Doubt isn’t something Romanos’ take well from others.
“You don’t think my tactics aren’t effective?” The vexation rises in his tone and that action alone triggers a violence in me.
Now isn’t the time to rest me.
In a rush I’m on my feet and my hands are around my older cousin’s neck, slamming him into the door he just came out from. “I can’t afford for there to be anyone else!” I yell, seething with rage that I’ve been trying to reign all day.
Being so close to losing Cherry has had me on edge but I didn’t think I’d snap like this against my own blood.
It’s been too long since I’ve last lost control.
“Have you been honest with us?” Gio’s demeanor changes along with the volume of his voice.
It’s low as he watches me with caution.
His hands are wrapped around mine, just holding them, not fighting back.
Eventually my grip slips from his neck and I pull back, stepping a few feet away.
“I could ask you the same thing,” muttering with irritation. “Did you or the others do something you shouldn’t have?” If they did, that could be a reason as to why a hit was put onto Cherry.
“If that happened, he wouldn’t have been after your girl.” Gio rubs his throat, pushing off the door. “One of us would be a hit, not a Valentino.”
My arms cross over my chest, a hand rubbing down my face. “She’s not a Valentino anymore,” admitting, unable to look at him at first.
No one knows besides my father, not even my own mother.
I hear him lowly scoff, shuffling his feet as he adjusts his stance. “Well fuck, were you planning on telling the rest of us?”
Reading my expression gives him the answer he’s looking for when I look at him. His lips tighten, grimacing as he curses under his breath.
“I still stand by what I said, Alessio. He’s not lying.” Gio emphasizes on the last part, trying to get it through me.
“Bugiardo.” This can’t be true.
“You just don’t want to admit that you could have more enemies than you originally thought,” he harshly accuses. “That man is not with any type of crew. It’s just one man he’s connected to,” he continues, holding up his index finger for me to clearly see. “That man in that room is a hitman working freelance for a man that goes by the name of Ace.”
“Ace,” I repeat, thinking hard about that name. “I don’t know an Ace,” truthfully saying which only pisses me off further.
Who the hell is this Ace?
“Neither do I. It could be a fake name but it’s the only name he knows.” Pointing to me with that same finger, his gesture is exclamatory. “That I made sure of.” Dropping his hand, his arm hits loudly against his thigh, it’ll be a while till his skin heals completely.
“Our friend back there was doing a job for this supposed Ace. And although they’ve met once and exchanged numbers, he’s never actually seen Ace’s face.”
“But why her?” I just don’t get it. It has to be bad blood that the Valentinos’ have with someone else.
It can’t be from the Romanos’ side. We never leave our enemies lingering for us to be taken advantage of in the future.
“That’s the thing. He doesn’t know who Cherry is, he doesn’t even know about our business.” Gio is just as exasperated as I am. This whole time he’s been trying to get information out of a clueless mercenary who was caught trying the wrong family. “He’s pretty fucken useless for any real information that we need.”
A small pace begins on my end as I run my hand through my hair, thinking about how much time we’ve wasted. “What else did you learn?”
“Insignificant things. He’s from New York, a hired gun for the past ten years, other shit like that.” Even my cousin knows this was somewhat of a lost cause.
The name Ace and a phone number is all we have.
I just hope it’s not a burner phone and a fake name, then we’d really have nothing.
“You’re right. He is useless,” repeating aloud as I stop my movements, coming to terms with what has to be done. “It’s this Ace who's the real issue.”
“Take him to ports,” I command with finality.
Gio looks at me with subtle surprise. “Why, what are you going to do?”
I don’t think I need to explain.
“You’re first real executive order is going to be an execution.” Disbelief is written across his face.
Is it really that shocking given the situation.
“We could use the mercenary as bait and set Ace up, make him come to us,” Gio tries to reason, but he doesn’t understand what Ace is really capable of, and it’s time he knows.
My teeth clench, dreading my next words. “No. Ace wouldn’t fall for something as easy as that.”
How could I realize this just now? When Gio was explaining everything, past events that I’ve never given much thought of started to make sense.
It was all connecting.
“This Ace has managed to fool us all. This entire time he’s been breaking into the Valentino’s home. Stalking so many of us, time and time again he’s been crossing not only their security but ours.”
“Ours?” Gio asks.
“Do you remember what Fionn said the night he was shot, about the shadow he saw?” It’s hard for me to get the words out, thinking about how we could’ve lost our cousin.
“I saw the shadow too ... and Cherry has seen the shadow before as well, multiple times actually. It was him — it was Ace.”
I take a moment to deeply inhale, this next part is something that I can’t be completely sure of but it’s the only theory I have.
“The explosion at the docks, the one that started this all .... I think it was Ace who did it. He knew exactly where we would be, he’s known it all from the very beginning.”
It’s all so calculated well, timed precisely.
This was done with care.
Gio slouches against the wall, sliding down until he’s sitting on the floor. He’s taking in all of this fresh information. His forehead rests against his fists that rest on his knees, looking down as he concentrates, trying to puzzle all of this together.
“We already have problems with the Petrovs’ — something that was a mistake... and now this Ace.”
My decision is made up, and I’m ready to take the next step.
I have to tell my father about this, and Cherry’s.
“Tonight, I’ll show this assassin the same mercy he showed my wife.”