S I X T E E N
Ever since Dante entered Chicago, he has been hiding underground. Thankfully, he kept a low profile and didn’t create much trouble to stage a red flag for the Romanos. Andrew kept touch with him, playing the role of his loyal soldier and conveyed me whatever message Dante wanted him to deliver.
I was neither interested to see his face nor inclined to listen to whatever advice he had to give. The sole reason was: he was impatient and wanted quicker results. I, on the other hand, wanted to play to safe. Not because I was afraid of death, but I wanted to live to see the downfall of the men who took away my mother and my infant brother.
They were innocents, the collateral damage to the wild vengeance spree of the Romanos.
They could have come after Dante, but they didn’t. They chose the weakest.
So it’s about time they taste their blood on their tongue.
Everything was in motion, according to the plan, until Dominic began to spin the table. He has always been blunt and impulsive, yet he was slowly changing the dynamics inside my head. He was giving me second thoughts on my morals, my life’s sole purpose, and my existence. It made me a wrecking mess around him.
I knew, somewhere deep down, I was slipping, and I couldn’t afford to do this at this point where life and death hung on the edge.
Betraying my blood wasn’t an option.
But, was betraying Dominic a choice?
Somehow the faux-revenge sex and too-much time around Dominic was making me soft and disrupting my plan. So, I thought, maybe meeting with Dante, listening to his crap might invoke something within me that I wouldn’t lose the war I began.
Dante had already left Chicago years ago, thanks to Alessandro Romano’s reign of terror, but still managed to whip up some old contacts from gang leaders and small crime bosses. These were the bread crumb collectors, who somehow managed to hold on to their own in Chicago. The rest of the Illinois street gangs—from Latin Kings to Gaylords—they survived because they didn’t interfere with the Romanos or crosses their paths.
The rule was simple—if you want to live in the jungle, you have to abide by the King of the Jungle, or you die.
As I walk down the dark alley, after changing three cars to make sure that I lose the person following me, I finally managed to enter the building. It was dark, damp, reeking with the smell of old machine oils.
A torchlight flashed, twice, from the top left corner of the room as I followed its direction. Stalking up the creaky, rusty stairs, I wrenched open the door and entered the room, which was finally well-lit.
“You got the time for your old man, finally,” Dante commented sarcastically.
A couple of months did nothing to his old features, except the distasteful looks he threw got nastier. The sparse, sleek hair on his head roughly combed, though the impending victory was making his greedy eyes shine. Staring impassively at the man who was my biological father, I noticed I looked nothing like him. Growing up, I had more similarities with my mother, even though I have no living memory of her.
In a calm voice, I responded dryly, “I have been busy.”
I took the seat and sat across from him, maintaining the deliberate distance, and distractedly looked around. The place looked like some old manufacturing factory from a long ago.
“What the hell is this place?” I muttered, looking at the ceiling and walls.
“This place used to be a meth lab I owned along, with a cartel boss, Andrés Santiago, in the 1970s. Until—” He sighed for a bit. “Until Alessandro ratted him out to the police.”
Chicago was a funny place. Nobody knew who was what until they have the leverage. Politicians, law enforcement, mafia were in bed together for decades, and yet neither of them could stand each other. You can either have loyal friends or arch-rivals—there was nothing in between.
“He was trying to cut your legs off?” I asked. Alessandro was smart; the only time he came after a rival when he knew the person has no defense left. He would destroy the barriers one after the other and then go for the final kill—a perfect destroyer in every sense.
“The bastard wanted to play king,” Dante sneered, his face wrinkled as he reminisced. “He didn’t only want to cut my legs off, but he wanted to eliminate players. The cartels, the Morettis, and the Odessa Mob were ruling the north at that time. We had everything—the powder, the guns, and the money—and we didn’t give a rat’s ass to the fucking Romanos, and that is why they wanted us out.”
“We have to be careful,” I told him. “We hardly have allies in Chicago, and we are trying to dethrone a de-facto mafia king in Chicago. Besides, Viktor is onto me already.”
“That son of a bitch!” Dante sneered, spittle flying as his anger rose in tandem with the tension.
I took the bottle of cheap whiskey, slowly inspecting the amber liquid as I rolled it around in my hand. “Yeah, well, the other son of a bitch has some wind about Andrew too,” I informed, plopping the bottle with a thud.
It took me days to crack into the network Romanos has created, but only to a point. It turned out that they have built their network system and personalized it with an impenetrable firewall. Every device was connected and shielded in such a manner that it was impossible to hack into it. I could only manage to clone Dominic’s phone partially, which gave me the information about Andrew. The fact that he sent out a red alert for someone named Andrew—male, late twenties, and Latino—gave me enough to back off a little.
“I thought you were going to take care of Dominic.” He took a big gulp from the bottle. “What are you waiting for?”
“I have a plan, alright? I am not going to rush things just because you want to,” I said, in a near state of outrage.
He squinted his eyes at me, judging me as I averted away my gaze. And they a disgusted smirk broke out of his lips. “So Dominic isn’t impressed with what he saw, huh?” he asked, dragging his gaze lecherously up-and-down my height, and then shook his head. “I knew you were good for nothing.”
White rage washed over my body. “Whatever I am, I am better than the person you were, who fled the city with his tail between his legs the day they killed your wife and your infant son,” I snarled, barely able to contain the explosion.
Suddenly Dante leaped out of the chair to grab my throat as he pushed me against the chair. “You ungrateful little bitch! I fled to keep you alive!”
Taking a sharp crack at his wrists, I wrenched out of his grip, pushing him to the ground. “You did nothing for me, bastard!” I yelled. “You did it for yourself because you wanted a fucking human weapon! You wanted someone to kill the Romanos for you. Listen to me, Dante.” I stepped closer, shoving the chair aside. “I am not doing this for you; I am doing this for my dead mother. So, not for a fucking second, doubt that.”
Dante slowly rose to his height, his palm fisted at his sides. It looked like he was going to hit me, but I knew he knew better. “Then so be it,” he told me slowly. “But you are failing. You are failing your dead mother and yourself.”
There were a few soundless punches that hurt the most, and this was it. Dante could not throttle me down, so he played dirty. He would use the dead-mother emotion every time I got out of line.
Sometimes, I realized, all mafia men were cut out from the same cloth.
However, I was partially immune to this. I took the self-doubt and shoved it as far down in my gut as it would go, and plugged it. The pain was not an option for me, the vengeance was, and I knew with absolute certainty that the Romanos would have to pay for it.
“There’s a fundraiser tomorrow, at Lincolnwood, and guess who is the biggest donor for the cause supporting homeless women?” I waited, letting his inquisitiveness grow. “Mrs. Mia Romano.”
His greedy eyes shone instantly with excitement. “And?”
“The place where I intern has managed to arrange a personal interview with Mrs. Philanthropic of the Year. If there’s anyone who is closest to Viktor, it’s his wife. Getting to her means getting closer to them,” I told him.
“Are you fucking kidding me? Take out the bitch! You won’t get an opportunity like this!”
I closed my eyes, breathing in and out. How did this man manage to handle mafia business with his dick in place of his brain? Killing Mia would be a suicidal move, but befriending her was worth gold.
“No,” I said, as calmly as I could. “Killing Mia would turn Viktor into a mad bull. The last time Vitello tried to kidnap her, Viktor obliterated his entire clan. He buried Samuel Vitello alive and imprisoned a woman in a mental asylum. Alessandro Romano might have been ruthless, but Viktor is a sadist.”
Dante sighed exasperatedly, taking another long swig out of the bottle. “Fine, do what you need to. When would you be meeting her?”
“Around two p.m.” I turned around to leave but paused to look over my shoulder. “Tell Andrew to stay underground until the wind blows over, and it’s safe for him. And under no circumstances should he try to contact me.”
Grabbing onto the ledge of the building, I looked over Chicago. Once upon a time, people bowed in fear before me, and twenty-five years later, here I was hidden in the dark and cowered behind shadows.
All of this happened because I didn’t recognize the hidden enemy.
One mistake had cost my whole fucking fortune and a victory for the Romanos.
“What was so urgent that you called at three a.m.?” The irritated gravelly voice resonated as I turned around.
There stood the man who was my trump card—the betrayal even Viktor Romano or his brother won’t see coming. They would never see one of their own stabbing them in the back.
“Something important came up,” I said, sauntering closer. “And I will need your help.”
“Depends,” he said cautiously. I wouldn’t expect anything less from a man who was staying close to Viktor. “What is it?”
“Lilliana is meeting with Viktor’s wife tomorrow at a fundraiser in Lincolnwood. I want you to take both of them out,” I told him decisively.
His eyebrow raised a little. “You want me to kill your daughter?” he asked incredulously.
I shrugged. “Lilliana is useless to me now because both Viktor and Dominic don’t trust her. And I can’t have them get to me through her. She’s a loose end, and you know that in our business, we can’t let the loose end free.”
The man looked around, scratching his jaw. “Mia Romano walks around with heavy security. Getting a clean shot in the fundraiser won’t be possible. And if we miss the shot, Viktor will find us and kill us, before ripping our body apart.”
I saw it in his eyes—the deep hatred for Romanos, but there was also something else too: fear.
I shook my head slowly, trying to convince him. “We have to find out something else. With Lilliana gone, the Romanos will never get to us. And with his wife dead, Viktor would go berserk. Then, the cartel will strike as planned.”
He nodded. “The plan is good but risky.”
“In our business, when it is not?” I grinned, extending my hand.
He took some time, and then hesitantly shook it. “Done,” he pronounced. “Both of them will be dead before sunset tomorrow. But I have a condition: my cover will stay intact until I kill Viktor and Dominic.”
I smiled. “As long as I get Alessandro Romano.”
Any idea about the man who is going to betray the Romanos? Please let me know your thoughts about it.
Well, this Chapter is just the beginning of the twists and turns, and there are many more where this is coming from. I hope you will enjoy the roller coaster as much as I would enjoy writing them.
And Happy Navratri to all my Indian readers.
Lots of love and hugs to you all.