Give my book, Roses & Fangs, a chance. I update it every week.
AMBROSE VASILAKIS [FIRST
PERSON ACCOUNT]“Tsar.”I stare at Alex, absolutely incredulous. Did he realise what he just said? Was this a joke to him? My stare turned to glare, and Alex dares to look down. But it is his next statement that seals the deal.“I am not joking. I understand the severity of the situation. I know what I saw. We talked to each other, he looked me in the eye. I remember those moments with absolute clarity,” Alex pleaded, “why would I lie about something like this?”
“Alex, get serious,” I snapped.
“I am serious.” Alex’s eyes were wide, he did look dangerous. “Does it look like I am joking?”
Victor walked to Alex.
“Alex, I hope you understand the gravity of the situation?”
“I am serious! I am absolutely serious!” Alex screamed.
“Can you give us proof?” Malcolm asked.“That night, when we were planning on attacking the warehouse, I had made sure that all the cameras were disabled. To avoid getting caught, of course. I also had some Wagner associates who still stood loyal to our institution. I am pretty sure that if we get access to the CCTV footages of previous weeks and get hold of those loyal associates, they will tell the truth. They will prove Tsar’s existence. Hell, we can pressurise Lucius, and he too will sing the same song as me.”
“I will get a hold of those CCTV footages,” Malcolm said.
“You will not be able to get them,” Alex said, “Riccardo, however, can. He knows the Wagner security system at the back of his hand. He knows how to hack into the system without any risk.”
“We don’t have Riccardo here,” Victor said.
“I can talk to him if you can fix a secure and untraceable telephone line for me.”
“We can do that,” Malcolm said and moved to the telephone placed on the conference table. “This is untraceable, even the most potent sources will not be able to tap the call. I am dialling Riccardo’s number, you can get online with him.”
Alex took the phone from Malcolm’s hand. I pressed the speaker button. I wanted the conversation to be audible for everyone in the room. Alex dialled a number. A few staccato beeps later the phone began to ring.
There was silence on the other side.
“Who is this?” Riccardo finally said.
“It’s me, Alex,” my brother exclaimed.
“Is this some kind of a sick joke? Who the fuck are you?” Riccardo snarled.
“It is me, Alex. I am at Ambrose’s right now!”
“I don’t believe this. I am hanging up.”
“Wait! I can get on a video call if you want?”
Riccardo was quiet.
“Okay,” Riccardo whispered.
“Malcolm, please connect me with...”
The phone was hung up, and a laptop was placed in front of Alex. Typing a few things, Malcolm made a few calls to Riccardo. Malcolm then switched on the plasma television. Riccardo appeared on it.
“Look at the laptop,” Malcolm instructed, “the plasma is for us.”
“Holy shit!” Riccardo gasped, “you really are alive!”
“Of course I am alive, you are not getting rid of me so easily,” Alex joked.
I stared at Riccardo’s face, the boy had grown up looking precisely like Uncle Alessio. I cleared my throat, wasn’t it only yesterday when the two were hiding under my bed? Damn, I didn’t like getting old. I was almost as old as Bell when I left for Seattle. Things had changed drastically over these sixteen years. Little boys had become men, leading a dangerous organisation.
“You were supposed to inform me upon getting out safely, Alex,” Riccardo reprimanded, “do you know what I have been going through in the past few days? Father has been pestering me to take over the syndicate. There is even a grave dug out for you beside our grandfather. Uncle Tomasso and Aunt are devastated. They haven’t uttered one word since the news was broken to them. Aunt refuses to believe that her son is gone!”
Alex looked guilty. He was Mom’s favourite.
“I am sorry, Man. I didn’t mean to be so irresponsible. But things have changed since then. I intend on coming back to New York, very soon.”
“What happened to you in the warehouse?” Riccardo asked.
“I was shot,”
“Ambrose’s men shot you?”
“It wasn’t Ambrose,” Alex whispered. “How is that possible? Every clue pointed to him,”
“I know, but it isn’t Ambrose. I think Ambrose might be innocent here, Riccardo.”
“Are you sure? And if you were shot then who took care of you? Where even are you, Alex?” Riccardo started to spit out the questions.
“Calm down, will you?” Alex grinned, “to answer your questions. Do you remember Nicholas?”
“Nicholas? You mean the waiter I hired?”
“Yes, he saved my life.”
“Turns out, Nicholas is a spy,”
Riccardo’s face turned into an ugly shade of pink. The anger on his face was palpable.
“A spy amongst us. Who is Nicholas working for?”
“Nicholas is actually Malcolm. An assassin and spy working for Ambrose.”
“But Ambrose was only doing so because he had received some intel. About some suspicious activities going on in our city. He had sent Malcolm to keep an eye on us.”
“I knew Ambrose was a good man,”
“Really?” Victor stepped in front of the webcam, “I didn’t hear you say that.”
Riccardo’s face was comical. The boy wasn’t certainly expecting Victor to step forward. I too stood beside Victor, coming in Riccardo’s line of vision.
“Ambrose,” Riccardo sputtered.
“I am alive because of Ambrose, Riccardo,” Alex whispered.
I gently squeezed Alex’s shoulders. Riccardo still looked apprehensive.
“You can trust me, Riccardo. Only the best interest at heart,” I said, “now, Alex has something to say to you.”
“Right,” Alex agreed.
“What?” Riccardo whispered.
“I need you to get me online with a couple of Wagner associates. And they have to be absolutely loyal. I also need footages of the Wagner warehouses, especially the basement. We need it fast, Riccardo. Can you do it?”
“I will do it but not because I trust Ambrose but because I trust you, Alex,” Riccardo whispered.That comment pierced through my heart, and I looked away.“Just give me an hour, and I will get back to you,” Riccardo said before signing off.
Alex turned to me.
“I have kept my side of the truth, I told you whatever I knew. I need to know your truth as well, Ambrose. I want to know everything,” Alex whispered.
Bell, who had been practically non- existent in the meeting, looked up at me.
“Ambrose, I don’t understand anything,” Bell’s lip wobbled.
I walk over to Bell and place a small kiss on her lips. I should be enjoying the novelty of my relationship, but here I am, tending to old wounds that should’ve closed a long time ago. Was Tsar really out of the high-security jail? What would I do? Did I have a plan to carry my family out of this crisis, once again? What were his intentions? What was Tsar’s game plan?
With all these questions swimming inside my head, how would I be able to focus on Bell?
“Bell, it is a very long story. Let us just that there can be no bigger enemy than Tsar. He is equally powerful if not more. If given a chance, this man would probably make everyone crawl on their knees while he sits, looking down upon them, on a throne made of bones of the men he has killed.”
Bell’s eyes widened. Fear crept into them.
“I know I sound like a coward when I say this,” Bell hiccupped, “but, I don’t want to be a part of this. I have always wanted a safe life. What if Tsar goes after my parents or sister? They are innocent people.”
Bell wiped her tears away.
“Bell, we will not let anything happen to your family,” Victor assured her, “I will personally look after their security. It is a promise.”
“I understand your fear, Bell. I do. Nothing is more frightening than the mere thought of losing your parents,” I whispered to my Kitten, “and now Iworry about you too. Your worries are mine, Kitten. I have saved my family before from this man, and I will do it again.”
I could feel Alex’s eyes on my back, and I turned to him.
“I guess it is time I tell you the truth,” I state.“Are you sure?” Victor asked.
“There is no better time.”
I cleared my throat and sat down on the desk, my feet touching the ground, Bell’s hand intertwined with mine.
“Tsar is a complicated man, but to understand my life, one needs to know about his. One needs to know the kind of things that he has done, the life he has had. After I came to Seattle, I was furious with the turn life had taken. I didn’t have a family, only Victor, who too was facing his own demons. I blamed Tsar for it. And I felt, if I knew enough about him, I would be able to find a weakness. And maybe, I would use it to exact my vengeance.”
“But this is not about his story, this is about mine. Most mafia families are rivals, some are allies, and some are related by blood. Each is different in its own right, having a list of codes to live by. And these codes differ from family to family. Some see fucking a girl for the first time as an initiation while some see killing your first man as initiation and there are a few who have a weird blood initiation. But there is one code that everyone has. One code which makes us familiar.”
I looked at Bell as I spoke.
“And that is loyalty. Loyalty to your family and friends. You can hate your brother, but you can never hurt him. But that’s what I did, I betrayed my family by taking every proof against us to the FBI. I told them the details of every warehouse we owned, I told them the details of our Swiss and Cayman bank accounts. I told them about everything. Each and every family member of mine had a Fed breathing down their necks.”
I turned to Alex.“But I would rather see them in jail than dead.”
“Dead?” Alex whispered and walked to me, “I don’t understand.”
“Tsar planned to kill us all, take over our businesses and become the King of our city. And he was about to achieve that dream. However, by taking the truth of our family to the FBI, I got Tsar to back away. He couldn’t carry out his nefarious plans, it would be a mess. It would be too easy to get caught. When he backed out, I used the time to find out about his plans. I found out about his multiple passports, I found out about the network of associates he had created all around the country that would carry out terrorist activities. Tsar was not just a gangster, he was a thorough terrorist.”
“After I had enough information about him, I passed it to the FBI. Turns out, he was much more dangerous than our families. In exchange for everyone’s immunity, I testified against him in the court. I would’ve chosen another way, but this was the only option I had.”
I stared at my brother. His eyes glistening with tears. At this moment, I knew I was forgiven. The loneliness clenching my heart since the past sixteen years let go. It was as if I could breathe again.
Victor placed his hand on my shoulder and nodded.
“You are Ambrose Valentine, again. The true Capo of our family.”I grinned and ruffled Alex’s hair.
“It won’t be so easy. We still have our Father. And I know that he is retired, but I think he still calls the shot.”
“We wouldn’t know what he thinks until we get to New York, don’t we?”