Ambrose's Muse

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ALEXANDER VALENTINE

I saw the crate getting lowered from the crane and onto the ground. My men were all around the dockyard; their eyes were everywhere, at least I hoped. I removed my sunglasses and looked around. The crate was enormous, enough to carry two cars. It carried some precious goods. Usually, such big crates drew suspicions from the authorities, but

with the FBI on our side, things were much easier.

I walked to my car and slipped into it. From the rearview mirror, I saw the crater getting placed on a large eighteen-wheeler. I started the car and drove it out of the dockyard. The truck followed me. My pulse was fast, and so was my heartbeat. This was a critical mission; every other step of our plan was dependent on it. I had never carried out a task of such seriousness.

It had been a week since my return to New York City. My mother looked like a zombie, and I felt guilty for putting her through it. My father almost broke down, seeing me. I looked more than healthy, though. Riccardo hugged me, but Alessio’s face looked as if he had just sucked a lemon. I loved it. But that was just the first few moments. Questions soon surrounded me.

“Honeybun, where were you?” Laura cried.

“Son, please answer that question!”

I wanted to scream and tell that I was safe and sound at my brother’s, but I didn’t want my father dying. He still had a lot of good years ahead of him. There was a lot left for my father to experience in his life. The senior Valentine still had to meet his prodigal son. Ambrose had shared a different sort of relationship with Father. They were like a teacher and a student. A general and a soldier. It was different, and sometimes I felt

jealous, but I got over it. Besides, I got the most affection. Smothering and adorations were my breakfast, lunch and dinner. I was a spoilt brat in that manner, but I wasn’t complaining.

It was challenging to deflect their questions, and my father had agreed to stop asking them. But I knew I couldn’t go for very long.

My eyes moved to the truck behind me and the crate on it. I turned to a deserted road, and the truck followed

me right there, we were slightly slow due to the sheer size of it. I drove for a few more miles before a secure facility appeared. It was all tall walls, and barbed wires with cameras lined up. The gates opened, not making any sound. I had created this high- security facility two years ago. I wanted a place that was secretive yet secure. It was fully equipped to handle any sort of attack. No one could carry any weapons inside; I had

only my most trusted soldiers in the facility.

The truck followed me inside. The secure facility had a large warehouse looking structure in it. There was no internet, and I had placed network jammers, not one phone call could be made or attended. Only my phone worked. I was proud of this invention.

I got out of my car and saw the truck park itself. I walked to the warehouse structure and saw my parents

standing there, including the members of all the top mafia families. The Valentines, Vasilakis, Wagners, Alfonsi, Kelly, Wolff, and so many others, They looked hostile and ready to attack. Shame, they didn’t have a weapon on them.

“What is the meaning of this, Alexander?” Norman Wolff stepped forward and snapped.

I smirked. The man was to get the biggest surprise of his life.

“Norman, watch your tone,” Father said before turning to me, “but I need the answer to that question. What is this place? And what are we doing here without our phones and guns? You have been acting very strange, Alexander. We need answers.”

Dean Vasilakis, Victor’s father, too stepped ahead.

“Alexander, I have been worried about your behaviour. You have been missing for weeks, and when you turn

up out of nowhere, I see you acting strange. What is the meaning of this,”

“The meaning of all this is apparent, Uncle Dean. Riccardo, can you please set up the screen,” I said.

Riccardo nodded at once and led everyone inside the warehouse. A large projector was pointed towards a clear white curtain.

“After Uncle Maximus’ death and the attack on our warehouse, I knew something very strange was happening. Riccardo and I decided to

investigate, turns out the Wagners were closely involved in all the attacks mitigated. I conducted a covert mission and entered the Wagner warehouse in Staten Island. The risk was very high, and apart from Derek, Dylan, Boris, Riccardo and a few of our soldiers, no one was made aware of this mission.”

“My suspicions all this while pointed towards Ambrose.”

Upon Ambrose’s name, I saw my father’s eyes turn red. He looked

lethal and ready to kill. Dean placed a hand on his shoulder; my mother too didn’t look happy with Ambrose’s mention.

“I know for sure it is Ambrose,” Alessio butted in. He looked annoyed and frustrated. I knew why. This place was making him angsty.

“How do you know for sure? What evidence do you have to support your claim?” I asked.

I had never yelled at Alessio. Most of the times his taunts didn’t bother me

other times I kept quiet for my father. Tommaso didn’t want me to say anything to his brother. But Alessio was a rotten little carrot and learning the truth just recently made me hate him all the more.

I felt sorry for Riccardo.

My eyes went to my best friend and cousin. He looked distressed, too, for what was about to come.

“C’ mon Alessio, how are you so sure?”

Alessio looked taken aback.

“Alexander!” Mother snapped, “this is no way to talk to your Uncle. He is the consigliere of this family! He knows what he is saying!”

“And I am asking for the proof behind his statement,” I answered smoothly, “it is very easy to blame a man who’s not here to defend himself.”

“Defend himself?” Father spat, “he took our family’s secrets to the authorities! What are you going on about?”

Norman Wolff looked slightly uncomfortable. They were close before Ambrose’s exile, over the yearsthey had lost all sorts of contact, but I knew, Norman didn’t like listening to the allegations upon his friends. But soon his misery would be over.

“Riccardo, brother, are you done?” I asked Riccardo.

Riccardo sighed and looked at me. His eyes were bloodshot. Riccardo had cried the night before, but I was

proud of his loyalty. He wanted to reveal the truth himself.

“Is there something that you would like to say?” I whispered.

“What is happening?” Tommaso asked.

“Everyone knew about the attack on our warehouse a couple of months ago. We weren’t able to pin the blame on a specific group, but we did catch hold of one of the thugs,” Riccardo said, “he didn’t reveal any detail for a very long time. I used every torture

method available, physical first and then mental. I cracked the man finally.”

Everyone listened to Riccardo with bated breath. My eyes walked to Alessio; I saw the colour draining from his face. A smirk appeared on my lips. He was a leech, sucking on my family.

“The Wagners were involved in the attack, that was confirmed,” Riccardo whispered.

Tommaso looked at Lucius Wagner with contempt.

“But the other person who gave the insider information for the attack was my father, Alessio Valentine,” Riccardo said.

A hushed whisper erupted amongst all the families, and I had to clear my throat to keep them quiet. My father turned to Alessio.

“Tell me this is not true,” Tommaso whispered, “tell me that you didn’t

betray the institution and the family of Valentine.”

Alessio didn’t say anything.

“That is nothing, Father. The question arises. Why did you do it?” I said and looked straight at my Uncle.

“Why did you do it, Alessio?” Laura sobbed.

“I can answer that question.” Everyone turned to me once again.

“The Wagners and Alessio were working for someone else. Their

mission was so covert that I didn’t even realise Alessio’s contribution to it till yesterday. With Uncle Wagner dying and the attack on our warehouse, I knew something was wrong. Something was happening. The mysterious messages of someone returning, someone claiming back his rightful position. It all pointed towards only one person, and that was Ambrose. I was sure. Uncle Wagner had also met Ambrose in Seattle, days before his death. I was

sure it was my brother who was responsible for it all.”

My father’s eyes were wide; he heard each word slipping out of my mouth with the utmost focus and concentration.

“But I was wrong.”

I told my entire operation of entering the Wagner warehouse in Staten Island. My mother gasped, and father shook his head. Alessio just stood, no emotion on his face.

“Did you find Ambrose in the warehouse?” My Father asked.

“No, and I regretted each negative thought I had of him. I hated blaming my brother because he wasn’t behind all of it,”

“Don’t stall, Alexander,” Laura whispered.

“It was Tsar. All those attacks and Uncle Wagner’s death. It was all Tsar,”

“You are out of your mind,” Father roared, “that man is rotting in a high- security prison!”

“He was, but Tsar escaped, all thanks to your brother, Alessio,” I roared, “my brother worked so hard in putting that man away, but Uncle Alessio didn’t like that!”

“What do you mean, what did Ambrose do to put Tsar away?”

“Ambrose is the reason why Tsar was even arrested! Do you know Tsar had created an intricate plan of getting us

all in one place and blowing us up? The plan was so close to its fruition, had Ambrose not stepped in; Tsar would’ve killed us all,” I snarled, “my brother leaked our information to the feds. They came swarming in, arresting us all. When the authoritiesarrested us, Tsar couldn’t do anything. His plan was squashed. And Dad? Do you know why we were released from prison? Because of Ambrose, he asked for immunity for us all in exchange for all the sensitive

information against Tsar. Tsar was a bigger criminal than all of us combined.”

Not a bird chirped. Norman Wolff closed his eyes, a sigh of relief escaping his lips.

“It was all Ambrose’s plan. He wanted to save us all, even if it meant getting exiled.”

“Oh God,” Laura whispered. Her knees wobbled, and I ran to my mother. I held her body close to

mine, it trembled. Riccardo walked to my father.

“That day at the Wagner Warehouse, I was prepared to meet Ambrose. I was prepared to confront him but what I saw was our mortal enemy, Tsar. He pointed the gun at me and shot without a single thought.”

My mother gasped.

“Fortunately,” I continued, “Ambrose had sent someone to take care of me. His name was Malcolm. He was Ambrose’s eyes and ears here in New

York. That man saved me and took me back to my brother, and that’s where I had been for the past few weeks.”

“What did I do?” Tommaso whispered, “I kicked my son out.”

“Does Ambrose know about Tsar?” Norman asked.

“He does, which is why he is here with us.”

“Where is Ambrose?” My mother cried.

My eyes turned to the large crate; one of the guards unlocked the gate and pulled it open. I looked at it with bated breath. My heart was beating loudly against my chest. My brother was back home.

Victor was the first to step out. A choked sob left my mother’s lips, and she ran to her nephew.

“My sweet Victor,” Laura cried, “I am so sorry....”

My mother’s words stopped abruptly when she saw Ambrose step out.

It was time for a reunion.

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