“We were just in the computer room hacking into the system like you requested when the screens went black and an interface came up,” Alejandro explains as we walk briskly down the hall.
Christina trails behind us, listening as my subordinate explains what this ‘breakthrough’ is.
“They took over our system easily, Alejandro that should not be possible!” I growl causing him to flinch.
“We were messy boss… the rush to find infor—”
“I don’t need excuses! Tell me what happened!” I interrupt wanting him to get to the point.
“Yes, Boss… Um, the next thing we know words start appearing. They introduced themselves as Pandora. They said they followed our cyber footsteps from the Atlanta Police Department and it seems you have a common foe. Giovanni Ferrez,” he rushes out as we descend the stairs.
“The message continues on to say that they are interested in working together in eliminating said foe,” we take a left and he opens the door and we file into the computer room.
The room is dark, the light from the monitors illuminating the space. There are fifteen large monitors, five to a wall with connecting desks under the monitors and six chairs, two to each wall.
A green hue falls upon the members of the room and the men make way for me as I make my way to the desk in front of me.
“They want to call in and discuss the details. They state that they will be in contact ten minutes after this message is sent,” Alejandro continues to explain as I sit in the vacant chair, reading the message on the screen.
I am Pandora. I came across your trail on a specific file in the Atlanta Police Department. You should really be more careful, not covering your tracks is a rookie mistake.
Nevertheless, I guess it is a blessing as it seems we have a similar interest, Giovanni Ferrez. My partner and I are interested in working with you in eliminating a common foe.
I will contact you exactly ten minutes after this message is sent. Until then.
“Alejandro is that laptop connected to the mainframe?” I ask looking at the device to my left.
Alejandro shakes in negative and I instruct him to bring it to me. I unlock the device and connect it to the intranet. I start tapping away lost in the world of codes.
“What are you doing?” Christina asks watching over my shoulder.
“When Pandora calls we are going to track them down,” I answer as I enter code after code.
As if on cue, the landline phone in the room starts to ring. I look over to it rising from the chair before forcing Alejandro in my place.
“Track the call and try not to make it too fucking obvious. I’m sure they’ll be expecting it,” I instruct before answering the phone.
“Pandora,” I answer sternly.
“Hello,” a feminine voice answers, the sound echoing through the room.
I look over to see the call has been transferred to the monitor. The black screens have frequency lines running across their width.
“You know my name. Why don’t you introduce yourself, friend?” the sharp American accent cuts through the speakers.
“I am sure Pandora is not your real name,” I state, speaking into the phone.
“No, an alias, a name nonetheless…” she muses. “Judging from your accent, I can tell you are Italian. How about I call you Sconociuto…”
“The unknown…” I translate earning a chuckle from the other side of the line.
“Si… Now, since introductions are done, let’s get to business shall we?” her tone becomes serious, all humour vanishing.
“Let’s,” I agree eying Alejandro who is slaving over the laptop, trying to pinpoint Pandora’s location.
“Is it safe to assume you are the reason for Giovanni’s sudden disappearance from Atlanta?” she asks.
“Correct. He took something very important to me,” I reply vaguely, not wanting to reveal too much.
“He’s done the same to my partner and he was almost successful in retrieving it when Giovanni disappeared… but that opportunity has passed. Now, we need your assistance.”
“What assistance will that be and how do I benefit?” I ask, eyes flickering to Alejandro as he curses under his breath, shaking his head before resuming his efforts.
“I know where Giovanni is hiding,” she says and everyone in the room freezes. “My partner and I could easily find and eliminate him but we lack the strength in numbers… That is where you come in. Your men have lit the streets with gossip, which means you must be very powerful.”
“You can say that.” I look down with furrowed brows as a note is passed to me.
The signal is scrambled. There are 150 different possible locations in the states but I won’t be able to pinpoint it before the call ends.
I look at Alejandro with narrowed eyes. He gets the message quickly, returning to his position in front of the laptop.
“How can I know you aren’t in league with Giovanni?” I ask, crushing the note in my palm. “This may just be a ploy to lead me into a trap.”
“That’s the thing, Sconociuto. You don’t and neither do I but my partner and I are willing to take the risk. Are you?”
My eyes survey the room landing on Christina who stands with a look of confusion on her face.
“Let’s say I go along with this…” I reply to Pandora. “When would we meet? I hate conducting business with someone I can’t see.”
Just then, Alejandro pulls his fingers away from the laptop, an ashen look on his face.
“The location and time is displayed on the device you’ve been using to pinpoint my location,” Smugness in her voice. “You should really hire more experienced persons, Sconociuto. Though they are not too useless, your firewalls are almost impenetrable…”
“If only you knew the life you just saved with that last line…” I grit out, narrowing my eyes at a gulping Alejandro.
“Not one for incompetence I see. Good, failure is not an option with this mission,” Pandora appraises. “I look forward to meeting you, Sconociuto.”
With that, the call ended.
“Alejandro,” I hiss at the kid, his form shaking in fear.
They all know what happens to them when they prove incompetent; Jasper is still nursing a knife wound through the hand. I told him not to fuck it up… and what did he do? He fucked it up so I fucked him up…
I would’ve done worse but Raphael always had a soft spot for the kid and I need numbers if we are going to bring that spazzatura spagnola down.
“Boss, I-I-” he starts to stutter only for Christina to cut him off.
“I know that voice,” she whispers catching my attention.
A distraught look comes on her face and her eyes are wide as she looks up at me. Tears start to fall and her eyes glaze over. I make it to her in three large strides, gripping her shoulders.
“Christina,” I say the name sounding foreign without the ’Aunt” before it.
I shake her shoulders for good measure. Her eyes focus on me, shock covering her features.
“Are you okay?” I ask genuinely concerned and confused about what just happened.
“I-I’m fine,” she stutters, placing her hands on mine, before pushing them from her shoulders. “I-I need to rest my head.”
Then she runs out the room as if the devil is casing her.
“Five more minutes,” Adonis informs as we stand at the dock, salty sea air surrounding us.
Adonis and I stand to the front, two men flanking us. There are ten men situated in the area, just in case Pandora tries to fuck us over.
We stand on the sturdy deck, looking out at the moonlight reflecting on the blackish-blue sea. The dock is illuminated by dim lights, lighting the way for vessels in the area. Large craters cover the square metres of the deck, providing good coverage in case of an attack.
“A vessel is approaching!” one of the men shout out as dim lights shine a few kilometres from our position.
“Get ready!” I yell watching as they close the distance, stopping at the end of the boardwalk.
Two silhouettes rise from the small boat, the first taller than the second. From the build, you can tell one is male and the other female.
The boards squeak as they advance towards us and my men straightening, their eyes vigilant as they observe the newcomers.
The dim light illuminates their features. The one the left is a male with shoulder-length brown hair and brown eyes. The significantly shorter woman has black hair that is shaved at the sides and a patch of short curly hair at the top and dark eyes.
They both look mid-thirties to forties, dressed in black shirts, pants and boots… Similar to my men and I.
They stop a few feet from us, observing us. With their features now fully illuminated by the lights, I stop a large burn on the woman’s face. It starts at her temple and ends at her cheek.
Her features are familiar and I find myself racking my brain to identify where I know her from. The image flickers in my head but I lose it, the image hazy.
“Sconociuto,” the woman speaks and I recognize her voice.
“Pandora,” I state sternly, eying her warily.
Her lips tilt with a smile and she steps forward, causing my men to reach for their guns and her companion to do the same. She looks at us with a raised brow, her hand risen for a shake.
“You boys afraid of a handshake?” she muses not at all scared for her life. I admire that.
Reaching out, I take her hand in mine, locking eyes with her and she freezes as her eyes glaze over. She grips my hand tightly, staring into my eyes before shaking her head and stepping back, releasing my hand.
With furrowed brows, I signal for my men to stand down and her companion lowers his weapon.
“Let me formally introduce myself and my colleague,” she says regaining her composure. “My name is Alexandria but you can call me Dria and this is Daniel.”
The man nods in our direction, eying us cautiously while scooting the area. He doesn’t trust us and the feeling is mutual.
“…and you are Cristiano Silvestre,” Dria continues with a smirk. “It wasn’t hard to scout out the most powerful families in Palermo. Knowing Giovanni when he fucks someone over, he aims high…”
“You seem to know a lot about Ferrez,” I say, my wariness of this woman growing. “Bitter ex-girlfriend?”
Dria laughs bitterly, her eyes cutting into me. “Ex-slave.”
The dock goes quiet. Everyone here knows the Human Trafficking ring is no walk in the park and Giovanni, though being merely a speck on our radar, has one of the biggest and harshest Prostitution Ring in the states.
“Barely made it out with my life,” she continues, pain and fury in her eyes. She touches the burn on her face, with a wicked grin. “His mark was here so everyone could see I was his bitch. I burned it from my skin…”
Some of the men hiss under their breath but remain expressionless.
“I want Giovanni dead, just as Daniel does…” she says gesturing to the man beside her.
I look over to him. “What is in it for you?”
His eyes lock on mine and I see it, a look similar to mine.
“He fucked over my wife and he took my daughter six years ago,” he speaks bluntly. “I want my child back and that motherfucker to suffer.”
I eye them both. I see no lie. Their hate for Giovanni is genuine but that doesn’t mean they should be trusted.
“Then it seems we are on the same page,” I speak up and Dria smiles, Daniel remaining stoic. “I will partner with you; given you have the information I need.”
Keep your friends close and possible enemies closer.
Dria nods. “Locked away. Once we return to your compound safely, I will retrieve it.”
I nod, I didn’t expect them to bring the information with them. That’s the easiest way to get you killed, not having leverage.
“Then we move out,” I say to my men before narrowing my eyes on the pair. “This by no way means I trust you two and if you try to pull one over me. I will end you.”
“I’d expect no less from Il Cupo Mietitore,” Dria smiles.