Lizzy: WARNING this story contains strong language, triggering scenes and mature content.
Despite the chill in the air, sweat beaded on my forehead as I allowed myself to fall back against the stone wall. I propped my foot behind me; my arms crossed stiffly over my chest. I felt tired, too tired. Pretending and fighting to become someone I never wanted to be was painfully exhausting.
My father had been the soulless, malicious leader. I thought meeting his expectations would be the most challenging job in my life. Trying to be the successor he wanted when he died was harder. I felt like an imposter daily as I tried and failed to fill his sadistic shoes.
I sighed, glimpsing over at my third in command; Ian frowned, the shadow of his slight stubble shifting faintly. He was bored with this situation, as well. He toed the ground, his light brown eyes half-closed and his brown faux hawk falling slightly into his face. He rubbed his raw knuckles, wincing slightly. His hands were not the only victims of brutal force. I glanced down at my bruised knuckles, and wished I could allow myself to feel the pain I knew was there.
We had been here for hours, and we were getting nowhere. I sighed again, looking around at the old abandoned warehouse. This place was where I did most of my business, performed my lines, and filled my role. As Macbeth once said, “False face must hide what the false heart doth know.” Nothing rang truer.
The crumbling, abandoned factory was dark, musty, and covered with rat droppings. Rusty pieces of metal littered the concrete floor. The windows were tinted, and the dim lights buzzed annoyingly overhead. Aside from that, the only sound was the thudding of my right-hand man’s fist hitting David’s face repeatedly.
David stood, hunched over, with his hands tied behind his back, arms wrapped around a metal pole that jutted out of the center of the concrete floor. His pale brown hair was buzzed neatly; his naturally fair skin was now bruised and bleeding. His right hazel eye was black and swollen shut. His once peach-toned lips were now split open, and the bridge of his nose lay unusually crooked.
He groaned and coughed, spewing more blood onto the grey floor. I could not handle this anymore. He was clearly not going to talk. It was simply inhumane to continue trying to persuade him.
I winced, realizing I was being a weak-stomached coward. My father would hate me for this, but he was gone. I was in charge and would no longer allow this torture to be drug out.
“That’s enough, Adam.” I forced a false grin, pushing away from the wall, “My turn.”
“Should I call in a clean-up crew, boss?” Ian cackled maliciously next to me, keeping up pretenses, as always.
He was better at pretending than I was. But just like Adam and myself, I knew he took no pleasure from this part of the job. It was a bad day when we had to kill, even to protect ourselves and each other; killing one of our own was even worse. In this business, however, there wasn’t always a choice.
“Liam...” David stopped short as I glared at him, raising one eyebrow.
Fear flooded his face as I leveled my pistol at his forehead.
“M-Mr. Bly! You’ve known me forever. Marcus trained us together for years. I helped you talk him into leaving Scarlet out of all this.” He tossed his head, gesturing around before bending forward as far as he could and coughing up blood again.
I knew he meant this lifestyle, not just the broken-down building. The guns, drugs, lies, and death that we all wore like weighted vests just getting heavier.
I glared at my surroundings, remembering the training with David and my father in this warehouse. That was back when my father had maintained the title “The Reaper King.”
It was also true; he helped me convince my father to leave Scarlet out of this. However, things were different now; Marcus was dead, and now I was in charge of his mafia.
David was nothing but a traitor who had leaked information to the yakuza. He put the lives of everyone I loved in danger, including my twin sister, whom he claims to have helped.
I needed only one thing from him, but I was running out of time. As a rule, I never held anyone hostage for more than three days; this was day three. Having taken part in these dealings with us many times, knew his time was up.
“Who else is working with you?” I asked apathetically.
By now, I knew how this was going to end.
“What would Jay say?” I felt myself stiffen as he smirked smugly, ignoring my question altogether.
He was right. Jay, my uncle, would hate this situation. However, if David thought he had me cornered, he was sorely mistaken.
Jay, and his wife, Sarah, lovingly raised my sister and me since we were two days old. Our mother had abandoned us, wrapped in our hospital blankets, and stuffed us into a single car seat on Marcus’ doorstep. Marcus told us repeatedly: if he hadn’t needed me as an heir to his domain, and Aunt Sarah hadn’t been visiting, he would have just left us there.
Even though Jay may disagree with this part of the job, he knew the family had to come first. David had jeopardized our family.
“He would be glad I did what was necessary to protect our family.” I snarled.
“I know you, Liam. You’re not as heartless as you pretend to be.” He laughed, which quickly turned into a gargled cough. “You’re not your father. You’re weak. I was there when you killed Devon. You cried like the bitch you really are. Who comforted you then?” He spat.
Of course, I remembered my first kill. David had been eighteen years old with no notches in his belt. But I, at nine years of age, was forced to kill a fifty-year-old drug addict who had caused Marcus one too many problems. Marcus would have pulled Scarlet back into the business if I hadn’t. I had to prove my worth.
That day, David found me, hands shaking and covered in blood, tears streaming down my face, as I huddled in my closet. David had covered for me with Marcus while I took a few hours to calm down and get cleaned up.
I had decided that day; I couldn’t afford to feel anything but the hatred and anger that had fueled me since. Because of this, despite knowing what would happen next, I didn’t flinch or hesitate. I didn’t care.
“I have grown since then. I am not a scared kid anymore.” With that, I pulled the trigger. The shot echoed throughout the dark room as David’s body fell limp. “Ian, clean this mess up.”
“Seriously? Isn’t this why we have low-level wannabes?” Ian groaned.
“Fine, then call some of them.” I snapped, spinning to face him. “But if it’s not right, it’s your ass.”
Ian raised his eyebrows, surprised by my sharp response. I didn’t have the energy to fight with him right now.
All I wanted was to go home and sleep. I couldn’t remember the last time I had slept more than a couple of hours in a row. Things had been so busy with the yakuza breathing down our necks. It was my job to protect all of my people.
“Did you have to kill him?” A high-pitched, whiny voice sounded from the far door.
I groaned, hoping I was wrong. Though, I knew that voice too well. I turned reluctantly.
Jessica looked beyond out of place in her strapless, hot pink body-con dress and wedge heels. Her blond hair was loosely curled. Typical Jess wore a thick layer of makeup covering her unnaturally tan face. She was always dressed to the nines, no matter what was happening around her.
I waited as she took her time strutting towards me before stopping to look up at me with a cocky smirk. Following her, as usual, was the nose-burning floral scent of her perfume.
Everything about her drove me nuts. I would have sent her away long ago if she weren’t my best hacker.
“Like what you see?” She flirted arrogantly, tossing her hair.
“He was leaking information, Jess.” I glared at her, ignoring her flirting entirely. “I’ll kill anyone who crosses me, and I will not have any regrets. Remember that.”
“Yes, sir. I apologize.” She bowed her head slightly.
I hated it when she did that, and she knew it. I knew she was disrespecting me and undermining my authority in times like this. She had never done that before I ended our casual hookups. She was furious with me. I didn’t feel I could trust her half as much as I used to.
“Go find his accomplice. I’ll send Natalie to help. I expect an answer by the end of the week.” I glared at her, waving my hand in a passive dismissal.
She nodded, then walked out frowning angrily.
I sighed, running my hand over my face.
“Don’t worry. We’ll catch them. In the meantime, you have extra eyes on Scar, right?” Adam asked, massaging his bloody and bruised knuckles as he stepped beside me.
“Absolutely. She won’t leave the house alone. I’ll need your help with that.” I eyed him knowingly.
A faint blush colored his almond skin. His dark brown hair was pulled back tightly into a bun on top of his head, revealing his black eyes suddenly fixated on his hands.
“Sure thing, Liam. Anything to help.” He said, grinning in embarrassment.
I exhaled deeply, rolling my shoulders.
Adam stared at me for a moment. I knew what was coming. Being my best friend of fifteen years, he was one of the two people who could always see right through my facade, the other being Scarlet.
“You worried about the meeting tonight?” He asked, leaning against the wall casually. His eyes were piercing and I had to look away, scowling at the blood-spattered floor.
I groaned, “I don’t traffic or trade humans.”
There was a short silence as I glared off into the distance.
“Well, your intentions are good,” Adam admitted sadly with a shrug.
Only he knew why I had accepted this deal from the small gang bordering our territory. Being my right-hand man, he was privy to information. He was also crucial in decision-making on such matters.
Everyone else believed it was just a peace offering. I, however, knew Dan’s type. He was the type of man who thrived on conflict, needed it as much as he needed water or air. Peace wouldn’t last long if it ever even happened.
“That’s not bothering you most, though, is it?” He asked, raising an eyebrow.
I groaned, shaking my head.
“My father never had traitors. What if David was right?” I finally voiced my concern.
“Oh, shut up,” he replied confidently. “The only true thing that asshole said was you are not your father. Your father led by fear, and you lead by loyalty. You’re respectable. It’s not your fault that some people can’t see that.”
I sighed again, running my hand over my face.
“When you’re finished here, I need you, Ian, and Asher at the docks by ten. Don’t let anyone else know, especially Jess. There’s something off with her lately, and we all know she can’t keep her mouth shut.” I groaned, annoyed.
Adam chuckled, “Yes, sir.” He mimicked Jessica’s half-bow.
I rolled my eyes and turned to walk out the large metal doors.