• PROLOGUE: TWO YEARS AGO•
“Capo...I-I swear it was all a mistake. I could never betray you or th－AHHHHH!” I removed the pin from the bulletin, then shuffled to its other end, my eyes scurrying over the highlighted clippings, photographs, and other news articles from the last month’s event. Heavy breathing, grunts and groans left in pain; that was all what consumed the thick air of the dimly-lit basement which happened to be more than a hundred-feet below the mansion grounds. Even if tried, it would easily take anyone a whole lifetime to reach here.
Ignoring another shriek, I took the last drag from the cigarette resting in between my lips, the hot smoke invading my lungs before I puffed it out－in hope to also get rid of the rage building inside my system with every sound that motherfucker made.
“A mistake? Why didn’t you think about it when you shook hands with that American fucker!” Another gut-wrenching scream escaped from the traitor Aldo as Blade, my Enforcer, inserted a scrap of tequila bottle into his fingertips from under his nails flawlessly. Blood oozed out of them and my lips broke into a satisfied smirk. It was funny how he mastered the art of inflicting pain without killing despite being an year younger than me. That fucker of Aldo won’t live another second if I got down to him and yet Blade wouldn’t bat an eye while he was on it. I headed for the adjacent bulletin.
“There’s no need to reason with him. He showed us what he did, and now we will,” said my brother Zander from the far-corner of the basement. From my peripheral, I saw him walking over to the huge metal table, his tall-frame leaning opposite to Aldo.
My sprinting gaze froze the moment I saw an enlarged image of a woman sticking in between the another two photographs of hers. I plucked it out, my eyes soaking in every detail with caution. Her face still wasn’t visible like the rest of her snaps, but this one gave me a perfect view of the pendant she wore. Clearest than the others.
The initials. A&M.
A series of repetitive, high-pitched yells and cries left Aldo, followed by the rest of them laughing at him. Digging my hands inside my pants pocket, my fingers grazed a tiny material before I pulled it out swiftly. Then compared the ‘A’ initial in my hand to that in the photo.
Fucking got you.
“Enough!” Pinning the snapshot to the top, I turned abruptly to the scene in front of me. Everyone present in the room stood still including Zander with his back facing me. Streams of blood flowed through his fingers down to the concrete-floor. Dirty shit.
I prowled my way to the table next to my brother and sat him on a nearby chair. He slouched down reluctantly, anger radiating off of that which matched mine.
“I-I...apologize...C-Capo...” Aldo sobbed, unable to complete even a sentence properly. His hands were entirely cloaked in a pool of his own blood and the skin of his handcuffed wrists was scrapped because of how frequent he tried preventing them from the torture.
Serves him good.
“Alright, I forgive you.” His face lit-up with alarm, caramel eyes flashing hope and my own with the closely approaching triumph.
Faint gasps and murmurs erupted in the room full of our men but it all died-down when I raised my hand up in the air. Shooting Zander a known look from the corner of my eyes, I saw his brows arched at me in understanding.
“Answer my question,” I started. Averting back to Aldo, I clutched the corners of the table between us to hide my impatience and hovered into his direction, “and you’re free.” Even if the earth fell down or the sun turned blue, I wouldn’t let this piece of shit walk out in one piece.
“Anything...an-anything!” He practically jumped out from his seat but the ropes tying him down didn’t help much.
A low chuckle escaped me as I watched him struggling in pain. I glided up to him slowly while he watched every step I took in terror. He sat upright on his place when I reached behind him, his body shuddering fearfully. I clasped the edges of his chair tightly and bent forward until my face was hovering next to his ear.
“Tell me everything about Morelllis. Everything you know, top to the fucking bottom, his ties, allies, enemies... everything,” I whispered before pulling away. Reaching for the revolver resting in the shoulder holster inside my suit jacket, I walked to the other side.
Gritting, I turned back to see conflict rising between his eyes. He was considering his options. The assholes’s nerve...even being held as my captive he dared think about my birthright enemy Morelli. He sought shelter in New York from him not more than a month ago and already appraising whether to disclose him when he didn’t blink twice to back-stab us. Back-stab me...
His eyes were distant when they met mine before panic filled them again. “I don’t know anything Capo...I didn’t even get to meet him. Trust me,” He breathed heavily and fumbled with the strings tying him down.
“Trust you?” I barked. “Give me one reason why I should.” My anger was resting on the tip of tongue but I knew better when not to let out. A month old me would have by now but this...not ever.
“I don’t know what to say that’ll make you believe me, boss, but I know nothing. I did everything for my family, all to protect them. I feared th-they would attack us...I just wanted to ensure their safety. I swear to my honor, my oath...”
Anyone who was good at twisting words and presenting them their way would be me, but Aldo was the best and had always been. Even almost covered in blood with death dangling like sword over his head didn’t deprive him of that quality of his. And honor? Oath? What the hell made him think he had any one of them left in him? He broke his oath to me, to Ndrangheta, and along with that his honor too the minute he hurdled my land and joined Vincenzo fucking Morelli.
I regarded him carefully. “You didn’t trust us enough to protect you and your family when now you want me trust you. Funny how it works, isn’t it?”
“Please...let me go,” He cried out. I didn’t remember the last time any one of my made men cried or at all. He wasn’t one of them anymore.
“Answer me.” It was a done deal now.
“I told you I don’t－”
“Are you willing to stand by us or the Capitale’s with Morelli?” His expression melted in shock then eventually, relief.
“Of course you, Capo!” My brows rose as he beamed at me.
“Really?” I asked, my fingers tracing the grip out of the leather flap. “Are you sure?” He eagerly nodded while I grinned inside. My eyes tripped across the room to see Blade and Blaze, the later being my right-hand man, lowering their gaze as soon as I looked at them. The same with all the others who didn’t utter word, waiting for me to carry on.
“Yes, Capo,” I gave Aldo my last smile, or his last, then slipped the revolver out and pointed it straight to his forehead. His face drained out of every colour and his mouth hung open.
“Well...” I pursed my lips at my sudden change of focus. “You asked for it.”
I pulled the trigger, shooting right into his wide-opened mouth.
Strikes of blood splashed all around the place. My eyes involuntary closed for a second before they opened again, watching his lifeless body falling back on the ground along with the chair.
I dropped the revolver over the table－now a swimming pool of blood. I gestured with my hand to my men, who immediately passed tissues to me and Zander . He was watching everything with a stoned face before standing. His dark eyes lingered on the dead body for another second before he left the room. I rolled my eyes at him and turned to my men.
“Where is his family at the moment?” I tilted my head at Aldo’s half-rippled face which seemed to sate me to some extent now.
“Brighton. Aldo’s brother took them back to their home,” Blaze replied. “We need someone to replace him. He had no son, only a daughter that too eight.”
I shifted on my feet. He was right. Aldo Leone was the Underboss of Brighton, a huge part of our territory in South. It couldn’t remain vacant for long.
“What about his brother? How old is he?”
“Twenty five. But can we trust him? How would we know he isn’t up to something after what his he did?” He pointed towards the bloody floor.
There was a reason I chose Blaze to be next to me in this thing. He wasn’t only an assassin but a brilliant head which he proved to have in all these years. A great asset to me. He was even fit to be my Consiligire but I didn’t have enough guts to put all my faith into him or into any one of the men in this room with me. Not because it was Zander’s to take but like Aldo, I would never know how many of them were still loyal to me.
“Ask his brother Lucio to meet up with me tomorrow along with his family. Tell him Aldo’s wife and daughter will live here in London under my protection while I decide what to do with the Underboss situation,” I ordered.
I entered my bedroom, removing my clothes and tossing them away in haste. Placing my holster on the bed along with the pistols, I flounced towards the bathroom.
A cold shower was all I needed right now.
Reaching the walk-in shower, I turned the faucet until the water turned icy-cold. Moments after I was free of all the dried blood from my arms and neck except for the same void which kept on clotting inside me. Again.
The void of losing another one of our mafiosi.
The last month flew away with the wind and I still couldn’t find any trace of the woman who came in like a storm, fled past me and my mob, then disappeared in thin air. She might have walked off the scene but the after-effects of those events were yet so fresh like it all happened only yesterday.
“No!” I glanced at Rachael slapping her hand on her forehead and came to me. “This is not how you do it.” She freed my hands entangled with the tie I was trying to tie like the way she taught me to but couldn’t.
“But I was almost there!” I tried convincing her but it was too late. By the time I could whine, she was done.
“Here you go.” She straightened the tie, tucking my collars neatly like a kid and picked up my suit jacket from over the bed.
“You know I could’ve done that quicker than you. You chose the long method.” She rolled her eyes and made me turn around for her to put on the jacket.
“So you’ve got to make your mother work today as well? It’s her anniversary,” Zander commented while entering my room, as usual, without knocking. He was well-trimmed and all set to go for the event.
“Shut up, you asshole.” My mouth stitched close when Rachael sent a hard glare my course and I saw Zander pretending to chuckle behind her.
She turned back to him and he stopped as well.
“‘Your mother’? Am I not yours?” She asked, sounding hurt. I was about to reach her but to my surprise, Zander answered her before I could.
“Of course you are, mother,” He replied in an even tone, then smiled. He never smiled and now I knew why. It seemed weird on him. I felt like my eyes were betraying me in the worst way possible when he scooted closer to her, gathering her in a hug.
I blinked twice before my face broke into a smile. If what I just saw was true then I was certainly the happiest creature alive ’cause if there was anything Rachael wanted from the both of us was acceptance.
Acceptance to be called as dad’s second wife.
Acceptance to be called as our mom.
Acceptance to a place, even if it was a small corner in our hearts.
I never had any problem as long as my dad was happy having her. But as for Zander, he needed time to take everything in.
Which he did now.
“Do I not exist here?” I asked with a hurt face and jumped in, hugging them both from the side. The impact took them off balance before all the three of us fell on my bed, then bursted off laughing together.
We were now complete.
Turning the faucet off, I stepped out the shower and put on a fresh black robe from the walk-in closet. I was rubbing my head with a towel while coming out of the bathroom, when I noticed someone on the couch with her back facing me.
I walked over to some distance and immediately saw a slight change in my room. As I reached closer to her, it was then I realized what it was. She sat on the couch all dressed in black, silent tears streaming down her face. Her eyes dug holes into my pile of bloody clothes resting in her lap as I clenched my jaw to hold back my rage.
“You killed another one, didn’t you?” She snapped, as if sensing I was standing right next to her. I chose not to answer her at the moment and moved over to my wardrobe.
“I’m talking to you, Matthew.”
“We did,” I corrected her, pulling out my everyday attire－a plain white shirt and a pair of dress pants.
“But why?” She asked, getting up, taking my blood-covered clothes in her hands.
Detaching my outfit from the coat hanger, I dropped it over to the bed bench before facing her.
“That’s no question mother. Traitors get what they deserve,” I clarified, marching straight to the walk-in closet. “Death,” I stated, closing the door behind me.
[One month ago]
It was Rachael and dad’s fifth year wedding anniversary. I had to admit they were the most boring parents I could ever ask for. They didn’t even want to celebrate today in the mansion; organising an event was a far-fetched dream. But of course I forced them into this party. So here we were, staying at dad’s all-time favourite pub, the Lustrio Inn.
The party had been great so far, well, except for Zander who literally had a bunch of girls all around him. That’s why I never went to clubbing or anywhere else with him. He never failed to show his true colours everywhere he could. Prick.
I was chatting up with an old friend of mine, Ben, who was also an entrepreneur like me. The fact he was a self-made businessman was even more fascinating and I couldn’t be more proud of him. That was when Rachael came up to me.
“What’s wrong mother?” I asked in concern, after bidding a quick goodbye to Ben.
“Have you seen Hadrian? I couldn’t find him anywhere,” She said, panicked. I made her turn to me.
“Hey, chill out. He must be somewhere here. I’ll go find him.” I patted her consolingly on the shoulder and left to find my stepbrother, Hadrian.
Him and Zander being of the same age－which was an year younger than me－were expected to get along well. But it was never the case with them. I always had to barge in between the two and make sure they wouldn’t strangle each other. They were barely nineteen the time when Hadrian’s mom, Rachael, and our father, Andrews, got married. Life was pretty tough at the beginning, but we faced all odds, accepted each other as we were, and lived happily ever since.
I reached over to Zander who was busy dancing with a brunette I didn’t recognise. I shouted over the loud music but he was too distracted to even bother looking.
“Fuck! What the hell you doin’ man?” I grabbed him by the neck, ignoring his reluctance and leaving his pissed off brunette behind.
Once we were off the dance floor and to a place where he could hear me in his half-drunken state, I released him.
“Dude, have you fucking lost－” His words stopped mid-way when he turned around and his eyes landed on me.
“Ma-Matthew?” I crossed my arms across my chest, waiting for him to knock into his senses.
“Are you still drunk?” I asked.
His hands held his head and he jerked it a few times.
“No...I guess I’m fine now,” He groaned with his eyes still closed and his fingers massaging his temples.
“I’ll take that as a yes.” I scoffed. His gaze shot up to mine and he seemed to look better now. Even his drunk ass needed my sarcasm.
“Anyways, I meant to ask you something, have you seen Hadrian anywhere?” His brows pinched together but as soon as he heard Hadrian’s name, he rolled his eyes.
“I don’t know.” He shrugged his shoulders and I huffed, trying to think of all the possible places he could be.
For fucks sake. Now I had to check every room.
“Might be with the redhead he brought with him to the party earlier this evening.” I was about to head inside the inn when something held me back for a strange reason. He looked much sober now. Perhaps the medicine named as ‘Hadrian’ did its work.
“Just saying. Maybe you don’t wanna find him later.” He laughed, then walked back to the dance floor.
The next half an hour or so went in me frantically searching for Hadrian everywhere. I checked every room, knocked on every door, even got yelled by a few of our guests for entering their rooms just like that. But I couldn’t be blamed if they weren’t careful enough to lock their doors from inside. Another ten minutes drowned and I was almost done breaking into every place I could. The redhead Zander told me about was the reason why I checked all the rooms occupied by our guests. She could be one of them but I neither found Hadrian nor his redhead.
Now all what remained were our rooms. I first went to his, which surprisingly turned out to be empty.
I went to our parents room, followed by mine, and at last, Zander’s.
By this time, my nerves were wrecking havoc inside me. There was a single room left to be checked now－my study.
My hands trembled furiously as I reached in front of its door and then for the knob. The metal felt warm against my fingers, or probably my fingers were running cold.
I usually kept this room locked so I expected it to be locked then as well. But my useless suspicions which I kept pushing in the back of my head up till now came true when the door popped open.
I pushed the door wide enough and as soon as I did, I never thought that I could actually agree with Zander anymore than I did at the moment.
I wished I never came to find Hadrian.