I buttoned up the sleeve of my shirt, trying to fix myself after interrogating another rival gang member. It ended with a bullet to his head when he refused to answer me. I knew it would be unlikely that he would spill the facts on who had killed eight of my men the week prior. My men already knew who it was. They had engraved it on the foreheads of my members, the symbol for the Ivory Serpent gang.
I grabbed his chin one last time. His beady eyes stared back at me, all life gone from them. Blood still poured from the hole in his head, down to my fingers.
“Boss, we should probably get movin’ soon. They’ll come lookin’ for ‘im.” My lackey, Lucca said.
“They shoulda thought about killin’ my men. Only idiots mark their kills.” I huffed, letting go of the man’s face, wiping my hand on his shirt to get the blood off.
“They sure are stupid boss.” He agreed.
“Make sure there is no trace of us left behind. Meet me at the office by noon.” I reached into my pocket, pulling out a pack of smokes. I tapped the bottom twice before pulling out a cigarette, placing it in my mouth. “Gotta light?” I asked.
“Sure, boss.” Lucca pulled a lighter out of his jeans and handed it over to me. I put it up to the end of the cancer stick and flicked it a few times before the flame sparked, lighting the cigarette. Inhaling the first puff of the nicotine, I closed my eyes in satisfaction. “I’ll see you tomorrow, boss.”
I hummed, handing him the small purple lighter. “Bring those proposals too.” I nod, pulling the cigarette from my mouth. Bits of smoke escaped with every word I spoke.
I ran a real estate business, working closely with the city’s officials to build new things, like libraries, museums, restaurants, right down to the new city hall that we were proposing tomorrow afternoon. It was a steady income for my crew, keeping food in their family’s bellies and keeping my pockets full.
It was also a stupidly innovative business for my gang to be in; we were always a step ahead of the game. I knew detectives; knew of the cases they were working on; knew many things. So I pulled all the right cards when Don Salvatore gave me his position when he retired, and I took over the Red Dragons. I followed the saying ‘keep your friends close, keep your enemies closer-‘ to a T.
I knew when to keep my boys in the shadows to avoid getting caught. Typically, we played nice. Other times, times like today, we’d do what we needed to protect our own. Dabbling in the black market here and there, working with museums, we’d come across a few… valuables. We dealt in arms, but we never went into the crazy shit like other gangs out there. We didn’t sell drugs like the rats on the streets they were; we didn’t just go around killing people for fun. No-no. We did what we needed for survival. If that meant playing around, setting up traps for rats to get snared in, so be it.
The Ivory Serpent gang took the lives of 8 men whom I treasured. They were fathers, sons, husbands, and I was the one who had to go to their mama’s, their babies, their wives, and tell them that some pieces of shit killed them because of an arms deal gone bad.
“Already ready to go, sir.” He referred to the proposals.
“Good, good.” I patted his shoulder. “Dunno what I’d do without you, bud.”
“Thank you.” He grinned. “Get some rest boss, I’m sure tomorrow’s gonna be hectic with that proposal.”
“It will be. Try to be quick, make sure no one follows you.” I flicked my cigarette, the ashes fell to the ground.
“I’m always careful, boss.” I hummed in approval.
I left Lucca to clean up any traces of us being there. That man was the first of many that I would find and kill if until I had the answer of why in the fuck they were aiming for my men.
The streets were poorly lit at night, being in a high-crime area in the middle of the night in New York. I took another puff of my cigarette, pulling the cancer stick from my mouth, flicking the ashes to the ground. Few people were out during this time of night other than people like me in gangs, prostitutes, and drug dealers.
My phone vibrated in my pocket. Pulling it out, I looked at the screen. It was probably the last person I wanted to hear from, at this time of night.
“Yes, James?” I asked.
“Ace, buddy.” James from the Soul Steelers gang answered. “I heard someone caused a ruckus with your men the other night.”
“So what of it, you know why?” I raised my brow, stopping in my tracks.
“Well, from what I heard,” the burly man answered. “Was that your men weren’t providing all the guns you said you would provide.” He hummed in response. I could almost imagine that pig of a man leaning back in his swivel chair with an evil grin resting on his face.
“So kill them with those said guns, and not payout?” I growled. “You think there’s something wrong here?”
James laughed, “I’m just relaying what I was told.” The man chuckled again. “I’m not saying they’re right, but I have a man on their side, a rat you could say.”
“Why are you calling James?” I hissed.
“You mean, what am I calling for?” He coughed. “I’m calling to see if you could acquire me something valuable. My wife wants this painting. It just so happens to be showcased in the museum you partially own.”
“Oh, I didn’t think I was asking though, Ace. I was more on the side of telling you I need you to acquire this painting. You see, my wife’s birthday is here in the next week. Let me tell you, when I get her the things she wants, she’s more than willing to give me that beautiful pussy of hers.” I sneered. Every time he talked about his wife, I wanted to vomit. He was 50, and she was only 22. It made me sick to my stomach to even hear him talk sexually about someone young enough to be his daughter. From what I remembered, she was younger than one of his own children with his first wife.
“I really didn’t need to know that.”
“On the contrary, though, I wasn’t done yet, boy. I also wouldn’t mind sharing her with you for one night if you got this painting for her. I’m sure she would get all nice and wet for you.” He hummed in thought. “Of course you would have to let me watch that is.”
“All of that sounds disgusting. Are you selling your wife off now too, don’t you have other girls for that.” My face scrunched up in disgust.
“I mean, if you’re wanting to take a bite of someone else, be my guest, they’re all for you to choose from. As long as I get that gift.” He said firmly.
“2 million and I’ll get you the painting you’re wanting.” I dropped my cigarette on the ground, stomping it out.
“1.5 and access to any of the girls.” He hummed in amusement.
“I’m not interested in your girls. I’m interested in your money,” I responded.
“Or boys, if that’s what you’re into, I think we have a few that are around your age. I’m sure they’d love a young strappin’ man like you.” I closed my eyes in frustration.
“Not interested.” I huffed.
“Do you not have a cock in those pants there, Ace? Men pay my girls thousands of dollars a night. They practically suck the soul out of your cock. And you’re not even remotely interested?” He sounded frustrated.
“I’d rather stick my dick in the ground.” I rolled my eyes, knowing he couldn’t see it.
“C’mon boy, what else can I give you?” He asked.
“2 mil, or nothing. Take it or leave it; you’re wasting my time at this point.” I snapped, asserting my annoyance. “If it’s a valuable piece, the price will go up.”
“Wow, you’re a fucker, you know?” The man grunted on the other side of the phone.
“I have a business to run, and I’m short eight men now if you wanna get testy with me. Be my guest, I may partially own the museum, but I only own the building aspect, not the royalties inside it. Therefore I still have to break in and steal whatever it is that you’re wanting.” I rubbed my face with my free hand.
“I think it’s a Monet. Nymphéas en fleur is what she said it was.” I began to laugh at him. 2 million wouldn’t even cover us retrieving the portrait.
“Oh James, you’re an idiot….” I wiped the tears that began to roll from my eyes. “That’s a priceless piece of artwork you want there. That’s probably around 100 mils for my men and me to retrieve it. You sure are funny.” I chuckled.
“You’ve gotta be fuckin’ with me, boy?” He mumbled.
“Oh, I’m as serious as a heart attack. That piece is around 90 million on its own. The 10 million is for us to break all of the alarms surrounding it. That piece is life in federal prison if something goes wrong. So yes, 100 million.”
“What happened to 2 mil?”
“What part of 100 million dollars doesn’t get through that fat skull of yours. That bitch of yours must be made of gold if she wants that piece.”
“Is there anything that remotely looks like it?”
“I mean, you probably could get away with getting her The Japanese Footbridge by Monet. It’s worth around 50-60 mil. We could settle on 70 mil to get it for you.”
The man sighed, obviously weighing on his options. “Yeah, get her that one.”
“Due to incidents that happened last week, we need the payment upfront. If you do happen to think to cross us-” I lowered my voice. “You can just know, I will wipe the existence of everyone you know and love from this earth.”
“Duly noted.” He responded quickly. “I’ll arrange to see you a week from now. I’ll call you later.” James ended the call.
I sighed, sliding my phone into my pocket, continuing my journey back to my car. I made sure to leave it in a better part of town, knowing the possibilities would be higher in the area of the Bronx I was in. I lost focus, losing myself in my thoughts—a dangerous thing to do, in the work I did.
I didn’t hear the footsteps. Hell, I barely registered that someone had run into me until I almost tripped over the boy with curly auburn hair. I blinked out of my trans, looking down at the boy in a forest green button-down shirt. The neon lights illuminated his pale skin and his wide blue eyes.
“What are you doing out here this time of night, kid? Dontcha know things go bump during this time of night?” I reached a hand out to him. He was a beautiful boy, more beautiful than the men and women I would often see in the line of work I did on both ends, the good and the bad.
“It’s kinda why I was runnin’.” The boy responded, ignoring my hand and getting to his feet.
“How about I walk ya home?” I raised a brow, intrigued. He brushed himself off and shook his head.
“I’d prefer not to be dead on the side of the road, no offense.” He shrugged his shoulder.
I chuckled, “None taken.” I nodded my head. “I’m just sayin’ a little mouse like you walkin’ around this time of night isn’t safe.”
“Well, I live here. Thanks for your concern.” He walked past me in the direction I had just come from.
I found myself smiling at the boy. He had some feist in him.
He was a mouse.
And I was the cat ready to drag him in.