Allesandri family

Street Lawyer 5.9

Previous || Next

Cavvy, come on,” I said, trying to smile and act like it was just a bad joke. “Stop being a wiseguy. This isn’t funny. Talkin’ about takin’ us in…”

Cavvy stared at me coldly. “It wasn’t a joke, Alfonso.”

I ditched the smile. Hearing him say it drove it in. He really was gonna take us in. This was happening. They’d caught Nayeli.

No, not necessarily, I reminded myself. Just because they’ve finished the psychometric mapping of the crater doesn’t necessarily mean they caught Nayeli. Not yet, anyway.

Annie looked scared stiff. Cavvy faltered, like he didn’t know what he was supposed to do. Dammit man, either shit or get off the pot.

“So what’s the occasion?” I asked. “What’d we do wrong?”

“Nothing,” he said abnormally quickly, as if he was the one who had to make excuses for us. “You’re just persons of interest. I’m sure all they wanna do is ask you some questions. Though, honestly, I wanna know what you guys were doing on that train. Did you-”

“What if that doesn’t work for us?” I asked, interrupting him. Annie tugged on my sleeve.


“Huh?” Cavvy vocalized.

“I mean what if I don’t wanna go?” I said, ignoring my little sister. “You think I want this on my record? My bosses think I’m up to something shady and my ass is left out to dry, and I can’t afford to risk losing my job or miss out on a payment if I wanna make sure Annie’s getting the care she needs. Besides, what if they just use this as an excuse to get me to admit to something I didn’t do so they can take my money and my ass to court? I’m not going.”

All lies, of course. My bosses paid me to get up to something shady. Mentioning my record was, however, a mistake in retrospect.

Cavvy scowled at my indifference. “You don’t have a choice, Alfonso. It’s the law. Either come with me or you’re under arrest.”

Al…” Annie said again.

For a moment we all just stood there and looked at each other, daring someone to say something.

“Come on, man. Don’t do this,” I pleaded. “Can’t you just-”

“Let it slide? Is that what you were gonna say?” Cavvy said. “You know I can’t do that, Alfonso. Why are you being so stubborn, anyway?”

“I told you. I just don’t wanna go. I don’t trust the cops in this city.” And for good reason. I noticed Cavvy’s hand wavering noncommittally around his holster.

Suddenly Annie was breaking away from me and climbing down the fire escape to where Cavvy was. I should’ve known she’d side with him instead of me, after everything that’s happened lately. But she wouldn’t sell me out so easily, would she? I mean come on, I’m her brother for crying out loud!

Defiantly, she dropped down and started walking over to Cavvy. I nearly blurted “watch out!” when I watched her stumble on the uneven pavement, but Cavvy caught her just fine without me. She stood up, and glared at me. Cavvy nodded at her approvingly, and for that brief second that defiance in her eyes made me hate him more than I ever loved him. But then a second later it was gone.

“Alfonso… stop making this more difficult than it has to be. They’re just gonna take you in and ask some questions. Why are you afraid? What do you have to be scared of?!”

Master Alfonso, Theo said dangerously. I can get rid of him if there is a problem. I already decided on an escape route. Just give me your approval and-

No, Theo. We’re not doing that.

But Master Alfonso-!

I raised my hands up to the sky, the eternal sign of submission to the boot.

“You gonna do it then?” I ask, solemnly. “You really gonna do it, Cavvy?

He bit his lip. Bit it so hard it looked like he was gonna bleed, like he was chewing it. This wasn’t easy for him. Wasn’t really easy for me either though. Maybe that’s why I wasn’t easier on him, less stubborn and uncooperative. Or maybe I’m just a bastard.

He drew his gun. “Alfonso Anastasio, you are under arrest for the obstruction of justice. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say may be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to consult an attorney before talking to the police…”

I couldn’t believe it. I wanted to tell myself he was just following orders and leave it at that, I really did. But because it was him, because it was my friend, telling myself that somehow didn’t make me feel any less betrayed. Goddammit Cavvy…

When we arrived at the police station, I was separated from Annie. Although maybe that’s not the right word. After all, she had no qualms about being led away from me, at least not as many as I had.

After being forced down dull grey corridor after dull grey corridor after dull grey corridor I was brought to the classic dimly lit interrogation room, and forced to sit in one of the uncomfortable wooden chairs. Five minutes later, I was greeted by an elf in a government suit. Great. They gave me a treehugger.

“I wanna consult with my fucking lawyer,” I said.

“If you’re referring to the Marquis Allesandri listed on the information you’ve provided us, I regret to inform you he’s in another room three doors down.”

Okay, quick break. Can I just take a minute, and tell you what really pisses me off about these guys? Why I really fucking hate elves? It’s because they think they’re so fucking perfect, like their shit don’t stink. They’re all “oh, look at us being all at one with nature and the ebb and flow of the universe, ohhhh” when really all they do is sit around in rotting dank forests painting leaves and writing whiny poetry. They’re such fucking drama queens. And you know what the worst part is? How stuck up they are about it. We invite them into our homes and our cities and all they can talk about is how their forests are so much better and how we need to learn to respect nature, all the while a hydra is devouring the next town over and shitting them out looking like good fertilizer. If you think nature is so great, then why don’t you just fucking stay there and keep it to yourselves, instead of coming over here and stealing jobs you don’t even want from hard-working…-

Okay, deep breaths… Sorry. I just really hate elves.

Anyway, the pointy-eared hippie quizzed me for a few minutes about our ride on the City of Cleveland, and I kept my fucking mouth shut. I knew how this went. I knew how to play this game. I’d been playing it since I was fourteen, and I like to think I played it well. The secret is, you gotta remember just one thing. They can’t force you to say shit. And if you don’t say shit, then all they got is shit.

“Mr. Anastasio, my name is Phiynore Ashlute.”

“Bite me.”

“Charming. You do know why you’re here tonight, right?”

“Oh, I’m sorry. You must’ve misheard me. I’ll repeat myself.” I cleared my throat. “Kiss the hairiest part of my shaft. You fucking treehugger.”

“… Perhaps we should just move on to the questions then. So were you or were you not aboard the City of Cleveland the morning of November the 2nd?”

I stayed quiet. He sighed.

“Mr. Anastasio, we have documented evidence proving you were aboard that train. It’s written on the passenger manifest. Just answer the questions. Honestly, if you would. And I’ll know if you’re lying to me.”

I wouldn’t bet on that, pal.

“Yes,” I spat.

“Good. And were you or were you not traveling with Marquis Allesandri et al?”

“Maybe I was, maybe I wasn’t,” I said. “There were a lotta people on that train. How am I supposed to know who’s sitting next to who?”

“Perhaps I should clarify.”

“Perhaps you should.”

His eyebrow twitched just momentarily when I said that. I smiled.

Are you or are you not an acquaintance of Marquis Allesandri?”

“He’s my financier,” I responded as flatly as possible. “He provided me with free train tickets as a professional gift.”

The elf sighed, apparently not catching on to the bluff. “Good, good, now we’re getting somewhere. Now, were you at any point invited into Marquis Allesandri’s private car?”

I shrugged. “Don’t see why it matters if I was or if I wasn’t. From what I hear, the mayor’s daughter was invited to his private car. You gonna bring Felicity Overscore in here and give her the third degree too?”

My interrogator fell silent. I decided saying “that’s what I thought” might be pushing my luck at this juncture.

The man across the table sighed. He took off his glasses and gently massaged his temples between his thumb and forefinger, hiding his face.

“Mr. Anastasio…”

“Call me Al.”

“… Al. I’ll be straight with you.”

“Well that’d be a first for an elf.”

“We have reason to believe one of Marquis Allesandri’s guests on that train may be responsible for the incident you bore witness to in Arizona. I personally do not think you are capable of committing such an act. Not because I doubt someone like you would do it, but because it’d be categorically impossible for you to do it. Nevertheless, I must clarify and state for the record everything you are able to tell me. For the next few hours, or until you deign to give me any halfway decent answers, that is the cross I must bear. Now, are you going to make this easy on yourself, and more importantly your sister, or are you going to keep prolonging this so we both won’t be able to go home tonight?”

My lips pursed. Annie…

They escorted me out of the room in handcuffs. They didn’t have dick on me as far as the Arizona incident (as it was quickly becoming known) was concerned, but by the time we left they did have a reasonable case to make for aggravated assault after I broke that treehugger’s fucking nose. I heard them talking about slapping on an additional “hate crime” charge, but none of them were sure it would stick since the attacker (that is to say me) was also legally classified demihuman, albeit barely.

I scoffed. I had one of the best lawyers in the state in my familia. I had connections. These fuckfaced, limp-dick G-men tried sticking me with anything, they’d start getting some friendly visits from the nice men with guns. Not many people are still so eager to testify after looking down the smokey end of a chopper.

They returned me to the waiting room instead of a cell, but left the cuffs on, walking out and washing their hands clean of me. A few minutes later, Marq emerged.

“You finished with your questioning?” I asked.

“No, I was done with that in under five minutes,” Marq said. “They know better than to start asking stupid questions around me. I’ve been spending the last half hour defending your ass.”

“He threatened Annie,” I growled.

“Barely,” Marq said, sitting down and opening his cigarette case. “I keep telling you Al, I don’t have time for shit like this right now. I don’t care if you don’t like elves. What I care about is getting Nayeli back safe and sound. That’s all that matters right now. And you? You’re not helping.”

He lit up, taking a deep whiff of nicotine before slowly exhaling, his smoke as much a sigh as the genuine article. He looked raggedy, worn down. Like hell froze over, or at least lukewarm. Bags were beginning to form under his eyes. Come to think of it, this was the first time I’d seen him in the last couple days.

He took another drag on the cigarette, inhaling so much that he, a veteran smoker, actually started coughing. He frowned at the smoking butt, then tossed it in irritation. We both stayed quiet for the next five minutes. When the silence finally was broken, I was almost afraid of what I’d hear coming out of his mouth. More bad news, certainly.

“So, Al, who was that stiff that brought you in?” Marq asked.

“He’s…” I hesitated, looking around. “A friend.”

“Really? Well he sure doesn’t look like a friend. He one of yours?”

“Well, he’s… not exactly one of ours. The Allesandris, I mean.”

“What’s his name?” Marq asked. “I’ve been hearing rumors about some uptight new guy downtown. Supposedly has it out for the five families.”

“Dante Salvo.”

“Special Detective?” Marq asked.


“Jesus fucking christ…” Marq sighed, pinching his nose. “Yeah that’s him. Why the fuck didn’t you tell me? What did you tell him?


“You sure? Because you know what happens when you rat out the family.”

“I know, Marq. I didn’t say anything, to anybody.”

“Look me in the eyes and tell me that.”

I glared at him, staring right into the pits of his pupils.

“I didn’t say nothing to nobody. You know me better than that.”

Marq sighed, the breath leaving him like some great weight was being slowly lowered onto him, rather than off. His usual commanding slouch just looked tired, vulnerable. The kind of posture men like him abhorred. A sign of weakness.

“Do you still think we can win?” I ask uncertainly.

“I dunno,” Marq said, and just that simple affirmation of uncertainty was terrifying enough.

“But you’re going to try, right?”

“Of course I’m going to try, Al!” Marquis snapped. Conscious of his outburst, he slumped back into his passive position. “I don’t know what I’m going to do if they find her, but I know there’s gotta be a way. If we can’t convince them, we’ll bribe them. If we can’t bribe them, we’ll replace them. If we can’t do either of those things, we’ll run away. They can’t stop us. I don’t know how this is gonna end, but I know that if I ever see Nayeli again, I’m not letting her go. I don’t care what it takes. I saved her from the gods themselves once. If I have to, I’ll do it again. These guys are nothing.”

It was his way of amping himself up. No doubt about it, this would be the most difficult trial of his life, and the one with the highest stakes. He knew that as well as I did. Better, in fact. But he still wasn’t giving up, wasn’t bending or breaking. I admired that about him. It takes a special kind of man to set himself a task and then do whatever he has to, whatever he can do, to finish it.

And he needed to get to it, fast. Nayeli was on her way back home.

Previous || Next

Street Lawyer 5.6

Previous || Next

We watched them wheel Frankie out of the house on a stretcher. Sometime in the past seven minutes, he’d lost consciousness. I’d done all I could in the meantime, but was hard to know if he’d ever wake up again.

Milo lifted Frankie into the ambulance himself, then marched on over to us.

“How does he look?” Marq asked. “Is his heart rate stabilizing-”

He barely got to finish that sentence as Milo decked him in the face, knocking him to the floor.

What did you do to him, Marquis?!”

“Whoa whoa whoa, easy,” I said, stepping in front of him with my knife out. To my relief, Theo backed me up. Milo glared at me with every ounce of hate he could squeeze out of that sour lemon smile of his.

“Out of my way, soldato trash,” he growled. “Know your place or I’ll put you in it.”

“My place is with my boss,” I said firmly. “You’re not my boss. Now take a step back.”

He smiled. No, it was more like an imitation of a smile, wrought from anger and forced through clenched teeth like toothpaste in a tube.

“You have a lot of nerve talking to capo like that. I could have you stripped of your rank if I wanted.”

“Really? Is that what you are?” I replied. “I guess we’ll have to see how long that lasts after Boss Frankie wakes up. If he wakes up. I get the feeling he won’t take too kindly to you almost killing him today.”

That wasn’t me!” Milo roared. “It was Marquis! He… he did something… to the stone!

“Like what?” Marq said, wiping blood off his lip. “I don’t know the first damn thing about how that stone works. Kichirō doesn’t either, so I have a hard time believing you do. Admit it, Milo. You went in half-cocked not knowing what you were doing, and it almost got dad killed.”

“Stop trying to pass the buck!” Milo shouted. “You did something to the stone, admit it!”

“When exactly would I have had a chance to do that?” Marq asked. “You watched us cut it out of a live unicorn and then you took it for yourself. I haven’t seen it since. You just fucked up trying to make daddy love you.”

Milo bit his lip, a thin rivulet of blood forming as his teeth squeaked across the delicate flesh, ripping it open. A drop hit the floor, then two drops. On three, Milo went for his gun.

“Shut up shut up shut up!” Milo screamed, pointing his revolver at Marq and through me. “This is your fault! I didn’t… I couldn’t…

Marq stared at him coldly.

“And you think I would? What reason would I have for killing dad? Me, the supposed ‘favorite’? Why would I go out of my way to shake this family up even more than it already has been with this stupid blood feud? Take some responsibility for yourself, Milo. Whatever happens to dad from hereon out is on you. You made a mistake. Now you have to live with it.”

He brushed the dirt off his coat, ignoring Milo completely.

“Come on Al, let’s go.”

With that, Marq turned his back on Milo even while he still had his gun out, and I guess I followed suit. Wasn’t really sure what else to do.

Milo’s gun hand shook, and he almost pulled the trigger, but Theo knocked it out of his hands before he could, the tip of her throwing knife wedged into the steel of the barrel. Then she waggled her finger at him like a disapproving nanny, a move I found surprisingly sassy for Theo. I liked it. I liked the expression on Milo’s face even more.

We all piled into Marq’s car before things could get any worse, and I turned my head to look out the window at Milo as we pulled out into the street. Even without my powers, I don’t think I would’ve forgotten that face. It looked something like a kneecapped lion or a cornered wolf. Desperate, broken, unrestrained anger with a little fear mixed in, a highly unstable mixture that almost always blew up in your face.

I looked away, trying not to let it worry me. If it really was supposed to be my job to protect my boss, I would’ve told Marq right then. I should’ve told him. We’d just made a very big mistake.

“Al,” Marq said, catching me by surprise.

A moment of quiet passed.

“… Yeah?” I asked, taking his silence as an invitation.

“Does this seem a little convenient to you?”

I thought about how I wanted to respond to that very carefully. “Convenient how?”

Marq sighed. “I mean, Milo won. He had the stone, there was nothing we could do to keep him from using it on our dad and curing his disease. Then dad nearly dies when the stone conveniently starts acting up. Doesn’t that seem a little suspicious to you?”

“What, you think Milo used the stone to try and kill Frankie on purpose?” I asked, confused.

“No, no,” Marq said, waving his hands. “Not like that. You’re approaching this all wrong. Even if it was just a freak accident or a mistake Milo made going in all half-cocked, the most likely outcome of someone mishandling the stone should’ve just been nothing happening at all, not a blood vessel popping in my dad’s brain. And besides that, I can’t see Milo ever trying to kill him to begin with. It’s like I said, what do we have to gain? For someone in Milo’s position it’d be a risky move at best, and career suicide at worse. And Milo’s too much of a daddy’s boy anyway.”

“So what are you suggesting?” I asked. “That he was framed or something?”

“It’s possible, though I don’t see why anyone would do it. Everyone knows Frankie never really liked Milo, so what point would there be in trying to knock him out of the race when he’s already not a threat? You’d have to be pretty low on the waiting list to be less popular with dad than Milo, and frankly we’re running out of brothers and sisters,” Marq said as if it were just simple mathematics. “Besides, why not just kill him if that’s what you want to do? Anyone who can sabotage the stone or Frankie’s medical equipment should already have the resources to do that.”

“Maybe they were worried it wouldn’t work?” I suggested. “It’s not a guarantee that a demon would take a deal to have him assassinated, and hitmen can make mistakes.”

“And this roundabout method is somehow more foolproof?” Marq asked me sarcastically. He sighed. “Look, right now I’m not suggesting anything. All I’m saying is this smells way too much like fish for us to ignore it.”

We parked outside Marq’s office a half an hour later. I looked at Theo as we all piled out, and she cocked her head at me questioningly.

“You should head back home, Theo,” I said. “… Make sure Annie’s doing okay.”

“And you, Master-”

I put my finger on her lips.

“Don’t. Say it. I’ll be home soon. Just gotta take care of some things here at the office.”

She closed her eyes and tipped her head forward in a bow. “Understood.”

“Don’t do that!” I hissed, whipping around to make sure no one was looking. “It’s really embarrassing! Besides, you don’t want to get caught, do you? If anyone finds out you’re a homunculus we could both go to prison!”

“I’m sorry, Master. My apologies,” she said, and bowed again.

God-!” I started, then took a deep breath. “Look, just go. I’ll see you at home.”

Theo nodded. “Please call me immediately if you think you may be in danger.”

“What do you mean? Why would I be-”

But she was already gone. I hadn’t even seen her leave. Damn she’s fast, I thought to myself.

I sighed.

“You know, you really don’t have to be so hard on her,” Marq said. “She’s just trying to do a good job.”

“A little too good if you ask me,” I said. “Makes me feel uncomfortable. I don’t want her to feel like she’s still a slave. Makes me feel shitty.”

“Maybe this her way of trying to thank you,” Marq suggested. “You saved her life, so now she figures being the best familiar she can be is the least she can do.”

“Speaking of that,” I said. “What did she mean by ‘call’ her? This telepathy thing, how do I use it? I haven’t had much practice.”

“Oh, that?” Marq said. “That’s easy. Just think about your familiar really hard, then tell them what you want them to do or whatever kind of message you’re trying to send.”

“That? That’s it?” I asked. “Sounds a bit too easy, don’t you think? I mean, a guy has to worry about his privacy now and again. What if I’m uhhh… thinking about Theo but I don’t want to call her? That seems like it could get embarrassing.”

Marq snorted. That got a chuckle out of him.

“Don’t worry. The geas we use for familiars was designed to prevent that from happening. You have to be very deliberate in what you’re doing, otherwise your message won’t go through,” he explained. “It takes a little practice though. Try to train your mind to associate calling her with a very specific set of stimuli. A strong mental image, like a phone ringing. Maybe snapping your fingers to a certain beat or clicking your heels together three times and saying ‘There’s no place like home!’ You’ve gotta make a ritual out of it. That way it doesn’t happen by accident, and you can trigger it whenever you want.”

I tried to think of something that’d make a good trigger. Mental images were out. I didn’t trust my brain enough for that. After all, your brain can be tricked. Doesn’t even take magic to do it. So it had to be something I did physically, or with my voice. Wouldn’t that be inconvenient if I wanted to make a call in secret though? It’d have to be something inconspicuous then.

I frowned, deep in concentration. Damn this was hard!

Master Alfonso?

“Huh?” I said aloud. Was that Theo’s voice? Had I accidentally called her?

What is it that you need?! Theo asked urgently. Are you in danger? I shall head there right away-

No no, Theo, I tried thinking back to her. I’m just trying to get this telepathy thing down. I didn’t mean to call you.

Oh, she said, her voice sounding much calmer. Well that is certainly a relief. Should I…

Yes, go check on Annie. I’ll see you at home.

I paused.

How… do I disconnect?

I could feel Theo’s sigh of exasperation on the other end of the line, then I felt nothing at all. The connection had been cut, presumably on Theo’s end. Well that was embarrassing.

“So what are we here for again?” I asked Marq as he opened the door, trying not to think about my ineptitude as a mage.

“Just wanted to go through our stories and all our information together,” Marq said. “Make sure everything matches up. You will be testifying, right?”

“Hmmm…. I dunno,”’I said, faking uncertainty. “I mean technically I was inebriated, so I don’t know how much of that fight I really witnessed  per se. And when you take the curvature of the Earth and the early morning light into account, I can’t really be sure what I saw…”

Marq raised his eyebrow at me.

“… Of course I’m going to testify, you idiot. Nayeli’s family, no matter what your dad says. She’s loud, annoying, obnoxious family, but she’s still family. And besides, what kind of mafioso would I be if I didn’t look out for my boss or my blood brother?” I said, ribbing him with my elbow. He smiled as he pushed open the doors and nearly bumped smack dab into the lady of the hour herself.

“Nayeli,” he said, surprised. “You’re up… and out of the house. What are you doing here?”

“Oh, ummm… just picking up the apron I left here,” she said sheepishly. “I thought I’d head down to the soup kitchen to help out one last time. You said we still had a few days before the news got out, so, y’know… I figured I’d make the most of them. Do something good.”

“Really?” Marq asked, still bewildered. “You’ve been cooped up for the last couple days. Are you sure you’re ready?”

Nayeli giggled. “Come on boss, I’ll be fine. Really, I will.”

“Ookayyyy…” Marq said, still somewhat disbelieving. “Well, do you want me to drive you there?”

“No, I’ll walk,” she said, heading for the door. “What are you so worried about?”

“Nothing, it’s just…” Marq faltered. “I love you… you know that, right?”

Nayeli smiled warmly, one of the few times I’ve seen her do that.

“Yeah. ‘Course I know that.”

“Well… see you later then, I guess.”

“Yeah. See you later, boss. Take care.”

Marq watched her go. She sounded so sad when she said that. I didn’t think about it too much though. I had problems of my own I needed to talk to Marq about.

“Marq. Hey Marq,” I said, snapping my fingers in front of his face. “We were gonna do our stories or whatever?”

“Right, right,” he said, the trance broken. “Here, let’s just head into my office quick.”

He turned the doorknob. The room was absolutely cluttered with stacks of paper, mostly legal documents. Court transcripts, letters, laws, bills, dossiers, the works.

“Johnny Numani v. the State of Florida, Adler v. the Black Cove Coven, ‘On Demihumans and How to Judge Them’, ‘A Short History of Post-War Law’, ‘Our New Reality’…” I read aloud. “Marq, what is all this shit? I’m feeling a bit behind the grind, here.”

“It’s demihuman defense law, Al,” Marq said. “I’ve been studying it, trying to find something that’ll keep Nayeli out of the hoosegow.”

Marq scowled once he saw his desk.

“Oh what the hell is this? Who moved my papers?! I had these all nice and arranged in a specific order! Now I’m gonna have to redo this whole thing…”

He sat down and started sifting through the mess, shuffling folders and packets of paper around in ways that only made sense to him, I’m sure.

“Hmmm… looks like there’s a letter here,” he said, picking up a folded envelope at the bottom of the pile. “Did I leave this here?”

He pushed a bottle of brandy to the side and cut the letter open with the knife he kept next to his pens. Now seemed like as good a time as any.

I took a deep breath. “Listen, Marq, about we talked about on the train. I was thinking I should-”

But he wasn’t listening. He was just staring, at the piece of old paper he held in his hands. Staring at it like a cyclops. Worst of all, his hands were shaking.

“… Marq?” I asked, hoping he wouldn’t say anything. That everything was still going according to plan, like they always did. “What’s wrong?”

He looked up at me, slowly, like someone was cranking a car jack attached to his neck. I’d never seen that look in his eyes before. I’d seen him mad, sad, frightened, worried, anxious, happy. Afraid. But never this. This was true fear. We stared at each other wordlessly, then he bolted for the closet.

“Marq!” I yelled after him.

Nayeli!” he shouted, dropping the piece of paper at the door as he hurried to the stairs. Not thinking twice, I grabbed the paper and followed him through the trapdoor.

“Marq, what’s going on?” I asked him, extremely worried, but he wouldn’t respond. Instead he just skidded out the door on the bottom floor, making a mad dash for the exit. He flung open the front doors wildly and yelled out into the streets at the top of his lungs.

Nayeli! πρώτa αγάπη!” He yelled in Greek. “Isn’t that what you said?! πρώτa αγάπη?”

I held the piece of paper up to see what was written on it. My eyes scanned the chicken-scratch Greek lettering, and suddenly I understood.

“υγεία χαρά…” I read aloud. That meant goodbye.

“προτιμώ εσένα!” Marq trumpeted into the streets, desperate for his pleas to be heard. “προτιμώ εσένα! προτιμώ εσένα…”

He dropped down on his knees, sobbing.

“προτιμώ εσένα…” he croaked. “Please… Nayeli…”

I walked over and put a hand on his shoulder, concerned. He looked up at me, crying.

“She’s gone, Al,” he said, choking through tears. “Nayeli’s gone.”

Previous || Next

Street Lawyer 5.5

Previous || Next

A chill ran up my spine. No, actually it was more like being spooned by Jack Frost. I swallowed a hard lump and took a step forward to cover Theo. Frankie grinned upon seeing me.

“Alfonso Anastasio, associate no more,” he said, addressing me in an almost fatherly way. “Come on over here, let me get a look at you.”

I did as he asked, getting close enough that I could stand over his bedside. He looked me over.

“God you seem different. How many years has it been?”

“Ten, sir,” I said. “At least I think.”

“Shhhshhshh,” he lisped. “I don’t care what you think. I’m just happy to see one of my son’s oldest friends finally joining the family. We never talked much, but the way you two looked out for each other, I’ve always regarded you as one of my sons. You’ve been a good brother to my boy, Alfonso. Now you’re brothers by blood. How does that make you feel?”

I looked at Milo out of the corner of my eye. His sights were set squarely on me. That wasn’t good.

“… Honored, sir.”

“Then tell me,” Frankie asked. “Why did you disrespect me?”

My heart skipped a beat when he said that. I could feel it coming as I broke out into a cold sweat and my mouth dried up like a turd in a litter box.

“I-I’m sorry, sir, but I don’t really understand-”

“You stole from me, Alfonso,” he said, his voice hard like a rock. “You took what wasn’t yours without permission. The homunculus. That’s her right there, right?”

His wandering eyes passed over Theo, and I could see her stiffen up as she tried her hardest not to show what she was feeling. She was shaking, but I felt paralyzed.

“Well? Tell me, boy,” Frankie commanded. “Is it?”

Slowly, I nodded. “Yessir. Her name is Philippa Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von-”

“Homunculi don’t have names,” he said dismissively, waving his hand.

“Well… this one does,” I said.

Frankie grunted. “And? What made you think it was okay to steal her from me, when she wasn’t yours to take? I punish thieves very harshly, Alfonso, and traitors even harsher. Why shouldn’t I just kill you, and be done with it?”

Finally Theo couldn’t take it anymore. She flashed her knives which she’d hidden in her dress, and pointed them at Frankie. Milo immediately reached for his gun.

“You may try,” Theo said through grit teeth. That just made Frankie laugh.

“I like her! She has spunk. She would’ve made an excellent little dollie for me to play with,” he said, licking his lips. He turned his attention back to me. “I think I’m beginning to see the full picture here now. Alfonso, you did not enter into a contract with her of your own volition, did you?”

“… No.” Not necessarily, anyway…

“And you didn’t do it to steal from me?”

“No,” I said. “I was… incapacitated. About to be killed. She came to my rescue. Without that contract, I don’t think I would have survived.”

“And if you could go back in time and do it again, this time under different circumstances, would you still have done it?”

Theo looked at me. Did I defend her and say what was really on my mind, or did I say what he wanted to hear so we could all still leave this place in one piece? It felt like no matter what I picked, I would be burning a bridge and betraying my family. Except one of those bridges was built over a deadly fall.

“Well?” Frankie asked, urging me to get on with it.

I gulped. I had to answer honestly. I’d never forgive myself if I didn’t. The Allesandris always came first, but the people I shared that tiny tenement with came even before that. As long as I didn’t give him the contract, he could never have Theo, even if I died. Annie would have the life insurance, and Theo to look after her. Everything would be fine if I just died here. That’s what I had to tell myself.

“… Yes,” I said. Frankie’s gaze hardened, while Theo’s looked relieved. “I would have done it exactly the same way. She deserves to be free, sir. She’s earned that.”

“And yet all I see is her calling someone else her master. Someone who isn’t me,” he intoned threateningly.

“With all due respect, sir,” I said. “She chose to be with me. That’s… as close to freedom as she’s ever going to get.”

And it was still wrong. But it was better than whatever Frankie had planned for her.

It was in thinking about that that I made my mistake. Frankie reached into his pillow case and pulled out a revolver, pressing it square against my chest. Theo gasped and drew her knives, panicking, but I held out a hand to tell her to stand down. If she attacked now she might very well kill me herself.

“I’m gonna give you one last chance, Alfonso,” Frankie said with his finger on the trigger. “One last chance to rethink what you just said, and hand her over.”

I gulped. What were my options here? Was Theo fast enough to go for the save? Would I survive a shot to the heart? Unlikely, to both of them.

Did that change what I had to say? Ditto.

“Sorry sir, but my answer’s the same,” I said. “Theo isn’t property we can just pass along, and I’m never going to let her be property ever again.

Frankie and I locked eyes. There was no give and no take between us. Either this ended when he put the gun down, or when I bled out on his lavender fucking carpet.

Frankie’s face twitch. Mine loosened for a second, betraying my surprise. He made a noise like snorting, then after a few agonizing moments of him making confusing noises, broke out into raucous laughter. He lowered the gun.

“That’s great! That’s really great! The balls on you kid; I just cannot believe it!” he said, guffawing. “When they told me you’d been mouthing off to Paulie and Georgie, I thought he was telling me tall tales, but you really do have some, don’t you?”

I laughed nervously.

“Eheh… heh… Ummm… I’m confused,” I said. “Does this mean you’re not going to shoot me?”

“Alfonso, I would’ve shot you if you had given her to me,” Frankie said. “It’s clear to me now how strongly you feel about this, and I have no place in this organization for men with weak convictions. If you couldn’t defend your girl there, how could I ever expect you to defend our family? You gotta have resolve, kid. If I really want a doll like her, I can just find one somewhere else. But I can’t just replace good men that easily.”

My chest lightened, and filled with air. “So does that mean-”

“Yes. In exchange for a forty, fifty… ehhhh… seventy percent increase in your tribute, I will ignore this transgression. Just this once,” Frankie said. “In the name of good faith and family bonds. You have potential, Alfonso. I expect a lot from you. But the next time this happens, you know what I’ll have to do.”

“Yessir,” I said, a growing relief rising in me.

“Good,” he said, waving his hand. “Now go.”

Relief washed over me. Marq and I nodded to each other. It was time to go, before things had a chance to turn pear-shaped. But just as we had turned to leave…

“One moment, father. Aren’t you forgetting about that other thing we discussed?”

“Huh?” Frankie said. “Oh, right right. The cinnamon stone.”

Cintamani stone,” Milo reminded him.

Frankie scowled. “I don’t give a damn what it’s called, just bring it here if you’re so worked up about it.”

Milo beamed and approached him.

“I know it’s not exactly what I promised, but it can do everything the philosopher’s stone can and more,” he said.

“Hmph,” Frankie snorted. “I find that hard to believe. Well, let’s see what you’ve brought me this time, Milo. Maybe this one will actually work.”

Marq and I stood rooted in place, waiting to see what would happen. There was nothing else we could do. Events had long since conspired to take matters out of our own hands, a state of affairs that had for the longest time been known by its proper name “being Fate’s bitch”.

Milo unwrapped the stone after pulling it from an antique wooden box, making an elaborate show out of the whole thing. Frankie looked like he was getting impatient.

Then the stone appeared, the veil concealing it lifted. Its humble, unpolished appearance belied its power, but to someone who didn’t know what that power was, looks could be deceiving indeed.

Frankie huffed. “What’s this?”

Milo looked at him, confused. “It’s the cintamani stone.”

That?” Frankie asked incredulously. “I wouldn’t give a stone like that to a whore! You expect me to believe that’s some kind of great and powerful artifact?”

He narrowed his eyes.

“Milo… you better not be wasting my time again…”

“Of course not, sir!” Milo said, practically pleading. “Here, watch!”

He tapped the stone, causing a tiny light to flare up inside it. It looked like he was about to use it.

“I just have to find the right spell…” Milo said, his eyes glazed over. A few silent minutes passed. Frankie harumphed.

“I knew it. You have no idea what you’re doing.”

“Please, father! Just give me one more moment!” Milo begged. His eyes twitched frantically like he was reading an invisible book.

“There! I found it!” he said. Looking back, I’m pretty sure he was lying. The only question was to who.

The stone started to glow faintly, like there was a candle inside it. Milo pressed the stone to Frankie’s chest. The Allesandri patriarch jumped.

“What the hell do you think you’re-”

The effect was immediate. With a sound like wrapping paper crinkling in reverse, Frankie’s chest started to expand, taking deeper and deeper breaths. Color flushed back into his face, and his weakness went away. Whatever Milo was doing, it was working. I heard Marq click his tongue.

“What… what is this?” Frankie asked, then demanded. “What’s going on?!?”

“I’m using one of the enchantments inside the stone to heal your sickness, father,” Milo said, concentrating. “Please, hold still.”

Frankie took a couple of experimental deep breaths. After he realized he could breathe clearly again, he laughed heartily. It sounded… normal. “Haha… well, Milo, this… this really is something.”

Milo smiled. Miraculously, Frankie rose from his iron tomb and pushed aside the door, setting his feet on solid ground again for the first time in years. He balled his hand up in a fist, testing his grip. It was strong again. New, like a young man’s.

Slowly, he stood, his squat frame juxtaposed against Milo’s tall, lanky body. He looked up at his boy, and smiled.

“Not bad… Not a bad job at all, son! This is wonderful! I feel ten years younger!”

Milo’s eyes brightened. “Th-Th-Thank you very much, sir!”

Frankie put a hand on Milo’s shoulder. “You know, son, I… I have a confession to make. I never thought you’d amount to much. You lacked the imagination to really succeed like your half-brother. Didn’t have an independent thought in your head, is what I thought. But… I misjudged you. And I’m sorry. When I learned what the stone really was, I thought it wasn’t worth pursuing. But you looked at what it could be, saw something I didn’t. And now… now I’m healed! Thanks to you!”

He smiled wryly. It was barely a nudge at the corners of his lips, but it was the most genuine emotion I’d ever seen from him.

“Son, I’m prow of you.”

The mismatch didn’t register at first. We all just thought it was a slip of the tongue. Milo’s smile broke for just a millisecond.

“What did you say, father?”

“I said I’m prow fuf you.”

There it was again. Milo stopped smiling, concerned.

“Father, are you okay? You don’t sound quite right.”

“Wuhya mean? I feelfin… feel fin… feel… fine…

Frankie started to mumble.

“F-Fine. F-F-F-Fuh-Fine. Fiiiiine. Fiiiiaaaace. Face. Face. Face. Face. Face! Muh face!”

The Allesandri capofamiglia, the boss of bosses, started twitching spasmodically, fingers clawing at the left side of his face. He just repeated that same word over and over again, spittle dribbling out of his mouth.

“Fuh-fuh-facee… Fuuuuuh-fuf-faaaaaace… C-can’t…”

He slumped down, back against the iron lung, still twitching. His arms fell uselessly to his side.

“Father, what’s wrong?!” Milo said, shaking him by his shoulders. “What are you trying to say, father? What are you trying to say?!”

I knew.

“Call 911!” I shouted, shoving Milo out of the way. I grabbed Frankie’s twitching shoulders and held him down, doing my best to keep him lying on his side. I loosened his tie. “He’s having a stroke!”

Previous || Next

Street Lawyer 5.4

Previous || Next

You ever remember the feeling you get just before you fall and hit your head or break your arm? The one that normally lasts for just a millisecond before you hit the ground but it feels like an eternity of falling? The lightning flash of fear and uncertainty, not knowing what’s going to happen to you when you finally stop falling or even if you’ll get back up? As it turns out, there are ways you can feel that without the risk of accidentally turning your skull into brain pate, though I wouldn’t recommend it.

I swallowed a hard lump, adjusting my tie for the fifth time since we’d all piled into the car. I’d left my scarf at home that day. Thought maybe it was a bit too ostentatious. Then again, coughing in the presence of Frankie Allesandri could make you feel ostentatious. The man had a way of commanding respect, even from a hospital bed with a tube sticking out of his dickhole. He wouldn’t have climbed his way to the top of the New York scene if he hadn’t.

The three of us, me, Marq and Theo (whose presence Frankie had specifically requested, much to my dismay), had all piled in Marq’s new Rolls-Royce that morning to go see him. The car’s radio was on, but the atmosphere was dead quiet. Stifling really, like someone had just dropped a really eggy fart. Wasn’t me though. I hadn’t passed a solid shit in a week since the train.

“… How’s Nayeli doing?” I asked, staring absentmindedly out the window.

“Fine, given the situation we’re in,” Marq said unhappily. “She’s refused to leave her apartment for the last couple of days, so I’ve had to come by and make sure she eats. Apparently she still feels guilty about all this. She thinks that all she does is cause problems for me and that I’d be better off abandoning her. I tried to tell her I’d never do that, but she wasn’t in much of a mood to listen.”

I nodded, watching the other cars fly by us. “Have they set a court date?”

Marq shook his head. “No. I think the investigation is still ongoing. Otherwise we would’ve gotten a notice or some kind of warrant for arrest. Which is good, since it gives us more time to prepare.”

“Yeah…” I turned to look at Marq. “So, uhhh… we there yet?”

Marq sighed. “No, Al. And would you quit asking? This is the fifth time you’ve asked me that. Don’t you know the way to our house? Look out the damn window.”

I did what he said and stared nervously out the window. It wasn’t the same. Nothing looked the same when you were on death row. You look outside and it’s like seeing everything for the first time. I couldn’t tell if we were sitting on the corner of Park Avenue or at the intersection of Broadway in Little Italy.

I started out just wanting to get this meeting over with so they could decide our fate, but the longer the trip took the more I felt like I didn’t want to arrive. Just like that the ride started to feel like it took seconds, and we’d arrived at the Allesandri family manor faster than you can say “arrivederci”.

We got out. The place was modest, for a mansion at least. Which is to say it was only a home the size of a federal office building rather than an entire city block. The Allesandris preferred their territory historic, which is why they bought the house on Fifth from the Vanderbilts some time in 1926 before the BRC could get their grubby little paws on it. I remember coming here once when I was a teenager. I wasn’t allowed inside of course, but you didn’t have to see what’s in it for it to be impressive. And that’s all that mattered to Frankie Allesandri. That it was big, imposing, and could let people know “I wipe my ass with the kind of money you make” with a single glance.

Before long we found ourselves standing at the entrance, a grand ornate doorway not unlike the one Marq displayed proudly at his office. Guess taste in tacky decor is genetic.

The door knocker stared at us, challenging us to open it. Marq stepped forward, ignoring it entirely, and turned the doorknob slowly and quietly. And you know, I’ve noticed a funny thing about doors over the years, especially doors to places you shouldn’t be. They can smell fear, and they tend to open like the legs of a dame. If it’s a door you’ve been in before and you know you’re supposed to be there, if you’re confident and calm, they open without a single complaint. If it’s a door to a place you’re not supposed to be in, if you’re afraid and you try to force it, then they’re going to make noise like you wouldn’t believe.

The doors squealed and moaned, creaking open with the agonizing slowness of a snail hitting the grass, and we all winced as we heard the sound echo throughout the empty halls. I shivered.

“Are you nervous, Master Alfonso?” Theo asked from over my shoulder.

“S-Stop calling me that,” I reminded her again. “Can’t you feel it? This place is goddamn freezing!”

Theo thought about it. “No, I suppose I can’t. My body temperature is self-regulating.”

“Great,” I said. “Good for you.”

Jesus, I could actually see my breath a little if I squinted.

“I thought it was supposed to be summer, why is it so goddamn cold in here?!” I asked Marq. “I did not dress for this!”

“Al, shut up,” Marq said, his words icy as the air. “We came here for a reason. Don’t forget that.”

“O-Oh. Right…” I said. In the heat of the moment (or lack thereof, rather), I’d almost forgotten about that sinking feeling I’d had all morning. Well here we were. Rock fucking bottom. The end of the line.

I worked the last of the shivers out of my system and stood up straight. I was confident. I was calm. I was cool, and I was collected.

Yeah right.

We made it up the stairs without issue. Milo was waiting for us at the top.

“Oh, so nice of you to join us, Marquis,” he said sardonically as he held the fruits of our labor in his grubby little hands. “Fashionably late as always.”

“How’s father?” Marq asked, cutting straight to business.



There was a crashing and a clattering noise down the hall where Frankie’s bedroom was. Someone yelped with a voice like a bleating goat.

“… not in a good mood today,” Milo finished.

Marq snorted. “Is he ever?”

Milo frowned. “No, but I get the feeling he will be, once I show him this.”

The door opened at the end of the hall and a confused-looking cynocephaly in a servant’s uniform stumbled out. Marq stepped forward as the goat-headed man tried to pick himself up.

“Everything okay in there, Zeb?” he asked, holding out his hand. Did… did he know this guy?

“He… he let me go,” the man bleated. “Just like that! He let me go! After I’ve been working at his side for the last thirty-two years!”

“Well, you do kinda have this whole thing going on now,” Marq said, pointing to his face. The cynocephaly clung desperately to Marq’s lapels.

“What am I going to do, Marchese?! This… this is all I’ve got left! I don’t think I can…”

Marq sighed. “Look, Zeb. He’s just having one of his moods. You know how he’s been ever since he became sick. Let me talk to him, I’m sure I can convince him to give you your job back.”

The man’s square little goat eyes shimmered. “R-Really? You’d do that for me?”

Marq smiled. “Of course. You were the family consigliere, remember? You think I’d let him just fire you?”

“Oh! Ohhhhh!!” Zebediah sobbed, hugging Marq’s waist. “Grazie, il mio piccolo Marchese! Grazie! I raised you well! Bless your kind heart!”

“Alright, alright, that’s enough!” Marq said as he smiled awkwardly, trying to force Zebediah off of him. “You’re getting snot all over my new suit, Zeb!”

“O-Oh! That I am… I’m so, so sorry Marchese- I mean Marquis!”

The goatman let go, scuttling back a few feet. He was still on his hands and knees, like he was expecting to be beaten. Marq sighed in pity.

“It’s okay if you call me that, Zeb. I’m not gonna get mad because of some stupid little kid name you used to call me. That gypsy really did a number on you, didn’t she?”

The former consigliere bleated pathetically. “She took it all away from me, Marchese. My wife, my job, the rogue-ish good looks of an elderly Sicilian gentleman… Now what do I have? A goat for a head, and a registry card in my wallet!”

He started crying again. Marq knelt down and put a hand on his shoulder.

“I don’t mean like that, Zeb. She didn’t take anything away from you. Nothing except what you let her have.” He sighed. “I’m not gonna lie, what she did to you… it’s not pretty. But the things that make you Zeb, that Sicilian gentleman who raised me and helped keep this family afloat for thirty-two years… those aren’t things that she can take away just by changing your face. You earned those things, and you can take ‘em back, so long as you don’t let this change the way you live your life.”

The goatman sniffled. “I wish it was so easy Marchese, I really do. But the world isn’t kind to demihumans like it is to you. I see that now…”

“Well, I’m working on a fix for that,” Marq said reassuringly as he patted him on the shoulder. “Now go home and get some rest. Think about things a bit. It won’t change anything, but neither will sitting here feeling sorry for yourself, and I know which one I’d rather be doing. You just let me take care of the old man, okay?”

Zeb nodded, then slowly started walking down the steps. I watched him as he went. The drooped shoulders, the slink in his steps… now that was a special kind of sad.

Marq got up, dusting the goat hair off his lapels. Milo sneered at him.

“You always have to play the saint, don’t you brother?”

Marquis glared at him. “I don’t remember asking for your input, Milo.”

“I just thought you’d want to be a little more careful about how you associate yourself with these demihuman types,” he said, looking directly at me and Theo. “You know, after everything that’s happened.”

Milo smiled. Or rather, he found a way to express every synonym for the words “smug” and “asshole” in visual shorthand, and was showing us that. Made me want to punch him. There wasn’t much about Milo that didn’t once you got to know him, and by that I mean spend more than five minutes with the guy.

What’s happened is none of your business.”

“Oh, I think you’ll find that it’s quite my business. And after today, Father will realize-”

There was a sharp crack of a wheezing cough in the room just down the hall, where Frankie was supposed to be.

“Is that you, Marquis?”

Milo frowned at that, I noticed. “Yes, father, he is here. Shall I send him in alone, or do you wish to speak with us both?”

“… Enter,” he wheezed, more of a command than a welcome. I guess that meant all of us.

I followed behind Marq. It had been years since I’d last met the old man. Though I guess now he was the boss of my boss. The one and only Allesandri capofamiglia. The first time we met I was in awe of him. This time, I was scared shitless of him.

He’s just an old man, I reminded myself. A sick, dying old man. You could take him out if you really wanted. What’s there to be so scared of?

But those were empty assurances. I didn’t fear the man. I feared what he represented. What he stood for. This was the guy who built the Allesandris from the ground up. A criminal empire that stretched across the sea and into twelve states and more than fifty major cities. He had more money and connections than even big-shot politicians and Wall Street bankers, and he could have just about whatever he wanted. Drugs, dames, magic spells and artifacts, you name it. Excepting just two, there wasn’t a man in the world he couldn’t buy out or buy from, and the ones he couldn’t were even scarier than he was.

They say that in this world, money is power. If that was the case, Frankie Allesandri may very well have been one of the most powerful men in it, hospital bed or not.

“Remember, Theo,” I whispered. “Head down, hands where he can see them, and don’t say a word.

Milo opened the door, and that’s when we all saw him. He looked worse than I’d thought. His giant antique bed of which he used to brag was no more. Instead, he lay under its canopy inside an iron lung, hooked up to an IV with an oxygen mask wrapped around his face. He was wearing his formal clothes, and it made the iron lung look like his coffin, and him a walking, talking corpse.

Marq took a step forward. “Hello… father.”

Frankie chuckled. Or maybe he was just quietly coughing up a lung. He tried reaching out of the metal tube with both arms to offer a hug, but could only make it part way. Marq walked over to him instead, and they embraced, just like any other father and son.

“Marquis, my boy! How long has it been since you’ve paid your dear papà a visit? I’ve missed you so much. To come see your only father for a few minutes every couple of days just to deliver medicine… it’s too cruel.”

“No, what’s too cruel is kicking poor Zeb out on the streets again,” Marq said, taking a step back. “Besides, I’ve been busy with work.”

“So I hear. From the sound of things, your brother has been having you do his dirty work,” Frankie said, glancing at Milo. “And Zeb can take care of his own damn self. What happens to him is not my problem, capisce?

Marq sighed. “You already demoted him from consigliere to a lowly manservant, do you really have to fire him? It’s not his fault he got cursed by a gypsy.”

“Yes it is!” Frankie retorted. “Why do you think the gypsy cursed him?”

Marq sighed. “Father, just give him back his job. You know you can’t run this family all by yourself.”

Frankie was quiet.

“… Feh. Enough about Zeb,” he said, changing the subject. “He’s not what I wanted to talk to you about. I wish our meeting today could be under happier circumstances Marquis, but… you know what has to be done.”

Marq’s expression flipped upside down. This wasn’t a happy family visit anymore. Now we were gonna start our march down the green mile.

Frankie continued. “You made a mistake out there, and it’s going to cost us dearly. This will bring undue attention to us, and to our… operations. Now that we’re in the spotlight, the police won’t be so willing to look the other way, and we’ll have lost the support of many of our most loyal allies and friends, the Four Beasts included.”

Frankie sighed. “No… I made a mistake. I should have never let you bring that demigoddess into our house. I knew she would bring nothing but trouble.”

“Father,” Marq tried to argue. “That may be so, but you can’t deny she’s helped bring in a lot of money for the family-”

“Which was almost immediately spent covering for her in court every time she destroyed something. Or someone.” Frankie sighed. “Listen, my child. You know I cannot ignore this. If it was anyone else, you know I would have already cut out their eyes and tongues and laid them to rest at the bottom of the river. Do you know how lucky you are, Marquis? That I am your father and you are my son?

“… The punishment is this. Whatever happens as a result of her actions, you will have to deal with it by yourself. The family isn’t going to waste its resources backing you on this one, Marquis. We will have no part of it. As of this moment, she is no longer an associate of the Allesandris. If I see her in this house again, I’ll turn her in to the authorities myself.”

Marq knew better than to argue. Once Frankie Allesandri said something, it was final. Milo didn’t seem to agree.

“Father, what are you doing?! You’re being too easy on him! This punishment is far too lenient, even for family! He should be stripped of his position and rank, at least!”

“Quiet!” Frankie hissed at Milo. “If I’m going to punish him as a capo and not as my son, then the blame should be shared equally with the one who sent him on that suicide mission, and practically declared war with the yakuza when I told you to settle it cleanly! None of this would have happened if you’d just done it your damn self, so shut your mouth! You’re just lucky the yakuza disowned them.”

Milo backed off immediately, looking a lot like a kicked puppy. So his relationship with daddy was his weakness, huh? Isn’t that a cruel twist of fate. The eldest son, tossed aside for the bastard. No wonder he had a complex.

“Speaking of the Yamadas…” Marq started.

“We won’t be offering them shelter, but we also won’t be handing them over to their friends. You chose to spare them, I presume because they now owe us a debt. As before, the responsibility lies with you. I expect better of you in the future, Marquis. Now then. On to our next order of business,” he said, turning his gaze towards Theo. “Is this her?”

He licked his lips.

Previous || Next

Street Lawyer 5.3

Previous || Next

I laughed. “Oh my god. Cavvy? That’s seriously you?”

He smiled at me wearily. “Who else would I be? It’s Detective now, by the way. Special Detective Dante Salvo.”

“Psh,” I wave him away. “Who gives a fuck? You’ll always be Cavvy to me.”

Cavvy smirked. “Careful now, citizen. I could arrest you if I wanted. Contempt of cop.”

I snorted. “Like you’d ever do it. You’re way too stiff and straight-laced to ever be the crooked type.”

“I don’t know,” he said only semi-seriously. “They say the city gets to everyone eventually.”

Some of us faster than others, I couldn’t help but think. I know I shouldn’t have been happy. I know I should’ve realized how much trouble this’d get me in down the line. Meeting your best friend again after fourteen years, except now you’re on opposite sides of the law. It was like a bad joke. No, maybe that’s what I wanted to think it was. And the punchline would be me winning Cavvy over to our side, or him revealing he was already a dirty cop. Or maybe he would’ve won me over, and straightened me out. Made me give up this life of crime. The answers are never that easy, though.

But the thought of that never crossed my mind. I was just happy to see my family again.

“Come ‘ere, you!” I said, pulling him into a hug and kissing him on both cheeks.

“Uhhhh..” Officer Thompson finally interrupted. “You two… know each other?”

Sostene didn’t say anything, but you could tell he was thinking the same. I let Cavvy go.

“We were friends when we were kids,” I explained. “We used to play together, eat together. Practically grew up together. Annie used to have a huge crush on him.”

“Annie?” Cavvy asked, looking confused.

“Yeah, Annie. You know, my sister Annie?” I said disbelieving. “I know you hardly ever saw her because she was always too embarrassed to talk to you, but come on! You gotta remember Annie.”

He didn’t respond for a second, but then his eyes lit up. “Oh! Little Anastasia! I can’t believe I almost forgot about her!”

He faked smacking himself on the head. I grinned.

“You sure you’re not going senile there, Cavvy ol’ boy?”

“Why do you keep calling him that?” Sostene asked.

I turned to look at Sostene. “It was our nickname for him back in the old country. Short for cavaliere, ‘cuz whenever someone was in trouble he’d always try to rush in like he thought he was the cavalry, stickin’ his nose in everyone’s business. Guess he thought he was gonna be just like daddy one day~”

Cavvy coughed. “In case you haven’t noticed, I do have my pin now.

“Wait, doesn’t ‘cavaliere’ mean ‘knight’?” Thompson asked. “What’s that about?”

“Wait, you seriously don’t know?” I asked. “He didn’t tell you?”

Cavvy pinched the bridge of his nose. “Oh here we go…”

“He never used to shut up about it,” I said, continuing. “See that pin on his chest? The motto, Tuitio Fidei et Obsequium Pauperum? That’s the insignia of the Knights of Malta. His family’s been in the order for generations. It means-”

“In defence of the faith and assistance to the poor,” Cavvy said, sighing. I grinned ear to ear.

“Of course they’re really nothing more than a glorified humanitarian organization nowadays,” I said. “They barely have enough soldiers – excuse me, knights – left to fill three brigades. Can you believe that when we were kids he always used to think that he was gonna grow up and ride around on a horse slaying dragons and rescuing princesses?”

Cavvy grasped my shoulder firmly. He looked mad.

“The Sovereign Military Order of Malta still does more good for the world than you ever will,” he said defensively. “What do you even do, Al? What kind of job do you have?”

“Uhhhhhh…” I said, trying to think of some convincing lie. I couldn’t tell him I worked at the hospital. Cavvy was a cop now, he’d see through that one right away if he ever bothered looking. But what else could I say that wouldn’t make me look like a bum or guilty?

Thank Zeus and Lycaon for Officer Thompson, because if it wasn’t for those ears of his I think that conversation would’ve ended right then and there. Instead, his fluffy little tiger ears perked up and he hollered, “Time’s up, you two! Coffee’s on.”

Saying no more, he headed inside. We all looked at each other.

“Don’t look at me,” I said. “I just got invited here.”

Apparently Cavvy didn’t really want to know what I did for work that badly, because all he did was shrug and head inside the station. I sighed with relief.

“Y’know, I’m reminded of something the boss said once,” Sostene said as he watched Dante walk away.

“Yeah? What’s that?” I ask.

“Don’t shit where you eat, Al,” Sostene said, patting me on the back before he walked in too.

I slammed the cruiser’s passenger side door as Sostene and I crawled into the back of the car, careful not to upset the burning cup of coffee I now held in my hands. I blew on it and accidentally splattered some on the back of Thompson’s headrest, making him flinch. He looked at me.

“Don’t you spill that lava in my car. It ain’t my fault you poured from his pot,” he said, pointing at Cavvy.

I took a sip, and almost immediately spat it out as soon as it touched my tongue, spraying hot coffee all over Officer Thompson. He yowled, hissing and pawing at his face.

“The fuck’d you do to this coffee, Cavvy?” I asked, reaching for a cream-filled donut to soothe my tongue. I took a bite. “Heat it with a goddamn blowtorch?”

“I like my coffee like I like my women,” he said as I groaned at his stupid cop joke. “Hot, sweet, and-”

“-all over your pants?” I said, finishing for him. “Because that’s where I’m about to pour this shit. This is too damn hot.”

“Yeah well, some of us like something that’ll keep us awake when we’re on the job.”

“Yeah, and burn your tongue clean off,” I muttered. “As for me, I like my women to give me a little kick in the ass.”

I nodded as I reached into my jacket. Here’s looking at you, Theo. I unscrewed the top off my flask, then remembered I was in the back of a police car.

“You uh… you mind?” I asked Cavvie. He glared at me.

Yes I mind,” he said sternly, snatching away my hootch.


“This is against the law, Al,” he reminded me. “Where did you even get this?”

“Company function,” I said, lying through my teeth.

“Figures. Those Wall Street fatcats think they can just bend the law…” he said, muttering. “I’m confiscating this. Be grateful I’m not going to fine you for it.”

“Alright, Officer Killjoy,” I said, grumbling. I kicked back with my donut, waiting for the coffee to cool. Thompson finished wiping his face with the napkin from the bakery box and turned on the radio.

“-still reeling from the shock of this cataclysmic event. Initial reports place current estimates at nearly 800,000 dead and over 150 million injured in the state of Arizona and various shock points around the world, making this the most devastating natural or magical disaster of the last sixteen years. The tremors are said to have been worldwide-”

“Jesus, can you believe this shit?” Officer Thompson said about the radio. “The entire damn state is gone. Whoever did this shit, I hope someone hangs them with their own fucking guts.”

I chewed a little slower, trying not to let it show. Of course he didn’t know. And we couldn’t tell him here. That it was Nayeli. That we were there when it happened.

“Amen to that,” Cavvy said, sipping his coffee. “See, this is why we need stricter demihuman regulation laws if we want justice for-”

“Whoawhoawhoawhoawhoa,” Thompson said. “Stop right there. Guys like me and Sostene ain’t got nothing to do with this shit.”

“So? Can you honestly tell me that you don’t think the world would be safer if people who could do stuff like this weren’t behind bars? Or at least back in the forests or Mt. Olympus where they belong.”

“How do you even know it was a demihuman, huh?” Thompson said angrily. “Maybe it was just a bunch of humans messing around with magic they shouldn’t have.”

Humans couldn’t do something like this,” Cavvy said. “Not without help. It’d take decades to build a ritual big enough to do this, and you’d need to have more money and manpower than all the five families put together.”

“So what, you’d just have us all thrown in prison, is that it?”

“No!” Cavvy said. “But I would make sure the people who were capable of doing stuff like this weren’t allowed to live in places where they could hurt innocent people! I’d make the gods take them back!”

“So yeah, you’re just gonna throw us all in prison, put us in camps! Just like the Spanish!”

“Yeah, that’s seriously not kosher,” Sostene said, talking for the first time.

Cavvy put his arm around the headrest and looked back at me. “Al, back me up here.”

I threw my hands up. “Hey, don’t look at me to back up your crazy ‘build a wall’ plan. I’m a demihuman too.”

“What?” Dante said, acting surprised. “No way!”

I pulled out my card. “Read it and weep. Only… don’t use it as an excuse to have me picked up. My powers aren’t really the type that’d protect me from inside a jail cell.”

I joked, but the threat was all too real. Discrimination against demihumans for… accidents like the ones that seem to follow us around lately accounted for more than fifty to sixty percent of arrests these days. Sometimes it was warranted. Sometimes it was because a cop just needed a target no one would defend.

But not Cavvy, I thought. If he’s anything, it’s so hung up on the rules that he’d never be unfair to anyone.

Cavvy stared at my card. “You’re… a medium, huh? With the power of memory recall. Funny, I could’ve sworn I was gonna look at that card and see vampire. That’s how most of the cases go. When someone who didn’t use to be demihuman turns out to be one, I mean.”

He cast a suspecting eye at Sostene. I raised my eyebrow. Well, maybe not. The city does get to everyone eventually.

“See?” Cavvy said to Thompson. “That’s what a responsible demihuman citizen looks like. He carries his card with him.”

“Oh give it a rest!” Thompson snarled. “I’m a cop! The way I see it, I should get to enjoy certain privileges.”

He folded his arms, pouting. Good. He had the good sense not to say anything about me or Sostene-

“Besides,” he said, pointing at us. “If you only knew what these two chuckleheads get up to when you’re not looking-”

Sostene and I both jumped to shut him up, shoving donuts at his open mouth.

“What’s he talking about?” Cavvy asked.

“Nothing, nothing! It’s nothing!” I said, hoping Bobbie would take the fucking hint. Just a few… rowdy nights out, that’s all. Bobby already cleaned us up, we paid our dues. Isn’t that right, Bobbie?”

Cavvy looked at us funny, then grumbled and folded his arms. “Well, whatever. But you agree with me right? We gotta do something. Maybe a less extreme solution exists, but we can’t just allow maniacs who do stuff like this to keep roaming free!”

“Well… maybe they don’t mean to do it,” I said without thinking. Immediately, I knew I had made a mistake.


“So… maybe we shouldn’t be so quick to judge,” I said. “Maybe we should cut them some slack. They’re not trying to hurt anyone, right?”

I didn’t get it. Why was I defending her? I couldn’t even say for sure if she was really sorry for what she’d done. But something about the whole situation just felt-



“That’s unfair, Alfonso,” Cavvy said. “How do you think the victims of that attack would feel if you told them that? That the one who killed them all, cut their long lives short and ripped their family members away from them, shouldn’t be punished just because they’re ‘sorry’? Because ‘they didn’t mean to’? What if it was you and Annie who’d been in that attack? Would you have forgiven them?”

I bit my tongue. We were in that attack, I wanted to say. But I couldn’t let him know that.

“Why do you think manslaughter is a criminal offense, Al? What you meant to do or the mistakes you might have made are irrelevant. All that matters is the result. The law must treat everyone equally.”

Cavvy sat back in his seat, folding his arms. “This is why demihumans are dangerous. It’s this very line of thinking. That just because someone didn’t mean to do it means we should forgive the crime or alter the punishment. They present too great a threat for unintentional, uncontrolled violence to be allowed to just walk around without any regulations.”

“But we have regulations!” I shot back.

“Then we need better ones!” Cavvy snapped. “Do you know how many people I’ve seen get hurt because of magic and demihumans since I’ve started this job, Al? Since I arrived in this city? I’ve had to clean up more bodies than anyone should ever have to, me and Bobbie both. You think this is unfair? Ask him what he knows about demihumans in this city.”

“Alright Bobbie,” I said. “Waddya got to say about that?”

I sat back, confident that Thompson would back me up here. He and Sostene both. Nayeli was a pain, but she was still a part of the family as far as I was concerned.

But they were quiet. Both of them. Even Sostene, who I was sure I could count on to defend one of our own.

“Hey, come on,” I said, slightly less confident. “You… don’t actually agree with what he’s saying, do you Bobbie?”

Thompson sighed. “I won’t say if I agree with him or not. But…”

“But he’s got a point,” Sostene said. “And we both know it. Bobbie, you’ve got your harnesses all fixed up for you and your little girl, right? Full moon’s coming soon.”

Officer Thompson lit a cigarette and inhaled deeply, breathing out a cloud of rough smoke.

“Yeah. Had to adjust little Mary’s this year. She’s been growing so much. You want me to fix up yours too?”

“Please,” Sostene nodded, taking a cigarette from Thompson. “Maybe you can make it a little tighter this month?”

“Hold on, hold on,” I said. “Slow down. What do you mean ‘harnesses’? What are you talking about?”

“Protection, Al,” Sostene said, fruitlessly spinning the ignition wheel of his lighter. “For us and everyone else.”

I looked to Officer Thompson to explain. He sighed.

“Look, kid, you’re a medium, and one with a pretty harmless power to boot. Do you have any idea how lucky that makes you?” Thompson said. “You can take a walk down the street and nobody’ll know what you are. Nobody can finger you in a case you had nothing to do with it and say, ‘I’m sure it was him! That freak killed my husband!’ just because you got the same claws or the same fangs or the same magic as some other bozo. People don’t like you, but they’ll never be able to blame you. The rest of us aren’t so lucky.

“Those harnesses me and Sostene were talking about? They’re for lunar madness. Guys like me and my little girl who are a little furrier than the rest of you, we get a little stir-crazy around the full moon. If we don’t straitjacket ourselves, people might get hurt.” Officer Thompson smudged the butt of his cigarette against his palm, wincing. “You were right about one thing. We can’t help it. But we can take responsibility for our actions. If we say we don’t want to hurt nobody, we damn well better act like it, something this mook has clearly never heard of doing.”

“You see? Prohibition exists for a reason, Al. It’s the only reason we haven’t ended up like Africa yet, or worse, Australia.”

I bit my tongue. It’s not like that, I wanted to say. It’s not the same. We tried, we did everything we could to minimize the damage. But I couldn’t rightly say that. Not without admitting to being there.

“What if they were fighting someone else who kept pushing them to the limit?” I said. “What if things just escalated really quickly?”

Cavvy raised a suspicious eyebrow. “That’s… an awfully specific scenario you’ve concocted there. Mind telling me exactly how you came to that conclusion?”

I froze, stuck to my seat like glue. It was like waking sleep paralysis. Oh crap. Oh crap oh crap oh crap.

“Well…” I started without knowing where I was going with this. My pupils dashed around the car frantically, looking for a point to latch on to.

The radio.

I gulped. “… the thing is, it’s like feedback.”


“Yeah, like in an electrical circuit. You couple part of the output signal into the input circuit and it amplifies the output. It feeds into itself. A feedback loop. So in this case, if this mage or demihuman was fighting another mage or demihuman, or maybe even some kind of monster, we can model the input as aggression from party A to party B. The output would then be turned into violence, which would circle back and amplify aggression. When the next circuit or attack is complete, aggression is higher, so violence becomes higher, for both of them. They just keep feeding into each other until one of them breaks and the circuit is disrupted.”

Cavvy considered this. “Interesting… but it still doesn’t explain why you’re assuming this was a fight at all. Why couldn’t it just be some random act of terrorism? In fact, that’s what this person should be labeled. A terrorist.”

Sostene ribbed me, hard. This was my cue to stop. But for some reason I didn’t want to. I wanted to see this through. Allesandris look out for their own.

“So Al? What’s your explanation?” Cavvy interrogated me.

“… Self-interest.”


“Humans and demihumans act based on self-interest. Anything we do, we do because we expect that it will benefit us somehow, either in the immediate future or the far-off one. What would anyone stand to gain from this? There’s been no statements or admissions of guilt from the perpetrator, so this isn’t an act of terrorism meant to further some agenda, and as far as we know, there was nothing at the bottom of that crater worth having. Just magma. So if a demihuman was involved, it had to be a fight.”

Sostene ribbed me again, even harder.

“What?!” I hissed, still pretty pissed off that he didn’t have my back here. He tapped the face of his wristwatch. I checked mine, and remembered the feeling I’d just experienced trying to explain myself to Cavvy.

Oh crap.

I swung open the door, dinging it on a lamp post.

“Hey!” Thompson shouted.

“Sorry fellas but I gotta beat it! I’ve got an appointment I gotta keep!”

Previous || Next

Street Lawyer 5.2

Previous || Next

Fifteen hours later, Milo arrived back in New York. After freshening up, he made plans to visit a certain restaurant again. Alone this time.

Milo pushed open the front doors, disturbing with the toll of the bell a silence so poetic one couldn’t help but feel disdain. In the wake of the recent national tragedy, the Le cinq á sept was understandably empty. Except for one person, that is.

“Revisiting the scene of a crime? How unlike you, Milo.”

His sister’s voice rang sweetly in his ears from across the sous-chef sepulchre. Following it across the creaking floor of the dark restaurant, he found her sitting alone at a table for two, a solitary candle amidst an ocean of empty seats. Smiling, he unfolded the cloth covering the red-gold stone and held it aloft.

“Ohhhhhh…” Priscilla almost squealed. “And there it is! The famous cintamani stone. Said to be one of the most powerful magical artifacts in existence! May I see it?”

She held out her delicate hand. Milo frowned. Reluctantly, he handed her the stone.

“Be careful with it,” he reminded her. “This stone is my last chance to impress father. If I can cure whatever ails him…”

“Mhmmm,” Priscilla replied, her eyes fixed on the stone, which shimmered in a multitude of colors when held up to the light. “Look at that. It’s beautiful. You can practically see the magic etched into its facets. The cleavage is sublime.”

Milo nodded absentmindedly as he looked down, admiring the sublime cleavage.

“Can I have it back now?” he said impatiently.

“Just one more second,” Priscilla said dismissively. She stared deep into the stone’s rough surface, its uncarved angles. Never once had this stone been touched since it was pried from the meteorite shell it had arrived in, for fear of tainting or lessening its power. Those ancient fools. How much of the true stone had they left clinging to the insides of that meteor, like placenta from a babe? Every reflection of this divine geode was an enchantment, every cut a mark of magic left by the stone’s last owner. Every one was precious. And now she would add her own.

With a brief and tiny spark, the stone lit up, a bolt of lightning arcing from the surface straight down to the heart of the stone, where it terminated in a bright spark lasting only a second. Milo never even noticed a thing.

She handed the stone back to him. “Alright, go. Heal father.”

Milo frowned. “Don’t you think we should study it first? Get a better idea of how it works so nothing goes wrong when we do decide to use it?”

Priscilla just chuckled. Milo raised an eyebrow.


Priscilla wiped a tiny tear from her eye. “Oh Milo. Do you really think father will want to wait once he knows what you have? You see, this is what sets you and Marquis apart. You deliberate while Marquis does. He doesn’t question his decisions like you do. It’s why father loves him more.”

Priscilla knew she’d said the right words when she watched Milo’s face warp into something ugly.


Now before Milo’s anger could erupt, she needed to apply some balm to it, to soothe his bruised ego.

“I’m only telling you the truth because I want to help you, Milo,” she said gently. “Do you think I enjoy seeing Marquis wrap our father around his pinky while your valuable contributions to this family go completely unrecognized? What I’m trying to do is give you a chance to succeed in front of father.”

“Then what would you propose I do, sorellona?” Milo said, the anger in his eyes not diminishing but, at the very least, no longer growing.

“Show him how much he means to you,” she said. “Show him your resolve. Use the stone.”

Milo’s anger grew. “Are you mad?! I just told you sorellona, we don’t know how it works-”

“Do you think those ancient fools who pried it out of a rock that fell from the sky knew how to use it either?” Priscilla responded. “When I touched just now I felt it, Milo. The stone wants to be used. By you. If you just have a little faith in yourself it’ll show you what needs to be done.”

Milo looked down at the stone he held with his handkerchief. Gingerly, he touched it with his bare skin, and he immediately knew Priscilla was right. He could feel the magic inside it working, just like a normal enchantment only far, far greater. A whole index of spells was thrown into the forefront of his mind for him to pick from. Hundreds. Thousands. Each with a name and a designation hinting at their function. And he was willing to bet all he needed to do was run his mana through it and they would run, just like any other enchantment. It felt… right.

He looked at Priscilla, his rage evaporated. She smiled.

“Do you really want to let Marquis steal the spotlight forever? It’s time for you to shine, Milo.”

Milo looked down at his hand, at the little miracle he held in his palms. He gripped the stone, his mind made up.

As Milo turned to leave, Priscilla smiled at his back, waving him goodbye and good luck. But with each empowered step he took, Priscilla’s smile curled, morphing into something completely unlike a smile at all. She covered her twisted grin with a gloved hand.

All lies, of course. The stone was nothing more than a stone. It didn’t want anything. But Milo did. He wanted to hear a fairy tale about how he could cure father and finally earn the stony old man’s affection, what little of it could possibly be pried from his crusted charcoal heart, anyway. And that’s what Priscilla had told him. She had fed him a few little white lies, given him an encouraging slap on the rear, and he’d filled in the rest himself and been on his way. And when the stone did fail him, he would have no one but himself to blame.

Poor little Milo. Oh my dear, sweet little Milo. You only want what’s best for this family, but you have no idea what that is, she thought as she watched her brother climb into his car. But I do. The old man can’t die fast enough, and this illness of his, whatever it may be, has nothing but my thanks for speeding up that process. I’m not about to let you stand in the way of it.

She watched as the car sped off, leading Milo inexorably towards the predetermined conclusion of today’s meeting, the outcome that had been decided by her. Knowing what was to come, she felt a small little flower of guilt bud in her chest, like a scilla after the first spring rain. She felt bad for her brother, for lying to him. She had nothing but love for Milo, but… there were some things in this life much more important than love.

I’m sorry Milo, but this is for the best. Just this once, allow me to break your heart.

Just like that she grabbed that little scilla and crushed it, stomping it beneath her heels. The future was supposed to be a wild forest, not a delicate little flowerbed. It could not be allowed to be shaped by the perennial cuttings of the last generation. Too long had the shadow of Frankie and men like him hung over this city. Now, it was time for a woman’s touch~

Dark. Cloudy. High chance of rain. It was days like these that made you look up and feel like you should start taking stock of your life. And mine… well, mine was coming up depressingly short these past couple of days. Annie still wasn’t speaking to me, Sostene had been even more withdrawn than usual, my insurance premiums were going to absolutely skyrocket after this court case came to light, and I hadn’t even been able to turn to work to take my mind off it. Marq had been busy the past couple days just comforting Nayeli and planning for the trial. I guess the only positive thing I could take away from this whole experience was that my leg was healed now.

I sighed. You know it’s bad when you have to count not being sent to the hospital as a plus. Sometimes it just feels like the whole world is out to get a man. Sometimes, a man just needs a drink. And I’m not talking about hitting the bottle like some pathetic boozer schlob, I’m talking about a New York classic. Sometimes, the best way for a man to calm his nerves is a fresh pot of joe.

I hummed along with myself, nodding. A cup of joe, with cream and sugar, and maybe a bit of hooch to spice things up or to give yourself some of that much needed hair-of-the-dog. Now that was a New York breakfast. Nothing else required. Just a man, a pot, and some beans.

And so to that end, I invited Sostene to come have a drink with me that morning. And, well, when he suggested we score a free pot from his good friend Officer Thompson down at the station, who was I to say no?

See, contrary to popular belief, it isn’t just fear and a few corrupt cops that keep the police in the mafia’s back pocket. We both want the same thing. For crime in this city to be controlled. Anyone who’s spent time in either profession can tell you crime isn’t something you can just get rid of, so better for someone to control it than let it run wild, right? We do that. We provide a service to this city, cleaning up the lesser villains like Mickey so only the five families can claim absolute power in the criminal underworld. The cops in this city are smart enough and have seen enough to know that this is a mutually beneficial relationship. You may call it “a corruption of justice” or “encouraging the expansion of a vast criminal empire”, we call it “efficiency”.

I was looking forward to it. It had been a while since I’d had good bean juice. It was a luxury we couldn’t exactly afford. But Sostene seemed to be in considerably lesser spirits.

I looked up. He just stared ahead blindly, looking as out of it as a guy who’d just been knocked around-side the head with a baseball bat. Was this an aftereffect of his little rampage on the train?

I coughed, but he didn’t say anything. I coughed again, louder this time. Still nothing. I frowned. You were really gonna make me say it, weren’t you Sostene?

“… hey,” I said, and his eyes flashed open. It seemed like that finally got his attention. He turned to the right and looked down. Dammit, why did he always have to remind me how much taller he was?


“You… feeling okay, man?” I asked. “You’ve been out of it all morning.”

He sighed, and groaned a little. “Yeah, sorry. Things… haven’t really been the same since the train.”

I thought so.

“You… wanna talk about it?” I approach carefully, not wanting to push any of his buttons.


“You sure?


Now I started overstepping my boundaries a bit. “Come on man, I can guarantee it’ll make you feel better-”

“I said I don’t wanna talk about it, Al!” Sostene yelled at me. But he didn’t watch his step, and as soon as he stomped down on a passing manhole cover, his strength made the sewer lid flip like a giant penny and it smacked him under the chin. I winced.


“You’re sure you don’t want to talk about it?”

Yes, Al.” Sostene said, rubbing his chin.

“You’re absolutely, positively-”

“Oh my god, for the last time, yes!” he barked as we made the turn onto 67th St. “What part of ‘I don’t wanna talk about it’ don’t you understand?”

“Well, can I guess then?”

“Sure,” he said wildly, throwing his hands up in the air. “Whatever makes you fucking happy!”

“Hmmm…” I thought. “Is it about Nayeli?”

“Pffft. What? Now I know you’re just goofing off,” Sostene said. “Why would I care what happens to her?”

“Maybe because you work together and she’s Marq’s favorite? You know this is hitting him harder than any of us.”

“Their private lives ain’t none of my business,” Sostene said coldly. “As long as the boss lets me keep doing my job, I don’t really give a shit.”

There was a pause.

“… I mean I do feel kinda bad for her, I guess. But what she did is what she did. A lotta people died at the bottom of that hole, Al. People aren’t just gonna forget it, and she’s gonna have to live with it, whether it was her fault or not.”

Sostene’s eyes took on a dull quality, the thousand yard stare.

“Trust me, I know.”

I thought about that.

“You’re on the run from a handsome spanish baron! You seduced his daughter-in-law and killed his son in a duel, becoming El Sostene Magnifico!

Fuck you!”

I shrugged. “Well then I’m all out of ideas.”


“… You really think the charges are gonna stick?”

Sostene shrugged. “Hard to say. We don’t even know what they’re charging her with yet. No formal arrest has been issued.”

“Yeah, but, we’ve made some pretty big stuff disappear under the rug before, haven’t we? All it takes is a few strategically placed dollar bills…”

“What, you talking about Central Park?” Sostene asked. “I don’t think this and that are really the same thing, Al. That was the local boys vs the away-team. This is a whole new ball game. A whole new goddamn ball game…”

We walked the rest of the way in silence. Officer Thompson was waiting for us at the precinct when we got there. He seemed like a scruffy kinda guy, the type with permanent 5 o’ clock shadow and rough, scratchy whiskers, which was actually pretty funny when you thought about it. A pair of fluffy little tiger ears poked out of the top of his head, and he was chewing on a bagel and lox while he waited for us.

“Hey Sostene,” he said with his mouth half-full. Then, almost as an afterthought, he added “Hey pipsqueak.” He must’ve meant me.

He stuck his fingers in his mouth and licked the cream cheese off of them, then wiped them off on his uniform. My skin crawled.

Please don’t shake with that hand, please don’t shake with that hand…

He stuck his hand out. It was the cream cheese hand.


Sostene sighed. “Bobby, that’s disgusting. At least use the other hand.”

“Oh give it a rest, will ya?” Thompson groaned, pulling his hand back. “You sound just like my new ‘partner’.”

Sostene raised an eyebrow. “They gave you a partner?”

“Pffft,” Officer Thompson spat dismissively. “More like another boss, if you ask me. All he does is order me around like I’m some new recruit. Little shit’s barely any older than the pipsqueak here-”


“-and he thinks he can order me around just ‘cause he’s some sort of fancy ‘special detective’? Give me a break…”

Thompson sighed, running his hand down his face melodramatically. I had half a mind to punch him if he didn’t stop calling me “pipsqueak”. Thankfully, Sostene covered for me (sometimes I wonder who really has the anger issues here).

“What’s his name?” Sostene asked.

“Dante,” Thompson said. My blood froze. I recognized the name. Knew it all too well, in fact. But no. Couldn’t be. Not after so long.

“You mean like the poet?” Sostene asked.

“Nah nah, more like the actor,” Thompson said. “Takes himself way too seriously. Thinks he’s some sort of knight.”

My heart leaped in its cage. That definitely sounded like him.

“Bobby!” a voice yelled from the next floor up. “Do you have that bag from the evidence locker?”

I didn’t quite recognize the voice. Maybe it wasn’t him then. But voices could change a lot in 14 years…

Officer Thompson winced, growling. “No! I told you, Arn is taking care of it! You don’t need to yell either, I can hear you.

“That him?” Sostene asked.

“Yeah, that’s him,” Thompson said, rubbing his ears. I heard the clattering of footsteps marching down the station stairs. “Sostene, pipsqueak? I’d like you to meet…”

The doors to the station flung open. I took a step back as he walked out.

“Special Detective Dante Salvo.”

I couldn’t believe it. The guy standing in front of me was taller than I remembered, a bit lankier too, and it looked like he’d been run over by a truck since the last time I saw him but it was definitely the same kid. The black hair and blue eyes. The way he kept his clothes immaculate and perfectly cared for. And that pin he kept stuck on his chest. Tuitio Fidei et Obsequium Pauperum.

Cavvy?” I asked cautiously.

The reaction was immediate. The way his muscles tensed like a rubber band snapping back you’d think he’d been shot, but he and I both knew that name. It was a shared memory, for both of us. A way to say goodbye… and now a greeting.

He turned to look at me. Fourteen years of misplaced emotion raced between us like a current.


Previous || Next

Street Lawyer 5.1

Previous || Next

Finally the train arrived at the station and we all piled off, trying to look as inconspicuous as possible. We’d left the scene of the disaster behind us, but it was only a matter of time before they tracked us down. Right now, what we needed to do was take the stone back to New York as quickly and quietly as possible. The rest we could ad-lib from there. As much as it’d pain Marq, I’m sure the Cintamani stone would make some pretty slick bail for-

“Hello, brother~”

Oh no. No. No. Not now. Marq and I swiveled our heads in unison to find ourselves confronted with the absolute last person we both wanted to see. Milo Allesandri. He smiled.

“You look upset, Marquis. Is there anything I can help you with? A certain stone that needs smuggling back into New York, maybe? Or perhaps you’re suffering from a guilty conscience? This is all your fault, after all.”

Theo brandished her knives while I stood stock-still. How. How was he here? How did he know? Wait, that’s a stupid question, I thought at I stared at Leo and Figaro. Who else could’ve told him?

Getting over his surprise, Marq cleared his throat, straightening his tie. “Sorry Milo, but the stone was a fraud. We don’t-”

“Don’t play dumb with me, Marquis. You’re better than that. We both know the stone is a fake, and we both know it’s hiding a much better prize.”

“The Cintamani stone,” they both said in unison. Milo’s tone was loud and triumphant. Marq’s was subdued and defeated.



“Did I know? Please brother, we both know I have my ways, just as you have yours.”

“… It was Figaro and Leon, wasn’t it?”

“Huh?” the two goons in question replied.

“You put them undercover on the train and thought we wouldn’t notice, but we did. I erased their memories of the stone, but they must’ve been bugged too. Clever. You knew even if we caught on to them we wouldn’t bother checking our own men for surveillance devices, didn’t you?”



This was it. Would Milo admit to it? No, of course not. No logical person would. Even if you knew they knew too, admitting to it doesn’t benefit you at all. It only gives them ammo to use against you later, even if it’s brick-shittingly obvious you did it. The only one who’d admit to that would be a narcissistic psychopath. Then again, that’s what Milo was.

And that’s exactly what Marq was banking on.

“Uh, boss Marquis?” Figaro asked. “What are you talkin’ about? What stone?”

“I’ll admit, it’s a pretty brilliant scheme. So clever I’m a bit surprised you came up with it. You even used low-tech bugs too, didn’t you? Something basic like a pocket mic I’m guessing? So we wouldn’t think it was you, the amulet-obsessed magic tchotchke-freak. You’ve surprised me for once, Milo. Congrats.

Don’t push it, I thought. Feeding into his psychotic ego was all well and good, but sarcasm wasn’t going to help.

Milo frowned. “… I have no idea what you’re on about.”


Marq maintained his cool. “Sure you don’t. And I’m guessing you just happened to come here because you wanted to meet your beloved half-brother at the station to make sure he was alright? I’m touched, Milo, really.

Milo sighed. “My sources, of which you will not be made privy to, have never and will never incorporate either of these two. Doubt me all you want, brother, but I didn’t send them.”

Marq and I exchanged quick glances. Something was definitely wrong here.

“That being said however, I suppose I am here to congratulate you on what can loosely be called ‘a job well done’. Believe me, it’s the only one you’ll be getting after the devastation you and your… friends caused here.” He looked at us with disdain. “Make no mistake, I have no intentions of defending you or that raging bull of yours in front of the federal court, let alone father. Your best defense right now is compliance. Make me look good in front of father, and it makes you look good by association. I’m sure as a fellow attorney you realize this is your best option at this point, yes?”

Marq nodded. “Yeah.”

“Then hand over the stone.”

Marq didn’t do anything for a second. Then he nodded slowly at Kichirō, who nodded back. Approaching the banged up boxcar of the Nimbus, Kichirō forced open the sliding door with his good arm, revealing stacked cages of animals. Nayeli squealed, the prospect of getting to see Bob making her momentarily forget her funk, and clambered inside.

“Ohooo…” Milo sneered, mildly impressed. “So you hid the stone with the animal feed.”

“Not quite,” Kichirō said. “We actually hid it in the cargo container. It’s connected directly to the boxcar containing the animal’s cages, so no ordinary passengers would be able to fumble in here by mistake. Or by design.

The tone of his voice showed just how much he trusted Milo: only about half as far as he could throw him. Which judging by the look on his face was something he had definitely thought about doing.

“Stay here, Annie,” I said. But she glared at me and propped her crutches on the rim of the car, pulling herself up. After what had happened between us earlier, I decided not to press the issue.

Everyone clambered inside, carefully stepping over the strewn hay and bountiful craps of the animals that had been released in the chaos earlier that morning.

Hmmm… in retrospect, maybe that doesn’t clear things up a whole lot. The chaos at the train station then.

We all followed Kichirō, who stepped with confidence. Worst came to worst, we all figured he’d do his new allies a solid by offing Milo rather than letting him get his hands on the stone. Sadly, fate and a certain gassy ungulate had other plans.

“Where’s Bob?” Nayeli asked, looking around the empty cages. But everyone ignored her.

“We hid the stone in a bottle of ceremonial champagne the shipping company included as a gift for the Monkey King. He likes having little presents hidden in the bottles,” Kichirō explained. “The boxcar should be just up ahead- oh. Oh no.”

Everyone leaned and took a peek over Kichirō’s shoulders. It was difficult to see in the darkened boxcar, but the door had been opened. Violently. Crumpled in like the lid on a pack of goddamn cigarettes.

No one rushed. We all tiptoed in slowly, dreading what we might find.

“What the hell happened to this place?” I asked. “It looks like a damn minotaur got loose… They didn’t actually have a minotaur in here, right?”

“No,” Marq said, sighing. “They had something much worse.”

I looked around. There were some holes poked in the side of the car where dim light shined in from outside. Did I say “poked”? I meant more like “stabbed”. Splinters of wood and broken glass were everywhere, making the place look like it had been torn apart.

Who was I kidding, it had been torn apart. But by what? What could stab a hole through a sheet of solid magically-reinforced steel and looked like it munched on hunks of wood and glass bottles?


I groaned. Oh no. I hated it once I figured it out, but I caught on to what we were gonna find just a few seconds after Marq did.

Finally the light beaming in revealed enough and Annie gasped. Nayeli just flipped the hell out.

“Bob!” she yelled, running over to the prone, horse-like animal lying on its side. About eight feet long and seven feet tall if it were standing upright, it had a bright white coat with brown age spots and was unmistakably a unicorn. It also was unmistakably slurping alcohol from a bottle it held in its drunk-ass purple lips, noisily smacking it down.

“Ohhhh, now I remember!” Marq said, going “aha!”. “Bob was retired from the races ‘cause they said he had a drinking problem!”

I look at him weird. Weirder. “Horses drink?

“Oh yeah, all the time, Al,” Marq said in a calm, relaxed tone that made it clear he was completely fucking serious. “Their jockeys feed it to them all the time. They especially love hoppy beer.”

He turned his head. “Hey, Nayeli? You might not want to do that.”

Nayeli, for her part, was trying to get as close to her dream animal as possible (hopefully to make some good memories before we all sailed down piece-of-crap street here in the next few weeks). She had tiptoed her way most of the way there already before stopping to kneel, the unicorn so ass-blastingly drunk it hardly noticed her. She reached out to touch Bob with her outstretched hand. Then she started to stroke him.

“There there, Bob…” she said lovingly. The horse-monster’s eyes snapped open. Forgetting that it was supposed to be drunk and thus sloppy and uncoordinated, it flipped its head around and clamped its chompers around Nayeli’s outstretched fingers.

“Owwwch!” she yelped, pulling her fingers back. Surprisingly, they were red and starting to swell. “B-bob… why?”

The unicorn neighed wildly, bucking and flailing even though it couldn’t stand up on its own. It tried jabbing Nayeli with its horn but to no avail now that she was ready for it.

“Bob!…” she protested, obviously feeling let down.

“That’s a unicorn for you,” Marq said, sighing. “They don’t like anyone who’s not a virgin. They can smell it on you. Drives them crazy.”

“B-but that’s not fair…” Nayeli said with tears in her eyes as she looked at Bob, who’d settled back down now that she’d backed off a bit.

No, I thought. What’s not fair was Marq not telling you this from the beginning.

“These uhhh…” Milo said, picking up the empty bottles scattered around the floor. “These wouldn’t happen to be the bottles you hid the Cintamani stone in, would they Kichirō?”

Our tall Japanese friend sighed. “As a matter of fact, they are.”

Bob belched.

“Oh, that is just disgusting,” I said, plugging my nose as everyone else tried to waft the scent away.

“So what do we do now?” Milo said. “I don’t think I have to remind you what happens to your crew and that homunculus should you fail to hold up your end of the bargain, do I Marquis?”

Not on your fucking life, I thought. Nayeli was already in the shit, but I wasn’t letting Theo join her.

“Well Kichirō?” Marq said, sighing and letting his hands fall to his sides. “What can we do?”

“We can wait for the creature to pass it.”

How long will that take?”

“A few days… a few weeks… who knows?” Kichirō said.

“Okaaay… any other options?”

“We could surgically remove it?”

Marq clapped. “Great! Al, get on it.”

I froze. “What?”

Marq motioned at the prone, bloated Bob blob. “Get on it. You’re Mr. Medicine Man, right?”

“Whoa whoa whoa,” I said. “Slow down. In fact, back up. You want me… to do gastrointestinal surgery… on a unicorn?”

“Yeah… What’s the problem?” he asked me dangerously slow-like.

I gulped. “Well… do you realize how fucked up that is? I mean, it’s a goddamn unicorn!”

“Oh grow the fuck up, Al!” Marq shouted out of nowhere. “This isn’t some fairy tale with pretty pink little princesses, and I’m not going to let you fuck us because you don’t wanna cut open the poor widdle unicorn! It’s a goddamn animal! There’s nothing special about it! I thought you said you’ve worked in the operating room before!”

I stared at him. “I’ve assisted in an operating room before. I’ve memorized how to perform certain surgical techniques, and practiced a few. This isn’t one of them. And even if it was, what makes you think just because I can operate on a human means I’m qualified to chop up a goddamn horse?”

“What’s the difference?!”

“They have four stomachs, Marq! Horses have four stomachs! How am I even supposed to know which one the stone went through?”

“That’s cows, Al. Horses only have one stomach,” Annie said, correcting me. “It’s separated into a front and hind gut.”

I sighed. “Fine. You want me to cut up the goddamn unicorn?”

Yes,” Marq said through grit teeth.

“Well too bad, ‘cause I can’t!” I said. I regretted saying it right away, but I was too angry, too caught up in the moment to stop. “You saw what Bob did to Nayeli when she tried to get too close, right? Well some of us here don’t have adamantine skin, and I’m pretty fond of my fucking hands. How about you?”

“Well there’s gotta be someone here who can!” Marq said, his desperation obvious. He was losing his cool. “Come on Al. Give me something. Give me anything. Isn’t there anyone here who’s a virgin?”

I hesitated. We were pinned down here. We needed that stone, or all of this, literally all of this, would’ve been for nothing. There had to be something we could salvage from this, something that had even the slightest bit of meaning that we could look back at and say “well at least we did that” when we were thinking of just how much this job had cost us all. But there was nothing.

Milo sighed. “Well, this has been fun, but if no one else has any ideas, I propose we just shoot the damn thing and take the stone out from its body by force. Any objections?”

Milo spun the chamber on his revolver, leveling it at Bob’s head. Nayeli sprung into action.

“Yeah! Here’s a few!” she said, shielding Bob with her body. “Go fuck yourself! You want me to kill you right here and now?”

“Go right ahead,” Milo said. “But know you’ll only be adding to your list of crimes by doing so, and once our father gets word of it, expect Marquis’ head to be next on the chopping block once he learns his pet bitch offed his other son. That’d certainly kill his chances in the war for succession. Or would you rather just keep standing in the way like an idiot so I can tell our father Marquis refused to cooperate in retrieving the stone?”

Nayeli was sweating like crazy, and it wasn’t just because the boxcar was damp with animal shit. Milo had had her trapped like a rat again. I bet she wasn’t eager to relive the same experience.

There was nothing we could do. Every way out was a dead end. It seemed silly, but this one little fucking unicorn had become a symbol for this whole fucking job, and if we let it die it’d be like fucking this whole thing up all over again. Something good had to come of this. Anything. But unless we could think of something fast, nothing would. We’d be right back where we started. Totally defeated.

That’s when we all heard a sound no one was expecting to hear. Bob nickering in his sleep.

“Ummmm… I could do it.”

I turned around to see my sister kneeling next to Bob in a sea of booze, broken glass and horse piss. The smell was was so bad it was almost physically repelling, but she just knelt there, bearing it as she stroked the incensed unicorn to calm it down.

“And who are you?” Milo said.

“She’s my little sister,” I said. “And… she’s the only one that can do this.”

I hated saying it. I wanted to protect her, protect my little sister from anything that could hurt her, but right now we didn’t have a choice. Either she operated on a wild, dangerous animal in my place, or we all paid for it. Theo, Marq, Nayeli, me. This was the best option. The only option.

“Lil’ squirt…” Nayeli said, almost teary in the eyes.

“Don’t get me wrong!” Annie said, looking at Milo and Marq. “I’m not doing this for any of you. I just want my brother and Theo back home safely. And this unicorn doesn’t deserve to die either! Is violence all you people can ever think about? There are other solutions!”

Milo snorted. “Feh. Fine. Do as you wish. It’ll probably just end up dead anyway.”

Annie looked at me, asking me what to do first. For just this second, I had some of her trust back.

I sighed, and flipped open my knife. I passed it to her gently.

“Here. Use this. It’s sharpened to surgical standards. Bob should be okay on pain, he’s kind of already… self-medicated.”

The unconscious unicorn farted loudly, and we all pinched our noses.

“Okay,” Annie said, taking the knife. “Where should I cut first? Shouldn’t we sterilize the equipment and move him somewhere clean?”

“We can’t really worry about that right now,” I said. “We’ll leave those problems for the vet. Speaking of…”

“Right, already on it,” Marq said, exiting the car to find the station’s phone.

I looked around. Dark. Damp. Smelly. Probably full of shit and other things that could cause infections. This was hardly the ideal operating room. But we didn’t have much else. It was time to start.

“Alright, first you need to shave the area you’re going to make an incision into. In this case, that’d be his midline,” I said, instructing her as I pointed where to cut and what needed to be shaved. “We’ll use some of the leftover booze as antiseptic. Wait for me to pour that stuff on before you make the first incision.”

Angling the blade carefully, Annie made a few ragged passes, shaving a rough patch into Bob’s belly. Dabbing part of her dress in alcohol, she sponged the area down with our makeshift cleaning agent and antiseptic. With me guiding her, she slowly, very slowly, made the first incision.

Almost immediately Bob whinnied and neighed, but quickly fell silent again. I felt ready to jump in at any minute to yank Annie back. If Bob hadn’t been so completely trashed, I doubt we would’ve been able to do this. A conscious unicorn would turn us into a horn kebab.

Annie finished the long first incision, stopping after more than a foot. Perhaps a bit too generous, but this was my sister’s first impromptu veterinary surgery. All things considered, I thought she was handling it pretty well.

“Okay Annie, this is gonna be the hard part,” I said carefully. “Things are gonna get kinda gross, but I want you to stay strong, okay? Now, you gotta reach in there-”

Without even hesitating, Annie dove into Bob’s guts up to her elbows, smearing blood all over her hands and dress.

“Okay,” she said, turning to look at me calmly. “What am I looking for?”

Damn, I thought. My little sister was a bit more hard-boiled than I’d thought.

“Uhhh… the small intestine,” I said. “You need any help describing what that looks or feels like, or-”

“Nope,” she said, dragging a coil of guts out onto her lap. “I got it.”

“… Alright then. You see a bulge, feel any bumps where the stone might be?”

Annie squeezed the unicorn’s gut-piping in her hands, groping like a pro doctor administering a mammogram. Wrong form, but you had to admire her enthusiasm. Finally, her fingers closed around a section of intestine with a slight bulge in it.

“Find it?” I ask.

She nods. “I think so. It’s big. You want me to make another cut?”

“Yeah,” I said. “Gently, though. You don’t want to poke the tip through both sides.”

She did so, a little squeamishly at first with shaky hands, but in the end she made it through without perforating Bob’s intestines. Pantomiming what she’d need to do, I slowly guided her through the process of squeezing the stone out of the hole she’d made.

A few pushes later and it was finally done. The stone clattered to the floor, a dark orange, almost blood red color like amber. I breathed a sigh of relief, and grabbed my sister in a hug.

“Hrrmmmm… Al,” she said, but ignored her. “… Al. That’s enough.”

She shoved me away, or tried to. I was much stronger than her weak little arms. I let go of her.

“Ah, and there’s the prize~,” Milo said, reappearing just in time to scoop up the stone. “With this I should be able to heal whatever it is that ails father. That should be more than enough to ingratiate myself into his will. Though admittedly, it does stall our family’s little feud somewhat. Such a shame, isn’t it Marquis?”

“Yeah,” Marq proffered with venom. “Should paint a nice fat target on your back now that you’re the frontrunner for the inheritance.”

Milo just smiled. “We’ll see.”

He turned and walked away. And that was the last we saw of him. Till that dreadful day when Nayeli’s fate would be decided.

Previous || Next

Interlude 4.b (Milo Allesandri)

Previous || Next

A few days ago…

Milo Allesandri was a man of certain principles. He thought about that to himself after straightening his tie.

Responsibility, he thought, checking his dinner suit for folds and creases in the mirror. He always looked after himself, and cleaned up after his own messes, of which he created very few. He didn’t need anyone else to prop him up or make him look good. A properly maintained public appearance leads to a properly maintained life, and Milo had both.

Honesty. Milo prided himself on never telling a lie. Strictly speaking, there were always better ways to deceive your enemies.

Thriftiness, he thought. He ran a finely crafted comb through his slick blonde hair, one of five in a set amongst a collection of hundreds. Milo Alessandri was anything but wasteful. He found a use, and a place, for everything. There was nothing in the world that was truly useless. Except…


Which brought him to his fourth and final virtue. Family. Of which he had much, but sadly found so little of it reliable.

Of course, it was one thing to be unreliable. It was another thing to treacherous. That was what he saw when he looked into his half-brother’s eyes. The eyes of a bastard. Power hungry, and manipulative. He hated those eyes. Ever since he was a kid, he’d look back into Marquis’ expression of supreme confidence and feel like mouse cornered by a snake. But then the ground gave way as the mouse was picked up by a circling crow, who had been watching the snake for hours overhead as it hunted, and the mouse understood. There was more to Marquis than simple savagery and sociopathic contempt. There was cleverness. There was wit. The crow was just as bad as the snake, but it was smart. It had the mind to wield people like tools.

The first time he’d felt like that, Milo understood too. Marquis wasn’t family. In fact, he would destroy their family if allowed to be left unchecked. That’s why Milo had to do it. He had to be his brother’s keeper. Push him down, keep an eye on him, keep him safe. Just more for everyone else than for himself.

There was a knock on the door.

“Milo? Honey, are you in there?”

His wife, Marlene, called from the other side of the office door. He sighed in annoyance.

“I’m coming darling, just be patient!”

“Milo, our reservation is for six o’clock! That’s in five minutes!”

“I said I’m coming!…” Milo said, before swiftly ignoring her. Marlene didn’t understand the importance of dressing one’s self to be above the crowd. How he didn’t know, given her upbringing, but his responsibility was first and foremost to his image and to his family, not the restaurant staff. The Le cinq à sept could wait as long as he damn well said they could. After all, it was an Allesandri-owned business.

More than just a restaurant, it was a front for one of their many bootlegging operations. Milo had chosen it because he had been curious about trying French cuisine for a long time now, and because French was supposed to be the language of love. He had no idea what the name was supposed to mean, but he’d been told once by Marquis that the name roughly translated out to “happy hour”. A rather cheeky and oblique nod to the laws which had resulted in its creation and current state. Milo thought it quite appropriate.

Unlike what you did earlier… the little gremlin in his head chided him. Milo frowned. He wished he hadn’t remembered that. The things he’d done to Marquis’ pet bitch, that mad bulldog… why? What had come over him to make him act like that?

You did it because you knew it was the only way to get him to listen to you and take you seriously, he told himself. That’s it.

No. There was more to it than just that. Milo was admittedly a man of less-than-stellar morals (which is why he swore by his principles rather than those), but he liked to think he knew how to treat a lady. That was not how you treat a lady.

Please, he thought. That cow is barely a lady.

Still though. If that was what he wanted, there had to have been a better way to do it than that. It wasn’t that he regretted anything he’d said or done to his brother, of course. That’s not what Milo was concerned about.

He was concerned about standards. He was a liar, a murderer, a cheat (hard not to be in this business), but if there was one thing he was not, one thing he would never be, is a scumbag like Mickey Donahue. The kinda guy who’s so devoid of shame or self-respect that he’d rape and abuse women to get what he wanted. The boat had many different glass bottoms, but that one was the lowest, and breaking it could mean nothing but a slow, unpleasant death while you sleep with the fishes. People just didn’t tolerate that kind of thing, especially not his kinda people. It gave honest, hard-working criminals a bad name. He was supposed to be a professional, dammit.

So why? Why her? Why did she make him feel like he could cross that line? She was a mutt. A half-breed. A good-lookin’ piece of ass but not much else, and she was only good for fighting and fucking. That wasn’t Milo’s kind of woman. She wouldn’t be missed and nobody would complain if he killed her or worse, but had that really been why he’d done it? Because he could?

No, there was a better reason than that. There had to be. If there was one thing that he shared with his bastard half-brother, it was that they both knew how to hold their cards close to their chests and not let their emotions control them until it was safe to indulge in them. You walk up all smiles and you only let ’em know you’re pissed when you’ve stuck a knife through their throat. “Because you could” wasn’t professional. “Because you could” was something Mickey Donahue would say.

Milo held his head in his hands like he was trying to hide his face. Who did Marquis say her parents were again? He knew he’d told him once, way back when he first picked her up off the streets. It was a Sicilian woman and some… Olympian. Olympian, that was it. Demigods often reflected the worst in their parents, so it had to be a curse or some kind of magic. Was she the daughter of Eros? Aphrodite? But she was too much like a wild beast to be either of those things!

He sighed, looking at himself in the mirror. “Whatever it was, we did it so we wouldn’t have to deal with Marquis anymore. There. Problem solved. Now forget about it. You have a dinner to attend.”

Five minutes later, Milo stepped out of his wardrobe wearing a bright red pinstripe suit that made him look like a candy-cane. If it wasn’t for the color and shape of his eyes plus a few other minor details, he would’ve looked almost identical to his half-brother (a fact he thoroughly despised). He straightened his tie one last time and spun the hat rack on his way out of the office, selecting an equally tacky hat to go with his suit.

He greeted his blonde, curly-haired trophy wife with open arms.

“Well, baby-doll? How do I look?”

Marlene’s baby-blue eyes melted when she saw him and his atrocious suit, which she thought was positively stunning.

“Oh Milo, it’s perfect!” she said, her anger all but forgotten. She clasped his arm around hers. “Come on, let’s get going! We might still be able to make it if we hurry!”

“Relax, kitten,” Milo said, adjusting his hat. “They ain’t going nowhere.”

The family butlers, as Marlene had been told they were called, stood outside minding the car, their dark suits and sunglasses offset by the bright orange light of the city streets at night. The contrast in colors was almost a halloweeny look, perfect for the types of scary-looking men with guns his family tended to employ. By comparison, his candy-cane pinstripe suit fared considerably less well under the harsh glow, casting him a rather unappealing mix between puke and raw salmon.

It’ll look better once we’re inside the restaurant, he thought as he reminded himself to make a mental list of all the employees that looked at his suit funny. There were always some wiseguys like that, so he kept an eye out for them. Made sure the family looked good. That was all he ever did. Certainly more than his bastard half-brother and every other useless sibling he had.

Milo made his way to the front of the line outside, pushing aside anyone standing in front of him. Their turns could wait.

“Sir, I’m sorry but I’m going to have to ask you to wait at the back of the line like our other customers,” the man at the front door said over the boos and jeers of the onlookers, his voice not too terribly full of confidence. He reeked of fresh meat.

“Reservation for two, please,” he told the wiry doorman. “Compliments of the manager.”

He’d ignore the disrespect this time in the name of cutting the new guy some slack. Everyone starts out making mistakes somewhere. But…

“I’m sorry sir, but it doesn’t appear you’re on the list,” the doorman said. “And I’m going to have to ask again that you move to the back of the line. It’s disrespectful to the other customers.”

Somewhere in the world, perhaps amongst more well-informed company, a glass dropped as the music of the night came to a screeching halt. Milo laughed.

“Dannie? Elmer? Please take my lovely wife inside to freshen up. She can use the powder room or something while I have a word with our friend here to clear up this… misunderstanding.

Marlene suddenly looked afraid. “Milo-!”

““You got it, boss.””

The two grunts shepherded Marlene past the doorman while Milo pecked her on the cheek.

“See you inside in a minute, kitten.”

The doors swung shut behind them. Milo turned his attention back to the tiny doorman, who, to his credit, was both brave enough and ignorant enough to stick to his guns. He had to give him props for that at least. Maybe with a bit more spine he’d do good for himself in politics, but Milo was fairly certain he was about to ruin any chances of that ever happening.

“Sir…” the doorman said, hesitating. The thin-framed man took a breath and appeared to steel himself. “I’ll have to ask you to stop, or I’ll call security on you. Your behavior is disrespectful to the other patrons of this restaurant, and, well… frankly it’s unacceptable!”

Milo laughed heartily. “No, my dear friend, what’s unacceptable-!”

Milo kneed the other man unexpectedly and violently in the stomach, causing him to double over. Onlookers gasped in the background as Milo kicked him repeatedly while he was down before he grabbed the man by the collar and pinned him, drawing a knife.

“-is that you still don’t know who I am. Check. The list. Again. This time under the name ‘Milo Allesandri’.”

The tiny man’s bulging eyes gave his panic away easier than a bum hand of cards. Still at knifepoint, the man hurriedly checked the list and gasped.

“You find it?” Milo asked. “Should be circled in red pen next to a note saying ‘don’t cause no fucking trouble’.”

The man nodded so hard Milo thought for sure his twiggy little neck would snap.

“It’s on there, it’s on there!”

“Are you sure?” Milo asked. “Because I’ve been itching to try out this new knife of mine. Just bought it yesterday. It’s an antique, see? They say it’s cursed.

Milo pressed the edge of the blade to the man’s cheek like a razor, ever so gently applying just the tiniest bit of pressure. He squealed.

“You’re on the list, you’re on the list! Oh sweet Jesus just please let me live! I’ll let you and your wife in, you can do anything you want!”

Milo smiled. “That’s a good man.”

With a quick slice Milo ran the blade across the doorman’s cheek, drawing blood. The doorman screamed and dropped to the floor, clawing at his face.

“I’ll let you off easy this time because you’re the new help, but two words of advice,” Milo said. “Always believe everything I say. And two? Never believe anything that I say.”

After all, he never said they knew if it was cursed.

Milo smiled and walked past the thrashing doorman, tipping his hat as the tiny man realized with relief that he hadn’t been turned inside out yet.

The interior of the joint was top-class, as fancy and stuck-up as the french themselves. Soft lighting played across concave ceilings and arches set in finely cut and polished stone while classical music wafted through the air, mingling with the smell of roses and poorly concealed casks of wine. Milo liked it. It was an atmosphere befitting of class and romance. He knew he and Marlene had been going through a bit of a rough patch lately (not that their marriage had ever been perfect), so hopefully this could smooth things over for them. This was the kind of thing she liked, after all.

Employees scattered as he passed, giving him a wide berth. He felt like Moses parting a sea of people. It made him feel good. It made him feel respected. Powerful. Milo eventually found his wife being escorted around the establishment by his two helping hands, and rushed to her side before the mood of the evening was ruined.

“Marlene, you’ll never guess what,” he said, smiling as he approached her. “The doorman missed our reservation because it was smudged up by a coffee stain. He said he was so sorry he’s going to give us a private booth all to ourselves. Right?

Milo turned to glare meaningfully at the wait staff, who’d already gotten the memo from the doorman . Not wanting to be the next one to incite the Allesandris’ wrath, they nodded gormlessly like plaster cats. In this mood, Milo thought, he could ask for anything and they’d give it to him. Perfect.

He turned back to his wife. “So what do you want to try first, baby doll? Shall we dine on some fresh sharkfin soup or cheese souffle? I hear escargot and the frenchman’s onion soup are to die for.”

His wife didn’t say anything.

“… Marlene, honey? What’s wrong? Is the restaurant not what you wanted? I can take you someplace else-”

She slapped him. Without another word, Marlene ran, with big fat shark tears in her eyes, pushing her way through the crowd and out the door. Milo felt the sting on his cheek, sighed, and slowly started slouching into his chair at a table meant for two.

“Uhhh… boss?”

Yes, Elmer?” Milo said.

“Do you want us to uhhh…” The bodyguard stuttered. He twiddled his fingers together. Marriage counseling was not part of his repertoire.

Milo raised an eyebrow. “To what?

Elmer started to sweat. “Y’know…”

“No, I don’t know,” Milo said, a frown forming on his face like the first splintering cracks of an earthquake. “What I do know is that I just spent a smooth fifty dollars on dinner and a bottle of champagne my wife no longer has any plans to share with me, and that my anniversary is ruined now. So tell me Elmer, what would you have me do? Tell you to bring her back here against her will? Maybe sit her down and force her to a have a drink and a good time whether she likes it or not? How about you just wave your magic wand and save us all a lot of trouble by just magicking her to love me while you’re at it?”

“Do you… are you joking, boss?” Elmer asked tentatively.

Milo sighed, cupping his hands around his face. “Just get out of here, Elmo.”

“Boss?” Dannie asked too.

“I said get out!” Milo yelled, terrifying the two grunts and the rest of the wait staff. He groaned.

“Having lady trouble?”

Milo heard whistling and the rising roar of the male crowd before he actually heard her voice reaching out to him.

“Think maybe I could help?”

He smiled as he turned to face her.

“Hello, Scilla.”

“Hello, Milo.”

The woman that approached him was the most beautiful he’d ever seen. She had long coffee hair with eyes as blue as the squill she kept tucked behind her ear, and she was wearing a little black dress that showed off her legs. She was also his sister.

Milo greeted her. Heads turned where she walked like a fashion model walking down the runway, the directionless wave of people effortlessly brushed aside by her beauty. Made sense to Milo. Priscilla had always been the prettiest of daddy’s little angels. Wherever she went, eyes followed.

She sat down at the other end of the table and gave him a smile. She had teeth so white her lipstick looked like blood splashed against a wedding dress, and then there were her lips. Dear god her lips. Soft, full and perfect.

Her legs crossed, and every waiter in the vicinity felt the growth of something powerful between their thighs. The men all glared at him for sharing her company. The women glared at the men.

“As always, you could dress in a burlap sack and people would still be crawling all over each other to get you,” Milo said, staring himself. “You never cease to amaze, mia sorella. Even I cannot resist you.”

She chuckled in that special way she had, each giggle a dulcet tone like drizzled hot chocolate, ready to melt even the hardest of hearts. The prettiest of daddy’s angels, yes. With an innocent smile and laughter to match. Was it any wonder she charmed the hearts of men?

Nodding at the distracted waiter, then snapping his fingers when that failed to catch his attention, Milo allowed the dinner to go on unchanged, his romantic candlelit date now spent with his sister instead of his wife.

“So she walked out on you, huh?” Priscilla stated rather than asked as she delicately clasped some escargot in a pair of tongs and coaxed the simmered snail’s meat out of its shell, gingerly placing the marinated mollusk in her mouth. She chewed, first testing then savoring the taste before swallowing. “Hmm. Surprisingly not bad. Perhaps there is some merit to french cooking after all.”

Milo, ever the less adventurous and imaginative of the two, had simply ordered some steak frites he was now viciously taking his frustrations out on, all the while deluding himself into believing it was something far classier than it actually was (i.e. a a hamburger and a side of fries with no bun, like you could find on any street corner in New York).

“Yesh,” he said between bites. He swallowed. “She’s never had the stomach for our business and it seems like she never will. She’s too spoiled. Not willing to get her hands dirty or even tolerate the slightest amount of blood. Yet when I tell her all these convenient lies about what we really do, she’s all too eager to just lap them up like that yippy little Maltese she carries in her purse.”

Priscilla smiled. “Well, that’s what you get for marrying an heiress, brother. Perhaps you should be more like Marquis and find yourself a nice no-nonsense girl like that Felicity?”

“Please,” Milo said, continuing to stuff his face and eat inelegantly. “The day I’m more like Marquis, I want you to shoot me. Whoring around on his wife the way he does… if I ever become like that, you put one right in my head, then another between my eyes.”

“Why, I could never do that!” Priscilla exclaimed, faking shock and holding her hand up to her chest.

“Besides,” Milo continued. “Not that I approve of someone in our family cavorting around with some half-human bitch on the side, but there’s something I just don’t trust about Felicity. She seems… off, to me. Not real. Like she’s been practicing acting like a person, and she isn’t getting any better at it.”

Priscilla smiled devilishly. “But we’re all like that, my darling Milo. Do you think anyone in our family could’ve gotten to where they were if they didn’t pretend to be normal? It’s like that Partridge fellow talked about in his new paper. We’re not like other people, we just look it. What was the word he used again?”

Milo swallowed. “Sociopath. In fact, if I’m remembering his article correctly, he said ‘If we may use the term sociopathy to mean anything deviated or pathological in social relations, whether of individuals with one another, or within or towards groups, and also in the relations of groups to one another, we have a fairly communicable meaning, and a term which may apply descriptively to a great number of persons’. Not just us.”

Priscilla shrugged. “It’s a mad, mad world. So what are you going to do about it?”

“Do about what?” Milo said. At this point he’d finished nearly half of his dish without even thinking about it, the steak simply disappearing to fill the hole left by frustration and doubt.

“About Marlene,” she said. “About father as well, and Marquis too. You’re sure he’ll be able to get them to hand over the stone? This is your big chance.”

“My only chance, more like,” Milo said as he set down his fork and knife, his anger, vexation and mounting anxiety only increasing in a way you could hear in his very voice. “Marquis has always been the favorite child. Lord knows why. He’s hardly father’s own flesh and blood, only just barely.”

Milo sighed, then continued. “I mean I’ve been the most loyal, the most caring, the most concerned for father and this family, and yet what does he do? He ignores me and treats me like some stranger even though I’m his first and eldest son! Marquis doesn’t give a damn about father or anything except himself, but if you were to ask father it’s like he’s the sun, the moon and the stars! St. Marquis, the boy who can do no wrong! It doesn’t matter that I consistently pull in the most money for the family or that I’ve spent more time caring for father than anyone else because look everyone! Marquis made a glorified steam engine out of salamanders and undine spit!”

Priscilla sighed. “I wish I could help you Milo, I really do, but you know how daddy feels about one of his daughters taking over the family business. He doesn’t want us having any part of it.”

She leaned in close and whispered sweetly into his ear. “Which is why I need you, my darling little Milo.”

He smiled. “And I need you too, sorellona.”

“We’re the only ones we’ve got in this world,” she said, caressing his cheek. She got up out of her seat and circled around the table, wrapping her arms around Milo so she could rest her head on his shoulder. “If we let it keep us apart, we die. But if we’re together, we can change it. Rule it. Us together.”

“Together forever.”

They briefly shared a kiss, not caring who was watching. It was like this that the next hour passed by in a blur of forgettable scenes, people and places, lost and inconsequential compared to the moment where she finally straddled her little brother on top of a bed in the penthouse floor of the Plaza Hotel, reminding him of the real relationship they shared. One that went far deeper than just blood.

How long had it been going on like this? Longer than he could remember, surely. Though they’d been born to different mothers, Priscilla to Frankie’s first wife and Milo to his second, she and he had always still considered themselves to be brother and sister, which is what made it all the more thrilling. This was their way of showing their love as family to one another. One only they knew about, and only they shared. In many ways, Priscilla had been the only woman in Milo’s life longer than Marlene ever had.

And no matter how hard he tried, he just couldn’t quit her. Because quitting her meant turning his back on the one person he truly loved.

They kissed again, this time different from the restaurant. No longer was this a passing, probing greeting but a lasting, passionate embrace as she held him down by both of his wrists. At last when it seemed like they’d both suffocate, they came up for air, gasping for breath like drowning sailors.

Priscilla laughed, and began pulling her arms out of her little black dress. Now that Milo had a better look at it, he could see it was partially see-through. She’d been expecting this. She wore it to turn him on, on his anniversary of all days. It should’ve made him rock hard. But… something remained. He couldn’t quite get into it like he usually did. He couldn’t quite lose himself in his sorellona’s love, in her body that was soft and delicate like silk.

As much as he tried to hide it, Priscilla took notice.

“You shouldn’t worry so much, my darling little Milo. I’m having Marquis watched so we can keep an eye on him. Make sure he doesn’t try to pull anything… sneaky.”

“By who?”

“A friend.”

She cupped his face in her hands.

“Just let me take care of everything, my darling little Milo,” she said sweetly. “Has your sorellona ever led you astray?”

Priscilla reached deep into her bosom and withdrew a small pill. Soma. One small dose could amplify the senses a thousandfold, blurring all the boundaries of perception until they became one. Touch became taste. Taste became sound. Sound became sight. And although the ecstasy of the drug, the divine exaltation of the high, lasted only for moments, even seconds under the drug would stretch into hours as all the senses joined together to become one, just as Milo and Priscilla were about to. It was the perfect way to bask in a moment, experiencing its maximum intensity.

She pushed the pill against his pursed lips like a button.

“You should hold on to this. I hear finishing with soma is… sublime. Now just relax. Let your sorellona take care of everything, just like I always do.”

The radio flipped to a soft, slow song, and their dance began. Milo surrendered, clenching the pill in his teeth as he waited for the right moment. He thrust himself inside his sister as she met him eagerly, and just when it felt like he couldn’t take it anymore, he bit down, and swallowed.

Previous || Next

Tokyo Drift 4.12

Previous || Next

Meanwhile, in the minds of…

Alfonso and Marquis

Alfonso sat down next to the Marquis on the train ride back home, sighing as the Marquis flipped through a newspaper.

“Well that’s taken care of, I guess. Not the best way to cap off my career, but at least it was exciting.”

“Uh huh. Yeah,” the Marquis said dismissively, sounding bored.

“Hey. You listening to me?” The Marquis licked his thumb, flipping to the next page. “Hey. Heeeeey. You were serious about giving me that desk job, right? There’s a limit to how much even I can lie to my sister.”

“What? Sorry, I’m just reading about this whole drug scandal with the Yanks. It’s some fucked up shit.”

“Yeah?” Alfonso asked. “What’s it say?”

“Just the usual dick about mandatory drug tests. Says here though that the Bambino might’ve been doping on berserkergäng during the ‘26 World Series. They caught him with like five pounds of the stuff.”

Really? No shit?”

The Marquis raised an eyebrow.

“Yes, Al. No shit, because I’m totally reading the newspaper right now, and not trying to think of a way to save our collective asses and my girlfriend’s ass from the hammer of the Supreme fucking Court. Who needs to work on building a case when Baby fucking Ruth may have been caught with a couple of cadillacs in his Cadillac, am I right?”

“You have been really fucking passive aggressive lately and I’m not sure I like it,” Alfonso said.

“Yeah? Well get used to it.”

“Especially now that we’ll be hitting the mattresses with the Vitalis over this little shitshow. That’s what you mean, right?”

“Yeah, about that…” the Marquis said, dejectedly discarding his newspaper. “The bodies are gone.”

“What?!” Alfonso said, almost standing up. “What do you mean they’re gone?”

“I mean they’re gone, Al,” the Marquis said, sounding annoyed. “I went back to check the bodies and they were toast. Vaporized, burnt to a crisp. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. All that’s left is the metal shit. Choppers and crosses, mostly, and a few silver teeth here and there. Smells like… burnt potpourri in there.”

The Marquis flared his nostrils in disgust.

“Dammit!” Alfonso said, slamming his fist onto the armrest. “What are we supposed to bring to the Council now?!”

“Nothing. That’s the point. Those crucifixes they carry are probably enchanted to spontaneous combust after death so their bodies can’t be recovered. That way Romeo has the benefit of plausible deniability. Everybody fucking knows their secret little hit squad exists, they just can’t prove it.”

“So then what are we supposed to do? We can still testify, right? I mean we got witnesses!”

“Sure we can testify. And get laughed out of the fucking room. Psychometry’s a bust too. Even if we had anyone who knew how to do it, the Vitalis would probably just tamper with the train’s psychic imprint before we could get clearance to record here. Without proof we got nothing, and nobody wants to start a war over nothing, myself included. Not now.”

Alfonso sighed. He understood what the young capo meant. Not while their best weapon was in such a shaky position. Every family had their own different weapons to deter the others from messing with them. With Nayeli out of the picture even temporarily, the balance of power would shift while they scrambled to find something new to fill the void. This wasn’t a time where they could afford to start instigating any wars.

He groaned, rubbing his temples. Marq picked up on this, catching Alfonso’s drift.

“We’re not gonna lose her, Al. I’m not going to lose her. And you won’t lose Theo or your sister either. I don’t know how I’m gonna do it yet, but we’re gonna find a way to make this work.”

“Yeah…” Alfonso said, comforted. “But still. What a fucking time to leave the front lines… Why were they even here?”

“Probably to kill us,” Marq explained. “Exorcising Yoshirō was probably just an excuse for them to be here, or an incidental bonus. They noticed we’d boarded a train with a ticking supernatural time bomb and decided to capitalize on it. Another good reason you shouldn’t have killed all of them. If you’d left one alive, we would’ve had a case to make with the Council and could even learn a thing or two about what kind of secrets the Vitalis might be keeping. But nooooo…

“Oh stuff it,” Alfonso said before becoming serious. “Speaking of information leaks, remember what I said to you earlier?”

The Marquis picked up on it. “What, you don’t really think they’d-”

“I do. Why are they here? They said ‘the boss’ wanted them to keep an eye on things, but you didn’t send for them. At least you didn’t tell us you did. Eliminate you and that leaves two meanings of the word ‘boss’: the boss or another capo. I don’t think your dad would send these two or even bother with this job at all. That means one of your brothers or sisters did.”

The Marquis sighed. “You’re probably right.”

“You know I am. So what are we gonna do?”

“Wipe their memories, I guess. We can’t let the stone fall into Milo’s hands, or at least not the knowledge that the stone isn’t the one he thinks it is. Otherwise all this whole mess amounts to is just us pissing in the wind. That, and billions of dollars in property damage.”

“Sounds good,” Alfonso said, and the two mafiosos got up and started walking towards the guilty party. “You… were serious about the desk job though, right? I mean, I think it’d be a great compromise-”

The Marquis snorted. “Al, let’s be real here. We both know you’ll be coming back.”

“I’m serious, man!”

Leon, Figaro and Barbie

“Gahhh!!” Figaro sighed in frustration. “Here they go and make a big deal out of sending us in on this job and then we barely get to do anything! It sucks, it really fucking sucks! Don’t they know anything about handling your assets? And here I was hoping I’d to take Barbie out for a little exercise…”

“Stop saying that like it’s a bad thing we didn’t get more chances to go out there and almost get killed,” Leon said. “The sooner this job is over the better. And stop talking about your chainsaw like it’s your damn girlfriend!”

“Why?” Figaro tilted his head and leaned over to ask Leon.

Leon stared at him dumbfounded. “… Do I need to answer that question?”

“No, I mean why you gotta be like that?” Figaro said, frowning. “Here I thought we were having a good time and then you gotta go and be a wet sock about it. I thought we were friends, pally!”

Leon continued staring at him just as dumbfounded as before.

“Okay, one. I am not your friend. I will never be your friend. Because I don’t make friends with people who give kissy-lip names to their fucking chainsaws!” he yelled. “Two! I am always like this! I have never not been like this! And three. The sooner this job is over the better, because until then I have to wear this guy’s fucking face and everybody wants to fucking kill me! Now do you see why I’d be just a little fucking angry?!”

Figaro backed off. “Whoa. Chill, pally. You need a drink.”

“What I need,” Leon said, “is to shed this skin and get Boss Frankie off my back.”

Just then, two previously well-dressed men in tattered, stained suits approached them. They were both technically their bosses, but only one had the privilege of being addressed as such.

“Hey boss, hey Alfonso!” Figaro said chipperly. “What’s up?”

“Oh nothing,” the Marquis replied, drawing circles in the air with his finger. “I just want you to tell us everything you know about the Cintamani stone…”

Annie and Nayeli

Nayeli stared at the door to her compartment, her cigarette hanging loosely from her mouth.

“Ummm… what is this?”

In the open door stood a teenage girl on two crutches, unmistakably the younger sister of Alfonso Anastasio.

“Um yeah, sorry. I know this is weird. I was wondering if I could come in and talk to you about my brother, Miss… Nayeli, right?”

“Okay… and why would you wonder that?”

“Because I’ve still got a few questions about what happened today and no one is telling me anything. You’re a demigod, so I figured you probably had something to do with… that,” she said, pointing out the window at the smoldering, hundred kilometer wide crater. “I thought you might be willing to talk to me. Not that I’m blaming you for it or anything!”

“Uh huh. And let’s say I was the one responsible for what happened. That doesn’t scare you at all?”

Anastasia shrugged. “You must have had your reasons the way I see it. If you just wanted to cause random destruction and chaos, you wouldn’t have done it out in the middle of a nature reserve.”

“Okay,” Nayeli said, understanding but slowly losing her patience. “So what do you think I can tell you that no one else can?”

“What my brother was doing while you all were fighting,” Anastasia said confidently.

Nayeli looked at her like she’d had her head chopped off.

“Sorry, but I don’t care what your brother does. Ask someone else.”

“What?” Anastasia said. “Why?”

“Because to be honest, I don’t think I could care about what your brother does. No way, no how. Anything he could do compared to me or to my family… that’s nothing. Like an ant pissing in the wind. It just doesn’t register to me.”

“… Are you saying we’re just like ants to you?” Annie said almost indignantly. “You’re still human too, y’know.”

“You can call me a monster if you want. I won’t mind. I… I probably deserve it. It’s just…” Nayeli said, struggling with the words. “Ugh. There’s a difference, in how big things are where I come from. In your world, Al can kill a man and that’s just this world-ending news to you. In my world, the head of the house can literally end the world, and that’s a lazy Sunday. Our worlds are just too far apart, and they’re only connected by this one tiny little bridge…”

“The Marquis,” Annie said.

Nayeli nodded. “Yeah.”

“What do you see in him?”

Hey,” Nayeli warned. “It’s been a long-ass day and I’m tired as fuck, but if you talk shit about the boss I will kick your ass.”

“… You do realize I have cancer and I bruise really easily, right?”

“You do realize I don’t give a shit, right?”

Anastasia blinked. “Wow… that is the first time anyone’s ever said something like that to me… But I’m being serious! It was honest question. What do you see in him? You obviously love him, but why? Especially when he’s already married!”

“Engaged!” Nayeli corrected. “There is a difference!”

“That doesn’t make it okay!”

Nayeli snorted. “What the hell would you know? You’re just a damn kid. You don’t know anything about love or the way this world works…”

“Alright,” Annie said. She plopped down on the seat across from Nayeli, arms folded like she’d just had a toy taken away from her. “Then explain it to me.”

Nayeli stared at her.

“No, I meant… you weren’t supposed to… gahhhh! Fine! Herc’s greasy fucking taint…” she swore, rubbing her temples and taking a deep breath. “Okay. Let’s assume brotherly or sisterly love or whatever is the same thing as romantic love, which it’s not!”

Nayeli mysteriously jammed a finger up at the sky before returning to what she was saying.

” What would you do if someone said you couldn’t be with Al for some completely stupid arbitrary reason, like you couldn’t be his sister because you’re not blood-related? You’d be pretty fucking pissed, right?”

“That’s not the same thing!”

“Yes it is!”

“You just said it wasn’t three sentences ago!”

“Just answer the damn question!”

“I… I guess I’d be pretty mad, yeah.”

“And so what would you do? Would you just listen to what they said and be happy never seeing him again?”

“Of course not!”

“You see? That’s exactly what I mean!”

“But… sometimes it already feels like that…”

“… Hah?” Nayeli said, her cigarette dangling on the edge of her lips. Anastasia stared at the floor, fidgeting. Nayeli sighed.

Don’t give me that fucking look…

“Alright, fine. Sit down.”


“I get the feeling there’s a story here, so come on, spit it out,” Nayeli said, gently but forcibly using her great strength to seat Anastasia next to her. She took a breather from her cigarette, spouting a puff of smoke. “Let’s have a little girl talk and get this over with so we can both move on with our fucking lives.”

Anastasia looked suspicious of her. “This… doesn’t seem like you.”

“Hey, what do you know about me, huh? Maybe I’m actually just a big fucking teddy bear who likes to cuddle. You don’t know that. You don’t know shit.”

“Yeah, but somehow I doubt it…” Anastasia mumbled, sighing. “It’s just… it’s Al. Sometimes it just feels like we may as well be living on two different planets.”

Nayeli raised an eyebrow, suddenly interested. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Well… it’s just like…” Anastasia said, struggling with the words. “He says he wants to protect me, right? Well I want to protect him too. I don’t want this for him.”


“Yeah,” Anastasia said, making confused hand gestures. “This. What he’s doing right now. He has this whole idea in mind for what my life should be like, and he’s doing all sorts of stupid things just because he thinks that’s what’ll help. But because I’m stuck in these stupid crutches and wheelchair, I can’t do anything to stop him. It’s like… it’s like I’m not allowed to have a life with my brother. The kind of life I want for him, where he’s not always trying to get himself killed, or worse.”

Not allowed to have the life you want, huh? Nayeli thought.

“And it’s just… so frustrating, feeling like I’m this powerless waif. That I’m stuck in this situation where I just can’t do anything.” Anastasia laughed bitterly. “But someone as strong you probably thinks that’s really stupid, don’t you? You’re a demigod, after all. You can just take whatever you want. No one can tell you what you can and can’t do.”

Nayeli exhaled a puff of smoke. “Nope. You’re wrong.”

“Huh?” Anastasia said, looking up at Nayeli.

“There’s a lot of stuff I can’t do. I can’t vote. I can’t get a job doing anything besides manual labor. This bracelet I wear, with the little axe on it? I’m not strong if I’m not wearing it, because of a curse. And I… and I can’t be with him.”

Silence passed between them, Nayeli’s words hanging in the air.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Anastasia said, looking at her, confused. “I thought you already were.”

“Oh, if you mean we’re fucking, then yeah, we’re doing that,” Nayeli said as Anastasia blushed. “But I can’t be with him be with him. I’m not ‘qualified’. I’m a mutt. A stray. I don’t fit in in his family.”


Nayeli shrugged. “I’m not fully Italian. Y’know on top of being not fully human. The whole world doesn’t like me, so I can just forget about dinner with the in-laws. I guess what I’m trying to say is… I get it. The whole ‘wanting what you can’t have’ thing.”

Anastasia looked up at her, truly looked up at her, for the first time. “You do?”

“That’s what I just said, isn’t it? It’s hard to keep on living when something you can’t control keeps you from ever being with the ones you love. I get that, I do. But…”

Nayeli paused, looking away and out the window. “We should at least be grateful we’re able to spend the time with them that we do. You especially. At least you still have your brother. Your relationship isn’t gonna be perfect, because they never fucking are, but at least you got family that loves you and cares about you. Even if it is that weirdo.”

“Miss Nayeli…” Anastasia said, hesitating. “Does your family…?”

Nayeli looked down at the infirm teenage girl sitting beside her, and while she never said anything, she didn’t need to. The intensity in the look in her eyes told anyone looking to back off. Then, she closed her eyes.

“Nah,” she said. “Now get outta here, and don’t tell anyone I played nice with you. I got a reputation to keep, kiddo.”

She gave Anastasia a friendly pat on the back, making her go “oof”, and sent her on her way. Halfway to the door, Anastasia stopped.

“Miss Nayeli… thank you,” she said. She didn’t turn around. She didn’t feel like she had to. They weren’t friends or gal pals or anything like that, but even so… she felt like a connection had been made today. Maybe someday, she’d get to call on it again.

Nayeli sighed.

“Go on, get outta here,” she said, waving her hands. Anastasia obliged, leaving with the tiniest hint of a smile.

Felicity and a gentleman caller

In the back of the train, the daughter of one of the most powerful men in New York crammed herself into a tight phone booth and started thumbing coins into the slot to make a call.

The phone rang approximately once before someone picked up on the other side.

“Hello. This is Asset Felicity, making my report.”

Felicity sighed. “With all due respect, must we really communicate this way? Speaking like one of them just feels so… wrong.”

A moment of silence.

“Yes,” she said, nodding. “Yes, I know what our mission is. No, I haven’t forgotten. Yes, subtlety is key. We can’t force the Marquis to do anything. Only shape the circumstances around him so that he has no other choice. With that in mind, I think there may be a way for us to spin this in our favor.”

Felicity adjusted herself in the tiny booth, and took out a notepad.

“The daughter of the Olympians will be facing severe criminal charges for this offense. That’s bad for our agenda, but if I may be so bold, it could also provide us with an opportunity. If we use the demigod like this…” There was silence in the booth, the young woman’s hushed whispering being absorbed by the glass. “Yes… what do you think? Eh? What do you mean by that? ‘What do I think’? Surely that’s not important…”

The voice on the other end could not be heard or understood, but the young woman’s facial expressions were easy enough to read.

Elimination? No. No, I really don’t think there’s any need for that yet. With all due respect, the demigod is troublesome but she could still prove to be a useful blunt instrument in the future. I can handle her. Besides, killing her could have the opposite of the intended effect on Marquis. However…”

Felicity looked back, craning her neck to catch a glimpse of them. The brother and the sister.

“… there may be a few variables whose usefulness could be reevaluated.”

Her grip on the phone tightened subconsciously. That damn thing. Asking to play nice with it, that she could handle. But to simply ignore it after it had insulted her like that? It was like being talked down to by a child. No, by an animal, or an insect. Something so vastly your inferior that its gall to criticize you made you feel indignant. And what was wrong with it anyway? Was it so spoiled by its idyllic life that it had forgotten what its role in all this was? And how easily it could be replaced?

While some of us are out here working hard and trying to prove ourselves, that filthy half-breed thing

The voice on the other end crackled.

“What? No. No, I haven’t forgotten. Yes, I realize it’s important, but… what? No, I do not feel jeopardized! My position is as secure as ever! And I will not allow any rumors they might spread to persist. I will cement my place in the Marquis’ household without fail! I know my results as of yet have not been promising, but-”

Her bravado faded.

“Yes. Yes, I understand. No, no I do not need to be reconditioned. I will not fail this time. With the demigod out of the picture for a while, I should have some more room to maneuver. Hm? Satisfaction, you say? With all due respect, I have all the incentive I need! I am completely dedicated to… yes. Yes I know. No I am not refusing your kindness. Okay. The hospital then? You can really do that? Okay. That sounds fantastic. Please do that then.”

The crackling grew harsher.

“Yes. Yes I know you’re not doing this for me. The asset needs to be reactivated. We cannot afford to lose control of it at this point. I understand. Goodbye then.”
She hung up.

Previous || Next

Tokyo Drift 4.11

Previous || Next

The train stopped, and it was over. It was finally, really over. So, when all’s said and done, when you’ve won the day, gotten the girl (in our case represented here by the darling Cintamani stone), and everyone, even the bad guys, live happily ever after, what else can you say?

“Well that was a fucking disaster.”

I grimaced along with Marq. Well I guess there was that. Both of us staring outside at the massive gaping hole where a tenth of the entire state of Arizona used to be kinda put our personal victories into perspective.

“That… got out of hand quickly…” I said, agreeing with him.

“Indeed,” Theo said.

Marq groaned. “People are gonna have some really fucking interesting things to say about this. One thing’s for sure, this is not going to help come election day.”

“Ah come on, Marq,” I said, trying to cheer him up. “It’s not that bad. Like they have any way to trace this back to us or Nayeli. And even if they did, what are they gonna do? Johnny Dumani destroyed an entire fucking mountain fighting that hydra and they let him get away with it.”

“First, that was in defense of public property,” Marq said, sighing. “The collateral damage might’ve been pretty severe in the surrounding areas, but Johnny still saved the entire county from total annihilation. That alone negates half the charges against him. This was completely senseless, not to mention a thousand times worse. We’ll be lucky if people aren’t still talking about this when we’re all old and gray.”

Marq turned to the two Yamada brothers. “Kichirō! What the hell did you give Ren that made Nayeli go all-out like this? Some kind of mythic weapon?”

Kichirō glared softly at him. He was cradling Yoshirō, who was barely conscious and barely breathing. “I appreciate your help, Marquis. More than you’ll ever know. I never thought you’d actually deliver on your promises. But right now my brother is still gravely injured. He’s in pain, and he needs me. Whatever this is, it can wait.”

“Really?” Marq said. “The biggest un-natural disaster in recorded history since the Lost Renaissance… and it can wait? Look, I didn’t even know Nayeli had that kind of strength. This places her in the United States’ top ten for demigods, if not top ten in the world. If this had gotten any worse, she might’ve cracked the whole damn continent in half. Now I don’t know what you or Ren did that made this possible, but I need to know, because right now we are on a countdown until this place is swarming with feds and cinder dicks and aaaaalllll sorts of Untouchables, and we are all implicated. If I don’t even know where to start building a case, how could I possibly-”

“Waitwaitwaitwait. Wait,” I said. “What do you mean we’re implicated? We had nothing to do with this!”

“It won’t take a genius to check the registry and see our names listed right next to Nayeli’s, Al,” Marq said. “She’s a registered demigod and a known associate of the Allesandris. Trust me, the legal system and I are both intimately acquainted with her.”


As her lawyer, Al,” Marq said, telling me to keep it quiet around others. “Even if we personally had nothing to do with this, we’re all persons of interest.”

“Okay, so what? How are they going to prove anything? We’ll just pay off the judges like we always do. Make it look like some kind of natural disaster. Like, I dunno, a volcanic eruption. The Allesandris have always been good at covering our tracks. That’s why we’re top of the New York food-chain, right?”

“Second to the top, Al,” Marq said. “You forgot the Pescatorres. We’re pretty neck and neck with the Sartinis right now too, and you can expect a major upset now that we’ve got this to deal with. Besides, you’re missing the point. The second one I forgot to mention earlier.”

I did a mental search of all the conversations we’d had in the last forty-eight hours, seeing if anything fit what he was talking about here. Then…

“Oh,” I said. “Oh shit.

“You remember, don’t you? The bill just got passed last week. Psychometry can now legally be used as evidence in a court of law. And with a disaster of this size? The feds are gonna be rolling out the spirit cameras by the thousands, capturing every possible angle. Soon this entire crater is going to be on lockdown, and they’re gonna rewind the whole damn thing, Al. They’ll have a frame-by-frame playback of the whole fight. Even if they do think it’s just a natural disaster, they won’t be thinking that for long. Which brings me back to my question, Kichirō. What did you do?

Kichirō stared at us silently.

“… The nepenthe should be dulling the pain,” I said. “For what it’s worth, your brother probably doesn’t feel a thing right now.”

Kichirō hesitated for a moment, then gave in. “Phoenix yolk. I gave her phoenix yolk.”

“Phoenix yolk?”

“To activate her power of zenkai, Ren needs to be close to death,” Kichirō explained. “I gave her a belt of phoenix yolk vials so she could fight at full health while retaining the extra power she gained from each zenkai. Ren is strong, but there are people much stronger than her, like your demigod. This was a strategy we developed to fight those people that allowed for theoretically infinite gains as long as phoenix yolk was in steady supply.”

Marq became deathly pale. “You mean to say-”

“Yes. It is theoretically possible that Ren became strong enough to kill your demigod friend. Just as possible as it is that she killed mine.”

“Or!” a voice cried out in the distance. “Or maybe we could both be alive, and you could be crying for nothing, ya worry-warts!”

I poked my head out the car door. Two smokey female figures started to resolve themselves on the horizon. Both were covered in ash, and one was leaning on the other. The taller and bustier of the two (I assumed Nayeli) waved at us.

“Also, we could use a change of clothes!”

“Yes! Quickly!” the shorter one (Ren) said while she tried to strategically cover herself with her hands. “Before anyone see!”

“Heh. Heheh,” I chuckled, before wheezing and breaking into gut-busting laughter. “Hahahahaha haaaa. Holy crap! Marq! You’ll never guess who it is!”

“Nayeli!?” Marq yelled, all too relieved.

“No, uh, seriously boss. We need clothes,” Nayeli yelled back. “Like, right now. Please?”

“Oh, uh… right. Rightrightrightright!”

Marq scurried back into the car, panicking and trying to find some clothes to cover them up. I laughed again. Somehow, in spite of or maybe because of how much of a literal trainwreck this day ended up being, this was the funniest thing I’d seen all day.

I poked my head back outside.

“You do know you two ladies look like English chimney sweeps right now, right? I don’t think anyone’s seeing nothing until they give you like five baths and a de-skunking, at least.”

Fuck you asshole, you already got a free show and I’m not giving you another!” Nayeli said, her middle finger raised high.

Marq rushed outside carrying a children’s night-gown in one arm and his coat in another. Handing the night-gown to Ren, who scurried off to change behind the train where nobody could see her, he wrapped the coat around Nayeli and proceeded to bombard her with the usual slew of questions.

“What happened out there?”

“Things… got really out of control.”

“Are you okay?”


“Are you hurt?”

“No, not really.”

“Define ‘not really’.”

“I got some bits of a spear stuck inside me.”

“Oh jesus…”

“Relax boss, it barely even hurts anymore.”

“You got bits of a spear? How did that even happen?

“I uh… kinda crushed it with my abs.”

“Okay one, that’s kinda hot and I am so tearing the clothes right off your body as soon as we get home. Y’know, after we give you like, five baths and a de-skunking,” Marq said, causing Nayeli to blush (though you could hardly notice it). “Two, what the hell were you thinking?!”

W-What?” Nayeli said, flustered by Marq’s sudden outburst. “Well, I mean I was kinda thinking that if I let her stab me I could-”

“Not what I meant, but finish that thought later. I mean what the hell were you thinking when you let this happen?!” he almost shouted, pointing at the gigantic hole in the state that a lot of mapmakers were probably gonna get pretty pissed off about, come to think of it. “And I meant that for both of you! I told you to keep things discreet, Nayeli, that’s why I told you to fight outside in the middle of nowhere! And Ren, why did you egg her on?! Do either of you have any idea what you’ve just done?!”

“Oh come on, it not that bad,” Ren said, stepping out wearing the night-gown. “This Arizona. We fight in the middle of giant forest, there no cities for miles! Besides, there no way they can trace this to us.”

Marq sighed. “First, yes there is, and second, no, but there are towns. A good handful if I remember correctly, and they’re going to want to know why their homes and their loved ones are now part of a giant hole in the ground! This is serious, like ‘eyes of the world’ serious! We will all be lucky if a ten-year legal battle is the worst that happens to us as a result of… this.

Marq gestured at the giant hole. I swallowed dry as the high from the battle came crashing down. Yeah, it didn’t really occur to me until just then, but uh… wow. When you looked at it, this was… wow.

I tried to forget about it. Not like we didn’t belong way down below already. This was just… this was a little more extreme than we were used to, I think. I mean, no one wanted this to happen. Even Nayeli seemed a bit shaken up by how scary her own power was.

“Hey… I uh… so Marq I mean boss I… if you w-want me to, I can just… go, I guess is what I’m… t-trying to say,” she said, sniffling. “I mean I know I… I… oh god… I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to, I swear I didn’t!”

The woman I thought was an invincible stone-cold bitch started crying like a little girl, and Marq welcomed her into his arms. Was it because she knew she’d just killed gods know how many people and regretted it, or because she wanted so desperately for Marq to not hate her? I dunno. Which was more sad, do you think?

“Shhh, shhh, it’s okay. I’m not mad, it’s okay…” Marq said, trying to comfort her. If that was a lie, it wasn’t a very convincing one.

“No, no it’s not ‘okay’! I mean holy shit, I… I-I-I-I…”

“Just don’t think about it, babe,” Marq said. “Focus on me, okay? You listening? We’re gonna make this alright, Nayeli. One way or another. I don’t know how, but it’s gonna be okay. Just… trust me. We’ll think of something.”

Nayeli sniffled into his coat. No response, in a situation for which there really were no words.

I suddenly became acutely aware of just how cold and clammy I was for an Arizona morning.

This was the world we lived in, a world forever changed by gods and monsters, where one minute everything is great and peachy and keen and the next minute everything you thought you ever knew and would never go away gets swept up in an instant by some storm of heavenly or demonic violence that was just so much greater than you were. So great it may not have even intended to put you in harm’s way to begin with. And then? You get fucked. Just like that. Straight up fucked, like DVDA.

I looked out at the huge pit. This time it was Nayeli, and Marq. How long before the uncaring hands of the Fates came after me and Annie?

Panting with exhaustion after the stress of the recent battle, Felicity pushed the door to the car open and came stumbling out. She quickly picked herself up and dusted off her suit.

“If,” Felicity said, huffing, “you two are quite done, I’d like to remind my husband of his position, and recommend he start taking action if he wants to keep it. Starting with unhanding a wanted fugitive.”

Nayeli heard what she’d said and surprisingly clung to Marq instead of saying anything, begging him with her eyes not to do what she said.

“You know, before anyone starts to get the wrong idea.”

Desperately, Nayeli mouthed, ‘no’.

“Felicity…” Marq said slowly, still holding on tightly to Nayeli.

“Now darling, you need to begin preparing a preliminary statement in your defense if you wish to have any chance in the upcoming election, or else your campaign will tank like the Titanic.”

Felicity…” Marq said, his tone sharper.

“Of course I’d recommend just cutting all ties completely to save face, but I know my sentimental fool of a husband would never do something as sensible as that. So instead, I’ve devised a plan that will hopefully still prove to be effective if we can’t just deny we know anything about her. If you throw the demigod under a bus, darling -figuratively speaking of course, there’s no way that would kill a mutt like her- then you may still be able to make an appeal to the public-”

Felicity!” Marq shouted. His eyes were sharp and cold like a reptile’s. “I appreciate your input. But I’m not your husband yet. So if you’d kindly fuck off, I have business to attend to. Allesandri business. You know, with the family.”

Nayeli didn’t quite smile, but she looked relieved. Felicity snarled.

“Listen, you-”

“I’m sorry, did I not make myself clear? Take it to a ten cent box, or I’ll call one for you. Or better yet, a meat wagon.”

“Al! Allllllll!”

Everyone’s heads turned. I heard the voice of my little sister as she crashed through the door to the dining car. She stumbled, catching herself on the rails before she fell. She was… running. I couldn’t believe it. She was running!

“Al!” she yelled, jumping down off the train and heading straight for me like an adorable cruise missile. I welcomed her in my arms and caught her with a bear hug.

“Annie!” I said, relieved.

“Oh thank god you’re alright, Al!” she said on the verge of tears. “I don’t know what happened! You disappeared as soon as I left and when I tried to look for you outside everything was exploding, it looked like the world was about to end!”

“Yeah…” I said hesitantly. “Yeah, it was a… volcano… right, Marq?”

Felicity opened her mouth to say something, but Marq shut her up.

“Yeah, that’s right. There was some kind of eruption. They think it was due to some unexplained seismic activity in the area. Sounds like Gaia having a stomachache, doesn’t it, Nayeli?”

She nodded. Good. About time someone shut Felicity up.

“I’m just happy you’re okay!” Annie said. “But… you’re sober. How did you do that so quickly?”

“I, uhhhhh…” I said, trying to explain.

“It was because of me, Mistress Anastasia,” Theo said, approaching Annie in full maid mode. The red party dress and bloody knives did not sell the look.

“Theo?!” Annie shouted in genuine surprise. “I thought you were in Montreal! How did you-”

“I flew here on the back of a dragon. It is not important,” Theo said dismissively, shrugging. Sorry Theo, but even I think that sounds like a big deal.

Annie looked around. First at Theo, then the wounded Yamadas, then to the dragon circling almost silently in the clouds above us. The wounded Sostene, Felicity who was still carrying her empty Tommy guns. Then her gaze settled on Marq and the half-naked Nayeli, and I think that’s when she put the pieces together.

“Al…” she said slowly, with trepidation. “What’s going on here? What happened?”

“What do you mean?” I said. “We told you, there was an earthquake followed by an eruption and-”

“Don’t give me that crap, Al!” she said with a ferocity I wasn’t accustomed to that may have scared even me. “Something’s going on here, I know there is! First all this stuff with the Marquis, and now these people we don’t even know, this disaster…

“What, you can’t seriously think Marq caused that,” I said, laughing nervously.

“That would be ridiculous,” Theo said dully, nodding.

“Answer me, Al! Why do those people have weapons? Why are they wearing suits of armor, and why do you have a gun?!” she said with alarm as she spotted the revolver I’d tried to keep hidden. “There’s something you’re not telling me, and I can guess what it is! Why have you been hanging out with the Marquis? Why do you have this gun and a knife? Where did Theo really come from, and what happened here?! What have you been doing brother, and don’t tell me you’ve just been working at the hospital and that Marquis is your financial advisor, because I know that’s a lie!”

Tears started dripping down her face onto the arms of my suit.

“Tell me, Al!” she said, close to sobbing. “I don’t want to hear it from someone else… but I will if I have to!”

She glared at Marquis, who instantly took a step back from the crippled invalid girl, my little sister. When she wants to be, my little Annie can be as scary as a bearcat. But… what did I tell her? I knew this day would have to come eventually, but not this soon! Not now!

Kichirō and Ren stared me down with a look of urgency. Figaro unsubtly mouthed “no”, while Leon and Felicity looked like they couldn’t have given less of a shit. I looked at the expression on her angry, tear-stained face.

Tell… me…

I looked over at Marq, silently asking for his permission. He shrugged, and I sighed with resignation. So this is where it ended, huh?

“… Annie… I’ve been working with Marquis.”

“I knew it…” she choked through hot, angry tears. “How could you, Al? You know what he does! He’s a murderer-”

“Hey!” Nayeli said.

“-and a thief-”

“He certainly is,” Felicity said.

“-and a no-good lying bastard son-of-a-bitch!”

“Guilty as charged,” Marq said nonchalantly.

“You’re not helping!” I said, pointing at Marq. “And you watch your language!”

“Why? Because you said so? Why should I listen to anything you have to say if you aren’t going to listen to me?”

“Because I don’t want you growing up like me!” I blurted. We floated through the awkward silence for a moment before I sighed, and tried to explain myself. “I was running out of money to pay for your cancer treatment-”

“Then why not just ask me to help with the finances? I’m sure there’s something I could do to make money! Or better yet, why not ask Marquis?! If he’s such a good friend of yours, why doesn’t he help pay for our hospital bills?”

“You know you’re in no condition to be working, Annie, and besides, the family business is a family business. You can’t expect them to just hand out money. A boathouse burned is a dollar earned, and it’s a lot better than owing them money. Trust me.”

“Or y’know, trust me because I’m the one who usually has to hand out those punishments to all the naughty boys and girls!” Figaro said with a chipper voice.

“Then we need to budget ourselves better!” Annie protested. “You work at a hospital! Even as an assistant nurse you should be making more than enough to-”

“Annie!” I said, interrupting, already regretting what I was about to say. “I… I didn’t get the job at the hospital. I never did.”

She looked confused. “W-What?

“They turned me down, Annie. Because I was a medium. I was ‘the least favorable candidate’ because they didn’t trust my powers, so they gave the job to an elf instead. I’m sorry. I… I didn’t have the heart to tell you. That was the last straw. We had no more money, we didn’t have any other options, so I went to to work for Marq.”

“I bet that’s how it happened,” she said, glaring at Marq. “That’s when he suckered you in-”

Actually,” Marq said. “Your brother came to us.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“Ouch. So quick on the comebacks…”

“She’s got your number, Marquis,” Kichirō said, rasping wheezily.

I sighed again. “No, he’s right, Annie. I did. I came to them looking for a job, because it was the only way I was going to be able to pay our bills. I already had a history as one of Marq’s associates, and as it just so happened another made man had gotten bumped off recently, so they, y’know, held a ceremony and welcomed me into the family.”

“I was there!” Sostene pitched in unhelpfully with a slurred voice. He sounded really dizzy. “Can someone get me some blood? I think I… I think I ran out…”

“I can’t believe this…” Annie said, shaking. “I don’t want to! That you would… you said you’d leave that life behind once you became an adult! So you could look after me! Those were your words! How am I ever supposed to trust you again, Al?”

Everyone looked at me. Yeah, great. Put me in the fucking spotlight why don’t you?

“I… I dunno,” I said, giving up. “How can I make you trust me again, Annie?”

She glared at me. “Stop telling me lies.”


“You promise this time?”

“I promise.”

“And you’ll start listening to me from now on?”

“I promise.”

“Good. Find another job.”

“No can do,” I said, throwing my hands in the air.

“Al!” she said. “Already?!”

“What do you expect from me, Annie?” I said. “Once you’re in the family, you can’t just leave!”

“He’s right, you know,” somebody added.

“It’s a life-long commitment, both in honor and in blood!”

“There are people who would kill me just for being Allesandri, Annie, and they’d kill you too!” I said, trying to sound as urgent as possible to convince her. “The only reason we don’t have to worry about those kinds of no-good punks is because we’re under Marq’s protection! Even if I could just turn in a letter of resignation to Franky Allesandri and walk away from the mafioso lifestyle, we’d have to constantly look over our shoulders! I don’t want that life for you, and if I have to bite the bullet so you can live like a normal, happy girl, then that’s just how it’s gotta be! That’s my decision, Annie!”

“But you’re making it about my life!” she said. “And you’re my brother, Al! Don’t I get a say in this? I don’t want to see you become something like him!

Marq sighed. “And again she singles me out… Listen, Annie. You know the rules, or at least I think you do. Your brother can’t just leave us. There are strict laws and codes of conduct in place about how you honor the family. Pay your tributes, respect the family, never snitch. It’s all about omerta.”

Go to hell,” she said.

“Ah ah ah,” Marq said, tutting. “You’re gonna wanna hear what I have to say. It might make you change your tune. I did say your brother can’t leave us. I didn’t say he had to keep doing what he’s doing. There are other jobs available to a made man besides being a hired gun. It was just my preference that Al’s skills be put to good use. If both of you want, I can try to find him a different job besides being a hatchetman. Say, maybe, butter and eggs?”

She looked at him, confused. Marq sighed.

“He could work the bankroll. Manage finances. Maybe do work as an information broker? I’m sure he’d be good at that. Point is, there are less lucrative but also less violent jobs we could have him doing. How does that sound? Would that help you forgive your brother for lying to you?”

Annie blinked.

Previous || Next