“The ego of a man can destroy all hope.”
©Fiction Writer Anthony Darden
Two assassins, at the top of their game, caught in a game of cat and mouse. Both men powerful, ruthless, successful, and smart, by their own rite of passage. A dirty cop, who now rules the underworld with clever deceit and backs it up with cold blooded murder. The other, me, the X boss who decided to take his money and get out of the game on top. But when the last bullet is fired, it is not for the kill. It’s for the startling truth that comes with a warning shot.
© Fiction Writer Anthony Darden
Some killers are born. I wasn’t one of them. But to stay alive, I woke each day with blood on my hands. At first, it was disturbing. The kind of thing that turns your stomach when you think about it. The first thing you learn, that will frighten the shit out of you, is how much blood a human body holds. Once it’s cracked open, it takes forever for the blood to stop running. The TV stuff, when you see a victim laying on the floor in a puddle of blood, is minor effects to a real crime scene. I would say a half of barrel or more, depending on how big the body is. It’s always good to have a barrel camouflaged out back, in case trouble finds you. In addition, make sure you have a saw.
This day was like no other. I rose at 4 a.m. The espresso timer was set for 3:50. By the time I hit the snooze button, two times, the espresso smell would give me that last push. By the time I get dressed and make my way downstairs, the espresso would be at the perfect temperature. One long gulp, by then it would be 4:30, my workout time. From 4:30 till 5:30, one hour on my TrendClimb. I’m not into muscles. I like definition. I like to keep my six-two, two-ten body lean and cut. I’m more into speed and endurance. That’s what getting away from a crime scene needs. Big muscles slow a man down.
Big muscles don’t look good in a suit. I wear them daily, custom cut, spare no expense. If I’m going to be a killer, I may as well look good. After all, you can’t take it with you. So, I spent my money incessantly. I have more money than I can ever spend, stashed in holes all over the world. 30 seconds flat, Robert De Niro, had said to Al Pacino in Heat. All I need is the whiff of a breach. I’ve left millions of dollars, never to look back.
Up here, at this level, it’s no longer about the money. At this level, it’s a completely different ballgame. Once on top of the underworld, have all the money in the world, there is no retirement. You can’t just build a criminal organization, make a billion dollars, and then say, hey, it was nice, but I’m going to take my money and run. It doesn’t work like that. Blood in blood out, is the rule. I knew the hand I was dealt the first kill. Killing someone changes your life forever. There is no turning back, because in this game, once you make that first kill, the door is open, and retaliation is coming like a bat out of hell. When the killing stops and you are bathing in a sea of blood, the only thing that hides you is money. It is a necessity for staying alive and out of prison. Money can buy anything.
I was naive like most. I got in the game to make money and live a good life. You tell yourself, once I’m rich, I’m out. But the thing about dirty money, it’s going to always be dirty. Someone dirty that you left at the bottom, will know. And the chances of that person not turning on you is a million to one. There is no honor among thieves. Because the money comes along with the respect and territory. A Boss runs an organization. He controls the flow of money to not only live like a king, but to feed everyone in his organization. The Boss is the key to the foundation, the structure, the glue that holds everything together. Nothing happens without the Boss’s permission. I was under the illusion of just walking away, getting out of the game on top while I was still breathing. I mean, who was going to stop me? I was the Boss.
Today will be number 36. His name, Henry Marks, better known as Mr. Mark because of his bull’s-eye shooting skills. He had once been a dirty cop before killing his way to the top. Two nights ago, the number was at 29. That was before he sent 7 of his henchmen to fetch me.
I had moved to a safe house. Private property I had customized to suit my need. I had the infrastructure rebuild to withstand the force of a tank. The windows are bulletproof. It will take a canon. The five-acre farm sets in the middle of nowhere, off the road, into the woods, about five miles from the lake. The land is secure with an electric fence, motion detectors, and monitors. In addition, four GE M134 Miniguns rigged to a computer monitor to scout once trouble starts, giving the illusion of an army while I make my way out the underground tunnel that leads to the lake and a waiting boat.
I feel safe here. The little town is off the map. The population, 3,000. Homely people that keep to themselves, and a lot happier since their little town got an upgrade and everyone in the town, mortgage paid off, thanks to the big wig corporate man that only ask for respect and utmost privacy. Of course, it is to keep the innocent out of the crossfire, if something was to happen.
My anxiety had set in and I found myself fighting for control. I had come close, but never this close. I had one bullet in my shoulder, and one in my left leg. They were not trying to kill me. Fetch him, and bring him alive, was the order. Too bad for them. The bleeding had stopped, but I was weak. It had taken everything I had to get here. I pushed myself on the TrendClimb. I had almost died. They had come from out of nowhere. How did they find me?
She smiled at me. “Are you feeling better?”
“I’m getting there.”
She had come to my aid, removed the bullets, and then patched me up. She was in shock most of the time, until I calmed her down.
“Who are you?” She wanted to know. Then I told her a story about me being a government agent and the mob having a hit out on me. What I had did for her practice, and the town, made her believe. Her pity swept over me like a mother hen, attending to my wounds and making sure, I was well taken care of. I convinced her, that if this had been a different time, and our lives were different, we would be together. She fell into my arms. As I got stronger, I thought about killing her. I had to be sure. I had come very close, and I wasn’t taking any more chances.
She stayed with me until I was back on my feet. It was hard getting rid of her because she was deeply enamored. She hung on to the last minute with long kisses and tears. I kissed them away and assured her I would see her again. The minute she was off the land, I set everything to high alert and immediately felt much better. I knew Marks and knew he wasn’t going to rest until he hit his mark. There was little time to waste. I knew if I didn’t go after him, it was only a matter of time before he regrouped. I really didn’t have a choice. The provocative question remained, and kept nagging in my head. How did he find me?
For the next three days, I sat behind a wall of computer monitors tapping into every resource I could about Henry Marks. I finally zeroed in on his headquarters with satellite view. Except for a few keeping the place going, it had been vacated. Henry Marks was smart. He knew I was coming. I was back to square one. I pulled up his file and found his lieutenant and the crew he ran. I picked his top two men. One of them will lead me to the lieutenant. The lieutenant will lead me to Henry Marks, the problem with being a criminal. You’re always exposed, as long as you are connected. Henry Marks wasn’t the kind of man to pull a 1964 Joseph Bonanno. He wasn’t going into hiding. He was relocating and gearing up. Families were migrating to the area. Most likely, he was bringing in more men. He controlled most of the east coast. I had to be very careful. A million eyes were on the lookout. It was going to be much harder than I thought. He had made the first move. Now it was my turn to get to the king.
I got dressed after eating a big meal. It was still on my mind. How did he find me. There was only one possible way. The First National Bank was my first stop, an old friend. A surprise came over him, and then a look of dread. He quickly rushed me into his office and closed the door. “What the hell are you doing here?”
I made it to look as if I was just in town and couldn’t deny the temptation. The shock of being seen with me quickly faded and he gave me a brotherly hug like old times. “So, really, what are you doing here? I would think you’d be living the life on your own island somewhere.”
It wasn’t him. He didn’t break a sweat or get nerves. He hung out with me as long as he could. He pulled a bottle from his desk drawer and poured us a drink. We talked about old times, and he assured me he had made good with the money I had given him. He was thankful, but still ushered me out as quick as he could. He didn’t want his staff getting noisy. “Call next time,” he said. “Much safer if I know in advance. I like breathing.” I got the message and moved on to the next spot.
This time I wasn’t greeted so friendly. The moment I looked into his eyes, I knew. Fear was there. His smile was held up by a look of dread. He was trapped, swallowed hard, and tried to pull himself together. A bead of sweat broke on his forehead. His palm was damp. We made it to his office and closed the door. He pulled out a bottle, pretending, praying. I took the drink and let him rattle on. He spit out more old time stories than a Tommy gun. “Remember,” he would end with each tale. Finally, I got up and closed the blinds. We had come a long way together, from childhood, one of the reasons I had entrusted in him and his bank. “We can do this the easy way or the hard way,” I said. “Just tell me why.”
His posture broke and he let out a sigh of relief. He poured himself another drink. “I know, I fucked up, I’m sorry. It was for the money. Henry Marks came to me six months ago. He made me an offer. Two mill. All I had to do was give him a little information. I turned him down at first. I had to. You are my friend. But the more I thought about the money, I reasoned he would never find you. I know you. You don’t leave loose ends. And I really needed the money. So I gave him old bank transfers and routing numbers. I figured you would be long gone, and it would just be another dead end. But I can see I was wrong, or you wouldn’t be standing here.” He poured himself another drink. “You know, I woke this morning. For the first time in years, I had a good night’s sleep. Even got laid, then went downtown and bought myself a new suit. We have been friends for a long time. I can’t remember a time when I couldn’t depend on you. Somehow I knew today was going to be that day. I felt it. I don’t know how, but I felt it. I am truly sorry.”
By then I had finished my drink. I pulled a handkerchief from my pocket and wiped the glass clean. I pulled out my gloves and put them on. I pulled out my gun and unloaded the clip. He looked at me with tears in his eyes, a dead man broken. He knew it was over. Marks was coming. He knew it, the moment I came through the door. I cleaned it and then laid it on his desk, along with the clip. “Thank you brother,” he said as I closed the door on the way out. I had just made my way through the lobby when I heard the gunshot.
His lieutenant report in. Marks did not flinch. It only meant I was closing in. He smiled. “Call the men in. He won’t be going back to that area, or be using any of those accounts. Double them up around the mansion and make sure they are on full alert. And watch yourself. He may already be here.” He pulled his gun from his desk and checked it. “I need men at both ends of the hall. If they need to move, tell them to radio in. If the motion detector catches them out of place, they will die. No exceptions. We are on high alert. Shoot to kill.”
It had taken him five years. He had first put a bounty out. One million dollars to any man that could point him in the right direction. But no one budged. Most were still loyal. And they were spread out amongst the seven additional families, families he had no control over, and would be impossible to get to. It was like the Ali Frazier fight. He wasn’t king until he beat the king. Everyone had a gun. Most wasn’t sitting right with the fact that he had been a cop. Bloodline or not, he was still a pig. He was ruthless and sadistic, the kind that make snakes afraid.
He sat at his desk. He was tired. But he was on full alert. The monitors in front of him displayed the whole mansion. He looked them over carefully. He picked up the mike. “Stay alert,” he said. The guard leaning on the Southside wall, taking a smoke break, popped to attention.
His climb had been fast and hard. His shrouded life at one time had been normal. His father had been a cop. His father’s father had been a cop, despise their family history. It was in his blood. His grandfather had made it very clear, the very first day they got off the boat together. He wanted nothing to do with that fraction of the family. He was taking his family in a different direction. This is America. We have a chance to start over. His first cousin, Don Vergucci was strong minded and determined. He had lost his wife and son in the hills of Italy, a bitter mob war that had consumed everything he had. They had barely gotten out of Italy alive. He was bitter. “It is our family, our way. We know no other.” The Don professed.
Broke and mounting bills had turned him. Just one time he had assured himself. It was still his family by blood, even after all these years. The Don greeted him the old way. Famiglia, he had said. Sempre famiglia. When the payment came up short, the Don taxed on a few more points. Just a few, the Don had said, famiglia. The second time men with bats showed up at his home and broke a few ribs. Even scaring his wife off. You are a cop, regardless, Don Vergucci assured him. Even famiglia must abide by the rules.
It was the first time he murdered a man. Famiglia, he thought that moment. Still they did not stop. Not until they were all dead. Amongst a mass of bodies, he made his way through the mansion, dragging his wounded body along the way. He had untied his tie and wrapped it around his left leg to stop the bleeding. When he got to the office door of Don Vergucci, he checked his gun. There was one bullet left. He slowly open the door. All he remembered is taking careful aim and pulling the trigger. Famiglia…. It was in slow motion. The bullet floating through the air, the alloy a spinning torpedo. There would be no more intimation of his family and friends, no thugs showing up at his home and job, and the mistake of them putting their hands on his wife, and then splat. He felt a sigh of relief and fell, exhausted, to his knees.
This was the same office. This is where he negotiated with the family to make peace. Unlike the other families, he had the force of corrupt cops and political figures at his disposal. After two years of blood and fighting for his life, he made peace with the fractured families and settled for Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and Delaware, half of the east coast. The internal family mob war had ruined him as a cop. His face had been plastered all over the news. Gangster #1 Bad Cop Italian Mob Heritage Exposed.
For years, he hid from the public in shame after the three murder trials, after bathing in a wave of paparazzi cameras, who exposed him for what he really was. It had only made him stronger and more determined. He had played it smart. Earning back family loyalty had come slow and methodical. Still it was hard for some to accept the fact that he had been a cop. It was unfounded. Just because he had the bloodline and heritage, didn’t make him a real made man. He had never taken the oath after making his bones. No ritual of fire and knife had been his honor. None of the seven-seated family Dons had given their blessing. He was a rogue.
Now, this was his time. Maybe this is what it was all about. He felt it. He breathed it. The slot was vacant, and billions of dollars was at stake. The old rules were out and the new rules were in. This wasn’t a Godfather movie. The old heads like John Gotti are dead and gone. It was his chance to make history and prove to the doubters in his family that he was the man for the job, a new time, a new era. He knew, with this kill, he would inherit the earth. He would have enough resource and money to crush anyone, the power to do what no other family in history has ever done. He would have the one true thing he so desires. Respect, the only truthful bond between killers. He smiled, grabbed the bottle of brandy and poured himself a drink. They have no choice, he thought. If they do not find reason or forgiven in their hearts, he knew, what he had to do. There was really no choice, not after what he had planned. This kill would give him the power to take seven heads, all of the seven-seated Dons, to consolidate and become the undisputed Boss. Unprecedented and unfounded. Killing them all would leave the disobliging with no choice but to surrender or death.
The seven-seated Dons had split my fractured territory of New York, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. My disappearance had left chaos amounts the ranks. Without a monetary foundation, it had become vulnerable, and the vultures swooped in and picked it apart. Marks was not included. His family, though still connected, were outcast. He was a mad man. He was not respectable. He had killed his own to take the throne. He had started an internal war that had cost everyone. In the end, they lost New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut to Marks. His family was growing stronger and they felt the discomfort. I reached out. Old loyal and disgruntle friends were not happy with the present arrangement.
“He’s still a cop.” They all said the same thing. “He don’t care about family or family tradition. He got niggers and spics working in his ranks. What kind of shit is that? Niggers and spics. What kind of man breaks beard with niggers and spics?”
“It’s his stronghold. His family agrees because it’s protects them. In the war, you lost twenty percent of your men. He lost double that, maybe even triple. But they were mostly Blacks and Spanish, not really any of his significant men. If peace had not been reached, he would have just kept sending them. He has weaken your ranks, which was his main goal. He wanted to subdue you, not kill you, make you respect him; show his own people that he is a leader. You buckled when you gave him New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. For their reward, he split the territory between the Blacks and Spanish, giving him unlimited access to a bunch of hunger gangs willing to do anything for the kind of paydays he’s been handing out. I would watch my back. There is no common courtesy on the streets anymore. Blacks and Spanish have no boundaries. They’re hunger. They have families they have to feed, just like we do. Everyone is working for the same God. Money. The men that are disappearing, that you think have picked up and hightailed it to safer ground, are dead. He is slowly picking your significant men off one by one, using Blacks and Spanish as scapegoats, without his family’s knowledge. He doesn't want peace. He’s just using the big redemption payouts to make you fat and happy before the slaughter. He wants what he is dying for, consumed in a pity and self-doubt. He is going to get respect one way or another. And the only way to achieve that is to kill you all, everyone that’s laughing now.”
There was a long silence. “And how can we be assured it’s not you picking our men off? You made it very clear when you left your own family for dead.”
“If I wanted you dead, I would come kill you myself. I don’t need an army.”
“So you say. We will consider it. But be forewarned, if any of this is true, doesn’t give you pardon. You started this. And now that you have confirmed that you are still alive, and doing quite well, we will be coming for you, after we deal with Mr. Marks.” The line went dead.
I dropped the burner on the ground and crushed it under the heel of my shoe. I then picked it up and removed the chip. Five years and I had now woke the dead. I was sure it was going to make it hard to move around, but not impossible. I hope that it will have the effect I want, and put a crack in Mark’s arsenal. Though dangerous, it will shift his focus. Once word is out, he’s going to have a hard time explaining to his family.
All seven heads agreed. Mr. Marks had to be terminated. It was preposterous to believe he was killing off their men. What was his end game. He was smart, but not that stupid. But deep down they all knew. Even with the slightest inkling of truth lingering through their minds, they didn’t want to accept it. Not from a man that had snatched the carpet from under his own family, a man, that after five long years, has risen from the dead. It can only mean one thing. Mr. Marks had found the money and going after it. He wasn’t calling to warn them. He was calling to save his own ass. The grapevine had been buzzing about the blotched retrieval. Mr. Marks had had him but let him slip away. It was only rumors because no one had been left to tell the tale. But most had sworn on their grave the story was true. Mr. Marks had really found him, where seven other families had failed.
I attached a pair of steel climbers to my boots and scaled the fifty-foot pine tree. It give me a perfect view of the mansion, and camouflaged my whereabouts. I adjust the lens on my riflescope. There were six men on the Northside of the mansion. Two stood guarding the side entrance that led to the garage. I would have to place C4 there to render them ill-mobile once the shooting starts. There was two men on the roof with machine guns, the getaway cover in case things got messy. The other two hide at opposite ends, camouflaged behind a barricade that hosted grounded GAU-22 A 25 mm Gatling guns. If worse came to worse I could take one out and use it against them. The compound was secure with over a hundred men. I thought about going Rambo style with the Gatling gun, and then smiled. Only in the movies. C4, placed shrewdly around the compound, would have to do the damage I need.
Beaming red eye monitors searched the compound for intrusions. They were smart enough to keep them knee high to avoid small animals from tripping the beams. It was a weakness if a man stayed low to the ground. If he was caught in the middle, he was dead. There was nowhere to run or hid. The smart move would be to wait to nightfall. I would have to set C4 on the Southside of the mansion, enough to give me time to get pass the monitors and disable the ground source. I used my scope to measure the distance and time it would take me. Once pass, I would have to start immediately setting the rest of the C4 to cover me, make an entrance hole, and then get back to the trees for cover. The Gatling gun is my second option. One I don’t really care to venture. Once everything starts going off, the entrance blast will shake the mansion and make them think they are under attack. The Southside blast will have already started the chaos. It will force Mr. Marks to retreat and run for cover. Hopefully I’ll have made it back to the tree by then. And when Mr. Marks makes it to the Northside of the mansion to make his getaway, I will be waiting with my scope, and C4 assurance, to kiss his ass goodbye.
I pulled a board from my haversack, and wedged it into the tree until it was a makeshift seat. I made myself comfortable. I pulled out a bottle of water and a tuna sandwich I had made this morning. I ate it slowly, thinking of the night ahead. I pulled out my notebook and drew out a diagram of the compound. I made a model and placed the C4. I open the haversack and pulled out twelve detonators. I attached them to timers, and then attached them to bars of C4. I carefully placed them in a secure bag, tied the top, and lowered them slowly. Then I looked at my watch. I had two hours until nightfall. I reached in my haversack and pulled out The Art of War. I removed the bookmark and sat back. The sun on my face was nice. It was a beautiful day for a kill. All I had to do was wait. So instead of reading, I laid the book on my chest, closed my eyes, and thought about the look on Mark's face when I put a bullet right in his forehead.
The rumble shook me to the core. I immediately unholstered my sidearm and came to attention. Then I realize I was still high in the tree. I immediately looked down. The C4 was still in the bag on the rope I had lowered. I grabbed my rifle and set the scope to night vision. There were armed men and six roles of SUVs surrounding the Southside of the mansion. They had come by force. First the rocket launcher through the front gate, then the fleet of SUVs. Gatling guns had rolled out, but lost force against the rocket launches. It took them a matter of three minutes to secure the South parameter. This may be easier than I thought, I smiled. I watch two teams place C4 under the Southside structure of the mansion. They were playing it smart. They were going to take down the whole Southside side of the mansion, leaving it exposed, and forcing Marks to initiate his exit strategy.
I swung the scope over to the Northside of the mansion. Mark’s men were regrouping to the exit. I watched as the garage doors went up, men rolled up under the door to take portion as the armored black SUV fired up. Yet, still no sign of Marks. I combed the area very carefully. The men on the roof added addition hardware. They waited in ambush with rocket launchers of their own. The camouflage had come off the Gatling guns, and fifty more men stood with machine guns. It looked to be an oncoming slaughter of redemption.
Then I saw the flicker in the woods. A glance that just happen to catch my eye. I focused my scope, and then zeroed in. They were already mobile, moving closer to the exit entrance. The first two sniper shots took out the rocket launches on the roof. Then they took out the big guns. Before Mark’s men knew what was happening, six SUVs rounded the mansion. The front panel of the SUVs opened up, and machine guns popped out and begin wickedly laughing at the fools running for cover. There was nowhere to run. The remaining, that was shielded behind the barricade, and the useless Gatling guns, was taken out by a rocket launcher. Their own, which had been retrieved from the roof.
Still there was no sign of Marks. I watched as men secured the rest of the parameter as a silver SUV pull slowly up, amongst the circle of armored black. All four doors opened at the same time. Seven heads slowly got out, looking carefully around. I watch as the man, who seem to be in charge, brief them. He assured them there was no way out. Smiles came one by one, and worked its deviousness down the line. It was impressive, they thought. They only had six wounded. The attack had been strategic and precise. Mr. Mark had to agree. He watched them on the monitor once they moved inside the mansion. The motion detectors had surprised them. The cutting beams had cut through two men. He watched as they cautiously moved through the mansion, killing off his men, one by one. He watched as they moved toward his office door. The same office door he had arrived at when he killed Don Vergucci. He remembered what he had felt, what was going through his mind.
He watched them clear the way for the seven heads. A fitting way to be thinking when they pulled out their guns and checked the clips. He had made this personal, and they only felt it fair to take him out themselves. Don Vergucci would have wanted it this way. But first they would get the information they needed. He knew their cruel methods. They would make sure he talked. Then they would have their fun with him until they confirmed the truth. And then like the Soprano way, a rain of bullet holes was going to tell the sharks where to find his body.
Once ready, and very sure of themselves, they signed their men to open the door. When the door open, the C4 packed office swept with a fearsome scream throughout the mansion, leaving burning corpse standing in shock, holding their guns in disbelief. Then the bullet tore through my shoulder, almost causing me to fall from the tree. Mark smiled and tossed the gun into the car. He removed the camouflage, and got in. He looked at the monitor one last time. It were blank, consumed by the fire. He closed the laptop, powering it down, and grabbed an ammo bag off the back seat. He had just made it out of the mansion and had just set up his laptop. He knew they were coming. There was nothing he didn’t know about them. I guess they didn’t read Watergate.
His satellite scan had picked up movement in the trees. He knew the moment I had gotten there. I was too far out for him to send a team. I would see them coming a mile away. He only smiled. The birdy has brought the roosters to crow. Two birds with one stone. He played it in his head repeatedly. He would have to sacrifice a few good men, but in the end, they would all be dead, and he can shoot the little golden bird right out of the tree. He thought about killing me, just shooting the C4 I had lowered under the tree. But then, he would lose the money and have no one to play with. Plus he wanted to be eye to eyes, to see the eyes of the king with a gun in the center of his forehead, begging, and pleading for his life. He couldn't kill me just yet. But it felt good shooting me. When I got to where the shot had originated from, Marks was long gone. The seven families was now dead, seven new doors that now exposed me to real danger. There was a picture, where he had shot from, penned to the tree with a knife. I looked cautiously around and removed it. The picture was old, from my younger years. It was a picture that had been taken at a party. Seven figures had been “X” out, that turned out to be the seven heads, unknown of their destinies at the time. They were in their thirties. It was my graduation party, thrown by my uncle, who was a small time mobster at the time. There was five other figures, only circled, one was me, the others my childhood college buddies. My heart stopped, because they were the key to all of my money. It was a warning shot. He knew, if he got to them first. I was a dead fish in the water.