Destroying Carter - W.S. Greer

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Destroying Carter Copyright © 2014 by W.S. Greer First edition published by B.O.S.S. Publishing, September 2014 All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever. Publishers Note: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Cover design by Robin Harper/Wicked by Design​

Interior Design by Angela McLaurin, Fictional Formats​

One Two Three Four Five Six Seven Eight Nine Ten Eleven Twelve

Thirteen Fourteen Fifteen Sixteen Seventeen Eighteen Nineteen Twenty Twenty-One Twenty-Two Twenty-Three Twenty-Four Twenty-Five Twenty-Six Epilogue Acknowledgements

I can hear the truck as it drives up the street. It’s getting closer with every passing second, and the sensitivity of my nerves seems to heighten as it approaches. I reach up and straighten out my navy blue tie, trying to do anything I can to calm myself down, even though I know that fixing my tie isn’t going to do shit to ease my anxiety. I just need to move. I need to feel myself moving so that I know that I’m alive and in the moment. I look over to my left and see Thomas Black— my father’s advisor—sitting in the corner opposite

me, wearing black slacks and a black button up, with the same blank, careless stare he always has. Tommy never gets nervous. This is the sixth time he and I have done this over the past six months, and not once have I ever noticed an ounce of fear or angst in his demeanor. So, as I stare at him, I try to find strength in that narrow, emotionless face of his, and as I feel my heart finally starting to calm down, the red and white eighteen wheeler slowly pulls into the warehouse. I look at the white trailer and see Carter Casinos written on the side in red letters, and then I take a deep breath and exhale loudly. It’s game time. As the truck comes to a stop, I look over at Tommy. His expression hasn’t changed at all. He nods to me, which lets me know that he’s ready, and I nod in response as I rise from my seat and begin walking towards the driver’s side of the truck. It stops directly in front of me and I eye the driver as he unbuckles his seat belt. I shift my eyes to the left and glance at the man in the passenger seat. He looks nervous. As he looks back at me, I can see the fear in his eyes. I can see his jaw is tight

even through his scraggly beard, and he only looks at me for a second, intentionally breaking eye contact to glance at the driver, and then he begins to unbuckle his own seat belt. As the two men begin having a conversation about something inside the cab of the truck, I watch them closely, making sure neither of them is reaching for anything, or trying to hide anything. I can tell from the looks on their faces that they don’t want to be here. They just want to make this delivery as quick as possible, and then go back to whatever lives they led before this moment. That’s the difference between them and me. They can’t help that their anxiety is woven into their body language for Tommy and me to see. They’re nervous, and that’s all there is to it for them. For me, however, there’s so much more than that. For me, showing how tense I am isn’t even an option. I swallow hard and push those nerves deep down inside of me, so that no one will ever know they’re there. They’ll only be able to see one side of me—the side I want them to see. “Hey!” I yell at the truck, startling the two

young black men and interrupting their conversation. “I don’t have all fucking day here. Let’s go.” I can feel Tommy staring at me with that little grin he gets when I do something that he likes. I choose not to look over and acknowledge him. The men look at each other one last time before simultaneously opening their doors and hopping out of the truck. The driver’s obviously the tougher of the two. He’s wearing dark gray pants with a black, short-sleeved button up, and his long dreads sway from side to side as he approaches us. The passenger, on the other hand, is short and skinny, with a messy beard that’s entirely too long and badly needs some attention. He walks a step behind the driver, and as he approaches, I notice there’s something about him that grabs my attention. Not only is he obviously apprehensive, he’s also fidgety, and he keeps scratching his arm that’s covered up by the sleeve on his black sweater. It’s the first week of June in South Side Chicago, and the temperature is right at ninety degrees outside. So, why the hell would this guy be wearing a sweater?

“Good afternoon, Mr. Carter. My name’s Devin,” the driver says, reaching out to shake my hand. “I’m really not interested in your name,” I reply rudely. “I just need to know if you have what you’re supposed to have.” Devin glares at me like he wants me to know that he’s offended as he lowers his hand, then he looks over at his fidgety partner, who quickly looks down at the floor. “I do,” he answers, returning his attention to me. “Right this way.” Devin and his unnamed friend turn around and begin leading Tommy and me to the back of the truck. As we walk, I find myself glancing at the passenger, who’s still trying to slyly scratch his arm without anyone noticing. He’s doing a terrible job of hiding it. We reach the back of the eighteen wheeler and Tommy and I watch as Devin unlocks the padlock on the door, removing it and pushing the door all the way up and open. Inside, there’s countless rectangular boxes stacked on top of one another. I

look at them all very carefully, and then I notice the mark written on the stack of boxes on the right side of the bed. On the bottom corner, there’s a small RC written just small enough that you wouldn’t notice it if you weren’t looking for it. When I spot the mark, I look over at Tommy, and he nods his approval. “Right there,” I say, pointing to the boxes on the right. “All the ones on this side. I’ll call in some people to help unload them.” As Devin and his nervous helper begin picking up boxes and handing them down to Tommy, I pull the small radio out of my pocket and press a button on the front, two times. The radio chirps loudly, and about ten seconds later, in walk Phillip and Trey Jones. Phillip and Trey are the only members of the Red Chip staff who know about our new “business.” They’re twenty-three year old twin brothers, and I know that they’d do anything to protect each other, and they’re the only people on the staff that I trust to keep their mouths shut. Not to mention, they were my brother’s absolute best friends before he died. They’d been waiting right

outside for me to signal them to come in and start unloading the boxes. As they enter, they seem to walk in step with each other, with an obvious swagger about them as they stride in, wearing the red and white Red Chip Casino outfits. Phillip is the oldest—by a full two minutes—and he keeps his beard nice and lined up, like mine. He’s also the more outspoken of the two, so as he walks in, grinning at me, I hope that he doesn’t plan on saying anything out of line to Tommy like he usually does. The younger brother, Trey, is clean shaven and a little more compassionate than his brother. Even though Trey is two minutes younger than Phillip, he’s the one with the most maturity and street smarts, and he’s always thinking ahead and making sure we’re making the smartest move possible—the one that will not only make us money, but will keep us safe and out of trouble. As he approaches, he nods to me, then focuses his eyes on Tommy and the two other men unloading the truck. “Game time?” Phillip inquires, still holding the smirk on his face as we shake hands.

“Yeah,” I reply quietly. “Let’s get this shit done and over with, quick.” I turn around, and the three of us walk over to the back of the truck and start helping the others unload the boxes. It only takes a few minutes to get everything out of the back of the truck. There are fifty boxes total, and we place them all on the ground separately so that we can open and inspect them. The first time we did this, we stacked all the boxes, and then realized that we had to unstack them all so that we could inspect them. Phillip gave me shit about it for two days straight, afterwards. We hadn’t made that mistake in the five deliveries we’d had after that, including this one. “Alright. Let’s get started. Shall we?” I say, just as Trey places the last box on the table in front of him. I pick up a box cutter that’s sitting on the table, and slice through the three layers of tape covering the opening of the box in front of me. I open the flaps and look inside at the silver case that looks like a miniature suitcase. I know there’s another case under this one, so I make sure to remove them

both from the box at the same time. Then I reach into my pocket and use the smallest key on my keychain to unlock them both and flip open the lids, revealing the five-hundred casino chips that each case is carrying. The case to my right is full of black chips, worth one-hundred dollars each. The case on my left is full of red and gold chips, worth one-thousand dollars apiece. I look up at Tommy briefly, then focus my attention on the case with the red and gold chips. I start fiddling with the edges of the case as the men around me watch. I lean forward and try to see if there’s something there that’ll help me accomplish my goal, because I can’t get a grip on the sides of the case. After a few embarrassing and frustrating minutes, I hear a clicking sound from behind me. I turn around to find Trey holding a switchblade in his hand, with his arm already extended towards me. I take the knife and begin trying to use the blade to separate the case on the inside. I manage to break the seal on the right side first, and pull it up just enough that I can grip it between my thumb and index finger. Then I use the

knife as leverage to pull the left side up. I grab both sides of the inside of the case and lift it, removing all five-hundred of the chips, and revealing a brick of a yellowish substance wrapped in clear plastic at the bottom of the case—exactly one kilo of heroin. I look down at the brick, exhale loudly, and then turn my attention to Phillip, Trey, and Tommy. “Alright, you know how we do this. The chips with the highest dollar value are hiding what we’re looking for underneath the false bottom. Phillip and Trey, remove and count, and Tommy and I will make sure everything’s good and get ready to stash it. Let’s go to work.” Everybody starts moving all at the same time. Phillip and Trey each take a box and begin cutting through the tape, while Tommy cuts a tiny sliver into the brick I’d already removed, and makes sure that it actually is heroin. As the three of them go to work, I turn around just in time to see Devin and his accomplice walking towards the front of the truck. I squint and furrow my brow as I watch them. They aren’t just walking casually. They’re trying to walk as quickly

and as quietly as possible. “Hey!” I snap, sending them both reeling. “Where the fuck are you two going?” Devin turns around and tries to mask his uneasiness with a tough expression. “What?” He says, shrugging his shoulders. “We made the drop, and now we’re leaving. There’s no reason for us to stay now. We did our job.” “No you didn’t do your job, because your job isn’t complete. See, what we’re doing right now is what they call inventory. We’re making sure that everything that you’ve delivered to us is exactly what it’s supposed to be, and exactly the amount that it’s supposed to be. And until inventory is complete and we have everything we’re supposed to have, you’re not going any-fucking-where. So, why don’t both of you just have a seat until we’re done.” The look on the passenger’s face is instantly one of complete panic, and the minute he sees me looking at him, he turns his back to me. Devin’s eyes dart back and forth like he’s trying to think of something to say, but instead of saying anything, he

just nods and starts walking towards the chairs that Tommy and I were sitting in before the two of them arrived. Once they sit down, I turn my attention back to the task at hand. I look over at my little crew who’s working as fast as possible to unload all the dope and make sure that it actually is the right stuff, and I think long and hard about going ahead and getting the jump on trying to stash all the bricks in our hiding place. I know that it’s in our best interest to get everything hidden and covered up as fast as possible, just in case we run into a case of bad luck and somebody decides to show up to our little secret location. The look on Tommy’s face tells me that he’s thinking the same thing. “Hey,” Tommy snips at me. “You know we need to be stashing this shit, like, now. So, what’s the hold up?” “Something tells me that it’s a bad idea to start opening up secret locations in front of the two new unknown delivery boys,” I answer quietly. “The unknown delivery boys were handpicked by Senior, so even though they’re new, they work

for us. There’s no way in hell they’d be dumb enough to try to cross your father. Nobody’s that stupid. So, let’s go ahead and get the jump on this and start putting this shit where it’s supposed to go. I don’t want to be here all night.” “With all due respect, Tommy, as much as you love and trust my father, I don’t know these two, so that means I don’t trust them. We need to get the count, make sure everything is good to go, and send them on their way before we open up our secret shit.” “We don’t have time for this shit, Junior. This is the sixth delivery we’ve received at the Red Chip warehouse, and there’s never been any issues. I don’t expect that to change today. These are Senior’s picks, so trust him, and do what you’re supposed to do.” “This isn’t about my father’s picks, it’s about the fact that they’re new, and I don’t know them. Count it, double check it, and let them leave first.” “Goddamn it, Junior. Put the fucking dope away. I’m not in the mood for one of your hissy fits.” “Hissy fits? Are you trying to piss me off right

now? We both know you don’t want to do that, Tommy. Calm the fuck down, have some patience, and use your fucking head. We don’t stash it until they leave.” “Stop being a pain in the fucking ass…” “We’ve got a problem!” Trey interrupts loudly. I glare at Tommy for an extra second before I finally look over at the table and see that Trey and Phillip have stacked up all of the bricks. There are five stacks in all, and the last one immediately grabs my attention because it’s different than the other four. “How much are we supposed to have?” Trey asks rhetorically. “Fifty keys,” Tommy replies. “Yeah, I thought so,” Trey continues. “You see, that’s interesting because we only have forty-nine.” “Are you sure?” Tommy asks. Phillip shoots Tommy an annoyed looked like the question to his brother offends him. “Of course he’s sure. He’s sure because he went to kindergarten and learned how to fucking count. There’s supposed to be five stacks of ten, but

instead, we’ve got four stacks of ten, and one stack of nine. Do you want to count it yourself with a calculator?” Tommy doesn’t respond, he just looks over at me, and then glances over at the two men who are sitting nervously in the corner of the warehouse. I take a moment to gather my thoughts, staring down at the floor. This is the last thing I’m in the mood for. Five times before this, everything had run smoothly. The delivery was made, everything turned out to be exactly how it was supposed to be, and it only took an hour or so for us to get finished up. Nobody had to get hurt. Nobody had to die. I take a deep breath and let it out slowly. Today is going to be different. I turn on my heel and quickly walk over to the two men. When they see me coming, both of them get up and stand next to each other like they’re some sort of a team. I smile as I approach them. I want to throw them off. “So,” I begin lightly. “We have a bit of an issue. The count is wrong.” The passenger still doesn’t say anything. He

looks over at Devin, and Devin just stares back at me. “I don’t know what you mean,” Devin replies, shrugging his shoulders once again. “What the hell else could I possibly mean? The count is wrong,” I say, still smiling. “Look, all we did was drop off what they told us to drop off,” Devin says, shrugging again. I’m already sick of that shit. “Interesting,” I say with a grin. Then, I reach back and swing as hard as I can. My fist connects perfectly with Devin’s jaw with a crack, and his body immediately goes limp as he falls backwards, hitting the chair before landing on the floor, unconscious. The passenger turns to run, but before he can, I grab him by his sweater and slam my knee into his stomach. He drops down to his knees, gasping for air and clutching his waist. As he struggles to breathe, I reach down and put my hand under his chin, and lift his head so he can see me as I point my nine millimeter at his face. “What’s your name?” I ask, staring him straight

in the eye. “Derrick,” he replies, still wheezing. “Were you told how much you were supposed to deliver, Derrick?” “No. They didn’t tell us how much there was.” “Of course not. They didn’t tell you because only we know the exact number. That way, if you take one, I know. That’s why you couldn’t leave until we were done. Were you under the stupid ass assumption that you were delivering some random amount to us? You’d have to be an idiot to think we’d be that sloppy, Derrick. Or, in your case, you’d have to be a junkie.” Still pointing my gun at him, I reach down with my other hand and lift up one of Derrick’s sleeves on his sweater, revealing one hell of a nasty injection sight. The same one he’d been scratching at since the moment they’d arrived. “I knew you were a junkie the second you pulled into this warehouse, Derrick. But, I didn’t think for a second that you’d be dumb enough to try to steal from us. Now get the fuck up.” I lift him up off the floor and lead him over to

the truck. Trey, Phillip, and Tommy just watch as I open the passenger door. “Where is it?” I say, pointing the gun at Derrick’s forehead. He has tears in his eyes as he puts his hands up like he’s being placed under arrest. “It’s under the seat,” he says. “Well, let me be the first to say that that’s a stupid place to try to hide anything. Now, go get it.” Derrick climbs into the truck and fumbles around under his seat for only a second before grabbing the stolen brick and bringing it down with him. I snatch it out of his hands and toss it over to Trey. “Well, there we go. All fifty kilos,” Trey says, stacking the brick with the rest. I glance at the stacks, making sure they’re all even, and then I look over at Tommy, who’s staring at me with that look that I hate. He’s waiting to see what I’m going to do. So, I don’t hesitate. I reach back and hit Derrick right in the mouth with the barrel of my gun. He falls to the ground screaming and covers his mouth with his hands.

While he screams, I chamber a round and kneel next to him. “Do you want to die, Derrick?” I ask menacingly. “No. Please don’t kill me,” he cries, his mouth full of blood and his eyes filled with tears. “I’m sorry. I just couldn’t help myself. I can’t help it. Please. Please don’t kill me!” “Shut the fuck up!” I snap. “The only reason I’m not going to kill you is because then I’d have to kill your friend over there too. Which means that not only would we have to hide our dope, but we’d have to hide your dead bodies at the same time, and I’m not in the mood for that shit. So, tell me, do you know who I am?” “Yes. I know who you are. You’re Kelvin Carter.” “Wrong! I’m Kelvin Carter Junior, and I’m the last person you’d ever want to piss off. So, here’s what you’re gonna do, Derrick. You’re gonna wake up Devin over there, and the two of you are gonna drive this truck back to where ever the fuck it came from, and you’re gonna tell whoever sent you that

you quit. That you’re sorry, you made a mistake, and you quit. And then, you’re gonna disappear. You got it?” “Yes. Yes, I understand,” Derrick says, shaking his head enthusiastically. “Good. And if I ever see either one of you ever again,” I say, leaning forward until my face is only inches from his, “there isn’t anything in this world that would keep me from killing you. Now, get up, and get the fuck out of my warehouse before I change my mind.”

“What took you so long?” “Had a little bit of an issue at the warehouse.” “Oh yeah?” I say as Kelvin steps off the elevator and into the hallway. “What happened? Everything’s okay, right?” Kelvin shoots a gorgeous smile at me as he reaches out and takes me into his arms. “Everything’s fine, babe. It all worked out like it was supposed to. It just got a little messy, is all.” I rest my head on his chest and take in his seductive scent. He’s been at work for pretty much the entire day, yet he still smells like a combination

of heaven and hot sex to me. So, I inhale deeply, taking all of it in. “Messy? That can’t be good. Come tell me all about it,” I respond as I pull him by the hand, forcing him to follow me into the bedroom. I can’t help but smile to myself as we cross the threshold together. I lead Kelvin over to the bed and force him to sit down, then I climb on behind him and rest my hands on his shoulders, rubbing them lightly before reaching forward and undoing his tie. “Well, everything started off fine, I guess,” Kelvin starts to say. “Wait, that’s not entirely true. To be honest, I had a feeling something wasn’t quite right the moment these two new guys showed up to make the delivery. There was something about the guy in the passenger seat that really stuck out to me. He just seemed so nervous, and then he kept scratching at his arm and shit, and it just kept grabbing my attention. It was weird right from the get-go.” As he talks, I pull the tie over his head and place it on the bed next to him. Then I lean forward so

that I can look over his massive shoulder and see the buttons on his jacket. There’s only three of them—silver—and it only takes me a second to undo them and pull the jacket off. “So, we pull everything out of the truck, open up all the boxes, and we start to count all the dope,” Kelvin continues as I begin to massage his shoulders and neck. “All of a sudden, Trey starts talking about how the count is wrong. So, I check out the bricks and see that we only have forty-nine of them, instead of the fifty Tommy told me we were supposed to have. As soon as I see it, I automatically know what happened.” “Oh shit. They tried to steal it, didn’t they?” “Exactly. So, obviously, I’m pissed about that, but what I’m more concerned about is Tommy. When he sees the stacks of dope, he gives me that look, and I can tell what he’s thinking. So, I really don’t have a choice on what to do next.” I suddenly stop what I’m doing, hoping that he isn’t about to tell me what I think he is. “Shit. What’d you have to do?” “Don’t worry, babe, I didn’t have to kill him.

But, I did have to make an example out of him, though. There was no way I could let that slide in front of Tommy. So, I knocked out the driver, and then pistol whipped the passenger, who was a junkie, by the way. They both got fucked up, I made some threats, and then I sent them on their way.” “Damn, babe. You pistol whipped one of them?” “I had to. That shit doesn’t fly with The Family. If it was anybody other than Tommy, neither one of them would’ve made it out of there alive. They should be thankful.” I reach in front of Kelvin and start to unbutton his shirt as he continues. “After they left, everything else went smoothly, like usual. We double checked the count, and got everything stashed in the floor of the janitor’s closet. I mean, I wish they would’ve been a little smarter so that I wouldn’t have to do that kind of shit, but in the end, the delivery was made, and I did what I had to do. That’s all I can really focus on.” I unhook the last button on his shirt, and gently

slide it off of him, revealing his perfectness, permanently highlighted with fascinating tattoos. I slide my hands up his back, admiring the Chicago skyline that is inked there, and then move my fingers to his neck and squeeze lightly. He moans as I massage him, and the smile returns to my face. I absolutely love this. “You’re right, babe,” I say as I rub him. “You’re exactly right. We’ve gotta stay focused. There’s no room for error in this. Don’t get me wrong, I feel bad that you had to hit a guy in the face with a gun, but I know that you did what you had to do. As long as the delivery was made, and everything turned out the way your dad wanted it to, we can consider it a plus that you got to impress Tommy. I’ll take whatever extra help we can get.” “Yep. That’s what I kept telling myself all the way home.” Kelvin stops talking and lets out a loud sigh that grabs my attention. I stop rubbing his neck and lean forward so that I can see his face. “You okay?” I ask. I recognize the little grin on his face. “Oh, I’m good. I’m just not use to it yet. It still

puts a smile on my face.” “I know exactly what you mean,” I reply, smiling from ear to ear. “It’s been two days and I swear I’ve been smiling the whole time. I can’t get over it.” “I know. What do you say we grab a drink and go chill in the Jacuzzi? I think I’ve earned some relaxation after the night I’ve had,” Kelvin says as he stands up and takes me by the hand. How the hell could I possibly turn him down? “Lead the way, Mr. Carter.” I jump off the bed and let Kelvin lead me into the hallway. We cross the threshold again, and once again I feel myself beaming. The joy I feel as we walk through our doorway, and into our hallway is overwhelming, and I can’t keep that joy from showing up on my face. I’ve been smiling nonstop since I moved into the penthouse with Kelvin two days ago. We’ve been together for just over a year now, so when he asked me to move in with him, I felt like the timing was perfect. After all, I’d been spending pretty much every day here in the penthouse ever since Lexy

adopted my cat, Meghan, as her own, four months ago. I felt so bad for leaving Meghan at home alone all the time that I decided to let Lexy take her and give her to Amy as a birthday present. Amy was thrilled, and now I don’t have to worry about going home to change out the litter box after spending the night with Kelvin. In all honesty, my house just didn’t feel the same to me anymore. After all that’s happened there over the past year, how the hell could I possibly still live there? I’d have to be crazy to stay in that house after Tim broke in and tied me to a chair, threatening to kill me with my own kitchen knives. Kelvin had to come in at the last minute to save me, only to find out that my house was being watched by members of the Russian mob only a few months later. Who knows what would’ve happened if the drug deal between Senior and Ilia would’ve fallen through, and the war between the families would’ve continued. They had plans to kill me in my own house, and then kill Kelvin while he was mourning for me and at his weakest. So, when Kelvin asked me to move in, I didn’t

even have to think about it, really. I never feel safer than when I’m with Kelvin, so I sold almost all of my furniture—with the exception of some of the things that my parents gave me when I moved out on my own—and moved in within a month of him asking. My parents were happy to put the house up for sale. My father is hoping to get a big payday out of it, while my mom is hoping to get a son-in-law out of it. I, on the other hand, feel like the happiest woman on earth. I still have some unpacking to do —okay, a lot of unpacking—so the penthouse is looking a little messier than Kelvin would normally keep it, but I’m definitely making progress. Luckily, it’s June, and school isn’t in session right now, so I don’t have to worry about the commute to work at the moment. I guess I’ll cross that bridge when I get there. If having a little longer of a drive to work is all I have to endure in order for me to live with the love of my life, I’ll gladly accept that. Not to mention the fact that Kelvin and I need each other more than ever right now. I’ve felt like I’ve needed him from the moment I met him, but with the way

things have been lately, I know he needs me. The relationship between Kelvin and his father is better than I’ve ever seen it. When they see each other, they both say hi, and they don’t argue. A few months ago, it seemed like they were ready to kill each other every time they were in the same room, but now everything is cordial. However, there’s a reason for that, and the reason is simple… it’s all bullshit. The day Kelvin’s Uncle Mikey got arrested, everything changed. Kelvin found the drugs that Senior had planted in the penthouse, and Senior promised Kelvin that he’d give him the Red Chip once Kelvin proved his loyalty to him. Now, Kelvin spends every day trying to prove to his father that he’s a loyal member of the Carter family. Once a month, a shipment of heroin arrives from Russia. Ilia Baskov and Senior receive the shipments at an undisclosed location, and then disperse the dope to numerous establishments throughout Chicago. One of those establishments is the Red Chip warehouse, which is actually a couple of blocks away from the Red Chip Casino. Kelvin

accepts the drugs and stashes them in his warehouse, but there’s always a member of The Family present when the delivery is made. Usually, it’s Tommy, and he’s there to watch Kelvin and make sure that he does what he’s supposed to. Once everything is done, Kelvin comes home to me, while Tommy runs back to Senior and tells him exactly what happened, and exactly how Kelvin acted. So, as much as Kelvin hates it, and as much as he really despises his father, he knows he has to stay on top of his game. He has to be as convincing as possible so that his father will believe that everything is good to go, and hopefully one day soon, he’ll sign the Red Chip over to Kelvin, and he and I can live our lives mafia-free. Kelvin can be a legit casino owner, and I can continue being a third grade teacher, and we won’t ever have to worry about anybody trying to blow up our car in a Red Lobster parking lot, or shoot us while we’re stopped at a traffic light. We can finally be free. So, Kelvin and I are both doing what we have to do to ensure our freedom in the very near future. It hasn’t been easy, but we’re pulling it off, and no

one in the Carter family has a clue that it’s just a play to get what we want out of Senior—and we plan to keep it that way. Kelvin leads me down the hall and into the living room. It’s ten o’clock at night, and the bright lights of the city are shining through the massive window, splashing orange all over the walls and furniture. I stop at the window and look down at the city, marveling at how beautiful everything looks from this height. Kelvin stops behind me and wraps his arms around my waist. I feel his breath on my neck, and then the stubble from his chin as he nuzzles into me. “It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” he says into my ear. “It’s amazing. This view will never get old.” “Nah. You never get used to a view like this. Just like how I’ll never get used to this feeling.” I reach down and wrap my hands around Kelvin’s, pulling his arms tighter around me. “What feeling is that?” “This overwhelming feeling of luck that I have, every time I look at you. I’m the luckiest man in the world, simply because I have you in my life.

There’s no way I’d be able to pull this off without you, Lilliana. I would’ve given up a long time ago. You’re my rock. You make me stronger, and pretty soon, we’re gonna have exactly the life that we’ve been dreaming of. We’re gonna make it happen together.” I smile as I feel him kiss me softly on the neck. “I know, babe. I can’t wait until we’re free from all of this bullshit with your dad, and I’m so proud of you for hanging in there and toughing it out. In the end, it’ll all have been worth it. All we have to do is stick together.” “Well, as long as you promise me that you aren’t going anywhere, then I promise you that I’ll make this happen. I won’t quit, no matter how shitty it gets, as long as I have you.” “Kelvin, my parents put my house on the market two days ago, and the living room and bedroom are filled with my boxes. It’s safe to say you’re stuck with me.” I turn around and rest my back against the window. I grab Kelvin by the loops on his pants and pull him closer to me. “I know your heart, Kelvin. So, there isn’t a doubt in my mind about

how all of this is gonna turn out. We were meant to be together, and this is only the beginning of us making it happen. You and I are permanent.” Kelvin smiles at me like my words have lifted a weight off of his shoulders. “You’re damn right we are. Have I told you how much I love you?” “Well, you’ve been gone all day, so maybe I need a little reminder,” I reply with a devilish grin. Kelvin takes a step forward, closing the tiny gap between us. He rests his forehead against mine, and I feel his hands tighten on both sides of my waist. “I love you enough to go to war with my own father. I love you enough to hide drugs in my warehouse as a means to an end, so that we can be together. I love you enough to share absolutely everything that I have with you. I love you enough to work each and every day to prove to you that there is no better man for you than me.” He bends slightly at the knee so that his face is level with my neck. “I love you so much, I can barely keep myself from kissing you every time I see you.” I close my eyes as I feel the soft touch of Kelvin’s lips on my neck. He kisses me gently at

first, then I hear him exhale loudly as if he can no longer hold himself back, then he kisses me again and sucks the skin on my neck, and I feel a slight pinch of blissful pain. “I love you so much that I can’t wait another second,” he says as he slips both of his hands inside my pants. “Fuck the Jacuzzi. I want you right here, right now, right up against this window. Our window.” True to his word, Kelvin doesn’t waste another second. He drops down to his knees, pulling my pajama pants down as he lowers himself. I feel his mouth engulf my clit, and his tongue is immediately in a frenzy as he licks me vigorously. I can feel his excitement as his tongue vibrates back and forth with the force of a twelve cylinder engine. “Holy shit!” I bellow as I involuntarily throw my head back and I feel it slam against the window behind me. Kelvin grabs ahold of my leg and forces it over his shoulder to give himself easier access, and I have to grab on to his head to steady myself. “Yeah. Lick that clit, baby. Oh shit!” It’s like he’s been thinking about it all day, and

now that he’s home, he can no longer keep it inside. I feel Kelvin’s mouth pressed up against my pussy, and I can tell that he’s been craving me. His tongue is aggressive as he licks my clit like an ice cream cone, then I feel him slip his finger inside of me and my body tenses up. I squeeze the back of his head and hold on for dear life as he thrusts it in and out of me. “Oh my god, Kelvin! Fuck! I love it when you eat my pussy!” I yell as I feel my toes curling. “Goddamn it! You taste so fucking good, Lilliana. I want to hear you say it again, baby. You love when I eat this pussy?” “Oh my god, Kelvin, yes! I love it. Eat my pussy, baby!” Kelvin reaches up and grabs my hand that’s behind his head, forcing me to squeeze and press his face into my pussy even harder. He doesn’t slow down even for a second as he curls his finger inside of me, hitting my g-spot perfectly. He’s become a master at finding that spot, and once he hits it, I totally lose control. “Oh my fucking god!” I whisper to myself as

Kelvin massages my g-spot with the tip of his finger. “You’ve got my spot, baby. That’s my spot. Oh god, don’t stop!” He doesn’t respond vocally. Instead, Kelvin runs his tongue over my clit over and over again while he plunges his finger in and out of me, tapping my g-spot every single time. The pressure builds so quickly that it almost knocks me off balance. The powerful orgasm crashes into me and my leg tightens around Kelvin’s shoulder, and the one leg that I’m standing on buckles. My eyes squeeze shut as I let out a pleasure-induced scream that fills the entire penthouse. Kelvin relishes in the moment, moaning with me as I scream. My orgasm finally subsides, and Kelvin gently lifts my leg over his head and places it back down on the floor. As he rises to his feet, he kisses my body all the way up, taking an extra second to massage my breasts, lightly biting both of my nipples. “I fucking love the way you taste when you come,” he says as he stands fully erect.

I finally open my eyes and see Kelvin looking down at me with passion in his eyes. The excitement that’s written all across his face makes me even more excited, and I can feel myself getting wetter and wetter with every second. I just had a massive orgasm, but I want more. I need more of him. I grab the back of Kelvin’s head and force him to kiss me. I push my tongue into his mouth, and we both moan in unison. Spending the day apart has filled us both with an uncontrollable desire that neither of us can hold back any longer. My heart is pounding in my chest and I’m in such a rush to have his cock in my hands that I’m struggling to undo his belt. Every extra second that it takes is making me more and more frustrated, so I yank the belt apart and snatch open his pants. I hear the clasp from his slacks fall to the floor and bounce away, but it doesn’t stop me. I pull his pants down only far enough to reveal his thick, swollen cock, taking it in both hands and immediately stroking it. I feel his breath on my face as he breathes heavily. “You like it, baby?” I ask rhetorically.

“I fucking love it. You get me so hard.” “Yeah. I want this dick, right now! I want you to fuck me the way that only you can!” Kelvin suddenly reaches behind me and grabs a handful of my hair, and uses it to force me to turn around. He pushes me up against the window, and I hear him pulling his pants down, and then I hear them being slammed onto the floor behind me, and a condom wrapper being ripped open. Kelvin grips my hair with his hand, and I respond by arching my ass out, because I know what’s coming. I take a deep breath to try to prepare myself for how it’ll feel, but when Kelvin pushes himself inside of me, the pressure still catches me off guard. I hear myself gasp as Kelvin forces his entire length and thickness inside of me. I feel my pussy stretch around his dick, and I’m so wet that I’m sure I’m dripping. “Damn!” Kelvin exclaims. “I love how wet you get for me, baby. It feels so good on my dick. I’ve been waiting to feel this all day.” “Yeah? You missed it, baby? Then take it. Own it, Kelvin. It’s all yours.”

Kelvin begins to thrust in and out of me, hard and fast. I can feel how badly he wants it, and it turns me on even more. He’s amazing, and he fucks me like he’s trying to outdo himself. Every stroke seems perfectly calculated to give me the best feeling I’ve ever had. The window in front of me is completely fogged over, and I can no longer see the city beneath us. All I hear is the sound of Kelvin’s waist smacking up against my ass, and the sudden slap of his hand as he spanks me, all the while, holding onto a fistful of my hair. “Damn, I love fucking you!” Kelvin barks as he picks up speed. He pounds into me, and I push against the glass to try to keep myself upright, but the sweat that’s dripping off of Kelvin is making the floor beneath my bare feet very slippery. I feel my feet sliding backward, but just before I fall, Kelvin lifts me up off the ground. I have to wrap my legs around his waist, and hold onto the window in front of me at the same time, yet Kelvin doesn’t stop fucking me. I’m sure our bodies resemble a gliding figure skating couple as Kelvin

aggressively thrusts into me with everything he’s got. I’ve never done anything like this. Kelvin holds me in the air, fucking me from behind while I hold onto the steamy window, and I feel the familiar sensation of Kelvin’s dick becoming harder. His breathing picks up even more, and I know exactly what’s about to happen. “Yes! I want to feel it, Kelvin. Come for me, baby!” Right on cue, Kelvin lets out an embellished moan. His body stiffens and his hands tighten around my waist as he comes inside of me. He strokes into me as long as he can, his body quivering with every move he makes as he slowly puts me down and wraps his arms around me completely, breathing heavily in my ear. We lean against the window together, both of us gasping for air as Kelvin pulls himself out of me and removes the condom. My legs are unbelievably weak, so I let my body slowly crumble down to the floor. The cold sensation of the hardwood floor sends a chill up my spine, but I’m too worn out to

care. Kelvin sits down beside me and leans his back against the window. “Wow. I’d been waiting for that all fucking day,” he says, still panting. “It was definitely worth the wait.” “We’ve officially broken in our living room,” I reply with an exhausted smile. “What? We had sex in here a long time ago.” “Yeah, but it wasn’t our living room then. This time it’s different because it’s ours.” “You’ve got a point there. I like that.” “Damn. That was unbelievable, Kelvin. I mean, seriously unbelievable!” “Tell me about it. I just couldn’t help myself,” Kelvin replies. “I could definitely get used to this.” “Well you better, because I told you, you’re stuck with me.” Kelvin replies with a broad smile that lights up the room and sends my heart into overdrive. Ten minutes later, Kelvin and I are sitting on the couch in the living room with the TV on, but muted. He’s wearing nothing but boxer shorts, and all I have on is the button up shirt I took off of him

when he first came home. I lay my head in his lap and look up at him, admiring how gorgeous he is, and relishing the moment. We stare into each other’s eyes for a while without saying anything. The bond between us has been fortified by struggles we’ve had in the past. When I look at him, my heart is made whole, and I feel like I can laugh in the face of any obstacle in front of us. Together, we’re unbeatable. We’ve beaten everything that’s been put in our path, while barely breaking stride. I feel untouchable when I’m with him. Nothing can harm me. Nothing can stop us. He’s my protector. He’s my safe haven, and we’re ready for anything. “I hope you know how much I love you, Kelvin,” I say as I reach up and rub his face with my palm. Kelvin smiles down at me. “I think I have a pretty good idea. I love you, Lilliana.” He leans forward and kisses me softly on the lips. “Now, we should probably get some rest. We have to go see him tomorrow.” I’m not sure who he’s referring to exactly, but I

feel a bit of worry in my stomach as I sit up. “We have to go see who?” Kelvin hesitates like he’s trying to give me some time to prepare myself for the answer. “You know who I’m talking about. Tomorrow, we have to go see my father.”

Something feels different when I wake up. I’m not sure what it is just yet, but there’s something in my gut that just doesn’t feel right. It’s like this unshakeable ball of nervousness that’s sitting in the put of my stomach, and I’m not really sure why it’s there, I just know that it is. I try to brush it off as Kelvin and I get dressed. He throws on a pair of gray slacks with a white button up, while I choose to take the more comfortable route, and put on a blue and white summer dress, with white high heels. As we exit the penthouse and press the button on the elevator, I

don’t say anything to Kelvin about my anxiety. Everything’s been going so good lately that I don’t want to jinx it, and I certainly don’t want to put Kelvin in a bad mood, seeing as how I know what our destination is. So, when the elevator finally comes to a stop in the basement, I take Kelvin’s hand and let him lead me to the car without saying a word. I hear a chirping sound as the locks on the 2014 Dodge Challenger pop up simultaneously. You’d think that I’d be used to it by now, but I still grin every time I look at Kelvin’s new car. The black Camaro was completely totaled after the shooting at the stoplight just over six months ago, so Kelvin decided to upgrade to the Challenger. It’s all-black, with black rims, just like the Camaro, but it also has a dark gray racing stripe running along the side. The sun has to hit the car perfectly in order for it to be seen, but when it’s visible, it gives the car a little something extra, and I can’t even explain how good Kelvin looks sitting in it. With his big, broad arms and shoulders, and the car’s muscular look, it just fits him perfectly.

Kelvin leads me over to the passenger side of the Challenger and opens my door for me—over a year together and I still haven’t opened a door or pulled out a chair for myself—then he saunters over to his side and climbs in. When he starts the engine, the anxiety I felt when I woke up comes rushing back to me. I furrow my brow as I try to think about what I might be so concerned about, but I can’t come up with a reason. As I try to force myself to shake it off, I notice Kelvin staring at me. “What’s up?” he says with a curious glare. “You look all pissed off.” I try to straighten out my face as much as I can before I answer. “Oh, nothing. I’m fine. I was just in a daze, I guess.” Kelvin stares at me for too long, and I can tell that he doesn’t believe me, so I continue. “I’m serious, I’m fine. You know I don’t like going to go see your dad, so let’s just hurry up and get it over with.” “Ah. I knew it was something. Look, don’t worry about my dad, okay. Everything has been fine for a while, and I don’t expect that to change today. So, don’t let it worry you.”

“I know, babe. You’re right. I’m good. I just want to get it over with.” “I understand what you’re saying. You’re right. Let’s just do it.” Kelvin shifts the car into first gear, slowly releases the clutch, and drives us out of the parking garage. As we drive down the street, I can’t help but notice when we pass Fantasies strip club. I let out a loud sigh as I think about the day we found Deshaun laying on his back in the alley behind the club with multiple gunshot wounds to his entire body. It’s difficult to get the gruesome images out of my head sometimes. The way his body was positioned like it had been thrown out of a moving vehicle without a care. The way his eyes were still open as Senior looked down on him. It all comes roaring back to me and it’s like I can feel all of those same emotions all over again. And the screams—who could ever forget those screams? When the building is finally out of my line of sight, I shake my head and force myself to focus on the present. We pull up to the Royal Flush Casino the way

we always do—right up to the front doors, underneath the bright white lights where valet is waiting. When we get out, Kelvin hands the keys over, but he doesn’t let go when the man tries to take them. “Not a single scratch. Got it?” he says, staring at the valet bitterly. “Yes, sir. I understand, Mr. Carter,” the young man responds. Kelvin finally relinquishes the keys and we walk through the sliding glass doors and into the fancy lobby. As usual, the Royal Flush is packed with men and women who all look like they’re here on business. Every man seems to be wearing some sort of a fancy suit, and every woman is rocking high heels that look like they’re made for business, not pleasure. They ignore us, and we ignore them as we make our way through the lobby and to the elevators. When the doors slide open, my nerves kick in again. We’ve been coming to see Senior once a month since the deal with the Russians was struck. Senior likes to be hands on with his business partners, so

every time a delivery is made, he likes to have a meeting with whoever accepts the package, just to make sure everything went according to plan. Kelvin has now accepted six deliveries, so this will be our sixth trip to the top of the Royal Flush in as many months. It seems redundant, because we all know that Tommy comes and tells Senior everything anyway, but Senior still has Kelvin drop by simply as a formality. This is the only time I’ve ever been this anxious. The doors open again, and the long windowless hallway rests in front of us. Kelvin grabs my hand and leads me forward as I swallow hard, preparing myself for whatever might happen. Although things have been good for a while, this is the Carters we’re talking about, and you never know what might happen when you get a few of them in the same room. So, as Kelvin reaches for the door, I take a deep breath and let it out through my mouth. If I show them I’m nervous, Senior will try to exploit it somehow, and I can’t let that happen. I won’t let that happen. It’s game time. The door swings open and there sits Kelvin

Carter Senior at the head of the conference room table, decked out in a dark green suit with a white button up underneath, and a green tie. He carries his usual scowl, and he looks at Kelvin and me like he didn’t know that we were coming, even though he obviously did. To his left is Clarence Carter, with his signature goatee forming a box around his mouth, and his white button up being stretched to its limits by his enormous muscles. If Mikey is big in an offensive lineman kind of way, then Clarence is like the lineman’s musclebound bodyguard. He’s six-foottwo, two-hundred-fifty pounds of ridiculous muscle, and he goes to the gym like he’s still skinny. Even as he sits in his chair next to Senior— who’s huge in his own right—he looks like he’s flexing for no reason, and I can see his veins through the sleeves on his shirt. He doesn’t acknowledge us when we walk in and sit at the table. He just stares at us like our presence offends him. Something about Clarence changed after Mikey went to prison. The arrest affected all of The

Family members in its own way, but Clarence, in particular, seemed to grow from it, and not in a good way. As soon as Mikey was sentenced, Senior promoted Clarence to underboss, and from that moment on, Clarence was a new man—a scarier man. Now, he’s at Senior’s side no matter where he goes, and his temper seems to be getting shorter by the day. As I sit down next to Kelvin, I make sure to not show my fear of him being here. “The lovely couple has arrived,” Senior says as we make ourselves comfortable. “Nice to see you both again. How’s everything?” Kelvin exhales loudly and his eyes dart to me for a second and then back to his father. He hates it when Senior tries to act like he really cares about him. He knows it’s just an act, and the fact that he must respond with the same kind of act, makes it that much worse. “We’re fine, Dad,” Kelvin answers. “Everything’s good. Lilliana’s starting to settle into the penthouse.” “Oh, that’s right. I forgot that she was moving in. Good for you guys. I’m glad to see you making

that big step in your relationship. Just be careful, Son. I don’t want you making the same mistake I did when I was young and got married.” Another obvious exhale from Kelvin. “Dad, please. We never said anything about getting married, and I’m really not here to talk about that. Let’s just get down to business, okay?” “Damn. I can’t even ask my son how he’s doing. I’m just interested in your well-being. Is that so wrong?” “It’s fine, Dad, and I appreciate it. But, can we get on with this business that we have to discuss? There’s something I want to talk to you about.” Senior glances over at me and flashes a subtle smile, then his eyes return to Kelvin. “Okay then, Junior. If you insist, let’s get down to it.” “Great,” Kelvin says quickly. “So, last night, the drop was made at the Red Chip warehouse at tenfifteen, as I’m sure Tommy has already told you. We received all fifty keys of dope, and everything was stored properly. We still have eight keys left over from the last delivery, so hopefully business picks up so you can push it out. I don’t like having

leftovers every month.” “I agree. I don’t like having anything left over either, which is why we need to tell our guys on the street to step it up. I know you’ve established a chain of command over there, and you don’t like to talk to my dealers directly, but maybe if you told them to step it up, there wouldn’t be any leftovers.” “You know I don’t like to get involved in your selling process. You asked me store the dope for you, and that’s what I’m doing. If it’s not being sold fast enough, that’s something you’ll have to address.” “No, it’s something we all have to address. Eight keys—do you know just about how much money that is on the street, Junior?” Kelvin raises his eyebrows in sort of a I really don’t give a shit kind of way. “No, I don’t, actually.” “Well, it’s about two-point-four million dollars, roughly, and that’s before we even get to how much is being left over at the other establishments. So, you can see how that’s a problem that we all need to address. Ilia is supplying, so it’s our job to

distribute.” “Dad, I really don’t mean any disrespect, but I honestly don’t give a shit. Whatever deal you and Ilia have going on is between the two of you. I told you in the beginning, I’m not a dealer.” “Well, maybe it’s something you should consider. Not dealing, because that shit draws entirely too much heat, and you’re my son. You’re above that shit. On the other hand, you could manage the dealers. They could benefit from passion like yours.” “I’m only passionate about things that I care about, and I don’t care about selling drugs to kids on the streets of Chicago. You can let it go, Dad. I’m not doing it.” “What if I increased your percentage? What if I gave you another ten thousand a month? Would that be enough to make you happy?” Kelvin scrunches his forehead. “No! I’m not doing it. I don’t want any extra money. If you want to make me happy, do a better job picking out your delivery boys.” Senior glances over at Clarence for a second.

They smirk at each other, but Clarence doesn’t say anything, so Senior returns his attention to us. “That’s right. Tommy told me a little something about that. They tried to steal from me. I just have one question about that, Junior. One of them tried to steal from me, and you let them live. Why is that?” “What kind of a question is that? I let them live because I’m not a fucking murderer. I pistol whipped the guy, Dad. That’s not good enough for you?” Senior and Tommy glance at each other again, but Clarence still doesn’t speak, so Senior continues. “You know me, Junior. I can’t have people trying to steal from me. There has to be consequences for something like that.” “There were consequences, but I’m not killing anybody,” Kelvin says defensively. Senior hesitates for a moment, staring at Kelvin without speaking. He’s obviously thinking about saying something in particular, but he decides against it. “I get where you’re coming from,” he says. “We’ll address that issue at another time.

Anyway, so you said you had something you wanted to talk to me about.” I hear Kelvin take a deep breath. I’m not sure what this is about, but my anxiety immediately reaches a peak as he begins to speak. “Yeah. You know, Dad, it’s been six months since we started this little business with the Russians. You told me that if I played along, you’d sign over the Red Chip to me. Well, half a year later, I’m still playing along, stashing your dope in my warehouse, endangering my life and the casino at the same time. I’ve done everything that you’ve asked me to do. I’ve held up my end of the deal, now I think it’s time for you to hold up yours. So, will you please sign over the Red Chip to me?” Senior exhales loudly and sits back in his seat. I notice a shift in his demeanor immediately. The act that he was putting on before is gone now, and I can see that the real Kelvin Carter Senior is about to emerge. I had been searching for the reason for my nerves, and I think I just found it. “Hhmm,” Senior replies, twisting his lips and scowling. “I was beginning to wonder when we

were gonna have this conversation. I should’ve seen it coming. Here I was, thinking that you were starting to come around to the idea of working for me, and as it turns out, you were just after the casino after all.” “You thought I was coming around to the idea of working for you? You’re kidding, right?” Kelvin snaps. “You knew all along that I was only doing this for the casino. Now, I’ve done everything you’ve asked me to do, Dad. I’ve earned this.” “You’ve earned it? Do you hear yourself? You’ve earned it. You must be the one who’s kidding. You haven’t earned a damn thing.” “What! I’ve done everything you’ve asked.” “Who gives a shit?” Senior barks. “You think that because you’ve hidden a few kilos of heroin in my warehouse that you’ve earned a casino? You think you’ve earned the right to get a casino for free? You must be out of your fucking mind.” Kelvin quickly rises from his seat and his chair goes barreling backwards. “What the fuck! We had a deal!” “The deal was that you needed to prove your

loyalty to me. You haven’t done that. You haven’t proven shit, and you haven’t earned my casino either. You know who has? Clarence. I’d rather give it to him. He’s been a part of this family since the beginning, and he’s never asked me for anything. All of a sudden, you come join The Family for barely even a year, and you think you can come in and steal one of the businesses that I started? I don’t fucking think so.” Sitting here listening to this bullshit, my frustration reaches a point where I can no longer hold it in. I slap my hand on the table and stand up next to Kelvin. “This is totally unfair! You made a deal with us. This is bullshit!” I bellowed. I notice Clarence shifting in his seat, but I’m too pissed off to care. Senior cranks his head to the side like a confused dog as he stares at me indignantly. “Umm, I didn’t promise you a goddamn thing. I made a deal with my son, and that doesn’t include you. So, do yourself a favor and sit the fuck down.” Kelvin flinches, and I know that he’s about to say something to defend me, but I grab his arm

before he can speak, cutting him off. “Who the fuck do you think you’re talking to?” I snap. “I don’t work for you, so don’t think for a second that you can tell me what to do. I’m not one of your brothers. You just don’t want me to talk because you know that I’m right. You made a deal, and now you’re trying to back out of it. You’re pathetic.” Clarence slowly rises from his seat. There’s something about his calm demeanor that actually is more intimidating than all the screaming that Senior does. He doesn’t say anything. He just stares at me like he’s ready to kill me if I say another disrespectful word to his big brother. Kelvin obviously notices Clarence as well, and shifts his eyes over to his uncle. “Uncle Clarence, please don’t make me do anything I’ll regret,” he says calmly. As I hold his arm, I feel just how tense he is. He’s ready for anything right now. Senior stands up and waves his hand at Clarence. “It’s cool. Let’s not get carried away. I don’t want anybody doing anything they’ll regret.” He pushes his chair back and takes a few steps

towards Kelvin and me. “I don’t like the turn this conversation has taken, and I’m gonna kick you both out of my casino now. But, before I do, let me be absolutely clear about this. You haven’t proven anything to me, Junior. Stashing the dope in the warehouse isn’t enough. So, if you want the keys to the Red Chip, you’re gonna have to step your game up.” “I already told you, I’m not dealing your heroin for you,” Kelvin replies, looking at his father but occasionally glancing over at Clarence, who still hasn’t sat down. “You don’t want to deal from the Red Chip. That’s fine. But, you’re gonna have to do more than what you’ve been doing. I told you you’d have to work for me, and that hasn’t even started yet.” “What more do you want me to do?” Senior grins at Kelvin and lets out a tiny chuckle. “You’ll see. Now, get the fuck out of my casino.” I can see that Kelvin’s ready to snap. It feels like all the muscles in his arm are flexing at the same time. However, he relents, because he knows that

he can’t win in this situation. He either does what Senior says, or he loses out on the opportunity to own the Red Chip. Not to mention the fact that Mikey is no longer here to protect him if things get too crazy. “You know this isn’t right,” I chime in. I want Senior to know that I’m standing beside Kelvin, and that I’m not afraid to stand up to him. From now on, he’ll have to acknowledge me. He’ll have to respect me. “I don’t give a fuck about what you think is right,” Senior says. “This is my business, and we do this the way I say we do it, and that means you haven’t earned shit, until I say you’ve earned it. Until I say you’ve proven your loyalty to The Family.” “Just tell me what you want me to do,” Kelvin interjects. Senior lifts his large arm and places his hand on Kelvin’s shoulder with an obviously fake smile. “Like I said, you’ll see. Now, get the fuck out.”

“Self-righteous, entitled, ungrateful little prick.” “I still haven’t figured out why you put up with so much of his shit. I know he’s your son, but there’s probably a hundred guys on the street who would run the Red Chip and deal at the same time, for half the money you give him, no questions asked.” “Yeah, I know that, Clarence,” I say, as I sit back down in my chair at the head of the table. Now that Kelvin and his little girlfriend are gone, I feel myself relaxing again. “As much as he does get on my fucking nerves, he’s still my son. I’m

obligated to him, and I feel like I owe it to Fab.” Clarence sits back in his chair and lights a cigar, puffing out white smoke that encircles his head. “I understand that. I mean, we all love him. He’s my nephew, after all. But he’s not cut out to do this like Fab was. He never has been, and now that he’s got that girl, he’s even weaker. You know how they get when that pussy starts to cloud their judgment.” I can’t help but smile at Clarence’s statement. I know he’s right. He and I have always stayed loyal to The Family. We put The Family before everything, including women. That’s why my marriage didn’t work out in the first place. My exwife, Lula, couldn’t understand that she didn’t come first in my life. The Family has always come first. The money and the power have always come first. Women can’t stand being second, even if them being second makes them filthy-fucking-rich. They have this internal need to always be the most important thing in a man’s life. If the man has fun without the woman around, the woman gets pissed, like he’s not supposed to be having fun without her. She always wants to be involved. She always wants

to stake her claim in whatever the man is doing, even if she wasn’t around when the man started doing it in the first place. They want everything. However, for some strange reason that still eludes me, Clarence and I are the only ones who’ve been able to figure that out. We still date women on and off, but only for the pussy. I mean, I’m a man, and I have needs that only a woman can fulfill. But, there’s absolutely no chance that I’d ever let myself get strapped down by another woman, and Clarence wouldn’t let it happen to him either. We’re too smart for that. We’re too focused on getting the only thing that really matters in this life —money. My son, Kelvin Junior, on the other hand, is exactly the opposite of me. Before he came to kick it with his brother, he was living with his mom and always finding himself falling for some woman. Always letting himself get burned by some chick, and sitting there crying on his mom’s shoulder. Being soft. Being a little pussy. Every time Lula gave me an update over the phone about what Kelvin was doing, she always had to mention the

fact that he was out with some girl, or how another one of his relationships hadn’t panned out and he was all upset about it because he was on a neverending search for love and happiness. The shit used to make me sick to my stomach. When Junior came out here to be with Fab, I thought that he might finally come around to being a real Carter. I thought that he’d finally realize that there are things out there that are more important than chasing love to no avail. I thought he’d finally man-the-fuck-up. It started out well, too. A few little flings here and there, and the sudden realization that all the women he was meeting in the city all wanted the same thing—his dick and his father’s money. They didn’t give a shit about him anymore than anyone else did. If he wasn’t fucking them right, and if he wasn’t showcasing the new money he was making that his brother was giving him, then they didn’t want anything to do with him. They didn’t want love, and he was finally catching on and trying to become an active member of The Family. Then, Fab died and Junior went right back to being all sensitive. Losing his brother reminded

him of how dangerous this lifestyle is, and he went back to being the boy his mother wanted him to be. He went back to being the boy I can’t stand. Here we are now, still going through the same bullshit we were going through a long time ago. I’m trying to make moves with The Family and advance us as a force to be reckoned with, and Kelvin is still out there fighting for love. I can’t fucking stand it. If it was anybody else, I would’ve killed him already, for being so weak and allowing himself to be sidetracked by a woman. Once you join The Family, there’s no going back, and you can’t walk the line between The Family and being a civilian. You’re either in or you’re out. But, I’m stuck, however, because he is my son—the only one I have left. So, even though I can’t stand him, I find myself being more lenient with him. I put up with a lot of bullshit that I wouldn’t take from anybody else, ever. I do it because I do love him. However, even love has its limits. “You’re right,” I reply to Clarence. “I think he’s becoming too soft for his own good.” “I think there’s more to it than that, Senior,”

Clarence responds, taking another drag of his cigar. “What do you mean?” “I think he’s becoming a liability.” “A liability?” “Yes. What if word got out that Derrick tried to steal from you? What if Derrick goes out and tells people that he tried to steal from you, got caught by your son, and that your son let him go? How does that make you look? How does that make The Family look? We look weak, Senior.” I rub my chin as I think about the weight of Clarence’s words. He’s absolutely right. If word got out that someone tried to steal from me and got away with it, it would encourage others to try it. Being in a game like this means that you have to have no mercy. I have to show people that I won’t allow that kind of shit, even from people who aspire to be a part of The Family. You make a mistake when dealing with Kelvin Carter Senior, you suffer consequences. Harsh consequences. No, I can’t let this slide. I place my feet firmly on the floor and lean forward in my seat, placing my hands on top of the

table in front of me. “This needs to be handled, Clarence. How about you pay a visit to Derrick tonight. Give him my warmest regards.” Clarence looks at me with his sly smile that he rarely shows. “Understood.” He gets up from the table and begins to walk towards the exit, but he stops just before reaching for the handle to the door. “Oh, and what about Kelvin?” I think about it for a second, and a second is all it takes for me to figure it out. “When you go see Derrick tonight, take Kelvin with you. He wants to know what more he can do. He wants to prove himself because he’s dumb enough to think I’ll actually give him the Red Chip. He wants to prove his loyalty. Well, here’s his chance. Take him with you, and show him what it means to be a Carter.”

Five hours has passed, and I’m still fuming about the conversation I had with my father this morning. I’ve done my best to be loyal to this family since I got here. I just wanted to hang out with my brother, who I missed because our parents split up when we were young, and I never expected to have to bury him and take his place in The Family. However, what happened, happened, and I can’t do anything to change that now, but the truth is, I have absolutely no desire to be anything like Fab. He was my brother, and I loved him, but we’re nothing alike, and I don’t think there’s a thing in this world

that pisses my dad off more than that. I know that he’ll never look at me the way he looked at Fab. I’m really not sure if I even want him to. All I really want is to take a part of The Family and make it legit. If it wasn’t for my brother being a member of The Family, I’d be saying fuck this. I would have never come here and gotten involved with my father if it wasn’t for Fab being here. Then again, if I never came here then I wouldn’t have ever met Lilliana, so I guess I should be thankful for everything that has happened. But, my brother is the real reason I want to hold on to some part of The Family. He’s the reason I want to own the Red Chip and make it an honest establishment. If I can take the Red Chip out of the grasp of the crooked Carter family, it’d be just like taking Fab out of that grasp and setting his spirit free. I can take something dirty and make it clean. It’s about my brother’s legacy, and I’m the only person who can make that happen. The rest of them are too self-involved. They’re too into the life to realize how they’re disrespecting Fab’s memory. My dad tries to act like he knew Fab better than I

did, but I knew Fab too, and I know that he would want us to do better. He wouldn’t want The Family to be caught up in smuggling and selling drugs on the streets. He’d want me to do better, and that’s the reason I can’t give up on this. I have to make this happen for me and for him. I just don’t know what I’m going to have to do to be able to make it happen. “Talk to me, Kelvin. What’s wrong?” Lilliana says as she finishes chewing her last bite of pot roast. She stares me straight in the eye, and I know that she knows there’s something on my mind. There’s no use trying to hide it. “It’s just the same old shit,” I respond, taking a sip of my Dom Perignon. “The same old wondering what my dad is gonna do, and wondering if I should trust him. I can’t stand that he has so much power over whether or not I can ever own the casino. He has all the keys, literally. It just sucks, babe.” “I know it does, but it’s only been six months. I never expected your father to give in so quickly.” “Maybe you’re right. Maybe I shouldn’t have asked so soon. I guess I should’ve known better.”

“Maybe. Honestly, Kelvin, things have been going well for the past six months, and even though I don’t like the drugs, at least nobody is trying to kill us. We should take that for what it’s worth. I’m sure Senior will come around. We just have to wait him out.” I push my chair back and stand up, grabbing my plate and stacking it on top of Lilliana’s, and then take them both into the kitchen and put them into the dishwasher. “I know my dad is a hardheaded son-of-a-bitch, but I don’t like that he expects me to just do this for him without having some sort of a timetable. Am I just supposed to keep hiding drugs in the warehouse, and never ask him about when it all will be good enough? That’s crazy. He doesn’t even need the money from the Red Chip. He makes plenty with all of his other businesses. So what’s the point with this?” “He knows he doesn’t need the money, but this is Senior we’re talking about, babe. Your dad is all about power, so giving up the casino would be like giving up power to him, and I don’t expect him to relinquish it without giving it a lot of thought.”

I close the dishwasher and turn around to look at Lilliana, and I’m sure my confusion is written all over my face. “Well, you seem to have a lot of confidence in him all of a sudden.” Lilliana rises from her seat and walks over to the barstool in front of me. “You know I don’t have any confidence in your dad. I’m just trying to be understanding and supportive, while also acknowledging that your father is a prick, and I know he’s not gonna do anything without giving you shit about it first. The truth is, we don’t have any other choice but to trust that he’ll do what he said he’d do.” “And what if he doesn’t?” When I ask the question, the confidence Lilliana was displaying suddenly drains from her face, and she stares at me blankly, as if she never thought it was even a possibility. “What do you mean?” she says with a deep furrow in her brow. “I mean, what if he never gives me the Red Chip? What if this is all some trick to get me to work for him forever, believing that I’ll get the

casino in the end, when I actually won’t get squat? If there’s one thing I know about my father, it’s that he is not to be trusted. Just like my mom told us a while back, there’s always something going on behind the scenes with him.” Lilliana thinks about it for a moment, her eyes darting back and forth from one end of the room to the other. I stare at her, waiting for her answer, and realizing that she’d made a big mistake and is just now realizing it. After all we’d been through together, and after everything that’s happened with my dad, Lilliana seems to have made the mistake of getting comfortable and forgetting who my father is. “I guess I never really thought about that,” she finally says, still looking at everything except me. “He can’t. He just can’t do that.” “Come on, Lilliana. He would. You know he’d do it. You can’t underestimate him.” “But why would he do that?” “I don’t know. But, since when does anyone ever know why my dad does what he does? All I know is that we can’t start trusting him just because

things have been quiet. The last time he was quiet, he was secretly setting up a drug deal with the same guys who killed my brother.” I walk around the kitchen counter/bar and sit on the stool next to Lilliana. “Don’t let him confuse you, babe. My dad’s a fucking monster who doesn’t care about anybody but himself. We have to stay on top of our game if we’re ever gonna beat him. Never trust him.” “You’re right. You’re absolutely right. Maybe I’m the one who should’ve known better,” she says with an adorable giggle. I lean over and give her a small kiss on the cheek, and she places her palm on my cheek as I do. I feel the warmth of her skin as she rubs my face gently. I love this woman more than I ever thought possible, and it’s my responsibility to make sure that she’s taken care of, and I will note fail. “I think the best thing to do, is make sure that we stay two steps ahead of him,” I continue. “I have to stay clearheaded and open to the possibility that this might all be bullshit, and come up with a backup plan just in case it is. At the same time, I

also need to be ready to prove myself to him.” “Prove yourself, how?” “My dad is all about loyalty to The Family, so the best thing would be to do something that proves how loyal I am. I’m not really sure exactly what that is, but the only way I stand a chance at getting the casino is by making sure that he thinks that I care about him. I have to be willing to do something outside of my comfort zone.” Lilliana looks at me with concern and confusion. “I’m not sure where you’re going with this, but I hope you’re not suggesting hurting anyone just to prove yourself to your dad.” “Nah, that’s not what I’m suggesting, but you know that’s what he’d expect. He’d want something on that level. So, I need to figure out how to prove my loyalty without taking it down that route.” Lilliana jumps off of her stool and slides her body between my knees. She smiles at me as she wraps her arms around my neck, and even as I try to remain serious and focused, I can’t help but smile back at her.

“Listen,” she says as she rests her forehead on mine and looks me in the eye. My heart rate picks up as I stare back into her gorgeous blue irises. “No matter what happens, we’re in this together. We’ll figure all of this crap out together, and together we’ll make this dream come true. I’m here to support you however you need me to, okay?” I take a brief second just to stare at her. Her pale skin is so perfect. Her alluring lips call out to mine and I feel distracted by her beauty alone. In the midst of all the drama, it can be easy to forget that you have something special—something worth fighting for. But, just from taking this second to admire her, I remember that it’s all worth it as long as it’s for her. As long as I have her by my side, nothing can stop me. So, as our eyes connect, I smile with supreme confidence. “Okay, baby,” I respond. “I love you, Lilliana.” “I love you, Kelvin.” Suddenly, I hear the faint sound of my phone ringing and vibrating on my nightstand in the bedroom. Most of the afternoon has passed and the evening is approaching quickly, so my initial

thought is that there’s something wrong down in the Red Chip. We’ve had a few issues with customer service at the front desk in the past week or so, so I hope that this isn’t another complaint. I make my way down the hallway with Lilliana following closely behind me. As I approach the phone, I frown at the name displayed on the screen. “Who is it?” Lilliana asks curiously. “It’s Uncle Clarence.” Lilliana suddenly looks just as confused as I feel. I pick up the phone and take a deep breath. “Hello?” “Junior, it’s Clarence,” the husky, irritable voice says. “Are you at the Red Chip?” “Yeah. Why?” “Meet me in the lobby in an hour.” “Meet you in the lobby? What for? What’s going on?” “Business.” “Business? Stop being all vague and shit, Uncle Clarence. Just tell me what’s going on.” When I don’t hear a response, I look at my phone and see that the conversation has ended. He hung up. Lilliana’s look of bewilderment has grown even

more dramatic as I place the phone back on the nightstand. “What the hell was that about?” she inquires, frowning. “I don’t know. He told me to meet him in the lobby in an hour.” “What? For what?” “I don’t know. He hung up without answering why.” Lilliana sits down on her side of the bed, but the glower on her face lingers. “Well, that’s bullshit. What the hell could he possibly want right now?” “I don’t know. I guess we’ll see in an hour.” Sixty minutes goes by fast when you’re in a constant state of anxiety. Lilliana and I spent the entire hour sitting on the edge of the bed, wondering what kind of business required a meeting in the lobby with the Carter family’s new underboss. In the six months that I’ve been working for my father, I’ve never had to do anything with Uncle Clarence. He’s never asked anything of me, and I honestly haven’t seen very much of him. He

doesn’t do things the way that Uncle Mikey did them. Uncle Mikey was much more vocal in front of The Family. He wanted his presence to be felt, and I always felt like he thought that his job was to keep my father under control. Uncle Mikey wanted things to run smoothly, and he never wanted us to make hasty decisions that would endanger The Family in any way. Uncle Clarence, on the other hand, is much quieter. When we have family meetings at the Royal Flush, Uncle Clarence doesn’t say much. He chooses to sit next to my father with that permanent scowl on his face, and those insanely intimidating muscles bursting through his clothes. He doesn’t say almost anything, but unlike Uncle Mikey, he seems to always be in agreement with my father. Whatever Dad says, Uncle Clarence is down for it, and he stares daggers into anyone who shows the slightest bit of doubt. Yet, I’m still not completely sure what he does as underboss besides agree with my dad. However, as I look over my shoulder at the clock on the nightstand, I realize that I might be about to find out.

Lilliana decides to follow me as I get in the elevator and travel down to the lobby, even though I told her it might be best to wait until I got back. When the doors slide open, Uncle Clarence’s oversized body immediately catches my attention as he stands in the middle of the crowded space and people struggle to maneuver around him. He’s wearing black slacks with a black button up that’s probably an XXL, but still looks tight around his arms, shoulders, and chest. When he sees me and Lilliana approaching, he doesn’t smile or nod in anyway. He just glares at me, and then his eyes shift to Lilliana and I immediately feel defensive. “What’s she doing here?” Uncle Clarence says once we’re within hearing distance. I suddenly feel hot all over, and I realize that this “business” meeting might start off on a very bad foot. “She’s with me,” I snip. “Is that a problem?” Uncle Clarence doesn’t seem the least bit moved by my defensiveness. “Yes, it is a problem. She’s not coming with us.” “Coming with us, where?” “I told you, this is business. Carter business.

Send her back upstairs.” “Hey!” Lilliana snaps before I can say anything. “Don’t talk about me like I’m not standing right here. And nobody is sending me anywhere.” Lilliana and Clarence stare at each other menacingly for far too long, so I chime in just to break the silence. “Look, how about you just tell us what the fuck is going on and we can go from there.” “No, you look,” Uncle Clarence answers angrily. “We have family business that needs to be taken care of tonight, and I was told by your father to bring you along to help handle this business. So, I don’t have time to do the typical arguing with you two that Senior does. I’m not in the mood for that shit, and that’s not how I operate. So, I’m gonna go wait in the car for sixty seconds. That means you have exactly one minute to grow some fucking balls, send her back upstairs, and meet me outside, or you can fucking kiss your little dreams of ever owning this casino goodbye. You want to prove to your dad that you’re loyal? It starts tonight. Right now. You have sixty seconds to make up your

fucking mind.” Just then, Uncle Clarence turns on his heel and walks out without ever looking back. Once he’s outside, I watch him through the sliding glass doors of the lobby as he walks up to a slender black man standing in front of a black Mercedes S550. When Uncle Clarence reaches the car, the young man opens the back door for him and closes it once he’s comfortably inside, before climbing into the driver’s seat and closing the door. When I turn around to face Lilliana, her mouth is agape like she’s stunned by what just happened. “What a gigantic asshole!” she exclaims loudly, drawing the attention of a young couple as they walk past us. “Well, let’s see here—either go with him, or lose the casino. What a fucking ultimatum.” “No shit. I guess I better hurry up.” I grab Lilliana by the waist and pull her close to me until our pelvises are touching. I hear her moan and look up at me with those eyes that tell me exactly what she wants. “I’m gonna go take care of this, and when I get back, I’m gonna take care of you—all fucking night.”

Lilliana smiles her seductively beautiful smile, and then leans in to kiss me. Her tongue glides over mine and I have to force myself to pull away from her. “Well, you better hurry up then,” she says, grinning at me. I kiss her one more time, and then I turn around and stride out of the lobby and into the Chicago air. As I approach the car, Uncle Clarence is sitting on the side adjacent to the sidewalk, so I have to step out into the street to get in behind the driver. Once I close the door, the car immediately pulls off and we’re on our way. Yet, I still have no idea where we’re going. At first, no one says anything. Uncle Clarence stares out of his window scowling like he’s mad at every person and everything that we pass on the street. So, I use this time to try to figure things out in my head. I look up at the driver and see that he’s black, but pretty light skinned, and wearing a black suit with no pinstripes. I look up at the rearview mirror and see that he has hazel eyes with short, buzzed

hair and a thin mustache. I’ve never seen him before, but I can tell from how comfortable he looks that he’s been driving Uncle Clarence around for quite some time. Uncle Clarence is quite intimidating, but this guy looks right at home. After about ten minutes of driving in silence, I finally decide that it’s time to break the ice in the car. I take a deep breath and ask the question that’s been on my mind since the minute I walked into the Red Chip lobby. “Alright, Uncle Clarence, so where are we going?” Uncle Clarence exhales loudly, purposely letting me know that he doesn’t like that I asked the question, but he answers anyway. “We’ve got some business that needs to be taken care of.” Now it’s my turn to exhale. “Business. Yeah, I got that part from when you called me on the phone. Care to elaborate?” Before Uncle Clarence answers, the driver turns the car off the main road and into a housing area. The neighborhood is obviously very poor and broken down. I know we’re on the South Side, but

I’m confused about what kind of business we could possibly have here. “No need to say anything else,” Uncle Clarence says, looking out the window. “We’re here.” I turn and look out my window and see that we’ve pulled up to a large public housing complex, otherwise known as the projects. When I see the run down building and all the other povertystricken buildings surrounding it, I get a terrible feeling in my stomach. I realize that this isn’t the kind of business I was expecting. “Let’s go,” Uncle Clarence says as he pops open his door and steps out. I follow his lead, closing my door behind me and heading up the sidewalk towards the building. I take a quick glance behind me and see that the driver is still in the car, and the engine is still running. We walk past a broken down playground that’s completely rusted out, and push our way through a rickety metal door that squeaks loudly and slams itself shut behind us. Inside the narrow hallway, it smells like pure piss. The lights that are mounted to the ceiling are flickering on and off, and it seems

like every inch of paint on the walls is peeling off. I feel unbelievably uncomfortable as we walk down the hall on the first floor, but I find relief in the fact that there isn’t anybody in the hallway. This place is completely poor, so I know that Uncle Clarence and I look totally out of place with our suits and fancy shoes. We walk all the way down the hall, passing decaying wooden doors on both sides of us. I can hear babies crying inside of some of the rooms, and I hear loud televisions behind other doors. When we reach our destination, there is silence behind the door. I have no idea who could possible live here, but my heart is pounding in my chest and I feel tense and defensive, so I know my face holds a glower. I’m completely on my guard. Uncle Clarence raises his heavily muscled arm and pounds on the door, and it shakes with every hit like it’s just waiting to jump right off the hinges. At first, there’s no answer and I feel relieved, hoping that maybe we can get the hell out of here now, but Uncle Clarence knocks again, and this time I hear movement behind the door.

About five seconds later, the door opens slowly, and my heart somehow begins to beat even faster when I see the man holding the door open. He looks like complete shit with a badly swollen bottom lip, but I immediately recognize him. It’s Derrick, the delivery guy from the warehouse who tried to steal a whole kilo of heroin from us. What the fuck are we doing here? “Nice to see you again, Derrick,” Uncle Clarence says in a low, vengeful tone, then he takes a step forward and forces himself into the house. Derrick doesn’t say anything, he just steps back as Uncle Clarence and I walk into his living room. The place is a complete mess. There’s full bags of trash resting in more than one location in the room, and it looks like every article of clothing that Derrick owns is strewn across the floor. In the tiny kitchen, the refrigerator is wide open, yet completely empty—except for a couple of cliché old boxes of Chinese food—and dark inside. Derrick owns a TV that sits up on a small end table, but it’s probably the smallest TV I’ve ever seen and doesn’t look plugged in. The place is a complete

dump, and I suddenly feel two things: pity for Derrick, and an intense urge to get the fuck out of here. Uncle Clarence carefully steps over all the debris on the floor and stops next to a wooden coffee table directly in front of the TV. The table is covered with newspapers and soda cans, and even a plate of old, rotting chicken with flies hovering around it. Next to the disgusting plate is a spoon with a yellow substance in it, a lighter, and a syringe. When I see it, I know exactly what it is, and I feel like I just swallowed an anvil. It seems Uncle Clarence and I have caught Derrick getting ready to shoot up with heroin. Uncle Clarence looks down at the drugs on the table and then over at Derrick who is still standing next to the door that he just closed behind him. “Bad time, Derrick?” Uncle Clarence grumbles. Derrick hesitates for a second, fidgeting, then speaks up. “Yeah. I, uh, was just getting ready to clean up. You know.” “Getting ready to clean up? It looks like you should’ve cleaned up about a year ago. This place

is fucking disgusting, man. But, I can see you’re a little preoccupied with this shit you’ve got on the table here. Getting ready to give yourself a little treat, huh?” Clarence says with a half-grin. “Yeah, well, you know me, Clarence. I’m just finishing off this last little bit, then I’m going to rehab. I’m gonna get clean.” Derrick rubs his arm frantically. He’s both nervous and in need of a fix, so he can hardly control his own movements. Uncle Clarence lets out a barely noticeable chuckle. “Clean. Yeah, that’s what you said the last time we met. Then you went out and tried to steal a key of heroin from the delivery that we hired you for.” Derrick’s eyes bulge at the mention of the delivery from last night and he glances at me like it’s all starting to come back to him. “That was an accident, Clarence,” Derrick says in a panic. “I lost control for a bit, but I’m good now. I’m gonna get rid of this last stash of shit, then I’m cleaning up. I’m done. I know I fucked up, but I’m gonna get it together.” The tone in his voice is almost juvenile. He’s

terrified, and I can’t blame him. Uncle Clarence would scare the shit out of the most notorious gangsters, not to mention the fact that Derrick looks like he’s about a hundred and thirty pounds soaking wet. Uncle Clarence begins to nod his head and take tiny steps towards Derrick who has backed himself up all the way against the door. “Say that part again,” he says calmly. “I’m gonna get it together,” Derrick responds quietly as Uncle Clarence steps closer to him. “Nah, not that part. Before that.” Uncle Clarence traps Derrick in the corner and stands in front of him. Derrick’s eyes dart back and forth between my uncle and me. “I… I know I fucked up,” he stutters. Uncle Clarence nods his head in apparent approval. “That’s right, Derrick. You fucked up.” Suddenly, Uncle Clarence reaches back and punches Derrick in the face. My heart shoots into overdrive as I watch Derrick’s head bounce off the wall behind him, then he crumbles to the floor in a

heap. “Holy shit!” I exclaim. “Damn, Uncle Clarence, I already told you that I pistol whipped the guy back at the warehouse.” Uncle Clarence turns around and looks at me briefly, but he doesn’t say anything. Instead, he reaches up with both hands and starts to undo the buttons on his shirt. After the last button is undone, he pulls the shirt off, revealing an unbelievably muscular upper body covered by a white tank top. I always knew that Uncle Clarence was a very big guy, but I never knew that he was this big. I’m taken aback by his size, and I watch in shock as his muscles flex involuntarily when he hangs his shirt on the knob of the front door. Then, Uncle Clarence reaches down and lifts Derrick up off the floor. I gasp when I see the blood pouring from the junkie’s nose. It’s obvious that the punch has shattered the bones in Derrick’s nose to pieces, and he’s barely conscious as Uncle Clarence holds him up by the collar of his shirt. “Hey,” my uncle snips, lightly tapping Derrick on his cheek to wake him up a little. “You still with

me in there? Wake up, Derrick. We need to talk before I have to leave.” Derrick struggles to open his eyes, but slowly he focuses in and looks at Uncle Clarence. “Good. There you go,” Uncle Clarence says with a sinister grin. “You know you fucked up, Derrick, and that’s good. It’s good that you can acknowledge that. Most people can’t accept responsibility for their actions. But that’s not you. You know you made a big mistake trying to steal from my brother. Nobody steals from Mr. Carter. You know that, so you knew that I’d be coming here to pay you this visit. I’d like to think that you made your peace with it, and I like that. Good for you, Derrick. That’s bold. That’s brave. It’s courageous to step up and accept your mistakes and accept the punishment that comes with trying to steal from Kelvin Carter. So, for that, I applaud you.” Just then, Uncle Clarence punches Derrick in the face a second time, then he throws him across the small room, sending him crashing onto the coffee table.

There’s something inside of me that wants to say something, but I understand what’s happening right now. I know that this is a test for me. My father asked Uncle Clarence to bring me here to see what I would do about this brutal beating that I’m witnessing. He’s testing my loyalty right now, and it’s that realization that helps me bottle up my urges to intervene. I swallow hard, and watch as Uncle Clarence punches Derrick in the face a third, fourth, and fifth time. Blood splatters all over the dirty carpet, and I swear I can hear bones breaking with every hit. My heart is pounding, and I feel my whole body sweating, but I still don’t say anything. As much as I know that this is a test for me, I also recognize that this is an example for anyone else who would ever try to steal from my dad. He’s proving a point to me and to anyone else who hasn’t learned about his power, and now that Uncle Clarence is the new underboss, my father has all the muscle he needs to scare the living shit out of anyone who might think to try to play him in any way. I recognize this for what it is—we are all being taught a lesson.

Derrick lays on his back in the middle of the floor with his eyes barely open. His breathing is shallow, and when he tries to breathe from his nose, I can see blood bubbling out of his nostrils and he starts to cough and gag. Uncle Clarence stands over his victim breathing heavily. I can see small trickles of sweat running down his back, and his body is more vascular than ever. The look on his face as he stares down at Derrick is unsettling to me. Even though I can see that he’s fatigued, I can also see that he’s enjoying this. Somehow, in some deranged way, he’s having fun. His mouth has a little smirk on it and I feel an uncomfortable tingle in my spine as I look at him, thinking that the whole thing is finally over. I’m wrong. Uncle Clarence leans over and lifts Derrick up off the floor, and begins to drag him into the terribly messy and smelly kitchen. Derrick’s legs have lost all life and Uncle Clarence literally has to drag him across the floor. I follow closely behind them, wondering what the fuck my uncle is doing, while also stepping over the disgusting trash that

has taken over the floor of the apartment. “I couldn’t help but notice that your fridge is open, Derrick,” Uncle Clarence begins. I hear a bit of playfulness in his voice, and for the first time in my life, I ask myself, Is Uncle Clarence mentally deranged? As we approach the fridge, the smell is nauseating. All the cold air obviously left a long time ago, but the smell from the rotting Chinese food has decided to stick around. I don’t know how the hell Derrick could live in this shit because I’m gagging with every step I take. Uncle Clarence, however, seems unfazed by the stench. “You know,” Uncle Clarence continues, “it’s bad to leave your refrigerator door open. How about we close that up, huh?” Derrick doesn’t respond, but as I watch Uncle Clarence position his body in front of the fridge, I wish that he would. Derrick’s head is right in the path of the door as the rest of his body lays lifeless on the floor. He’s completely out of it, just barely breathing, but my uncle doesn’t show the tiniest bit of remorse as he grabs door to the fridge and slams it shut on

Derrick’s head. His body jumps from the impact and the door flies back open, slamming into the counter. My eyes bulge and I feel like my breath is stuck in my chest, and it takes everything in me not to say something. Then, Uncle Clarence grabs the door and slams it a second time, a third time, and a fourth time. Derricks body jumps and jolts with each hit and I feel tears beginning to force their way to the front of my eyes. I’ve had all I can take, and my words will no longer allow themselves to be held in. “That’s enough!” I shout from the top of my lungs. My eyes sting from the tears that I’m trying to force back. “Goddamn it! That’s enough, Uncle Clarence. Fuck!” Uncle Clarence stops what he’s doing and stares at me. He has a look of surprise on his face, but smiles at me as if to say, finally. “What’s that, Junior?” he says with a grin. “Stop it! You made your point, Unc. I think he’s learned his fucking lesson. That’s enough. He’s had enough.” My uncle smiles at me again, and I don’t think

I’ve ever been more creeped out. There’s something about his demeanor that is so ominous. It’s like he’s lacking the ability to feel bad for anybody. He doesn’t care one bit that he’s beaten this poor man to within an inch of his life, and he couldn’t care less that it bothers me. In fact, I’d bet that he’s enjoyed every bit of this. He loves what he’s done to Derrick, and he loves that I’m so upset about it. Uncle Clarence pulls the refrigerator door all the way open, and all I see is blood spilling out of Derrick’s head. He has completely stopped moving, and I’m convinced that he’s dead. Uncle Clarence, on the other hand, is not. As Derrick lays on the kitchen floor, Uncle Clarence walks over to his jacket that’s still hanging on the knob. He reaches inside his jacket pocket and pulls out a black nine millimeter. My heart freezes in my chest as he walks over to Derrick. When he gets to the body, he looks over at me. “You’re right, Junior,” he says easily. “He has had enough.” He points the gun at the back of Derrick’s head.

“No!” I scream, but my voice is drowned out by the sound of the gun going off.

“Just calm the fuck down.” “Seriously, where did you get this fucking clown?” “Shut the fuck up and keep driving, Simon,” Uncle Clarence says as he stares into the mirror at his driver. Then, he turns his attention back to me. “Just relax. I don’t need you getting all worked up.” “Worked up? You just fucking shot him. What the fuck did you do that for? Why put him through all that shit just to shoot him in the end?” The memory of Uncle Clarence pulling the

trigger comes back to me, as does the sight of all the blood exploding out of the back of Derrick’s head. I feel myself getting a little nauseous and turn to roll down the window. The air from outside comes rushing into the car as we drive down the highway going exactly five miles over the speed limit. “I’m really not in the mood to explain this to you, Junior, but I will, since you don’t seem to get it. Nobody steals from the Carters, and as far as Derrick is concerned, I have no idea what happened to him, and neither do you.” I look over at my uncle and I see the seriousness in his eyes. This is ridiculous, but it’s also a defining moment, and I have to pull it together and remember that this is all a test for me. I know that everything I do will be reported back to my father, so I have to put on a happy face, suck it up, and act like I’m a part of this crazy team. However, I know it’s going to be the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I take a deep breath and think about what I have to do. Uncle Clarence is still staring at me, waiting

for my response, and I can see the driver, Simon, glancing at me periodically in the rearview mirror. “I hear what you’re saying,” I finally speak up. “But this isn’t right. This isn’t how the Carters do business.” “Junior, you have absolutely no idea what the hell you’re talking about. You have no clue how the Carters do business. You’ve been on the outside looking in for a long time, and you’ve never known the ins and outs of this family. Not to mention the fact that things have changed. Now that I’m number two, we’re not letting ourselves get stuck in the mud anymore. We’re doing bigger and better things, and not being distracted by our fucking emotions, or being blinded by our ridiculous love for some woman. The way we did things when Mikey was here is over.” I’m jolted by the mention of my Uncle Mikey’s name. He’s been locked up for almost seven months and I can barely recognize The Family anymore. I know we’d all be much better off if he was still around, and I can’t even explain how much it pisses me off that he’s gone. Thinking of

how he was set up infuriates me, so I try to avoid the topic. “So, this is how it is now, Uncle Clarence?” I ask solemnly. “Are you my dad’s pit bull, sent to attack anyone who opposes him? Is this what the Carters are really about?” Uncle Clarence looks up at Simon and then back over at me. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, Junior. I haven’t attacked anyone. The Carters are about business. We’re about making money and expanding, and we do whatever we have to, to make sure that no one gets in our way. That’s all there is to it. If you plan on being a part of this family, you damn well better get used to it.” “I don’t plan on being a part of this family. Haven’t I made that clear by now? I just want the casino, and then I want to be left alone. I don’t want any part of this shit that you and my dad are doing. All this shit with the Russians, it’s all bullshit. I don’t want any of it. I just want the Red Chip, and I don’t understand why my dad has to be so fucking difficult about giving it to me.” “Oh listen to you. Do you hear yourself? Give it

to you? That’s not the way shit works, nephew. You’re not given things in life, you have to earn that shit. Your dad might not need the money that the Red Chip brings in anymore, but he still built that casino.” “What the fuck are you talking about? He didn’t build it. He basically extorted it from the previous owner.” “You know what I mean, so don’t play stupid. No matter how you slice it, it’s still his casino, and there’s no way in hell he’s just gonna give it to you. You’re gonna have to earn it, and let me be the first to tell you, you’re off to a pretty shitty start.” The car pulls up to the front of the Royal Flush casino and Uncle Clarence and I exit. Instead of handing the keys to the valet, Simon stays in the car and goes to park it himself. Uncle Clarence tells him to just meet us upstairs when he’s done. The two of us silently make our way through the lobby, and I try to push the memory of Derrick’s murder out of my head. I know I have a job to do, but I feel baffled by how corrupt everything seems. I never knew that my father had been going to such

extremes. I know how he was when I was a kid, and I always knew that he was capable of doing terrible things to people, but to have my uncle kill a man for attempting to steal from him just seemed so wrong. So unnecessary. He didn’t even actually steal the drugs, he just tried and got caught, yet he still lost his life because of it, and what’s more is that he didn’t just lose his life, he was beaten to a bloody fucking pulp—beaten to within an inch of his life, only to have that last inch snuffed out just when he thought it was all going to be over. All I can do is shake my head as we walk through the lobby and into the elevator. We make our way up without saying a word to each other. I just stand on the other side of the steel box with my head down and a scowl on my face. I can feel Uncle Clarence staring at me, probably with some dumb ass smirk smeared across his lips, but I don’t even bother looking up at him. What would be the point anyway? I can’t let him know what I’m thinking. I have to make them believe that I’m fine. I have to make them trust me so that I can get what I want out of all of this. I have to have something

going on behind the scenes, just like my dad would do. The elevator comes to a stop and the two of us walk down the elegant—yet plain—hallway, silently. When we push through the doors, I see my father sitting at the head of the long conference table flanked by two black men wearing black suits and bow ties. They all look up at us simultaneously when we walk in. “Well, look who it is,” my father says with a broad smile. “I was starting to wonder about you two. Come on in and have a seat. We’re about to finish up soon.” Uncle Clarence nods at the two men, and they smile and nod in return without acknowledging me. I eyeball the two of them as I step up to the seat closest to where I’m already standing. I’ve never seen these two men before, but I notice that they seem to be focusing on some papers that are scattered in front of them and my dad. I can’t see what the papers are, but something tells me that they’re important. Both men are wearing thick glasses with even thicker frames, and they sit with

perfect posture. They don’t look like the type of people my father would normally associate with, but he and Uncle Clarence seem to know them both well. I, on the other hand, am starting to feel a bit out of place as Uncle Clarence takes a seat directly next to the three of them and begins to examine the papers on the table as well, like he’s been in the room the whole time. I watch the four of them distrustfully and lean back in my chair, trying to gauge the situation and see how I can make myself more involved, like I’m part of the team, but before I can say anything, the image of Derrick’s bloody head flashes in my head and I’m forced to hold everything in. “Alright, so we take this amount right here, and we move it to the bank in the Caymans, plus the other five mil in another off-shore account. We just need to claim the first million or two, and then stash the rest. You know where everything needs to go, Eric,” my father says to the younger looking man sitting on his right. Eric nods, then Senior continues. “Look, just make sure you bring the new guy up to speed. I don’t want any bullshit

happening with my money.” “I understand, Mr. Carter,” says the younger looking nerd with the thin mustache. He looks over at the older, clean-shaven nerd and nods to him. I can see that the older nerd is nervous. If he’s trying to hide the fact that he’s bothered by being in the same room as Kelvin Carter Senior, he’s doing a horrible job. I can see he’s tapping his foot nervously under the table and it’s causing his whole body to shake, and even though he has no clue who I am, he keeps glancing over at me, tensely. He may as well be sweating profusely and loosening his tie. The younger guy clears his throat, grabbing the nervous nerd’s attention, and stares at him angrily —get your shit together. The older nerd exhales loud enough for all of us to hear, then stops tapping his foot. This is my opportunity. “Why are you so nervous?” I say grimly, causing all four of them to look up from the papers, then my father, Uncle Clarence, and the younger nerd, look over at the nervous nerd. “What… I’m not,” the nervous nerd responds. “Then why were you tapping your foot so

much? You had the whole table shaking a second ago. I know a nervous tick when I see one,” I respond. I have no clue who this man is, but I stare at him like his anxious foot tapping has thoroughly offended me. “I… I wasn’t… Nothing’s wrong,” the man stammers. “What the hell is the matter with you, Junior?” my father jumps in, saving the nervous nerd. “Cut Chris some slack, he’s new. He’s not used to handling multi-million dollar accounts like this. Eric here has been on my account for over half a year, so I trust that he’ll bring the new guy up to speed.” “Why do you need Chris if you have Eric?” I reply aggressively, still staring at baby-faced Chris. My father frowns at me and scrunches his forehead, completely annoyed. “What difference does it make to you? How about you don’t worry about how I handle my finances, alright. I’ll take care of it.” “Like you took care of Derrick in the projects?” I almost regret it when the words come out of my mouth. My father and Uncle Clarence look at me

with detestation. I can see the wheels spinning in their heads, wondering what the fuck I’m thinking bringing up Derrick right now, especially in front of two people I’ve never even seen before. As all four of them stare at me, I feel my heart rate starting to pick up, and my body temperature beginning to climb. My father clears his throat and leans back in his seat. “That’s all we need for right now,” he says to the accountants. “I appreciate you coming by to look into this, Eric. You too, Chris. We’ll stay on schedule for next week, and I’ll let you know if I need you to come by or if we can just handle it over the phone.” “Sure thing, Mr. Carter,” Eric replies with an understanding smile. “Thanks for your time. We’ll be in touch.” The two of them get up at the same time. Eric leans over and grabs the papers off the desk, while Chris stands there looking around. I catch him glancing around the room like he’s looking for something, then he looks over at me. When our eyes meet, he quickly looks down at the table and waits for Eric to be finished stuffing the

papers inside of a brown folder. When it’s all done, the two of them nod to Uncle Clarence and my father, and then quickly stride out of the door. Once the two accountants are gone, I lean back in my chair and wait for my dad to scold me. He hesitates a moment, thinking about it, then he gets up from the table and walks towards the bar. “Alright, Junior. First off, don’t ever mention our business in front of anyone who’s outside of this family, ever again. Those guys are my accountants. They don’t have a clue about how I get money, they just know that I have a lot of it, and that’s all that they need to know. I don’t need a couple of bankers catching wind of anything that we have going on in our family because you decided you’re feeling sensitive about handling a little business.” “Is that all that was to you? Business? Having someone killed is just business?” My father grabs a bottle of Hennessy and begins pouring it into a small glass cup that he’d already dropped two cubes of ice into. “Business is all I care about… and I didn’t have anybody killed. I

don’t know what you’re talking about with all that. Sometimes things get a little… messy. I have no control over that, I just adjust and keep it moving.” I sigh loudly as my father sits on one of the barstools and takes a tiny sip of his drink. He grunts and frowns as the liquid burns his throat on the way down. “You’re fucking unbelievable, you know that?” I snip, shaking my head at his arrogance. “What, are you preparing yourself for the moment that you’re being questioned by the police? You think I’m wearing a wire or something?” Dad looks over at Uncle Clarence and tilts his head like he’s confused. Uncle Clarence smiles in response, then my father turns his attention back to me. “You lost me. What are you talking about?” “You know what I’m talking about. Derrick! The shit you told Uncle Clarence to do, but not without bringing me along for the ride.” “I have no idea what you’re talking about, Junior. If something happened to Derrick, that’s unfortunate, but it definitely doesn’t have anything to do with any of us. Or you.”

I feel my face frowning all on its own. Even though I know he’s a complete piece of shit, and probably the most untrustworthy man in the world, my father never ceases to amaze me. His level of narcissism and egotism is almost jaw-dropping. As he sits there on that barstool, all I can think is, Wow, what a fucking asshole. I’m so glad I didn’t turn out like you. However, because I understand my situation, I don’t say that. “I see. I must be mistaken,” I reply, forcing myself to play along, and realizing that this is the game I have to play—but I can’t just play it, I have to live it if it’s going to be believable. My father raises his eyebrows like he’s surprised by my response. “I think I’m starting to get a clearer picture of how things work around here. I see how it is.” “Do you?” Uncle Clarence interjects. “Because it’s important that you really do understand how being a part of this family works. It’s a necessity.” “I hear you, and I do get it. I understand.” I put my head down and embrace everything that I know is about to happen. I have to make them believe. “I

understand one-hundred percent, for the first time in my life.” “Well, that’s music to my ears, Junior,” my father says with a smile. “You see, if we’re gonna take steps towards you owning the Red Chip, then it’s really important that you have a thorough understanding of how we do business. I remember a while back when you and I were having one of our legendary arguments, I told you that you weren’t really a part of this family. What I meant when I said that was that you talked about being a part of The Family, but you didn’t really understand the way things work. You were on the outside looking in, yet you thought you understood what was going on inside. Up until this moment, I was wondering if you could ever understand how we did things on the inside of The Family, but I see that you’re finally starting to catch on. So, I’m glad that things went down the way they did tonight. You needed it. It was good for you, and it was the first step to you fulfilling your dream of owning the Red Chip. Don’t ever forget that I’m the one holding the keys that unlock that dream. I’m a proud father tonight.

Welcome to The Family, Junior.”

“It’s me.” “Goddamnit, Russell. It’s been two fucking weeks. What took you so long to get back to me? I thought they might have chopped your ears off and threw you in the middle of Lake Michigan.” “I’m sorry, Captain. Needless to say, it’s been a little crazy living in this world. Things get a little tense, and sometimes I don’t feel safe making phone calls. It takes a while to build up my confidence.” “You can’t do that shit to me, Agent Jenkins. You gotta remember that I’m the only person who

knows you’re in there. You need to keep me posted at all times throughout this whole deal. You’re killing me over here.” “Well, it’s nice to know that you care, Captain.” “Oh please. Miss me with the sensitivity, Russell. You’re my best field agent and I have to look out for you. Alright, so what’s the latest? Fill me in on the last two weeks.” “Well, it was much of the same for a while. Going from place to place, meeting up on and off. Nothing major.” “Oh, okay. Yeah, that’s exactly the kind of shit that I don’t want to hear. It’s been six fucking months and we haven’t come up with anything to bring Kelvin Carter down. I’m starting to wonder if all this is worth it. You need to give me something.” “Well, if you would give me a second to finish, I was trying to tell you that I might have a little something. I need you to look into a guy named Derrick.” “Derrick? Okay. Got a last name?” “Well, no.” “What the fuck? What am I supposed to do with

a name like Derrick? You know how many Derricks there are in Chicago? Hmm, I guess we’ll start with Derrick Rose, and then work our way through the phone book. What the hell?” “Cut me some fucking slack, I’m doing the best I can. These motherfuckers are good at what they do, alright?” “No, Agent Jenkins, it’s not alright. You, living everyday of your life next to the most notorious mob family in the Midwest is not alright. Me, lying to the brass, my bosses, that you’ve taken a leave of absence is not alright. We’re supposed to be bringing these motherfuckers down. It’s not alright that you’re still undercover, and it’s not alright that Kelvin Carter is still on the streets pushing heroin.” “I know that. Which is exactly why you need to look into this guy Derrick, because I think Senior may have had him killed.” “Really? You think he put a hit on this guy? I mean, is he somebody big, or what?” “I don’t know. I just need you to look into it.” “You’re not giving me anything to look into! I’ve got his name and the fact that he may or may

not have been killed. That’s crap, Russell. I need some evidence.” “I know, and I said I’m working on it, but for right now, all I have is the name Derrick, and the fact that he lives in the projects.” “Which projects?” “Fuck, I don’t know. Just start on the south side and work up the city.” “Looking for what? A dead body lying in the middle of the street, with a sign on it that says Kelvin Carter had me killed? Keep in mind, even if Senior had him killed, it won’t mean shit in court. The money would’ve been cash, and there won’t be any trace of a transaction. It’ll never hold up.” “It would if it was Clarence Carter and Kelvin Carter Junior who made the hit.” “Ah… Now we’re getting somewhere. I take it you don’t have any hard evidence that proves your theory.” “Not yet, but I’m working on it. The first thing we need to do is find the body. More than likely it had something to do with drugs or money. You know, the same old gangster shit.”

“Right. Alright, Russell, I’m gonna go out on a limb here and throw some resources at this, which means I have to have the approval of the brass up top, which also means that this theory better pan out. Once I let them know you’ve been undercover for all this time, they’re gonna be pissed and looking for any reason they can find to shut this shit down. They’ve tried to go against this guy too many times and it never works out. We’ve gotta give them something they can hold on to. So, are you sure about this?” “Fuck. We can’t do this without involving the brass? This is my first lead and I don’t want to blow it by pressing too hard. Just put a few patrols out, at least until we get some confirmation that I’m on the right track.” “What? No fucking way.” “Come on, Captain Perez. I’ve been undercover for six fucking months. This shit hasn’t been easy. Just throw me this one bone. It’ll work out, I promise. I just need you to trust me.” “You love making me put my job on the line, don’t you? Alright, Russell. I’ll put a few patrols on

it and throw some feelers out there, but if this doesn’t turn out the way you say, I’m shutting this shit down. I’m not gonna keep risking my job, and your life for this. Do we understand each other?” “Yes, sir. And when it does pan out, then we take it up to the brass and get permission to go full throttle on this investigation. Wire taps, surveillance, more agents… the whole nine, and I want full control. An entire task force under my command. Deal?” “Well, you drive a hard bargain, Agent Jenkins. Fine. A full investigation, a full task force, and you get command. I’ll have patrols start on the south side first thing in the morning.” “Perfect.”

“Hey there, sexy, I didn’t even hear you come in last night,” I say with a giddy smile as Kelvin steps out of the bathroom with a towel wrapped around his waist, and his tattooed, sexy body dripping wet from the shower. “Oh, yeah,” he responds nonchalantly. His face has an unusual tension in it that I notice right away. “Long night last night?” I inquire, sensing his standoffishness. He walks over to the closet without even looking at me. “Uh, I guess. You know.” I sit up in the bed and admire his sexiness from

afar, with an uncontrollable smile on my face. “You’re so fucking sexy, baby,” I chirp. Kelvin glances over at me, but only for a second. “Thanks, babe.” Then he quickly turns away and continues his hunt for something to wear. My smile is now a tiny frown as I look at him with confusion. “Is everything okay?” Kelvin pauses like he’s getting tired of me talking to him, and I hear him exhale before he answers. “Yes. Everything’s fine.” “No it’s not. You seem all pissed off. What’s the matter?” “Nothing’s the matter, Lily. I’m just tired, that’s all.” “Lily? You never call me Lily.” I pause for a minute to let my words linger, and Kelvin doesn’t even respond. He’s always been so open with me, now he’s obviously all bottled up, and that can only mean one thing. “What happened with your uncle last night?” Kelvin stops moving completely, like my words have frozen him solid. I can hear him breathing, but that’s the only sound coming from him as he stands

there holding a red button-up. “Hey,” I continue, trying to make him snap out of it. “Whatever it is, you know we’re in it together. We always have been.” Kelvin finally turns around, and his face is completely blank. He doesn’t look directly at me, however. Instead, he takes the red button-up off the hanger and slips his thick arms through the sleeves. “Nothing happened last night, babe. Nothing worth mentioning, really.” I watch him skeptically as he buttons up his shirt and walks over to the dresser. He pulls out his black boxer briefs and starts to put them on, but I can tell that he’s trying to avoid eye contact with me. I don’t think men realize how intuitive women are. “Okay, then what exactly did you have to leave with Clarence for?” I ask, eagerly awaiting his answer. “I really don’t want to talk about it. Seriously, it was nothing. I was thinking we could go downstairs and get some breakfast from Peggy’s. We have to hurry though, because they stop serving it in, like, half an hour.”

“Breakfast? You’re trying to avoid my questions by playing to my hunger?” Kelvin finally forces a wide smile. Even though he’s forcing it, when I see his beautiful grin, I can’t help but smile with him. “I’m not trying to avoid your questions. I’m just hungry.” Kelvin holds on to his smile and even forces out a little chuckle. I don’t buy it, but I realize it’s early and I might be being a little pushy, so I choose to back off—for now. “I’ll go to breakfast, as long as you promise that you’re okay, and that nothing happened last night that I need to know about,” I say. Kelvin walks over to the side of the bed and leans over to give me a kiss on the cheek. “Nothing happened that you need to worry about, I promise. So, get your sexy ass up and get dressed so we can go eat. I hear a ham and cheese omelet calling my name.” “No steak and eggs this time, huh?” “Nah, I woke up thinking about this omelet.” Kelvin flashes one last smile and then turns on his heel and walks out of the room.

I take a second to think about the way my morning has started. As sexy as Kelvin was getting out of the shower, I can’t ignore the fact that he was obviously stressed out about something. He even called me Lily, which I’m pretty sure he hasn’t done since he first learned my name. I trust Kelvin, and I know that if something serious was going on, he would tell me, because that’s all I’ve ever known him to do. Since I found out that his father was a mob boss, Kelvin has been straight up with me, and there’s no reason for that to change now. However, I know Kelvin, and I know something’s off. I have to hurry with my shower and getting dressed so that we don’t miss breakfast, even though Kelvin could get the restaurant to make us breakfast whenever he wants. On our way down to the restaurant floor under the lobby, Kelvin is pretty quiet, but still doing his best to mask his emotions. I think about pressing the issue some more, but decide against it as the elevator doors slide open and we’re greeted by a hostess, wearing a black skirt with a white button-up and red tie.

“Welcome to Peggy’s… oh, hi, Mr. Carter,” the cute blonde says, recognizing Kelvin. She smiles a flirtatious smile, but it quickly evaporates when she sees me standing next to him. “How are you doing, Laura? Is my usual spot available?” Kelvin says kindly. “Yes, sir, it is. Right this way.” Laura the Hostess leads us through the maze of tables to a spot that sits in the back corner of the restaurant. It’s not VIP, but it’s obviously not for regular customers either. She hands us our menus and saunters away. The second the menu is in his hand, Kelvin dives into it and covers his face. I almost laugh at how absurd it is. It’s almost too cute to get mad at, but I manage to speak up anyway. “Are you seriously covering your face with your menu?” I snip. He lowers the menu and looks up at me like I’m crazy. “What? You’re kidding, right?” “Are you kidding? Seriously, it looks like you’re covering your face with your menu.” “That’s ridiculous. Of course not. I’m just

checking out the omelet selection.” “I thought you were going with the ham and cheese?” “I still want that, but am I not allowed to look to see if there’s something else that might make me change my mind? Geez.” “If you say so, babe. Are you sure there isn’t anything you need to tell me?” “Ugh. I’m telling you, Lilliana, there’s nothing. You’re paranoid, babe.” “I don’t think I am. I just feel like something’s off with you this morning,” I respond just as our waiter approaches the table. When he arrives, Kelvin and I stop talking. “Hi there. My name’s John, and I’ll be serving you this morning, Mr. Carter. Can I start you two off with something to drink?” our extremely young server says politely. Kelvin orders coffee for the two of us and we don’t wait for the drinks to come back to order our food. Kelvin orders the ham and cheese omelet just like he said he would, and I decide to stick with our favorite, steak and eggs.

As we wait for our food, the time is filled with our silence. The restaurant is fairly empty, so I know it won’t take long for our food to come, and for the first time in our relationship, I find myself out of words. It isn’t that we’re going through some overhyped rough patch, it’s just that I can’t shake the sense that he’s lying to me, so I find it hard to spark up a conversation when his demeanor and obvious distance is all I can focus on. The fact that he isn’t trying to start a conversation himself is just a clearer sign that something is wrong, but asking doesn’t seem to be getting me anywhere. So, we just sit there, surrounded by other restaurant goers who are carrying on regular conversations. I hear joking and laughter behind me, a friendly political debate on our left, and a play-by-play rerun of the Blackhawks game from last night. But, at our table, in our little world, there’s nothing but silence. The food comes in less than five minutes. My steak is perfectly cooked to temperature, and Kelvin’s omelet looks fantastic. Our meals seem to be the only thing in our morning that have gone right. We sneak in random comments about the

food as we eat, and Kelvin tells me his feelings on having to stop by the main office of the casino this morning for a staff meeting, but the conversation is bland. By the time the meal is over, I’m anxious to get up from the table to head upstairs so I can be around things that are familiar and comfortable. When the waiter brings over the check, he drops the wallet off on the table and walks away. Kelvin shoves his credit card into the sleeve in the wallet and places it back on the edge of the table. Just as he leans back in his seat, I feel something brush up against my right arm. It’s a person… a man. When I look up at him, it takes a second for me to recognize who he is, but when I do, my heart begins to race. “Good morning, Prince,” Ilia Baskov says, looking down at Kelvin. Kelvin’s head doesn’t even move when he looks up at him, just his eyes, and he looks disgusted. “Who the fuck is Prince?” He spits the words out like they taste bitter. Ilia stands above us and unfurls a little sneaky smile that sends chills up my spine. “You’re Prince.

Prince of the Carter family.” Kelvin doesn’t respond, and his face is twisted into an unsettling scowl. Ilia obviously catches on and decides to quickly backtrack. “I don’t mean to offend. My apologies.” “It’s fine. Is there something you’re here for, Ilia?” Kelvin inquires. His words come out harsh, probably on purpose. I can’t imagine Kelvin being nice to Ilia Baskov after all the shit he put us through a few months ago. “I just happened to stop by the casino this morning to check it out,” Ilia says. “Hadn’t been down here before, and I heard this restaurant has good breakfast burritos. I didn’t expect to see you, however. Now that I have, though, I figured this was a good time to come by and thank you for taking care of our little problem last night.” Kelvin freezes once again. All of the life seems to get sucked out of his face as he sits there locked in a trance. I look up at Ilia suspiciously, hoping that he’ll elaborate. “I know this isn’t the time or the place to mention such things, but I heard we had a problem

with a delivery recently, and I found out that it was you who helped to take care of this problem. It’s good to see that you’re coming onboard,” Ilia says quietly. I can tell that Kelvin is hoping that he’ll just stop talking and walk away, but he doesn’t have that much luck in the world, as Ilia just stands there, waiting for him to respond. He seems to be at a loss for words until the waiter finally returns and picks up the wallet containing the check and credit card. “Umm,” Kelvin stutters. “Yeah, I’m not sure what you heard, but I do know for sure that this isn’t the time or the place to have this discussion.” “You’re right, and I understand. I just wanted to come voice my appreciating and tell you that I’m impressed. I look forward to forming a better work relationship with you in the very-near future.” My curiosity is extremely piqued as Kelvin glances nervously back and forth between Ilia and me. “I… umm,” he begins, but he is cut off by the return of the waiter. Kelvin takes the receipt from him and stops talking so that he can sign it. Once he’s tipped the waiter a generous twenty dollars, he

hurriedly stands up. When I don’t stand up with him, he locks his eyes with mine. “You ready?” I want to say no, just to see what he’d do, but I nod naturally and slowly stand. “Umm, we’ll talk later, Ilia,” Kelvin says as he sidesteps the Russian mob boss and reaches for my hand to lead me away. Kelvin leads me around the tables, and I can sense his urgency as he steps lively like we’re being chased. He has a firm grip on my hand as we speed walk to the elevator. He jams his thumb on the button and I hear him breathe a sigh of relief as the doors open right away. Once we’re inside and the doors are closed, I struggle to find the words that I want to say first. Kelvin leans his back against the wall of the elevator and stares down at the floor. I can tell he was completely caught off guard by Ilia randomly showing up to Peggy’s, and I don’t want to add to his frustration, but I need some answers, because Ilia’s sudden arrival has now filled me with questions. “Alright, Kelvin,” I begin slowly, trying to tread

softly. “There’s obviously something going on with you that you don’t want to talk to me about, and I’ll try to be understanding. But, we’ve been through so much together already, I really hope that you’ll just let me in so that we can get through it together.” Kelvin doesn’t answer, and I can now feel my own frustration starting to creep up in my chest like it’s trying to climb up through my throat and escape out of my mouth. The elevator dings and the doors slide open before I have a chance to say anything else. The two of us step into the penthouse and I follow Kelvin as he saunters into the living room. He takes a seat on the couch and immediately leans back, covering his face with his big hands. I take a seat next to him and put my hand on his knee. He’s tense and I can feel it all the way down in his legs. I want to take on the burden with him. We’re partners, and knowing that he’s struggling with something is making me uncomfortable. We get through problems together, and I don’t intend for this situation to be any different.

“Baby, please talk to me,” I plead. “It doesn’t matter what it is. Please, just let me know what’s up, so we can deal with it together. Let me lighten your burden, please.” He lets his hand slowly slide down his face, finally revealing himself to me. He sighs loudly, then speaks up. “Damn, I fucking love you, Lilliana. You’re amazing, you know that?” I smile at him, but then force myself to push it away. “I appreciate that, and I want to help you, baby. Talk to me.” He sighs loudly once again. “I’m telling you, nothing happened. Everything is fine.” My frustration climbs a little higher. “Then what was Ilia talking about down stairs?” “I don’t know what the fuck he was talking about,” Kelvin replies without hesitation like he’d been waiting for me to ask that question. “You don’t know? Fine, then tell me exactly what it was that you had to leave with your uncle for. I want to know what they needed you for.” “It was just some paperwork shit. Some shit about the casino. That’s all.”

“Bullshit!” I snap, louder than I intended to. “Ilia said there was a problem with the delivery, and you helped take care of the problem. So, don’t sit here and tell me that it had something to do with the casino, when Ilia said it was about the delivery. Is it about the guy you pistol whipped?” I hear Kelvin gasp, then he suddenly seems angry. “Look, Ilia doesn’t know shit about shit. He wasn’t fucking there. He heard something from somebody else, so who knows what he thinks or what exactly he heard. It doesn’t mean anything, alright. Just let it go.” “No, goddamn it! I’m not sure if I’m more upset that you’re not telling me, or that you’re fucking lying to me about it. I don’t understand why you feel the need to lie about it.” “Because this is a problem that I have to take care of on my own! You can’t be a part of this!” His words hit me like a train of confusion. I furrow my brow and look at him, frustrated and hurt. “What are you talking about? We’ve gone through so much bullshit together, and now, all of a sudden, you’re gonna just change the rules and

block me out?” Kevin leans towards me and places a hand on my face, rubbing it gently. “No, baby. I would never block you out. I love you so fucking much. I just need you to trust me.” “Fuck that!” I shout, slapping his hand away. I can see the shock in his face as I stand up and look down at him. “You’re changing everything. We’ve had so much success dealing with our problems together, and now you’re putting all of that on the line. We took care of my crazy ex-boyfriend together. We handled all the psycho Russian drama together, and now we have something new and you’re suddenly hiding shit and telling me to trust you? You’re changing how we do things, and I don’t know why. You need to explain this to me so that I can understand why you’re being so different about this.” “Jesus Christ, Lilliana, you can’t take this so personally.” Kelvin reacts to my anger by broadcasting his own. “This isn’t about you. This is my problem. And you’re right. We have always dealt with everything together, and this time is

different, because this time I’m not putting you in danger because of something I have going on with the fucking Carter family. I’m not risking your life ever again. So, see if you can understand this. I’m changing the rules because I love you and I want to keep you safe.” “Don’t give me that bullshit. I don’t want to hear the old I’m doing this to protect you, cliché. This isn’t a fucking movie, Kelvin. I don’t want your protection. I’m not some broken girl who needs you to shelter me and hide me from all the cruelty in the world. I’m a grown woman who loves you. I don’t want your goddamn protection. I want your honesty. I want your openness. I want your heart. So, don’t patronize me.” “What the fuck? Patronize you? I’m not patronizing you. What the fuck are you even talking about anymore?” Kelvin stands up and walks past me, towards the elevator. “I don’t need you to understand this. I really don’t.” “So, that’s it?” I say as I follow him into the hallway. “You’re just gonna make this decision, even though you know it upsets me? You’re gonna

put us through this shit to protect me?” Kelvin slams his hand on the button and the elevator door slides open. “You, being upset, doesn’t change what I know I need to do,” he says, stepping into the elevator and pressing the button to go down. “So, if you can’t understand where I’m coming from, then go ahead, be upset. I don’t have time for this shit. I have a meeting to go to.” The elevator doors slide closed, and an invisible wall sprouts up between us.

“Oh hell no! So, you’re saying that I need to go over there and grab him by his balls right in the middle of his little staff meeting!” A giggle escapes my mouth as I sip my Coke. “I know. That’s what I feel like doing right now. I can’t believe the way he was acting. He’s never been like that before.” Lexy takes a sip of her drink and shakes her head as she puts it back down on the table. “I don’t even know what to say about that. You guys have been so cute for the past year, this is like a whole new thing. This is like Stephen King writing

romantic comedies all of a sudden. It’s like, what the fuck is this shit?” “I’m not really sure how that relates to this, but I think I get what you’re saying.” “I just mean it’s weird, that’s all.” “I know. I’m not really sure what I’m gonna do about it. I’ve gotta be able to get him to open up to me about whatever it is that’s got him so worked up.” “I know that working for his father has been a pain, since they don’t get along, but this seems like it might be something serious. Is the casino business really that stressful?” I’m suddenly reminded that Lexy still has no idea that Kelvin’s father is a mob boss. It’s so easy to get caught up in talking with her that I forget that I have a secret that she isn’t allowed to know. I’m not sure what her knowing would really do at this point, but I feel like it’s safer for her if she doesn’t know about this side of mine and Kelvin’s lives, just in case. “Yeah, I guess it is,” I lie. “I mean, honestly, Kelvin Senior is just about the biggest asshole I’ve

ever met, so I’m sure it hasn’t been easy for Kelvin to work for him for the past six months. Maybe he’s just reached his limit. I felt like I reached my limit with Senior within about five minutes of meeting him.” “Damn. That bad, huh?” “Ugh, you have no idea, Lex. The worst.” “So, you think maybe his dad has him doing shit he doesn’t want to do? Personally, I would fucking hate it if I had to work for my dad, and he’s not even an asshole. I’m sure I’d start thinking he’s an asshole if I had to work for him, though.” “I know what you mean. Who knows what Senior has Kelvin doing, though. I know that family and business don’t mix. I don’t know.” “Maybe you should try not to give the kid such a hard time then,” Lexy says, deciding to cut Kelvin some slack for being an ass this morning. “I mean, you know his dad is a rich piece of shit and that the two of them don’t get a long, so maybe he’s just finally starting to stress out. Maybe he’s been holding it in for a while, and now it’s finally starting to show.”

“I know. You’re probably right, but I just want him to talk to me so that I can help him get through whatever it is.” “Yeah, but you know men are hard as hell to figure out, Lil. Not to mention the fact that men are the most prideful sons of bitches in the world, and they don’t like having help with anything. When Mike hurt his back last year and needed help getting in and out of bed, I saw him grimacing one time, with tears in his eyes, so I asked him if he was in pain. He said ‘No, I’m not in pain, I just hate that you have to help me.’ Men are ridiculous.” I couldn’t help but smile. “Yeah, that’s crazy. I’d like to think that Kelvin isn’t like that, but he is a man, after all.” “Yep, and you have to keep that in mind when he starts to act like a gigantic sack of mouse shit. He’s a man, and sometimes men act like gigantic sacks of mouse shit. So, sometimes you have to just try to ignore the smell and be understanding.” “Stop calling him mouse shit,” I say between chuckles. “Fine. Hamster shit. Call him whatever you

want, he’s yours.” As Lexy takes another sip of her drink, and I try to keep myself from laughing out loud, our waiter makes his way back over to our table. “How’s everything going, ladies? Need anything?” “Yes, actually,” I reply. “Can I just get a refill of this Coke, please?” “Absolutely.” Our waiter grabs my cup and takes it away with him. When he returns, he places the newly filled soda on the table and smiles at me, but there’s something different about his smile this time. “Here you go.” He waits for a second like he wants me to say something to him, so I say the only thing that I think I should in this situation. “Thank you.” I flash a polite “thank you” smile and wait for him to leave. He hesitates, but then he finally turns around, except he doesn’t walk away. After about a three seconds with his back to the table, he turns back around and faces us again. “I’m sorry,” he says to me with a shy smile. “I don’t usually do this, but I just wanted to tell you that you’re absolutely stunning. I saw you smiling a few minutes ago, and I thought it was the most

gorgeous smile I’ve seen in a long time. Maybe even ever. So, just in case you haven’t heard it yet today, let me be the first to tell you that you’re beautiful.” I’m shocked by his candor, and I actually feel myself blushing a little bit. I look over at Lexy and see that she’s just as shocked as I am and her mouth is wide open. I wait a second for her to jump in and verbally bash this guy for hitting on me, but she just stares at me like she’s watching a bad car accident taking place, so I guess I’ll have to go it alone. “Umm,” I say quietly. “Wow. Thank you.” “You’re very welcome,” he responds. “Maybe you could give me your phone number and we could go out sometime. My name’s Blake by the way,” he points to his nametag. “Wow, I really appreciate the compliment, Blake, and you’re very sweet, but I actually have a boyfriend. Sorry,” I say, offering another polite smile. “Ah, that’s too bad. Alright then. Well, I hope your boyfriend recognizes how gorgeous his woman

is. I know I do.” With that, Blake walks away from the table. I look over at Lexy and her eyes are still as wide as ever. “Holy shit. That was actually really sweet.” “I know,” she replies, still looking shocked. “I almost gave him my number.” “I was waiting for you to jump in and save me.” “I couldn’t. I was actually too shocked at how smooth he was.” “Of course, on the one day that Kelvin gets on my nerves, I’m hit on by a cute, sweet waiter.” “I know, right. Maybe you should go home and tell Kelvin that you got hit on by a sweet guy. Maybe he’ll get his shit together then. Nothing straightens up a man like a little competition. They can’t stand feeling like their woman is interested in another man. Drives them crazy.” “I know, but I wouldn’t do that to Kelvin. He knows there’s really no competition.” “Well, then don’t let him think that. Even if there isn’t, you should always let him think there’s competition. It keeps them in line.” “Ugh. You’re impossible, Lex,” I say, shaking

my head. The waiter makes his way back over to the table and drops off the check without saying a word, but he flashes a smile at me before he leaves. When he comes back to pick up the check, I intentionally look away so that we don’t have eye contact. Lexy laughs at me, but I just feel like it’s the right thing to do. I don’t want to give the guy the wrong impression. It’s that kind of shit that led me to guys like Tim Bulger, and that’s a lesson I won’t soon forget. The waiter drops off the receipt, and when I sign it, I notice that he’s scribbled his phone number on the top of it. I let out a sigh and show it to Lexy. “Oh my gosh. You’ve got a real fan, don’t you?” Lexy teases. “Damn. We better go before he slips a transmitter into your purse and tracks you back to your house.” “Shit, I know. Let’s get out of here.” Lexy and I grab our purses and quickly make our way through the little dining area and out the door. Once we’re outside, I follow Lexy over to her truck. “You sure you don’t want a ride back?” Lexy

asks as she slips her key into her door. “No, I’m fine. We’re going two different directions.” “Who gives a shit? You know I don’t mind taking you.” “I know, but it’s fine. I kind of want to take my time getting there anyway. His meeting is over by now, and I’m not really sure what to say when I see him, so I’m gonna wait a few minutes before I call a cab. I just need to think.” “Alright, Lil. Look, if you need me for absolutely anything, you call me. Got it?” “Of course. Thanks, Lex. I’ll talk to you later.” I lean in and give my best friend a big hug, then I turn around and walk back towards the entrance of the restaurant where there’s a bench for the nights that there’s a waiting list to get a seat. Just as my butt hits the seat, I see Lexy waving to me as she drives away. I relax on the uncomfortable bench and close my eyes for a second. I take a deep breath and breathe in the smell of the night air mixed with the aroma of the food cooking inside. It’s six o’clock in

the evening and I know that Kelvin is out of his meeting now, and probably at the penthouse waiting for me to show up. I pull out my phone and see that he hasn’t called or texted yet. Something really is up with him, because he never goes this long without contacting me one way or another. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do to fix our problem. I know that there’s a possibility that he’s stressed and he might need his space until he has it all figured out. On the other hand, however, Ilia said there was a problem about the delivery, and Kelvin helped to solve the problem. But, Kelvin lied to me and told me that he had to go over things about the hotel with his uncle. Something’s off somewhere, and I know I won’t be able to relax until I figure out what it is. I don’t want to snoop and be nosy, but I want to help him, especially when the problem seems to affect him so much. However, until I get the chance to figure it out, I’ll do my best to be supportive of him. I have to have his back, even when he’s doing shit that’s getting on my nerves. I have to do it because we’re partners, and because I love him. So, I’ll do

whatever he needs me to do, even if it’s not what I actually want to do. With my decision finally made, I dial the number to the taxi, and wait for my ride to arrive.

I get home at a little after seven, and I’m surprised to find that Kelvin actually isn’t here. The house is still exactly the same way it was when I left it a few hours ago. I go through every room in the house looking for signs that Kelvin may have come home, but there aren’t any. My initial reaction is anger, but that quickly subsides and I suddenly feel a little bit of panic and a whole lot of worry. After searching everywhere, I pull my cell phone out of my purse and scroll through the contacts to Kelvin’s name. Usually, I’d send him a text, but this isn’t a normal situation so I press the button to call him. I wait for the phone to start ringing, but it never does. Yo, you’ve reached Kelvin. I’m busy at the

moment, but leave me a quick message and I’ll be sure to get back to you as soon as I can. Thanks. *beep* Even after the signal to leave my message, I unintentionally wait for about three seconds before I actually start talking. I feel my heart pounding in my chest as the words come tumbling out of my mouth. “Kelvin, baby, it’s me. I don’t know what’s going on right now, but I haven’t heard from you all day, and I just came up to the house and you’re not here. I’m really worried, so please call me back as soon as possible. I just need to know that you’re okay. Please call me. I love you. I’m so sorry about everything that happened this morning. I didn’t mean to pressure you, I just love you so much. Please call me, baby. I hope to hear from you soon. I love you.” As soon as I finish talking, I hear the phone beep before I even have time to press End, like I used up all of the time leaving the message. I throw my phone down on the couch, and plop down on the cushion next to it. “What the hell is

going on today?” I ask myself aloud. I glance down at my phone as if I might be missing Kelvin’s call if I don’t look at it every five seconds, even though my ringer is turned all the way up. Two agonizing hours later, my phone still hasn’t made a sound, and I’m still sitting on the couch in the living room. I’ve called Kelvin’s phone four times, left him two more messages, and sent him three text messages that never went through, and I still haven’t heard back from him. The makeup on my face is completely ruined and smeared from the crying I’ve been doing, and I feel like my emotions have been dumped inside of a blender and grinded all up. I can barely tell if I’m sad, terrified, or completely outraged anymore. I look down at my phone one more time and see that it’s now past nine o’clock at night. I haven’t heard from Kelvin since a little before noon. I remember how I felt when I woke up this morning and saw him coming out of the bathroom with that towel wrapped around his waist. I was so happy to see him, because when I went to bed last night, he wasn’t even home yet, and I was worried as hell

about what was going on with that mysterious uncle of his. I was overjoyed just by the sight of him. Now, here I am almost ten hours later and all the joy is gone, and it’s been replaced by sorrow and regret. All of a sudden I regret everything that I did this morning. Everything that I said to him, I wish I could take it back. He was stressed out and obviously annoyed, and I just wouldn’t let it go. I just couldn’t let him deal with his emotions all on his own, and it pissed him off and drove him away. For all I knew at the time, all he wanted to do was think about whatever was bothering him for a while so that he could work it out in his head first, and then he’d talk to me about it later, once he was ready. I was too pushy, and I’m so sorry. I feel another tear come strolling down my face as I lean over on the couch and bury my face in the pillow. I feel the material dampening from my tears as I begin to sob like somebody important just passed away. I hear a little voice in the back of my head telling me that I’m going overboard by crying like this, but I just can’t shake the way I feel. I can’t escape the questions that keep swirling

around in my head about Kelvin’s safety. Is he being held somewhere against his will? Is this the work of his asshole father? Are the Russians hurting him? What if the deal between the Carters and the Baskovs fell through and they’re at war again? There’s just so many questions and so many different dangers for him out there, and I just couldn’t live with myself if something happened to him, but it’d be so much worse if something happened to him after we had an argument that I caused. What if something happened to him while I was sitting at that restaurant being mad at him? I just couldn’t take it, and that’s why the pillow is now soaked with my tears. Another half an hour goes by, and my eyes are all dried out from crying. I’ve had all that I can take, and I have no idea when Kelvin is coming back, or if he ever will. So, I force myself to get up from the couch and start turning off the lights in the living room. I flip the switch for the kitchen and begin to meander down the hallway towards the bedroom. Just as I pass the elevator doors, I hear the familiar ding, and my heart catapults itself into

high gear. I spin around and wait for the doors to open, and it feels like they take a full ten minutes to finally slide apart, but when they do, I’m hit with a fresh batch of mixed emotions. Kelvin slowly steps out of the elevator with his head down and a sad, disconnected look on his face. He’s still wearing the same clothes he had on this morning, but he smells exactly like what you’d expect the inside of a bar to smell like. When he comes in, he looks up at me for a second, but he doesn’t keep eye contact with me for too long, and begins walking towards the bedroom. His arm grazes mine as he walks past me, but he doesn’t say anything, and suddenly, I know exactly which emotion it is that I’m feeling. “Are you fucking kidding me?” I snap. It hits me that I just screamed at the top of my lungs, but I quickly realize that I don’t care. “You’re really just gonna walk right past me without saying anything? I’ve been calling you all fucking night. Why didn’t you answer your phone?” Kelvin walks to the front of the bed and slowly sits down on the edge. He closes his eyes for a

second, steadying himself, then he looks up at me. “My phone was off. I’m sorry.” “You’re sorry? You’re fucking sorry? I haven’t seen you since before noon, and not only do you not call or text me, but you turn your phone off so that I can’t call or text you. What the hell is the matter with you today? Where the fuck were you?” “Downstairs. In the casino with Phillip and Trey.” Suddenly, I feel an overwhelming heat in my body. I feel like I have a tiny volcano in my stomach that’s erupting within me, and it’s about to spew its molten hot liquid all over everything in its path. I’m absolutely livid. “Are you fucking serious? You’ve been in the building the whole time, and you didn’t bother to let me know that? I was up here in our house, crying my eyes out, worrying myself to death about you, and you were downstairs with your fucking friends gambling and drinking in the casino that you’re trying to get from your dad! Goddamn it, Kelvin! You can’t do that shit to me. What the fuck?”

Somehow, Kelvin is managing to act like I’m the one being ridiculous. He looks up at me like he’s fed up with the fact that I’m upset. “What do you want me to say? I had a bad night last night, and it kind of ruined my day today. I just needed a break from everything, okay? I told you earlier that this shit isn’t about you. I’ve got shit on my mind. Shit that you can’t understand. Shit that you shouldn’t have to understand.” My anger eases a little, but I make sure to not let go of too much of it out of pity for him. “Well, what the hell am I supposed to do, Kelvin? How am I supposed to understand anything when you won’t even give me a chance to understand? You won’t let me, so of course I don’t. You’ve given me no choice in the matter.” Kelvin puts his head down and I can tell that he knows that I’m right. He has to know that he’s being a jackass, but just in case he hasn’t grasped it fully yet, I continue my barrage. “Either way, regardless of how you’re feeling or how much shit you’re supposedly dealing with, you can’t take it out on me like this. You can’t storm

out of the house and not call or text me all day, and then turn off your phone like you don’t know that I’ll be worried. You know how much I love you, and you know I couldn’t handle it if something happened to you. You just can’t do that. Do you not understand that?” “I know,” he responds quickly, looking down at the floor in shame. “I’m sorry. You’re right. I can’t take it out on you. That’s not fair to you, and I know that you only want to be there for me. I know, and I’m sorry.” I let out a sigh and slowly step over to the bed. I sit on the edge next to Kelvin, but I make sure not to touch him. He hasn’t earned that yet. “Look, it doesn’t do you any good to try to act like nothing happened when you left with your uncle. Obviously, something happened that’s bothering you. I’m not even surprised, because I know how things work with your family. So, I’m here for you, babe. I really am. I’m doing the best I can, but I really think this would be a lot easier if you’d just meet me half way. Please, Kelvin. Please just tell me what’s bothering you. I’m begging you,

baby. I’m begging because I don’t want to see us go through any more of the kind of shit we went through today. I don’t want to see us struggling. I love you too much for that. So, I’m begging you, Kelvin. Please tell me what’s wrong.” He looks down at the floor for far too long, his eyes blinking unbelievably slow. Then, after the longest pause you could imagine, he lifts his head and turns to me. I look in his eyes and see nothing but pain in them. Something has happened to him since the moment he left me standing in the lobby downstairs, watching him stroll out the door and climb into his uncle’s car. Something in him seems so different. So hurt. Then, I hear him take a breath and I feel myself holding mine, waiting for his response. “I love you, Lilliana,” he says so quietly that it’s almost a whisper. “But, I can’t tell you anything.” I feel that heat beginning to rise up inside of me again, but this time, I don’t let it out. Instead, I clinch my lips together, take a deep breath, and silently get up and walk out of the room. I don’t hear him say anything as I reach the threshold, so I

don’t slow my pace at all. I just walk out and leave him in the room alone. I stride into the living room—not even bothering to turn on any lights—and sit back down on the couch that I’d spent the entire evening crying on. I grab the same pillow I was using before, and use it to cover my face as I lay on my back and begin to sob uncontrollably. I feel my eyes stinging as the tears try to escape but are trapped by the soft pillow. Why is this happening? What the hell did we do to deserve this? How does it all seem to be falling apart after everything we’ve been through—all the obstacles we’ve overcome? Why? The questions consume me until I can no longer cry, and I just lay there. I turn and lay on my side, but I leave the pillow covering my face, just in case Kelvin walks in. I don’t even want to look at him right now. I just lay there, hoping that it’ll all just melt away, and that maybe when I get up everything will be back to normal. Maybe it’ll just be a bad dream, and the Kelvin that I’ve grown to know and fell madly in love with will have re-

emerged just as sexy and perfect as he always was. Maybe it’ll all be over. Like it never happened.

The room is still completely dark when I wake up. It takes me a second to realize that I must’ve fallen asleep on the couch, and that I’m still in the living room. I pull the pillow off my face and struggle to sit up, but once I’m up, I glance down the hall and see that the light in the bedroom is still on. Maybe Kelvin’s still awake. I lift myself off the couch and begin to walk towards the room, glancing at the clock on the oven as I pass the kitchen—it’s just after midnight. When I walk up to the threshold, I see Kelvin laying down on his side of the bed, still fully clothed, and obviously asleep. Usually, I would want to get in the bed and pull myself right up next to him. I’d want to get as close to him as I possibly could. I’d want to kiss him and tell him that I love

him, even if he wasn’t awake to hear me. Usually, I’d be happy. But, the things that we’ve been through today haven’t been normal. So, as I pull off my clothes and climb into the bed, I once again fantasize about what tomorrow will be like. How will Kelvin act once the alcohol has left his system and he’s had a full day to think about everything? Will he be back to the normal Kelvin, or will he still be this alternate, shitty version of Kelvin? As I reach up to turn off the lamp on my nightstand, I hold on to the hope that tomorrow will be better. The second the light on the lamp switches off, I hear Kelvin’s phone ringing and vibrating on his nightstand. It’s loud as hell, playing some song I’ve never heard before. I try to get up quickly to look at the name on the display, but before I can see anything, Kelvin pops up and grabs the phone. He holds it close to his body, staring at the name that I wasn’t able to see, then he exhales and I know it can’t be anything good. “Who the hell is that?” I ask, but instead of answering me, Kelvin answers the call. “What’s going on?” he says as he puts the phone

to his ear. I hear the sound of a deep voice coming from the other end, and I’m shocked that I actually feel a sense of relief that it’s not a woman. I try to watch Kelvin as much as I can in the dark, but I can’t really make out his facial expressions as he listens to the voice of his caller. I hear him exhale once again, and bring his hand up to rub his temples. “This is happening right now?” he asks. I can tell he’s trying to hide his anger. “Okay. I got it. I’ll be there.” He hangs up, and gets out of the bed in a hurry. I watch in bewilderment as he walks over to the closet and reaches down to pick up a pair of shoes. “Umm, who the hell was that?” I inquire with an obvious attitude. “Uncle Clarence,” he answers as he sits on the front edge of the bed to put on his shoes. “Okay, and what could Clarence possibly want at this hour?” It’s past mid-night already.” “I have to go.” “What? What the hell is going on that you have to leave in the middle of the night?”

Kelvin doesn’t answer me and I feel all of my frustration starting to find its way back to me. “Kelvin!” I snap as I sit up. “What the hell is going on? This is crazy. You can’t leave in the middle of the night? You’re actually gonna just leave me here alone?” Kelvin stands up and turns to look at me. “If I’m gonna have any chance of pulling this off, I need you to trust me.” “What are you talking about? Pull what off?” “I’m sorry for all of this, baby. I really, truly am. But, I need you to trust that I know what I’m doing. I promise you, I got you, but you’re gonna have to trust me.” Then, Kelvin turns on his heel and walks out the room. “What the fuck? What are you talking about, Kelvin?” I yell as I hear him press the button on the elevator, and the loud ding of its arrival. “Kelvin! Pull what off? At least tell me where you’re going. Kelvin, please! Kelvin! Kel…” I bellow, but I’m cut off by the sound of the elevator door closing.

Fuck! I can’t stand having to keep secrets from Lilliana like this. Every time she asks me a question, I feel like there’s a tiny man in my chest, kicking the shit out of my heart while wearing steel toed boots. I hate it much more than I can show her right now, but I know I have to stay focused. I know this is what needs to be done, and I know that this is for the best—for us, I just hope that once it’s all over that she’ll be able to understand that I had to be a dick in order to pull it off. It’ll be worth it. I know it’ll all be worth it in the end. It has to be, or I’ll lose everything.

As I drive down the dark highway, I can’t shake the feeling that something bad is about to happen. I don’t really have a reason to think anything like this, but the feeling is there. It sits inside of me like a cancer, eating away at me from within. It’s right there in my stomach as I drive, realizing that there are no other cars on the road because it’s twelvethirty at night. I feel like I’m driving into an oncoming storm as I take the exit, yet the sky is clear and the stars are bright above me. I take the small, poorly lit road, and it looks like I’ll be hitting a dead end any second now, because there are virtually no lights on the road and I have to use my high beams just to be able to see where I’m going. On both sides of the road, there’s nothing. It’s like I’ve left Chicago and am now driving somewhere in New Mexico, surrounded by dry desert and tumbleweeds. It’s almost intimidating, and it’s definitely unnerving. I shake the anxiety off, however, as I continue to drive and see small, white lights out in front of me. At least now I have assurance that I’m not driving off the face of the earth.

I follow the road until I reach the lights, which are illuminating a few small buildings that look like warehouses of some sort. Even with the lights, the entire place is still pretty dark. I follow the road until I reach the warehouses and see cars parked in front of one. I park with the rest of the vehicles, quickly recognizing my father’s Bentley, Uncle Clarence’s Mercedes, and Ilia Baskov’s Mercedes. There’s a few cars that I don’t recognize, but that’s not my concern. My concern is that there are so many high ranking members of this now combined family. Having my father, Uncle Clarence, and Ilia all in the same place is rare these days, because cops automatically become suspicious of them all being together, which makes perfect sense seeing as how they’re the bosses of their respective crime families. So, with that being the case, I find it a bit odd that they’re all here together now. It’s also a little unsettling not knowing exactly where here is. I step out my car and close the door behind me. I do a brief inspection of the area, looking around, three-hundred-sixty degrees. It’s not a place that I’ve ever been to—in fact, I’m sure it’s not even a

place that I’ve even driven past by accident. So, I start towards the warehouse in the hopes that I’ll run into someone I recognize. As I reach what I believe is the entrance, I reach out to turn the knob, but the door pops open before I touch it. Inside, Uncle Clarence stares back at me with a twisted grin on his face, his black and white t-shirt being stretched to the limit by his massive upper body. “You made it,” he says calmly. “Good. Let’s go, but leave your phone in the car. No calls while we’re out here. Security.” I frown at him, baffled, then I turn around and jog back to my car to drop off my phone. I’m not sure what the hell that’s about, but I just roll with it and make my way back to the door. Uncle Clarence nods for me to enter, and closes the door behind me as I walk past him. I pause when I hear the door close and wait for him to lead the way. He leads me towards the back of the warehouse, but doesn’t turn on any lights. The rooms we hurriedly walk through are dusty and don’t contain much furniture. There’s a desk here and there, and

maybe a filing cabinet or two, but nothing that really gives away our location. So, I stop trying to figure it out, and just walk behind my uncle as we reach another door. Uncle Clarence turns the door knob and pushes it open, and I once again feel the night air hit me as we step outside where the rest of the group is waiting for us. There are still no lights, so it’s a little difficult to make out everyone’s faces, but I immediately see my father, his driver and bodyguard, James, Ilia, the Russian underboss, Yosef, and Uncle Clarence’s driver, Simon. “Ah,” my father begins with a smile. “Nice of you to join us, Junior. I’m glad you made it.” “Thanks, I guess,” I respond, still wondering what the hell is about to happen. “What are we doing here… and where is here, exactly?” Ilia and Yosef giggle to themselves, and I feel a rush of heat flush through me. I know that my father and the Russians have worked things out recently, and they have this little drug business going on, but I can’t help the fact that I still harbor some hard feelings towards the Baskov family.

When I look over at Ilia, I remember the moment I saw him driving up the road in front of the Alinea restaurant. I remember how I felt when I thought that they were coming to kill my Uncle Mikey, but instead, gunned down their own brother in front of everybody in the restaurant. I remember Viktor chasing Lilliana and me into the alley after we left the club, and I remember the bullet going through my arm when they shot up my Camaro with Lilliana and me inside trying to shield ourselves from the hail of bullets. That kind of shit doesn’t just go away just because my father is a heartless asshole who only cares about money. To me, it all feels like it just happened yesterday. It feels like Ivan is still in charge of the Baskov family, and like I should still be afraid for my life. It feels like I should be beating the shit out of both of them right now. However, I push those feelings aside and try to ignore them as my father speaks up. “Here is where deliveries are made,” he says, looking down at his watch. “Deliveries?” I reply. “What deliveries?” Right on cue, Uncle Clarence walks back inside,

the door closing behind him. I look at my father, waiting for him to answer me, but he doesn’t respond. My patience quickly starts to evaporate, but just before I ask what deliveries again, I hear a loud snapping sound behind me. I jerk my head around and see two sets of white lights running down both sides of a very long, narrow road. Uncle Clarence comes back outside, and realize that he was the one who turned the lights on, then I finally start to comprehend where we are. I turn around and look at the lights again, and it hits me. Deliveries. It’s an airstrip. I look over at my father and see him looking down at his watch again, and I suddenly feel sick. “You’re expecting a delivery tonight,” I say matter-of-factly. “You wanted me here for a heroin delivery.” “That’s right,” my father says. “I just figured that since you’re finally getting on board with how we do things, this is a pretty important part of we do. You’re not just a regular member of The Family. You’re my son. You’re my son who’s trying to earn my hotel. So, this is something that you should be a

part of. No more looking in from the outside, right? You’re in the family now.” I breathe out a sigh of disgust and force myself to shake off how shitty this feels. I don’t want to be here with these fucking people, and I certainly don’t want any part of any drug deliveries, but if I turn around and walk out now, I’ll never get the Red Chip. My father is presenting me with take it or leave it ultimatums. Either I accept the shittiest part of the Carter family, or I don’t, and I get nothing. I can’t have it be that way. So, I think about what it is that I’m doing, and who it is that I’m doing it for. I think about Lilliana sitting at home in our house, waiting for me—worried about me. I can’t let that be for nothing. It has to work out in the end. So, I push aside the bad feeling that I still have in the pit of my stomach, and I keep going. “That’s right, Dad. I’m in the family now, so let’s do what we’ve gotta do.” I struggle to force myself to smile, but I manage to pull it off. My dad smiles back at me and nods his head in approval, then looks back down at his watch.

“Should be any minute now,” Senior says. “Everything took off on time, right Ilia?” “Everything was on time. He’ll be here. He said one in the morning,” Ilia answers with his heavy Russian accent. “Okay,” my father replies. “You see, Junior, this is how we get our supply. Our connection with Ilia and his family give us ties to Russia, where they manufacture the dope themselves. Ilia has his advisor, Nestor, fly back to Saint Petersburg and pick up the amount specified. This way, we can avoid having a middle man. The Baskov family manufactures the dope, we sell it, and we all make five times as much money as we would if we had to pay a supplier to transport it back to the states. There’s no middle man. It’s a win-win for everybody. Plus, this way we can bypass customs. We don’t have to worry about our cargo coming off some commercial flight at O’Hare, where the police are there inspecting every-fucking-thing. This is untraceable.” I nod my head as I listen, but I can barely hear my father speaking, because I’m too busy thinking

about how I want to leave. That bad feeling is stronger than ever right now, and it’s taking everything in me to hold it together. “That’s why there’s no lights leading out to this place,” I state aloud, but to myself. “That’s right. No lights means no attention. We don’t even turn the runway lights on until the plane is five to ten minutes out. We do shit to perfection so that we don’t have to worry about any unwanted company.” “You mean cops?” “That’s right,” Uncle Clarence chimes in. “Those fucking idiots have their heads so far up their asses, though. They have no clue how all of this happens, or when it happens. The last thing we’ll ever have to worry about is the cops. We’re light years ahead of them.” “We’ve got eyes and ears in Chicago PD anyway, so we’d know if there was anything serious taking shape. We’re very much in the clear,” Ilia declares, looking directly at me. “I can see that you’re a little apprehensive, Junior. I assure you, we’re very good at what we do, and we’re

good to go. No heat’s on us.” “Well, that’s great, but





apprehensive. This is some dangerous shit, and I’m not quite used to it, so you’ll have to forgive me. I’ll be fine. I’m still all in.” “That’s very good to know,” Yosef says quietly. I look over at him, but only for a second, because my desire to punch him in the fucking face is overwhelming. Suddenly, I hear the faint sound of a plane in the distance. I look up to the sky to try to spot it, but the sky is dark. “You can look, but you won’t see it until the moment it’s about to land. It flies with no exterior lights,” Ilia says. “I told you, we’re very good at what we do.” About thirty seconds later, the engine of the plane is even louder, and I can now see it as it approaches the runway. It starts off as a tiny white dot in the distance, but it quickly grows and takes shape, and I can see it’s a fairly decent sized plane —a private jet—and it approaches quickly, and lands almost just as fast.

As the jet slowly makes its way down the taxiway, all of us jump down from the warehouse loading dock and wait for it to reach us. I feel like all of my nerves are vibrating all at once. As the plane full of heroin inches its way closer, I feel myself becoming more and more nervous. In my mind, the plane is full of large, conspicuous boxes with the word heroin spray painted across the sides in bright red letters. They all seem so confident that it makes me feel like something bad is bound to happen. Confidence has a tendency to lead to carelessness and mistakes, and mistakes lead to every single one of us getting arrested for drug trafficking—among other things. So, I just hope that they’re all as good as they say they are. The plane comes to a stop, and the engines turn off as we all walk towards it. Just as we reach it, the small door opens and the stairs unfold down to the ground. I look up into the plane and see Ilia’s advisor, Nestor, standing in the entrance with a bright smile on his face, and his arms stretched out to his sides, greeting us. “Dobroye utro, moi druz'ya (Good morning, my

friends),” Nestor says excitedly. He has way too much energy seeing as how he just made a ridiculously long trip from somewhere in Russia. “Dobroye utro, Nestor,” Ilia responds as his friend makes his way down the stairs. The two of them embrace like they haven’t seen each other in years, patting one another on the back and grinning from ear to ear. When Ilia is done with his greeting, Yosef steps in and hugs Nestor with the same enthusiasm. Once all the love is exchanged between the Russians, the three of them turn to us, and I see their smiles fade away in a hurry. “Good morning, Senior,” Nestor says, rolling all of the R’s in all of the words. “Glad you could join us. I see you brought the prince tonight.” “Good to see you, Nestor,” my father says, showcasing his best counterfeit smile as he walks towards the three of them with his hand extended. “It was time to bring my son up to speed on everything. He’s a loyal member of The Family now. I’m very proud.” “As you should be,” Nestor responds. Then, he turns his attention to me. “Glad to see you joining

in on the business, Kelvin Junior. I’m glad the feud is over and we can be partners now.” I cringe at the mention of “the feud.” What they call a feud, I call the constant fear of having my life stolen from me for no fucking reason that makes sense. A feud is two sided. What we had wasn’t a feud. It was just them and their family coming after me and my girlfriend, while my coward father sat back and tried to figure out how he could profit from it. It was bullshit. Bullshit that I have to put aside now. I take another deep breath and walk towards the group of them, extending my hand the same way my father did. “I’m glad the feud is over also. I’m excited to be a part of the business with my father and all of you. The past is the past.” I know it’s a gigantic hunk of bullshit, but the words flow out of my mouth very easily. I’m almost surprised at how good I am at this little game. “Great,” my dad jumps in. “What do you say we get started? Let’s make this quick so we can all go home and get some rest. “Let’s do it,” I utter, just for effect.

Nestor leads the entire group of us to the back of the plane where the luggage would normally go, but I figure there won’t be any suitcases back here. I’m totally expecting to see the boxes labeled heroin. He reaches up and pops open the door, which slides down, revealing about ten large suitcases, to my surprise. Nestor grabs one and pulls it out carefully, making sure it doesn’t slam on the hard pavement. Even though he laid the case down gently, I can still tell that it’s extremely heavy. Nestor unzips the case, and I’m shocked to see that it looks like it’s full of clothes. The first thing I see is a bunch of red lace lingerie. Next to that is a few pairs of sexy panties and thongs, all in different colors. Nestor moves all of that aside to reveal a variation of bras. “What the hell is all this?” I question with a chuckle. Nestor looks up at me like I just asked a dumb question. “Cops don’t like going through a woman’s clothes.” Then, he pulls all of the clothes out of the suitcase and drops them on the ground next to him, revealing what’s left inside the case—

really big bricks of heroin. “There it is,” my father says, with overwhelming excitement. “It’s fucking beautiful.” “How much is in one case, Nestor?” Uncle Clarence asks, motioning towards the suitcase. “There are twelve cases in all, twenty kilos in each case. Two-hundred-forty keys in all.” “Holy fucking shit,” Simon says. “Ya’ll don’t fuck around.” Ilia looks over at him with a furrow in his brow. “No, we definitely do not.” “Do you know how much all of that is worth, Junior?” Uncle Clarence says to me. “Nah, I don’t have a clue,” I admit with a shrug. “Well, if you’re gonna be down with all of this, this is something you need to be able to figure out. So, just remember, one kilo is just about two-pointtwo pounds of dope. We usually make about threehundred grand on one kilo. So, if you do the math, by the time all of this is pushed, we’re looking at about seventy-two million dollars, roughly. This is our big time score, Junior. This is why we wanted you helping to sell this shit, because this right here

is gonna change everything. Our Russian partners are gonna help us push half, and we’re gonna push the other half. Our cut is just over thirty million. This can be retirement money right here. For all of us.” “You want the Red Chip?” my father interrupts. I take a second to get over the fact that he just put me on the spot, then I say, “Of course I do.” “This is the only way you get it, Junior. Help us to put our gangster days behind us by helping us go out with a bang. We sell this, and all of us can retire with a fat bankroll. This is your key into the Red Chip, but it’s also your guarantee to never having to worry about finances. You want to take care of that sexy little Latina you’ve got back at home? This is how you do it.” “I told you I don’t want to sell anything. And, how do I know that if I sell this shit, that you won’t want to fatten your pockets even more by doing this shit all over again? There’s no guarantees here, Dad.” My father takes a couple of steps and stops directly in front of me. I can see it in his face that

he’s pissed about my arguing with him in front of his business partners. He was obviously hoping that cornering me and putting me on the spot would be enough to make me agree to sell his dope for him. “Here’s one thing that I know is a guarantee for sure,” he says with a snarl. “I guarantee that if you aren’t down with this, you’ll never own the Red Chip. I guarantee that you’ll have to take your ass back up to the burbs to live with your mom. You and little Lily can go use yours and your brother’s old bunk beds for the rest of your miserable little, poor lives. This is going to happen with or without you, but it only benefits you if you help. If you don’t help, then you won’t get any benefits from me at all. Now, how’s that for a fucking guarantee?” I feel the heat building up inside of me. My face twists itself into a snarl, and I clench my fists. The urge to explode is becoming too much to hold in, and the harshest words that I can think of have made their way to the edge of my tongue, ready to lash out at any moment now. He’s trying to force my hand, and I won’t fucking let this slide. Fuck

this bullshit! Suddenly, just as I reach the point of no return, I hear the sound of a cellphone ringing. Everything comes to a standstill as we all look around in confusion. It’s not a normal ringtone, but an actual ringing like an old rotary phone. “What the fuck? Whose fucking phone is that?” my father snaps. Everyone looks around like they all have no clue where the sound is coming from, while also saying that their phone isn’t with them. “You all know how this works. No fucking phones when we’re doing this shit. Where the fuck is that coming from?” My dad starts walking from person to person, listening to see whose phone it is. I’m still not sure why the no-phone rule is so important, but it’s apparently something that they take pretty seriously. Dad makes his way over to the Russians, then quickly turns back to us and starts staring at Uncle Clarence, James, and Simon, who are all standing right next to each other. “Hey, it’s not me, Senior,” James says quickly.

“My phone’s still in the car. I know how you are about that shit.” “And don’t look at me like that. You know I don’t have my phone, and even if I did, I would’ve answered it by now,” Uncle Clarence declares. That only leaves one other person. “Is that your phone, Simon?” Uncle Clarence says to his driver, who looks really nervous all of a sudden. Simon’s anxiety gets to him, and he takes a little too long to answer, forcing my father to lose his patience. “Is that your fucking phone?” Senior barks. “Yes. Geez, what the fuck is the big deal? It was an accident,” Simons snips, just as the phone finally stops ringing. “Why didn’t you answer it, Simon?” my father continues. I can see it in his eyes—shit is about to get ugly. “Why would I answer it when you were already flipping out about it ringing in the first place? It’s not a big deal if I miss the call.” “It’s one o’clock in the morning,” Uncle

Clarence interjects. “Who would be calling you at this hour?” “I didn’t look at the caller ID, so I don’t know who it was.” “Don’t play fucking stupid, Simon,” my dad jumps back in. “You let it ring all that time while I walked around looking to see who it was. Why didn’t you just speak up? And, why didn’t you answer it?” “What the fuck do you want from me, Senior? You made me nervous, so I didn’t say anything. I’m sorry.” “Let me see the phone, Simon,” Uncle Clarence demands, holding out his hand. “What? No. Why?” Simon says, defensively. “Who the fuck was calling you while this is going on?” “Fuck, I said I don’t know.” Suddenly, Uncle Clarence pulls out his nine millimeter, and aims it right between Simon’s eyes. “Jesus Christ!” Simon bellows. “What the fuck, Clarence? You’re gonna pull this shit on me, after all the shit I’ve been a part of with you?”

“Are you a fucking snitch, Simon?” Uncle Clarence asks with his finger resting on the trigger. “Are you recording this on your phone? Taking pictures to show the cops? What the fuck, Simon?” “What? Of course not. Don’t you think that if I was gonna snitch on you, I would’ve done it already. Why wait until this moment to pull this shit?” Simon does a decent job hiding his fear with his anger. “Are you a fucking cop?” Uncle Clarence continues. “Oh my god! Are you fucking kidding? Come on, Clarence. You know I’m not a goddamn cop.” “Then let me see your motherfucking phone, or I swear to God, I’ll kill you right here on this airstrip. I can always hire a new driver.” Uncle Clarence chambers a round and re-aims the gun at Simon’s face. The tension is thicker than mud and I feel myself sweating from my own nerves. “You’re un-fucking-believable, you know that?” Simon barks. “My phone is in my right pocket. I bet you it’s just this bitch I’ve been talking to. Her name is Sharon, and she’s waiting for me to go over

after I leave here. She’s just a booty-call for Christ’s sake. Fuck it. Go ahead and look at the fucking display. I bet you it’s from Sharon.” Uncle Clarence reaches down into Simon’s pocket and pulls out his phone. As soon as he turns it on and looks at the display, he lowers his gun and tucks it back in his waistband. “What does it say?” my father asks impatiently. “Missed call from Sharon,” Uncle Clarence replies. “Fuck that!” my father snaps. “Check his photos and his videos. Make sure nothing’s been recorded.” Uncle Clarence has Simon unlock the phone, and then he searches through the photo and video galleries with his thumb. “It’s clean, Senior,” Uncle Clarence announces. My father doesn’t even respond, and I’m not sure if he’s happy or disappointed that Simon won’t be murdered right here on the runway. “My bad, Simon,” Uncle Clarence says. “You know we can never be too cautious, though. We can’t fuck around with shit like this. It’s the only

way we can make sure we don’t end up behind bars.” Simon exhales loudly, blowing the underlying tension away with his breath. “Fuck, man. That shit wasn’t cool. You know me, Clarence. I’d never do anything to jeopardize what you and your family have going on. You’ve gotta trust me, bro. I can’t have you pulling a gun on me every time you get a little suspicious. I think I’ll just leave my phone at home next time, though. Geez.” Everybody laughs except me. To me, there wasn’t anything funny about the shit that just happened. All it took was a phone to ring for every one of these assholes to become terrified and ready to kill each other. The more I’m around this shit, the less I want to be a part of this family, yet I still have to front like I’m cool with all of this. It’ll all be worth it in the end. “Alright, moi druz’ya (my friends), now that the dramatics are over, what do you say we get down to business?” Nestor interrupts as he begins to pull the rest of the suitcases off of the plane. James and Simon help him, being extra careful

not to drop them. Each case is unzipped, and the clothes are pushed aside to show everyone that the amount is exactly what they all asked for. After inventory of the dope is taken, all of us carry the suitcases inside the warehouse and stash them in one of the rooms, underneath a few desks. “We’ll have our guys take care of this first thing in the morning,” Ilia says to the entire group. “We’ll be in touch with you all to set up deliveries to the casinos and other Carter establishments here in the next few days. Khorosho (Okay)?” “Sounds good, Ilia. Looking forward to it,” my father answers just as we all walk out, closing and locking the doors behind us. We all walk to our respective cars, and my adrenaline is still pumping from all the drama. This was a lot of shit to take on all in one night, and now I have to go home and deal with a litany of questions from Lilliana, that I know I can’t answer. This is going to be a struggle, and I’m not sure if I can handle it all on my own. “Junior,” my father says, interrupting my train of thought. “I need you to really think about what I

said tonight. You do this for us, and the Red Chip is as good as yours. I give you my word.” With that, my father pats me on the shoulder and walks over to his Bentley, where James is waiting for him, holding his door open, and grinning at me.

“I have news.” “Oh yeah? What kind of news?” “Really good news, actually.” “Alright, that’s what I like to hear, Captain. Hit me.” “Alright. You sure you’re ready for this?” “Of course. Stop playing with me and drop it on me.” “Okay. So, the investigation into the south side projects ended with some rather interesting results.” “Ended? So, it’s over?” “Yes. But, as it turns out, you were right.”

“What? How do you know? What happened? “I sent units out to ask questions and do some snooping around for a couple of days. I have to admit that I didn’t expect much to turn up. However, just as I was about to pull our guys back, we got a tip from a distraught mother over in what they call the Blue Projects. There’s a lot of gang activity in the area. Mostly Crip gangs, hence the name. Anyway, the area doesn’t get a lot of response whenever they put in calls to the units who work that jurisdiction. So, I had the guys monitor the calls going to that station and caught wind of a mother saying that her son had been murdered. He was beaten to a bloody pulp and then shot in the back of the head. She said his name was Derrick. Derrick Malone.” “Holy fucking shit. Good news indeed.” “It gets better. Turns out Derrick Malone was a known heroin addict, who just so happened to tell his friends and his mother that he was starting a new job working for the Carters, making deliveries. His mother didn’t know what it was that he was delivering, but we interviewed a few of his friends

and they told us it was heroin. He’d just made a delivery for them a few days ago.” “Oh damn.” “Oh, it still gets better. I’m just getting warmed up. Okay, so we went to the Blue Projects and picked up the body. It was fucking gruesome, Russell. They really beat the shit out of this kid. The splatter guys said it looked like they used the refrigerator door to smash the guy’s head in before they finally shot him in the back of his head. Fucking brutal bastards. It looked like they were definitely trying to send a message to somebody.” “A message to who?” “Not sure, but that part’s irrelevant, because forensics says the body had been there for at least three days. That just so happens to corroborate Derrick’s mother’s and friend’s stories about when he pulled the delivery for the Carters. Looks like they killed him the same day he delivered for them. Maybe something went wrong with the delivery. Either way, seems like a pretty solid lead. Really solid.” “Fuck. I knew it. I fucking knew it. I told you,

didn’t it?” “Yes you did. So, I guess I owe you an apology for not believing in you. That’s my bad. Now, I have more good news.” “Damn. Okay, let’s hear it.” “Alright. So, I went and talked to the brass about this little situation.” “Oh shit.” “Yeah, exactly. I told them about the body on the south side and the connection it has with the Carters, and I told them that you’re undercover, and have been for six months.” “Fuck. How did that go? Do you still have a job? Do I still have a job?” “Well, they were pissed, but we both still have our jobs, plus a little added bonus.” “Huh?” “They’ve granted us permission to assemble a task force to bring down the Carter crime family. They’re all in. So, we’re a go for whatever you want to do to bring this thing home.” “Holy shit! Yes! I knew they would go for it. That’s fucking great, Captain.”

“Yeah it is. So, I need you gather and type up every single bit of information that you have on the family and whatever you’ve discovered that they’re into. We need names for everybody involved. We need locations, any transactions you can clue into. We need everything, Russ. The brass signed off, so now it’s official. This is the real deal. We have to bring the world crashing down around these motherfuckers. The brass won’t have it any other way. They want them all.” “Fucking right! And, we’re gonna delivery them all.” “That’s what I want to hear. So, I need you to figure out how you can come in so you can fill out some paperwork, and so we can go over who we’re picking for this task force.” “How many people can I pick?” “They’re letting us pick five more. So, it’s gonna be seven when you include you and me.” “You?” “Yes, me. I’m in this thing. We both put our asses on the line to make this happen. I’m not about to sit on the sidelines now.”

“Okay. Well, I’ll figure out something soon, and I’ll have to get back to you on when I can make it in there. That’s dangerous.” “Alright, well, make it quick. Derrick Malone’s body is a good start, but you know it’s not enough, and way too circumstantial to make an arrest. I’ve got forensics sweeping the place for fingerprints, but it still might not be enough.” “Yeah, I know. But, I’m not worried, because there’s something I haven’t told you.” “What? Why you holding out on me?” “You were so enthusiastic giving me your good news, man. I got caught up, and I didn’t want to interrupt you.” “Okay, well, is it good news or bad news?” “It’s great news.” “Well, spill it then. Let’s just start up a huge fucking stack of good news.” “Alright. So, I know how the Carters are bringing in their drugs.” “What? How?” “It’s the Russians. Remember all the shit our corrupt friend, Viktor Gavlik, told us about the

Baskovs and the Carters linking up?” “Sure.” “Well, this is why that connection was made. The Russians are manufacturing the drugs in Saint Petersburg, and having them delivered here via private jet on a private airstrip, owned by Ilia Baskov. They just brought in over two-hundred kilos last night, to be distributed and sold between the two families. This is a joint operation just like Viktor said it would be. So bringing down one crime family just became bringing down two crime families all at once. This is the proverbial big fish, boss.” “Holy shit! When did you find out all this information?” “Just last night.” “And how did you come across this information?” “Because that’s where I was when you called me and I didn’t answer the phone last night. You really almost got me killed, you know.” “Oh, shit. I’m sorry. I didn’t know you were with them.”

“Well, of course not. That’s why you can’t be calling me, even if it’s late. I wasn’t expecting to have to drive Clarence to that airstrip. He just called me last minute, so I had to roll with it. So, from now on, you don’t call me. I’ll call you.” “Yeah, last time you took two weeks to call and scared the shit out of me.” “Well, now we’re even, because I had a gun shoved in my face because of you. You’re lucky I put you in my contacts as Sharon. Otherwise, I’d be dead right now.” “Alright, alright. I won’t call. My bad.” “Alright. So, now that we have Derrick Malone, and how and where they bring in their drugs, we’ve got some pretty solid shit to get started on. I’ll get back to you about the task force. In the meantime, I need you keep pushing about the fingerprints in Derrick’s apartment, and on his body. If we can pin that on Kelvin Junior or Clarence, that’ll give us all the leverage we need.” “I got it. I’ll have an update for you the next time we talk.” “Great. We did it, Captain. We made this shit

happen. Now, all we have to do is not fuck it up. If we do it right, this shit is gonna be over. It’s already over and they don’t even know it. They’re not gonna know what hit them.” “Don’t get too cocky on me, Russell. It’s not over yet. It’s not over until we seal the deal and we’ve got all these bastards behind bars. You stay focused and be careful, and I’ll take care of shit on my end. Now, get back in there and make this shit happen, Simon.”

I feel my heart pounding in my chest as I stand there in the hallway, staring at him. I can’t see myself, because there isn’t a mirror anywhere near me, but I’m sure that my face is as red as the couch he’s lying on. It took me an hour and a half to finally go back to sleep last night after Kelvin left. The memory of his phone ringing in the middle of the night and the sound of my voice frantically calling after him is still fresh in my mind. I called after him over and over again, and he didn’t even answer me. He just left. He left me by myself. He left me and didn’t

even have the dignity to tell me where he was going, as if he didn’t know that I’d be up all night crying my face off, worrying about him. He left me like he didn’t know that I love him— like he didn’t know that he loves me. I feel like my tears from last night have left irremovable streaks running down my cheeks, and my heart is being held together by teeny tiny fabrics that are being stretched to their limits. I’m on the verge of losing it—of falling apart and having a nervous breakdown at any moment now, but I’m trying to hold it together. I’m doing all that can to keep my composure, because I know that Kelvin is going through something very difficult. I’m frustrated because I wish there was something I could do to help him, but he won’t let me in, which only adds to my frustration. I’m at my wits end—as corny as that sounds, it’s true—and I need some answers. I inch my way into the room, wondering if I should be quiet so that I don’t wake him. As I tiptoe into the kitchen, I decide that I’m not going to try to silence myself for him. He’s earned

nothing but my bad attitude, because he’s shown me nothing but his. So, I reach up and open a cabinet containing a coffee mug, and when I close it, I make sure that I slam it much harder than I should. The door slams with a bang and I hear Kelvin shift on the couch. Then, I look over and see him lifting his head up to see what the noise was. “Oh, did I wake you?” I ask, like I didn’t do it on purpose. Kelvin’s eyes are all squinty as he surveys his surroundings. He looks around and spots me, then says “Huh? Oh, It’s fine. I needed to get up anyway.” He slowly swings his legs off the couch and places his feet on the hardwood floor, rubbing his face to try to wake himself up. I continue to make myself some coffee in the kitchen as Kelvin gets up and heads into the bathroom to get himself cleaned up. I hear him washing his face and brushing his teeth, and he makes his way back into the kitchen just as the coffee is ready. I pour myself a cup as he sits down on the barstool behind me. “Could you pour me a cup, please?” he asks, his

voice still deep and sleepy. “I didn’t make enough for you,” I reply. “Didn’t know you wanted any. Sorry.” Of course I knew he would want some. I just didn’t feel like making him any. “It’s okay, babe. I’ll make some more.” I let Kelvin walk past me and begin pouring coffee grounds into the coffee maker, while I go over and sit in the barstool next to the one he just vacated. As I watch him prepping the coffee and waiting for it to finish, I gather my thoughts. I want to make sure that I say everything that needs to be said. I can’t let my emotions get to me and then end up forgetting to say what’s important. Once I’ve got it all figured out, I take a deep breath and speak up. “Let’s talk, Kelvin,” I say as calmly as I can. I hear him take a deep breath like he was just waiting for me to get started, yet he’s still disappointed by it. I couldn’t care less. “Okay. Let’s talk,” he replies, pouring his coffee into his Bears tumbler. “Okay. You already know what I’m gonna say, and what I’m gonna ask. So, let’s not beat around

the bush, okay.” “I do know what you’re gonna ask, but I’m just hoping you won’t ask.” “Of course I’m gonna ask. You left me in the middle of the night, all alone, with no clue as to what the hell was going on. Then you come home while I’m asleep, and you don’t even get back in the bed with me. You sleep on the couch. Even after I was pissed off at you yesterday, and came to the couch, I still went back into the room and got in the bed with you. We shouldn’t sleep separate, and we shouldn’t go to bed mad at each other. Why didn’t you come to bed with me when you knew I was worried about you?” Kelvin sips his coffee like it’s liquor and he’s hoping for a quick buzz. “I just didn’t want to wake you, babe. That’s all.” “Babe? Why did you call me that?” “What? Why did I call you babe?” “Yeah. Why are you calling me your babe? You haven’t been treating me like I’m your babe. You’ve been treating me like I’m some random chick that you don’t love enough to tell the truth to.

You’ve done nothing but keep me in the dark. Leaving in the middle of the night. Not answering my questions. Ignoring me while I call out for you. I just didn’t think you would do that to your babe.” I hear him exhale, and I can see it in his face that he’s exasperated. He looks so worn out and stressed. It’s almost ironic that he’s been acting like such a different person, because he’s starting to look like a different person. His eyes have bags underneath them, and his shoulders have an uncharacteristically unconfident slouch to them. He looks like he’s just had it with life itself. “Listen, I know this has been hard on you,” he begins. “I know it seems like I haven’t been fair to you, and I know it doesn’t make a lot of sense. I’m really, very sorry for that. I don’t mean to make you upset or to hurt you. I hope you still believe that’s true. It’s just that I have so much going on right now. I’m having to deal with some shit that I’ve never had to deal with before. I’ve never felt like this before. I’ve seen things that I shouldn’t have had to see, and I’m just doing my best to deal with it, while also trying to focus on the important

things that you and I are working for. I’m trying to stay focused on the casino, but I also have to protect us now. Shit is going on that makes it to where I have to protect us. I have to protect you. It’s that serious again, and that’s all that I can really tell you.” “So you’re not gonna tell me where you went last night?” “I can’t, Lilliana. I’m sorry.” “I don’t want your fucking sorry, Kelvin. I want the man that I fell in love with!” “I am the man you fell in love with. I’m just struggling right now, and I need you to stand by my side.” “What do you think I’ve been trying to do? I’ve been by your side for over a year. We’ve been partners this whole time. It’s you who’s changing the rules. It’s you who’s not standing by my side. You’re doing things on your own and leaving me behind.” “I’m not leaving you behind me, Lilliana. You just have to trust me.” “No!” I yell, startling both of us. I stand up and

slam my coffee mug down, splashing the brown liquid on the counter. “You can’t leave me in the middle of the fucking night and then ask me to trust you. You left me here all night, and wouldn’t answer me when I asked you where you were going. I won’t trust that, because that’s some suspicious shit! That’s something anybody would be suspicious of. So, there it is. I’m not gonna trust that shit. I don’t trust it because it’s untrustworthy.” “So, you’re saying you don’t trust me?” “Not right now, I don’t. No.” We stand there, staring at each other for a while without saying anything. It feels like we’re not even breathing, like there’s no other movement in the whole world as we lock eyes. I can see the pain in his eyes, and I know he can see the hurt in mine. Both of us have changed so much over the past couple of days. Everything’s different now, and for the first time, I’m uncertain about our future. “I don’t need this right now,” Kelvin says, finally breaking the silence and breaking our eye contact. “You have no idea how much pressure I’m under. You don’t understand at all, and that really

hurts.” “You’ve got to be kidding me. I don’t know the pressure you’re under, and I don’t understand because you won’t tell me anything! You can’t have it both ways, Kelvin. You can’t hide everything from me, and then get mad at me for not knowing what’s going on with you. You can’t do that.” He doesn’t respond, and all it does is fire me up even more. His silence just pisses me off and I feel offended by everything he’s not doing, and everything he’s not saying. I’m officially boiling over. “You’re gonna ruin us,” I continue in a furry. “You’re gonna destroy everything that we’ve done together, and how far we’ve come over the past year. You’re gonna ruin everything if you keep acting this way. You say you don’t need this right now? Well, I can’t do this, Kelvin. I can’t live with you if you’re gonna hide and lie to me like this. I’m trying to be understanding of how stressed you are, having to work with your father, but you’re only making matters worse by lying to me. You’re

making it worse by hiding and keeping secrets. You’re pushing me away, and you’re gonna destroy everything if you don’t stop. Is that what you want?” The look on his face almost breaks my heart completely. He looks so empty, and I can tell he’s deep in thought, trying to come up with something to say. He’s having a hard time, but I’m already over the edge, and there’s no going back now. “Are you not gonna answer me?” I bellow. “Do you even still want to be with me, Kelvin? Do you even love me anymore?” He still doesn’t say anything. He doesn’t even look up at me. “What the hell is wrong with you? You’re gonna give me the silent treatment now? What, are we in kindergarten? This is unbelievable. I don’t even know who you are right now. Kelvin, look at me. Answer…” Suddenly, Kelvin puts down his coffee tumbler and starts speed walking towards the elevator. I’m stunned into silence as he presses the button and the doors open immediately. He steps in and I can

hear him pounding his hand on the button to close the doors. He’s hitting the buttons so hard that I’m sure he’ll break them. I think that I should call out to him, but before I can even get a word out, the doors close and he’s gone. Just like that, he’s gone again.

I’m not really sure what I’m doing anymore. The only thing I’m sure of right now is the fact that I feel completely lost. There’s too much going on all at once for me to keep it together. I’ve got my father and his usual bullshit on one side¸ and then there’s Lilliana on the other side, constantly pissed off at me. I don’t know how to make her understand that I’m just going through something that I can’t explain. I just need to get my head right, and she’s only making it harder by insisting that I tell her absolutely everything. All I’m trying to do is keep her out of danger, and my mind is so bogged

down that I’m not really sure how to explain that to her in a way that she’ll accept. I’m just lost, and I need help. I need someone who understands, and that’s why I’m here. I need advice, and this is the only place I know that I can get it. I just hope that he’s available to see me. “I’m here to see inmate Mikey… I’m sorry, Michael Carter, please.” The blonde officer behind the desk at the Metropolitan Correctional Center looks at me like she’s pissed that I’m interrupting her eating her Doritos. Nonetheless, she hands me a clipboard with a visitor’s log and sign in sheet attached to it. I smile at her and say “Thank you,” but she doesn’t even look up at me or acknowledge my attempt at being polite. I quickly fill out the paperwork and hand it back to the rude woman behind the counter, who takes it without saying anything. After a few minutes of waiting, I’m escorted through a metal detector and security check by an extra-large correctional officer, who pats me down much rougher than he needs to. Then, he leads me into the room that I’ve hated seeing since the last time I visited Uncle

Mikey in this place, a day or two after he got arrested. This room reminds me of how separate we are by dividing us with glass windows, and making us have to talk to each other through a phone, even though we’re only inches apart. I take my seat in the little booth that I’m told to and wait for Uncle Mikey to arrive. While I wait, I think of Lilliana. The look that was on her face haunts my memory. She was so perturbed and annoyed by everything I was doing, even when I wasn’t doing anything at all. I’ve never seen her like that and I never want to see her so upset ever again. Nothing hurts more than knowing that I’m the reason that she was so upset. I was the one who caused her so much pain, and that hurts me deep down inside. I’m not even sure where I’m supposed to start when it comes to making it up to her. I guess that’s why I’m here. Since I moved into the city to be with Fab, there’s hasn’t been a person who’s been more of a father figure than Uncle Mikey. When my own father was busy being the insensitive, arrogant, power hungry asshole that he is, I turned to Uncle

Mikey for guidance and advice. He was the one who told me how to survive in this game, and he didn’t deserve what happened to him. I know that it must be the hardest thing in the world for him to be locked away in this prison when he knows that he didn’t do anything wrong. To know that it was his brother that set him up and planted drugs on his property must be the most irritating part of it all. It irritates the shit out of me, because I found out that my father was willing to set me up in the same way. He planted those keys of dope in my penthouse with plans to get rid of me if I didn’t do whatever he wanted. The ultimate manipulator manipulated his own brother, and planned to do it to his own son as well. Uncle Mikey was the one who got caught up, but I was supposed to suffer the same fate, and that bonds us now more than ever. When I see him being escorted into the room wearing his orange jump suit, I’m both ecstatic and disgusted. I’m so happy to see him again, but I absolutely hate seeing him this way. The handcuffs around his wrists look tight, and I see him struggling

to take steps because of the shackles around his ankles. Regardless, when he sits down and reaches for the phone, I can’t help but smile at him. Things have been so much harder without him around, and I’m man enough to admit that I miss him dearly. “You look good, Junior,” Uncle Mikey says as I place the phone against my ear, grinning and holding back tears. “Wish I could say the same for you, Unc. I hate seeing you in here like this.” “I know. I wish I was out there with you, too. But, I’m here, so let’s just accept that. It is what it is.” “I understand,” I acknowledge, pushing back my anger being caused by the knowledge of how Uncle Mikey got here. “So, how have you been, Unc?” Uncle Mikey smiles at me, but it’s more of a that’s a dumb ass question kind of smile. “I’m doing okay, Junior, considering where I am and why I’m here. I’m alright, don’t worry. How are you?” I feel the remnants of my smile melt away. “Not good,” I admit. “Things are different with you. Not better.”

“I knew it’d be different.” “Yeah. Things seem to be getting a little out of control. I’m having a hard time.” Uncle Mikey slowly looks around to make sure no one close is listening to him. “Be sure to remember where we are, okay? You understand what I’m saying?” It doesn’t take long for me to realize that he’s talking about the fact that we’re in a prison, where all the conversations can be—and probably are— monitored. I have to be careful with everything that I say. “I understand.” “Okay. So, how’s the rest of The Family doing?” “They’re all okay. Everybody’s doing well, I guess. They’re all doing a good job saving money now with the new partnership. All the businesses are doing really well.” “Good. So, why are you having a hard time then?” I take a second to think of a snitch-proof way to say everything. “Because I’m still my father’s son, and you know how Dad can get.” “I do,” Uncle Mikey says with raised eyebrows.

“Yeah well, you know how he can get, now imagine him worse. He’s hungrier now than ever before, and I’m working for him.” Uncle Mikey’s eyes seem to darken and he shifts in his seat. “Why are you working for him?” “Because I have to.” “Bullshit. I told you what to do before I got locked in here. Why didn’t you listen to me?” “I tried to listen to you, but the circumstances changed pretty quickly, like I told you the last time I was here. I don’t really have much of a choice, Unc. I’m trying to earn the casino, and I’m having to jump through a lot of hoops in order to do that. It’s all been a lot to take on.” “I bet it has. You should’ve found a way out, Junior. You let him trap you. So, I guess we both got fucked.” There’s a brief moment of silence as his words swirl around us, reminding us of who it is we’re dealing with and how poorly we’ve defended ourselves against him. Getting past the Russians wasn’t enough. It was nothing, actually, because the enemy was the person who was supposed to be

on our side, and he’s still the enemy. And I’m still doing a terrible job of playing defense against him. Uncle Mikey lets out a disappointed sigh, and then says “Alright, moving on. So, how’s your lady?” I try not to make it too obvious, but he apparently can see the pain in my face. “Oh come one, Junior. You didn’t fuck it up, did you?” I let my body slide down in my seat. “I don’t know.” Uncle Mikey rolls his eyes and let’s his head fall backwards in disgust. “Geez. Haven’t I taught you anything? What happened?” “With everything that’s been going on with the new business, and working for Dad having its own issues, I haven’t been very open with Lilliana. Obviously, she doesn’t like that very much.” “Have you been lying to her?” “Yeah, but only to protect her, Unc. That’s all it’s about is keeping her safe.” “A little word of advice, Junior, women don’t like being lied to any more than men do. They also don’t like it when you tell them that you’re lying to them to protect them. Women don’t want to be

protected that way. They want you to physically protect them, not shield them with your blanket of lies. No wonder you’re sitting in here with your shoulders all slouched, looking all pitiful like someone just kicked your kitten. You’ve been going through shit working for your dad, and you’re making matters worse by lying to your lady.” “Ugh. You sound like her now.” “Well, great minds think alike, I guess. I told you when you first started falling for Lily, that you had to be honest with her. I told you that the only real way to protect her, is to tell her everything. She can’t be a part of your life if you’re trying to act like your life doesn’t exist. The rules haven’t changed just because some time has gone by and the two of you have been through some shit. It’s still the same. She’s still supposed to be your partner, and you’re still supposed to be her man. In this lifestyle, your woman has to be your partner, and she has to be aware of everything. Then, if she can’t handle it, you can get rid of her. But, that’s not the type of woman Lily is. She’s ride or die for you, Junior, just like your Aunt Lauren is ride or die

for me. Trust me when I tell you, when you get a woman like that, you do everything in your power to keep her by your side, because there aren’t many women like that anymore. So, from where I’m sitting, it looks like you need to get your shit together before you mess up the most important thing in your life.” His words hit me like a punch to the chest. I know that he’s right, and I kick myself because I knew all of this before I came here to visit him. I know that Lily and I are supposed to be partners, and I let my fear get in the way of that. I fucked up. I just hope it’s not too late to fix it. “I know, you’re right, Uncle Mikey,” I reply. “I know that I need to be open and honest with her, and that’s all she really wants. I just thought that things were starting to become too complicated to tell her everything. I mean, Unc, it’s really complicated.” Uncle Mikey squints his eyes in thought. I know he wants to ask me what I mean by complicated, but he knows that could be a bad question to ask right now.

“I think I understand what you’re saying. Nonetheless, you only complicate things more by lying to her. You know how women are, Junior. Eventually she’s going to find out everything anyway. Eventually, they always find out. No matter what it is. That’s how it is when you’re in love with someone—they tend to find out all your business. If she finds out some other way, she’ll just be pissed at you even more. So, no matter how complicated it is, Junior, you need to let her in. Whatever it is, if she can’t handle it, she can leave. But, you can’t take that option away from her by hiding the information. She needs all the information so that she can decide what she wants to do with it. Something tells me that she’ll have your back. All you have to do is let her. In the end, we both know it’s gonna be easier for you to get through this with her by your side. Just imagine how hard everything would become if she left you, and you still had to deal with your father.” I almost gasp involuntarily. I couldn’t imagine trying to deal with all of this without Lilliana at home waiting for me. If I came home and she was

gone, I wouldn’t know what to do with myself. I would break down under the pressure of everything that’s going on. I fear being without Lilliana more than I fear anything else. “You’re absolute right, Unc,” I say with an appreciative smile. “I’d be destroyed if she left. I couldn’t do any of this without her.” “I know, Junior. Call it a hunch, but something tells me that once you work out your drama with Lily, you’re gonna feel a lot better about everything else. Take care of everything at home, and the rest will fall in line. The only reason I feel like I’m doing alright in here is because your Aunt Lauren has been visiting as often as she can. She’s been my rock. I couldn’t make it in here if I didn’t have her out there. So, I understand exactly what you’re going through. I understand it better than anybody else.” “I know you do, Unc. That’s why I come to you for advice. You’re not blinded by a thirst for power, or greed. You’ve always been different, and I thank you for everything you’ve ever done for me. You’ve been more of a father to me than my dad

has.” He doesn’t say anything in response. He just grins a little, and then looks like he’s trying to stave off tears. I can’t imagine how shitty it must be for him to be in here, separated from everything he loves most in the world. The pain I feel for him eats me up inside. “Thanks for the advice Uncle Mikey,” I say, trying not to get too emotional. “You’re welcome, nephew.” “I’ve gotta get out of here so I can go fix my broken relationship. Is there anything you need from us on this side?” “Nah, you’ve got enough on your plate, Junior. Don’t worry about me. Lauren gives me everything I need. I’m good. The only thing I need from you is for you take care of yourself. I need you to be smart. He has you in his grasp, and you need to outsmart him if you want to get out. Figure out how you can make a clean break from this shit. That’s all you need to be focusing on. So, get your house in order, get your mind right, and figure out how to get out. You understand?”

“I understand, and I promise you, Uncle Mikey, I’m gonna figure something out. I’ve got a feeling. By the time all this shit is over, I’m gonna be out of this bullshit. I’m gonna own the Red Chip, and you’re gonna be out of here. Just wait and see. We’re both gonna get exactly what we want. I know it.”

I feel trapped inside of this elevator. I’ve only been in it for about five seconds, but I still feel like it’s moving entirely too slow and I can’t get up to the penthouse fast enough. I’m uneasy as I watch the numbers light up when I pass the floors. All I can think about is how things ended a couple of hours ago when I left her here. I know she must have been pissed off once again, but I just felt like I overloaded and I needed to seek the immediate guidance of my uncle. I needed to make a decision on what to do next, and my need for those answers felt shockingly

overwhelming. I just needed help. All I can do is hope that my hasty exit wasn’t a symbolic last straw for her. I hope that I didn’t break her heart, and my fear just increases with every passing second. What if I did break her heart? What if all this shit just became too much for her, and she’s finally had enough? What if she isn’t even there when I get home? My inability to cope on my own could have been the straw that broke the camel’s back. She may have just packed up and left while I was at the prison, and here I am wishing the elevator would hurry up, and she may not even be there. My heart is pounding in my chest and I almost feel panicked by the uncertainty. My breathing is getting heavier by the time the elevator finally stops, and I feel the urge to use my hands to try to pry the doors open faster. When the elevator finally releases me and I step into the hallway, there’s nothing but silence at first. An eerie silence that terrifies me more than the loudest screams. I look to my right, into the kitchen and living room—nothing. I look to my left and see

that the door to the bedroom is closed. Still, there is nothing but silence. I slowly make my way towards the bedroom door and notice that it isn’t closed all the way. There’s a small gap between the door and the frame, and it’s through that gap that I finally hear signs of life. It’s some sort of a shuffling sound— not enough for me to be able to tell what’s going on behind the door, but enough to let me know that she hasn’t left yet. Lilliana is in there, so I know I still have a chance to make up for the sneaky shit I’ve been doing. I can make up for how I’ve made her feel over the past couple of days. It’s not over yet. I feel butterflies in my stomach—from both anxiety and happiness that she hasn’t left—as I reach the door and look into the gap. I can see Lilliana standing in front of the bed, and when I notice what she’s doing, I feel like my heart has just dropped into my feet. I can barely breathe as I watch her folding up clothes from the closet and stuffing them into a suitcase. The shuffling sound was the sound of her packing her bags. The lump in my throat is the size

of a basketball, and when Lilliana turns around to get more of her clothes, I see that she’s got tears streaming down her face. She’s reached her limit, and it’s me that’s pushed her over the edge. After all the shit we’ve been through, it was me who finally pushed her away. All this time, I thought it would be my father who’d scare Lilliana away. But, somehow it was me. She was right. I ruined us. I destroyed everything. Just as my first tear slides down my cheek, I slowly push the door open and step in. Lilliana snaps around and looks surprised to see me. Her face has a look of shock, and her eyes are red with heavy bags underneath them. She looks broken, and it crushes me. “Please,” I begin quietly with tears stinging my eyes. “Please, give me a chance to explain. I’m so sorry, Lilliana.” She stares at me for second, and I think that she might just listen, but then she shakes her head and her face morphs from sadness to anger. She wipes away her tears and takes a step backwards like my presence offends her and she doesn’t want me in

her personal space. “I’m surprised to see you back so soon. I figured you’d be out all night doing something that I’m not allowed to know about.” I want to respond with an excuse, but I realize it wouldn’t help anything. I deserve that. “I gave you a chance to explain,” she continues. “I gave you more than one chance, and you chose not to take it. Why should I listen to you now?” “Because I know that I fucked up. I know that I was wrong, and you deserve to be angry with me. I owe you an apology for the way I’ve been acting. You deserve to know everything, and I’m sorry that I’ve been keeping things from you. I’m so sorry, baby.” The tension in her face relents a little, but she holds on to her glower. “You’re sorry?” Why weren’t you sorry before? Why are you sorry now that you come back and see me packing?” “I was sorry before I saw you packing. I’ve been sorry from the beginning. I just didn’t know what to do, and I felt lost. If you left me, I’d be beyond lost. I’d lose myself and I wouldn’t know how to deal

with anything. I need you, Lilliana. Please don’t leave.” “I told you, Kelvin, I can’t stay here if you’re gonna lie and hide from me. I accepted you and your lifestyle when we got together, and for you to start lying and hiding from me now just really hurts. It really breaks my heart that you’d lie to me after all we’ve been through. I can’t stay here if that’s how you’re gonna be.” “I understand, and that’s not how I’m gonna be.” “What’s that supposed to mean?” “I’m saying that I’m sorry, and I’m done trying to keep secrets from you. You’re my partner, and you should know everything that I know. I’m not gonna keep anything from you ever again. I promise you, baby.” “So, you’re gonna tell me what the hell has been going on?” “I’ll tell you everything.” She takes a second to think about it, her face softening a bit. Then, she hardens again and stands up straight. She’s so strong and confident.

“Where did you go just now, when you left?” she asks, testing to see if I’ll tell the truth. “I went to the prison to visit Uncle Mikey. I needed his advice.” “Advice about what?” “I just needed his advice on how to deal with all the shit that’s going on right now. I needed his advice on how to deal with my shit with my dad, and how to stop letting it affect you and me.” “I see. And last night?” “Uncle Clarence called and told me that I needed to meet him at an airstrip out in the middle of nowhere. I didn’t know why, but I found out after I got there.” “Okay, so what was it about?” “The top Russians were there, as well as my father. They were all there waiting for a plane to land. A private jet, loaded with heroin. Twohundred kilos worth. It’s all worth over seventy million dollars, and they want me to help them sell it. My dad is threatening to kick me out of here if I don’t help them.” I see her ease up a little bit more, but she’s still

holding on to her anger. I can’t blame her. “He said he’d kick you out of here? He’d put us on the streets?” she asks. “He would, babe. He’d do it. So, I have to figure something out really quick. Shit is about to get serious.” She doesn’t say anything, but I can see that she’s thinking about it. I’m sure it’s just as shocking to her as it was to me when I heard my dad tell me. “There’s more,” I say, almost regretting it immediately. “Okay.” “When I went out with Uncle Clarence a few days ago. Something happened. Something really bad.” Memories of my uncle slamming the refrigerator door on Derrick’s head flash in my memory and it makes me shiver. “What happened?” Lilliana asks, and I can hear the change in her voice. She’s starting to show concern instead of anger. Unfortunately, it doesn’t make me feel better because of what I’m about to say. “Remember the story I told you about the

delivery? The guy who tried to steal the dope?” “Yeah.” “Uncle Clarence took me to his house on the south side.” I hear Lilliana gasp like she knows what I’m about to say. “His name was Derrick. He was a heroin addict. Ironically, it looked like he was about to get high when he let us in. Uncle Clarence starts off by asking him some questions, and it’s obvious the guy is nervous as hell. He sees me, plus you know how big Uncle Clarence is. Then, my uncle starts to ask him about the drugs he tried to steal, and the guy admits that he fucked up. He says that he plans to get cleaned up and go to rehab. But, he doesn’t get the chance, because Uncle Clarence starts to beat the shit out of him. He punches this little skinny kid in the face with everything he’s got, and throws him across the room like he’s as light as a stuffed teddy bear. He just brutally beats this kid right there in front of me, and I try to just go with it so that he’ll think that I’m becoming a more willing member of the family. I let it go because I want to convince them that I’m loyal, so that my dad will give me the Red Chip.

“Then, Uncle Clarence drags the guy into the kitchen, where the refrigerator door is wide open. The guy is barely conscious at this point, but Uncle Clarence slides him in there and puts his head in the door. All of a sudden, he starts slamming the door on this guy’s head. He did it six or seven times and I swear I can hear bones breaking, and there’s blood all over the floor. I can’t take it anymore, so I finally tell him that that’s enough. I tell him the guy has had enough. I tried to stop it. I swear I did. But, then Uncle Clarence goes over to his jacket and pulls out his gun. He walks over to the guy and shoots him in the back of the head right there in the kitchen. He did it right in front of me. He killed him, Lilliana. I watched him kill a man right there in his own house.” I sit down on the bed and I’m surprised to feel tears running down my face. My heart rate has picked up and I feel like I’m right back in Derrick’s apartment. Lilliana stands there in front of me, silent. “I’ve thought about that every minute of every day since it happened. It stays with me all the time,

and I feel like it might have changed me. I didn’t want to tell you because I wanted to keep you safe. I thought that maybe the cops would question us about it, and the less you knew about it, the better. That way, they couldn’t try to get you for obstruction or accessory. It’s been so hard, though. I feel unstable, and worried all the time. I feel so lost and confused, and the truth is, I need you now more than ever. I’d be lying to myself if I said that I could do this without you. I can’t. I can’t be without you, baby, and I’m so sorry for everything that I’ve done. I just don’t know what to do. I’m so sorry for everything.” Lilliana finally sits down next to me and wraps her arms around me. The touch of her skin on mine is like the sun shining through on a cold and cloudy day. It feels so good just to be close to her again. She rubs my arms gently and I feel the stress melting off of me. “I’m so sorry, Kelvin,” she says, her voice trembling. “That’s terrible. I know that must’ve been so hard to see and deal with. I never meant to add stress to your life. I just wanted to be there for

you. I just wanted to be a part of your life so that we could deal with it, and that’s exactly what we’re gonna do. We’re gonna deal with it together. I’m here for you. Okay? I’m here for you.” Lilliana kisses me, and I feel warmth travel all through my body. It’s like her touch has awoken my body from an eternal slumber. I feel more alive than I have in a long time, and I instinctively grab her and pull her body closer to me. “I’m so sorry, baby,” I say between kisses. “I love you so much.” “I love you, Kelvin.” We kiss once again, and I can’t help how I feel anymore. Her affection has set me free and I can no longer control myself. I reach behind her and pull her hair so that her head tilts backwards. I hear her moan as I lean in and kiss her on the neck. The connection between us is so intense that I find myself sucking on her neck passionately. When I hear her moan, it just makes me want her even more. I feel like I have to make up for the time we’ve lost over the last couple of days. “I fucking love you so much, Lilliana,” I

whisper in her ear, still pulling her hair. “I can never be without you.” “You don’t ever have to be,” she responds, seductively. “I need you, Kelvin. I need you right now.” “I’m here, baby. Just tell me what you want me to do.” “I want you to stand up.” I can’t help but smile at how sexy she sounds. I can hear the passion in her voice and I can’t control how hard it makes me. I slowly stand up, slightly upset that I have to stop kissing her so that I can get up. Once I’m standing, Lilliana reaches up and grabs my belt buckle. She tugs and pulls at it like she’s mad that it won’t just fall off, and snatches open the latch on my pants once she’s passed the belt. Then, she quickly forces my pants and underwear down to my ankles, immediately taking my hard cock in her hands. She doesn’t waste a second, promptly wrapping her luscious lips around my shaft and taking as much of me in her mouth as she can possibly fit.

The sensation hits me and rushes up to my lungs, forcing me to gasp at how good it feels. I can’t help but say “Oh shit,” as she slides her lips back and forth on my dick. As she sucks, she wraps her hands around my shaft and twist them simultaneously. The sensation is so strong that I actually have to steady myself. I place my hands on her shoulders to hold myself up, and feel my dick getting harder as she moans. “Goddamn, baby. You suck my dick so good. It’s so fucking good,” I exclaim. Lilliana acknowledges me with another lustful moan, but doesn’t even break stride, continuing to suck me and stroke my cock with her hands. I let her continue for another few minutes, occasionally reaching down between her legs to rub her pussy. Her juices feel so good on my fingers that I can barely stand it. I want her. I need to be inside of her right now. I fucking need her. I slowly drop down to my knees and force Lilliana’s legs apart. I can feel the warm sensation emanating off her body as I pull at her pants and she lifts her waist so that I can snatch them off of

her. I throw the pants down, and before they can land on the floor in a clump, I dive my tongue into Lilliana’s pussy. I hear her moaning above me and it spurs me on, so I ferociously lick her clit and suck it at the same time. I feel her legs tensing around my neck, and I know what’s about to happen. It’s exactly what I’m craving, so there isn’t a chance in hell that I’ll stop. “Oh fuck, Kelvin. That’s so good. Shit. Keep going,” I hear her exclaiming above me. I feel her breathing becoming heavier and faster, and I know she’s almost there. I can feel how close she is. “Oh my god!” she screams. “Fuck. That’s it, baby. I’m coming!” Lilliana’s legs tighten around my head as the orgasm hits her, and I do my best to intensify her satisfaction by slowly licking her clit from the back of my tongue all the way to the front. She clutches my head and spasms, and as I begin to try to stand up, I feel deeply satisfied because I know she’s satisfied. But I’m far from finished. “Now I want you to stand up,” I say seductively, looking down at her as she tries to compose herself

and steady her breathing. I reach down and grab her by the shoulders, forcing her to stand up. Then, I wrap my hands around her ass and lift her up off of the floor until she wraps her legs around my waist. I hear her let out a blissful chirp as I carry her over to the wall next to the window. I press my body up against hers, and she keeps her legs wrapped around me as I reach down and push my dick inside of her. Her warm wetness feels so fucking good on my cock. I start off slow, sliding the entire length of my dick in and out of her. I want to feel her covering every inch of me, and I want her to feel all of me. My cock throbs as I stroke in and out of her, lightly breathing on her neck as she moans in my ear. “You feel it, baby?” I ask, beginning to pick up speed. “Yes, baby, I feel it. I feel all of it. It’s so good.” I love how she sounds when she tells me how good it feels. But, I want more. I want to hear her scream for me. I want her to shout that her pussy is mine and no one else’s. I want her to know that no one will ever give it to her like I give it to her. I

want to own it. I want to own her memory forever, so that she never forgets this. So, I start to thrust harder, and I can hear the sound of our pelvises smacking together and the pitch of her screams climbing. “Yes. Fuck me, Kelvin. Just like that!” she bellows, wrapping her arms around my neck like she’s holding on for dear life. “Yes. Give it all to me, baby.” I want to give her everything that she’s ever desired, and I feel more driven than ever. My heart pounds in my chest and my lungs feel like they’re on fire, but I want nothing more than to feel her come again. I want to make her feel how sorry I am for everything that has happened between us these past two days. She has to feel how much I love her —how much I want her, how much I need her. “Goddamn it, it’s so fucking good!” I hear her say as her legs tighten around my waist. I hear her breathing becoming heavy again, and I’m filled with excitement that makes my cock even harder. “You know what I want, baby. I want to feel you explode all over my cock. Come for me, Lilliana.

Let me feel how wet you get for me!” Right on cue, Lilliana takes a deep breath, and I see her neck brighten from the flush of blood coursing through her body as she lets out a window-shaking scream. Her head comes forward and she buries her face in my neck as I continue to fuck her, doing my best to lengthen her euphoria. I focus on long, deep strokes, and before I know it, I feel the sensation of my own orgasm teasing me. I know that if I keep moving, it’s going to happen, so I try to slow down, but Lilliana knows me all too well. “Don’t stop, Kelvin. Let me feel it. You know I want to feel it,” she says, still breathing heavily. She knows I’m close, and just as I try to slow down, Lilliana tightens her legs around me and arches her back, and begins to thrust her hips back and forth. At first, I’m shocked at how well she’s able to move, even without her feet touching the ground. However, the perfect flow to her movements feels better than I can put into words. My body tightens all the way down to my feet and I feel my toes curl down into the carpet.

“Damn! That’s it, baby. That’s so good,” I exclaim. “You’re gonna make me come. Shit!” I’m hit with one of the strongest orgasms I have ever felt. Every muscle in my body flexes and I let out a deep roar that stings my throat. Then, my body goes limp and I finally let Lilliana’s feet touch the floor. Both of our shirts are soaked in sweat, and I struggle to walk back over to the bed with my pants still down around my ankles. I collapse onto the bed, smiling from how good it was, and from the fact that Lilliana and I are back to normal. I hate that we had to have those two days apart, but there’s nothing better than knowing that we came out of the other end as a stronger couple. Lilliana sits down on the bed, and then lays down next to me, resting her head on my back while I lay on my stomach. I feel her fingers slide across my back as she rubs me, and I feel like my smile has taken over my face. “What?” she asks, smiling herself. “What?” “Why are you smiling like that?”

I can’t help but to let out a small chuckle. “I just missed you, that’s all.” “I missed you too. That was a great way to make up.” “That’s pretty much the same thing I was thinking. I don’t know if I’ve ever come that hard before.” “You? I don’t think I have either. It was so good. I love the way we have sex.” I laugh again. “Me too. Nobody does it better than us, babe.” “Damn right.” Lilliana gets up and moves up to the pillows. I pull up my pants and follow her lead, and she lays her head on my chest once I’m comfortable. I move her hair and rub her neck softly, enjoying the sensation of my skin touching hers once again. “So,” Lilliana continues, “where do we go from here?” “You mean with my father? Or, do you mean, where do we go from here?” “I’m not worried about where we go from here, as long as we go there together. I think we’re on the

same page again.” “I agree.” “Good. So, where do we go from here with your father and his drug shit?” “I don’t even know,” I say with a sigh. “I haven’t gotten any word from them since we left the airstrip last night. I’m sure they’re still working out the details of how much is gonna go where and who’s gonna sell it. I’m not really sure what I’m gonna do about that yet. How the hell am I supposed to make a decision like this? Sell drugs or give up the penthouse. That’s a hell of an ultimatum.” “It’s bullshit, that’s what it is. You think he’d really kick you out on the streets like that? You’re his son for goodness sake.” “We both know my dad is a heartless asshole.” “Yeah, I know. Be that as it may, this is taking it too far. Selling drugs isn’t something we need to be a part of.” “I know. It’s not something I ever thought I’d ever even have to consider. This isn’t something that I’m okay with, but what if he isn’t bluffing?

What if he kicks us out and cuts me off from everything?” “What if you get caught selling heroin and get arrested? You have to think about that too.” “I know…” I begin, but I’m interrupted by the sound of my cellphone ringing in my pocket. I pull it out and glance at the display, keeping the phone positioned so that Lilliana can read the name too. When she recognizes the name, she looks as nervous as I feel. “Looks like we’re gonna get answers sooner rather than later,” I say, then I slide my finger across the screen to answer the phone. “What’s up, Uncle Clarence?” “Junior, we’ve got plans for tomorrow morning,” Uncle Clarence growls. “Eight o’clock, at the Red Chip warehouse. You’ll be taking on another delivery.” “You know I just had a delivery a few days ago. There’s no way we’ve unloaded all that already.” “I’m sure you haven’t, but we still need to put some of this new shit into your stock. We’ll probably have to keep some of it at the airstrip until it we have more room at the establishments. But we

want to top off all the establishments, and then stash what we have left over. So, eight o’clock tomorrow. Okay.” I let out a loud sigh, and then respond with an annoyed “I got it.” “Okay. Also, your father wanted me to ask you if you’ve given any thought to what he asked you last night. You know.” “Umm, I’ve had a lot on my mind. Been pretty busy today. So, I haven’t had a lot of time to think about it yet.” Uncle Clarence pauses for a second, and I know he doesn’t like my answer. Neither will my father. “I see,” he finally replies. “Well, you should know that tomorrow we’ll also be discussing your future.” “My future? What are you talking about?” “Your future with the family. I understand you’ve been busy today. That’s fine. However, I suggest you spend the night thinking about what it is that you want to do.” “You’re saying I’ll have to have decided by tomorrow morning?”

“Just think about it, Junior. Either you’re in or you’re out. Either you’re a part of the Carter family, or you’re not. It isn’t complicated. So, do whatever it is that you need to do, but tomorrow, either you’re with us, or you’re not.”

“They won’t like that you’re here.” “That’s okay. I’m not worried about what they want. We’re together, and I want to be by your side when you make your decision.” Kelvin and I drive up to the warehouse in the Challenger with the windows rolled down. I feel the breeze whipping across my face, but it does little to help me calm down. It’s been a crazy few days, and now that Kelvin and I have made up, I’m standing by him as he makes a decision on whether or not he’ll sell drugs for his father and uncle. Now that I know everything, I have no place to try to tell him

what to do. I’ve chosen to support whatever decision he comes up with, regardless of how it makes me feel. I know that if he does choose to sell the drugs, it’ll just be a means to an end. It’ll be temporary, and it’ll be so that we can get what we want out of this. It’s all about the Red Chip. It’s not about how this craziness makes me feel, so I’m trying to push my own feelings to the side. I have to admit, however, that I’m definitely concerned about what Kelvin told me about the murder of that Derrick guy. I’ve only seen Kelvin emotional a couple of times, but it usually has something to do with us. I remember him being emotional when he told me that he was connected to the mob, and he thought that I was going to leave him because of it. Other than that, he does a good job of showing his manliness and keeping his emotions in check. That’s why it caught me off guard when he I saw tears rolling down his cheeks as he told me about how Clarence killed that kid in his own house. I know that Kelvin wanted to help him, and I know that it eats him up inside, probably even now as we drive towards the Red Chip

warehouse. He never meant for anybody to get hurt, and he certainly never expected anybody to die. He was just trying to prove himself to his crazy ass father. What happened to that guy wasn’t Kelvin’s fault, which I told him about a hundred times between last night and this morning. I know that if Kelvin was anything like his uncle or his father, he would’ve killed Derrick the moment he saw that he was trying to steal those drugs in the first place. His goodness is what kept him from doing that. He’s nothing like them. He’s a Carter, but he isn’t. He’s so much better than them, and now that he’s told me everything, I know just how much he needs me. He’s going through something incredibly tough, and he needs my full support and understanding. I have to admit that I’m terrified of seeing Clarence after hearing about what he did to Derrick, but I won’t let that show, or keep me from supporting Kelvin. I never want us to go through another day of not getting along ever again, so no matter what happens, I will be there for Kelvin. No matter what. All the doors to the warehouse are closed when

we pull up. I wait in the car as Kelvin gets out and knocks on the personnel door on the corner of the building. After a few seconds, the door opens and Kelvin walks in, leaving me outside by myself. I look out through the open window and see that we’re fairly secluded out here on the outskirts of the city. I always thought the warehouse was actually close the casino, but I see now that they’re very separate. The warehouse is pretty plain looking and doesn’t attract too much attention to itself, which I assume is done on purpose. The personnel door is a plain gray color, while the big warehouse doors are white with windows at the top —about fifteen feet high—to let in some sunlight, but too high for anybody to be able to see through. As I’m looking up at the windows, the personnel door opens up again and Kelvin leans out of it, waving for me to come inside. I feel a rush of anxiety pierce through me, but I push it aside and climb out of the car. I step over the metal threshold and see a wide open space. There really isn’t much inside the warehouse, but I can’t help but notice the gigantic

eighteen wheeler parked in the middle of the room. I also recognize the beautiful Bentley that Kelvin picked me up in when we went out on our first date together, and Clarence’s black Mercedes. Senior and Clarence are standing in a circle behind the open doors of the eighteen wheeler. There are countless boxes stacked up on the floor, and I see Kelvin’s friends, Phillip and Trey, opening them up and pulling out the casino chip cases. From my numerous conversations with Kelvin, I know that the heroin is in the casino chip cases, but as I walk in, I just play dumb and keep my mouth closed. I know how intense everything is about to get. As we drove over here, Kelvin still hadn’t decided on whether or not he was actually going to help his father sell the drugs. He said that he was still on the fence, and that he’d make a decision in the moment once we got here. So, just like Senior and Clarence, I have no idea what Kelvin is going to do. All I know is that the butterflies in my stomach are as big as bats. “Well, I wasn’t expecting this,” I hear Senior say as Kelvin and I walk towards the group. “I’m glad

that you’re here, Junior, but what is Lily doing here?” “I don’t see what the problem is. She’s my woman. I’m not hiding anything from her. From here on out, Lilliana will know everything. I won’t hide from her,” Kelvin says confidently. He looks like a new man today. The broken man I saw yesterday and the day before is a distant memory. Just like us, he’s back to normal now. “Well, aren’t you noble,” Senior declares with a fake smile. I can tell that he doesn’t like that I’m here, but just like Kelvin, I don’t give a shit. “Nice to see you again, Senior,” I interrupt, displaying nothing but confidence. “You too, Clarence.” Clarence barely even acknowledges me with a nod of his head. “I suppose it’s nice to see you again too, Lily,” Senior says. “I’ve gotta admit that I didn’t expect to see you here, though.” “I didn’t necessarily expect to be here either, but Kelvin and I had a long talk about everything, and I want to be here for him. I want to support him

no matter what he’s doing.” “Down ass chick. I like that,” Clarence jumps in with a grin. “Nothing better than a down ass chick. That’s hard to come by, Junior. That’s why I’m still single. You better hold on to that one.” “I know,” Kelvin replies. “I’m never letting her get away.” He looks over and smiles at me, and I wonder how it’s possible for him to be so charming, even with so much tension in the air. “Great. That’s all sweet and junk, but maybe we should get down to business. I’ve got shit to do, and I don’t feel like being here all day talking about how you love each other’s butts,” Senior interjects with an attitude. “As you can see, Junior, we’ve got a lot of product here. Let’s get this shit opened up. I need to see how much of it you can take.” “We’re not gonna be able to take much of it. Like I told Uncle Clarence last night on the phone, there’s no way we’ve been able to unload that much in the few days since we got the last shipment,” Kelvin says. “That’s what I was trying to tell them,” Phillip says, still unloading boxes from the truck. “I told

them we wouldn’t be able to take much of this shit. The guys that are dealing aren’t fucking magicians, so I don’t know why they’re expecting them to magically sell all of the shit that we got last time we got a shipment. We don’t usually take this much product in such a little time.” “And I told you not to worry about,” Clarence replies. He has a deep, grisly tone to his voice, and he already looks perturbed. “Just keep unpacking the shit. If we can’t fit it all here, you’ll put it all back in the boxes and reload it in the back of the truck.” “The hell I will!” Phillip exclaims with an animated expression on his face. “Look, no disrespect to Mr. Carter, but I’m not reloading this shit after I just unloaded it. Especially after I told you that we wouldn’t have room for it all. If you want it put back, I suggest you use those big ass gorilla muscles and do it yourself.” My eyes bulge at the audacity of Phillip. He’s always been outspoken, but he might be taking it a little too far for his own good. The look on Clarence’s face confirms my suspicions.

“You’ve got a big mouth,” Clarence replies. I feel heat rush through my body, accompanied by more bat-sized butterflies in my stomach. “Hey, just roll with it, Phil,” Kelvin chimes in. “I’ll just go ahead and start filling it up, and we’ll pull more out of the truck if we need to. It doesn’t make any sense to unload everything just to put it all back.” Phillip looks at Clarence like he wants to say something else, but he just shakes his head and starts walking with Kelvin towards a little green door in the back of the warehouse. When they get to the door, Kelvin unlocks the padlock and then opens it. There’s more boxes inside of the little room that looks like it’s supposed to be a janitor’s closet. Phillip and Kelvin start pulling out the boxes, and I notice that they look extremely light, like they’re empty. Once all the boxes are pulled out, Kelvin bends over and pulls out the rug that I hadn’t noticed was on the floor. Once the rug is gone, Kelvin unlocks another door that’s in the floor, and pulls it up. I can’t see what’s down there, but I’m not dumb. I know this must be their hiding

spot for all their drugs. “Shit. I knew it,” Phillip says under his breath. “What is it?” Senior says to Kelvin, who’s kneeling, looking down into the hole in the floor. “We’re damn near maxed out, Dad. I can only fit another five or six keys down here. I’ve gotta be able to close the door, obviously. There just hasn’t been enough time between shipments.” “Five or six keys, that’s it?” Senior replies, his voice increasingly aggressive. “Yeah, that’s it. It’s too soon.” “No, the dealers just aren’t pushing enough out, and you’re not helping them. That’s the problem.” I hear Kelvin sigh as he closes the secret door and stands back up. I look over at Trey as he stops unloading boxes, and I can tell that even he knows things are about to get tense. Senior walks over to one of the open boxes and opens up a few of the casino chip cases. He pulls out six bricks of heroin and drops them all on the floor in front Clarence. “Here,” he says, looking back at Kelvin. “This should top you off completely. I except turnaround

on this in a week or so.” Kelvin scrunches his forehead as he and Phillip walk back towards the group. “Turnaround? What are you talking about?” “You know what I’m talking about. We just had this discussion a couple of nights ago at the airstrip. I need you to start helping us push this shit.” “Yeah, I remember that conversation pretty well, actually, and I know that I told you that I wasn’t sure about doing this shit. So, based on how that conversation ended, what makes you think that I’ve decided to do it already?” Senior stares at Kelvin without saying a word. His jaw is tight and he looks like he’s getting angrier by the second. “So, you’re saying no?” he finally says. Something about the way he asks the question sends chills up my spine. There was something ominous about the way he said it. “That’s not what I said. I’m saying that I’m still thinking about it. Look, I never wanted to sell any drugs, Dad. You have to understand how hard this decision is. There are no guarantees here. I just

think I might be stuck selling drugs, putting my life on the line forever.” After Kelvin finishes his statement, everybody in the room looks over at Senior to see what his reaction will be. It seems like all of our heads turn at the same time. “Guarantees. You want guarantees? I already told you my only guarantee. If you don’t do this, you’ll be out on the streets. You’re not gonna defy me, and then stay in my hotel for free.” “Defy you? What the hell are you talking about? You want me to endanger my life. I take all the risks, while you sit at the top of the Royal Flush counting money without ever having to worry about getting caught, because the cops will never know it was you and Ilia bringing in all of this shit. All the pressure is on me. That’s a big risk. You don’t see that?” We all look back to Senior, who glances over at Clarence for a brief second. It’s almost like they spoke to each other telepathically—something that the rest of us weren’t allowed to hear. They don’t hold eye contact for any longer than a second, then

Senior goes back to Kelvin. Senior lets out an exasperated sigh. “You’re pathetic, you know that?” “Excuse me?” “All you’ve done since you got here is go against me. You think because you’re my son, that you can just do and say whatever you want. It’s been that way from the beginning, even before Fab died. You just think you’re so fucking special. You want to try to pressure me into a guarantee? Nobody pressures me. I’m Kelvin Carter! I run every motherfucking thing! How about I take this opportunity to remind you who you’re dealing with.” All of a sudden, Clarence reaches into his waistband and pulls out a silver nine millimeter. I feel my heart go into overdrive as he aims it at Kelvin. “Hey! What the fuck are you doing?” I shout, but Kelvin raises his hand and waves me off. “Nah, it’s okay, baby,” he says calmly. “What the fuck are you gonna do, Uncle Clarence? You gonna shoot me? You gonna kill your own nephew?

You gonna kill me because I don’t wanna risk my life to sell drugs for you?” “Save the fucking dramatics,” Senior counters. “Of course I’m not gonna have Clarence kill my own son. That’d just be brutal and heartless. I’d never kill you, Junior. You’re my son, and I’m not like the Russians, who kill their own family members to gain power. Nah, that’s not how I do things. However, I do, sometimes, have to prove myself.” Senior looks over at Clarence and nods his head once. Then, Clarence turns the gun on Phillip, and pulls the trigger. The bang of the gun sends me reeling. My heart is pounding, and the next thing I hear is Phillip screaming. I look over at him and see him lying on the ground, clutching his knee. There’s blood all over the floor and Phillip’s hands, and I can see the massive hole just above his kneecap. “What the fuck?” Kelvin screams. “You motherfucker!” Trey bellows as he takes off in a full sprint towards Clarence, but before he gets to him, Clarence turns the gun on him and he stops in his tracks.

“You don’t want to do that, Trey,” Clarence says, aiming the gun at Trey’s forehead. “I’d hate to have to kill you. You’re the one I like.” Phillip curls up into a ball on the floor, holding his knee with both hands and writhing in pain. My senses seem scattered, and I can’t believe that Clarence actually shot him because Kelvin didn’t want to sell drugs. This is fucking insane. It’s too much, and I want nothing to do with it. “What the fuck did you shoot him for?” I hear Kelvin say. “I told you I needed to prove a point. I don’t think you understand who you’re talking to sometimes. I’m the boss of this family. That means that you work for me. You do what I say, or else there’s consequences. I’d never hurt you, but sometimes other people get hurt. Either way, I’m gonna get what I want, Junior. You understand what I’m saying?” “So, what the fuck are you gonna do? You gonna shoot my friends if I don’t sell your drugs for you?” “See, there you go again, thinking that you still

have a choice. You don’t get it. You’re gonna sell the dope because I said you’re gonna do it. There’s no decision to be made here, Junior. I’ve made it for you. You get to keep living in the penthouse forever, because you’re gonna help us sell this shipment of dope.” “No! Fuck you, Senior!” I hear myself shout. I’m a little startled that I actually said it out loud, but I’ve had all that I can possibly take. I’ve reached my limit. This is it. This is where Kelvin and I separate ourselves from this drama. The room goes silent. Even Phillip stops screaming as if my outburst has temporarily numbed his pain. I walk over to Kelvin and grab ahold of both of his hands. I can feel everyone staring at me, but I’ve never given a fuck less than I do right now. “We don’t have to do this, Kelvin,” I say, looking him straight in the eyes. “You don’t have to take this crazy shit. This is insane, and I don’t want this in my life, baby. We can make it on our own. Let him have the fucking Red Chip. We’ll move out and find our own place. You’re extremely smart

and resourceful, so I know you can find a job somewhere else. I don’t need the lavish penthouse, or the fancy cars. All I really need is you. I don’t care what kind of car your drive, or if you wear suits. You could wear a fucking Ronald McDonald costume for all I care, and it still wouldn’t stop me from loving you. Don’t think that you have to put up with this bullshit just to keep me. I don’t need this, baby. We don’t need this. All I need is you. Let’s just walk away from all of this. Please. Fuck them.” I see the tension in Kelvin’s face fade away as he looks down at me. The sides of his mouth have the beginnings of a smile, but before he can say anything, I hear the sound of another gunshot and I feel myself being spun around. The next thing I know, I’m lying on my back on the dusty floor. I feel dizzy, like I’ve been spinning on a merry-go-round, and I have no idea what happened or how I ended up on the floor. I look around the room and I see Phillip on the ground next to me. He’s looking at me like I’m a ghost, his eyes bulging, and then his eyes dart up above me. I

follow his gaze and see that Kelvin is standing up just above me. The look on his face scares the shit out of me and I feel a terrible panic flow through my body. I feel like I’m having a panic attack and I have to concentrate just so I can breathe properly or I might pass out. I think that I should ask Kelvin what the hell just happened, but my thought process is cut off by a sharp stinging pain in my right shoulder. I look down at it and see that I’m bleeding. What the fuck? I look up at Kelvin again, and that’s when I see Senior standing behind him, holding a gun. When I finally realize what just happened, I’m filled with anger, hatred, and shear panic. Senior just shot me. The next sound I hear is a blood curdling scream from Kelvin, then he turns on his heel and darts towards Senior. My eyes bulge as Kelvin runs towards his father, who is now pointing the gun at him, but Kelvin doesn’t seem to care at all. He just keeps running and screaming. Then, out of nowhere, Kelvin is tackled by Clarence. The two of them hit the ground hard and immediately start to wrestle, but Kelvin quickly gains the upper hand

and gets on top of his uncle. I see him throwing huge, haymaker punches that land with all of his bodyweight, but somehow, Clarence manages to push Kelvin off of him and grabs his gun. Just as the two of them stand up, Clarence aims the gun at Kelvin’s face. “No! Kelvin stop!” I scream at the top of my lungs, fearing that if Kelvin moves another inch, Clarence will kill him. “Please stop!” Kelvin gets to his feet completely, but he doesn’t go after Senior or Clarence. Surprisingly, he looks over at me like he’s realizing for the first time that I’m not dead. I see hateful, vengeful, tears in his eyes as he stares at me, completely frozen. “Whoo,” I hear Senior begin. “You’re fiery over that girl, aren’t you?” Kelvin’s face hardens again as he turns to face his father, but he doesn’t speak. “You made me do it, Junior. You pushed me to it. You think I wanted to shoot your little girlfriend? Of course not. But, like I said, people around you might get hurt, but I’m gonna get my way, no matter what. I think you understand that now. So,

here’s what’s gonna happen. Like I said before, you’re gonna help us move this new product out as fast as possible. I don’t care if you run it out of the Red Chip, or if you go down to the streets and put in the fiend’s hands yourself. I don’t give a fuck how it gets done, but you will play a part in this. I expect the turnaround in the next week, or there’s gonna be problems. Judging from how this little scene looks right now, you don’t want or need any more problems. Now, we’ve got a lot of product to push, so I suggest you get started, and I expect to hear from you soon. Got it?” Kelvin still doesn’t say anything. He just stares at Senior with hatred in his eyes. “Good,” Senior continues, ignoring Kelvin’s silence. “I’ll have somebody come by and pick up the rest of the dope and the eighteen wheeler in a day or two. Make sure everything that we unloaded today is back on the truck by then. Now, go get that little bitch of yours cleaned up. I’ll be in touch.”

“Good morning. I guess I should apologize for just how early it is in the morning, actually. I assure you that there’s a reason that we’re meeting here at two in the morning in the middle of the week. I know you all should be asleep right now, getting ready to get up early to come here to headquarters to start your daily routine of serving and protecting our city of Chicago. However, you’ve all been called here for a very important reason, and I think when I tell you exactly why we’re here, you’ll be glad you got this call. “You all know me already. I’m Agent Russell

Jenkins. I’ve been here with you all for about fifteen years, and some of you are my close friends. You also know that I’ve been gone for a quite a while now. I haven’t been anywhere near HQ in a long time, and you’ve probably heard plenty of rumors about me. One of which is that I’ve been on administrative leave this whole time, dealing with personal issues. I’ve even heard that some people think I quit, for whatever reason. I’m sure it all gets confusing, but today you’ll learn the truth, and you’ll be the only ones to know the truth. Not one word of what we say tonight will be spoken outside of this room. Not one word. My life depends on it. “Now, the truth is that I haven’t been on leave for any reason whatsoever. I’ve been working, just like you. For the past one hundred eighty-seven days, I’ve been undercover as a driver for Clarence Carter, the underboss of the Carter crime family. You all know very well who they are. Captain Perez and I managed to come up with a way for me to infiltrate the family with the intent of bringing them down, because we found out that they were smuggling heroin into the city via our resident

crooked cop, Viktor Gavlik. I know you all have seen how crazy it’s gotten out there over the past few months. Seems like we can’t turn a corner without seeing a doped up fiend or witnessing a drug transaction right in the broad daylight. Well, you can thank Kelvin Carter and Ilia Baskov for that. The two families have linked up to create a mega crime family hell-bent on making as much money as they can by selling heroin and turning our young citizens into addicts. This new brand of heroin has gotten out of control, and I’ve been inside trying to figure out how to bring it all down. That’s the reason we’re having this meeting at this hour. At any moment, I could get a phone call from Clarence, asking me to take him somewhere, and I have to show up when he calls. That’s my job. It’s been six months and I’m still undercover. However, I haven’t lost sight of why I’m here. I’m a cop, first and foremost, and I want to see Kelvin Carter locked up forever for all the shit he’s done. That’s why you’re here. “A few days ago, I drove Clarence Carter and his young nephew, Kelvin Carter Junior, to an

apartment complex on the south side, known as the Blue Projects. The two of them went inside without me, unfortunately, but when they came out, Kelvin Junior seemed really panicked and upset. He didn’t like whatever it was that he’d seen, and Clarence wanted him to keep his mouth shut about whatever it was that went down inside. So, I had Captain Perez look into it, and as it turns out, Clarence and Kelvin murdered a known heroin addict, by the name of Derrick Malone. Derrick’s mother found his body and reported it. We had our guys run forensics on the apartment, and as of this morning, Clarence Carter is officially wanted for murder. His fingerprints were all over everything, especially the victim. Somehow, Kelvin Junior managed to not leave any fingerprints at all, but I’m sure we’ll find something on him in the very near future. Clarence, on the other hand, is fucking cooked. For six months I’ve been living with these bastards. They’ve been extremely careful and have covered their asses well, but all it took was one slip. All it took was Clarence being naïve enough to think that nobody in that neighborhood would call the cops.

Fortunately for us, it was the mother who found the body. The mothers of murdered kids don’t give a shit about street code. So, that’s where we’ll begin. “Now, in front of each of you, there’s a large folder. Included in this folder are the backgrounds of every member of the Carter and Baskov families. Names, birthdates, whereabouts, arrest records, outstanding warrants, traffic violations, and everything that I’ve recorded during my time undercover. We know everything about every one of them, including Deshaun Carter, who was killed a little over six months ago by the previous Russian mob boss, Ivan Baskov, who is now also deceased, killed by his younger brother, Ilia. Yeah, it’s all fucked up, I know. We have all the information we need to move on them. The problem is that we don’t have enough criminal evidence to put them all away for life, which is what we want. We want them off the streets for good. Which is why I’m also glad to say that Judge Newburg has granted us warrants to start running full-time surveillance on all of the Carters and Baskovs. The brass gave us the green light, and we’re a go to start setting up

wire taps, tails, and video where ever we need it, immediately. “Gentlemen, this is the ultimate big fish. The five of you have been called upon to bring down Chicago’s biggest, most dangerous crime families. This task force is only seven deep—the five of you, plus myself and Captain Perez, so we have to be extremely careful. You’ll take your orders from me, while I work everything from the inside. Nobody outside of this room can know absolutely anything about this, so you are all officially off the grid. You will not be showing up to work in the morning. Instead, we’ll meet up in the afternoon, outside of the city to go over surveillance set up, starting with all of the Carter establishments. I want wire taps every-fucking-where. We will not skip a beat on this, and we will not fuck it up. When this is over, all of them will be in jail. Every fucking one of them. “Once we go over surveillance, we’ll begin a step-by-step process of shutting down these families. Step one is using Derrick Malone as our way inside. We use that to get us deeper into the

Carter’s shit than we could have ever thought possible. We’re gonna create our own little Trojan horse. “So, go home and get some rest tonight, gentlemen. Tomorrow is the beginning of the end.”

“You really think that was the best idea?” “What are you talking about?” “You shot his girlfriend.” “Yeah, I know,” I reply as the doors to the conference room close behind us. “She had it coming. Come one, Clarence, you know that little bitch can be annoying. She thinks she runs shit. That bullshit might fly with Junior, but it doesn’t fly with me. I had to prove a point.” I take off my blazer and throw it on the bar counter, then I plop down on the couch and cross my legs.

“Okay, maybe she can be annoying, but you know how Junior feels about that girl. He’s gonna be pissed,” Clarence responds as he takes a seat next to me, his excessive weight making both of our cushions sink. “I know you saw the look on his face as we were leaving.” “Sure, but the big question is—who gives a fuck? I don’t care that he was pissed. I’m pissed! I’m fucking tired of him and that girl being the cause of all of our problems around here. It’s been nothing but drama with Junior since Fab died. I’m fed up with it, Clarence. I’m not taking his shit anymore. He’ll do what I say, or he’ll wish he had. Yes, he’s my son, but he still works for me, and I’m still the boss of this family. I’m done pulling punches for him and Lily.” “I hear what you’re saying. I’m just saying that your son has that mean streak in him. I know he can get all soft and lovey-dovey, but he’s still your son. He’s still a Carter. He has his limits, just like Fab did.” “You might be right, but I really could care less. What’s he gonna do, Clarence? Is he gonna come

kill me because I shot at his girlfriend?” “Shot at her? Nah, you shot her, Senior. She was bleeding,” Clarence says with a chuckle. I love his demented side. Its stuff like that that reminds me why I promoted him to my number two after Mikey got himself into trouble. “Oh I’m sure she was fine. Acting all dramatic, spinning around and shit before she hit the ground. She’s so annoying. It was the only way I could get her to shut up. Did you hear all the crap she was saying to him? That’s the reason he’s all soft, right there. She’s always in his ear. How’s a man supposed to live his life with a fucking woman always in his ear, yapping away? It’s fucking impossible.” “You’re one to talk,” Clarence snaps back with a wide smile. “I remember how you were when you were with Lula. You two were just like Kelvin and Lily. Don’t front.” “I don’t have to front. Yeah, I loved Lula, but she was too good for me. She didn’t want any part of anything illegal or dangerous. She didn’t deserve being cheated on all the time, and all the danger

that always seemed to surround us. I loved her, but I knew I couldn’t be with her. So, when she left, I was glad because I knew that she’d finally be safe and she’d be happy on her own. Lula never tried to tell me how to run this family. She stayed in her lane, and when she felt like she couldn’t do it anymore, she left. Lily is nothing like Lula.” “I know. Nobody is like Lula. She was the best.” “Stop trying to make me feel bad,” I reply as I take a cigar out of the drawer of the table next to me. “Look, the shit that went down with Lily today was completely necessary. Junior needed a wakeup call. Hopefully that was it.” “If you say so.” “What the fuck? Do I have to be worried about you getting all soft now, too? What, do you feel bad for her poor little arm? You turning into a bitch on me now?” “Of course not!” Clarence bellows, snapping his head in my direction. “All I’m saying is that that might not be the way to get to Junior. I just don’t know that going after the one thing he loves is the answer.”

“Fuck that, Clarence. He’ll fucking get over it. He doesn’t have a choice anymore. Junior is the kind of person that you have to take control of. You have to beat him into submission or he’ll start thinking on his own, and the next thing you know, he’s figuring out a way to take you down. He’s smart, and that’s why I have to stay tough on him. I have to rattle him. Letting him make his own decisions is bad. That shit can be bad for business. So, if he thinks he’s got it bad right now, he’s kidding himself. He has no idea how hard things are about to become. His ass needs to be broken. He needs to be put in check. I love him, but I won’t let him ruin this for me. For us. He has to know his place. So, from now on, I’m gonna make sure that he knows his place. And if he tries to step out of line because he has a mean streak, as you say, then the next time it’ll be much worse. If he gets out of pocket again, I’ll kill her. It won’t bother me one bit. Either he falls in line, or I’ll take everything from him. Starting with her.”

“Oh my god! What happened? Are you okay?” “She’s gonna be okay, I think. Can you take a look at it, just to be sure?” “Sure, sure. Come on in.” Aunt Lauren closes the door behind us as Lily and I walk in and have a seat on the couch in the living room. Lily is able to walk on her own, but for some reason, I feel the need to hold her good arm over my shoulder and assist her. I just need to be able to help any way that I can. It’s been a month or so since I last visited my Aunt Lauren. I try to come by and make sure that

she’s okay every now and then, because I know it’s been hard on her since Uncle Mikey got locked up. She goes to visit him all the time, and I know that he’s taking care of her even while he’s locked away, but Uncle Mikey is like a father to me, so I have to make sure that his wife is good to go as well. Aunt Lauren comes rushing into the room with a bottle of rubbing alcohol, a bottle of peroxide, and some gauze. She places everything on the coffee table and kneels down next to the couch in front of Lily. “What the hell happened?” she says with a genuine look of concern on her face. “He shot me. That motherfucker shot me,” Lilliana says. She’s still a bit in shock, and fully pissed off. I can’t even describe the emotion that I’m feeling at the moment. Right now, my main concern is making sure that Lilliana is okay. I’ll deal with the rest later. “What? Shot you? Who shot you?” Aunt Lauren inquires as she rolls up the short sleeve on Lilliana’s shirt.

“That fucking son of a bitch, Senior.” “What?” Aunt Lauren screams as she stops what she’s doing and gawks at us both. “Senior shot you? What the fuck?” “It’s a long story,” I interject, trying to stay on task. “We’ll get into that later. Right now I just want to make sure that her arm is okay.” Aunt Lauren doesn’t respond. I know she wants to know everything, and I fully intend to give her all the information. I’d just rather do it after I know that Lilliana is good to go. We pull up Lilliana’s sleeve and see that she’s still bleeding, but just barely. To my surprise and relief, there’s no bullet hole. Instead, there’s a long, fairly deep scrape on her shoulder where the bullet apparently grazed her. I don’t know if he did it on purpose, but it looks like my father missed his mark. “Thank goodness,” Aunt Lauren says as she looks at the wound. “He grazed you. It’s basically just a deep scratch.” “Yeah, that’s great, but I don’t give a fuck!” Lilliana says, still fired up, and rightfully so. “He

fucking shot me. He shot me! I don’t even know what else to say or think. He fucking shot me!” “I know, and I’m gonna handle it, okay. Just try to calm down,” I reply, rubbing her good shoulder. “How are you gonna handle this, Kelvin?” she replies. “This is a big fucking deal. How am I supposed to deal with this kind of shit? Your father shot me in the shoulder! Call it a hunch, but I don’t think there’s any getting over this.” “I know. I know. You’re absolutely right. Just please calm down. Let Aunt Lauren get you cleaned up, and we’ll talk about it. Okay?” Lilliana doesn’t say anything in response. She just shakes her head at me and goes back to staring at her bloody shoulder. Aunt Lauren gives Lilliana some medicine to help with the pain. Then, she uses the gauze to clean up the wound, and uses the rubbing alcohol and some peroxide to clean it out. Lastly, she dresses it and covers it with a large bandage. By the time she’s finished, Lilliana has finally mellowed out. I’m not sure if that’s because of the time that has passed or because of the meds kicking in, but

after a while, she begins to doze off on the couch. “Let’s take her upstairs to the guest bedroom, so she can get some rest. Then, you and I can talk.” Aunt Lauren helps me help Lilliana upstairs. We put her in the same bedroom that we stayed in when I got shot and had to hide away from the crooked cops and Russians that were after us. I never would’ve thought that I’d be back in this same house for the same reason, but with the roles reversed. As I close the door to the room, I look back at Lilliana who’s already starting to fall asleep on the bed. Now, I know what emotions I’m feeling. I stomp down the stairs and sit down next to Aunt Lauren, who has already poured herself a glass of wine. “Alright, Kelvin,” she begins. “Explain.” I take a deep breath to compose myself, and rest my elbows on my knees. “He’s been trying to get me sell drugs for him. My father, I mean. Ever since they made this deal with the Russians, all he thinks about is how much money he can make. He doesn’t give a fuck about

any of the rest of us, especially now that Uncle Mikey isn’t here to keep him under control. He’s caught up on trying to gain power and money. So, he’s been pushing me to start selling for him, even though I fucking told him that I didn’t want to do that. I never wanted to sell fucking heroin. That’s ridiculous and dangerous.” “You’re right, and that’s something that you definitely need to stay away from. You don’t want any part of that shit.” “He told me that he’d kick me out of the Red Chip if I didn’t help them sell the dope. So, I told him how I felt about it and that I needed to think about it all. When he called me to take in a new shipment at the warehouse, I still hadn’t made a decision. I told him that, and he started going on about needing to prove a point to me. Like he needed to prove to me how powerful he is. First, he had Uncle Clarence shoot one of my friends in the knee.” “Let me stop you right there. He had Clarence shoot somebody else? Fuck. Why?” Aunt Lauren takes another sip of her drink.

“He said he’d never hurt me, but that people around me could start getting hurt if I didn’t do what he wanted me to do. So, he had Uncle Clarence shoot Phillip, and then he shot Lilliana himself.” “Goddamn! What the fuck has gotten into him? This is too much, Kelvin. You guys have got to get away from all of that. This isn’t good. Your father is an evil bastard, and it’s only getting worse. If you and Lily want any chance of living a normal life, you have to get away from him. Just do what Mikey said a long time ago. Pack up and get the fuck out of here. Messing around with your crazy ass dad is gonna get you in a lot of trouble one day. You’re gonna end up either dead or in jail. I know you don’t want that.” “Of course I don’t want that. But, how the fuck am I supposed to just pack up and leave? Especially after this. I’m just supposed to pack my bags and leave like today never happened?” “Don’t you think that’s the best idea? Your dad is crazy, Kelvin. I know it’s hard to do, but you’re gonna have to just let it go.”

I put my head down and think about what she’s saying. She wants me to just forget all of this. That’s fucking crazy. I know my dad is a very powerful man, but a line was crossed today, and there’s no un-crossing it now. “You don’t understand,” I reply. “He won’t just let me leave. He shot Phillip and Lilliana because I wouldn’t do what he wanted me to do. He says I work for him now. Full-time. He told me he wanted the turnaround from the drug sales in a few days. I can’t just leave. He’ll send Uncle Clarence after me or something. It’s not that easy.” “Well you have to figure something out, because you can’t just keep getting involved in this crazy shit with him. It was you laying in that bed a few months ago. Now, it’s the love of your life. See a pattern? You have to do something.” “I’m gonna do something.” “Okay. So, you have a plan already then? Well, what are you gonna do?” Just then, we hear the sound of a buzzer going off. It’s the security system letting us know that somebody is at the front gate. Aunt Lauren gets up

and checks the security monitor in her bedroom and then comes back out to the living room. “I don’t know who this is,” she says, waving for me to follow her into the bedroom. I take a look at the monitor and see that it’s Trey. “I know him. That’s Trey. I texted him and told him to meet us here.” “Oh. Okay.” Aunt Lauren hits a button and the gates open to let Trey in. It only takes him a minute or two to drive up the driveway and park in front of the door. I walk over to the door and open it before he gets a chance to knock. When he walks in, I can see that he’s absolutely furious. “Hey, Trey,” I say, shaking his hand. “This is my Aunt Lauren.” “Nice to meet you,” Trey says with a forced smile. Aunt Lauren shakes his hand, and then the three of us walk into the living room and sit on the couch. “How’s Phillip?” I begin. Trey exhales loudly. “I took him to the hospital.

They’ll probably have to do surgery on his knee to remove the bullet. Who knows how long it’ll be before he walks again, and he may never walk properly. But, he’s alive. How’s Lily?” “The bullet grazed her. It gave her a good cut on her shoulder, but nothing too serious, I guess. She’s upstairs sleeping.” “That’s good to hear. I’m glad she’s okay,” he replies, then his face hardens. “Okay, so how do we deal with this shit? Clarence shot my brother in the knee. I can’t let that slide, Kelvin.” Aunt Lauren immediately sits up and throws her arms in the air. “Wait, wait! What are you about to say? You can’t let that slide? Are you suggesting retaliating?” “Fucking right! He shot my brother!” Trey barks. “I don’t give a fuck who he is. I don’t give a fuck that he’s got a temper, and I don’t give a fuck who his brother is. I don’t give a fuck about anything. All that matters is the fact that he shot my brother.” “You don’t retaliate against the Carters. Senior will fucking kill you,” Aunt Lauren blares.

“So I’m just supposed to act like the shit never happened? I don’t fucking think so!” Trey stands up and starts pacing around the room. “This is ridiculous. I can’t just do nothing.” Aunt Lauren turns her attention to me. “Look, you have to be smart about whatever it is that you do next. Your lives are on the line, Kelvin. This isn’t a fucking game. You can’t let this kid go after your uncle. Senior will kill him, and we both know it. Hell, that’s if Clarence doesn’t kill him first.” “It’s not Uncle Clarence’s fault,” I respond, finally getting my thoughts in order. “Uncle Clarence shot Phil because my father told him to. My dad controls everything. He’s the one running the show. Every time something bad happens, it’s because of my dad. It’s always him. Uncle Deshaun got killed because of Dad. This deal with the people who killed Uncle Deshaun happened because of him. Fab is dead because of him, and Uncle Mikey is sitting in prison right now because of him. It’s all his fault. Everything is his fault.” “You know, all I hear is complaining,” Trey snaps, still pacing with his hands on his hips. “My

brother is sitting in a fucking hospital with a bullet in his knee. Your girlfriend is resting upstairs because your father shot her in the arm. Your Uncle is in prison! Meanwhile, all we’re doing is sitting in the living room and complaining. We’re not doing anything. This is bullshit! What I want to know is, what are we gonna do about it?” “I’ll tell you what I’m gonna do,” I bellow, my voice echoing off the walls. Trey stops pacing, and Aunt Lauren looks over at me, both of them waiting for me to finish. “I’m gonna kill him.” Neither of them say anything for a minute. All I can hear is breathing and the beating of my own heart. The image of Lilliana spinning around and falling on the floor flashes in my head, and I know that I’ll never forget that image. I’ll never be able to go back to how I was before. I’ll never be the same again. Too much has happened. I’m not going back now, and there isn’t a person in the world who could convince me otherwise. The Kelvin who needs advice and help is gone. Today, I start making my own choices.

“What are you talking about, Kelvin?” Aunt Lauren finally says. “You’re gonna kill who?” I look at her directly in the eyes so that she knows that I’m serious. “My father. I’m gonna kill him.”

“Good evening, Mr. Carter. How are you?” “I’m good, Simon. How about yourself?” “Couldn’t be better, sir. I’m feeling good. You remember that chick, Sharon, who called my phone that night at the airstrip. The one who almost got my head blown off?” “How could I forget that?” “Yeah, well I just left her house. I swear that girl sucks my dick like it’s got the cure for cancer in it. It’s fucking amazing, let me tell you.” “I bet it is, Simon. You’re one crazy motherfucker, you know that?”

“I can’t help it. Sometimes crazy shit just pops out of my mouth. I apologize.” “Nah, it’s cool. Don’t worry about it. That’s why I like you. Hey, you know, I really feel like I should apologize for how shit went down that night. We get a little paranoid on those nights when we get shit in. Senior gets me all fired up. I shouldn’t have gotten suspicious of you. I know you’re cool.” “Hey, don’t worry about, boss. I understand. That’s really the only way to make sure that your shit stays safe. You’ve gotta protect your business. I didn’t take it personally.” “Good. Thanks for being cool about it. Hey, you know we’re going to the Royal Flush, right?” “Yeah, yeah. I just saw on my GPS that traffic is gonna be backed up going up Madison, so I’m just taking a little, tiny detour. Anyway, so how about you, boss? You seeing anybody? Hooking up with any good dick suckers?” “Nah, not really. I really don’t have time for that kind of shit. I’m always busy doing something with Senior or the businesses. I might pay a few chicks to come and get me off every now and then, but I

definitely don’t do serious.” “Bachelor for life. I like that.” “That’s the way a Carter should do it. It never seems to work out when we bring women into our lives. They can’t handle the lifestyle.” “I guess I can understand that. I don’t know. Maybe I’ll settle down someday. Have some kids. As long as the woman I marry sucks dick like Sharon, we’re good.” “Why not just marry Sharon then.” “What? Eeww. Sharon can suck a dick, but I don’t want to marry her. That chick is a seven, tops. If I’m gonna get married and commit myself to someone, she’s gonna be a dime. Not a nine and a half, a fucking ten. Top to bottom perfection. My wife will have beautiful hairs on her head, and sexy soles on her feet. When I get married, I want to try to be faithful, so I need my wife to be everything I could ever want so that I don’t get tempted to cheat. If the chick doesn’t check off all the boxes of what I’m looking for in a wife, then she won’t be my wife.” “I suppose that’d be the best way to do it.”

“Yeah, man. I mean, I see guys all the time marrying these hideous looking bitches. Fat as hell. Sloppy as shit. Never doing their hair or makeup. Yet, these dudes are still married to them, even though they hate their guts and gawk at every chick that passes by. They stare at and lust after fives and sixes, because their wives have let themselves drop to twos and threes. Then, of course, they’re all unhappy in the marriage. That won’t be me. When I get married, my wife will be the shit, and we’ll fuck all the time because she’ll be hot as hell, and I will actually want to fuck her. She’ll care about her appearance and I’ll care about mine. It’ll be fucking sweet.” “Well, at least you have it all planned out. Hey, where the fuck are you going?” “What?” “You’ve missed, like, five turns that could’ve taken us to the Royal Flush without ever touching Madison. I’ve lived here my whole life, I know this city in and out. You’re actually going away from the casino now. So, where the hell are you going?” “I’m going to the Royal Flush, like you said.”

“No, you’re not. I told you, you’re going the opposite direction of the casino now. What the fuck are you doing, Simon?” “Don’t worry, Clarence. You’re gonna get to the Royal Flush. We just have to stop somewhere else first.” “What? I told you I needed to go to the Royal Flush so I can meet with Senior. You don’t decide that we’re gonna go somewhere else first. What the hell has gotten into to you today?” “Does Ilia ever ask about Viktor?” “What?” “Viktor. Does Ilia ever ask about him? It’s been a while and he hasn’t gone back to them. I was just curious if Ilia wondered where he went.” “Who the hell is Viktor?” “Oh, I guess you don’t know about that. Viktor Gavlik is a crooked cop who used to work for the Baskovs. He’s the guy your nephew shot in the knees right before he set his car on fire in an alley down the street from your brother’s night club. You don’t remember that?” “How the fuck do you know about that? I

thought that happened before I hired you.” “Maybe it’s not all coming together for you, boss. Take your time and think about it. Go ahead, I’ll wait, but you better hurry, because we’re almost there.” “What the fuck are you talking about? Fuck this.” “Come on, Clarence. There’s no sense in tugging at the door handle like that. It’s obviously got the child safety locks on. Oh, and before you reach into your waistband and pull out the gun that you keep there, you should know that we’re here.” “What the fuck is this? Where are we?” “How did you not figure it out, Clarence? Better yet, how have you still not figured it out, even now, surrounded by all these black vans. I know this is gonna be hard for you. To be honest, I didn’t expect it to be so easy for me. I mean, it took six months, but eventually you slipped, and now here we are. Now, after six months, it’s finally gotten easy.” “You fucking son of a bitch. I fucking knew it. I should’ve trusted my gut. I fucking knew it. You

fucking snitch motherfucker.” “Oh, come on, now. You never had a feeling. If you did, you would’ve killed me a long time ago, or at least out there on that airstrip. You trusted me all the way up until the end. Which, by the way, is right now, but I’m sure you can see that from all the heavily armed police officers that are approaching the car right now.” “You son of a bitch.” “Sorry, Clarence. Nothing personal. Got anything else you’d like to say before we do this?” “Fuck you.” “Fuck me. Got it. Now, it’s my turn. Clarence Carter, you’re under arrest for the murder of Derrick Malone.”

When I wake up, the room is empty. I find myself realizing that the bed that I’m lying in is the same one that Kelvin and I slept in when he got shot a few months back. Now, it’s my turn, I guess. Oh, the irony, and how times haven’t changed. I sit up in the bed and look down at my bandaged shoulder. Lauren did an amazing job for a woman who has never been to medical school. I guess living a life surrounded by gangsters has taught her a thing or two about dressing bullet wounds. I don’t know how she does it. Lauren lived every day with this family, and no matter how bad

things got, she stuck by Mikey the whole time, and she’s still sticking by him now. Even after Senior had her husband put in jail for absolutely nothing, she’s still here, standing by her man and ready to put up with anything that may come their way. She’s a soldier. She’s a fighter, and I can only hope to be as brave as her. After all that’s happened, I’m not even sure what I feel anymore. What emotion do you have towards someone who has done nothing but make your life harder? How do you feel when someone shoots you? I’m not sure how to answer those questions, so as I sit on the edge of the bed, staring at my bandages, I’m almost nostalgic. I miss how things used to be for me and Kelvin when we first got together. Back when I was just curious about his enticing mysteriousness. I saw the clothes and the fancy cars, and like any girl would be, I was instantly drawn to him. Then, I got to know his nearly flawless personality and I was hooked. It seemed so much easier then. I miss being able to eat out without feeling like I have to look over my shoulder for someone holding a gun. Even after the

truce with the Russians, I still don’t feel safe. I still feel like there’s a war going on that’s ready to reach out and ruin our lives at any moment. For me and Kelvin, the war never ended. For us, the war rages on, and I’m starting to think that Senior is the enemy. He’s the one who’s locked our lives inside this chamber of fear and worry. He’s the one who put Kelvin through all that stress and ultimately had us arguing and wondering if we could make it. It’s him who’s trying to get Kelvin to sell drugs and it’s him who shot me in the arm. There still is a war, and it’s between us. Me and Kelvin versus Senior. That thought weighs heavily on my mind as I climb out of the bed and begin to make my way downstairs. About half way down the staircase, I hear Kelvin’s voice. He sounds tense. I’m sure all that has happened must have him stressed out, and I know that’s the last thing that he needs. I wish there was something I could to ease his frustration. As hard as it has been for me, I know it must be hard for him to be stuck in the middle of everything. He has his father and family on one

side, and me on the other. As much as I know he loves me, I know that has to be hard on him. My job is to make it as easy on him as I can. So, as I descend the stairs, I try to shake off my aggressive hatred for Senior that must be radiating from my skin by now, and I put on a straight face. “I know, that’s why we have to put in our own money,” I hear Kelvin saying as I hit the last of the stairs. “That way, he thinks that it’s just another turnaround for him, and he won’t get suspicious. He’ll think I’m finally complying…” When I walk into the room, Kelvin notices me and immediately stops talking. He sits back in his seat and Lauren looks at me like she just got caught with her hands in the cookie jar. Then, I notice that Trey is in the room also. He sits back in his seat and puts his hand over his mouth as if to keep himself from talking. “Hey,” I say, almost like a question. “What’s going on?” “Hey, baby,” Kelvin replies as he stands up and gives me a soft, cautious hug. “How are you feeling?”

“I’m okay, I guess.” Kelvin takes my hand and leads me to the seat next to him, forcing Trey to scoot over. “Are you having any pain?” Lauren chimes in. I can see the worry in her eyes and it makes me uneasy. “Yeah, it’s definitely sore. Pain meds may be starting to wear off, but it’s okay, because they kind of put me to sleep anyway.” Nobody says anything for a few seconds and the silence is frustrating. I can tell that I must’ve interrupted something, but I choose not to ask about it just yet. So, I turn my attention to Trey. “How’s Phillip doing?” “Well, he isn’t gonna die, so that’s something to be thankful for, I guess.” Trey looks livid as he speaks, but I can tell he’s trying not to let me see it. “He’s gonna need some pretty serious surgery, and all we can do is hope that he walks like he used to.” “Damn. I’m so sorry to hear that. I hope that he turns out okay,” I say. “I’m sure we all do.” Again, no one says anything. I feel a sudden and surprising rush of frustration wash over me. I’m guessing it’s because I just got shot in the shoulder, but I’m

really not in the mood for any bullshit. “So, what’s going on? You all are being way too quiet. What were you talking about before I walked in?” I hear Trey exhale loudly, and Lauren is suddenly avoiding eye contact with me. So, I turn and look at Kelvin, awaiting his answer to my question. “Oh, well, it was nothing. Don’t worry about that. I just want to make sure that you’re okay. Do we need to change out the dressing under the bandage?” “Hey,” I snip. “We just went through this, didn’t we? Don’t bullshit me, Kelvin. No more hiding, remember?” Now it’s Kelvin’s turn to exhale as he remembers our agreement, and suddenly looks like he regrets it. “You’re right. I’m just not sure you want to hear anything like this,” he replies staidly. “I don’t care what it’s about. I want to know what’s going on.” Kelvin looks over at his aunt and then over at Trey, who nods his head as if to say it must be

done. “Okay. Well, we obviously have a serious problem on our hands with the shit that went down today. We all came to the conclusion that the reason that bad things keep on happening is because of my father. He’s the one who makes everything happen, and he crossed a line today. A line that he can’t un-cross now. He’s put us all through so much pain. So, the question is, what are we gonna do about it, and I think the only solution to this problem is to eliminate it. We get rid of the problem all together.” “Umm, where exactly are you going with this?” I ask rhetorically. I know the answer, but until he says it, I won’t believe it. “I’m saying that we need to kill him, Lilliana. We have to kill my dad,” Kelvin says, suddenly staring me straight in the eye with a straight face. I know that he couldn’t be more serious about this. “What? You want to kill him? Are you fucking serious?” “I thought he killed you today. At first, when I heard that gun go off and I watched you fall to the

floor, I thought he killed you right there in front of me. I was ready to die right then and there. I was ready to fight him to the death. Then, you spoke and I realized that you were still alive. I felt so relieved, and then I felt a humongous burden on my shoulders. I realized that I haven’t done my job protecting you. This whole time, I’ve been trying to protect you from all this other shit in our lives, when it’s been my father that I should’ve been protecting you from. He’s the one who’s dangerous. He’s our biggest threat, and we have to do something about it, or it’ll never end.” I lean back in my seat, trying to absorb everything that I just heard. It sounds like the most beautifully terrifying music to my ears. I can hardly imagine what our lives would be like if we didn’t have to worry about Senior coming in and ruining everything as often as he does. To know that we could go through our lives without him just puts a giant smile on my face. Then, however, all I can think about is the fact that Kelvin wants to kill someone. He wants to ends someone’s life. I know how terrible of a person Senior is, and the truth is,

he probably deserves to die. There probably isn’t a person out there who deserves to die more than him, and I know that the world would be a much better place without him. But, who are we to play God? It’s not our job to inflict our own form of vigilante justice on Senior. We’re not supposed to kill people, plain and simple. Then again, this man shot me today, and for all I know the only reason I’m still alive is because he missed his mark. For all I know, he was aiming for my head and just happened to miss because he wanted to make sure that he didn’t hit Kelvin. I don’t know that he shot me in the shoulder on purpose. Then again, does that really even matter? It doesn’t matter if he missed his mark or not, because the one thing that’s clear is that he intended to shoot me. That part we all know was not an accident. And, now that he’s done it once, what’s to keep him from doing it again? What’s to keep him from doing it every time he wants to bully Kelvin into doing something? Kelvin’s right. Senior ordered Clarence to shoot Phillip. Senior had Mikey set up and sent to prison

on those bogus drug charges. Senior is the cause of all of our problems. I remember that I asked Kelvin what he was going to do about the situation before I went upstairs, and now he’s offering a solution. Albeit, an extreme solution, it’s a solution nonetheless. I feel like I’m being pulled by both of my arms in opposite directions, so I close my eyes and let my heart speak for me. I try to just speak with the truth, and I’m shocked by the words that come out of my mouth next. “How would you plan on doing it?” Everybody in the room suddenly turns their heads and stares at me with wide eyes. It’s almost like something out of a horror movie, and I find myself leaning back in my seat out of discomfort. Eventually, Kelvin steadies himself and speaks up. “Umm, we would have to use this drug thing to our advantage. I’d have to do it when I meet him to deliver the drug money. That’s the only time I can think of that he’ll have his guard down. I’d probably have to do it at the Royal Flush. So, what we do is put some money together and act like we

sold the drugs, like he expects.” I think about it for a second, and then ask a more important question. “What about Clarence? He’s always there.” “Yeah, I’m still working on that part.” “Fuck that! We kill him too!” Trey jumps in. “It doesn’t matter to me that Senior told him to pull the trigger on my brother, he still pulled it. He’s fucking guilty and he needs to get what’s coming to him. So, when you go up to pop Senior, I’ll come in right behind you and pop Clarence. Or, you can do them both. I don’t give a shit how it’s done, but you know you can’t leave Clarence behind, because you know he’ll retaliate if you let him walk. He has to go too.” “You guys are ridiculous!” Lauren interjects loudly. “Do you hear yourselves? This is a mob family. If you kill Senior and Clarence, then you have to worry about Ilia. If you kill Ilia, you’ll have to worry about his number two, Yosef. It’s a never ending cycle, you damn dummies. You can’t just kill this problem.” “We can if we make it look like it was a drug

deal gone wrong,” Trey says confidently. “Or better yet, we could make it look like it was the Russians who carried out the hit. Make it look like Ilia and the Russians did it. Make them take the fall for it,” Kelvin says, placing his finger on his temple, thinking as hard as he can. “You can’t do this, Kelvin!” Lauren bellows. “You’re doing exactly what they would do, don’t you see that? What do you think Mikey would do? You think your uncle would actually try to kill Senior? You think he’d be okay with you saying all this shit?” “With all due respect, Aunt Lauren, I do think Uncle Mikey would kill him,” Kelvin says. Lauren looks at him, perplexed. “You might find that hard to believe, but I know how much Uncle Mikey loves you. He’d do anything for you. So, I know that if my dad shot you, Uncle Mikey would kill him. It wouldn’t even be a debate if you were the one with the bandage around your shoulder.” His words seem to hit everyone right in their hearts, and no one says anything for a while. Lauren puts her head down and her face drains of

all emotion. She knows it’s true. There isn’t a chance in hell that Mikey would let this slide if Lauren were me. Senior would probably already be dead. I know it’s wrong, and I know that I never would’ve even thought about this a little over a year ago, before I met. But, I’m in love now. Not just a mushy, infatuated, kinda-sorta love, either. I’m in earth-shattering, ground-breaking, head over heels, us against the whole fucking world love. This is the kind of love that people would die for. This is what so many people never get to experience in their lives. This is real love, and it’s the reason that I’m a completely different person than who I was when I first saw Kelvin at Applebee’s. That person is long gone. I let the words bounce around in my head for a minute, while the rest of the room is still stuck in silence. The words are all I can think of. I let them make their way down from my mind to my mouth, and I let them sit there for a while too. Finally, after all of the debating and the back and forth, I let them spill out of my mouth.

“Let’s do it,” I say so quietly that I may as well have whispered it. “What?” Kelvin replies with a scrunched forehead. “What’d you just say?” This time, I take a deep breath and say the words with more conviction, trying to convince myself and them that I’ve made up my mind. “I said, let’s do it. Let’s put a plan together, and then let’s do it. Let’s kill Senior.”

“Comfortable?” “Fuck you.” “Aww, I know this is difficult for you, Clarence. I know that when you woke up this morning you didn’t expect your driver of the past six months to arrest you. I’m sure that’s hard to deal with. You should also know that I don’t give a fuck if it’s hard for you. It’s been hell for me this whole time. Having to work for you, dropping what I’m doing to run to you whenever you call. Knowing all along that you’re a dirty, ruthless, killer who doesn’t care about anyone but yourself. Yeah, it was definitely

hard for me, but I got over it. I’m definitely over it now, that’s for sure. So, you just give it some time, you’ll get over it, too.” “You’re a fucking dead man, Simon.” “Okay, first of all, my name obviously isn’t Simon, but there’s two other things you should know. One, threatening a special agent while you’re in custody is a pretty stupid thing to do. You know that whole thing about everything you say being used against you in a court of law? Yeah, we’re not kidding when we say that. So, that was pretty fucking dumb. Number two, you can drop the whole tough guy thing you have going on. That shit won’t do you any good anymore, at least not right now. Not while we’re in here. Maybe once you leave this interrogation room and you’re in general population you can flex those biceps and scare some of your fellow inmates, but I’m not fazed by that shit. Nothing’s gonna happen to me, Clarence. We both know that. Things are certainly gonna happen, but not to me. So, let me just take this opportunity to tell you what you’re up against, then we’ll move on to what we can do for each other.

Sound good?” “Fuck you.” “Great! So, over the past six months, I’ve been doing my own surveillance on you and your family. I didn’t take the risk of wearing a wire, because I didn’t want to get caught with it. I knew you’d kill me if that ever happened, so all I had to go on was what I saw and heard first hand. Surprisingly, you and your crime family are pretty damn smart. Yeah, I’ve gotta hand it to you criminals, you definitely know how to cover your asses. Even after you murdered Derrick, you told Kelvin that nothing happened. I’m assuming you did that because I was driving you and you wanted to be on the safe side. Little did you know that Kelvin Junior’s little panic attack was the thing that set me off. Six months undercover, and it’s the kid who finally triggers me.” “He fucking snitched didn’t he? That little arrogant prick. He’s the one who brought you this shit, isn’t he?” “Who, Kelvin Junior? Of course not. Is that what you think? You think you got snitched on?

You’re way off. I mean, sure, Junior’s emotions set me off and basically started the investigation into the Blue Projects, but ultimately, it was you who got you arrested.” “The fuck are you talking about?” “Did you really think that you could beat the shit out of someone with your bare hands and not leave any fingerprints? Your prints were all over the victim and on the bullet we pulled from the back of his skull. Oh, and now that we have you in custody, I guess it’s only fair that you know that we’ve also obtained a search warrant for your house. We already found the weapon you used to shoot the victim. As if that wasn’t enough to put your ass away for, like, ever, I also was there the day your two-hundred-forty keys of heroin came in. I know exactly where the bulk of it is, and how you got it here. It’s kind of funny, actually. That night, you almost killed me because my captain called my phone like an idiot. Luckily, I put him in my contacts as Sharon. How’s that for irony? You even asked me if I was a cop. Wow. My heart was pounding, I’ll tell you that. You almost got me,

Clarence. Almost. Close, but no cigar. Anyway, you let it go, I went home and told Sharon all about everything I’d seen at the airstrip, and now here we are. I’ve got you on murder one, smuggling drugs into the country, distribution, and the intent to sell. And the beauty of it is that all of it is solid, irrefutable evidence. Every single piece of it. You’re fucked, Clarence, plain and simple. There’s no getting around just how fucked you are. Seriously, you’re fucked, like, royally fucked. Like, more than porn stars. It’s pretty serious. I’d hate to be in your shoes. However, I do know a way that you can sort of reduce how fucked you are. There’s a way that we can mitigate how bad it is.” “I guess this is the part where you offer me some sort of a deal. This is where you tell me that I can save my own ass if I snitch on everybody else. Typical.” “Not quite. This is the part where I tell you that you can’t do anything to save your own ass. Your ass is grass, as corny as that sounds. So, you can get that part out of your head. However, I can offer you a chance to do something good, for once in

your life. I can offer you a chance to bring a lot of bad shit to an end, and a chance to save your nephew, all while making your own pile of shit a little bit smaller.” “Save my nephew? How does Junior fit in with all of this?” “I’m glad you asked. You see, Clarence, Kelvin Junior was with you when you murdered Derrick. He didn’t call the police, which is obstruction of justice. And, since he didn’t call the police to report the murder, that leads me to believe that he had a hand in it. I know he’s got this whole thing about owning your brother’s hotel and trying to separate himself from your family, but this murder thing is gonna ruin his life. He’s gonna go to jail for a really long time. His life will be over and it hasn’t even started yet. “So, I’m giving you the opportunity to tell us everything, so that we know who’s been involved in what. That way, the wrong people don’t go down for nothing. If you help us, Clarence, you can protect Kelvin and still give him a chance to live a respectable life. Not to mention the fact that if you

cooperate with us, we can work to get your own sentence reduced. I give you my word, if you work with us, I’ll do absolutely everything that I can to help you during sentencing. I’m not saying that you’re not gonna do some hard time, but there’s ways that we can help to keep it from being so hard. We can keep you from spending the rest of your life in jail, Clarence. You help us, and we can be your tiny light at the end of your very dark tunnel. “Or, you can take the gangster high road and not tell us anything. In which case, we’ll use every bit of drug evidence that we have and bring down your whole family anyway, including your Russian connections. We know all about them, too. Including the fact that Ilia and Yosef Baskov shot and killed their own brother in broad daylight six months ago. We’ll bring it all down, including Kelvin Junior. Or, of course, you can lie to us and say that you’re gonna help us, and then tip your brother off that we’re coming. In which case, we’ll still carry out the drug charges, and we’ll work with the judge against you to make sure that you and

Kelvin Junior have the harshest sentences available for the drugs and Derrick’s murder. We’ll push for maximum security, twenty-three hour lock down, for the rest of your life—until you die in your oneman cell as an old man, all by yourself. And, while you’re dying, you’ll know that your nephew is in a cell right down the hall from you, except he’s so much younger than you that he’ll still be locked up long after you’ve died off. He’ll be the last of you to die in prison. Out of all of you who’ll get locked up, no one will spend more time behind bars than Kelvin Junior. He’ll have it worse than all of you. “So, I’ll leave it up to you. You get to choose how this thing is gonna play out. The choice is all yours. What’s it gonna be, Clarence? How’s the story gonna end?”

“It’s done. It’s on for tonight,” I say, just after I press the button on my phone to hang up. I turn around and see Lilliana, Lauren, and Trey standing directly behind me. They were obviously listening intently to my conversation with my father. “Okay, well, what did he say?” Trey inquires enthusiastically. “He wants me to meet him in an hour at the Royal Flush. He expects me to have all the money.” “He didn’t question how you sold a hundredthousand dollars’ worth of heroin in, like, two days?” Lilliana says. She’s been the most cautious

of us all since we hashed out this plan. “Nah, he didn’t, actually,” I reply. “I guess he just assumes that Trey helped me. Or, maybe he thinks I put some dealers on the street and we made a good profit in a new location. Plus, I’m sure you could make that much in a night from selling in a casino.” “He doesn’t give a fuck how you got the money,” Aunt Lauren interrupts sourly. “It doesn’t matter to him how you got it, as long as you’ve got it. He’s a boss. All he cares about is the profit.” “Makes sense,” I agree. “Okay. What about Clarence?” Trey asks. “He doesn’t know where he is,” I say. “Huh?” “Yeah, I don’t know. He didn’t really elaborate, he just said that he wasn’t there. So, I guess we don’t need to worry about your portion of the plan.” “Fuck that,” Trey snips. “He might not be there right now, but he might show up later on. I think it’s smarter if I stay close by. I’ll post up in the lobby or something to make sure he doesn’t show up. If he

does, I’ll follow him up and we’ll carry out the plan the way we said we would. I’ll come in after I hear the shots intended for Senior, and catch him by surprise. If he doesn’t show, then it’s better safe than sorry.” “Yeah. That’s better. Just to be safe,” Lilliana agrees, nodding her head. “Okay. That sounds good,” I say. “Alright. Now, don’t forget to knock some shit over and take anything that’s valuable so that it looks like some sort of a robbery. We want to be able to point the finger at the Russians, so it needs to have that gangster feel to it,” Trey says as he puts on the jacket to his suit. “Leave a little bit of the money behind so that it looks like they took the money bag in a hurry.” “I know, I know,” I answer. “I haven’t forgotten the plan. I got it.” “Alright, I just wanted to make sure. This is important.” “You don’t think I know that?” “You can still change your minds, you know,” Aunt Lauren chimes in again. I can see the fear in

her eyes as she looks at me. She’s genuinely worried that this plan is going to fail and that my father or Clarence will kill all of us. It’s not her own safety that she’s concerned about though. It’s mine. She’s always been a very loving and caring aunt, and I know that the last thing that she wants is to see me get hurt or killed. Plus, she knows that if something bad does happen and Uncle Mikey finds out, he’ll do everything in his power to kill my father, which puts her entire life in jeopardy. Everything that she’s known will change. “I know, Aunt Lauren,” I say with a shy smile to reassure her. “You don’t need to worry about us, okay? Everything’s gonna be okay.” “What if it’s not, Kelvin?” Aunt Lauren snaps, still looking at me with despair in her eyes. “What if everything that you’ve planned out goes wrong? What if he doesn’t buy any of this shit and he expects you to be pulling something like this? Keep in mind that he just shot Lily yesterday. He knows how pissed you are about that, and then all of a sudden, you call him up and tell him that you started selling for him and that you’ve already

turned over a hundred grand. I’m not even a drug dealer and that sounds like bullshit to me.” Trey and Lilliana turn and look at wondering what I can say to smooth out tension. Plus, everything Aunt Lauren just probably filled them both with more fear than

me, this said they

already had. So, when they look at me, they really want the answers to the questions that she just asked, because they need the reassurance themselves. I take a deep breath, and then go sit down next to my aunt. “Look, I know you’re scared for me,” I begin calmly. “I have to admit that I’m a little scared, too. I never thought I’d be doing anything like this, especially to my own father, but everything that we love has been ruined by him. Everything. He’s gotten out of control, and I’m the only person that can and will do something about it. So, it doesn’t matter if he suspects something, or if he doesn’t. All that matters is that I end up in that room with him, alone. Nothing else matters, because once we’re in the room, all I have to do is pull the

trigger. Even if he figures it out the moment I walk in, it’ll still be too late. Once I’m in that room, it’s over for him. So, all you have to do is wait for us to call you and tell you that it’s done. No worrying allowed. Okay?” By the time I’m done talking, Aunt Lauren has tears in her eyes. She looks at me like she really thinks that this could be the last time that she sees me, and then she leans over and gives me a tight hug. “You better fucking be careful, Kelvin,” she says, her voice trembling. “You do it, and then you get your ass back here as fast as you can. You hear me?” “I hear you, Auntie.” My aunt finally releases me and I stand up to give a hug and kiss to Lilliana, who looks just as worried as Aunt Lauren, but just isn’t saying it. “I love you, baby,” I whisper as I lean in to hug her. Her hug is just as tight as Aunt Lauren’s was, and I swear I can feel her shaking. “I love you, Kelvin. Be careful, okay? You better bring your ass

back to me.” As we release each other, I smile and say “I got you.” “Alright, Lover Boy, let’s do this,” Trey says as he leads me towards the front door. The door closes behind us, and Trey and I walk to his car in the driveway. As I close the passenger door, I look over and see Aunt Lauren and Lilliana standing in the doorway. They look terrified. For a second, I think about calling it off. Maybe the risk is too high. Maybe it’s not worth it, plus I know that it’s morally wrong. Maybe this is a terrible idea that could get me killed. Maybe it all will backfire and I’ll end up in jail next to Uncle Mikey. There’s a bunch of maybes. There’s a bunch of what-ifs, and I think about all of them as Trey presses the gas and we drive away, towards the gate. However, I know what I’m risking, and more importantly, I know how bad things could get if I don’t do this. My father shot Lilliana in the shoulder yesterday. No matter how dangerous I know this is, nothing will ever change that fact. He shot her. He did the one thing that I deem unforgivable and

worthy of death. He messed with Lilliana. There’s no fixing that. The anger I feel towards him isn’t a normal anger. It’s a deep, dark, aggressive hatred that will not be subdued. It will not be pacified. I don’t give a fuck if my aunt cries until her eyes fall out. Her tears will never make me forget the pain and worry I felt when I heard that gun go off. Nothing will make me forget the agony that coursed through my veins as I watched Lilliana fall down on the floor in front of me. No matter what happens, I’ll never forget how it felt to not care if I died. I felt like my life was over in that moment, because I thought that she was gone. There’s no coming back from that. So, as we pull into the parking garage of the Royal Flush, and Trey and I get out and walk towards the elevators, I think about that. I think about the image of Lilliana on the floor, and I remember how it felt. That’s all the fuel I need to carry out this plan. The doors close, and Trey and I are surrounded by silence. We stand on opposite sides of the elevator, neither of us saying a word. I glance up at him, but he’s staring down at the floor. His face

holds a scowl and I feel like I can read his mind. He’s the only other person who knows just how angry I am right now. I can tell that he’s thinking about how Uncle Clarence shot his brother in the knee, and how he wants nothing more than to be able to see my uncle killed tonight. He wants revenge more than anything, and I understand more than I’d like to admit. The elevator stops on the lobby floor and the doors slide open. Trey finally looks up at me and nods. “Text me when you’re on your way down so I can meet you as soon as the doors open on my floor. Hopefully Clarence shows up.” “I guess we’ll see. Talk to you soon,” I reply as he steps out and walks towards the couches that are in the lobby. If Uncle Clarence comes in, he’ll use the valet and come through the lobby entrance like he always does, so Trey will be in perfect position to see him and follow him up. The doors close once again, and I’m left alone. There’s no sound except my own thoughts and flashing images of my life. I think about how my life has changed so much since I moved into the

city. I’ve lost my brother and one of my uncles to murder, and I’ve lost one to… hell, I don’t even know what you’d call the shit my dad did to Uncle Mikey to get him locked up. I’ve lost so much and felt so much pain because of my dad. As the elevator slows down to stop on the top floor, I focus in on that pain. I latch on to that hurt and use it to give myself the energy I need to get off the elevator and start walking down the hall towards the doors. My heart is pounding and I can feel my hands beginning to sweat profusely. I keep wiping them on my pants, but the sweat returns in seconds. The bag of money I’m carrying feels like it weighs about a thousand pounds for some reason, and I have to keep adjusting it on my shoulder as I step. I feel like I look nervous, and I’m worried that he’s going to see right through me the second I open the doors, which I feel like I’m approaching much too quickly. If he figures it out, he’ll put up a fight. I have to end it before it ever comes to that. So, I stop at the doors and close my eyes. I take a deep breath and exhale loud enough that he could

probably hear it from inside the room, but it helps, regardless. I’m ready. “Well, I’ll be damned. You weren’t kidding,” my father says as I walk in and he notices the black bag slung over my shoulder. “Nah, I wasn’t kidding.” I walk over to the conference room table and place the bag on it. I think for second that I should unzip it for him, but then I remember the plan, so I leave it alone. “Damn. I have to say, Junior, I’m impressed. I can admit that I wasn’t sure how you were gonna react to the whole Lily thing. I was a little worried. I knew you’d be pissed, and I hoped that you’d use it to motivate you to do the right thing, and that’s exactly what you did. I feel all proud and shit.” I have to swallow hard as I think about Lilliana. I push what I want to say to the side and say what I know I need to say. “Yeah, I can admit that it initially did piss me off, Dad. You shot my girlfriend. However, after a lot of thought, I realized that it wouldn’t be that difficult for me to move this dope. I just needed to apply a little bit of effort and thought. So, I figured

the Red Chip was a good place to start.” “See, that’s what I’m talking about, Son. Of course, use the casino to make a little extra on the side. You already know the kind of people that come into the casino—all kinds of motherfuckers that want to spend money and party. They’ll pay whatever to get their hands on some dope. I knew you’d figure it out.” “Yeah, I figured it out.” “I fucking love it. Okay, so, let’s go ahead and address the elephant in the room. How’s Lily?” I swallow hard again. “She’s okay. You only grazed her, actually. Just had to bandage it up.” “Good, good. I hope you know that I wasn’t trying to kill her, and I never wanted it to go that far. I hope you believe that.” Another breath. “Yeah.” “Cool. So, how much did you say you were bringing in?” “Right at one hundred-thousand.” “Damn! So, you moved almost a whole pound in less than two days?” “I guess so. I wasn’t really paying attention to

how much I was selling. I just figured a hundred grand was enough to come do some turnover.” “Damn, Son. I like it. I knew it, man. I knew you’d be good at this. Alright, let’s get an exact count.” He approaches the table and my nerves kick into overdrive. The butterflies in my stomach feel more like pterodactyls as I watch him reach for the zipper of the bag. I feel like my breathing has gotten so loud that he can hear it, so I try to get it under control as he opens the bag and sees the money for the first time. His eyes light up at first, but then I see them go from wide to squinting. “This doesn’t look like a hundred grand to me,” he says with a look of confusion on his face. When I don’t respond, he looks over at me. That’s when the real change in his demeanor happens, because now he sees that I’m aiming my gun at his forehead. He doesn’t say anything at first. He just stares at me with a furious glower on his face. He’s staring, but he’s silent, and it pisses me off. I wanted to see the fear and shock in his face when I pulled the gun

on him. I wanted to see tears in his eyes as he realized that he’d finally pushed me over the edge. He’d finally broken his son and forced me to do the unimaginable. But, he doesn’t give me that satisfaction, and it makes me livid. “What’s the matter?” I ask. “You’re not surprised? You’re not shocked that you drove me to this?” “I guess I underestimated you, Junior. I didn’t think you had this in you. I’m impressed.” “What the fuck are you talking about, you’re impressed? Fuck you. You think I’m doing this for your approval? You’re out of your fucking mind. You pushed me to this. You gave me no other choice. You’ve ruined everything!” “Ruined everything? Look around, Junior. You’re standing at the top of a multi-million dollar casino, surrounded by the most expensive furniture, next to a bar stocked full of the best liquor, wearing a two-thousand dollar suit, holding a chrome plated nine millimeter, and you live in a penthouse at the top of a hotel for free. I haven’t ruined anything. I’ve made your life better. I’ve given you the best

life a spoiled little shit like you could ever ask for.” “Don’t flatter yourself, asshole. All this material shit doesn’t mean anything to me. My brother died because of you and your drama with Ivan. Uncle Mikey is in jail because of you, and you made the biggest mistake in the world when you shot Lilliana. That’s why this is happening. You crossed the motherfucking line, and I’m never letting it happen again. You’ve made my life with Lilliana miserable.” “Oh, please! You might want to look in the mirror before you start pointing fingers. You’re just as much to blame for your hardships as I am.” “What?” “You caused your own drama, boy. I didn’t tell you to move to the city, did I? I didn’t tell you to put a hit out on Ivan’s son, Abram, which was carried out by your Uncle Deshaun, which ultimately got him killed. You did that. That shit you pulled on Abram with your Uncle Deshaun is what killed him. You want to project your shit on to me and blame me for everything, that’s fine, because I don’t give a fuck. But, the truth is, you’re just like

me.” “No! I’m nothing like you!” “Bullshit. Look at you, standing there pointing that gun at me. You’re the exact same as me. It’s my blood running through your veins. Where do you think you get that temper from? Push you the right way and you’re ready to kill someone, just like me.” “Stop fucking saying that, goddamn it!” I scream. I can feel my temperature rising quickly. “I’m not like you and I never will be.” “Lie to yourself all you want, but you know it’s true. Go ahead, Junior. Pull the trigger. Kill me, and then take over The Family. Like father, like son. You want to own the Red Chip? That’s nothing. Here’s your chance to own everything I own. Every establishment. Just pull the trigger. Make me proud, and pull the trigger.” “Shut the fuck up!” “You better do it, you little pussy, because if you don’t, I’m gonna hunt you down, and I’m gonna kill that little bitch girlfriend of yours right in front of you, and then I’m gonna kill you. You’re gonna

watch her die, Junior. If you don’t kill me right now, you’re gonna wish that you did, I fucking swear it on Fab’s grave. There’s no way I’m gonna let you come in here and pull a gun on me, and then don’t kill me. You’re gonna die if you don’t pull the trigger.” “Shut the fuck up!” “It’s now or never, motherfucker. Either become me, or die by my hands. Make a decision or I’ll make it for you.” Suddenly, I see him take a step towards me. I know that this is it. My blood is flowing so fast I feel like I’m going to pass out. He’s going to rush me if I don’t do it right now. He takes another step and I suddenly feel my finger begin to squeeze the trigger, and I listen for the sound of the gun going off.

“Well, that didn’t take long,” Trey exclaims as he enters the elevator.

“Hurry up, get in!” As soon as he clears the doors, I slam my hand on the button to close it. “Whoa, calm down. I told you, we can’t leave in a hurry, it’ll draw attention to us. Just chill out.” “No, goddamn it! We have to go!” I yell as the elevator finally starts to take us down to the garage floor. “What the hell is the matter with you? Just relax. I know this is a big deal. I get it. He’s your father, so I know it’s difficult. Just remember why we did this, Kelvin. It had to be done. So, let’s finish this the way we said we would. Nice and easy.” “Listen to me, Trey. We can’t do it nice and easy. We have to go, now!” The doors slide open and I bolt out of the elevator. Trey follows my lead, but he’s still confused. “What the fuck happened, Kelvin?” he yells as we run towards his car, the bag of money swaying violently on my shoulder. He unlocks it and I immediately jump in and slam my door shut.

“Come on, Trey! Get in!” I scream. “Hey! Talk to me, Kelvin. What the fuck happened up there?” “Start the fucking car! We don’t have time for this shit!” “What the fuck, man? What happened?” Trey starts the car and spins the tires as he pulls out of the parking space. He floors it and we rush out of the garage and onto the open road. Neither of us says anything for about a minute, but then Trey turns his head towards me. I can feel his eyes burning in to me, then he slowly looks back at the road. “Kelvin,” he says mellow dramatically. “Tell me what’s going on. Did you do it?” I don’t answer. I just stare out the window. “You didn’t do it, did you?” he asks again, more certain this time. “Goddamn it, Kelvin!” “No!” I scream. “I didn’t fucking do it! I couldn’t do it, alright! I couldn’t do it because I’m not him. I’m not him, Trey. I’m not a fucking murderer! I’m not like him!” “Son of a fucking bitch! Damn it! Then what the

fuck happened up there?” “He came at me, but I couldn’t pull the trigger. I just couldn’t do it. So, when he rushed me, I hit him in the head with the gun. I knocked him out. I fucking knocked him unconscious, and I left him in there on the floor.” “Great. That’s just fucking great, Kelvin,” Trey bellows as he floors it and begins weaving in and out of traffic. “So, what now, huh? Now what the fuck are we gonna do?” “Hurry up and get me back to Aunt Lauren’s,” I reply, trying to force myself to calm down. “I have to get us out of here. Lilliana and I have to leave Chicago tonight. We’re leaving tonight. Forever.”

Carpet. Wheels? The wheels on the bottom of a chair. The conference room table… There’s blood on the carpet next to me. Where am I? What the fuck is going on? Am I bleeding? Shit. It’s me. The blood is coming from me. I struggle to roll myself over, and then reach up and rub the spot on my head that hurts like a motherfucker. When I pull my hands back, my fingers are smeared with blood. Why the fuck am I bleeding? I don’t understand what happened. What’s the last thing I remember?

My body jerks up into a seated position. I remember now. He hit me. Kelvin! He hit me in the head with the gun that he was pointing at me. I rushed him. I forced his hand, and he didn’t shoot me? He just hit me in the head. That was the biggest mistake he’s ever made in his fucking life. He had the opportunity to finally prove that he wasn’t some little cowardly bitch, but he choked. He couldn’t do it. He could’ve took over, and he didn’t. I guess he’s not like me after all, and that’s the reason he’ll die. I lift myself off the floor and stumble over to the table. He might be a bitch who couldn’t pull the trigger when he had the chance, but that little bastard sure can hit. My head is throbbing with every beat of my heart, and my vision is still blurry. He hit me right next to my temple, and my coordination hasn’t come back completely. While I wait for my body to return to normal, I look around the room, in search of everything that I’ll need when I leave here. I look over at the bar. I know that there’s a gun in one of the cabinets underneath it. It’s a nine millimeter with a full clip

already loaded. There’s another nine in the drawer next to the couch. I’ll take them both, just in case he tries to run and I need more ammunition. Or, better yet, I’ll be sure to bring some extra clips so that I can shoot him and Lily in the knees before I kill them. Yeah. I’ll shoot Lily in the knees, and then I’ll shoot her in the stomach so that she starts to bleed to death right in front of him. Then, I’ll shoot Kelvin in the knees, one at a time. But, then I’ll let him sit there so he can watch Lily bleed out. The moment I know she’s dead, he’ll probably have some sort of panic attack that’ll make him want to try to kill me, so I’ll be sure to shoot him in the fucking face right after that. Then, when the cops find the bodies, I’ll blame it on the Russians. That way, when it’s all said and done, I’ll get all the money from every establishment they own, too. I’ll fucking crush them, and end this drama with Junior at the same fucking time. As soon as I get my damn strength back. As I attempt to stand up, I hear the sound of the door opening. In walks Clarence with a blank expression on his face. He doesn’t say anything at

first. In fact, he barely seems to notice that I’m bleeding from the fucking head, but after a minute of staring at me, he finally catches on. “Holy shit. What the fuck happened to you?” He approaches me slowly, like I’m emitting some sort of an airborne disease. “What happened to me?” I snap, pushing him away. “You’d know if you would’ve fucking been here! You weren’t anywhere to be found. Where the fuck have you been?” I notice him stand up straight and take a deep breath. “I had some business to attend to.” “Business? Well, while you were out attending to your business, Junior came up and here and pulled a gun on me.” “What?” “Yeah! He called me and told me that he had sold some dope and wanted to bring the money by. When he got here, he pulled a fucking gun on me, threatening to kill me. So I rushed him, and that little bitch couldn’t even pull the trigger. Do you know what he did? He hit me. He hit me in the fucking head with the gun, and then ran off. He

probably ran back to that little bitch, Lily. I bet she was the one who gave him the idea to do this, but she overestimated him. She’s too fucking stupid to realize that he’s a coward. He could never pull off a hit on his own.” The look on Clarence’s face is one of pure confusion. His eyes are wide, and he’s not even blinking. He seems to look at everything in the room except me, before he finally snaps out of it. “I can’t believe that,” he says solemnly. “Well, you better fucking believe it,” I reply as I finally get my feet to work the way I want them to. I make my way over to the bar and grab the gun that I scouted out a few minutes ago. I eject the clip and make sure that it’s completely full, then I reload it. “What are you doing?” I hear Clarence ask, as if he can’t see me. “What the fuck does it look like I’m doing, Clarence? I’m about to go handle this shit.” “Handle it? You can’t be serious, Senior.” “What the hell is the matter with you? That’s it! It’s over for him, Clarence. This bullshit has gone

on long enough. He’s been breaking the rules of The Family since he got here, and now he broke the ultimate rule. You don’t come after me! You don’t pull a gun on me and not pull the trigger. Big fucking mistake. I wouldn’t let anybody else get away with that, and I won’t let him get away with it either. He broke the rules, and now he has to suffer the consequences. Plain and simple.” “So, you’re gonna go kill him?” “Fucking right, I am! But, I’m gonna kill his little whore first. I’m gonna fucking torture her right in from of him, and let her bleed out. Then, once he knows that he’s lost everything, I’m gonna shoot him right in the face. I’ll just blame it on the Russians. I’ve been wanting to eliminate them from the equation anyway. This is the perfect opportunity to do it.” “Senior, just stop and think about this for a minute,” Clarence says. “I have thought about it! I thought about it while I was waiting for my motor skills to return to normal. Why are you being so fucking sensitive now? What the hell is the matter with you, huh? It’s

over, Clarence. This is happening.” “Nothing is the matter with me. He’s your son, Senior. You can’t kill your own son.” I walk over to the end table and pull the gun from the drawer. I check the clip and then reinsert it. “He’s not my son anymore,” I snap as I walk past Clarence, towards the doors. “Both of my sons are dead now.”

“What’s going on? What happened?” “I need you listen to me, okay? I need you to go upstairs and grab whatever we brought over here. We have to get ready to leave right now. We’ve gotta head over to the Red Chip as fast as we can.” “Why, Kelvin? Tell me what’s going on,” Lilliana says in a panic, her eyes wide with fear. I feel like I don’t even have time to answer her. I walk past her and find Aunt Lauren sitting on the couch, sipping her wine. When she sees me walk in, she immediately puts her glass down and stands up to meet me.

“What happened?” she demands. From the look on her face, I know she can tell that something has gone wrong. Lilliana and Trey come rushing in behind me. They stand there and wait for me to answer the question. “Something bad has happened, and we need to go. Now,” I reply coldly. “Stop it, Kelvin!” Lilliana shrieks from behind me. Her voice is high pitched and obviously frightened. She walks around me and stands directly in front of me. “I’m not doing anything until you tell me what the hell is going on. Start explaining.” I look over at Trey, but he provides me no comfort. “Just tell them, Kelvin. They need to know,” he says impatiently. “We need to know what? What the hell is it?” Aunt Lauren snaps as she folds her arms. “I couldn’t do it,” I say. When the words reach their ears, Lilliana and Aunt Lauren both look shocked and terrified. “I couldn’t kill him.” “What? Then, what happened?” Lilliana asks. “I don’t know. I mean, everything went

according to plan at first. I went in, dropped the bag on the table and he went to open it. While he was looking at the bag, I pulled the gun on him, but I couldn’t bring myself to pull the trigger. He kept saying shit about me being just like him, and it just got to me. I couldn’t let myself be like him. I just couldn’t do it. So, when he tried to approach me, I hit him in the head with the gun and knocked him out. When I realized that he was unconscious, I grabbed the money off the table and ran out. I just left him there.” It takes them a second to process everything I just said, so they all just look at me at first. They don’t say anything, and I almost wonder if I actually spoke the words. I look behind me at Trey, and he just stands there, shaking his head at me. When I turn around to face my aunt and Lilliana, they still haven’t moved. “Oh my fucking god!” Lilliana finally says. “You pulled the gun on him and didn’t use it? You didn’t shoot him?” “No. I couldn’t do it, Lilliana. You don’t understand. I couldn’t let myself be like him.”

“You couldn’t let yourself be like him? So, you’d rather be dead instead? He’s going to kill us both!” “You think I don’t know that? I know what’s coming, that’s why I’m saying that we have to go right now.” “I fucking told you, didn’t I?” Aunt Lauren interrupts as she walks closer to us. “I told you not to do this shit, but you just wouldn’t fucking listen. Of course you couldn’t do it, Kelvin. You’re not a gangster. You’re not like the rest of them. You don’t do this kind of stuff. You really thought that you could just pull the trigger and kill someone? You thought you could stand there and watch someone die right in front of you? You’re not like the rest of the Carters. You’re the one that’s different. That’s why he hates you so much, because you’re different from them. You’re better than them, and that’s exactly what’s about to get you killed. Your father will kill you. He’ll kill anybody. You just sentenced yourself to death.” “Look, I really don’t need to hear that shit right now,” I respond angrily. “I know I fucked up. I’m

just trying to do what I can to fix it now. So, we need to stop talking about it, and just get the fuck out of here. We need to go pack our shit and leave this fucking city. It’s the only chance we have. We have to go.” “You think he won’t find you?” Aunt Lauren continues. “If Kelvin Carter Senior wants you dead, you’re dead. You have no idea how far your father’s power can reach, especially now that he has the Russians on his side. He’ll find you, or he’ll have somebody else do it. You can’t outrun this.” “So, then what the fuck do you want me to do, Aunt Lauren? You want me to just sit around here and wait for him to come kill me? You want me to go back over to the Royal Flush and ask him for his forgiveness so that he can just shoot me right there in the conference room? Huh? What do you want me to do, then?” “I don’t know what you’re supposed to do now. You should’ve listened to me.” “Well, I didn’t!” I yell. “I didn’t listen to you, and it’s too late now. I can’t go back and change the fact that I didn’t listen to you. So, now we have

to get over that fact and make a plan. Do you have one?” “No.” “Then shut the fuck up, and let me try to figure this out, because you’re not helping right now. You’re just slowing us down.” I turn my attention to Lilliana who’s standing there with her hand over her mouth, still in shock. “Baby, we need to go.” Lilliana looks completely overwhelmed. When she looks at me, I can see the disappointment in her eyes as she shakes her head back and forth. “What are we supposed to do?” she asks under her hand. “We have to go home and grab some stuff as fast as we can, and then we have to go. We have to leave.” “And go where?” “I’m not sure yet. I just know we have to go.” “What about my family?” “We’ll let them know what’s up once we’re safe.” “No, you don’t understand,” Lilliana bellows. “What if your dad goes after my family?”

I can’t even respond. I never thought about that possibility, but I know that’s something that a gangster like my father would do. “He won’t,” I reply apprehensively. “How do you know?” “I don’t. All we can do is hope for the best for now, and then make plans later, once we’re safe.” “We’ll never be safe, Kelvin. You’ve made it so that we can never be safe.” “What was I supposed to do, Lilliana?” “You were supposed to kill him!” Just then, I feel my phone vibrating in my pocket, and then the ringtone kicks in. I let it ring for a while as I stare at Lilliana. I could hear the pain in her voice as she screamed those words at me. I hadn’t realized just how much she wanted my father dead. It suddenly dawned on me that it wasn’t just me that he pushed over the edge, it was Lilliana, too. When he shot her, he pushed her too far, and now neither of us will ever be the same again. He drove an elementary school teacher to wanting him dead. That’s pretty damn drastic. As she stares at me and I hear my phone still ringing, I

know that I’ve made a mistake by letting him live. Lilliana looks at me like she hates me. She stands there with her hands at her sides, but she looks so intense. She has fire in her eyes, yet she seems scared also. I begin to move my lips to apologize to her, but before I can say a word, she turns on her heel and begins to walk away. I think to go after her, but Aunt Lauren steps in front of me. “Just answer your phone, Kelvin,” she says sedately. I watch Lilliana begin to walk upstairs, and I’m assuming that she’s gathering her things so that we can leave. At least, that’s what I hope she’s doing. I decide to concede, and finally reach into my pocket and pull out my phone. I’d let it ring for so long, I have no idea who’d stay on the line that long. When I look at the display, I realize that he did hang up once, but he called right back. The name on the display takes my breath away and I suddenly feel the need to sit down. It’s Uncle Clarence. I hesitantly answer. “Have you lost your fucking mind?” he says the second I pick up. “You should’ve shot him, Junior.

You should’ve shot him.” “I know I should’ve,” I reply, my heart rate seemingly at an all-time high. “I just couldn’t do it. Is it safe to assume that he told you to come and kill me, Uncle Clarence?” “No, it’s not, actually,” he says, catching me off guard. “He’s coming to do it himself, and he’s coming now. I need you to tell me where you are.” “Are you out of your mind? You think I’m dumb enough to do that? You’ll just tell him.” “Listen to me, Junior. I’ve done a lot of things in this life that I’m not proud of. I’ve ruined my life. I know that for a fact now. But, you have a chance to live the life I should’ve lived. You’re only twentythree years old, and you never should’ve gotten mixed up in this gangster shit. You deserve a chance at life, and I’m offering you that chance, right now. I’m offering to help you.” “Help me how?” I ask, as Lilliana descends from the stairs and stands next to the front door, waiting for me, but still carrying that defeated look on her face. “You need to leave Chicago,” Uncle Clarence

answers. “Well, I think that’s obvious.” “The problem is, your father is gonna have his crooked cop connections on the lookout for you all night, so there’s no way you’re gonna be able to make it to the airport without one of them seeing you and giving him your location.” “Okay, well then what the hell am I supposed to do?” “You need to meet me. Now.” “You’re fucking crazy,” I exclaim. “Why should I trust you?” “Maybe you shouldn’t. But, I’m the one who’s offering to help you, and you need all the help you can get right now. I told your father not to do this, but he wouldn’t listen to me and left without me. I think this is wrong. No man should kill his own kid, but your dad is a different breed. He’s not like everybody else.” “I know that, and neither are you. I was there when you killed Derrick, remember?” I hear Uncle Clarence swallow hard. “I know. Consider this my way of making up for

that. I know that was wrong, and I’m sorry. You never should’ve been involved with that, and I’m sorry you had to see it. I’m gonna make up for that, though.” “Oh yeah, how’s so?” “By helping you and Lily leave the city.” I look over at Lily, who’s made her way back into the living room and is listening to me talk, next to Aunt Lauren. I see how frightened she is, and I know that I need to protect her. I need to do whatever I can to keep her safe, even if it puts me in harm’s way. “What do you want me to do?” I decide to ask. All I can do is hope that I’m making the right decision. Right now, it seems I have no other options. “Alright, the first thing is, do not go back to the Red Chip under any circumstances. Senior will have that place under wraps for sure. So, you’re gonna have to travel with whatever you have with you now.” “Fuck.” “Yeah, I know it’s fucked up, but it’s the only

way to be sure. Now, we need to get you out of here, so I need you to tell me where you are.” “You don’t need to know where I am in order to help me leave.” “You’re right, you’re right. Fine, I just need you to meet me then.” “Meet you where?” “At the only place that you can leave safely— the airstrip.”

“This is a bad idea. I don’t think we should be trusting Clarence.” “I know. I get it, I really do, but right now he’s our only hope.” “How is he our only hope?” I cry out, refusing to accept our predicament. “I don’t understand why we can’t do this on our own.” Kelvin has that same dejected look on his face that he had when we left the house. I know that he knows that this is a crazy idea, but he seems to think that this is the only way that we can make it out of Chicago safely. I just don’t see it that way, so

I need him to explain it to me. “Look, I know it’s hard to understand, but we can’t go to the airport, and we can’t go back to the Red Chip. My dad will have both of those places covered with his people. So, the only way for us to leave right now is for us to leave from this airstrip.” “Is this the same airstrip that you went to before? The one where they brought in all that heroin?” “Yeah.” “Oh, that’s just great. As if I didn’t have enough shit to be worried about.” Kelvin drives down the dark road with his high beams on. I’ve never been anywhere near this part of the city, so I don’t really recognize anything around us. It’s basically just the highway to our left, and nothing but trees surrounded by darkness on our right. There are no lights guiding our way, so I know that if there’s a person already there, they’ll see our lights coming from a mile away. Out in the distance, I see a few white lights shining. Kelvin makes a couple of turns, and then heads directly for the lights. As we approach our

destination, I see that we’re driving up to a line of warehouses, and standing right in front of them is Clarence, leaning his large body up against his Lexus. There’s something different about Clarence, though. He doesn’t have that same cocky, daunting demeanor that he usually has. As we pull up next to him, I see that he’s not even standing up straight. He usually has his chest out, proudly showcasing his overwhelming mass of muscles. Now, however, he’s almost slouched over, and he seems shrouded in sadness. Something’s wrong with him. Kelvin and I get out of the car and approach him cautiously. “Glad you made it,” Clarence says, reaching out to shake Kelvin’s hand. Kelvin doesn’t hesitate to respond. “Yeah, thanks. So, how do we do this? We need to see about getting a pilot or something, right? And, where are you thinking we should go?” Kelvin asks. He’s defensive, and I can see that he’s not completely sure about trusting his uncle. Neither am I.

“Alright, so I’ve already coordinated with a pilot —an old friend of mine who flies me around the country whenever I need to get away,” Clarence responds, his voice low and humble—something I’ve never heard in him before. “This guy’s very professional, and he’ll take you wherever you want to go. Where you go will be up to you, but only tell him when you’re all on the plane. I don’t want to know, so that if Senior asks me, I don’t have to lie to him.” “Okay, great,” I say from behind Kelvin. “So, where is he?” “He’s on his way now. Should be here any minute. We can just go inside and wait for him.” Kelvin looks over at me, and I just shrug my shoulders. I’m not sure what to make of all of this, so I just have to go along with it. I’m trusting that Kelvin can trust Clarence. It’s a big risk, I know, but we have to take it. So, as Clarence begins walking towards the entrance to one of the warehouses, Kelvin and I follow him in, leery. The warehouses are dark and dusty inside. I can barely see a thing, as we weave our way through a

maze of offices that still have some furniture in them. I see a few chairs are either missing cushions or are torn to shreds. There are some tables and desks in the rooms, and even some suitcases shoved underneath some desks and into some corners. Everything else in the rooms looks pretty old and unused, but the suitcases look almost brand new. Clarence continues to lead us through the maze until we reach an office space that looks like it’s been dusted recently. There’s a small conference style table with a few rolling chairs surrounding it. On the desk, there’s a few of the Carter Casino’s gambling chip cases stacked up. From the look of it, this is where they pack up the chip cases and ship them to the Red Chip and Royal Flush casinos. “We’ll just wait in here for my guy to show up,” Clarence says as he takes a seat. “Go ahead and have a seat. He’ll be here any minute, then you two will be on your way.” “What the guy’s name,” I ask as Kelvin sits down. I can’t shake this growing suspicion deep inside of my gut. Clarence hesitates for a second and it catches

my attention. We look at each other like we’re playing poker, wondering which of us is going to break first. Which one of is bluffing? “His name is…” Clarence begins to say, but he’s interrupted by the sound of a car door being slammed closed. Clarence flashes a tiny smile that I can’t read, and then says, “Sounds like he’s hear already. Perfect.” We all can hear the sound of the entrance door being opened and then closed. We hear the footsteps getting closer and closer at this person goes through the same maze of offices that we went through. For some reason my heart is pounding. I have a feeling in my stomach that we’ve made a mistake by coming here. It was wrong to trust Clarence. We should’ve known better. All of a sudden, just as the footsteps seem to reach the office we’re waiting in, I see Clarence moving out of the corner of my eye. I see him stand up like he’s preparing to do something. His demeanor has changed and he’s starting to resemble the old Clarence. The mean, evil, violent Clarence that we all fear.

“Son of a bitch,” I hear Kelvin say. His voice is obviously shaking when he says it, which send chills down my spine. I don’t even want to look over at the door to see who’s here, because a big part of me already knows. “Nice to see you again, Junior,” I hear the man say, and my heart feels like it has just shattered into a million pieces and collapsed at my feet. I turn around and see Senior standing in the doorway, holding a nine millimeter in each hand. He has a wide, satisfied smile on his face as he looks at Kelvin and then glances at me. “Oh, and I’m so glad you could join us, Lily. This just wouldn’t be the same without you.” Kelvin looks over at his uncle, and I immediately see the rage spewing from his eyes. If looks could kill, Clarence would’ve fallen over immediately. “I fucking trusted you,” Kelvin says, between clenched teeth as he balls his fists and takes a step towards Clarence. Suddenly, Senior throws one of the guns over to Clarence, who catches it and aims it at me without

hesitation. “I wouldn’t do that if I were you, Junior,” Clarence says smugly. “I’d hate for this portion of tonight’s events to end so early, but if you push me to it, I’ll end her shit right here.” Kelvin stops walking and I see the muscles in his neck relax. As soon as he relents, I watch as Senior walks over to Kelvin and hits him in the head with his gun. Kelvin falls to the floor in agony, screaming from the pain. As he holds his head, I see blood already making its way to the floor. “No!” I scream. “You motherfucker!” Before I could even finish screaming my expletive, Senior walks over to me and slaps me in the face with the palm of his hand. I feel the pain shoot through my cheek and rattle around my teeth. When I open my eyes, I see tiny stars dancing around the room as Senior stands in front of me, scowling. “You shut the fuck up!” he snaps. “You know, you’re the cause of all this drama. You’re the reason that he can’t do what he needs to do to be a part of this family. You came in here strutting

around with your goddamn booty shorts and sexy little skirts, and you clouded the boy’s judgment. You’re always in his ear, telling him all kinds of bullshit, and you made him look at The Family like we were the bad guys. Fab never looked at us that way. Fab knew that we were his family. We were his support system, and he knew that. He loved and appreciated us, because he didn’t have a little bitch like you in his ear, telling him otherwise. Junior thinks this is all my fault, but the truth is that all of this shit is your fucking fault.” Suddenly, Senior reaches back and slaps me again. This time, he hits me so hard that my body goes limp and Clarence has to hold me to keep me from falling down to the floor. My entire head throbs with pain and my knees feel like Jell-O. Then, out of nowhere, I hear Kelvin scream as he forces himself to his feet. There’s blood streaming down his face, but he obviously doesn’t care as he begins to walk towards his father. Then, I hear Clarence chamber a round into his gun and press the barrel to my temple. “Go ahead, Junior,” Senior says confidently.

“Keep walking and let’s see how long it takes for Clarence to pull that trigger. You think you’ll get to me before he can put a bullet in her pretty little head? Let’s see. Come on. Keep walking, you fucking coward.” Kelvin stops and exhales. I see tears I his eyes, and I know that he’s having an internal struggle right now. He’s having to restrain himself because if he doesn’t, he knows that Clarence will kill me. He won’t do anything if he thinks it’ll get me killed, even if it gets him killed. It’s a thing about him that I love and hate the most. Kelvin and I make eye contact and I feel so sorry for everything. I don’t know how it ever got so bad for us. We’ve been through so much over the past month or so, and now it all seems to have come to a head right here in this moment, and there’s nothing that either of us can do about it. Tears stream down my face as I realize that the chances of us making it out of this situation are slim to none. I know that we’re both going to die tonight. I always wondered what it must feel like to know that you’re about to die. Now I know, and it’s

the most terrifying thing in the world. “Damn!” Senior exclaims loudly at Kelvin. “You had your shot, kid. You had your chance to kill me, and you didn’t take it. That’s gotta be the dumbest thing anyone has ever done in the history of American gangster shit. You were right there, gun in hand, locked and loaded, and you couldn’t pull the fucking trigger. How lame is that? Now, look at you. Standing there with tears in your eyes, looking at your girl, hoping she’ll provide you with all the answers. You’re so fucking weak and pathetic it makes me sick. I brought you in on everything. I gave you the opportunity to be a part of all of this —the drugs, the money, the power, all of it. You had your chance to be somebody important, and you fucking threw it all way for a girl. A girl who you’ll get to watch die tonight. How does that feel? Huh? Tell me how it feels to know that your girl is gonna die soon, right here in front of you.” When Kelvin doesn’t answer, it sends Senior into a furious frenzy. “You disrespectful little motherfucker. You don’t want to talk? Fine. You can just watch then!” Senior turns around, and I can see the hit

coming. He reaches back as far as he can and hits me in the head with the barrel of his gun. This time, the pain of the blow is too much for my body to take, and not even Clarence can keep me upright. I fall down on the floor and hit my head on the tile surface. Then, everything fades away into darkness.

“Here she comes. She’s waking up now.” My head is pounding. Throbbing. I try to open my eyes, but it’s a struggle. I can’t see anything because everything is blurry, but I can hear. I hear two distinct voices and I immediately recognize them. One of them is Senior, and the other is Clarence. I have a hard time focusing on what exactly is going on, but I know that it isn’t anything good. I force my eyes all the way open and use my hands to push my body upright. I sit up and try to make out what’s going on around me. When everything clears up, the first thing I see is Kelvin,

sitting in a chair directly in front of me. He has blood on his mouth and on his forehead, and his eye looks a little swollen. Standing next to him, is Senior, still holding his gun, which has blood smeared across its chrome barrel. Clarence is now sitting at the table, staring off into the distance like he doesn’t want to see anything that’s happening. “Welcome back,” I hear Senior say. He crouches down in front of me and rubs my head with his free hand. “Whoo. You’ve got a nice little fat lip on you now. Damn. I’m sure that hurt. You alright?” My face hurts so much that I’m not sure if I’m scowling or not, but I know that I’m trying to. As he sits there in front me, he has a little smirk on his face that fills me with a hatred that I’ve never felt before. I’ve never wished anything bad on anyone, but this man deserves nothing more than a painful death. I hate him with everything that makes me human. “Fuck you,” I manage to say, although the words tumble out of my mouth sloppily due to my fat lip. Senior smiles a full smile at me, showcasing his white teeth.

“Still got that fire. That’s good. It just makes me want to snuff it out even more. It just makes this that much sweeter,” he says as he stands back up. “Alright, now that we have our little princess back, I don’t feel the need to drag this out any longer. I’ve been wanting to do this since you first brought little Miss Dramatic into our lives, Junior. I’m sure it sucks to hear me say that, but who gives a fuck. It’s true. I’ve always hated your little queen. She’s always gotten on my nerves, even when I was trying to be nice to the two of you. So, I’m honestly really happy to do this after all this time. I feel like I’ve earned the right to do it just by putting up with you two. So, we’re gonna go ahead and end this. I’ve gotten everything that I could get out of it, and now it’s time to move on. So, shall we?” Senior chambers a round, and then points the gun down at me. Surprisingly, I don’t feel scared. My heart doesn’t jump into overdrive, and there are no butterflies in my stomach. There’s nothing but calm now. I feel at peace, and even a sense of relief. My life doesn’t flash before my eyes, and I don’t feel like screaming or begging for my life.

This is something that I expected, I guess, so I close my eyes and wait for everything to go blank. “Make sure you watch this, Junior,” I hear Senior snip. “Say goodbye to your bitch.” “I love you, Lilliana,” I hear Kelvin say, his voice weak and ragged. I don’t open my eyes. I know it’ll make it harder for him. So, I smile, because I know he’s looking at me, and I reply “I love you, Kelvin.” “Good. At least you can take that to your grave,” Senior says sharply. “Bye Lily. I won’t miss… What the fuck was that?” The sound of the gunshot never comes. Instead, everything is interrupted by what sounded like a car door being closed outside. I open my eyes to see Clarence jump up out of his seat, and Senior aims his gun at the entrance to the office, even though nobody is standing there, yet. Then, I hear footsteps coming through the warehouse maze. However, it’s not just one person. No, I’m sure that I hear two sets of feet trampling through the warehouse. Everyone in the room is filled with confusion. “What the hell is going on here?”

“What the fuck are you doing here?” Senior responds. I look over at the doorway and I’m shocked to see Ilia standing there. There’s another man standing behind him, and I’m pretty certain that it’s his brother, Yosef. The looks on their faces match the looks on our faces. They’re wondering what the hell is going on. “What are we doing here? What are you doing here?” Ilia snaps, instantly suspicious as he looks down at me and then over to Kelvin. “Are you doing what I think you’re doing? Isn’t that your son?” Senior looks back at Kelvin and then back at Ilia. “This doesn’t concern you, Ilia. This is a Carter family issue, and we’ll handle it. Just turn around and leave.” “No, no, you don’t command me, Senior. I’m not a member of your family,” Ilia snips, waving his finger from side to side. “And from the looks of it, I don’t ever want to be. I have a much more important question, though. Why are you here with the dope without me, Senior? This was not part of our agreement.”

Senior looks back at the gambling chip cases spread out on the table, and then exhales loudly. “Look, this has nothing to do with the dope. That’s not what I’m here for.” He almost sounds scared, but he’s trying to mask it with his anger. “How do I know that?” Ilia replies. I look over at Yosef and see him slowly moving his hand up to his waistband. Now, I feel my heart beginning to race. “You know because I’m telling you,” Senior tries to make himself sound confident, but even I can see right through his visage. “I don’t know why you’re questioning me anyway. Why the fuck are you two here?” Suddenly, everyone jumps at the sound of two more car doors being closed. “What the fuck? Who the hell is that now?” Senior snaps again. After a minute of listening to the footsteps make their way to the back, Anthony Carter and James come striding up behind the Baskovs. “Umm, what the fuck is everybody doing here?” Ant asks as he surveys the room. When he sees

Kelvin in the chair, he rushes in. “What the fuck? Junior, are you okay? What’s going on?” I’m not sure if I feel relieved, or even more terrified by all of them being here. I have no clue what’s going or why everyone would be here at the same time, but I still feel uneasy. Even as Ant approaches Kelvin with a sympathetic look on his face, my heart is pounding. There’s too much confusion in this room for this to be a good thing. When Ant reaches Kelvin, he looks down at me. He does a double take when he sees me, but when he notices that I’m bleeding from my head and face, he reaches into his jacket pocket and pulls out his gun, aiming it at Ilia and Yosef. “You motherfuckers! What did you do to them?” he snaps. The second they see he has his gun out, both of the Baskovs pull out weapons of their own, and James follows suit. Now, everyone in the room except for me and Kelvin is holding a weapon and aiming it at someone else. My nerves are on high alert as I watch this insane situation unfold in front of me. I don’t even know what to think. Should I move?

Should I crawl over to where Kelvin is sitting and try to pull us both to safety? What if moving gets me shot? I already know that if one of those guns goes off, all of them are going to go off. So, I decide to wait it out. “You are all liars,” Ilia snaps, his accent made even thicker by his anger. “This had nothing to do with us, Anthony. This is your brother’s doing. Senior and Clarence were here before us.” Ant looks over at Clarence and points his gun at him. “What the fuck is he talking about, Clarence? Why the fuck are all of these people here? You told me it would just be us.” “What?” Senior interrupts. “He told you what?” “Clarence told me it was just going to be us. Nobody else was supposed to be here,” Ant exclaims. I’ve never seen more bewilderment in my life. Everybody in the room is looking around at each other, trying to figure out just what the fuck is going on, including Kelvin and I. “Wait a minute,” Ilia chimes in. “Clarence, you said you would meet us here alone, too. Why would

you tell Anthony the same thing you told us? Why would you do this?” Suddenly, everyone in the room is looking at Clarence. “You played me,” Ant says with a snarl. “You set this whole thing up, didn’t you? You were never gonna give me the extra dope, were you?” “What?” Ilia snaps loudly. “You were going to give them extra dope? You were supposed to give us extra dope to sell.” “What the fuck? Is that why all of you are here? You’re trying to get extra drugs and money behind my back? Trying to increase your profits under the table? Clarence, you set this shit up? You doublecrossed me?” He stands there for a while, aiming his gun at Ilia, but his finger isn’t on the trigger. The look on Clarence’s face has changed once again, back to the sad, unconfident image that I saw when we pulled up earlier tonight. He has tiny tears in his eyes, and suddenly his hand begins to shake as he starts to cry. I can hardly believe it. Clarence is crying real tears. “What the fuck is going on, Clarence?” Senior

asks. “Clarence, you better tell me what the fuck is going on, right now!” Senior suddenly turns his gun on Clarence, just as Clarence lowers his own weapon and drops it on the table in front of him. Clarence puts his head down, and exhales loudly. “I’m sorry, Senior,” he whispers under his breath. “What? What did you just say?” Senior barks. Clarence raises his head and takes another big breath. His large chest moves up and down as he lets out the air like it’s his last chance to do it. When he speaks again, he doesn’t look at anyone in particular. “I’m sorry, Senior,” he says again, then he sits down in the dusty chair that’s in front of him. “Sorry for what?” Senior asks, thrusting his gun towards Clarence. “I said, sorry for what!” Suddenly, there’s a loud explosion and a bright white light blinds my eyes. The room fills with smoke instantly and I have to cover my mouth with my shirt just to be able to breathe. Then, I hear voices, but it can’t be what I think it is. There’s just no way. It’s not possible.

“Get down on the ground right now! Drop your weapons!” “Chicago PD! Drop your weapons. Drop it or I’ll drop you!” “Put your fucking weapons down! Drop it, and get down on the ground!” It’s the cops. The cops are here? I hear them yelling for everyone to put their guns down, but I can’t believe it’s actually real. It feels like a dream, but that dream suddenly turns into a nightmare when I see the silhouette of a man raising his gun at the police. “Fuck you, fucking cops!” Ilia screams as he raises his hand. Yosef follows his brother’s lead and they both begin shooting at the cops. The second their guns go off, all I hear is a deafening barrage of gunfire. I drop down to the floor and cover my ears with my hands, waiting for it to finally stop. It feels like it lasts forever, but eventually, the shooting ceases. The room is still filled with smoke, and I can now smell the gunpowder from all of the weapons being fired at once. I try to look to see exactly what

happened, but I can’t focus in on anything. All I know is that Ilia and Yosef were standing in the doorway a second ago, but they’re not there now. “Put the gun down, Senior, and get down on the floor. It’s all over, man!” I hear a voice say. “Don’t make me kill you!” As the smoke finally begins to fade away, I see Senior still standing up, still holding his gun at his side. He’s the only one who hasn’t gotten down on the floor. Kelvin, Ant, James, and Clarence are all on the floor next to me, but Senior is still standing there, and he’s staring at the officer in front of him like he’s really debating aiming that gun at him. I know that if he does it, they’ll shoot him before he even gets off one round. Sadly, I have to admit that I hope that he tries it and dies right here, right now. “Put it down, Senior!” the officer snaps. “You… You fucking piece of shit,” Senior snarls. “You’re a fucking cop?” “Put the fucking gun down, or I’m gonna shoot you, Senior. Please don’t make me do it.” I look up at the cop that Senior is talking to and see that he’s holding a very large shotgun, and

aiming it at Senior’s chest. When Senior doesn’t comply with his instructions, the officer cocks the shotgun and aims it at his chest. “Last chance, Senior,” the officer says. Finally, Senior drops the gun. I hear it fall down on the floor, and not a second later, the room is filled with cops wearing bullet proof vests with SWAT written across the back. They file into the room with their weapons drawn, and proceed to slap handcuffs on everyone around me, including Kelvin. They pull each of the Carters off the floor and begin hauling them outside, one by one. “Are you alright, miss?” one officer says to me as he pulls me to my feet. I’m so shocked by what just happened that I can barely respond. The officer looks at the blood coming from my face and calls for a medic to check me out. Just as the medic arrives and tries to take me outside, I hear the cop with the shotgun speak again. “Hey, not him. This one’s free to go,” he says sharply. I look back in the room just in time to see one of

the cops removing Kelvin’s handcuffs. “Make sure he sees a medic, okay?” the officer says. Once he’s free, Kelvin doesn’t come catch up to me. He just stands there, staring at the cop who ordered him to be released. They hold eye contact for a moment, and my heart speeds up again. I have no idea what’s about to happen or who this person is that Kelvin, and obviously Senior, seem to know so well. “I had no idea,” Kelvin says quietly. “That’s the point,” the officer replies with a sly grin. “Don’t worry, we’ll talk about it soon. We have lots to discuss. I’ll be in touch.” Kelvin finally leaves the room and walks towards me. When he reaches me, he gives me a hug and gently kisses me on the lips. It feels so good to have his skin on mine again. For a moment, I thought I’d never feel it again. I thought that the last time we kissed, would end up being the last time we kissed. There’s nothing like believing that you’re going to die, and then not dying. I cherish my life in ways that I never thought were even

possible now. And even more so, I cherish Kelvin more. “Are you okay?” Kelvin asks me. I reach up and wipe away a streak of blood rolling down the side of his cheek. “I’m fine. I’m just glad that it’s over. It’s finally over.” “It’s over for good this time. They found the suitcases full of heroin in there. They’re fucked now.” “I can’t believe it,” I reply, looking back at the warehouse. “How long do you think the cops had been watching?” “Who knows,” Kelvin says with a smile. “I don’t care. I’m just glad they were watching.” Kelvin puts his arm around my shoulder and begins to lead me to the loading dock in the back of the warehouses, where four ambulances are waiting. Kelvin and I walk over to the back of one ambulance where we’re greeted by a young, blonde paramedic. We turn around and sit on the edge of the entrance to the ambulance, and just as we sit, we see the bodies of Ilia and Yosef Baskov being loaded up in the back of the ambulance next to us.

Only their heads are visible, but if the bloody sheets covering their bodies is any indication, they both were shot multiple times, and stood no chance of surviving. “Whoa,” Kelvin says when he sees them. “That shit is crazy.” “I know. I just can’t believe all of this. I can’t believe that it all ended this way.” “I know. But, it’s all good, baby. No matter what else happens, we know that we’re safe now.” Just as the words come out of Kelvin’s mouth, the lead officer with the shotgun comes out of the building. For some reason, I still feel my heart become weak with fear as I watch the officer escort Senior to the back of a police cruiser, handcuffed. Senior looks at me for second, then he looks over at Kelvin, who defiantly glares back at him. They hold eye contact all the way up until the moment Senior’s head is pushed down, and he’s forced into the car. Once the door is closed, Kelvin turns his attention to me, and to my surprise, he’s smiling. It’s that beautiful smile that melts my fear into a tiny puddle around my feet.

“I think we’re done here, baby,” he says with a grin, and for the first time in a long time, I can see genuine happiness in his eyes. “Let’s get out of here. Let’s go home.”

“Good morning, Kelvin. Thanks for coming in. How have things been these past few days?” “It’s no problem. Things have been really good, actually. Quiet, which is rare for us.” “I bet it is. Glad to hear that everything is going well for you. How’s your girlfriend?” “She’s great. It’s been a big relief for her. Everything that was happening there towards the end was really hard on her. It was hard for both of us, but she really had it hard. It’s good to see her smiling again.” “Great. Great. That’s really good. I’m glad

things are starting to come together for you. There’s nothing more important than happiness. So, I’m glad you’re happy. I think the two of you have earned it.” “I definitely agree.” “Okay, so I’ll make this as short and sweet as I can, so that you can get back to your life. Alright, so I’m sure you’re wondering how all of this even came to be. Things ended at the airstrip a little more abruptly than I would’ve liked, but nonetheless, we got the job done, and that’s a big thanks to your uncle, Clarence. Regardless of what your father or any remaining members of the Baskov family may believe, your uncle wasn’t a snitch. He wasn’t working with us this entire time. In all honesty, things really just started taking shape about a week ago when we found your uncle’s fingerprints on the body of Derrick Malone. Once we had those prints and were able to match the bullets from the victim to those in your uncle’s gun, we were able to bring him in and use him to help us bring all of this to a close.” “I see. How long were you undercover?”

“For a while. I drove for your uncle for over six months.” “Wow. I can’t believe that. The whole time, they thought they were in the clear with everything because they had guys in Chicago PD in their back pockets. It’s crazy that you were able to infiltrate The Family. Especially under Uncle Clarence’s nose.” “Yeah, I was shocked when he hired me, too. However, up until the Malone murder, I didn’t have anything on him. I mean, nothing. He’s a slick character, but it’s hard to cover up a murder, especially when you leave the body on the kitchen floor and the mother finds it.” “Aww, shit. His mother?” “Yeah, and it’s fucked up, but it’s what led us down this road. If it would’ve been anybody else who found the body, they may not have called the police at all, which is what Clarence was banking on. He was just wrong.” “Wow. I’m still in shock from all of this.” “I know. It’s a lot to take in. You really have your uncle to thank for all of this. He was the one

who decided to bring you and your girlfriend to the airstrip that night. We’d already spoken to him by then and told him about the murder charges against him, and he decided to help us instead of letting you die. He set the whole thing up. He worked it perfectly, actually. He got you and Lily to the airstrip, and even though it was a risk, he led your father there as well. Then, he managed to get the heads of the Russian family and every other significant player to the same location. He knew they’d bite if he told them that he’d give them extra drugs and money under the table. Gangsters are always willing to go the extra mile for the money. I think he waited until the last possible minute to say the code phrase, but he was still able to pull it off.” “Code phrase? “Yeah. We were outside the whole time, with the place surrounded, waiting for him to say the code phrase, I’m sorry, Senior, which let us know that everybody was there and it was time for us to ambush the place before shit got out of hand. He was brave. It took a lot of heart to watch you getting beat up while he waited for everybody to

show up. It all worked out in the end, though. He gave us everything we needed to end The Family for good. Getting them all to meet in the same place that they were keeping the heroin was pretty genius. He gave us everything to save you, including the locations of where Senior was forcing you to stash his drugs. We’ve confiscated all the drugs from the Red Chip and Royal Flush warehouses as well.” “Geez. Okay, so what does he get out of the deal? There’s no way he did all this for nothing. You must’ve offered him something.” “Well, yes. Aside from not arresting you for being a witness to the Malone murder without reporting it, we promised to help to reduce his sentence. He’ll probably get less time for aiding the police, but it won’t be much. He’s just got too much against him. I think the most important thing for him, though, was making sure that you were out safely. He wanted you to be able to live your life without all the family drama. I know it might be hard to believe, but he did it for you. He gave himself up, and he gave The Family up, to save

you. You should be grateful, because these things don’t always turn out this way. Sometimes people don’t give a fuck and are willing to let everybody burn.” “I can’t believe it. I never would’ve expected that.” “Clarence gave us everything. We’ve got Clarence, Anthony, and Kelvin Senior for a whole crap load of extortion and money laundering, along with drug importation and intent to sell. Plus a few weapons charges. The big one, though, is that Clarence also decided to tell us about a few other murders that have been ordered or carried out by your father and other members of The Family over the years. So, when I say he gave us everything, I really mean it. Your uncle has decided to testify against your father, and will more than likely have to be put in protective custody, even while he’s in prison. This kind of thing is definitely enough to get him killed. He went all out, and you’ll never have to testify because of it. He’s provided us with enough information so that we won’t need you to stand up in front of a jury. Your life can start fresh.

You’ll have no lingering effects of the Carter family. Everything that was holding you back will now be out of your way. My advice is that you use this opportunity to make something good happen for you and your woman. Start anew, and be happy.” “Wow. I don’t even know what to say.” “Well, don’t say anything yet. There’s something else. Clarence also confessed to having planted drugs at Michael Carter’s house. He says your father ordered him to do it. I know that this is way overdue—about six months to be exact—but Clarence’s admission clears Mikey of any wrongdoing. It may take a few days for me to get the charges dropped and for the paperwork to go through, but your uncle, Mikey, will be released from Metropolitan Correctional Center. He’ll be a free man.” “Oh my god! Are you serious? Uncle Clarence did that?” “Yes, he did. I have to admit, when it all came down to it, I was very impressed with how honest he was. I was impressed with how much he loves

you. It was like he needed to get a weight off of his very large shoulders. Once he opened up about one thing, he just didn’t want to stop. He wanted everything out in the open, and he wanted you and Mikey to be good to go.” “Damn. This is unbelievable. I just… I just can’t believe it all. I never expected this. It’s actually all over. It’s over, and I’m free. I’m free to just live my life. Wow. When can he receive visitors?” “Well, that won’t be for a little while. Once we get him settled, you’ll probably be able to see him on a limited basis before the trial begins. I really can’t guarantee you anything until after sentencing, though, which could be a while.” “I understand. I just want to tell him thank you. He needs to know that I’m grateful for all of this. I don’t forgive him for all of the shit that he and my father have put me and Lilliana through, but I’m definitely grateful to him for trying to fix it all. I just want to tell him that.” “You’ll get your chance, just give it some time. Now, before you go, there’s one more thing that I need to give to you.”

“Give to me? What is it?” “I know I’ve been sitting here telling you how your uncle went all out to save you, but there’s been a development that you have to be informed of. This will be harder to believe than anything else that I’ve told you, but it became official as of this morning.” “Okay. What?” “Here. Read these documents over.” “Documents? What is all of this?” “These are contracts and ownership papers.” “Okay. What do I need them for?” “Well, as of this morning, you’re the owner of the Royal Flush and Red Chip casinos.” “What? What are you talking about?” “Your father signed these this morning, transferring all ownership of both casinos over to you. When we told him the charges and evidence against him, he knew he wasn’t going to be getting out of prison. The truth is, he’ll probably die in jail. So, he had his lawyer draw up these documents for him, and he signed everything this morning. He didn’t want to sell his establishments to some

random person, so he decided to pass them down to you. You own them both now, officially.” “Oh my god. I can’t… I just don’t…” “You’re gonna want to get a lawyer of your own, and an accountant to look these documents over, because that’s definitely not my job. Nonetheless, I think congratulations are in order. I know they did a lot to mess things up for you. They were caught up in their ways and definitely didn’t do things the way they should’ve, but in the end, they seem to have gotten at least one thing right. You. So, congratulations, Kelvin. You get to start your new life today.”

“There was a time that I didn’t think that we’d make it here,” I begin. “Everything had gotten so bad that I didn’t think all of this would ever be possible. In all honesty, I thought that everything would be taken away from us, and I’m so glad that I was wrong about that. “We have a history that not many people are even aware of, but I like that. I like that we have a bond that nobody really, truly understands, except us. What we’ve been through is ours. It’s for us to know, and for us to appreciate and cherish together. Every part of it might not be something that makes

us feel all giddy inside, but everything, in some way, is a testament to why we’re so strong together. It’s a testament to our love, and a part of our unique legacy. We don’t need anybody else to understand anything. We understand it because we lived through it, and were made stronger by it. What we’ve been through has made us unbreakable.” I feel so nervous. The look on Lilliana’s face is something that I’ll never forget. She’s so unbelievably beautiful. She doesn’t have to say anything else to me for me to know that she loves me. I feel it. Even now, without touching her, or hearing her say anymore words to me, I can feel her love. I can honestly say that I feel like the happiest man in the world, and it’s all because of her. “I’m so thrilled that we were able to get through everything in our past,” I continue, just as I see a tear getting ready to roll down Lilliana’s face. “However, nothing makes me more excited than what waits in our future. It’s funny, because I see tears in your eyes now, and even I feel like crying,

but the beauty of it is that now we can cry tears of joy. We have so much to be happy and thankful for. I’m so glad that my Uncle Mikey is here today, sitting between my awesome aunt, Lauren, and the most amazing mother a man could ever ask for. There was also a time that I didn’t think that he would ever be able to attend something like this, but he’s here, reunited with the love of his life, and that brings me so much joy. The fact that our closest friends are a part of this just makes it that much better. Seeing Lexy standing behind you with that big grin on her face, knowing that she’s probably trying to think of some smart ass comment to say right now, puts an immovable smile on my heart.” “Ugh. Stop it, Kelvin. You’re already effing up my make-up,” Lexy says, sending a wave of laughter through the crowd. “The fact that her husband, Michael, and Trey and Phillip are standing behind me, just makes me that much happier,” I continue, as I begin to feel tears of my own growing too big for me to hold them back. “Everything we ever wanted is coming

to fruition today. When we leave here, we’ll be making a pit stop at our brand new house that we just bought together, where we’ll start our lives anew, with no bad memories creeping into our minds of where we used to live. We get a fresh start, in our own house, and the memories we create there will be all ours. It’s just me and you now, baby. “So, Lilliana, I proudly vow to love you for the rest of my days. Until the day that I’m no longer breathing, I vow to cherish you, and appreciate you for the beautiful, honest, intelligent, perfect woman that you are. I vow to forever and always remain faithful to you. I vow to wipe your tears away when you’re crying, and to take care of you when you’re sick, and to be there whenever you need me. I vow to be your best friend, as you are mine. I vow to protect you with every fiber of my being. I vow to never give up on us, no matter how bad things may seem to be, I’ll always believe that there isn’t a thing in this world that can ever tear us apart. I vow to be yours, baby. I belonged to you the moment you laid those beautiful blue eyes on me two years

ago, in Applebee’s. I belonged to you through all the drama with my father, and I’ll officially belong to you once this pastor finally says that I can kiss you. After this, you’re my wife, and I’m your husband, and you can rest assured that I’ll always be here to protect you. You never have to fear anything ever again. As long as I’m alive, you can always know that no matter what happens, and no matter how difficult things may seem… I got you.”

Where do I even begin with this book’s acknowledgements? Crap. Well, let me start by saying that this has been an amazing journey. The Carter series was an amazing ride, and I’ve learned so much from writing it and becoming these characters. I’m glad that it’s over, because I’m ready to move on to some unbelievable stories that I have brewing in my head, but I will truly miss Kelvin, Lily, Lexy, and Senior. Every single one of them is a part of me, and I’ll never forget the way they’ve affected my life. I’ve learned so much from them, and I’ll use everything that I learned to become a better writer. Now, I must admit that I had a hard time writing

this book, at first. It took me a while to get into it for a lot of reasons that are really only known to me and my wife, but I had a great supporting cast behind the scenes, and some awesome fans who were there, telling me that they couldn’t wait to see how Kelvin and Lily’s story would end. So, I have to thank all of those people who were there, supporting me, but also being patient and waiting for me to get my shit together and start writing. I know I don’t have many fans (yet), but the ones I do have are effing amazing! I love all of you who’ve been here with me since Frozen Secrets, and I promise you that I’m just getting warmed up. Trust me! So, I admitted that it took a while to get into writing this book, and I probably wouldn’t have been able to pull it off at all if it wasn’t for the most important person in my life. Isabel, you’re really the one who made this possible. I was struggling so much with getting motivated to write this story, and you sat there and listened to my vent about it, and complain about it, and cry about it, and you still had confidence in me that I could finish this series

with a bang. We’ve bounced so many idea off of each other, I truly don’t think I could do this without you. You and I are on the verge of something so seriously huge, I can feel it in my bones. The people who like to read these acknowledgement sections will have to excuse my arrogance, but, I don’t think there’s anybody out there who can do this shit the way we do it. Together, we’re unstoppable. It might be taking them a while to notice, but the stories that we have will not go unnoticed forever. Especially yours. You’re absolutely brilliant, and I’m so thankful that I was the one who was lucky enough to lock you down forever. We were meant to be together, and now that we’ve finished these series’ off, it’s about to go down. You just wait and see. They ain’t ready, baby! Lastly, I have to thank the people who have been staples in my writing process and have been in my corner since Kelvin was introduced to the world in January 2014. Tonya Nichols, Alisha May, Iris Taveras, and Kizeeta Williams, thank you all for helping me with another book, and giving me so

much confidence at a time when I needed encouraging words. You all are great, and I appreciate you very much. Thank you. I also have to shout out every member of Greer Street who is still out there pimping me and trying to spread my name around. Thank you so much. We’re about to be busy very soon. I also have to give a special shout out to my cover designer, Robin Harper, and my formatter, Angela McLaurin. You two ladies are freaking unbelievable! You’ve made the inside and outside of every book of this series absolutely gorgeous, and I love showing off your work. Thank you both for always helping me and Isabel. I look forward to putting in more work with both of you for a long time! So, you might be wondering what’s next. Now that the Carters are finally finished telling their story, where do I go from here? Well, I have the answer to that question. This series gave me the gift of finding my identity—my niche, if you will. It literally took me all three Carter books to find it, but I finally found it right after I wrote Becoming

Carter, and I started to hone it while writing Destroying Carter. I know exactly who I am, and where I’m going from here. All the being discouraged is over, and I feel more confident than ever. The Carter series is not the end of something, it is truly the beginning of something serious! Now that I know how and what I’m supposed to be writing, it’s about to go down. My journey as a writer begins today. I know you all want to know what’s next, but I can show you better than I can tell you. So, keep your eyes open and stay tuned. I’m celebrating tonight, and I start writing my next chapter tomorrow. The trust words that I can say right now are, THE BEST IS YET TO COME…

Check out these other great titles from W.S. Greer Claiming Carter (The Carter Series #1) Becoming Carter (The Carter Series #2 Frozen Secrets (Detective Granger #1) Follow W.S. Greer​
Destroying Carter - W.S. Greer

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