“You’re a rat.” The Rose woman seethed, but she was nervous too, shifting in her seat, still eyeing the guards closest to her.
The only one not raising an argument was the elderly man, who Tanner had let lift his head back up. Blood trickled down his forehead. He tried to wipe it away but left a smear across his entire face.
“What was the trade?” Kai narrowed his eyes. “I’m getting fucking tired of prompting you for this shit. You want to live, you spill everything. I won’t ask again.”
Levi’s eyes jumped to his. “You’re going to let me live? After all this?”
“I care about my sister.”
Renewed hope lit Levi’s gaze, and he straightened up in his chair. “Yeah. Uh. For all those up there who don’t know what our trade was, it was…” He chewed the inside of his cheek. “Sex trade. Illegal porn. All that shit. I was the pointman down here. My family didn’t want to deal with that, so yeah, I was creating openings in the family. All them up there on the council knew about it too. They were helping me turn evidence on my family so I could step into the leadership role and bring the sex trade down here. I also had to scope out the competition. There’s a big ring in Ohio, but we had plans to eliminate them. Just hadn’t gotten to that part yet, if you know what I mean.”
He stared at Kai for a second before continuing. “Those three were never going to bring the rest of you in on the trade. Too much money and too messy with the fact that none of them were cleared to be doing sex trafficking. Only one cleared for that was the Guaranno family, who…” He looked, then frowned. “I don’t see up there anyway.”
Kai pushed the gun against him again, just a slight pressure before stepping back. “Is that all of it?”
“Yeah.” He eyed Kai warily. “That’s all of it. Except, my family didn’t know what I was doing. Just me. They got their asses handed to them from another fight down here against a rival family, so after they did the hit, they got paid, and that was it. I’m the one who reached out, said I could help bring it all to Milwaukee. I targeted your sister, told that group I had power over your family. I was supposed to get some bad shit on her, then blackmail her to get to you. They wanted to take you down. Those three are ambitious fuckers, if you ask me.” He waved to them. “The only reason they let me in was to get at you, because I’d already started boning your sister.”
“Right,” Kai clipped out, turning to the council again.
Two guards now stood behind those three council members. Rose. Richard. Ritzo Senior. Tanner had moved back, his eyes closed. He was counting to himself, his chest heaving.
“You’ve heard enough,” Kai said. “I motion to execute Rose Montieth, Joseph Ritzo, and Richard Delaney immediately. Cora, you start.”
The last woman raised her right hand.
The man beside her did as well.
Tanner was the last, but in his right hand was a gun, and before Kai could say a word, he pressed it to the back of the old guy’s head and pulled the trigger.
I watched this time. I couldn’t look away.
In a sick way, this was riveting.
After all this work, all this planning, bringing everyone together, waiting all those years, and having it all come to fruition now—Kai could never leave this life. This was who he was, how he thought, how he lived, how he breathed. Or was it? Pulling my gaze away, I felt him watching me, and I winced at the pain in his eyes.
I began to pull away from the wall.
Maybe this wasn’t how he wanted to be, but I heard Jonah’s voice in my head again. If he fell, they all fell. Then I thought about what they’d wanted to do, what they’d wanted Levi to do to get at Kai. I didn’t know what to think, how to determine what Kai might possibly think.
Without a word, Kai raised the gun to Levi, his eyes holding mine.
He pulled the trigger.
After the executions concluded and both rooms had been cleaned, Kai faced the council.
“There will be an opening at Bruce Bello’s company. I would like to insert his daughter as CEO. She can be acting or the real deal. We will use Bello’s trucks and his distribution line for the rest of our businesses, and we can expand farther south at a later time.”
Four members were gone from that council.
Tanner hadn’t sat down. He remained in the back, but his eyes were blazing.
“If he has a board?” Cora asked. “If there’s pushback for some reason?”
“Then we push back.” Kai scanned the rest of the members. “All in favor?”
One man chuckled. “As if we’re going to refuse you anything right now, Kai.”
Kai didn’t smile back. “All in favor?”
Four right hands raised.
“I have another proposition, and it’s one you will not like.” He glanced in my direction, though his eyes didn’t quite meet mine. “There is tighter legislation forming against sex trafficking. I would like the council to pull out completely from that trade.”
Cora’s forehead tightened. “It’s good money, Kai. We’re in the business of making money.”
“It’s stupid money. It won’t be worth the risk in the future.”
“But—” She started to argue again.
“We’ll open more casinos. We’ll have added revenue coming in from the Bello line, and that company will give us a foothold in Milwaukee. We can use that, spread out, gain more traction. The ring in Ohio is too strong. I’ve looked into it. I don’t want to go against them, not right away.”
“We’ll lose,” he spoke over another protesting member. “We lost four members tonight. That’s four families gone and out of business. We will cover the Bello base, move farther south into the States, but each of you can pick up the revenue left behind by those families.”
“Except the Guaranno family. Besides the gun business, their approved trade was sex trafficking. Who’s going to miss out on that money?”
“Whoever that is can be brought in as a new partner with my next business venture. It’s in the future, but I think it will be competitive. I can only extend that offer as a way to make it up to that other family.”
They seemed to mull it over, and then prepared to vote. This time to get out of the world I had asked Kai to help with, and to make the changes he’d proposed.
The vote would go through.
I stopped listening and could only stare at him.
He’d done that for me. There was no new legislation. Sex trafficking was one of the easiest crimes to commit with good money, and he knew that. He’d lied through his teeth. For me.
It wasn’t long before the council members left, looking relieved to be able to do that, but the feed didn’t end. Tanner remained in the room, and so did Kai. He sat at the head of the table, glaring at his brother.
“How long did you know?”
Kai didn’t waste time. “After I killed our father. He had encrypted notes that I deciphered. I figured it out then.”
“You are a fucking piece of shit.”
Kai didn’t respond.
Tanner rubbed the bridge of his nose. “Randall Cordell Ritzo. That’s his full name. Cord. Did she—was Cord—” He exhaled sharply. “You know what I’m fucking asking.”
“Yes, he was Cord’s father. Mom had a diary. She talked about her affairs in there.”
“Jesus Christ.” He pushed back in his chair, his arms folding over his chest. “How’d you get that?”
“That’s a story for another day, but Tanner…” Kai’s voice dropped, almost comforting. “She was unhappy with our dad.”
“But her first kid? I’m surprised he didn’t kill her immediately.” His tone grew hoarse. “Are you his kid? Me? Brooke?” A bitter laugh. “We know Jonah isn’t, but how many others?”
Kai didn’t respond.
“Kai.” Short and curt.
“Brooke and I look like him, but you have a rounder face, so I don’t know. Is that something you care about?”
Tanner stood slowly. “You ever keep me in the dark again, and I will kill you. I don’t give a shit what that means for the rest of us. You got that? I don’t get left in the dark. Ever.”
Kai inclined his head. His eyes cast my way. “If you want in, you have to be in.” He looked back to Tanner, heat forming in his eyes. Finally. After all of that, he let the real Kai shine forth. “You don’t want to be treated with kid gloves, you start acting like a fucking adult. You want in? You take over the Bello Company for Riley.”
Tanner looked for me, and so did Kai.
I stepped forward, crossing the room till I could be seen on the screen.
Tanner’s nostrils flared. “Is that okay with you?”
“Yes,” I breathed out. I didn’t want to be involved, or as minimally involved as possible. “I will announce that I’m alive, and with whatever happens, I’ll take over, then you can step in. You can do what you want with it.”
I didn’t want anything of my father’s.
“Okay.” He rolled his shoulders back. “Then I’ll do it.”
“Good.” Kai touched the back of my elbow lightly. “I’ll see you when you get down here.”