Vito rolled over as his phone vibrated on the nightstand. He rubbed his eye with his fist, squinting at his phone as he yawned. Tito’s name flashed on his screen. Vito swiped a thumb across it and pressed his phone to his ear. “Better not be calling to tell me you got shot again.”
Tito chuckled, though the sound quickly devolved into a cough and then a wheeze. Vito did his best not to wince or let his mind wander. He hadn’t wanted to think of Tito as weak when he’d been lying in the hospital bed, and he didn’t want to think of him as weak now. “That’s a good one, Vi.”
“I try.” Vito shifted, clearing his throat. “What’s up?”
“They found the air marshall.”
“Dead or alive?”
“Very dead. They found him in a stall in a bathroom at the airport. Throat slit, head basically shoved into the toilet.”
Vito blew out a harsh breath. “Well, at least he didn’t get paid to let someone shoot you. He got the easy way out.”
“Yeah. I’m also… oddly comforted by the knowledge this guy didn’t manage to buy out an air marshall,” Tito said.
Vito understood the idea of that comfort, but truthfully, he was just pissed it’d been so long since he got to have a little fun. The air marshall already being dead took away another shot at said fun. If Elias didn’t decide to trust him enough to sleep with him soon, Vito would either need to cave and give up on his challenge, or he’d need to hit up the mafia-run death matches sooner than planned.
“So what’s our next step?” Vito asked.
“Bo’s already on a plane to go visit the crime scene. Guess we’ll see what he can find,” Tito said.
“Guess so.” Vito scrubbed a hand down his face. “Who’d we piss off enough for someone to shoot you in a fucking airplane?”
“Is… that a rhetorical question? Because we’ve pissed off so many people that I don’t even know where to start.”
“We’ve taken out a lot of those people.”
“And those people have families or friends that might seek revenge. Same with the people we’ve taken out for a debt. Hell, even the human traffickers have people that would want to kill us for what we did to them, Vi.”
“Not a bad point.” Vito rolled onto his back, crossing his free arm over his chest. “Should I come back?”
“No, it’s okay. Mekhi’s here with me. Bo took someone else with him so I’d know I was with his most-trusted.” Tito coughed, clearing his throat a moment later. “You just stay home and stay safe. Have some fun. Be Vito, y’know?”
“I’ll do what I can.”
Tito snorted. “Good to hear.”
Silence hung between them for what felt like an eternity. “I’m gonna kill the fucker that ordered this, Ti.”
“I know you will. They fucked with the wrong set of twins.”
Vito smiled. “Fuck yeah, they did.”
Tito cleared his throat. “Hey, I’m gonna get some more rest. The more I rest up, the quicker I’ll heal. Then you and I can get back in the field together sooner. Sound good?”
“Yeah, sounds good. Bo won’t let me have any fun.”
His brother chuckled. “Sounds about right. I’ll be back before you know it, Vi. I promise.”
“I love you, baby brother. I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
“You too. Sleep well.”
“I’ll try. I’ll call you next time I hear from Bo. Till then, enjoy your weekend off. Find something to kill the time.”
“I don’t know. Do some vigilante shit.”
Vito snorted. “Like what?”
“Hmm. Let me think.” A pause. “You know what? Talk to Franco. Sick fuck watches dog fights on the weekend. Find yourself a dog fight to break up. Maybe take out a disgusting human being or two in the process.”
“Think… I can handle that without you telling me to pull back?” Vito asked.
“We don’t need anyone alive for info. Save some dogs and do whatever the hell you want to the people.”
“I like the sound of that.”
“I figured you would. Call me when you figure out where it is, all right? I can’t be there, but I can dig shit up for you.”
“Thanks, Ti. Talk soon.”
The conversation with Franco, one of the few Lucchese soldiers that didn’t drink and play poker with the rest of them, had been difficult. Sure, Franco had been incredibly forth-coming with the information, but God, did Vito want to beat the shit out of him. It took every ounce of self-control to keep his hands to himself. Somehow, it took even more work to keep from bringing up what a monster Franco himself was for paying to watch the fights, for betting on them.
He was just as bad as the rest of the fuckers, but Vito knew he couldn’t kill him, not without Venetia or Carmine’s permission. Maybe he’d get around to asking them to put Franco in a death match against him. Franco could find out how much he liked fighting to the death.
But that could wait.
Vito parked a good block and a half away from the building Franco had said the dog fights were held in. He shut off the car and pushed his Bluetooth into his ear. “You with me, Ti?”
“I’m with ya.”
“Good. I just parked the car. What am I expecting when I get inside?” Vito asked as he climbed out of the car.
“It’s a nightclub on top. Keeps it nice and loud to cover up what they’re doing downstairs.”
“Fuckers.” Vito locked the doors and pocketed the keys. Gloved hands shoved into the pockets of his leather jacket, he headed toward the bar. “Franco said it costs a couple grand to get past the guard at the door. Do I really have to give that to him?”
“If you want to make it down to the basement, it’s our best bet.”
“Ugh. Doesn’t that mean I’m funding a fucking dog fight?”
“Kill him and take it back after you’ve saved the dogs. Consider it, like, a downpayment for his death or something. I’m sure you can make that work in your head.”
“Oo, I like that. You’re a genius, Ti.”
Tito snorted, and Vito could practically feel the eye roll that had earned him.
“How am I getting back out afterward? I could get back out through that door on my own, but I can’t take a dozen or more dogs out with me,” Vito said.
“If the blueprints Bo got for me are still up to date or accurate, it looks like there’s a small passage that leads to a house behind the lot. The house should be empty, so you and the dogs can sneak out through there. After that… have fun.”
“Well, I do need me some fun.”
“I’m sure you do. How horrible that you lost your chance to sleep with someone when I got shot.”
“I know, right? Could you try timing it better next time?”
Tito chuckled. “Yeah, I’ll try my best.”
“Thank you. Means the world, Ti.” Vito stopped at the door of the nightclub. “Going in.”
“Let me know when you’re through.”
“Will do.” Vito opened the door and walked inside. He was used to nightclubs having a bouncer or two posted at the front doors, but he figured there was no need for exclusivity here. They needed as many people inside as possible. Loud music, dancing, shouting, loud conversations. Every bit of noise only served to benefit them and their ‘business’.
Vito waded through the crowd of dancers, hardly appreciating the men and women that rubbed up against him as he squeezed past them. In addition to them being in the way of his mission, his secondary mission of the weekend involved a beautiful challenge that primarily resided at Drake’s Place. Anyone else interested in him would have to wait until both missions had been completed.
At the door in the back, Vito kept his head down and held up five grand. The guard counted through it and opened the door. Vito closed his eyes for a moment before walking through. Once the door shut, he rolled his shoulders back. “I’m in.”
“Are you at the top of a staircase?”
“So far so good, then. Head down the staircase, walk past the first hallway, and take a right in the second hallway.”
Vito headed down the stairs and walked past the first hallway. “Take a right?”
“Mmhmm. Your non-dominant hand.”
Vito nodded and took a right down the hall. His short-term memory was horrible with directions, and the other part of his memory always struggled with differentiating between right and left. Tito was the only person who knew, and he always helped with directions without being an asshole about it. Unfortunately, Vito wasn’t sure he’d be the same way if the shoe was on the other foot. Unlike his brother, Vito specialized in being an asshole.
“How’s the hallway looking?” Tito asked.
“That’s good. Bo told me they’ve busted a dog fighting ring or two in Los Angeles, and they had two men in the rooms with the dogs before the fights began. Guarding the cages, preparing the steroids… Whatever the hell the bastards do. So you’ll need to take care of them before you can get the dogs out.”
“Speaking of, what kind of trouble am I in for when I unlock these cages? Am I gonna get mauled?”
“Well, uh… depends on the dog,” Tito said. “But Bo said the dogs seem to usually react positively to being rescued. Tails wagging and everything. He said that’s a pretty common account given by people who do this, like… all the time.”
“God, that’s fucked. These people starve them, beat them, drug them, and…” Vito shook his head. “And they still think humans deserve a chance?”
“Dogs are loving by nature. It’s the people that try to fuck them up. With a lot of these dogs, they thankfully aren’t in long enough to abandon the loving part of themselves,” Tito said.
“Thankfully,” Vito echoed. “Where’m I goin’ next, Ti?”
“There should be a door at the end of the hall. If the blueprints are right, there’s a staircase behind the door.”
“Does the staircase open right into the room? Is there another hall? How careful should I be?”
“It looks like it should open into a short hallway, but after that, you’ll be in the dog room. I don’t know where the guards will be stationed in there, so you’ll need to be careful and play it by ear.”
“Ah, that’s what I’m best at.”
Tito snorted, followed by a light cough. “Only because you suck at following directions.”
“Doesn’t make me any less awesome at playing it by ear, though.”
“Thank God. I don’t think you’d have a job if it did.” A pause. “How’re we doing?”
“Opening the door to the stairs now.” Vito pulled open the door and peered down the dimly lit staircase. “Gonna stay quiet for a few, just in case they’re close.”
“Good idea. Talk when you can.”
“Mmhmm.” Vito stepped through the doorway, pulling the door closed behind him. He made his way down the stairs, one gloved hand on the wall, the other wrapped around the knife holstered at his hip. At the end of the short hall, he pressed himself against the corner near the door. Leaning to the side, he peeked into the room.
Cage after cage lined the room in four rows. Two men stood in the room, one smoking a cigarette and the other toying with one of the dogs through the cage. Vito’s lip curled, but he kept his thoughts to himself. Verbalizing them would get him seen, and being seen would alert the ring leader to his presence. He wanted to kill the bastards and free the dogs. Anyone knowing he was there prevented both aspects.
Vito leaned back against the wall and closed his eyes. He listened to the sounds in the room, waiting for the footsteps to get closer. Once they passed the door, Vito leaned around the wall. Hooking an arm around the smoking guard’s neck, he yanked him out into the hall. With a slight lift of his arm, he slit the guard’s throat from carotid to carotid.
Eyes on the other guard, he lowered the dying man to the floor. He wiped his knife on the man’s pants before adjusting his grip on it. He crept across the room, hoping not to set off one of the dogs enough to gain the second bastard’s attention. Thankfully, the only dog barking was the one the guy was messing with.
Vito came up behind him and covered his mouth with one hand, quickly slitting his throat with the knife in the other. “Both of our dear guards are dead,” he said, wiping his knife on the second man’s jeans.
“That was nice and quiet. Good job.”
“What can I say? I’ve had a lot of practice.” Vito shoved his knife back into its sheath. “What’s the game plan from here?”
“Get you and the dogs out of there before the bomb Mekhi’s guys set up go off,” Tito said.
Vito lifted his head, one eyebrow raised. “Did I hear you wrong, or did you just tell me you had them plant a bomb in here?”
“You heard correctly.”
“Brother, I love you.”
Tito chuckled softly. “Thank you. I knew you’d be proud. So, let’s get you out of there. Which way are you facing?”
“Hold on. I’m stealing their wallets.”
“Chill. I’ve got good intentions.” Vito pocketed the second man’s wallet and headed back to the second. Using the toe of his boot, he rolled the guy onto his side. Still propped up, Vito leaned down and pulled his wallet from his back pocket. He tucked it into the pocket of his leather jacket. “Okay, I’m facing the staircase I came down.”
“Turn toward your non-dominant hand. On the wall directly in front of you, there should be a small crawl space door.”
Vito did as told. “I’m looking at a row of lockers. Think it’s behind them?”
“Not a bad idea. The blueprints show it being low to the ground, so lockers would be good at hiding it,” Tito said.
“How long do I have before this bomb goes off?” Vito asked.
“Twenty minutes. I wanted to make sure you had time to get out and be seen by other people before it goes off. A Minetti crime committed while you’re in sight of others.”
“Sweet. This is why you’re the brains, Ti.”
Tito chuckled. “Yeah, that’s why.”
Vito rolled his eyes, but he couldn’t help the little smile tugging at one corner of his mouth. He pressed his shoulder to the edge of the lockers and slowly pushed it along the wall. “Think I’ll make the news for being a hero?”
“That’s actually part of the hope. Bo wants good press for us right about now.”
Vito grunted. “Well, then let’s do him proud.” He took a step back, dusting his hands on each other. “Door has been located.”
“Good. Is it locked?”
Vito grabbed the little handle and pulled it open. “Nope, we’re good. How long is this passage?”
“I don’t know. More than a few yards and far less than a mile. Probably about a block or so,” Tito said. “But it’s only that short and narrow for a few feet. You’ll be able to stand up after you get past that.”
“Good.” Vito turned away from the small passageway. “Now… how do I get my deposit back?”
“That sounds like a you department sort of thing.”
“Fair.” Vito looked around the room. “One of the guys had a walkie talkie. Think there’s any chance it only goes to the guard posted outside the door?”
“It’s possible, but it isn’t worth the risk. If we set off suspicion, no one gets blown up, you know?”
“Yeah.” Vito let out a harsh breath. “Think I could just go back up there and yank him back through the door?”
“Were people paying attention to the back of the club?”
“Not really. It’s even darker by the door than it was everywhere else.”
“Then I say go for it. The bomb is going to destroy any security footage anyway.”
“Ah, score one for Minetti.” Vito hurried back up to the stairs he had come down initially. He pulled open the door, wrapped a hand around the back of the guard’s shirt, and tugged him backward. He closed the door, pushed the guard against it, and rammed his knife into his throat.
The guard gasped, breath struggling to get past the blade.
“Just imagine, if you’d chosen a less disgusting, monstrous way to make your way through life, we wouldn’t be here today. You could be at home relaxing or some shit. Instead, you’re here cashing in thousands of dollars on the lives and the blood of innocent dogs. Can’t even begin to tell you how much I hate people like you.”
The guard’s eyes were wide and wild, frantic. Vito didn’t much care. There was something about that kind of fear in a monster’s eyes that brought him some sense of joy, but it wasn’t the same that evening. This death was far too easy for the monster, far too quick, even after Vito had gone out of his way to drag it out.
But he didn’t have time for anything the man deserved.
He twisted the knife in the man’s throat and ripped it to the side, severing the guard’s carotid artery. He let his body hit the floor and searched him until he found the guy’s wallet. He tucked the wallet into his own pocket, shoved his knife into its sheath, and made his way back to the dogs. He closed both open doors in the room, leaving the one to the passageway open.
“All right. What’s the best way to go about this?” Vito asked.
“Letting the dogs out.”
“I guess… start opening cages?”
Vito let out a breath. “Good a start as any.”
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