Sempre redemption, p.27
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       Sempre: Redemption, p.27

         Part #2 of Forever series by J. M. Darhower
 
Page 27

 

  Carmine blanched as Corrado motioned toward the door. He had his coat on, a small flash of silver gleaming from his belt when he moved. Gun.

  “What?”

  “Just come on. ”

  Carmine hesitated but followed his uncle out of the club, slipping into the passenger seat of his car as Corrado climbed behind the wheel. He started it up without hesitation, throwing it in gear and speeding from the lot.

  “Where are we going?” Carmine asked. Had he done something wrong?

  “A few Irish have been hanging out on Clark Street, harassing the owner of the pawn shop on the corner. ”

  Carmine eyed him peculiarly. “And?”

  “And we’re going to make them go away. ”

  Carmine’s stomach dropped. Work. He hadn’t been on a job with Corrado before, and he wasn’t looking forward to going on one now. “I’m guessing they’re there now?”

  “They’re playing the video poker machines,” he said, his voice dripping with disgust. Corrado hated gambling, he had learned, even though a lot of his money came from underground sports betting.

  They were silent the short drive to the store. Corrado pulled right up to the curb and got out without a word. Carmine followed him inside, immediately hearing the ruckus in the back. The men shouted and laughed, their thick Irish accents echoing through the shop as they banged against the machines.

  Corrado walked straight to the back, taking a direct path to them. Carmine cut along the front, slipping down a side aisle out of view to sneak up behind them.

  The men saw Corrado coming but barely had enough time to react before he grabbed the back of a guy’s head and slammed it into the machine. He cried out with the loud crunch, blood pouring from his face as his nose shattered. He grabbed it, staggering when Corrado let go of him.

  Corrado stealthily reached for the man’s gun the same time the second Irish pulled out his own. They aimed at each other simultaneously as Carmine stepped out of the aisle behind the guy, flicking off the safety of his pistol.

  Carmine pressed the muzzle against the back of his head. He tensed when he felt it, his hand shaking slightly. Corrado grabbed his own gun from his coat with his other hand and pointed it, too. The Irish man hesitated but slowly raised his hands in the air, taking his finger off the trigger. Carmine disarmed him and took a step back.

  Corrado put the first guy’s gun in his pocket, keeping his own cocked as he stared him down. “If I ever hear of you coming back here, I’ll do more than break a nose. Do you understand?”

  “Yes. ”

  “Be sure to tell O’Bannon I said hello,” Corrado said, his cold tone causing goose bumps to spring up on Carmine’s skin. “Now go. ”

  They hesitated, looking dumbfounded as they stared at Corrado, and Carmine groaned. “You heard the fucking man. He said go, so go, motherfucker. ”

  They shot Carmine angry glares before scurrying for the exit. One of the men lingered at the door, though, turning to eye them with anger. “You want us to stay out of your territory, tell your boss to stay out of ours. ”

  “We don’t step foot in your territory,” Corrado said. “Ever. ”

  The man shook his head. “You sound like you actually believe your lies. ”

  They were lies. Carmine himself had raided Sycamore Circle, so he knew for a fact they had crossed the imaginary lines.

  Corrado sighed when they finally left, sliding his eyes to Carmine. “You and that mouth. The elders believed we should be gentlemen in how we spoke and always presentable in how we dressed. How hard is it to put on a suit?”

  Carmine glanced down at his clothes. He had on jeans and a black button-up shirt, nothing out of the ordinary. “Suits are for weddings and funerals. ”

  “So I suppose you’ll be wearing one on Sunday, then?”

  Carmine tensed. “What’s Sunday?”

  Corrado started to comment but his phone rung and stopped him. He pulled it from his pocket and glanced at the screen.

  “Make him pay up,” Corrado said, motioning toward the man working the counter. “A couple thousand. ”

  Carmine nodded hesitantly as his uncle turned away, bringing his phone to his ear to answer it. “Hello? Is everything all right?”

  He knew immediately from the casual greeting that it was a personal call. He watched with confusion as Corrado bolted out of the door—he wasn’t the kind of person to take a personal call while on business.

  He shrugged it off, nothing about the day making much sense, and headed to the front. “You got money for me?”

  “I have some,” the man said.

  “How much is some?”

  “Uh, about five hundred. ”

  “You’ve gotta be fucking kidding me,” Carmine said, stepping behind the counter where the man stood. Carmine spotted a baseball bat hidden near the register for protection and grabbed it.

  “Okay, maybe a thousand,” the man said quickly, backtracking. “Yeah, I have a thousand. ”

  “It’s twenty-five hundred,” Carmine said nonchalantly, stepping back out from behind the counter.

  “I know, but I don’t have that right now,” he said. “My kids have summer camp, and my wife’s pregnant. I can have it next week, but I just don’t have it all today. ”

  Carmine walked through the shop as the man fumbled with the safe and pulled out a stack of bills. His hand shook as he counted them out, and Carmine tried to fight back his guilt. They were just innocent people, caught in the middle and trying to make a living, but if it wasn’t them extorting the cash, it would be someone else. Someone less civil, who would demand a whole lot more.

  Besides, he thought, it was better than the alternative. If he weren’t robbing people of money and possessions, he would be robbing them of their lives, and he would much rather take what could be replaced.

  “Not good enough,” Carmine said, swinging the bat with as much force as he could. It slammed into the glass display case, shattering it and sending shards flying everywhere. He threw the bat behind the counter, nearly hitting the man with it, and grabbed the cash.

  Carmine walked out, unable to even look at the shop owner, and opened the passenger door of Corrado’s car. He climbed inside and saw his uncle was still on the phone, a serious expression on his face as he listened to whomever was on the line.

  “I’ll be there in the morning,” he said, pulling away from the curb. “Yes, I’m sure. I’ll notify you when I land. ”

  He sighed exasperatedly as he ended the call and glanced at Carmine. “How much did you get?”

  “A thousand. ”

  “That’s it?”

  “That’s all he had. ”

  Corrado reached over, snatching the cash from him. He counted it out, barely paying attention to the road as he sped through the city.

  Carmine’s curiosity got the best of him after a bit. “Are you taking a trip or something?”

  “Or something,” he responded, tossing a single hundred dollar bill at Carmine and shoving the rest into the center console. “You’re too soft. He would’ve given you more. ”

  “I lost my temper and smashed one of his displays,” he said. “I figured I cost him more in damages than he owed. ”

  “Fair enough,” he responded as he pulled back into the parking lot of the club. “You need to learn to control your temper. ”

  “I’m working on it,” he said, eyeing his uncle suspiciously. He seemed distracted, his eyes darting toward the clock on the dashboard. “Where are you going?”

  “Somewhere I’m needed,” he said, evading. “Where doesn’t matter. But I have to leave right now to be back in time for the wedding, so you need to get out. ”

  “Wedding,” Carmine muttered, the word striking him. Sunday was his brother’s wedding.

  “Yes, wedding. ” Corrado reached over, opening the passenger door and waving his hand dismissively. “Out. ”

  Carmine got out of the car and slammed the door.
He watched as Corrado hit the gas and sped off, tires squealing. His words played through Carmine’s mind, an odd feeling coursing through him. Where doesn’t matter . . .

  His head started to pound again, the ache in his chest intensifying, and a sinking feeling hit his stomach as Corrado’s car disappeared from sight.

  “Haven. ”

  * * *

  It hadn’t taken Carmine long to make up his mind after Corrado’s car pulled away. The moment his uncle turned onto the road, he reacted on impulse. Sprinting to his car, he unlocked the driver’s side door and slipped inside. Tires squealed as he hit the gas, flying out of the packed parking lot and into traffic within seconds.

  The roads weren’t congested at that hour, but Carmine didn’t see his uncle anywhere, so he drove in the direction of their neighborhood hoping he went home first. The moment he pulled onto the street, he saw the Mercedes idling in the driveway.

  Carmine parked a few houses down and turned off his headlights to wait. Corrado came outside a minute later with a black duffel bag and glanced around cautiously before getting back into his car. He pulled out of the driveway and sped down the street, and Carmine waited a few seconds before starting on the road. He slipped in behind another car, weaving through traffic in the direction of the airport.

  He stayed back as far as possible, making sure there were cars between them so not to raise suspicion. He lost Corrado’s car twice but each time caught back up, having a general idea of where he was going, until he unexpectedly pulled down a side street a few miles into the trip.

  Carmine slowed, unsure of what he was doing, but followed his uncle. They drove along a few vacant roads before cutting down an alley, and Carmine slammed the brakes when he turned and nearly rear-ended Corrado’s car.

  His heart pounded forcefully when he realized it was a dead-end. Corrado’s driver’s side door hung open, no sign of him anywhere. Before Carmine could shift the car into reverse, his door opened and someone grabbed him. It happened fast, the movement startling him, and the car stalled from his haste. He had enough time to pull the emergency brake, not wanting it to roll, before he was yanked out into the alley and thrown against the side of the car.

  “What are you doing?” Corrado asked, pressing the muzzle of his gun underneath Carmine’s chin.

  He shook, stunned. “I, uh . . . fuck! I don’t know. I just thought . . . ”

  “You aren’t paid to think,” Corrado said. “You’re paid to follow orders and I don’t recall telling you to follow me. ”

  “You didn’t tell me not to, either. ”

  “What did you say?” The sound of Corrado’s finger releasing the safety of his gun sent a cold chill down Carmine’s spine. “I’m tired of your disrespect. ”

  “I didn’t mean it! I just . . . had to know. I had to see, Uncle Corrado. ”

  Corrado froze briefly, not moving or making a sound.

  “You think I won’t kill you because you’re Vincent’s child?” he asked, his voice menacingly quiet. “Do you honestly believe I’m that soft?”

 
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