Avenge:Romanian Mob Chronicles #3

By: Kaye Blue

Prologue





“How is he this week?” the woman asked the orderly, her voice low, though she knew the patient probably couldn’t hear her, wouldn’t respond if he did.

“Same as he was last week,” came the reply. “Do you have it?”

The woman handed the orderly an envelope filled with her weekly tithe, and he snatched it up eagerly, counting the bills with the same speed and greed as every other exchange.

“Eight. Nine. Ten. Crisp, too. A pleasure as always,” the orderly said before he pushed his cart out of the room and down the hall, the squeak of the wheels letting her know when he was out of earshot, letting her know she could relax.

She did her best to loosen tense face muscles, but they tightened again when she looked at the man, saw the weeping quarter-sized sore on his ankle. After rooting around in a drawer, she found antiseptic and bandages, and cleaned and wrapped the wound as best she could.

In theory, she was paying the orderly for just this type of thing. To keep an eye on the man, make sure he was getting the best possible care, that wounds like these, and all of the other things that slipped through the cracks for people like this patient, people who didn’t matter, got taken care of.

A bitter snort bubbled from her throat, her shoulders shaking with the sound. Best possible care? What a joke. He was disposable, tossed away and forgotten here, and her thousand-dollar tribute, the money she paid to ensure that the man got even some of the attention he needed, wouldn’t change that, no matter how hard she worked to earn it.

But she wouldn’t stop.

Would give all she could to ensure that he got at least a little of what he deserved. Or more likely, she would pay as long as needed to help calm the guilt that ravaged her.

She looked at the man through tear-clouded eyes, his face a mask of serene repose that could have been mistaken for sleep.

Or death.

But it was neither. No, the man was stuck between life and death, his body living, changing as the beginnings of the beard that sprouted from his face showed, but the soul that had animated that body, the vibrant person he had been, was gone, or at least not accessible to her.

She lowered her gaze from his face, and the tears increased as she looked down at the shoulders that had once been strong, the arms that had once held her now shriveled in a cruel pantomime of what they had been.

She reached for his hand, rubbed at the cool, paper-thin brown skin that had once shone with life but was now gray and dull like the room that surrounded it.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered, squeezing his hand tight. “I’m sorry.”

And then she let the tears come, cried until there were none left, at least none for this visit. Then, when she was done, she wiped her face, pressed a kiss against the man’s cool cheek, and left.

And as it always happened when she left him, after she had spilled her tears, that pit of anger that lived in her sparked again.

But it wasn’t a blazing inferno that raged out of control. No, this fire was more like ice, a solid weight in her chest that simmered low and intense but controlled. The heat from that fire was the thing that fueled her, kept her going when she thought she would quit. And that fire would only be extinguished when she’d done what she’d dedicated her life to.

It would only die when she’d gotten her revenge.





One





Anton





“Sit,” I said firmly, speaking loud enough to be heard over the old man’s deep, chest-rattling cough, the sound ringing loud in the small office tucked on the bottom floor of his sprawling home, the same home I had grown up in.

After a lingering look through watery, jaundiced eyes, Christoph Constantin Senior, a living legend of the Romanian mob and criminal underworld, known for his wisdom as much as his brutality, the respected and beloved leader of Clan Constantin, complied.

That he did so told me all I needed to know.

“I’m infirm, but I still have my wits. Don’t test them, Anton,” he said as he gingerly lowered himself into a padded chair.

“Of course not, Christoph,” I said, making sure he couldn’t interpret the words as placation or condescension, knowing he wouldn’t tolerate either.

He coughed, the deep, heaving wheeze rocking through his ever-shrinking body.

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