This article is the second installment of a story that begins in Chapter One - The Last Target.
Gamelion 4th, 2021
Teodor pulled his small, sleek roadster up to the nightclub, turned off the ignition, and placed the keys in his pocket. Sitting in the stale light of the streetlamp, he stopped to appreciate the absolute silence in his car. The night was in full swing around him, but in his car all was calm. He found himself doing this often, as it was his only time to truly be alone with his thoughts. It was pure Zen.
He locked his handgun in the strongbox -- he was too smart to try and bring it in -- and kissed the crescent moon pendant that hung from his rearview mirror. He had an appointment.
He walked up to the entrance, where a huge line was waiting in futility behind some crimson velvet ropes, and looked the bouncer straight in the eye. Teodor had never seen this behemoth before, but it was clear that the behemoth knew who he was. He waved Teodor past, very briefly indicating a plain black door that most clubgoers didn't even notice.
He endured the standard routine: metal detector, frisk search and ceremonial binding. The last one made Teodor's eyes roll a bit. Criminals are always superstitious. Before he knew it, he was sitting in an overstuffed leather chair that was flanked by bodyguards, and he was facing the most powerful gangster in Gideon.
Benedikte wasn't a large man. He had black hair cut close to his scalp and wore lots of gold. His armor was surprisingly plain -- simple black ceramic with his family crest in the center. Two handguns bulged from his shoulder harness, and tattoos covered his shoulders and arms. Not particularly frightening.
What was particularly frightening about him was that he almost never spoke. Teodor had learned back at academy that the first thing you do with a threatening individual is get him talking. He wondered if he would have been as nervous about Benedikte's silence if he hadn't learned that.
Finally, the silence was broken.
"You have no shame," Benedikte said, rolling the Krilova between his fingers and watching the slim trails of smoke climb to the ceiling. "That's what I like about you."
Teodor rubbed his face nervously and looked around the dark room. The bass from the dance floor was making the walls shudder. Teodor shuddered too, but not from the music. He had been working for Benedikte for two years now, but this was the first time he had actually talked to him.
"You've been a good boy, Teodor." Benedikte was relishing the fear he obviously inspired in the young man. "I don't know if our 'sinthe market would be as successful if it wasn't for your . . . initiative."
Teodor managed to squeak out, "Thank you, Mr. Vladu."
"I think you have a bright future in my organization," he continued, taking a puff from the $400 cigar, "and I want to make sure I'm taking care of you."
"Well, Mr. Vla --"
"You believe that, right? That I'm looking out for you?"
"Of course, I've alwa--"
"Good." Benedikte snapped his fingers, and one of the overdressed muscle collections brought Teodor a heavy wooden box that was covered in scriptures and symbols. Teodor traced his finger along the familiar lines.
"I want to you have that. It belonged to my dead brother, and now I'm passing it on to you." There was a very slight nuance of grief in Benedikte's voice just then, and Teodor wondered if the gangster had a little bit of humanity left. "Open it."
Opening the box, he found a huge pistol, still in a shoulder holster. The holster was easily one hundred years old, and it had intricate lines burned into the dark leather. He slowly pulled out the gun, feeling its weight in his hand. It was a true piece of art -- 10mm, silver and gold inlay, 13-round magazine, and the words "Si vis pacem, para bellum" inscribed on the slide. He was in awe.
His rhapsodic episode was brought to an abrupt end by the sound of guns being cocked near his head. He immediately realized what he had done: He had unsheathed a loaded weapon in front of his master. It was a bit of a faux pas -- one that could get you killed.
"Put those away, gentlemen," Benedikte commanded, as Teodor quickly holstered the gun. "He's just a little overwhelmed. I'm sure it won't happen again." That last bit was fired like a bullet straight at Teodor.
"It . . . it won't." Teodor had been in tense situations before, and he had no trouble with them, but this was different. There was a bit more at stake here than his own life. "Not to question your judgment, but why have you honored me so?"
Benedikte squinted at him. "I'm making you Capitan of the southeast, including the docks. I'm putting you in command of Jorgen and his men. Perhaps you can beat them into shape."
The room was dead silent. Teodor couldn't believe his ears . . . Capitan? In charge of one of the roughest cells in the city? It was unheard of, especially for someone so young. Though he should have been proud, Teodor was suddenly filled with dread. He would have no respect from those men -- especially Jorgen, who probably expected this promotion for himself. He had a long road ahead of him. And he was sure his master knew this.
"I'm not going to lie. Your . . . connections were a factor in my decision," Benedikte said, reading the apparent confusion in Teodor's expression. "Having such influential family members means I have to keep you close to me."
Teodor suddenly thought of the phrase he'd heard: "Keep your enemies closer . . ."
"I'll make the announcement to the board in the morning," Benedikte continued. "Until then, not a word to anyone. Now get out of here."
Teodor stood up and started fitting the shoulder holster onto his muscled frame. Again he noted just how heavy that gun was. Jorgen's scarred face flashed in his mind. Maybe this gun would come in handy sooner than he expected.
"Oh, just one more thing," the gangster said, casually waving the cigar in the air. "I have something I need you to do, tonight."
Teodor had a very bad feeling about this.
"I need you to kill the governor."
Teodor's blood froze.
Continued in Chapter Three: The Governor's Son.
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