“I WILL KILL YOU! You come for my daughter?!? I WILL KILL YOU!!!”
It was an expected reaction, Lazaro would’ve thought less of the man if he wasn’t murderously angry.
“Jus’ call me back once you can–”
“DEAD! YA HEAR ME?? DEAD!”
“Just call me back when you’ve calmed down, we’ll talk this out.”
“YOU’LL TALK IT OUT WITH MY BASEBAT, YOU–”
He hung up. Basebat?
Florin and Protos were there with him, along with four big lugs belonging to Florin’s crew, the two new thugs were guarding the door. The owners of that house were huddled on a couch, intimidated into an attempt to silently shrink away from Lazaro’s notice. The girls were stashed in the kitchen, being watched by the last of Florin’s crew that had shown up.
“This is reckless, Lazaro.”
“I know, you don’t think I know?” Protos had brought up intelligent points, unwittingly diminishing a lot of Lazaro’s confidence. But it was done, the course was set. “Donna’ll have our heads on a stake if we don’t fight.”
“This will not help us. You know very well he’s contacting her, and then she’ll contact everyone else. It’ll be near impossible to convince them to bend now.”
“I’ve given up on convincing, it was impossible from the start,” Lazaros looked out the window, purely annoyed. “I’m gonna force ‘em, see?”
“How? We can’t stand against them all, not with the meager assistance we got from the Conclave.”
“Look, if Giuseppe’s on my side, it opens up the playin’ field. Suddenly, they don’t have everyone, see? I can turn ‘em then.”
“You won’t turn Donna.”
“I will if I turn everyone else,” he said, “that’s the initial plan.”
“And I’ll ask you the same thing I did before, would you bend?”
Lazaro turned to him and gave him a meaning look. The tone of voice had been a bit too judgmental.
“She ain’t me,” he grinned, “there ain’t no one like me, see? Seventy years she never got to be The Don at the Conclave. Not once.”
“That’s right, boss,” Florin nodded in assent “we got this.”
“And it ain’t ‘cause she’s a broad,” he ignored Florin, convincing him was meaningless, it was Protos’s trust he wanted. “I was there, they don’t care about that stuff.”
“Lazaro, you’re the boss and I will do what you say. My council is that you should admit you acted rashly. But your instincts are what they are, they’re why we’re so strong so I trust ‘em. Even when they’re unreasonable.”
Lazaro smiled. Protos wasn’t blindly loyal, he just recognized the potential. He recognized the skills Lazaro had which in turn was part of why he was his consiglieri.
“But let’s take a breath and maybe let’s make some sound decisions.”
“I’ve thought about it and I don’t see any move that would have been better.”
“That’s Donna,” Protos agreed, “she leaves very little to chance.”
“But she has to leave that little,” Lazaro grinned, “at least where I’m concerned, she can’t make my chances nil.”
“No, she can’t.”
He pulled out a cigar, it had been almost thirty minutes since he had last had one. He lit it and started smoking.
“Giuseppe will call back,” the Don assured the whole room, himself above all.
“Without threats this time. He’ll have found reason.”
“Should we be worried ‘bout an attack?” That was Florin, always thinking of danger.
“Always a chance,” Protos raised an eyebrow, looking at Lazaros.
“It’s fine, Florin, go outside, this nice couple ain’t gonna try n’ hurt us, ain’t that right?”
They didn’t even answer from their frozen disposition. Lazaro grunted in annoyance.
Florin laughed and motioned to his boys, they left through the front door to stand guard all around the house. Florin stayed, however.
“You sure we can trust the brothers?”
Already a nickname, Lazaros smiled.
“Yeah, they’re friends of mine,” meaning he was vouching for them, even though they were still not a part of the Infeperio family. He felt safe to do so, they seemed legitimately convinced the winning side was Lazaros’. That alone made ‘em okay in his book. “Argh, that bastard’s sure taking his sweet time.”
“He might be talking to Donna still. We should assume whatever he’s doing or saying is by her instructions.”
“He might be too angry to obey, though,” Lazaro pointed out, “that’s kinda what I was hopin’ for.”
“We should assume the worst.”
“Yeah yeah,” he breathed up, trying to remain calm. “Always hate the waitin’ the most, I’m tellin’ you.”
“I know,” Protos smiled. “Remember back in Varonapolis? When we were waiting on Francesco to go to the police?”
“Ha,” he did remember, now that he Protos mentioned it, “haven’t thought about that in years. If we were wrong about ‘im, the real rat would’ve sold us out to the pigs.”
“You almost wanted to ice them all and be done with it.”
“Makes my damn skin crawl, Protos, rattin’ to the pigs. But we couldn’t risk losing good people.”
“Yes, some of them have turned out to be very worth the stress.”
The Don looked back at Florin. It was interesting how close one can be to death and never know about it. He knew the same had happened to him a lot of times, most likely.
“Can’t end like this, Protos. The hard part was supposed to be over, we can’t let Donna take all of it from us.”
“We won’t, boss,” Florin nodded.
“We just have to try and waste as little resources as we can,” Protos brought up, “after all, the real threat is something we will still have to contend with.”
It made sense. His blood boiled and his emotional state was fluctuating like crazy, he realized. From super confidence to stressed out and worried. He wanted to just start a war but he couldn’t, he needed as many resources as possible to deal with the beasts. And moreover, if he lost too much, he’d never be able to strong-arm the law in the first place.
The phone rang. Finally.
He put out the cigar on a table and grabbed hold of the handle. He then looked at the couple again, a young man and woman who looked bland in their stay-at-home-all-day clothes.
“You two still deaf?”
They shivered but didn’t answer.
“Good. Keep it that way.”
He traded a glance with Protos before lifting the handle to have what could be the most important conversation of his life.
“C’mon Giuseppe, we’ve butted heads enough times – you know I don’t wanna hurt ‘em.”
He had called but he had been unable to actually say anything for some minutes now.
“Madonn’! Stop bein’ weird and say somethin’.”
“Everythin’s happenin’ too fast, Lazaros,” his voice woke up. “It’s getting harder and harder to make decisions.”
“Well this one ain’t hard,” he said without the slightest bit of hesitation. “You prolly guessed already why I’m doin’ this, right?”
Silence again. He traded glances with Protos, it would be ideal if Giuseppe himself admitted about Donna, it would be a sign of at least an inclination to choose him over her.
“Donna,” the voice came over the phone, making Lazaros smirk wide.
“I figured she’d gotten to ya. I figure she got to everyone by now.”
“What’d ya expect from me, here? Let’s just put it out there, what do ya want?”
“To be on my side, Giuseppe! Just that!”
“…and how would I show I’m on yer side?”
Lazaros took a winning puff of his cigar.
“I’ll go on like nothing’s happened, see? Talk to the rest,” he blew audibly into the speaker end of the phone, so Giuseppe would hear it and know he was casually smoking. “You talk to ‘em after I do. You explain to ‘em yer sidin’ with me, and you suggest they do the same.”
“That’s all, huh? Play your lapdog?”
“Oh don’t be so dramatic,” he said again, he could say it in a very defusing way, it hadn’t worked with Donna but it would work on Giuseppe. “I want your alliance. Under me, sure, but we’ll still be family. Family with a past we need to bury, sure, but still family. I want everyone together, I don’t want a war.”
Protos gave him a look of alertness and Lazaros nodded, understanding what the old man wanted him to add. “Even though I’ll win it.”
Giuseppe was silent for a long time again. Well, in reality, for a few seconds, but it felt like a long time.
“When will ya lettem go?”
“When I can trust ya, Giuseppe.”
“…So when you’ve won?”
“Doesn’t have to take long,” the Don said, “just need everyone to be a big happy family. Under me.”
He heard the man sigh. A sigh of defeat, a sigh of deliverance.
“Infeperio…I swear if you make me regret this, I will come after you so hard people will be talkin’ about it as they’re flyin’ cars to the moon.”
Lazaros almost laughed, that was a hilarious way to threaten someone.
“Well, for the good o’ the future then, happy to have ya on my side o’ this. Start with Pedro and Tulio, I talked to ‘em before you.”
“Yeah sure okay. Can I talk to her?”
“Of course,” he nodded at Florin and he knew what he wanted, he walked straight towards the kitchen to go get Giuseppe’s wife.
Lazaros muted the phone against his torso. “Don’t tell ‘im where we are.” Then he handed her the phone. He walked back to Protos, leaving Florin to watch over her.
“Can’t argue with results,” Protos nodded gladly, “our chances are pretty good, now.”
“I’m thinkin’ you can double-tap ‘em, Protos. I talk, Giuseppe talks, then you go and make first contact. Make it official, see? Let’s not give ‘em much time to talk to Donna and come up with a plan.”
“Spreading ourselves thin, I would say.”
“Soon, Protos, soon we’ll be too big to even be able to do that, see? Just a few more risks, my friend, just a few more risks.”
Protos nodded in agreement and Lazaros put out his cigar. She had just been explaining that neither she nor her daughter had been hurt and at one point yelled at him for not posting more guards if he knew Lazaros was vying to take over.
“I told you he was trouble, I told you not to trust them!”
Typical of a countrywoman, can’t really have a conversation without yelling at the husband for one reason or another and mafia status be dammed.
He eventually grabbed the phone back.
“I know we’ve had our misgivings, Giuseppe, but if you know anything is that I take my word seriously. I want power but I’m not some conniving, treacherous bastard, see? Stick with me and even Donna will bend, you’ll see.”
“Lazaros. We’re never gonna be friends, and we’re never gonna trust each other. Not really.”
“Enough will be enough, Giuseppe. We’ll be family, not friends. We’ll trust each other enough, you’ll see.”
He grunted and shut off the call, the tiny bit of rebellion that he could muster. Lazaros shrugged and switched off the phone.
“Aright, let’s move. Florin, pick yer best men and go with Protos. I’ll take what’s left plus the new boys.”
“You goddit, boss.”
“Oh,” he absentmindedly turned back and pointed at the couple, “n’ take care of ‘em, of course.”
They turned towards him, startled.
He left feeling a bit unpleasant. Fact was that if Donna got to those innocent bystanders, the couple, everything would be ruined. It was unfortunate but it had to be done.
In minutes, Florin’s boys had put them to sleep. They would clean up the place and make them disappear, they were skilled boys.
“Florin, if Donna’s gonna do anythin’, it’s gonna be a grab for the girls. You keep ‘em safe, but most of all, you keep ‘em.”
“And no harm comes to ‘em, see? Not a bruise.”
“No worries, you can count on us.”
Lazaros nodded. Yes, he could. A Don was nothing without soldiers to count on.
He left the scene in the car with the two brothers and one of Florin’s crew. Felt good to be driven again.
Felt even better to have the upper hand.
In truth, however, he wanted to assume Donna would be able to tell what he was doing. She knew he had taken Giuseppe’s girls so she could potentially guess the rest of what he was doing.
That could be trouble or it could be nothing. Knowing a plan is useless if you can do nothing to stop it. So the real question was…what could she do to stop him?