Envy by Eve Marian
The spark from Vito’s cigarette was the only light for miles. After parking my car in the conservation area’s parking lot, we walked about ten minutes into the woods and waited.
Vito shoved his free hand into his pocket and wiggled his shoulders. “It’s fucking freezing. Why couldn’t we meet this guy somewhere inside?”
He stomped his boot into the ground, digging through the fallen leaves and gravel. He offered me one of his cigarettes, but I shook my head. I hadn’t touched the stuff since the night I was shot. Somehow, just looking at a cigarette turned my stomach now.
“Why not meet at Luxor or some other bar?”
I closed my eyes to rein in my temper. Vito and I have been friends for years, but I’d only been his boss for a few months. He still had a lot to learn. “We are in the middle of a war, Vito. I’m not about to shout my next move over blaring music so anyone could hear me.”
He looked around the woods. His eyes stared at a spot in a tree. “I don’t like this place. Aren’t there wolves or shit out here?”
“There are more wolves on the street looking to hunt us than out here.”
A twig snapped, and both Vito and I turned toward the sound. My hand whipped across my chest to grip my gun, still sitting in its holster.
Footsteps grew closer and a figure appeared. Both Vito and I drew our guns.
The man’s hands shot up into the night sky behind him. He wore a ratty blue baseball cap and a New York Jets jacket. “Whoa. It’s me. Frank. Put your guns away.”
I looked over at Vito and jutted my chin toward the man approaching us. With my gun trained on him the whole time, Vito padded him down for weapons and pulled a semi-automatic from the back of his pants.
Frank shrugged. “I never leave home without it.”
“Well, you won’t mind if we hang on to it for a few minutes while we chat.”
“Nah, I get it.”
I lowered my weapon and put it away. “Did you get the information I asked for?”
“Yeah. Just like I said. The shipment is coming this Friday. It’s the biggest one we’ve received so far. It’s coming from Sicily.”
I met Frank three months ago at one of my bars. The bouncer brought him to my office upstairs. He hadn’t paid his tab in nearly six months and had racked up a bill for booze and gambling he could never pay us back for. I let the tab go that far because I knew Frank couldn’t pay it. I also knew Frank worked at the docks and received payments from the Caruso family to help their ships get through customs with no hassle. I figured he’d come in handy to me someday. My business was all about planning and patience.
“What’s inside?” I asked.
“Well, according to the paperwork I’m going to file, it’s handmade Italian furniture.”
“But what’s it, really?” asked Vito.
“At least a hundred grand worth of cocaine inside the upholstered kitchen chairs.”
Vito whistled, and I shot him a look. We didn’t need to attract any attention, even though we were pretty far from the road. I didn’t want to meet up with any of those wolves he’d mentioned earlier.
“You won’t let those through, right?” I asked, raising my eyebrow.
Frank’s eyes bugged out, and he waved his hands in front of me. “I can’t do that. They’ll kill me. There’s got to be another way.”
Frank was right. If he stalled the shipment at the border, Sal would know it was him. And a dead mole was useless to me, so I needed a new plan.
“How does Sal pick up their delivery?”
Frank frowned, thinking. “Usually, when the shipment is cleared, I call Sal up and tell him he can send his trucks to pick up his stuff.”
I rubbed the scruff on my jaw. “You’re going to clear the shipment and you’ll make that call. But not to Sal. To me. I’ll send my guys to pick up the chairs. Give us thirty minutes. Then you call Sal. When his guys come, you tell them you did what you always do and didn’t know the other trucks weren’t his. Tell them someone else must have known about their shipment.”
Shaking his head, Frank ran both hands through his hair. “I don’t know about this.” He bit his lip and looked up at the sky, perhaps begging for divine intervention.
I dusted the non-existent link from Frank’s shoulder. “You don’t have a choice, Frank. You either double-cross him or you fuck me over. And I know where you live, and where the cute redhead that comes by your place every Friday night lives, too.”
He closed his eyes and swore softly under his breath. I didn’t mind threatening Frank. He was a grown man who had gotten himself into this mess. First by helping Sal and then by gambling at my bar and amassing a tab he had no intention of paying. Where did he think the money was going to come from? No, I didn’t feel sorry for him. But I still needed him alive.
“What’s it going to be, Frank? Sal’s wrath or my fury?”
He rubbed his forehead, and despite the cool temperature, sweat beaded at his temples. “Fine, I’ll take my chances with Sal.”
I smiled. “Good choice.”
Pulling out my wallet, I handed Frank three hundred dollars. “To help you get through your bills for the week. If you come through for me, your tab is forgotten.”
I nodded to Vito and he returned Frank’s gun. Then, we walked toward the car.
“Wait!” Frank called.
“I probably won’t be able to work at the docks after this. Sal will send his men.”
He fidgeted with his fingers before pushing them inside his back pockets. “Can I come work for you?”
His eyes were downcast and his shoulders slumped. The man was desperate and owed me. He would make a good soldier.
“Come see me at Luxor after this all goes down. I’ll find a place for you.”
He blinked several times, as though he couldn’t believe his luck. He didn’t know his whole life would change.
No one ever knew until it was too late.
Vito and I walked back to the car in silence. It was unlike him. He usually had a lot to say after these meetings. He’d either talk my ear off about what to do with the money or he’d laugh at how scared the guy looked.
But not tonight. Tonight, he was pensive.
“Everything all right?” I asked when I sat in the passenger seat of his car.
“Yeah. Just a lot on my mind,” he said.
“Anything you’d like to share?”
“Nah. Not yet. Just some family stuff. I’ll let you know if I can’t work it out on my own.”
I respected that. I didn’t like anyone else meddling in my personal business. Vito wasn’t married, but he had three sisters. I only had one, and it was enough to keep me up most nights.
Through my passenger window, the woods faded and were replaced with smaller homes and then apartment buildings as we neared the city center.
I was just about to ask Vito if he wanted to check out Brass Rails, our private strip club, to cheer him up when my phone rang.
It was my stepmother.
“What can I do for you, Joanne?” I asked, staring at my fingernails.
“They nearly killed my boy!” she shouted, and her hysterical sobs pierced my eardrum. “They… They… ah!”
I straighten in the passenger seat. “Calm down, Joanne. I can’t understand a word you’re saying. What happened?”
“I don’t know why they would come after Robbie. He’s not part of the business. But they did, and now…” she broke off into a wail.
“Was Robbie shot?” I wasn’t close to my half-brother, but I didn’t want anyone messing with him, either. “Which hospital did they take him to?”
“No, no. You don’t understand. They tried to kill him. Someone ran him off the road, and his car swerved into a ditch.”
I unclenched my fist and breathed easier. “So, Robbie is fine?”
“No!” her shout echoed in my ear, and I had to rub it until the ringing stopped. “He’s not fine. He was nearly killed. He’s scared and I—”
I exhaled. Robbie wasn’t hurt. It was a message, but he would be okay.
“I’ll go check on him. He’ll be fine, Joanne. Get some rest.”
“Giancarlo—” she shrieked.
But I ended the call. My ear couldn’t take anymore.
“What are you gonna do?”
What I always did. I got even.
“Things have gotten pretty hot around here. I think it’s time we cooled it off a bit.”
Vito turned to me at a red light. His eyebrows pulled together. “What the fuck does that mean?”
Ideas ran through my mind. I plucked and pulled them together until I formed a plan.
“Let’s go to Exotic Dreams.”
This time, he raised those eyebrows so high they nearly hit his hairline. “You’re really in the mood to go to a strip joint right now? One that’s not even yours.”
I smiled. “Yeah. But not for the reasons you think. Trust me.”
Vito shook his head. “I always have.”
The fuchsia outline of a woman’s hourglass figure would have told anyone the type of establishment this was. I figured the flashing triple ‘X’s were a bit much. But heck, this wasn’t my place, so I really didn’t care.
“If you were in the mood for a lap dance, why not go to our club?”
The bouncer at the door checked us over. If he recognized me, he didn’t say so. I kept my eyes trained on him, anyway, watching if he would reach for a weapon. When he waved us in, I nodded my thanks.
I leaned closer to Vito and whispered, “We’re not here for a lap dance. We’re here to send a message of our own. The plan with Frank is only one chess move. This will be another.”
If Vito heard me, I couldn’t be sure because his attention was focused on the naked woman twerking on stage. “Sit, enjoy the show. Just stay close to the exit unless you want that suit ruined.”
His smile faltered and he turned to me. “Wait… What?”
I rolled my eyes this time. “Just sit, Vito,” I pushed him down onto a chair near the back. “And don’t move until I text you.”
His attention returned to the stage, and he grinned. “Not a problem.”
Although I hadn’t been inside this bar before, I had a good idea of what happened in the private room near the back. I walked toward a back curtain where a man wearing a black T-shirt and jeans stood with his boulder-size arms crossed over his chest.
He stepped forward to stop me. “Members only,” he said without uncrossing his arms.
I nodded. “I understand.” Then, I pulled out my wallet and with two fingers, handed him two hundred dollars.
It was dark, so I gave him a second to realize what was in front of him. He looked around the room, then grabbed the money from my hand.
Opening the curtain, he said, “Welcome to the owner’s circle.”
I smiled and walked in.
There were at least five sections back here. Each section had an L-shaped couch, fake plants strategically placed to offer privacy, as well as a square table in the center for food or drink. All the sections were occupied except for the last one.
A tall, curvy woman with flaming red hair approached me. Her breasts spilled out of her corset and she wore no panties. Seeing her feminine shape piqued my interest, but that would have to wait.
The woman brushed her long, painted red nails along my shoulder. She had small eyes but a generous mouth that put all sorts of ideas in my head.
“What can I do for you, sweetheart?” she asked, lacing her fingers with mine and pulling me toward the last unoccupied couch.
I glanced at the sections around me. There were too many people here.
“Can we go somewhere more private?” I asked.
Her fingers stiffened and her eyes searched mine. I pulled five more bills and slipped them into her palm. “I’ll make it worth your while,” I said.
She looked down at the money and then at my suit. “This is only for privacy. If you want something more, well… it’ll cost you.”
I smirked. “Of course.”
She nodded and pulled me past the couch and toward a circular staircase.
I followed her up the steel steps to a darkened hallway. I peeked inside each room we passed, ensuring no one was inside, and paid close attention to the exits.
She led me to the last door to my left.
The room was spacious, with a beige wall-to-wall carpet on the floor and a sleek king-sized bed. There was also an ensuite washroom, although it was no bigger than a walk-in closet, it served its purpose.
“What’s your name?” I asked.
She closed the door and stepped toward me. “Ginger.”
I smiled. “I should’ve guessed.”
She placed her hands on my shoulders and pressed her lips to my neck.
“Aren’t you going to ask me for mine?” I teased.
She shook her head and her red hair spilled over her breasts. “No.”
Her hands slid down my chest until she cupped me through the fabric of my pants. “It doesn’t matter,” she whispered before kissing me.
While my dick stiffened, and my balls tightened, I pulled away. I’d come here for other reasons.
“I need you to put more clothes on.”
She frowned and stepped back. “What?”
Having an idea what was inside the armoire beside me, I opened the doors. As I’d suspected, it contained various costumes and accessories. I pulled out a tight black leather outfit. It had long sleeves and fitted pants. Although there were several pockets strategically sewn in.
“This will work.”
She raised her eyebrows. “Are you into kink or something?” Then her lips curved into a smile. “Because I think I might like that.”
I grinned. “Something like that. Now go change in there.”
She grabbed the leather ensemble from my hands and stepped into the washroom.
Once she was inside, I texted Vito.
Me: Meet me at the car in five minutes. Don’t be late or I’ll leave you behind.
I stashed my phone in my pocket and searched the room. There was a bookshelf with mirrors, handcuffs, and graphic novels. I wasn’t sure how superheroes would turn someone on, but hey, I wasn’t here to judge.
Those comics, however, were exactly what I needed. I grabbed two and tore out the pages. Crunching them together into a ball, I looked up at the ceiling.
There it was.
“How’s it going in there, sweetheart?” I called out to Ginger.
“Almost done,” she shouted back. “Impatient, aren’t you?”
You have no idea. I’ve been waiting to get back at the Caruso family for a long time.
While I hadn’t touched a cigarette in days, I still carried a pack with me along with matches.
Striking a match, the flame sizzled and I inhaled the familiar scent. Then, I dropped it onto the pile of papers and watched them burn.
It took a minute for the flames to start, but once the pages caught fire, a long tube of smoke stretched up at least a foot above the blaze.
The bathroom door opened.
“Oh, my god!” Ginger shouted and immediately flew to the bed and pulled off the comforter.
Her instincts impressed me.
But I couldn’t let that happen. I gathered her into my arms. “What are you doing? Someone can get hurt,” she cried. “We have to put it out.”
I held her back as she struggled against my grip. Wrapping one arm around her middle, I pulled back her hair with my free hand and whispered in her ear, “Shh, I promise no one will get hurt.”
Goosebumps rose on her tender flesh as she stared at the flames. Her muscles remained tense, as though ready to jump into action if need be.
The blaze grew and grew until the smoke stack was nearly where I needed it to be.
Her chest heaved as we watched the flames lengthen.
The smoke tunnel stretched and stretched until it reached the ceiling, setting off the sprinklers.
All at once, water came pouring down, extinguishing the flames.
“Time to go, sweetheart,” I said, interlacing my fingers with hers. “Unless you want to stay and get soaked.”
I tugged her along behind me and jogged through the hallway and down the winding staircase.
There was hardly anyone left downstairs. A few heads turned in our direction as we ran past them, but no one stopped us. Everyone was just trying to get out of the building.
Still holding Ginger’s hand, I pushed past two men and grabbed one of their cowboy hats. Turning, I placed it on Ginger’s head.
“Thanks,” she said, tilting the rim down as water trickled along the sides.
My shirt was wet, but not exactly soaked through yet. My hair was a different story. Our shoes splashed across the two inches of water that had already formed on the floor.
We finally made it outside and I spotted Vito in front of my car. The look on my face must have been enough instruction. He jumped into the driver’s seat and pulled up in front of us in less than thirty seconds.
That was when I heard my name.
Turning, I watched Sal running from the front of the building toward us.
He reached for his gun instead.
I pulled Ginger down with me into the back seat and shouted, “Drive!”
Vito slammed his foot onto the gas pedal, and my neck snapped back.
Pulling myself up, I turned to look through the backseat window.
Sal was shouting at me but I couldn’t hear him. All I heard was the adrenaline roaring in my ears. I hadn’t expected him there tonight, but seeing his face and knowing I’d done the job personally was a high I hadn’t expected, either.
A crowd of people stood in front of the building as the car raced further and further away. Everyone would be fine. The club, however, would not. It would take months to renovate the water damage. And this was one of the family’s most lucrative businesses.
I barked out a laugh as sheer joy ran through my veins. I would’ve loved to watch the place burn, but there were too many people inside to risk that. However, water would do the trick just fine.
I caught Ginger’s face and noticed she wasn’t smiling.
“Now what am I supposed to do?” she asked, crossing her arms. Her lips pressed firmly together. “I knew you were trouble.”
“You’ll come work for me,” I said. “I’ve just acquired a new bar and was thinking of implementing a VIP section. Why don’t you ask ten of your best girls to join you?”
She shrugged her shoulders. “What’s the pay?”
I snorted. The VIP section would increase business at least two-fold. “How’s double whatever you’re making here?”
She uncrossed her arms and stuck out her hand. “Deal.”
I pulled it to my mouth and kissed it.
Her red smile spread from ear to ear.
“So, where are you taking me?” Her voice deepened.
I cleared my throat, and I asked with no more amusement in my voice, “Where do you want to go?”
Licking her lips, she leaned forward. “Take me to your place.”