White-blonde hair. Pale complexion and eyes. Full, rosy cheeks.
She’s mingling with the same group of women Stefania returns to. The ladies giggle amongst themselves, though Lena sticks out like a sore thumb. It could be because the other women are all Italian-American, born and raised in Northam, English and Italian their native tongues.
The way Lena hovers and watches them chat, it seems she barely understands what’s being discussed.
Was she attending the social event with Vladimir?
Other than his steel-faced crew of men, she’s the only other Russian in attendance.
What was Ernest’s mistress doing socializing at a mafia get-together?
This took place almost two decades before with graduate student Lena, but mafia ties are never easily severed. If Lena was involved with the Bratva as a teenager, she was involved in later years, too.
Possibly still today.
I don’t bother watching the rest of the tape, where the real incriminating footage of Lucius exists. I’ve seen it a thousand times. I return it to its safe place in the underground vault within a vault.
Fabio stands dutifully where I left him when I emerge. He starts to ask a question, but I shush him as I bring my phone to my ear and wait out the rings.
I’m calling Stefania.
For once, she might actually be useful. She was only a couple years older than Lena at the time. It’s possible as two of the youngest women there, they knew each other.
That’sifshe can even remember the evening from the recording. It was over thirty years ago. She’s lost an infinite amount of braincells after decades of being a belligerent lush.
Straight to voice mail. I call several more times and leave a few angry voice messages.
“I bet you’re drunk out of your mind right now,” I say, sliding into the backseat of the Audi. “But I need you to answer the fucking phone.”
“No luck?” Fabio asks from the driver’s seat.
I exhale a deep breath. “I’m calling Florina, and letting her know I want to hear from her first thing in the morning.”
* * *
Florina promises she’ll put Stefania on the phone the moment she wakes up and is coherent and sober enough.
I don’t let myself obsess over the new information I’ve potentially uncovered. I don’t even let myself call Delphine’s number again. The rest of the night I spend back at Nirvana. I throw myself into the business side of things in distraction.
When morning rolls around, and the club is an empty shell of what it was all-night long, I decide it’s time to turn in.
I’m traveling in the same bullet proof Audi from last night. My driver is a newer guy by the name of Arturo. Once at my loft, I’ll follow up with Florina, take some of my pain meds, collapse for a few hours, and be as good as new.
Arturo slows up when we turn into the manufacturing district. I’m preoccupied on my phone, checking emails and placing calls. I look up when we stop altogether. Delivery trucks and vans are the main vehicles traveling on these roads, picking up and dropping off merchandise and items in need of transport.
Today is different. The street up ahead is blocked off by local police and their barricades. The same dumb barricades they put up for special events in the city.
Arturo checks my reaction in the rearview mirror. “Psycho, it looks like the next few streets have been cordoned off.”
“Then go around, genius. What the fuck do mean it’s been cordoned off? They can’t restrict access to all the streets in this district. There’s trucks trying to get through for deliveries.”
We circle the block and find an in through a side street. Coming down to the other end, we discover it’s blocked like the rest. Irritation prickles through me as I command my driver to pull over. Our car parks illegally against a red-painted curb marked ‘no parking’, but I don’t give a fuck.
Time to find out what’s going on.
Me and Arturo get out and head for the main street that’s causing so much commotion. As we approach, it becomes clear it’s indeed been blocked off due to an event. Who the hell hosts something in the manufacturing district of the city?
My deadly glare turns into pure venom when I make it onto the main street and learn who’s responsible.