Twisted Roses

Page 46

When you’re a violent psycho like me you tend to make a lot of enemies. It’s one of my favorite hobbies.
Fabio covers me as we make the trek to the vault.
What we refer to as the vault is really a dilapidated library that’s been closed for almost thirty years. The city had to make budget cuts and since only the poor live in Old Northam, their library was the first to get the boot.
On the ground floor it might look like your run-of-the-mill abandoned building. Underground is where the real value lies.
We enter to dust filling our lungs and mutant-sized rats darting before our feet. Fabio guards the door while I move down the many book aisles. The entrance is located in the back, hidden underneath a faded old rug of a cartoon train loaded with kids and books. I lift the rug up and then reach for the secret compartment.
It takes me down into the underground vault. A tunnel of steel with enough soundproofing you could stage a massacre down here and never get caught. The abandoned location makes it that much more perfect.
I stop at the most important vault in the place and twist the handle’s shaft ’til I hear a click. The next barrier is more complicated—a codeandfacial recognition.
I make it through the steel door and enter the small room no larger than a standard walk-in closet. It sits in a separate lockbox I grab and open. Lying inside is the VHS tape.
I carry it upstairs and go to the old multimedia section. Cobwebs cover the dated computer screens and more dust sprinkles down on me for simply walking too heavily. Nobody has cleaned up this place since I was toddler-aged.
I put the tape in and hit play.
There’s nothing new that’s on it. I’ve watched it a thousand times, though I’m still missing the second half. One of the last steps in my revenge plan against him.
The footage is from the early 90s.
The night the Five Families gathered for their special meeting. Every five years dating back many generations the five most influential crime families in the country meet to hash out crucial business matters.
In the beginning, it was reserved forLa Cosa Nostraonly, but in more recent times it’s become more about power than the crime family being Italian-American.
A lot happened on the night the footage from this tape takes place. I like to call it the worst night of Lucius’ life. The one he doesn’t want me exposing at our next Five Families meeting in just a few months.
Grainy and fuzzy, the clip opens to social hour and standard business discussions conducted in a lounge setting. It’s a swanky atmosphere with wood-paneled walls and crystal chandeliers lighting up the large room. Tables overlook an open space seemingly designated for mingling and dancing.
Lucius appears sixty pounds lighter and with sparse dark hair he gels down. He’s speaking with the other men seated at the table.
Two men I’ve never met, but have researched extensively—Vladimir Kozlov and Leandro Crotone.
Leandro was the Don of the family before Lucius. He was also my grandfather, Stefania’s father. That was way back when the family was known as the Crotone crime family and not the Mancinos. Lucius’ big, fat ego drove him into renaming it the moment he got into power.
Vlad was the Leandro of the Bratva faction in Northam. Stoic, uncompromising, and with dead eyes and a monotone, Vlad wasn’t known to play nice.
The first few minutes carry on this way. A secret recording of the three men sipping their drinks and smoking their cigars.
They haven’t yet been joined by the other three families in attendance—the Giancolas, the Saitos, and a family no longer in existence today, the Pizzutos. They arrive during a latter part of the tape.
A younger, slimmer, prettier Stefania wanders onto the screen and plants a kiss on Leandro’s cheek.
Lucius shifts his attention to her, watching as Leandro strokes his daughter’s hair and asks her if she’s enjoying her evening.
Stefania hesitates, her gaze flitting around the table. She briefly glances in Lucius’ direction and ends on Vladimir before returning to Leandro. With a fake smile worthy of a beauty pageant queen, she gives an answer that satisfies him before making her escape. She walks off as suddenly as she came, rejoining a group of others in the background.
Leandro continues speaking as I squint and search for what I’m looking for. My suspicions are soon confirmed.
In the background of the lounge are several familiar faces. One of them being Stefania. Another is Rhino, also noticeably slimmer and more youthful.
But it’s the third familiar face that most holds my attention. I press pause on the VCR and step closer to the box TV.
Standing amid a circle of young women wearing frilly cocktail dresses and gossipy smiles is none other than Lena Burtka.
A visibly teenaged Lena fresh from Russia.