The Blackmailer’s Club.
The name was appropriate for the shithead who ran the place, one of the few clubs my two brothers and I didn’t have partial ownership in. Almost every club, whether high dollar or nothing more than a joint in Vegas was under our control. However, like everyone else, the owner was required to pay a tax for being allowed to operate and he’d fucked us over more than once.
We purposely waited until closing time before entering. With one look, the remaining employees raced out of the building. Every one of them knew of our reputation and what it meant if we were required to make an appearance.
Tonight was no exception.
Tony Accardo had played his last hand, the amount of money owed to the Cabello family closing in on eight hundred large. He would be required to pay what he’d agreed to.
Even if it was in the form of blood.
Business was just business after all and when anyone dared to swindle our family, they paid a hefty price for betrayal. I pushed open the door with a single finger, slowly walking inside. As expected, we found the pompous jerk enjoying a whiskey before returning to his lavish mansion for the night.
And the asshole was surfing porn, a representation of his disgusting proclivities.
He was certainly intrigued enough that he didn’t seem to notice us right away.
But when he did, his hand swept his glass to the edge of the desk as he jerked up, slamming the chair against a credenza. I waited until the tumbler shattered on the floor before advancing. The crunch of my boot on the broken glass reminded me of the sound of bones snapping. Grinning, I wrapped my hand around his throat, tossing him against the wall.
Tony held up his hands, sweat already beading down both sides of his puffy face.
“You’ve been a very bad boy, Tony,” I said through clenched teeth.
Raddix walked closer, tapping the baseball bat against his palm. My brother was the darkest of the three of us, his penchant for violence on an entirely different level than either Thorn or myself. However, his brutality was sadly often needed in our line of work.
The Cabello organization had built a fortune and a solid reputation for being powerful as well as destructive. No one dared cross us unless they wanted to die. While my father still maintained a position as Don of the crime syndicate, all three of us oversaw territories, ruling with iron fists and refusing to accept any excuses. Although we were even more formidable when we worked together, which we often did.
My mother had adored the way her triplets had remained connected, our uncanny ability to know what the other was thinking typical, but we were definitely not usual in the world of men. Sharing almost everything was just a perk we enjoyed from time to time.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Tony managed to whine, which prompted me to tighten my grip until his face turned blood red.
Thorn sighed, shaking his head back and forth. “Tsk. Tsk. I would think you’d know better than to lie to us on top of swindling money.”
Tony’s eyes opened wide, his mouth opening and his fat tongue sticking out as he struggled to breathe.
“You thought you could get away with stealing from us in order to pay your debt,” I hissed.
“I… I…” he sputtered.
“Why don’t we take him into the bar?” Thorn suggested.
I inhaled; the stench of his sweat was a clear indication of just how much garlic he’d consumed. Along with the stale odor of cigars and his whiskey breath, I was repulsed. “Why don’t we do that.”
I dragged him out of his office by the throat, yanking one of the chairs into the center of the room. Without hesitation, I punched him twice in the gut, forcing him to double over. Then I took a step away, allowing Thorn to continue the reminder. The hard thuds as my brother’s fist connected with Tony’s face several times were only topped by the fat man’s yelps. I folded my arms, waiting until Thorn shoved him down onto the chair.
Then I walked closer, leaning over. Blood trickled from his mouth, and I knew within minutes his right eye would start to swell. He was shaking, as the assholes who crossed us usually did when caught.
At that moment I felt like a caged animal, the rage coursing through my system the same no matter what level of betrayal we were punishing. My aggressive nature and innate ability to sense danger had kept me alive. My need to retaliate against my enemies made me feel alive, providing the kind of joy that most would consider sick and depraved.
My blood thrummed through my veins, my heart beating rapidly. Both were indications that I was ready to skin the man alive for his egregious actions. That couldn’t happen in this case. He still had some use left in him, at least according to our father.
That didn’t mean I couldn’t maim him for life. Yes, at times I was sick and twisted, my dark needs outweighing my astute vision for increasing our wealth and power. Sadly, patience wasn’t one of my virtues, if I had any at all. I grinned as I studied poor Tony. His days of being considered a hot catch were all but gone.
“Now, we can play this one of two ways. The first one will be easier on you. However, the second my brothers and I will enjoy a hell of a lot more. Which would you like, door number one or door number two?” We usually didn’t bother playing games, but Tony had flown under the radar for far too long, creating a stain on our reputation. That couldn’t be allowed. He would pay dearly for his indiscretions, which would send a clear message to everyone under our protection.
Pay what’s owed or face our wrath.
“Which is it, Tony?” Thorn asked. “We aren’t patient men, so I suggest you stop playing with us.”
When he hesitated for two seconds, Raddix’s patience went to shit. He’d moved around the expansive bar, the neon backdrop still well lit, highlighting the expensive collection of fine liquors. His aim was always perfect, the bat smashing into several with ease. The sound of shattering glass only increased his level of enjoyment. He took aim again, rolling the bat across several shelves.
“No!” Tony whimpered.
Raddix turned his head, grinning then issuing another hard swing.
I yanked another chair closer, propping my foot on the edge and rubbing my jaw. “So, door number one or two? Which is it?”
“One. One!” The words were already slightly slurred given his lip had swelled. “Please.”
“Please. I like that. Okay, here’s the offer and I assure you that this is a one-time thing. You can pay us what you owe us, all eight hundred large right now. If you do that, we’ll call it even, although you will be required to pay a higher tax for two years. At least you’ll continue breathing for the time being. Sound fair?”
“I…” he started, dragging his tongue across his lip.
“You forget, brother. He’s facing financial ruin given the gambling debts he owes to every major casino. Is that why you stole the money, Tony? Is that why that pea brain of yours believed you could get away with deceiving us? I wonder if that pretty young wife of yours has any idea what kind of a slug you really are.” Thorn punched him several additional times, hard enough his knuckles were bloody after he was finished. He took a deep and ragged breath. “Worthless piece of shit. I doubt he can offer us anything substantial.”
I lifted an eyebrow, giving my brother a hard look. Tony needed to be able to speak. At this rate, I wasn’t certain he could manage that much longer. I had the same desires, tormenting the asshole for hours if not days. However, we had to consider whether or not we wanted to start a war. Tony’s connections could create enough of a rift that our business would be interrupted. Another aspect that wasn’t acceptable.
Raddix continuously tapped the bat on the bar’s surface, providing another reminder of how dire Tony’s circumstances were. Killing him would feed our need for revenge, but I preferred getting something in exchange.
Tony continued to cry in an excruciating tone, the sound more like a blubbering whale. “I think you fully understand what you will be facing if you can’t provide some level of restitution. If you don’t, I’m going to allow Raddix to take a swing at other objects. Over and over again.” I gave him a few additional seconds before leaning closer. “Give us something. I know a weasel like you always has a way out.”
“My wife. Do you want my wife?”
The fact he’d offer up the buxom blonde so quickly further disgusted me. Women were precious objects, although they were excellent possessions to have. I debated the thought, glancing at Thorn who rolled his eyes. Barbie could provide little more than fulfilling a few sadistic needs.
“Try again and think harder,” I suggested, growing bored. Our father had taught us that enemies of any kind needed to be dealt with immediately. Otherwise, an ounce of our power would be lost forever. We would never allow that to happen.
He lowered his head, sobbing like a stupid child. I backed away, throwing another brutal punch of my own.
“Act like a fucking man, Tony. You got yourself into this mess, only you can get yourself out. You don’t have a dime to your name. However, you must have something worthwhile. If not, Thorn and I will say goodbye for the night and Raddix will take over.”
I wasn’t certain if my words had landed on deaf ears. Tony continued to loll his head, his chest heaving.
Seconds ticked by.
A full minute.
It was easy to tell Raddix was getting antsy.
“I think we’re done here, Thorn,” I said, taking two long strides away.
“Wait,” Tony said oh-so quietly.
“I’m listening,” I barked.
“My daughter. My daughter,” he repeated as he wept silently.
I shot both Raddix and Thorn a quick look. The man didn’t have any children and what would it matter if he did? She would be nothing of use, no power gained, or real threat issued.
“I don’t want some illegitimate child of yours, Tony. We might be very bad men, but we aren’t animals,” I huffed, my stomach churning. He really was one sick fucking bastard.
“No. You… don’t… understand.” Now the man was speaking in a full slur, his words almost unrecognizable. He continued to blubber, but I sensed his reaction had nothing to do with physical pain. What he was offering was all he had left. Interesting.
“Okay. Then help me do so. I’m out of patience trying to deal with you,” I growled.
He managed to lift his head, staring at me with one eye, the other already swollen shut. “She was… adopted. She’s a doctor now. She’s beautiful and talented and…”
Hmmm… Okay, so this was getting more interesting. “Go on.”
A full minute ticked by. I slammed my foot against the chair, almost toppling him over.
“She’s important!” Tony shot out.
“Important, huh? She would need to be the daughter of some pretty powerful people in order for us to give a shit,” Thorn added.
Tony huffed several times, licking blood off his lips. “Now her last name is Michaelson.”
I wasn’t certain I’d heard him correctly. A sharp stab slammed against my chest. “What did you say?”
“She’s Jameson Michaelson’s daughter,” Tony managed, then burst into full sobs, his entire body shaking. “She now belongs to him.” He sobbed uncontrollably, his entire body shaking.
What the hell had he done?
“How?” I demanded, clamping my fist around his jaw and forcing him to look at me. “Answer me!”
“Be… Because I sold her.”
The bastard had already used his daughter as payment. He was nothing but utter scum.
“You sicken me, you old fuck,” Raddix snarled.
Thorn opened his eyes wide, both of us turning our attention to Raddix. He walked from behind the bar, a smile curling on his lip.
As his grip on the bat tightened, I could tell he was ready to take a hard swing at Tony. I placed my hand on his chest, shaking my head.
“Maybe our boy has something that we want even more than money,” I stated, trying to make certain I made eye contact with Raddix. A few seconds later, he nodded. We’d been given a twisted gift and one we couldn’t deny.
“What’s her name?” Thorn asked.
Sniffing, Tony hesitated again.
Thorn fisted his hair, yanking his head back. “Answer me.”
I took a deep breath, still disgusted he’d give away his flesh and blood, but there was no doubt this was an unexpected coup that might never happen again. I patted Tony on the shoulder. Whatever had caused him to sell off his daughter years before was a layer of pain the man had done everything to hide.
Not that I gave a shit.
“Does she know that you’re her fucking real father?” I asked, almost certain of the answer.
Tony stared me in the eyes. I’d seen men buckle under pressure, regretting doing so the instant they did while others couldn’t care less. He was devastated by his decision, the one secret he’d vowed to take to the grave. The level of sadness in his single eye meant that whoever had been the doctor’s real mother, he’d loved her, the act of giving up his daughter likely the only selfless thing in his life he’d ever done.
Or the most selfish.
However, if she was a doctor, she’d been provided with a decent life.
“No. Don’t… Please don’t tell her. She doesn’t deserve to know what a horrible person I am.”
Raddix snorted. “Don’t you think she’s going to wonder why she’s suddenly taken away from her life?”
“Take her. Keep her. Use her. But please treat her right. Marry her.” Tony’s suggestions seemed out of place, his willingness a clear indication that his attempt at restitution held a significant meaning. Michaelson. If Tony was telling the truth, then we had an opportunity to destroy another enemy. In doing so, he would be provided with some sick kind of retaliation. As if forcing Kendra into the world of the Cabellos was better than her current situation. The concept of marriage was interesting, although I had no idea which one of the three of us would succumb to something so… traditional.
Thorn had a smug look on his face, Raddix remaining the hungry yet angry beast that he’d been all night. Still, I could tell both my brothers were interested, more so than we cared to admit. I made a decision for all three of us. What the hell. The deal could prove to be interesting as well as lucrative.
“What about her real mother?” Raddix asked after a few seconds.
Tony lowered his head, sobbing all over again.
“Fucking tell us,” I demanded.
“She’s dead. I loved her. She was the best thing in my life. Why she loved me I will never know.” Tony was blubbering at this point.
“How the fuck did she die?” Thorn hissed.
I took a deep breath, trying to allow myself to give the fucking asshole a break, but the fact he’d sold his daughter off pushed my anger to the level of rage. Jesus. How could anyone be so cold?
“You loved this woman, but you sold her daughter off like cattle. You are a fucking prick who deserves to die,” Raddix snarled.
“I know. I know!” Tony wailed.
Another full minute passed by. My brothers and I weren’t decent men. We’d never claimed to be. This had to be a business decision and nothing more.
“You did good, Tony. We’re going to allow you to live, but you will be in our pocket for the rest of your life.” The Michaelsons were almost as powerful and influential as the Cabellos, a family who’d created problems for ours. The destruction of their illustrious empire would be the perfect payment.
“Yes. Yes, sir,” he said, still crying like a baby. I wasn’t certain what the hell he was emotional about; selling his daughter to three predators or being allowed to feed his fat face a while longer. Either way, a deal had been made.
“You do know what we’re going to do to your daughter, don’t you?” I asked, as if I gave a shit.
He nodded, still whimpering.
“Why did you do it?” Raddix hissed, still clutching the bat with a firm grip.
Tony sucked in his breath, still shaking. “Because I had no choice. Michaelson is a killer. He’s a horrible fuck of a human being. He’ll kill me if he finds out I told you.”
I wasn’t in the giving mood. I stamped my foot onto the chair in the middle of his legs, leaning over. “Then you shouldn’t have provided us with such a generous gift.”
“Please,” he begged.
After glancing at my brothers, I had a feeling that there was much more to this story. “If you stay a very good boy, then Michaelson will never know how we found out. But, if you attempt to betray us again, all bets are off.” My word was final.
Kendra Michaelson was now the property of the Cabello family. We would take her.
Then we would break her.