Seven ~ Butch
Me and Ian so did not have this.
What we did have was a roomful of panicky escorts. Not that I blamed the guys for being edgy. It seemed that the Bianchi’s camel had somehow had one straw too many flipped onto its humped back. Probably the death of Carlotta’s husband. Not that there was any evidence that Gems or those in our employ were involved in that unfortunate passing, but the mob usually had a scorched earth policy. And Carlotta was a vicious bitch.
Shin was trying to call the assemblage to order and having no luck. I thought to step in but Ian gathered himself up and shouted. One loud “Shut up!” from the redhead brought silence.
“Thank you,” Ian said, his gaze darting over the twelve men who’d come to Blue Moon. Several of the newer hires had just dropped out of sight, also a fine move given the shit falling down around us. “Now I know everyone is scared.”
The men mumbled softly in agreement. All except Diamond, who appeared to have ingested a porcupine. He’d not taken the news of the dead Gem well. None of them had.
“We’re going to have to lay low for a bit,” Ian was saying. I nodded here and there while scouring the handsome young faces gathered in Ian’s inner sanctum. “All of you need to keep your heads down. That means stay off social media.”
They groaned. I glowered. Shin looked up at Ian as if he were the savior. Ian glanced at me, so I carried on.
“He means it. We’re going dark until we can figure out what our next move is. So, to ensure that you all don’t be dropping little notes to your boyfriends or clientele, please deposit your cell phones into that Peruvian basket on the table. Yeah, yeah, I know. It’ll be tough to not be on Tic Toc watching cat videos but you’ll survive. Pick up a fucking book.”
A royal bitch fest erupted. Ian and I stood firm.
“Now that we can breathe, we’re going to have an executive meeting and will let you know what our next course of action will be. This floor has been emptied so everyone should be able to find an office. Food is coming shortly from the cafeteria. There are full baths in each suite so feel free to use them, as well as the televisions. We’ll reconvene in two hours,” Ian stated.
The men all rose. I held up the Peruvian bowl and each one dropped their phone into it. Guess dead escorts and car bombs overrode the need to share your tuna sandwich on the Gram.
“Diamond, we’d like you to hang back,” Ian said as Amber reached the door.
Diamond nodded then turned to Amber. “Go find us an office. Eat something and rest. I’ll be along shortly.” Amber began to protest. “Pup, do as your told.”
Scared though he was, Amber pattered off, leaving Ian’s massive office to me, Ian, Shin, and Diamond.
“I shouldn’t have listened to him when he asked to come back,” Diamond said as he ran a hand through his silver hair. “I should have kept him safe in Japan.”
“I understand your concern.” Ian glanced at Shin huddled on a leather sofa under a picture of Saturn, then glanced to me. “But as much as I hate to sound shitty, you’re an important part of this whole miserable mess.”
Diamond exhaled roughly, then sank down into a chair. “My family is a fucking noose around the necks of those I love. Yeah, I get that. But I didn’t bring this down on us. It started way back, when you decided to be the great savior of Gems and show Shin just how much money and power you fucking had.”
Ian was irate instantly. I wedged myself between the two of them, hands on heaving chests.
“Okay, look, there’s no point in doing this finger of blame shit. We all had a hand in giving Kennedy the boot. Not a one of you guys argued against him staying. Did you?” I barked up at Diamond. He glared, his lips flat as a paper cut. “Yeah, I didn’t recall that. No one bitched when we turned things legit.”
Diamond scoffed. “We were never truly legit. You know that.”
“So now we’re going to tear each other apart?” Shin asked. “This is what Carlotta wants. Yeah, I was glad to see Kennedy gone, I admit it. I was glad to be given the club and better myself. Everyone else was glad, too. We all liked the freedom and empowerment that Ian gave us. Fuck! Why are we arguing about this? We need to find some way to fix this, or we’re all going to end up in the river like your sicko uncle Paul!”
I patted each man’s chest, then gave Ian a light shove. He stepped back, jaw tight, and sat down beside Shin. Diamond began raking his fingers through his hair.
Since no one was saying anything of import, I decided to jump in. “Okay, so now that we’re done being dicks, let’s put our heads together. We have a couple of options.” I went to the bar in the corner and grabbed a bottle of JB Blue. When I had four tumblers filled, I handed them out. Shin wrinkled his nose but even he took a sip. “Jesus, I needed that. Now, what’s our next step?”
“Call the Feds,” Shin whispered and shuddered before handing his remaining shot to Ian who swallowed it down. “They can take us into protective custody like they did Garnet.”
“Yeah, I’m not really sure I trust the Feds, to be honest,” Diamond said. “Who’s to say they’ve not been on the take the whole time, reporting what we were doing to Carlotta. You have to admit the links to Gems via the Bianchi’s are thick. They had Sterling under their thumb for years, my uncle was one of Amber’s steady customers, and today Onyx was on a date with—”
“Someone who works for your father,” Ian stated before placing his glass to a side table. “I’d like to find out what the connection is with the Senator and Carlotta Bianchi, aside from that short marriage. Would he talk with you, Diamond?”
At that, our man in black laughed until he was hoarse. Then he pushed to his feet, ambled to the bar, and knocked back another three fingers of the good stuff.
“I can reach out.” Another shot. “Fuck, this shit is smooth.” Another shot. “He won’t consent to meet with me, though, and if he does, I’m not sure I trust him to come alone. He’s obviously tight with the Bianchi’s.”
“I’ll go with you,” I offered as I walked to the bar and tugged the bottle from Diamond to splash a bit more into my tumbler. “Ian, while we’re visiting with the Senator, you reach out to the Chicago branch of the FBI and feel them out. They should be scouring the city looking for us. Anyone seen anyone who even looks like a Fed?”
Not a soul had. “Do you think the corruption goes that far?” Shin asked, clearly shaken.
“There were companies in Canada that were Bianchi holdings. And that’s just what we knew from the news when the Colts were snagged. I bet my left nut that the Bianchi reach is much further. Asia for starters. The Yakuza probably had a man on you when were in Japan, Diamond.”
Diamond blanched. “And how are we supposed to fight against something that big?”
“Just like we always do on the southside. We hit them low, we hit them dirty, and we hit them hard.” I placed my glass on the bar. “Make a call to your father, Diamond. Ian, you too. You call the Feds but don’t tip our hand. Shin, you reach out to the US Marshalls. At this point, they’re the only ones who might be on our side. We don’t want our plans discovered.”
“We don’t have a plan!” Shin snapped, then decided he wanted the dregs of Ian’s drink.
I tapped my temple. “It’s formulating as we speak.” They seemed to buy it. I had no plan. I was just winging it. One hundred percent on the fly. My schooling in law enforcement wasn’t much help, as none of this was following proper police procedure. The people we should be able to trust, we couldn’t. So, it was time to go full Frank Castle and let the chips fall where they may. As long as Caliste and the other guys got out safely, I’d be happy. “We’ll meet up back here in an hour. I have to check on Onyx.”
Leaving it all behind for a few minutes, I padded down the thickly carpeted corridor, then paused by the director of inspections and compliances door. Jeremy Biggins was a nice guy, built like Hagrid. This was where I’d led Caliste before the meeting of the minds. He’d begged off on the group meeting. It was clear he was in pain, as well as dealing with some trauma. I’d fill him in now.
Knocking got me no reply, so I pushed inside. The space was open, lots of white and silver and black. Pictures of glowing red planets and billions of stars. Just like Ian’s office, only half the size. So only half a football field in length. Caliste was seated on a puffy black sofa, his gaze on the one huge window. He’d not showered.
“Hey, baby, you okay?” I asked, walking over to where he sat staring out at the sky. His gaze flickered from the window. I dropped down into a crouch. “You look lost.”
“I’m feeling disjointed. As if there are two worlds, this one, with the chrome and thick drapery, and the one where people try to blow other people up.”
I laid a hand on his thigh. “Yeah, I get that. Would you like to wash up?”
His thin eyebrows knitted then he glanced down at himself. “Lord, yes, I would like that. I fear I lost track of time.” He tried to stand. I shot up at his groan and helped to lift him from the sofa. “Lord above, those cement burns do hurt.” He leaned on me. It was a weight I was happy to bear. “The meeting? Your head? I’m such a flighty thing…”
“Nah, you’re not flighty, just tired and sore.” We made our way into an executive bathroom if ever I’d seen one. The silver, black, and white theme carried into the bath. Two round sinks, Italian marble, a huge glass shower big enough for five men and a llama. In the corner was a massive mahogany wardrobe. “We’re working on a plan. My head is hard, no need to worry about that. Can you do this by yourself?”
He shook his head. Biting down on the inside of my cheek so not to be a jerk, I gently helped him out of his clothing. Even with the bandages and soot, the man stole my breath. He was long-limbed, legs like a thoroughbred, toned arms, and a small high ass. He had no hair aside from that on his head. Blood surged south.
You’re a sick fuck, you know that?
“Yeah, I know.” I mumbled as we stepped into the shower, my arm around his lean waist.
“You know what?” he asked in that refined Southern speak of his.
“That I’m a sick SOB for eyeballing you while you’re hurt. Here, let’s get the water on. Can you get them bandages wet?” I reached around him, cranked the silver handles, and tried my best not to notice how he leaned back into me.
He just needs support. His hip and thigh are buggered up. Stop being such a sick bastard.
“I don’t recall and I truthfully do not care. Ah, sweet baby Jesus, this is heaven,” he said as the water fell down on us from above. I jerked back, hoping to avoid soaking the only clothes that I had, but Caliste reached back with one hand and latched onto my left wrist. “Please, I would like for you to stay. I need…you.” He looked over his shoulder.
I was lost…
“Then I’ll stay.” His sigh filled the steamy stall. I peeled my wet clothes off, tossed them to the floor, and pulled the glass door closed around us.