Blood, Booze and Bullets
By Raven Silvers
Camire City, New States
United States of America
His father still refused to speak to him. Aaron sat on the edge of his bed. He had no idea what to do about it beyond learning how to keep his mouth shut. He was always saying the wrong things at the wrong time and that earned him his father's ire. He tried his best, but his efforts usually accumulated in a yelling or the cold shoulder. Usually it was the first.
He had conceded a long time ago that he just wasn't good enough for his father. He was always being compared to Juan and his father liked to point out that his older brother had the traits he did not have: strength, suaveness, business sense, confidence and boldness that bothered on recklessness. In other words, Juan was a true Marcos.
Aaron envied his brother for that. He was everything their father wanted. Not that Juan was proud of it. He watched out for Aaron and always put in a good word for him.
Absently he chased a bottle cap around with his foot until it rolled beneath his bed.
The trip to Colombia had started out well at first. He had been dragged along by Father, to "watch and learn and maybe actually become a man". The flight was comfortable, but he could not help being nervous. He just didn't like being God knows how high in the air without a net below them. It was insanely dangerous in his opinion. There were a thousand and one things that could go wrong and then they would be splotches on the landscape below.
Then he had said he did not want to be in the Family Business. Father had asked him what he thought of the business. They had just visited a coca plantation the Marcos Family owned. When the harvests were made, the coca plants would be sent to a factory elsewhere in the country and then they would be made into drugs.
He had been drinking that night. Aaron had been lured into a sense of safety, so he spoke his mind. "I don't like it."
His father had flown into a rage. Juan had a hard time calming him down, and from that night he hadn't said a word to Aaron. It was frustrating to know that his father was angry at him again.
Before he could get any further into his self-pity, there was a knock at his door. "Yo, A? Are you there?"
He recognized the voice and the tall shadow below the door. "Come in, Juan." As he spoke, he stood up and pretended to busy himself tidying the parts on his table.
Juan pushed open the door. "Hey."
Aaron's smile was weak. "Hi." He pretended to ensure that his paint bottles were capped tightly.
Juan sat on his bed, not bothering to ask if he could. They were close brothers and he knew Aaron wouldn't mind. "What're you doing?"
"Packing up. Mummy gets prissy when she thinks I don't keep my worktable neat." He spoke with a soft lisp, a trait that only he had. Both his siblings were confident public speakers, whereas Aaron would become a blubbering wreck.
Juan peered at the almost-completed ship model that took pride of place on the table. Most of the tools and parts were arrayed around it. "What's this one called?"
"The Mayflower," Aaron said proudly. "It was a ship that sailed from England to America in the 1600s. It was an impressive feat during that time." He showed him the cover of the box the parts had come in. "It carried pilgrims and their families. There's a short history on the back of the box." Juan looked through it and gave a sound of acknowledgement.
Though the two were brothers, Aaron and Juan looked nothing alike. Juan had olive skin and dark hair, with black, piercing eyes. Aaron was lighter and his hair and eyes were brown.
This was because Aaron was adopted during the war. When he was four, he had been found wandering the ravaged streets of Hell's Kitchen in New York by relief workers. They brought him to the shelter but no-one could understand why the little boy kept crying. Most of the volunteers agreed that it was because he had lost his parents and left it at that.
It was Constanza Marcos, wife of the drug lord Paulo Marcos, who had determined that the boy had a painful ear infection. She had persuaded him to take some medicine and given him sweets afterward to get rid of the foul taste.
Constanza had become attached to the silent boy who followed her like a second shadow. It took time, during which the war became worse and New York got shelled more often, but she was able to learn his name and where he lived.
A quick check to the area confirmed her fears. The apartment buildings along that street had been flattened by the bombs. There was no way anyone inside could have survived the collapse. According to Aaron, he had survived because he had been playing on the street and his mummy and daddy were inside when the big bang fell from the sky.
When the shelter became full, she offered to board some of the people. She had only realized Aaron had followed her home when the others were settled in their rooms and he was left alone in the hall, looking so lost and scared her heart broke. She arranged for him to share a room with her seven-year-old, Juan.
Before they had made the move to Camire City, Constanza and her husband had adopted him legally. Aaron No-Last-Name became Aaron Marcos, newest addition to the family.
It wasn't long before he was following Juan instead and her two children took to him like a charm. Juan would give other children an earful if they made fun of Aaron's lisp or his safety blanket. Monica would proudly show off her "li'l brother" like a trophy to whoever asked.
He had grown up to be nothing like the fiery Monica or ladies' man Juan, though. He was quiet and he had retained some of his baby fat, making him slightly chubby. He was shy and sweet, close to his mother; he would rather build his wooden ships than be out doing business.
"You still torn up about what Dad said to you?" Juan asked as he set the box on the bed.
"I know he doesn't mean it." Aaron shook his head. He was lying and both of them knew it.
"You know, Dad cares about you." His brother turned to look at him from where he was placing a box of parts on a shelf. "No, really, I'm not kidding. Dad cares enough about you to yell at you about the business."
"I guess so." He came to sit down next to him. "But I'm not interested in the business, Juan, not at all. I don't want to deal with the heroin or Ketracell White." He shuddered slightly, remembering the lessons in school where they had shown pictures of addicts after they had overdosed. It had scared him half to death then, and it still scared him now. "I don't want to hurt people."
"We don't hurt people. We don't force them to buy the merchandise," Juan pointed out. "It's their choice. It's like suicide, you know? You don't force someone to commit suicide, it's a choice they make."
Such logic always perplexed Aaron. "Yeah, but sometimes they don't know better. Like kids, they think drugs are fun and that they won't get hurt. But they do get hurt, Juan, even you can't pretend they don't."
His brother offered him a small smile. Aaron had always kept an arm's length away from the business, so he didn't know the precautions they took. "We don't sell it to kids." At his surprised reaction, Juan just laughed. "Why do you think you don't see any dealers within three blocks of any schools, even the colleges? We make sure our dealers don't go anywhere near them. We sell only to adults and they have to prove it with ID."
"Why?" he asked dumbly.
"Mostly because we want them to come back when they're older. That's when they have their own jobs and their own money, which means they don't need credit from the dealers. Sure, giving credit is good, but too much hurts business, y'know?" He grinned. "It's a long term investment."
His smile faded. "Parents love their kids; if their freshman son or cheerleader daughter dies of an overdose or bad reaction, they're going to want blood. And when enough parents go to the cops, the Feds will get involved and then we'll be in real trouble."
He patted him on the shoulder lightly as he stood up to go. "Don't worry about kids, little bro. We've gotten that taken care of. No kid under twenty-one can buy from our dealers: that's the number one rule on the street."
He was almost out the door now. "Go luck building your Juneflowerbro. Show me when you're done."
"Mayflower," Aaron corrected, smiling. Juan shrugged and grinned at him, then left him alone.
He stood up and went back to work on his ship. He had the skeleton of the structure done and now he set out to finish the hull. He found it relaxing, but his peace was shattered when a roar erupted from downstairs.
"Where is he? I'll show him!"
He went white with fear; he recognized his father's voice. There was no way his volatile parent would yell at Juan, and Monica wasn't a he, so that left Aaron. He knew it was really bad when his mother flew into his room in a flurry of skirts.
She locked the door. "Out! Get out! Your father has his rifle and he's coming upstairs!" She had the fear of God in her eyes. "Quickly, Aaron! We don't have time!"
She pushed him roughly towards the window. "Your sister is downstairs waiting in the car," she said urgently. "Go to a hotel and spend a few nights there at least while your father calms down. I'll call you when you can come home. Quickly!"
When he was out on the windowsill, he felt dizzy and nearly went back inside. That was before he heard his father pounding on the door and Juan's trying to persuade him not to shoot him.
He scrambled along the roof, clutching tightly to the piping that ran the length of the back of the house. He heard his mother trying to calm his father in the room as he reached the garage roof, slightly lower than the rest of the house.
He clambered down the ladder Monica had set up for him. He was already out of breath but he could hear his father roaring as he went through the house.
"Get in!" Monica hissed. She was already in one of their cars, and as he jumped in he felt it hover a foot off the ground and they set off. He clung to his seatbelt as she sped out of the Marcos estate.
Only when she was satisfied they weren't being followed did she slow the car. It was about then they entered the city from the suburbs. "You can't stay in any of the hotels, Dad will ask questions and he'll find you. You have friends in the city, don't you? Ask them if they'll let you stay for a few days." She used her free hand to remove her mobile from her pocket. She held it out for him. When he didn't take it, she glanced at him.
Aaron was shaking so violently her first thought that he was having a fit. She was relieved when she saw her wasn't. He was just crying out of sheer fright. Her own heart was pounding madly against her ribcage.
She pulled over to the road shoulder. "Hey, Aaron, don't cry, we're safe now. Dad's not following us." Just to make sure, she glanced behind them. There was no other car on the road shoulder.
They stayed there for a long time, his big sister letting him cry his fear out. When he finally regained some sort of control over his emotions, she gave him a tissue from the box in the back. Gently she handed the phone to him. "Call your friends. See if they'll let you stay a while."
He nodded, eyes still red and puffy, as he dialed the number of the twin's apartment. It rang for a bit, then it was picked up. "If you're selling anything, we're not buying it unless it vibrates and you can stick it into someone."
He made a face. "That is disgusting.You're going to get into trouble if your parents ever hear you say that."
"Ma and Da never call this number. 'sides, we're always in trouble, innit, Bish?" There was a muffled "Aye!" from somewhere beyond the line. He could hear the smile in his voice. "What d'you need, A?"
He explained the situation quickly, leaving out the details and people involved. "I need a place to stay for a few nights. Do you think I could stay over at your place?"
"Sure. We wouldn't mind the company. You need a lift?"
"No, it's alright. I'll be there soon."
"Alrighty. We'll see you." Before he put down the phone, Aaron heard Priest yelling to his brother. "Bishop! Get the dames out of the guest room, Aaron's coming over to stay!"
He cut the line and handed the mobile back to Monica. "They'll take me in," he said quietly.
It was three days before the call came. Monica had left her mobile with Aaron and he tripped over his feet getting to it.
Bishop dropped him off near his house and he walked the rest of the way. They were waiting for him in the living room. Constanza immediately hugged her youngest, glad that he was alright.
"Let's get those clothes off you. You need to change," she said, a big smile on her face.
"Change? Why?" He looked around. Juan was dressed in a suit and tie, but he always wore that whenever he was with Father doing business. "Are we going somewhere?"
"You're coming with me," Juan explained. "Dad wants you to come along for a meeting." He paled. Quickly, he added, "He's not armed, I made sure. We're meeting the other Families — they called a conference two days ago. It's pretty urgent."
He was hustled up to his room, given a new suit to change into, then hustled downstairs again. Juan drove them to the office, a condo in the heart of the city. They slipped into the meeting room just before the first of the Family representatives arrived.
It was the Tans, who controlled the Chinatown area. Deacon was with his father, his long hair neatly tied, looking very much like the lady killer he was.
The others came in soon after. Don Luca Morelli and his advisor Vito; Richard Loewe and Shakespeare, his son; and Joseph O'Reilly, father of the twins, a flaming redhead, was followed by his advisor as well. They made a strange sight, with the crime lords of different nationalities crammed into one room.
The boys merely nodded to each other, affecting indifference. They dare not acknowledge each other further, because they knew their respective families did not approve their mixing around with the other Families. (Aaron had even heard his father refer to the O'Reillys as rabbits because they had twins. It escaped him why, as both families had three children.)
The atmosphere was tense. These were men who had ordered murders in the past and would do so again in the future, and who were trying to kill each other on a regular basis. It was all business, of course, nothing personal.
All the men were in their 50s. Their years showed through the easy grace with which they held court. They were all dignified persons, with the possible exception of Paulo, who was dressed in his customarily garish colors. Today he had chosen a hideous orange business suit — he looked like a bloated orange, Aaron thought, smiling slightly.
They sat down to business. "What brings all of you gentlemen here?" Paulo started, surveying each of them in turn.
"Marcos," Richard said. Aaron noted the lack of prefix; this really was business. There would be no niceties. His Cockney accent was so thick Aaron had trouble understanding what he said, though his father gave no indication of that. "We all know that when you started bringing in drugs into the city, you swore that you wouldn't sell any to the kids. That you wouldn't bring the stuff near the schools."
"Then why is it that there are your dealers waiting outside school gates every day now?" Luca Morelli had spoken. Normally Richard would have been irritated, but he seemed quite content to let Luca continue.
Their faces were grave. Juan looked grim; this was a serious break in the rules. Paulo was visibly startled. "Where?"
"Everywhere." Joseph leaned back in the comfortable chair. "They've been spotted in four schools in the Watergate-Union Square area."
"Three in Chinatown," John added. His strong, angular features were set in a stone mask.
"Four schools in Little Italy. Three high schools and one junior high school," Luca added.
"Both the art colleges in Old Town," Richard nodded.
"And there may be more that we have not yet discovered," Luca continued, "I think, Señor Marcos, if you check with your own people, you will find that someone in your ranks has been selling to the schoolchildren in your territory."
He went onto explain that the drug cases had first surfaced in Little Italy; a sixteen-year-old in one of the schools had been admitted to the hospital after a Ketracell White overdose. He had survived, but Luca had opened investigations as to how someone so young could have gotten his hands on the drugs. Other cases had started appearing in the other areas too, and that was when the emergency conference was called.
"Basically, Marcos, what we want to know is this: why have you gone back on your word and started selling to the kids?" Joseph was every bit as rash as his sons. His temper was the same, though he was also good-humored most of the time — the twins had picked that up from him.
"I haven't." Paulo looked concerned. "I swear. I'd never selling my merchandise to children. It has to be a rogue dealer or another supplier."
"We have dozens of dealers. There's almost no way for us to keep track of what they do and who they sell to," Juan added. "But they know we've agreed not to sell to kids."
The meeting went for another hour, with accusations being thrown back and forth. The arguments got heated and he was afraid the men would come to blows. Only after some persuasion were Juan and Paulo able to calm everyone down enough for a proper discussion.
"We'll look into this and stop the dealer," Juan said firmly. Paulo was already semi-retired and Juan was well on his way to becoming the head of the Marcos drug empire. "Until we find the dealer and confiscate the drugs, there's nothing else we can do." There were mumbles around the room. He pressed on. "In the meantime, if any of you catch him before we do..."
Joseph made a grunt of assent. "We'll make sure he lives to see another day, don't worry. We all want a quick resolution to this."
It was strange to see all the men in agreement. Most of the time they were out to get each other. Aaron marveled at how the welfare of the people — and, in effect, business — could make them seemingly of one entity, at least in their goals.
They rose to leave. Again the boys barely glanced at each other; later, when they assembled at the twins' house, they were sure to be laughing over this.
"There won't be anything more like this, gentlemen, you have my word," Paulo was saying. Shakespeare caught his eye, and raised a brow, asking why he had stayed with the twins for those nights; but Aaron shook his head slightly, as if to say that he had told them everything he was prepared to share. Shakespeare left it at that as he shuffled out of the room.
When everyone had left, the Marcos's adjourned to Paulo's office. He was angry but he wasn't taking it out on anyone, for once.
"Find the dealer," he told Juan. "Shut him down. Stop all movement. I don't want our stuff near the schools, you hear me? I don't want no kids getting sick because of overdoses."
"I'm on it." Juan had picked up the phone and was dialing a number. "Do I give the contract to one of our guys or to a hitman?"
Paulo shook his head. "Bring him to me."
Aaron shuddered at his father's voice. Normally Paulo spoke with a cheerful bom, but today his boom held anger and malice in it. The dealer was in deep trouble, he thought grimly. Deep wasn't quite the word; bottomless pit worked better. If Juan was already talking about a contract his fate was already decided: the death sentence. There would be no trial or jury.
Aaron wondered how his father could sleep at night if he regularly ordered the deaths of people. It was no secret that Marcoses were the most violent Family in Camire City. When Paulo went into full retirement, his brother would take over. He would be surprised if Juan didn't order someone's death somewhere along the line. He would suffer hell from his conscience and not be able to sleep well.
He was very glad he would never have to go through that.