Chapter Three "New Deal"

"So here's the thing." Ace took his natural place (or so he thought) in front of the group as the wall-sized projector screen behind him flickered into life. "Sloan and I have caught wind of a massive contract that's going to be handed out by the Mozzeroli family."

There was a flurry of excited mutterings between the three younger members as Ace sat down. The Mozzerolis were the most powerful Mafia family in Chicago, followed closely by the Foskerellos. Both families had vast numbers of employees in their networks—in fact, you couldn't walk down any street without seeing a huge, thuggish Mozzeroli or a smooth, furtive Foskerello. Gang fights happened all too often where one family would get into a shootout with the other. There were no bitterer rivals than the Mozzerolis and the Foskerellos.

Ace couldn't help but scoff inwardly. He was willing to bet that their real names were no more exciting than his. But these were Mafia men, and even an obviously fake Italian name was better than a Louis or Jones. He turned his attention to Sloan, who had stood up to continue the briefing.

"Right," said Sloan, observing the eager looks on his companion's faces. "So Ace and I don't know the details of this deal yet, but it pays—" He watched as their ears perked up attentively. "A lot." He finished. "I'm talking millions here."

He began pacing up and down, tapping his retractable pointer at the screen, which showed a photograph of a scowling man smoking a fat cigar.

"So the Mozzerolis have put out an offer to all the star teams. We'll be given a series of missions, and whichever team succeeds the most wins the deal."

"Sounds simple enough," said Kase, typing the information briskly into her laptop. "It's a race to see who gets there first, and the weak teams are weeded out in the process."
"Precisely." Sloan took his seat.

"Sounds like fun," said JD earnestly, taking a sip of his spiked Irish coffee, his feet resting lazily up on the glass topped table.

"Let's arrange to meet with the Mozzerolis then." Said Berwin, her voice eager with anticipation.

"Already taken care of." Ace was smug. "We meet them at the docks tomorrow night at midnight."

"Wow," laughed Berwin. "How very Sherlock Holmes."

"Hey don't look at me!" Ace snapped defensively. "They were the ones who picked the time and place."

"Oh don't start you two." Kase warned. "Okay, we should all stay the night here so we can meet first thing in the morning to prepare." As she spoke, she swiftly tapped the details into her computerized time log.

Chairs scrapped and clattered as the five comrades filed out of the basement briefing room and back into the kitchen/storage room. JD began to rummage through a cupboard full of various explosives, and outdated cereal boxes of lucky charms.

"Hey Ace, think you can swipe me some more smokescreens? I'm running low."

"Sure thing," replied Ace. 'Let's go do that now. You up for it Sloan?"

"Always," Sloan had already grabbed the keys to the Ferrari from off of the table.

"That's fine," said Kase, sitting down at the kitchen table in a high backed wooden chair. "I've got some new weapon designs I want to show Berwin anyways."

"Sounds good to me!" Berwin exclaimed, grabbing a chair and pulling it over to sit next to her friend.

"Have fun!" Sloan called as they nodded their goodbyes.

"Later Bumble Bee!" Ace taunted giving Berwin an exaggerated wink as he exited the kitchen, JD and Sloan trailing out behind him.

"The fucking nerve of that guy," Berwin grumbled. "I tell you—" she stopped apparently and glared at Kase. "Why are you smiling?"

Kase ignored her, opening her laptop as she stifled the urge to giggle.

"Seriously Berwin," the younger girl said, turning her attention back to her computer screen. "Why can't you—"

She trailed away when she noticed Berwin's glare, which had become even more murderous, her eyebrow ring glinting dangerously. "Never mind."

Berwin didn't press the subject further because she knew exactly what Kase had been going to say. Why can't you just accept that you like him? She'd heard it often enough during the years she'd worked with Ace. Instead she touched the LCD screen lightly.

"So, weapons?" she prompted. Kase opened a file marked "BB's eyes only." The picture that appeared on the screen was a gun, revolving slowly. Berwin's eyes widened as she took in every inch of it. She was almost salivating. Kase grinned.

"You think you can shoot that?"

The smokescreen heist went as smoothly as it ever had before. Sloan parked his car right outside the door of a special effects store (no need to attract attention by going to the defensive weaponry dealership) and Ace went in while JD wandered into the liquor store next door.

Then, the distraction—the Ferrari's alarm blared through the plaza, accompanied by Sloan's furious swears.

"The fucker hit my car!"

Swarms of people poured into the parking lot. In the confusion, Ace (who had been examining blood bag 'for realistic spurting') crossed the room in four quick strides, snatched the entire stock of smokescreens, and then rushed outside with everyone else. After a few minutes, he and JD managed to make Sloan "calm down", apologized to the crowd for disturbing them, and drove away.

Ace passed the bag of smokescreens back to JD, who inspected them quickly, then grinned. He celebrated their victory; meager as it had been, by pulling out an unopened bottle of Jack Daniel's from his coat.

"Where did you get that?" Ace asked, incredulous, as JD took a long swig.

JD shrugged. "You're not the only one who knows how to steal."

Ace just stared. And he was still staring when the Ferrari was rammed from behind.

"FUCK!" Sloan swerved, narrowly avoiding colliding with the back of the car in front of them. All three boys braced themselves for another impact, but it didn't come. Instead, a car zoomed past them, and they were treated to a blur of black, pink, and purple hair, a shout of "suckers!" and an impolitely outstretched finger. As the candy-apple Camaro sped by, they caught sight of the license plate.

Kitty.

"Fuck," Sloan repeated, glaring after their assailant. "Goddamn Barron."

JD shrugged yet again and took another swig.