Monday, December 5, 2011

"HELL KNIGHT", Chapter Three: First Cut


This was how it began.
T-Bone, who stood with Mad Dawg in the club’s showroom, heard his cell phone ring. He picked it up immediately, anticipating Yuki on the other end. He answered, “Yuki? Is it time?”
But T-Bone was startled to hear a man’s voice: “Yes. Get ready.”
“Who the fuck is this?”
“This is Danny Choi. It’s all right, we’re going to assist Yuki downstairs. She told me what has to happen. You know what to do, right?”
“…Right.” He was more than slightly surprised that Danny would be helping them…but Yuki said he would, and T-Bone realized he should have known better than to doubt her. But what the hell did Danny mean by ‘we’? Before he got the chance to ask, Danny hung up.
Mad Dawg looked at him expectantly. “It’s goin’ down?”
“Yeah.” Anticipation increased in his being. “Yeah Dawg, it’s goin’ down.”
“We live for her, and we die for her. You feelin’ me, T?”
“Won’t be any other fuckin’ way, my brother.”


Access to the basement level of the Hot Biscuit could have been found in two places: at either end of a long hall behind the V.I.P. rooms. At each end was a set of stairs that led down to the basement, and when one reached bottom from either end there was a second long hall. Halfway down this hall was a sliding door that opened into a handsome dining room where food would be served for special meetings.
One such meeting was being held that late night, a dinner presided over as ever by Antonio Pucci.
Pucci was seated at the head of a large table…seated with him were the leaders of several other operations, from narcotics to vending, from across Missouri and Illinois under the control of the Roccoli crime family. On both sides of him were two soldiers who mirrored the all-business appearance of their colleagues upstairs. They were the only ones in the room who weren’t laughing with Pucci because he had just finished telling a particularly raunchy joke as they celebrated a record month of ill-gotten profit. All sat in front of plates full of Italian food and glasses of sweet concord wine.
Pucci, from the perspective of his colleagues, appeared to be a very happy man, and it was difficult not to laugh with him. It was also easy to understand why someone in his position would be happy: he was the rising star in Boss Roccoli’s organization, coming up from nothing within a handful of years with a nasty combination of financial genius and cobra-like cunning to become the capo of his operation. He was just within the rarified air that was occupied by Nico himself, his son Guido, their family lawyer-slash-consigliere, and a handful of others. Rumor was that Pucci would rise to the rank of Underboss to Guido Roccoli when his father inevitably retired.
Yes, Pucci seemed to be a happy man to those in the room who secretly chafed at the thought of being subordinate to this son of a bitch.
But…they couldn’t have known there was more than one reason the one they knew as Antonio Pucci laughed.
And if they knew the reasons…they would have stopped laughing with him.
Outside in the basement hall, Danny Choi walked forward silently past the dining room door to the far end of the hall and its stairwell. Standing close to the bottom of the other stairwell was Delilah, still in her silk robe.
Then Yuki strode up to the door. She stopped there, and reflected on where she had been. She thought of where she could be going from here…because of this moment. She whispered to herself softly, “Now.”
Words did not matter. Thought did not matter. Only action.
She opened the door.


For a few seconds, none of the men in the room noticed the door slide open. But all it took was one glance from the one known as Antonio Pucci in response to noticing the movement of the door, and his laughter died. He blinked in seeming confusion at the stranger who was at the doorway, and his enforcers responded with similar looks of confusion. A few at the table took notice that the one they called Pucci wasn’t laughing anymore, and turned to see what he was looking at. In rapid succession, everyone else at the table did the same.
They all saw the woman, standing at the threshold.
No one else noticed that the expressions on the faces of the one called Pucci and his guards had changed. From confusion…to anger…and then something else.
It was recognition.
All of this took the space of between four and five seconds.
Then, for most of those in the dining room, time by their perceptions slowed…almost a blessing considering they had approximately another six seconds of life to them. It was a natural reaction when the woman reached under both sides of her hooded coat, and then each of her hands brought into the light a Mini Uzi submachine gun.
Yuki pointed both weapons at Pucci and squeezed the triggers.
In spite of the weapon’s diminutive size and weight, the Mini Uzi was in many ways a more fearsome weapon than its larger predecessor, created by an Israeli named Usiel Gal. The Mini Uzi’s rate of fire was 950 rounds per minute, one and a half times greater than the standard Uzi carbine’s capability to fire 600 rounds in the same time period, and slightly greater than that of the comparatively more popular Heckler and Koch MP5K SMG. A Mini Uzi’s effective range was only 100 meters, but in close quarters that limitation didn’t mean a great deal if the weapon was being fired at you.
To be certain, the men present with the one called Pucci didn’t give a shit.
The host of the dinner had bolted to a standing position just before Yuki fired; as a result, several rounds that would have been immediately fatal chopped into the capo’s legs and lower torso. Yuki, never relaxing pressure on the triggers of the guns, spread her arms and 9 millimeter Parabellum rounds tore into both his soldati at the midsection and doubled them over as the one called Pucci screamed and collapsed…and then into the rest of the men on both sides of the table. Some were already fumbling for guns under their coats, while others were too stupefied by the suddenness of the assault to react before the sweeping fire reached them.


Upstairs, the machinegun fire was heard in spite of the loud techno of the club. Some of the enforcers didn’t hear it…others closer to the door that led to the back and then downstairs did. One of the men screamed to the others, “Shit, we got fuckin’ gunfire in back! Hey! HEY! GUNFIRE FROM THE BACK! THE BOSS MAY BE IN FUCKING TROUBLE, C’MON!”
Mad Dawg and T-Bone, meanwhile, had barely heard it themselves. They knew what they had to do. Dawg pulled out his Glock, and T-Bone whipped out Bennie’s 92F. They brought up their nines and began shooting the enforcers in the showroom, and hoped they’d kill them all, keep them from going downstairs.
It would surprise the customers and dancers in retrospect that the gangstas did everything they could to avoid killing anyone but the enforcers.


Yuki walked toward the head of the table, past the dead and dying bodies that surrounded it; the empty guns fell from her hands. The one called Pucci was grievously wounded with multiple hits in his legs and stomach. Trying to scramble backward on his elbows and hands, trying to drag dead legs with him until his back came into contact with the far wall. The one called Pucci, trapped, could only look at Yuki as she closed the distance on him. He couldn’t help but stare at the beautiful face ironclad in a neutral expression of pure, undeniable purpose.
The one called Pucci never noticed the cord tied around her neck…connected to the scabbard that held the sword concealed under the bulky back of her hoodie and just under the rear of the belt of her khakis, running along her spine. Yuki reached behind her neck, under her hood and back collar, and her hand found the leather-wrapped handle…in a chrome flash, she withdrew the katana’s length, held it over her head, prepared for a killing blow. The one called Pucci froze, horror clashing with a strange, seemingly cheated anger.
Yuki’s arm reared back to deliver a downward strike.
She was the very image of judgment.
The one with the name Antonio Pucci screamed.
The scream was cut short half a second after it started. Yuki’s sword sang through the air and bisected his face and the front of his head with a wet SCHUKKK! The sword continued to tear through the flesh of its victim’s throat and chest, due to its wielder’s strength more than its sharpened blade, and finally broke free just below the sternum. Blood exploded from the great vertical wound in a gout and splashed across Yuki’s face and body.
Unaffected by the blood, Yuki simply stood there for a moment. She intently watched the one called Antonio Pucci until his very dead body stopped twitching.


Upstairs, in the showroom, the situation was chaotic.
Customers and dancers (and a few bouncers) screamed as they huddled on the floor and behind the bar as the gunfight intensified, and gunpowder clouded the smoky air further. Mad Dawg and T-Bone had good timing…the man who shouted a warning to his fellow enforcers created enough confusion for the gangstas to get the drop on them, just as Yuki had anticipated when she planned their attack on the way there. It did work initially: Dawg and T capped four of the fuckers and winged another within the first handful of seconds, but their adversaries were numerically superior and a little quicker to rebound than expected. The survivors scattered for available cover and returned fire wildly. The gangstas, not being fools, followed suit and ducked for cover behind a thick leather sofa reserved for lap dances. It wasn’t the best choice for cover against bullets – its thick upholstery wouldn’t last long – but it was preferable by far to no cover at all.
There were a half-dozen of Pucci’s men left in the showroom and one of them, the one Mad Dawg shot in the arm, took the initiative. The sustained machinegun fire he and the others heard just before from back (and most undoubtedly from downstairs, considering how important Pucci was), told him these assholes meant nothing. They were only a distraction, and their first priority was to the boss’ safety. He yelled at two of the hardmen closest to him, “You two, we’re going downstairs! They’re after Pucci!” He whirled around to the others under cover and roared, “COVER US! WE’RE GOING DOWNSTAIRS!”
Three of the men began laying down covering fire as the others dashed into the doorway to the V.I.P. rooms. And the back hall.
“Shit, Dawg!” T-Bone was beside himself as he realized what was happening, but he couldn’t do much about it behind the slowly-disintegrating couch. “They’re goin’ after Yuki! We gots t’do somethin’!”
Dawg looked at him hard. “Ain’t much we can do about that, T! Gotta take care of ourselves now! Besides…you and I both know those fuckers goin’ downstairs are gonna be dead, one way or the other! They just don’ know it!”


At one end of the hallway was Danny Choi, who knew a clarity of purpose he couldn’t have imagined before. He had heard the half-second scream, and knew it was good.
Delilah heard the same from the other end of the hallway. She also heard the heavy gunfire above. She simply thought to herself: Okay, if anybody’s coming downstairs, it’ll be any time now. She clenched the piece of metal in her left hand, concealed it behind her slender hip from the view of anyone who would come down the stairs at her end. The dancer thought, Anything for you, Yuki. I’ll die for you.
I’ll kill for you.
She only had to wait another few seconds.
On Danny’s end, two enforcers rushed down the stairwell, guns drawn. Both saw the man in the cream-colored suit waiting only a few paces away from the bottom. One of the men, beefy with a half-ass crewcut, shouted, “Danny, what the fuck’s going on?! We need to get the boss and get – !”
The slob with the crewcut never had the chance to say another word because Danny closed the distance between them within a second, and with no preamble his right hand flashed forward. The two-finger thrust drove into the man’s throat, crushing it. The guy dropped his gun and his hands groped at a windpipe that wouldn’t work anymore. The other man said, “Shit!” He should have used the split-second chance he had to train his pistol on Danny. It wouldn’t have mattered because he was already in motion, and his right leg flashed into a side kick that smashed into the gunman’s chest. He might as well have been hit with a sledgehammer: he was knocked backward a few feet into the wall next to the stairwell, and bounced off it like he was made of rubber. He stumbled toward Danny, who with a grim expression caught the man’s head in his hands, and with a brutally efficient motion snapped his neck. The guy fell to the ground in a heap as his partner with the crewcut crashed to his knees…his lips turned a deadly shade of blue. He managed to look up at Danny with an almost childish expression of surprise.
Down the stairwell at the other end of the hallway came a third man, gun drawn, his left shoulder bleeding. All the enforcer could think of was to get to Pucci, help him if he was still alive, and kill whoever was responsible for this shit. He completely ignored the young woman in a red robe standing not far away from the stairs as he reached bottom. He strode past her and looked down the hall. He saw Danny next to the men who he sent to go down the other side of the hall…one seemed to be dead and the other, while alive, didn’t look much better. In his furiously racing mind the bleeding enforcer managed to put two and two together…whatever was going on, that Chinaman was a part of this! Danny noticed him from the far end as the man raised his gun. The bleeding enforcer wanted to scream, “Kung-Fu THIS, motherfucker!”
He never had the chance because Delilah, still standing behind him, had lifted the piece of metal the man didn’t see into view. The .41 Magnum, previously the property of TBone, which Yuki had given to the dancer earlier. Delilah switched the weapon to her right hand, pointed it at the man’s back, and without hesitation fired five times. All five heavy-caliber bullets found a home. One glanced off his right shoulder blade, exiting as quickly as it entered and taking a chunk of flesh with it, and another smashed into his right elbow, destroying it. The other three bullets had more fortune. One cleaved into the man’s lower spine, another into his left kidney, and the last shot drilled into the back of his neck, exiting mushroomed and at dramatically decreased velocity through his throat in a gory explosion of blood. He was dead before he fell on his face.
The guy with the crushed windpipe on the far side finally did the same.
Yuki stepped into the hallway, as stained in blood as her sword. Danny and Delilah converged on her…the man in the cream-colored suit asked, “What happens next?”


Yuki’s power flowed from her like ripples in a pond. Ripples of eldritch energy given form and purpose by her will. The energy reached out, hungrily sought to find what she wished for it to devour. Time was a critical factor, and she found it ironic considering that before she came to this world, time held literally no meaning…she had to earn as much time as possible to do what was necessary. Yuki had to be ruthless and efficient in all things for her enemies would be legion and she and her servants needed every advantage possible. It was her way, the only way she had known for as long as she could remember, which was a very, very long time. Hers was a way forged in realms beyond shadow, where indescribable tortures and unspeakable evils reigned.
Those of this world had taken so much for granted. Among them were the gifts they gave themselves…the technology that drove this world, drove their very lives. That which ran by electrical currents and digital code. Those gifts were marvels to be sure, but those who lived in this world, especially God’s Country, seemed to forget what it meant to subsist without such things.
And they were ill-prepared for what would happen if those gifts were taken away.
Yuki’s enemies would have been taking advantage of such things, as well. One way or the other, they would inevitably discover what she had done. She had no illusions that they would not soon enough know about her. War was inevitable, it could not unfold any other way, but she could at least delay it for as long as possible until she was truly ready. And so she let her power reach out…
…and it nullified the circuits of every telephone…the batteries of every cellular phone…every hard drive of every computer and laptop in the Hot Biscuit that could be used to communicate to the outside world. Her power reached out further, for she wished to take no chances, and it nullified the computer and electrical systems of the vehicles of those who patronized and worked in the club. Time was all-important, not simply to delay her enemies’ discovery of what she had done, but to give Yuki and her servants time enough to find sanctuary, to begin to gather an army that would serve her.
Yuki knew exactly where to go next…but first things first.
“I wish to change my clothes,” Yuki said.
“I’ll take you to the dressing room upstairs,” Delilah said. “You’ll definitely find something there.”
Danny asked, “What about the others upstairs? They may not have the situation contained.”
“I have faith in them,” Yuki responded. “It will be well.”


Mad Dawg and T-Bone did succeed. Barely. For a few moments it was like something out of one of those first-person shooter video games T-Bone loved to play. The gangstas had to scramble on all fours in opposite directions as bullets tore through the leather and upholstery of the sofa they found cover behind. Bullets zinged just above them as they each found new cover, and they got back into it. Two more enforcers died, which left a young turk who looked like something out of one of those damn pop-idol boy bands Mad Dawg hated so much. It turned out the little dumbass ran out of bullets. Dawg was tempted to shoot him anyway since he looked so much like Justin Timberlake, but he remembered what Yuki told them: “If any present a threat, kill them. But if they surrender, let them live. When you are done, do not let anyone leave this place.”
Back in the short entrance hall, an emergency door opened and Donnie poked his head out nervously. He was acting as a scout for Lee and the cashier, a young blonde woman, who both hid behind the door. Donnie hadn’t heard any shooting for about a minute, and figured maybe the coast was clear. He turned away from the hall to Lee and the cashier. “I think it’s okay,” he hissed. “Let’s go!” But when he turned to look into the hall again, he found a Beretta pointed between his eyes.
On the other end was T-Bone, smiling. He said, “Howdy, campers!”


The dancers were, to a woman, scared shitless.
They had been forced to gather in one corner of the dressing room, most of them still naked, by Delilah at gunpoint. A deadly glare from Danny Choi had helped her and her magnum keep them there. As they kept the dancers under control, Yuki quickly washed her face and changed her clothes in the nearby bathroom. She found a new set of clothes that would have to do: a jet-black sleeved stocking dress. There was nothing else less garish…or more conservative. She flatly disregarded the fuck-me shoes with the ridiculously high heels owned by the same dancer, preferring for the time being to go barefoot.
Yuki looked at herself once again in the mirror, made sure her face and hair were clean of blood so as not to attract unwanted attention. A part of her wondered why she bothered. She would ensure that much more blood would be spilled, and very soon. So much blood it would flow like a river.
They left the dressing room and locked the dancers inside. Delilah carried Yuki’s sword and Danny hauled a loaded trash bag as they walked behind Yuki into the showroom. T-Bone and Mad Dawg had everyone in the place seated on the edge of the massive stage, under their guns. Mad Dawg was finishing giving the collective orders, as Yuki asked him to do before they arrived. “We’re gonna leave, and you may be tempted to try to call fuckin’ 911 or some shit! A word to the wise, motherfuckers: DON’T! Don’t try to fuckin’ call anybody, don’t any of you try to fuckin’ LEAVE this place screamin’ like pussies! We got ourselves homeboys out there, and they’re what you’d call layin’ in fuckin’ wait! They’re waitin’ fo’ us to go, and after we do they’re gonna wait two hours! Two hours so we get away and out of your lives! If ANY of you bastards try ANYTHING, you try to go ANYWHERE to call the five-oh or Roccoli’s boys, ANY fucking body FOR THE NEXT TWO HOURS, my boys WILL catch you, and they’ll walk your dumb ass back in and EXECUTE YOU ALL WITH EXTREME FUCKIN’ PREJUDICE!” Mad Dawg looked at Yuki, who glanced at the sole surviving enforcer and then gave the gangsta a slight nod. Dawg then shouted, “And how they gonna fuckin’ do it? Just like THIS!”
Without warning, Dawg walked up to the nearby turk they had spared minutes before, put his gun to the young man’s temple, and blew his brains out. The gangsta scanned the horrified faces of the assembled hostages. He concluded, “And THAT, assholes, is a picture that says a thousand words!”
Yuki and her servants left the club. No one they left behind followed. None of them had even dared to move…for two hours, anyway.
Outside, the group joined Ace and Bennie J. Danny looked at Bennie, who was still in the 300C’s back seat. He lifted the trash bag to the window and said to the skinny gangsta, “I think this is yours.”
Bennie thought excitedly, My shit! Finally he had his clothes back…but the moment he opened the bag, he saw they were returned to him covered in blood. Even his Nikes. He groaned, “Aw hell, no!”
Yuki said to Danny, “I will need you to drive me in your vehicle.” She turned to the others. “Follow us.”
Then she told them where they would be going.


It was just after 1:30 A.M. in the morning after Good Friday…at that time, it didn’t take long to reach Ladue.
Less than 10 miles from the city of St. Louis, Ladue was the most affluent suburban community in the county, and held 22.2 square miles of the most valuable real estate in Missouri. Home values and the incomes of its residents were stratospherically above the state average, of course. There was a rarified, prosaic quality to life in Ladue, without any doubt. In fact, its city leaders prided themselves in providing its residents the most tranquil and serene environment possible.
Of course, some things could be provided…that did not necessarily mean that such things were guaranteed.
Ladue was home to some of the most powerful people in the state. Some were well known…others not. All held great influence over the way things were in the heart of God’s Country. Not far from Tilles Park, in the middle of an expanse of neatly manicured, jade-green acreage, was the massive home of one such man…unlike his neighbors, however, he not only prided himself in his relative lack of celebrity, he found it was essential so as not to be under greater scrutiny than he already was by law enforcement agencies like the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the ATF, and the St. Louis County Police Department.
His name was Nico Roccoli, also known as Boss Roccoli to his allies and enemies both in the heart of God’s Country and throughout the international underworld. Nico was the Don, the Capo Crimini of Missouri and Illinois, the most powerful American Mafia boss in the Midwest. Publicly, he was a humble businessman and philanthropist, a classic American success story of a second-generation Italian-American born of immigrant parents from the old country. The truth, however, was diametrically opposite to the public image.
Nico Roccoli’s parents were immigrants, that much was true. But where his mother was a quiet, graceful woman, his father was something else. He was a ruthless soldati and assassin who was sent by the Mafia in Italy to support the operations of some of their favored associates in the American side of their cabal. His one saving grace was his love for family, and after his wife gave birth to Nico he wanted to ensure that his son had a better life than he did. Actually, in a perverted way, Nico was a classic American success story…but one the founders of God’s Country wouldn’t have wished to imagine. Nico was raised to become a contradiction, much like his peers in organized crime: he was a God-fearing man who attended church on a regular basis and had the utmost respect for the principles of family, loyalty and country. At the same time, however, he grew to be a cunning manipulator and leader, and absolutely merciless in the face of anyone who attempted to oppose him. Nico Roccoli’s base of operations and domain were, technically speaking, supposed to be limited to both St. Louis and its neighbor across the Mississippi in the Land of Lincoln, East St. Louis. But he had garnered so much power and gained such favor from his fellow Dons that he would become on an unspoken but unmistakable level the highest figure in organized crime in both states.
It had been a long Good Friday for both Nico Roccoli and his son, Guido Roccoli, who followed in his father’s footsteps. It was not out of nepotism Guido rose to become his father’s second-in-command, his Capo Bastone or Underboss, but because he was a truly apt pupil of the lessons his father had taught him. He had risen in the ranks because of his own merits, and anyone who would have questioned that might as well have questioned his father’s authority…an all-around bad idea that one would not have lived to regret. They had spent most of the day in Jefferson City, the state capitol, coordinating the long-term efforts of the labor union political action committees under the Roccoli family’s payroll, and how they could manipulate the voting decisions of key members of the state government. Both men were still awake in Nico’s home, still dressed for business, ironing out preparations for doing the same in Illinois on Monday.
Neither father nor son could have known their plans, both long and short-range, would soon be changed. Permanently.


The capo in command of security for Nico Roccoli’s home stood on the circular drive in front, bored out of his mind in spite of his responsibility. He commanded a dozen soldiers who patrolled the outside of the estate…command of the guards providing internal security was left to Guido while he was there. When the vehicles arrived at the main gate, his boredom faded quickly. He stepped forward toward the gate to get a good look, as many of the guards under his command began to gather behind him, curious.
The captain got close enough to the gate to identify the vehicles through the glare of their headlights. The first vehicle he instantly recognized, a blue Mitsubishi Eclipse that sat low to the macadam like a metal scarab. He knew it belonged to Danny Choi, but he was supposed to be at the strip club that Pucci managed. The vehicle behind it was more than twice as big as the Eclipse, a white Cadillac Escalade SUV. He knew its owner, Ace, who also worked at the club. (He heard once that there were times that dogs and their owners looked alike…he thought with a grin that rule almost applied to the big Jew and his truck.) The third car he didn’t recognize, a red Chrysler that looked like it got in an accident somewhere.
He got out his cell and speed-dialed Guido. After a moment, he heard his voice: “Tommy? Is there a problem?”
The capo, Tommy Falco, responded, “We got visitors pullin’ up to the gate, Guido.” As a general rule of thumb, Guido preferred to be called by his first name by his subordinates, since everybody already referred to his father as Mister Roccoli.
“We’re not expecting anybody, not at this time of the night. Who is it?”
“One of them’s Danny Choi, and he ain’t alone. He’s got Ace from the Biscuit, and…” Squinting through the contrasts between darkness and light, Tommy finally recognized the occupants of the third car. “Damn, it’s those three black jabronis who were supposed to deliver to Pucci. Something’s up, Guido.”
Guido’s retort was scornful, like Tommy should have known better than to be cautious. “What, you’re worried about Danny, of all people? It’s gotta be important if he’s coming to see us, so let him in!”
“Gotcha, I’m opening the gate.” Tommy hung up his cell and got out a remote for the gate. With a press of a button it creaked open, and the three vehicles casually entered the drive. They stopped a short distance from the main entrance of the mansion, one behind the other. Twelve enforcers gathered around and behind Tommy, and waited with him to see what the deal was. The occupants exited their vehicles.
The first thing Tommy noticed out of the ordinary had to do with the Asian chick in black who was riding with Danny. Besides the fact she wasn’t wearing any shoes, it had to do with the woman herself. She was gorgeous to look at, no doubt, but she looked…hard at the same time. Like a diamond. Then everybody else came into view…well, almost everyone. One of the brothers stayed in the red 300C for some reason, left behind by his two running buddies. And when Ace got out of his SUV, another pretty lady got out of the passenger side, but she didn’t look as tough as the chick in black. In fact… What, is she just wearing a robe? On the heels of that thought Tommy asked himself, Didn’t I see her dance at the Biscuit a coupla times? And she seemed to be holding…a sword in its scabbard. Horizontally, with both hands. Almost reverently.
Okay, something’s a little off about this shit, Tommy realized, and got more than a little disquieted. That sensation increased when he saw that everybody, even Danny, seemed to be following the lead of the lady in black. Sure enough, they gathered around her…and then she proceeded toward Tommy and the rest of the guards, with the others behind her. She was calling the shots, he realized…for what, he had no fucking clue.
When they stopped several feet from the guards, the woman in the black dress turned to Danny. She gave him a nod, and he came up next to her. The man in the cream-colored suit said, “Hello, Tommy.”
The capo, on-edge: “Danny, this better be serious to come callin’ in the morning like this!”
“It is, Tommy. We need to see Mister Roccoli.”
Tommy’s disquiet graduated to something bordering on nervousness. Oh yeah, something’s fucking wrong, all right.
Before he could respond to Danny’s request, one of his subordinates tried to do it for him. An enforcer stepped up next to Tommy, a turk with his natural brunette hair frosted blonde, trying to be stylish. His words were laced with self-importance, and more than a little hostility. “What d’you wanna see him for, Danny?” He gave a hard glance to Mad Dawg and T-Bone and pointed at them. “And what’d you bring those gangstas for?”
Tommy did a slow burn at the arrogant punk. “Hey Mike, silenzio.” Back to Danny: “Did they deliver to Tony like they were supposed to?” He spared a look at the lady in black. Her expression showed nothing. Absolutely nothing. Tommy was officially nervous.
Danny shook his head in response. “Tony is dead. We need to see Mister Roccoli right away.”
Mike blurted, “What the fuck happened to Mister Pucci?!”
Danny, strangely calm: “We’ll let Mister Roccoli know about that. But first, we need to see him. Right away.”
Tommy suddenly felt anger burn inside…he wasn’t just going to settle for that. He sure as hell wasn’t going to just let any of these people get any closer to Mister Roccoli. “No, Danny! First you tell us what the hell happened to Tony and why! Then we’ll relay your info, and then Mister Roccoli will decide if he’ll see you or not!”
Mad Dawg snorted a laugh. “Fuckers think they’re playing in The Godfather, man.”
Mike caught that, and shouted, “Yo, Negro! You shut the fuck up!
Tommy looked hard at Danny…and then at the woman in black. “What the hell did you bring all of these people for, Danny? And who’s this lady?”
Then Yuki stepped forward…she was growing impatient with this man Tommy. She said to him, “I must speak to your employer.”
Mike launched forward, closing within two feet of Yuki. “He’s not talkin’ to you, bitch! And you’d better step the hell back!” She looked at the impertinent turk like he was an ugly breed of bug. Mike grinned in response: “Oh, you got a problem with me, bitch?”
Yuki’s smile was cold. “No problem at all.” Mike lost his grin. Fast.
“Mike.” Danny, clearly defensive of Yuki. “You will not talk to her that way.”
Tommy seemed to have lost whatever patience he had. His expression grew deadly serious as he took a step back from the visitors. The rest of the guards had similar expressions, glancing at Tommy, ready to go with whatever he decided. “Tell us what happened to Tony, Danny. Tell us what you brought this lady here for. I mean it.” Tommy touched the lapel of his suit jacket…underneath that jacket he had an H&K MP5K on a shoulder rig, and he was sorely tempted to get it out. The enforcers under his command held similar weaponry he could have them bring out and use on command.
Danny spoke like he knew what Tommy was thinking. “None of us are armed, Tommy. You won’t need your guns. Besides, you wouldn’t want to use what you have here…now, at this time of the night.”
Mike, not taking his eyes of Yuki, nodded and reached under his jacket as he snarled, “Actually, that’s not a bad fucking idea – !”
Tommy shouted, “Mike, shut your goddamn mouth!” Mike, his eyes burning at Yuki, dropped his hand from his jacket. Unlike Mike his captain realized that it was, beyond a shadow of a doubt, a VERY bad fucking idea to use their guns here, and cursed himself for not taking the precaution of equipping his men with silencers for their weapons. (He didn’t believe it was necessary until these people arrived…hell, who’d try to make a play against the Don in Ladue?) The last thing Mister Roccoli needed was for the Ladue Police Department to respond to 911 calls from the neighbors that they heard gunshots. Tommy looked back at Danny. “Tell us what happened to Tony!”
Danny shook his head. “We will tell Mister Roccoli.”
Tommy, adamant: “No, you won’t.”
Yuki never stopped looking at Mike as she said simply, “Yes. We will.”
Mike finally had all he could take. He started to snarl at her, “Fuckin’ bitch – !”
But the turk didn’t realize that Yuki had endured all she could take from him. With hideous speed, her right hand shot forward in a fist and punched Mike in the face. He stumbled backward, blood from his very broken nose flowing from it as if from twin faucet taps, and he fell to the pavement.
For the rest of the guards, that was it. Many of them started to reach under their jackets for their artillery. Artillery without silencers, Tommy knew, and he shouted at them, “No fuckin’ guns, goddammit!” The guards restrained themselves…barely.
Danny knew he was tempting certain death…but he didn’t care. None of Yuki’s servants cared, as they simply stood there behind her. They were here for her, come what may. Tommy was slowly starting to figure that out as he looked at Yuki and the others with a volatile mix of confusion and barely-restrained rage. Whoever this bitch is, Tommy thought, she won’t take no for an answer, one way or the other. But she ain’t suicidal, she…she’s fuckin’ committed to seein’ Mister Roccoli. And fuckin’ Danny’s backin’ her up all the way, even if it means he’ll die. So are Ace and the rest.
With that recognition of the truth, Tommy grunted and said, “It’s okay. We won’t need guns to keep you from goin’ inside. Boys?” His guards stepped forward and formed something of a scrimmage line, a living barrier between Yuki, Danny and the others and the oak front doors of the Roccoli Residence. “And you know there’s more inside, ready to go on your asses when I say the word. Even without guns, Danny…these aren’t good odds.”
Danny nodded. “For you? You’re right.” And then the man in the cream-colored suit surprised Tommy and his underlings: he took a few steps back…as Yuki stepped forward towards the guards.
One of the enforcers couldn’t help but ask: “What? Just her?!”
Tommy couldn’t believe it. This bitch honestly thinks she can get through us?! Maybe in a Jackie Chan flick, but not here!
But Yuki begged to differ. She said, “I will speak to your employer.” She might as well have told them the sun would rise later in the morning.
Tommy shook his head. “I don’t think so. Ladies’ first, boys!” Cautiously, the scrimmage line turned into something of a horseshoe formation as the guards stepped closer to Yuki. Tommy’s eyes never left hers when he said to them, “Don’t do anything to make her scream, though. We don’t wanna wake the neighbors.” He smiled, as if he just made a joke.
Yuki gave him a smile in return…but there was no humor in it.
A couple of the guards got impatient and rushed her, one gaining ground on the other as if they were in a race. Yuki showed them the finish line: she whirled and planted a spinning side kick into the one in the lead with such ferocious power he might as well have been hit by a truck. He flew backward into the other man, and both crumpled to the ground.
That was when the nine remaining guards under Tommy’s command rushed her, as well. And they began falling before Yuki. Hard.
As Tommy watched all of this, anger gave way for revived fear…but this time, it wasn’t fear of what he didn’t know, of what he couldn’t have expected when Danny seemed to be led by this woman in black. No. This fear was worse: this was the fear one knew when confronted by the sudden unveiling of a threat that just grabbed you by the balls with the grip of a vise and wouldn’t let go. Fear born from seeing the men under your command, not all of them buddies, but guys you knew had been around the block, who had seen their fair share of rough and tumble, experienced soldati who were picked for securing your fucking Don…and they were having their heads handed to them with no effort whatsoever by a beauty who was a diamond. Fuck martial arts movies, this woman was something else…something Tommy could barely even call human as one of his guards, a man over three-hundred pounds in weight, got kicked under the chin and the capo heard a muffled crack! from the impact and he knew the big goombah’s jaw got broken, and he lifted off the ground over a foot high and almost out of his fucking shoes like he was traveling by the space shuttle. When the numbers of his men were reduced to two, two men who looked at their fellow enforcers lying on the ground like heaps and then at the woman, Tommy knew from their expressions they were probably thinking of going to work in a safer environment. Maybe Iran.
Tommy fearfully took a few steps back and almost tripped over Mike, who was still on the ground. He had tried to get up, though, and Tommy felt a little ill when he saw Mike’s nose was still bleeding like a gusher, had bled all over the front of his suit and shirt, turning it a nasty shade of red. His face was red, too, full of incredulous rage. Mike tried to speak, but he had a hard time of it as he said, “Bidgg…brog muh fuggin’ NOZ!” (Translation: Bitch…broke my fuckin’ NOSE!)
Mike reached into his jacket to whip out his Micro Uzi, but Tommy stopped him with a murderous look. Not one out of anger of his own…but pure desperation. He said coldly, “You fire that gun, Mike, I swear I’ll fuckin’ shoot you myself!” With frantic haste he used his cell phone again as his remaining men cautiously advanced on Yuki, but this time he didn’t wait for his Capo Bastone to answer the moment he picked up. “Guido! Guido, we got a goddamn situation down here!”


Inside the mansion on the second floor Guido Roccoli, 38 years old, the second most powerful Mafioso in the heart of God’s Country, almost looked at his cell when he heard the fear in the voice of the lead of security outside. Tension drew within him as he asked, “What the fuck are you talking about, Tommy?”
“This woman’s killing us! We need more men out here!” Tommy cried on the other end, “Holy shit, we need more fuckin’ men!” Then Guido lost the connection.
Woman?! Guido was his father’s son: he rarely reacted impulsively, and never out of a sense of fear. Still, he whirled around and looked out the study room window that overlooked the circular drive…and he couldn’t believe what he saw. All twelve of their guys outside were lying on the ground, out of commission, and he was just in time to see a woman swat Tommy with a fierce backhand that drove him to the ground. He didn’t get back up. Then Guido saw the bitch turn and look right at…Danny Choi. And a bunch of people with him.
Six years ago, when his father Nico hired on Danny as an enforcer, Guido backed the decision. It put the noses of some of the paisans out of joint, but of course they knew better than to openly question pop. Ever. Of course he didn’t have any Italian blood in him, that wasn’t the point. The point of hiring Danny Choi was that he was the toughest son of a bitch he or his dad ever heard of. Even though he knew he’d never be anything close to a capo, he was a strong arm to have around. And what the hell, this is fuckin’ America, right? Everybody’s equal, right? Ever since, the Roccoli family never had any reason to regret or even second-guess their decision to hire the guy.
Until the moment Guido watched the fucker just stand there after this woman tore through his men…what the hell did she do to them? He watched for a few seconds as the woman in black said something to Danny…and then she went straight for the front doors.
Guido couldn’t help but ask out loud, “What the hell?” Not far away at a huge cedar desk was his silver-haired father, Nico Roccoli, the undisputed Don of the region. In his early seventies he looked like an aging businessman…but one only had to look in his hard eyes to see there were many more years left in the man’s life. One only had to look in his eyes to see the cool, calculating mind and strength of will that helped him not only survive the world of organized crime, but prosper in a way only a relative handful of his peers had. When he saw his son turn from the window to one of the enforcers in the room serving internal security with a look bordering on fear, however, his survival instincts kicked in once again.
Guido shouted at the soldati, “Sal, go downstairs and get everybody together, and put silencers on your fuckin’ guns! GO!” Without a word, Sal did as he was told and exited.

Guido stalked to a nearby bureau and opened the top drawer. He pulled out a deadly black silenced Steyer AUG machinegun. The four remaining enforcers in the room pulled out matching SMGs from their jackets, ready to kill something.
Nico asked, “Guido, what’s happening?” He had already made an effort to anticipate the answer, of course, but it didn’t make sense. Is this a hit? A hit in fucking Ladue, of all places?!?
Guido racked the bolt of his carbine and looked at the guards around his father. “All you guys, stay with pop! I’m gonna get this shit taken care of.”
“Like hell!” Nico didn’t want his only son to put himself at risk. Not for him. “It there’s trouble, boy, then you’re staying with me!”
Guido’s grip tightened on his bullpup-configured weapon. He had never disobeyed his father before, ever…but there had to be a first time for everything. “Pop, I gotta! I won’t let ’em get to you, I swear it on my life!” He rushed toward the study room’s door without another word.
The Don called out to him, “Guido?! GUIDO!” But his son didn’t acknowledge him as he left. Nico punched the top of his desk with a trembling fist. Trembling with helpless anger.


Nico stood behind his desk, with four of his best soldiers around him, their weapons at the ready. As he listened, as he waited…as he prayed to God like he never had in church that his son would come through all right…he heard the sounds of the battle downstairs.
But it was the absence of sound that was the worst part of it. It was necessary, of course, that if anyone had to use their weapons on the estate, they had to be silenced. Because of that, unfortunately, Nico couldn’t tell what exactly was happening. Up close, when a weapon is fired, one can still hear the barely-suppressed shot fired through a so-called ‘silencer’. Upstairs, at a distance from whatever was happening downstairs, all that could be heard was the results of such weapons being used. He heard the breaking of ceramic…the crisp and urgent sound of bullets impacting into wood…glass shattering. At interims, however, other noises could be heard…heavy impacts, like meat had been dropped on the floor. Yells of warning…at one point he heard from downstairs, “Ray, where are you?! Did you get her?!” Then a scream cut short, from the same voice. Then he heard his son’s voice as he yelled, “THERE! SHOOT!” A sudden cascade of destructive sound.
It stopped, and another voice was heard, fearful: “Jesus, Guido, she’s too fucking FAST!” He was relieved to hear his son shout, “You gonna turn pussy on me now?! If you’re gonna, don’t worry about her! You’ll have to deal with ME! MOVE!” A few moments later, a third voice in pure terror: “Holy SHIT!” Overlapping it was his son once again: “FIRE, GODDAMMIT!” An explosion of more noise, unknowable in context…and it faded to nothing too damn soon. Nothing.
The absence of sound, like one would find in a church. Or a graveyard.
For a few minutes of time, it stayed that way.
Nico Roccoli had enough. He grunted to his men, “We’re going down there. Right now.”
One of the men tentatively said, “Boss…you shouldn’t go down there.”
The Don nodded. He didn’t care. “My son’s waiting for me, boys. I want to go see him. Right now.”
Then: stumbling footsteps were heard, distant. Coming up the steps…then down the hall. Toward the study room. Toward Nico.
And Guido entered, with a woman dragging him in front of her. She held one arm behind his back, and her other arm was wrapped around his throat. All four soldiers around Nico brought up their guns, ready to fire. The woman kicked the back of one of Guido’s legs behind the knee, forcing him into a kneeling position on the carpet. She smoothly let go of both his arm and neck and placed her hands on the sides of his head, took hold of it and almost covered his face. She gave a slow twist that made Guido yell out in pain. She was ready to break his neck.
Nico, for his part, was stunned. “Guido – !”
“Pop,” Guido said in a strangled voice. “Pop…I-I’m sorry!” With desperate eyes, he looked at the guards. “She…she ain’t packin’! Just fuckin’ shoot!”
But Guido was in a bad position, all things considered, and the soldiers knew it. They couldn’t fire without risking hitting him. One of them spared a glance at Nico, uncertain. “Mister Roccoli?”
Then Yuki spoke to the father of the man at her mercy. “I need a moment of your time. That is all I want.”
Boss Roccoli stiffened and flushed with barely-contained fury. “You want some time with me. For what, your fucking funeral? That’s exactly what you’ve got, lady.” The woman looked Japanese, he thought. Yakuza, maybe?
Then she said something that caught Nico off-guard: “I am not here to harm you or your son. I have something to show you.”
Nico’s mind raced. What the hell does she want from me? The fact he had the queerest feeling in his entire life…the feeling she was looking not just at him, but into him…didn’t help matters. He finally said, “Let my son go. If you’re here to deal with me…then you goddamn well deal with me. I will not see my son hurt by anybody while I live.”
Guido, genuinely afraid for his father: “Pop…”
“You insist on believing I am here to harm you,” Yuki said. “Be assured: if I wanted you dead, you would be. I only need a moment to show you something. That is all. No tricks. You and your son will not be harmed, I give you my word of honor.”
The Don’s eyes narrowed at that last statement. “I don’t even know you, lady. And you want me to trust you.”
Danny Choi stepped into the room behind Yuki and Guido. “You can trust her, Mister Roccoli.”
Guido’s lips peeled back in a snarl hearing his voice. His father’s reaction wasn’t much better when he realized…but it was restrained. “I once trusted you, Danny.”
“You still can, sir,” the enforcer said. “But Yuki requires you.”
Nico looked back at the woman. “Yuki,” he said. She nodded. “What the fuck do you need me for? At least spell that out.”
Yuki’s next words didn’t make much sense to the Capo Crimini: “Even if I had shown your son, even if he had supported me, you would not have believed. You would not even have believed your own blood. It is not something that can be told to you in words. You must see.”
Nico Roccoli gave it a moment of thought…and in the end he did understand, whatever this lady had to show him, if it meant his son wouldn’t be harmed… “All right. But any tricks, and you’re dead. One word from me, and you’re both dead.”
“Very well,” Yuki said, and she let go of his son. He awkwardly got up off his knees and stepped away from her quickly. He was sorely tempted to order dad’s soldiers to cap her anyway, but:
“Stay back, Guido,” Nico said, stepping slowly toward the woman. “I don’t know what her game is…but I’m gonna find out.”
Guido was dubious. “Pop, I don’t like this shit – !”
“Just…stay back.” Boss Roccoli turned to his enforcers. “Remember: I say the word, kill them.”
Nico and Yuki converged in front of his desk. She stepped up to him until she was only barely more than a foot away. Guido tensed up…he knew she could do anything to his father from that kind of distance, but a warning glance from Nico kept him where he was.
Then Nico looked at Yuki. She looked back at him…and into his eyes. Nico looked back into hers, not understanding what the hell she meant by showing him something, telling him she had something for him to see. He opened his mouth to say as much –
And then it happened.
His mouth stayed open as he looked into Yuki’s deep brown eyes…his own eyes showed surprise and total confusion. His jaw worked slowly…unsure…and then he managed to say, “What…what in the name of…?”
Guido, with alarm: “Pop?”
Surprise and confusion turned to fear. His head shook very slowly…fear deepened for Nico until it became a numbing terror so profound it seemed to palpably hang about his being like a shroud. “Oh, my God…oh…”
His son shouted, “Pop?!?”
“Oh,” the Don moaned, and his expression seemed to…break. He trembled; his entire body trembled as if there was a quaking in his very soul. His eyes became as big as saucers and flooded with tears, portals to unthinkable, terrible agony. Agony he gave voice: “Oh…oh, Jesus fucking…CHRIST! I-I-I…” Yuki placed her hands on both sides of his face, her eyes never leaving his. “IT CAN’T…OH GOD, IT CAN’T…uuaa-AAAHHH!” Nico fell to his knees, but Yuki stayed with him. Her eyes never left his.
Guido was losing it. “Pop?!? POP!” The enforcers didn’t know what to do. They didn’t understand. They couldn’t. Danny simply watched, patient.
And then Nico Roccoli, Boss Roccoli, the undisputed Don of Missouri and Illinois…broke down into tears. Tears fell down his cheeks, and he wrapped his arms around his torso, as if in pain.
“Okay, that’s fucking it!” Guido knew nothing but total rage. He screamed at the soldiers, “FUCKING KILL THIS BITCH! NOW!”
Nico cried out, “NO!” He looked at his son. “Nobody…nobody touches her! Put your guns away…all of you.” Guido and the enforcers could only look at him, stunned. “I fucking mean it, PUT AWAY THE GODDAMN GUNS! Nobody hurts her…NOBODY!” Nico began to break down again, but he repeated, “Nobody…no-nobody…”
Guido looked at his father helplessly. Reluctantly, completely confused, the enforcers slowly holstered their guns. They didn’t understand…they couldn’t, not at that moment. But that would soon change.
Yuki gently prodded the sobbing Don’s chin to tilt upward, so he would look at her. She said, “I require you. I need you. Will you serve me?”
Guido could only look at his father as he said with desperation, “Y-yes…anything for you, anything. Anything you want, I’ll give it to you. I-if you want me to, I’ll die for you. I-I’ll die for you…I…” He fell to sobs once again, overwhelmed.
Yuki then embraced the most powerful organized crime figure in the American Midwest as he wept.
Her next words were spoken softly: “I believe you.”

This story is the copyright (2006) of Charles Spencer, and is the sole property of the author. No part of this story may be reproduced or transmitted, by electronic means or otherwise, without the express permission of the author.

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