Chapter Thirty-Four

Tino turned around to find Tony standing there watching him, making it obvious he’d come in at some point after Tino took the Brambino gangster into the don’s bedroom. 

Tony had seen the whole thing. 

 “Nova told me to find you,” Tony started in a slow, cautious voice. “Guess you don’t like your don that much, huh?” He said it conversationally, like he was looking for a topic besides Tino being fucking crazy.  He tilted his head to look at the inside of the closet. “About as much as I like my father, looks like.”

Tino didn’t say anything. He just stood there, the rivers of blood staining his boots.

“You know I can’t do that no communication thing,” Tony said warningly. “I can’t read minds. I’m good, but I’m not that good. I don’t give a fuck if you got Brambino all over your grandfather’s shit, but you have to talk to me.”

Tino looked to the closest, feeling the need to explain the mess if nothing else.  “They killed my girl.”

“She’s not dead.” Tony gestured towards the window as the wail of an ambulance siren sounded in the distance once more. “Do they send rescue for dead girls? No, she’s alive, man. I saw Nova take her up the elevator. She’s just hurt, but she’ll heal.”

The red and blue lights faded away, casting them in near darkness. Tino blinked, recalling the coroner’s van when Lola died, the memory felt like a glitch somehow. It confused him, and he started feeling the headache again, blinding behind his eyes. It made the experience too intense to endure, like he was sixteen again and needed to hide in a corner down the street to throw up after a hit. 

His first thought was to just put the gun to his head and use the seventh bullet to end it all. 

Like an aspirin, only more permanent. 

Tony put an arm around him, pulling him away from the bloody closet. “Come on, let’s check the rest of the house, then we’ll deal with the fall out. You lead and I’ll follow. I don’t know it like you do.”

Tino nodded and walked with Tony out of the don’s bedroom to search the house, latching onto the idea. That he could do, the rest was still too hard.  

Tony never bothered to ask for Tino’s gun, he must’ve known he wasn’t getting it. He did follow close at Tino’s heels as Tino prowled the house, looking for more Brambinos. 

Back and forth, over the huge mansion, because there were so many places a gangster could hide—it was like playing fucked up hide and seek, with a really unhappy ending. 

 “Tino, I think you got them all,” Tony said not for the first time as Tino checked in the cabinet under the sink that was probably too small for a human. 

He looked anyway. 

“We should go check on Nova,” Tony went on cautiously. “There’s no one else, and don’t you want to see how your girl is? The ambulance took off. Let’s find out what happened.”

Tino didn’t want to go back to the basement. 

He fucking hated basements. 

And he didn’t want to hear that Brianna was gone.

So, he kept looking. 

Under all the beds, in all the rooms, even though he had already checked them twice already. He needed just one more Brambino, then he’d feel better. 

The world would be a little safer. 

No one’s girls needed to die and no one’s children needed to be abused for something as absolutely hideous as twisted indulgence. Or arrogance. Or needing to feel bigger and badder than someone else on this horrible planet—even if that someone was twelve and he never once fucking asked to be his father’s son. 

Tino couldn’t let it go. 

He kept looking, wondering where the rest of the family was? The Don didn’t have Nova protected while Tino was gone? No other Morettis, dead or alive, in this big fucking place? 

Something occurred to him, and Tino left Tony standing there as he dashed back to the staircase. He was quick, but quiet, being sure to keep his footsteps light as he followed the familiar path back to Nova’s room. 

Again, he made the long step from the doorway to the decorative carpet beneath Nova’s bed, avoiding the tile as he creeped around to the spot closest to Nova’s bathroom and listened. 

There was a faint whisper of, “I hear something again.”

Followed by a quick, “Shut up.”

Tino arched an eyebrow, and looked to the side, seeing Tony standing in the hallway with his gun out. Tino shook his head slightly in warning, hoping that was enough to keep him quiet until Tino made his move. 

All his muscles pulsed with that familiar bolt of adrenaline, right before he jumped forward, shoving his way into the bathroom. In one quick, instinctual shot…he lost his seventh bullet and a body thumped against the bathroom tile.

“Hey! Hey! Hey!” Gino shouted. 

Tino spun around, gun level at his cousin’s chest. He blinked, seeing two people in the bathtub, remembering that he had exactly two more bullets left. The math made sense, but something stopped him. 

“Tino!” Gino said more pointedly, with hands in the air like it was a reflex. “Hey, it’s us! Just me and Monte left! That guy was the last one watching us.”

Tino looked from Gino Moretti to Monte Moretti, who was the don’s nephew and second man behind Nova. Both of them were sitting in the old fashioned, claw foot bathtub. Gino still had his hands in the air like a dumbass.  

Tino glanced down at the dead man bleeding on the tile in front of them, the one he shot blindly, when it could’ve easily been Gino or Monte standing there instead. 

And Tino was pretty sure they knew it too. 

Nothing but sheer dumb luck saved them, because Tino had taken a leaf out of Gino’s book tonight and wasn’t paying attention to faces in the dark. 

“Why didn’t you shout when I made the first guy come out? Gimme some hint you’re in here,” Tino asked them suspiciously. “Maybe you’re working with them, huh? Maybe you’re just trying to take down Nova—playing both sides against all of us.”

Tino thought about his last two bullets again. 

“Tino, man, he had a gun on us,” Gino said slowly. “They had us hostage in here. What the fuck were we supposed to do?”

Monte was just glaring, doing that Zu thing, like he was too boss to answer to shitstain enforcers. “Put your gun away, Tino.” 

“This gun fucking saved your life,” Tino reminded him sharply. “And what the hell, neither one of you could overpower one guy in all this time?”

“You better remember who you’re talking to and show some respect,” Monte warned him in a low, dangerous voice. “Where the hell were you when this motherfucker had a gun to my head? What exactly is it you’re supposed to be doing here, Tino, besides snorting all the good blow with Carlo?”

Tino had an answer, and he didn’t even have to think about it. 

He was going to kill Monte, let Gino live and use the last bullet on himself. 

Problem solved. 

Heavy footsteps in the hallway stopped him. 

“Tino! Answer me!” The echo of Nova’s voice, manic and terrified was too hard to ignore. “Where are you?”

Tino dropped his gun in defeat, looked behind him and called out, “In here.”

Fucking brainwashed. 

He was always following Nova’s orders, must be blind loyalty, or brotherly love, or something equally subconscious and inconvenient. 

Most days, Tino really fucking hated it. 

But he wasn’t mad at Nova about it…not anymore. 

“Oh, grazie. Jesus, fuck. Thank you, ma.” Nova walked in, Brianna’s blood still all over his hands, and grabbed Tino to kiss his forehead like he wasn’t standing with a dead man at his feet. “Are you okay?”

Tino shrugged, because he wasn’t, but he didn’t want Monte and Gino to know that. 

“She’s gonna make it, I promise.” Nova kissed his temple once more.  “Te lo prometto. She just passed out, but she was lucid by the time I got her to the ambulance. It’s okay, everything’s gonna be okay.” Nova looked from Gino to Monte crawling out of the tub “You guys okay? No one’s hurt?”

“No, we’re fine.” Gino looked embarrassed at being caught by the Brambinos and held hostage, but he still shrugged it off. “Tino had our back.”

Monte dusted off his suit once he was out of the bathtub. “Lucky we had him to save the day.”

Nova looked at the Brambino lying dead on the floor. “Yeah, that was lucky.”

Monte had the balls to pat Tino’s cheek, and said, “Thanks, pal,” as he walked past. “I gotta call the Don.”

“I already called him, he’ll be here--” 

Nova stopped talking when the Don’s voice echoed from downstairs. “Jesus fucking Christ! Look at my goddamn door! Nova!”

“Up here!” Nova turned to leave like any good lap dog would. 

Everyone else walked behind Nova, rushing to do the don’s bidding, but Tino just stood there. 

Still angry. 

Thinking about Brianna, scared and dying, while he was here—being the borgata’s whore—again. 

Tony stayed behind too, like he wasn’t any more excited to see Don Moretti than Tino was. They both needed something to do to stay away from the accountants and the bullshit. 

Tino’s first thought was all the bodies. He couldn’t take the boat out, because it was probably still a crime scene, and even if it wasn’t, there was no fucking way he was going back to the Mills Basin place. They’d have to use chemicals, which were in storage, which meant Tino was going to have to drive all the way over there, grab the shit, and drag it down to the basement.

Thinking about all the bodies, scattered all over the fucking house, Tino remembered something and turned to Tony. “We forgot the guy in the basement. He’s still alive.” 

He dashed back downstairs, worried that someone had forgotten he was there, thinking about his last two bullets. The Don and Nova were standing at the base of the stairs, talking amidst the destruction of the blown apart entry way. 

“She went with Brianna to the hospital, I had her take the burner phone I called you from,” Nova was explaining as Tino walked past.  “Tino, where are you going?”

Tino didn’t stop, but he did answer him. “The basement. We forgot the other guy down there.”

“It’s fine,” Nova said quickly. “Carmen’s still watching him. She stayed behind while I took Brianna to meet the ambulance.” 

Tino stopped walking, feeling a wave of disappointment wash over him. It was over. There were no more Brambinos to get rid of, but Tino didn’t want it to end. Not like this. He didn’t want to stop working and deal with the real problems. 

This he could do. 

The rest was still too hard. 

“You’re telling me you actually called 911, the motherfucking heat, while we had a fuckton of dead bodies lying all over my house.” The don’s anger cut through Tino’s adrenaline crash like a knife, and his voice shook as he went on, “Then, you left Carmen Brambino to watch a guy from the Brambino borgata? I’m standing here right now hearing you say we could’ve all gone down for Brianna motherfucking Darcy or Carmen fucking Brambino,” the don repeated incredulously, like he couldn’t believe his ears. “I like pussy as much as the next guy, but how fucking high are you right now, Nova?”

Tino tightened his hand around his gun, reminding himself of one very important fact. 

There were still two more bullets—if he was lucky. 

Maybe it wasn’t over yet. 

“And who the fuck is this?” The don barked as an afterthought. 

Tino turned around, seeing the don glaring at Tony standing at Tino’s back with a gun in his hand. 

For his part, Tony looked mostly unfazed as he stepped forward and held out his hand. “Tony De Luca.” 

 “Of course you are.” The don just looked at Tony’s hand rather than shake it.  He turned back to Nova, looking highly, irrevocably pissed off.  “I have a lotta fucking questions.”

Nova gestured to the basement, like he was more than prepared to answer them, right after they relieved Carmen of solider duty. 

Tino didn’t follow them, he let the Don and Nova, and all their henchmen walk past. When they had all disappeared down the hallway towards the basement door, Tino took the magazine out of his gun, and checked it curiously.

It was empty. 

All he had left was the last bullet in the chamber. 

Whatever Brambino had it first must’ve gotten off the first shot.

But it only took one bullet.  

“You think he has questions now, wait until he sees his closest,” Tony said casually as he looked at the grand staircase rather than the magazine Tino was staring at longingly in his hand. “You know you can’t kill him, Tino.” Tony gave him a look that made his entire poker hand crystal clear. “Not yet, but Nova won’t be kissing his ass forever. It’s gonna end one day soon. You know it, and I know it.”

Tino glanced around, making sure everyone was out of earshot because even he wasn’t pissed off enough to say it out loud. 

Not yet. 

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