I pull the blanket up to cover Ravenna’s naked shoulder and sit on the edge of the bed, staring at the phone in my hand. Several scenarios were running through my head as I was lying next to Ravenna earlier, her head tucked into the crook of my neck. None of them were great, and each option seemed worse than the last. The moment I offed Pisano, I knew there’s only one feasible outcome to this situation.
I find the name I’m looking for in my contacts list and dial. It’s well after midnight, but he’ll answer. No one calls the don at this time unless it’s an emergency.
“What happened?” Salvatore Ajello’s voice comes through the line.
“Rocco Pisano is dead,” I say.
“Did the Serbs get him?”
“No. I did.”
Dead air reigns before he speaks again. “And are you just calling to confess?”
“No. I called to tell you that Ravenna had nothing to do with it. No harm should be done to her.”
I’ve been working for the don directly for years, and he gets me well enough to know that I wouldn’t kill anyone without a reason. Especially a capo. But it doesn’t change the fact that I did so without his approval. I went against the don and betrayed the Family. The punishment for that is death. I can’t run and I can’t lie to him. Besides, he probably already knows what happened at the brunch party, including me and Ravenna kissing in front of everyone.
Ajello again falls silent, making panic rise in my chest. To keep Ravi safe, I wouldn’t bat an eye over killing him, too. But I’m not sure I’ll ever get that chance.
“Please.” I close my eyes and squeeze the phone in my hand.
“Did he deserve it?”
“He deserved much more than what I served up,” I say.
Another pause. It probably lasts mere seconds, but it feels like eons to me.
“Are you at Rocco’s house?” Ajello asks.
“In his office.”
“All right. Listen to me very carefully, Zanetti. You have four hours to clean up your shit, then take your woman and be gone by five. Do you understand?”
He’s letting us go?
“Do you understand, Zanetti?”
“Why?” I ask.
“You saved my wife’s life. Now, I’m gifting you yours, so we’re even. If I’ll ever see you in my city again, you’re dead.”
“We’ll be gone in four hours.”
“Good. Make sure you cover your tracks, because if anyone connects you to this fucking mess, I’m giving my men the green light to come after both of you.”
He disconnects the call, leaving me no doubt he means it.
I set down my phone and stare at it while the wheels in my brain begin to spin. A minute later, I dial another number.
“I need another body,” I say as soon as Felix answers the call.
“What?! Are you insane? Do you know what time—”
“Stop talking, Felix. This is an emergency.”
“Life and death?”
“Yes. I need a female body, black hair, twenties. Delivery location is New York, I’ll send you the address.”
“Fine. I’ll have something for you next week.”
“I need it delivered in three hours, Felix. Not a minute longer. And I need a car.”
I cut the call and run out of the room to get my laptop and the blueprints for the mansion.
* * *
Planning a house fire that appears as if it was a gas leak and erasing all evidence of my involvement in about two hours is nearly impossible, but I don’t have a choice. Even if the gas leak doesn’t hold up, it won’t matter as long as they believe that Rocco, Ravenna, and I died in the blaze.
I check the blueprints spread out on the floor next to the bed one more time, then glance at Ravenna. She’s still soundly asleep.
“I’ll make this work, Ravi.”
Grabbing my laptop, I open up the video surveillance software and pull up the archived data files, finding the recording from the gate camera that shows my car when I left earlier today. The time log is for just after four in the afternoon. I edit the half-a-minute clip, switching it with a dummy video of the closed gate. Then, I skip ahead to when I snuck in and killed the two security guys at the guardhouse. I alter that part as well, along with a few frames where cameras caught me offing the rest of the guards.
It takes me almost two hours to edit every compromising frame. Since I already had several saved clips from various times in the day, it was a matter of finding suitable ones and manipulating the log entries before splicing the feeds, resulting in a clean continuous recording that shows me and Ravenna arriving at the mansion midafternoon, and then Rocco showing up at half past ten. With that done, I override all cameras between the front door and the gate to display a still image for the next two hours.
The first phase is done. Time to head downstairs to set up the stage for phase two.
* * *
The low rumble of the engines fills the night as I’m taking out the empty fuel canisters through the front door. A few seconds later, two black SUVs round the bend in the driveway and come to a stop near the front steps. The driver’s door of the leading car opens and a man in his late forties exits. My body bag buddy from last week.
“Another delivery from Felix Allen,” he says and walks up to open the vehicle’s cargo area. “Female. Black hair. Died of natural causes. I couldn’t get one in early twenties on short notice, so you got someone in their late thirties. Sorry.”
“It’ll work.” I nod. There won’t be much left of the body to identify anyway. If there is, I’ll have Felix do his magic and alter the DNA test results to show a match.
“Tell Felix he owes me,” the man says and throws me the car keys.
“There are two bodies by the gate and three more along the perimeter wall.” I take out five diamonds from my pocket and hand them over. “Can you dispose of them for me?”
I watch as he pulls away in the other vehicle, then take the body bag out of the car and throw it over my shoulder.
Rocco and the body of the male from my SUV are already arranged in the kitchen. It might not be the ideal location, but the natural gas furnace is right underneath, so the kitchen will suffer the biggest damage when the heater explodes. I add the female’s body to the scene, collect the body bag, and take it back out to the vehicle Felix’s guy delivered. I shove the empty jerry cans into the cargo space, then transfer the stuff out of mine to the replacement SUV. When everything is done, I start the vehicle and turn on the heat, then head back inside the mansion to get Ravenna.
I open my eyes and squint at Alessandro. He’s crouching next to the bed and, although he looks tired, his eyes are sparking in the dim light.
“It’s time to go, baby.” He reaches out and brushes my cheek with the back of his hand. “I’ll take your bag to the car.”
“What’s going on?”
A smile pulls at his lips as he leans forward to drop a quick kiss on mine. “In order for us to get away, we need to die first.”
He collects his laptop and some papers off the floor and leaves the room.
As I’m descending the stairwell ten minutes later, I’m hit with a strong smell of gasoline. The odor is so overwhelming that my eyes begin to water and a sudden cough seizes my throat. I bury my face in the crook of my elbow and run across the entry hall as fast as I can to get outside.
Alessandro is standing by an unfamiliar black vehicle, holding the driver’s door open for me. He has a gas mask around his neck, and in his other hand, he’s holding a bottle with a rag sticking out of it.
“Drive to the gate and wait for me,” he says. “I’ll be there shortly.”
“What are you going to do?”
“Looks like the guys who installed the new furnace for Rocco may have fucked up. There’s a serious gas leak.”
“When did it happen?”
“In about twenty minutes.” He pulls the gas mask over his face and heads inside the mansion.
The last time I drove was a year ago when I borrowed the car from Melania to take my mom to see a doctor, so I need to concentrate on the controls. Creeping up to the gate, I decide to stop just at the bend in the road, which allows me to see both the estate entrance and the mansion’s front doors. When I turn around to look through the rear window, Alessandro is nowhere to be seen. The bottle with the rag that he had in his hand is left on the driveway where the SUV had been.
I spend the next twenty minutes switching my gaze between the clock on the dash and the back window, waiting for Alessandro to come out. My patience is running thin and I’m considering going back to look for him when the front door opens and Alessandro steps out.
He casually strolls to the middle of the driveway, then stops and removes his face mask. My phone starts to ring. I answer the call while keeping my eyes on Alessandro, who is holding his phone to his ear.
“Cover your ears, Ravi baby,” his voice comes through the line.
“Okay,” I whisper and watch as he puts away his phone and bends to collect the Molotov cocktail off the ground.
My heart begins to gallop as he turns to face the house and takes something out of his pants pocket. I’m too far away to see what it was, but the tendril of flame that seems to spark from his hand lets me know that it’s his Zippo lighter. He brings the bottle over the flame, lights the rag, and launches it at one of the house windows on the ground floor, breaking the glass.
Alessandro is already running toward the car when a thunderous boom reverberates through the air. As if I’m watching a scene from a Hollywood film, my eyes are glued to his huge form emerging from a cloud of smoke, while the flames at his back are rising toward the night sky, casting an orange glow on everything within the vicinity.
I yank on the door handle and get out of the car, wanting nothing more than to make sure he’s okay, but I don’t get a chance because the instant Alessandro reaches me, he pulls me into his arms and slams his mouth to mine.
“Would it be weird if I ask you to marry me the same night you became a widow?” he mumbles into my mouth.
“I don’t know. Would it?” I laugh.
“Who cares? We’re officially dead anyway.” He leans away and fixes me with his gaze. “Will you marry me, Ravi baby?”
I take his lower lip between my teeth and bite it. “Yes.”