“Evening, Alexandros. I hope you’re ready to get your hands dirty.”
I’d never been the sort of man to be taken by surprise but seeing one of the most powerful underground crime figures seated next to me at four in the morning sure as hell managed to catch me off guard.
Nico was the picture of power. He was dressed in an immaculately tailored navy suit, the Hermes tie he wore situated in a perfect Windsor knot. He wore a gold ring on the pinky finger of his left hand, a green jewel set into it. He was trim and tall, with an air of quiet authority, his eyes hidden behind large, designer sunglasses despite the hour, his silver hair slicked back. In his hand was a cigarette, a long trail of smoke slithering from the tip and out the slightly cracked window on his side.
“Good evening Mr. Drakos.”
He nodded slowly, acknowledging my words. Then he gestured to the driver.
“Go. We haven’t a second to spare.” He spoke with a hint of a Greek accent, his voice low and deep.
The driver complied without a word, expertly pulling the car back onto the street.
“It’s good to see you, sir,” I said. “But I don’t think I’m too out of line to wonder what’s going on that you’re here personally to pick me up.”
He smiled slowly, taking a drag of his cigarette.
“Those things will kill you, you know.”
Nico chuckled. “Once a doctor, always a doctor. But you should know better than any of us that many in this business aren’t around long enough for these to put us in our graves.” He took one more drag. “But forgive me if I don’t screw around with small talk, Alex.”
Nico was one of the few people who called me by my first name, rather than Dr. Ecomides. There simply weren’t many in my life who were close enough to me to even know my first name, let alone use it. Nico, on the other hand, as someone who had been close with my father, and had known me since I was a boy, more than had that privilege.
“Of course. What’s going on?”
My gut tightened at the mere mention of the name. David was Nico’s nephew, a hotheaded little shit who’d spent his adult life writing checks with his mouth that his body couldn’t cash. He was a member of the Family, but Nico had been wise enough to limit his responsibilities, to keep him on low-level fetch-and-carry operations.
“David’s been shot? No offense, but how the hell did that happen?”
“Ran his mouth to some Albanians at Agrios. They went out back to resolve the matter, and David killed one of them on the spot, the other putting a round in David’s side.”
“Shit. And where’s the other Albanian?”
“Don’t worry about him. You won’t be needing to patch him up tonight.”
I shook my head, thinking what a waste it was that two men lost their lives because of out-of-control egos. It was something I’d gotten used to in the mafia world. Men like Nico, smart and shrewd, could keep themselves in check. For every one of him, however, there were a dozen David’s, ego freaks who went around looking for excuses to wave a gun and flaunt their connections.
David was young, barely into his twenties. The idea of something happening to him was no doubt tearing Nico up inside, as much as he might’ve been playing things close to the chest.
“How bad is it?”
“He was still talking and walking last I heard. Johnny’s supervising the situation. Your place is between mine and the club, so I figured that I’d pick you up on the way. Besides, the last thing the people of Midtown need to hear at four in the morning is you racing that motorcycle of yours down Fifth Avenue.”
I chuckled. I’d need to see David to make sure he was OK, but Nico’s calm attitude suggested that he had information and wasn’t too worried about his nephew.
The club was only a few minutes south, and it wasn’t long before we pulled up to the entrance. “Agrios” meant “wild” in Greek, and only the lowercase, neon purple “A” on the otherwise black, nondescript door would hint that the place was a strip club. That’s how Nico liked it, only those in the know were aware of its existence, let alone knew how to get in.
Nico, of course, didn’t take the main entrance. The boss waved for the driver to go on. Moments later, we were pulling into the VIP parking area, where dozens of the finest luxury cars I’d ever laid eyes on were scattered here and there.
The driver parked in front of the underground entrance, stepping out to open the door for Nico. No such nicety for me this time—clearly, I was left to see myself out. We approached the door, and the driver opened that for us, too. On the other side was a tall stairwell, the space illuminated by soft, white light. Every time I went up those stairs, I felt like I was heading into a different dimension, a place that was disconnected from the day-to-day world outside.
That was by design, of course. Agrios was meant to be a place out of time. No matter what hour you arrived, the inside appeared to be sealed off from the outside world, the most beautiful women imaginable there dancing, a handful of rich and powerful men sipping their drinks watching them.