He owns me.
Enrico Soritz walks in flanked by four bodyguards. Heads turn. Chair legs scrape against the floor. I roll my eyes. For a mafia boss, he carries himself loudly. Too brash, in my opinion. He’s practically waving the red flag in front of the police to take him down, and as much money as he funnels into the authorities to leave him alone, it would only take one politician trying to make a name for himself to upend Soritz’s small empire.
“Santino,” he nearly shouts as he reaches my table. He throws his arms out wide as if to hug me. I pick up my whiskey and take a sip. He stares at me and waits, but I keep drinking. I don’t want to be here. I should be at home explaining to Laurel again how she can’t wander around my house in nothing more than a sheet because it pisses me the hell off to have anyone see her in that state. My men are loyal and competent, and it would be a shame to have to take their eyes out. For their sake, it was a good thing the sheet didn’t slip. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for her pain in the ass dad, but loose ends are loose ends. They need to be tied up—or burned off. Soritz will decide which avenue I take.
The man in question lets his arms fall to his side in disappointment. One of his flunkies hurries to pull out a chair. “You’ve always been too stubborn and cold for your own good, Santino. We should be family. There are too few of us left.”
I set the now empty snifter on the table. Soritz has three daughters. The eldest is sleeping with my acquisitions manager, Luca. Soritz is unaware of this. They think I don’t know either. The youngest is fourteen, and Soritz has been trying to set up a match for her as if any sane person would agree to marry a child. I’m a criminal, but not that kind. “We make good business partners, Soritz. Families don’t last forever.”
He makes a disgusted face. “If you’re referring to that Van Der Matt kid, anyone would’ve made the same mistake.”
“I didn’t say otherwise.” Leif Van Der Matt was a genius hacker and cooked up a plan to sell online security software to businessmen like Soritz and me. Except what Van Der Matt sold was a scam. He attacked your system, sold the fix with a back door so that he could come in and siphon off information or money or both. I knew he was a problem the moment he walked into my office. He was too confident, too knowing, but Soritz thought he’d be a good pairing for his middle daughter, Sophia. Practically handed her over to the hacker, who proceeded to take her virginity, all of her money, and left her for some cocktail waitress he met in Vegas. Soritz had him killed, of course. It was the only outcome that made sense.
You can try to bargain with people, but sometimes, like with Van Der Matt or Laurel’s father, you can only fix things by blotting them out.
“Steak’s good here, right? I liked the steak last time?” He looks to his bodyguard on the right, who nods and points to something on the menu. “What’re you having?”
Soritz frowns over the top of the dark blue leather folio. “Why are we meeting in a fucking restaurant if we’re not eating?”
“I’m not eating, Soritz. You feel free, though. I’ll pay.”
He throws the folio down in disgust. “What’s this about?”
“You have a launderer on your payroll. I want to know how much you’re going to miss him.”
“The dry cleaner on Rose, sir,” his right-hand man informs him. “Mr. Santino bought him out last week and demoed the block.”
Soritz gives me a lingering appraisal. “You building that convention hotel there?”
“Among other things.”
A crafty glint enters his eyes. “It’s a valuable property.”
“Which is now mine, but I don’t like loose ends.”
“I heard you had a visit from the boys in blue.” Soritz smirks.
“News travels swiftly.” If Soritz had anything to do with Laurel’s fright, he will be the next thing I demo.
“We all have someone on the payroll downtown.” He pushes the folio to the side and leans forward. “All of your problems can go away if you agree to take Sophia.”
“Sophia? I thought it was Kimberly, not the one you stuck in the nunnery after the Van Der Matt hassle.”
He shrugs. “Kimberly has been on the table for two years, and you don’t seem interested.” Why would I? She’s running around behind my back and her father’s with my employee. “I thought I would try a different option. Sophia is cut from the same cloth.”
“You called her damaged goods the last time we sat down for a meal.”