Procession of the Dead

By Ellen Pierce,2014-11-04 18:42
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From Publishers WeeklyStarred Review. Shan's dystopic thriller, the first in a trilogy already published in the U.K., is an excellent, twisting foray into a world of deceit, murder, and mystery. Capac Raimi arrives in an unnamed city, a place ruled by a man known as the Cardinal, and quickly realizes that he has no memory of his life elsewhere. When the Cardinal kills Capac's uncle and offers Capac a job based on a dream and Capac's Incan name, the young man's life takes a turn for the fantastical. While training to serve the Cardinal, Capac embarks on a strange, gripping search for clues to both the disappearances of his friends and his own past. The dialogue is realistic, the characters and settings are vivid, and the plotting is tight, complemented perfectly by a bleak, deso Published by Grand Central Publishing on 2010/06/04

Adult Novels by DarrenShan

    The City Procession of the Dead

    Young Adult Novels by Darren Shan

    The Demonata Lord Loss Demon Thief Slawter Bec Blood Beast Demon Apocalypse Death’s Shadow Wolf Island Dark Calling Hell’s Heroes

    Cirque Du Freak A Living Nightmare The Vampire’s Assistant Tunnels of Blood Vampire Mountain Trials of Death The Vampire Prince Hunters of the Dusk Allies of the Night Killers of the Dawn The Lake of Souls Lord of the Shadows Sons of Destiny

    Other Novels

    available July 2010)The Thin Executioner ( This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the

    author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or

    persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

Copyright ? 1999 by Darren Shan All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S.

    Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or

    transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without

    the prior written permission of the publisher.

Grand Central Publishing

     Hachette Book Group

     237 Park Avenue New York, NY 10017

    www.hachettebookgroup.com First U.S. Edition: June 2010

    Ayuamarca: Procession of the Dead, by Millennium,First published in Great Britain in 1999 as

    an imprint of Orion Books.

Grand Central Publishing is a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc. The Grand Central

    Publishing name and logo is a trademark of Hachette Book Group, Inc. For: Bas, Biddy & Liam—main standard-bearers in the procession

    OBE (Order of the Bloody Entrails) to: Gerry Vaughan-Hughes—Pip! Pip! Pooray!!!!

    Editors: Sarah Hodgson—new kid on the block Simon Spanton—old kid on the block

    and all the Troops of the Christopher Little army The chapter titles in this book are of Incan origin. They are the names the Incas used for the twelve months of the year. I have taken the liberty of switching the months of March and April around. Content Copyright Page cap huchuy pocoy hatun pocoy airiway paucar wami aimuari inti maimi ama situwa


    coya raimi

    uma raimi


    capac raimi

    cap huchuy pocoy

    If The Cardinal pinched the cheeks of his arse, the walls of the city bruised. They were thatclose, Siamese twins, joined by a wretched, twisted soul.

    He dominated my thoughts as the train chewed through the suburbs, wormed past the warehousesand factories, then slowly braved the shadows of a graveyard of skyscrapers. Enthralled, Ipressed my nose to the filthy window and caught a glimpse of Party Central. A brief flash ofmonstrous majesty, then the gloom claimed all and it was gone. That was where he worked, lived,slept and decided the fate of his cringing millions. Party Central—the heart of the city.

    Stories about The Cardinal were as legion as the corpses buried in the city’s concretefoundations. Some were outlandish, some cruel, some spectacular. Like the day he played a popeat chess and won a couple of countries. The president who spent forty days and nights prostrateon the doorsteps of Party Central in supplication for having angered The Cardinal. The actorwho was guaranteed an Academy Award if he kissed The Cardinal’s ass. The suicide bomber whofroze at the last moment when The Cardinal shot him an icy look—they say he cried as he wasled away, finger pressed hard on the detonator, unable to release it until he was alone.

    The one that came to mind as the train slowed and switched tracks was a minor tale, butentertaining, insightful and, unlike a lot of the myths, probably true.

    One day a messenger arrived with an important missive from a prince of some oil-rich kingdom.He was escorted to the fifteenth floor for a personal meeting with The Cardinal. This was nomere courier—he was a member of the royal’s loyal cabinet, a carefully chosen envoy. He wentin and started speaking, eyes to the floor, as was the custom in his country. After a while heglanced up at his host and stopped in shock. The Cardinal was listening but he was also beingblown by a hooker. The Cardinal frowned when the messenger stopped and told him to continue. Hedid but falteringly, stuttering, unable to take his eyes off the naked whore going down on thebig boss.

    The Cardinal quickly lost patience and told the mumbler to leave. The messenger took offenseand launched into a scolding tirade. The Cardinal lost his rhythm and shot out of his chair,bellowing like a bull. He crossed the room, grabbed the messenger by the lapels and tossed himheadfirst out of the window. He sent a note to the prince, telling him not to send any morefools his way, and an invoice to cover the expense of cleaning the mess on the pavement.

    It was the type of cheap story you heard at every newsstand in the city. But I loved it anyway.I loved all of the stories. They were why I’d come here—to emulate The Cardinal and maybe oneday build my own sprawling empire of sweet, sinister sin.

    The sky was gray when I alighted from the train and was enfolded by the arms of the city andits guardian Cardinal. I stood my ground a few minutes, letting my fellow passengers streampast, a solitary rock in the river of disembarkation. I tried isolating specific sights, smellsand sounds but my eyes, nose and ears kept flicking every which way, taking in everything,focusing on nothing. Only the taste stood out, of dry diesel, hot plastic and wood sap. Bitterbut oddly pleasant at the same time.

    As the last few stragglers passed from sight I decided it was time to make a move. There werethings to do, people to see and a life to begin. I hoisted my bag and ordered my willing legsinto action.

    There was no guard at the gate. I stopped, looked around, ticket held out, a country bumpkinwith an ironically unhealthy respect for the law. When nobody came to collect it, I pocketedthe stub and kept it for posterity’s sake, a memento of my arrival.

    I left the station and entered the grim, gray streets beyond. It would have been depressing anyother time. Dull buildings fit only to be demolished, cloud-laden skies, cars and taxissuffocating in their exhaust fumes, pedestrians wheezing and grimacing as they staggered by.But to me, that day, it was vivid and fresh, a canvas to paint my dreams on.

    I looked for a cab but found a miracle instead.

    The crowd drew me. Against that gray, lifeless backdrop they stood out, huddled together,babbling and pointing. I could see the source of their agitation from where I stood by thestation’s doors, but moved closer to get a better view and be part of the gathering.

    It was an exact, concentrated shower of rain. It fell in a literal sheet, about five feet wideand a couple deep. The drops fell in straight silver lines. I looked up and traced the thinstreams to the clouds as if they were strings hanging from massive balloons.

    A woman to my left crossed herself. “It’s a waterfall from Heaven,” she murmured, wonder inher voice. “More like God taking a leak,” a man replied, but the glares of his colleaguessilenced the joker and we watched in uninterrupted awe for the next few minutes.

    Just before the shower stopped, a man stepped into it. He was small, dressed in loose whiterobes, with long hair that trailed down his back and flattened against his clothes under theforce of the water. I thought he was just one of the city’s many cranks, but then he extendedhis arms and raised his face to the sky, and I saw he was blind. Pale white orbs glitteredwhere his eyes should have been. He was pale-skinned, and when he smiled his face became oneunblemished blob of white, like an actor’s painted face in those old silent movies.

    He turned his head left, then right, as if scanning the crowd. I moved closer for a better lookand his eyes immediately settled on me. His hands fell by his sides and…

    I’m not sure what happened. It must have been a shadow, or dust in the drops of rain, becauseall of a sudden his eyes seemed to come to life. One second they were pure white, the nextthere was a brown spot at the center of each, a spot that flared and spread until the eyes werefull.

    He stared at me with the new eyes. He blinked and the brown was still there. His hands liftedtoward me and his mouth moved. But before I could cock my ears he stepped out of the rain andback into obscurity. People moved between us and when they parted he was gone.

    Then the rain stopped. A last few drops made the long descent and that was it. The crowddispersed and people went on their way like nothing had happened. I remained longer than therest, first checking for the blind man, then in the hope of a repeat performance, but finally Igave up and hailed a taxi.

    The driver asked where I was going. He spoke strangely, accenting lots of words, grimacingwhenever he stressed a syllable. I gave him the address but asked him to drive me about a bitfirst—I wanted to see some of the city. “Your money,” he said. “What’s it to me what youtourists do? I’ll drive you till night if you like. Least, till eight. That’s when I knockoff.” He was a sour sort and didn’t make any effort to start a conversation, so Iconcentrated on the city.

    It soon started raining—ordinary rain this time—and everything was obscured and warped.Street names, houses, traffic lights, scurrying pedestrians—they all looked the same. Theyblended into an alien landscape and I felt my eyes start to sting. Leaving the sightseeing foranother day, I asked the driver to take me home. Home meaning Uncle Theo’s place. Theo was the

    man I’d come to the city to live with. He was going to teach me to be a gangster.

    Theo Boratto had been a gangster of great promise. He made his mark early on, and by the timehe was twenty-five he commanded a force of fifty men and was the scourge of the respectablesouthwest of the city. He was ruthless when he had to be, but fair—you needn’t fear him aslong as you didn’t cross him. Most importantly he had the blessing of The Cardinal. TheoBoratto was a man on the way up, one for the future.

    He was a good home man too. He loved his wife, Melissa, with a passion. He fell in love withher ears first. “She had small ears, Capac,” he told me. “Tiny, thin, delicate. They broke

my heart, just looking at them.”

    He wooed her vigorously and, though she wanted nothing to do with his world of violence, he wonher. Their wedding made the society pages of all the papers. He spent a fortune to give her thekind of reception she hadn’t asked for but which he believed she deserved. The Cardinalhimself provided the cake as a present, hiring the city’s best baker to design the icedmarvel. The band played flawlessly and there wasn’t a single clumsy dancer to be found. Thewomen were beautiful in their designer dresses, the men handsome in their tailored suits. Itwas a day that made you realize what living was all about.

    Their love lasted four wonderful years. Theo still went about his dirty business, burning downhouses, breaking limbs, selling drugs, killing when he had to. But he was one of the happiestgangsters the city had ever seen. If you had to be bullied and beaten, there was no finer manthan Theo Boratto for the job.

    The only thing missing was a child. And that was when it all went to hell.

    They didn’t worry about it in the early days. They were certain a child would come in time.Melissa had faith in God and Theo had faith in the fertile Boratto testicles. But as the monthsbecame years, their faith wavered and questions were asked.

    Doctors said they were fine and advised them to keep trying, not to worry, a baby would comealong eventually. But years turned, the world changed, and the nursery stayed empty. They triedfaith healers, ancient charms and different sexual positions, read every kind of book on themarket and watched the videos, prayed and made promises to God. Finally, when they’d almostgiven up hope, a sturdy seed broke through and made itself a home.

    They threw a wild party when the test came back positive. They moved into a bigger house andbought everything the stores of the city had to offer. Happiness had returned.

    It was a brief visit.

    There were complications with the delivery. A trembling doctor presented Theo with hisoptions—they could save the woman or the child. No maybes, no mights, no false hopes. Onewould live and one would die. It was up to Theo to choose.

    He nodded slowly, eyes red, heart dead. He had one question—was it a boy or a girl? The doctortold him it was male. “Save the baby,” Theo said, the last words he would utter for manymonths.

    His wife was buried before his child was christened, and Theo’s soul went with her. He was abroken man afterward, prone to fits of depression. The child might have been his savior, thelight to bring him through the darkness, but fate robbed him even of that. The baby was a weak,scrawny thing. It came into this world on the shoulders of death, and death hovered ominouslyover the child. The doctors kept the dark gatherer at bay for a fragile seven months, but thenhe was returned to his beautiful, cute-eared mother, having spent more of his short life withinher womb than without.

    Theo let things slide. Money seeped out of his hands and into those of greedy, enterprisingothers. His house was repossessed, his cars, jewelry, clothes. The last deliberate act hecommitted in those days of descent was to give the child’s toys away to charity before someoneran off with them. There was that much left in him that gave a damn. That much and no more.

    Starvation and harsh winters forced him back into work. He did enough to eat and pay for amoldy single room in the cheapest motel he could find. Nothing which required thought. Hegutted fish in factories by the docks until the stench got him evicted from his most humbleabode. He sold fruit and vegetables in a cheap street market, sometimes flowers. After five orsix years, he returned to a life of crime, going along as an extra on thefts and break-ins. Itwas a long way from dining with The Cardinal and walking the hallowed halls of Party Central.But Theo didn’t care. It kept him fed and warm. That was enough.

    Then, inevitably, a theft went wrong. He was apprehended, tried, sent down for eighteen months.Prison remade him. He took to thinking during his long days of incarceration. He saw where hislife was stuck, what he had become, and made up his mind to change. He knew he’d never

    overcome his grief entirely. He doubted if he could ever be truly happy, or rise as high ashe’d been before. But there was middle ground. He didn’t have to be this low. If he wasn’tgoing to do the simple thing and kill himself, he might as well do the decent thing and carveout a life worth the effort of living.

    He made contacts, talked his way into deals and scams, made sure he had something to go to whenhe left, jobs which would lead to others and start the ball rolling again. It took years topull himself back up. The big guns didn’t trust him—he’d cracked once, they figured, andmight again. He was a risk. But he kept at it, moved from one job to another, proved his worth,clawed his way up the ladder until he was in a position to put forward ideas and initiate hisown deals. He employed a few thugs, bought a couple of suits, invested in guns and was back inbusiness.

    He built it up over the next few years, expanding his territory, crushing weaker opponents,advancing slowly but surely. When he felt secure, he decided to bring in an heir, someone tocarry on when he was gone. In the absence of a son he chose one of his many nephews. He spent afew months sizing them up, then settled for one with a touch of the wicked in his features,with what might prove to be steel in his blood, with a will to succeed at any cost. The nephew

    Me.he chose was Capac Raimi.

    Theo wanted to be angry with me for arriving late, and he was scowling as the cab pulled away,stranding me at the foot of the house. But he was too excited to remain hostile, and by thetime I was halfway up the steps he was grinning like a kid at a birthday party.

    He threw his arms around my body and clutched me tightly. For a small, skinny guy he had a lotof strength. When he released me I was astonished to see him weeping. That was one thing Ihadn’t expected from a hardened, twice-come gangster like Theo Boratto. He wiped the tearsaway with a trembling hand and sobbed, “My boy, my boy.” Then, sniffling and smiling weakly,he led me into the house, shutting the door gently behind us.

    In the sitting room, with the lights up full and a real log fire spitting tongues of flame upthe chimney, I got my first good look at him. It had been years since our last encounter. Icould hardly remember what he looked like. It was as if we were meeting for the first time.

    There wasn’t much to him. He was no more than five foot six, slim, very haggard. There was apart in his hair that Moses would have been proud of, a long stretch of skull with a fewbrownish spots. The hair at the sides was gray and smartly cut. He blinked a lot, eyes of anowl, and it was nearly impossible at times to see the globes behind the shutters. He was clean-shaven, with the shining skin of a man who shaved at least twice a day. His suit wasconservative. Light leather shoes, a red handkerchief ornamentally placed in the upper leftpocket. The perfect picture of a stereotype gangster. All he was missing was the slit-skirtmoll with a sneer and a drooping cigarette.

    “What do you think of the city?” he asked when we were comfortable.

    “Couldn’t see much of it,” I admitted. “It was raining.”

    “It’s huge,” he said. “Growing all the time, like a cancer.” He paused, maybe thinking ofdeath and Melissa. “I’m glad to see you, Capac. I’ve been alone so long. I always hoped I’dhave a son to take over, but things didn’t… You know the story.

    “Things have been bleak ever since,” he continued. “I don’t mean the business—that’sgrown nicely. I’m talking about family. Family’s what really matters. I’ve been alone sinceMelissa. My brothers never followed me into the business. They went to college, got properjobs, real lives. We were never close. My sisters… they write me now and again.” He shook hishead sadly. “I’m a lonely old man. Nobody to live with, nobody to live for.” He leanedforward, patted my knee and smiled. “Until now.

    “What do you drink?” he asked, getting up. “Tea, coffee, wine?”

    “A beer if it’s going.”

    “Always!” He laughed and fetched a couple of bottles from the fridge. I gulped most of minewith one thirsty swig and sighed happily. It seemed an eternity since my last one. Theo went

slower on his, making it last.

    “How old are you, Capac?” he asked shortly after I’d started my second bottle. “Twenty-seven, twenty-eight?”


    “A good age. Not too old to teach, nor young enough to be a nuisance. One of the reasons Ichose you. Not the only one—I wasn’t about to pick my successor solely on account of hisage!—but a factor.

    “It’s a hard business,” he said seriously. “I don’t know what your expectations are, butit’s not glamorous. The higher you rise, the glossier it gets. But we’re at the lower end.Most of our money comes from protection. We threaten people—small shop owners andbusinessmen—and collect cash in return for not busting up their premises. If they don’t pay,we have to make an example of them. It’s about violence. Whatever else we profess to be, atthe core we’re violent people.

    “But although we’re an illegal business, we are a business. We account to the taxman likeeverybody else, so we have to keep books they can find no fault with. Neglect the paperwork andthey’ll be on us like jackals.

    “There are employees to take care of. We’ve got expenses, overheads and legal fronts tomaintain. It’s a hell of a lot harder than running a legitimate business. The bigger teams canafford sharp lawyers to handle that for them, but not us—we have to do it ourselves, beeverything, hood, lawyer, businessman, clerk. The profits can be high but only if you runthings right, if you don’t screw up and leave yourself open to attacks from the law or youropponents. Or The Cardinal.” He stopped, cocked a finger at me and said, “Never fuck with TheCardinal, Capac. Never. Don’t muscle in on his territory, don’t challenge even his lowestlackey. If one of his men asks to be cut in on a deal you spent months setting up andperfecting, you agree like a shot, even if it means taking a loss. The Cardinal runs everythingand owns everybody. A lot of young men get a bit of power, some money and start thinking,‘That Cardinal ain’t so tough—we can take him.’

    “Those young men die. I’ll say it again, so there’s no confusion—don’t fuck with TheCardinal. Steer clear of his crew as much as you can. If your paths cross, show them all duerespect. Because if The Cardinal ever gets on your back, he’ll ride you into an early grave.No surer thing.”

    “Have you had any dealings with him lately?” I asked.

    He hesitated and glanced away. “No,” he said. “We had a word a few months back through athird—hell, a fourth or a fifth—party. But no direct contact. I’m not big enough to be ofinterest to him.”

    He was lying. I didn’t know why, but I made a note to pry a bit deeper later. I had a lot ofrespect for my Uncle Theo, and knew I was going to learn a lot from him, but I had my sightsset on higher targets. I most certainly did intend to fuck with The Cardinal’s boys if I evergot the chance, regardless of Theo’s warning. The Cardinal was the only route to real powerhere. If you didn’t take a risk and get involved with him, you’d be running penny-anteprotection rackets forever. Theo swirled the beer in his bottle, staring into its goldendepths, and promptly changed the subject.

    “Capac Raimi,” he said, drawing it out. “An odd name. I haven’t come across anything quitelike it before. A Raimi or two, but they normally have recognizable first names, Joseph orJoel. How’d you get a name like that?”

    “My father.” I frowned. “He was a Raimi and, well, I don’t know where the Capac came from,but I guess it’s some old name or they got it from a book. Didn’t my mother tell you?”

    He coughed uncomfortably and a shifty look flashed across his eyes again. “I didn’t see muchof your mother after she married,” he said. “We fell out of touch. Families go that waysometimes. What was your father like?”

    “He…” I tried to draw a mental picture of him. “A nice guy. He died when I was young, so Idon’t remember that much about him, but he was a good man.”

    “And your mother?” Theo asked, leaning forward, his eyes sharp and unblinking for once.

    mother.” I laughed uneasily. “What’s any mother like? She…” I stumbled to a“She was… a

    halt. I felt uncomfortable, as if I had something rotten in my past that I wanted to keepquiet. “She was your sister,” I said. “You know as much about her as I do.”

    “Of course,” he said too quickly. “I just wanted to know if she’d changed since I last…since she…”

    He grunted, downed the remainder of his beer, got another couple of bottles and asked no morequestions about my family or my past.

    I took to crime as if born for it. I was a natural, learning quickly, acting instinctively. Ipaid attention when Theo spoke and remembered everything he said. He taught me how to deal withemployees, customers (we never spoke of victims, they were always clients or customers) andrival gangs. How to balance the books, use legitimate fronts to funnel our profits, and avoidtrouble with the long and many arms of the law.

    The city was a sprawling, multilayered monster, anarchic to the untrained eye, but orderly ifyou eased up close and studied it in detail. The money was centralized in the north where mostof the wealthy lived, whether their funds had been generated legally or otherwise. No classprejudices there—if you were rich enough, you were welcome. The streets were spotless, thelamps always worked, cars obeyed the speed limits. No pushers, no pimps, no street hookers.Nobody ever bothered the good folk of the north at home. Even break-ins were rare—theconsequences outweighed the rewards to be reaped. The blacks ruled the east and southeast. Theyweren’t wholly segregated but were as near as could be. The city had an ugly history ofracism. Huge riots back in the early 80s resulted in dozens of deaths and destruction ofproperty on a scale usually reserved for earthquakes. Things had calmed down since and colorwas no longer the lethal issue it had once been—better schools, improved career opportunitiesand housing developments had taken the sting out of the race bee—but years of oppression andhate couldn’t be washed away as easily as people wished. Some things were slow to change.

    The center of the city was the business sector, the land of banks, office towers and overpricedrestaurants. Huge buildings, most built during the last fifty years, functional and frosty.

    The northeast, south, southwest and west were the suburbs. The wealthier commuters gravitatedtoward the southwest, the poorer to the eastern regions. The northwest had its share of migrantworkers but was largely undeveloped territory, lots of open fields and parks. Severaluniversities nestled out there, an amusement park, a couple of large sports stadiums.

    Along the river stood the factories and warehouses, many old and run down. The city had beenbuilt back in the days when boats and power were synonymous. The older factories were beingreclaimed and gentrified, but it was a slow process and it faltered with every dip in theeconomy.

    The other divisions—the gang lines—were harder to define. The eastern areas were the domainof the black gangs, too many to count, most small and short-lived. A number of leaders had madeefforts over the years to organize and unify the smaller gangs, but The Cardinal was quick toeliminate such threats. He preferred to keep the blacks fractured and in conflict with oneanother.

    Elsewhere it was your usual mix. Strong and weak families, a few large clinical organizations,dozens of street gangs who’d self-destruct before they could amount to anything. Hundreds ofdrug barons and thousands of pushers. Gangsters built on a foundation of prostitution. Somewho’d made their fortunes selling arms. The big thieves who dealt in diamonds and gold, andfar more who thrived on protection and petty theft.

    The Italians, Irish, Cubans and Eastern Europeans were well represented, but none ruled. Therewas only one kingpin in this city, beyond the touch of all others, and that was The Cardinal.He controlled the center directly, the rest as he wished. He was the ultimate individual, proof

    could do it alone, regardless of the help or hindrance of others.that one man

    Theo worked the southwest. It was where he’d grown up, along the streets his first boyhood

     —had patrolled. It was one of the quieter areas, not as much money to makegang— the Pacinos!

    as elsewhere. But there were bank managers and bored housewives with vices, lots of youngsterscoming through with expensive habits. The police could be bought cheaply enough and the localcouncillors were eager to please. There were worse places to get an education.

    Theo and I were together most of the time. He was preparing me for the day I’d be able tooperate by myself. He figured another six months and I could start running the show for him,guided but with an increasing degree of autonomy. Until then I was his charge. He kept me underclose watch, in his company most of any waking day, his literal right-hand man.

    We were uncomfortable around each other at first. We’d gone, in the space of a day, from beingstrangers to partners. Like an arranged marriage. It was difficult spending so much time with aperson you didn’t know, thrust into a relationship where loyalty, honesty and trust wereautomatically required. But as the weeks rolled by, we got to know and genuinely like eachother. After a month we didn’t have to pretend to be friends—we were.

    Theo was a strict mentor. He forbade involvement with women. Sex was fine, prostitutes and one-night stands were acceptable, but nothing more. He said it was too soon for romanticcommitment. There was a time for love and a time for learning. This was the latter. A womanwould distract me at this stage, take my mind off work and confuse my sense of purpose. Ididn’t agree but he was the boss andI’d made the decision to take his word as law, so I bitmy tongue and followed his orders.

    Anyway, I was so busy, I doubt I would have had time to chase the ladies. Love requires timeand energy, neither of which I had much of following my laborious daily chores and lessons.

    Our patch expanded while I was working for Theo. We took over a couple of old rundown areas andimplemented plans to build them up and attract new businesses. We bought out retiring or weakbosses, recruited their forces, assumed responsibility for their debts, collected their dues.We moved into drugs, feeding the addictions of the city’s dream-chasers. We got involved in abit of gun-running and smuggled a few caches of arms into the city. Like Theo had said, it wasa dirty business, and the better things got, the dirtier it became.

    Though my role was primarily that of an observer, I couldn’t help but get involved. Youcouldn’t move in these circles without bruising your fists every now and again. Fights wouldbreak out unexpectedly and I’d have to stand my ground and deal with the situation. Addictswere the worst. Everything could be going fine, you had the merchandise and they had the money.You’d be talking, smiling, closing the deal, and they’d suddenly whip out a knife or a chain,and off it went.

    I was able to handle myself. In my time with Theo, I never took a bad beating. I kept fit, atesensibly, worked out at home every night. I had quick reflexes and a quicker eye. I took a fewhard blows, but mostly to the stomach where they didn’t mark me. My face was as pristine asthe day I arrived, nose straight, ears unchewed. I’d get caught eventually—everybody did—butso far I’d gotten away lightly.

    I hadn’t killed anyone. I’d smashed many bones, clubbed a few heads, tossed a couple of soulsfrom speeding cars. But Theo held me back from killing. He said he didn’t want to throw toomuch at me too soon. It was one thing teaching a crazy crackhead a lesson he’d remember,another to pull a gun and end his learning forever. Killing was sometimes necessary, but shouldalways be delegated where possible. He’d only killed two men personally in all his years. Hesaid it was two too many.

    “Deaths come back to haunt you,” he often muttered. As worthy an epitaph as any.

    The big fish was The Cardinal and everything we did (despite Theo’s warning that first day)was designed to bait him. There was only so much we could do as an independent organization,only so far we could go on our own. If we were to grow and move in stellar circles, TheCardinal had to acknowledge us. Until that happened, until the call came to visit Party Central

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