An excerpt from the Phoenix II

All Rights Reserved – Copyright Addison Kline 2015, 2016

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Luca Delgaiso hugged a Cuban cigar between his lips as he sat in quiet in his dark office peering at the silhouettes of some of his new recruits. Snapping his fingers, Luca summoned the girl responsible for keeping his cigar lit. Erin Banks rushed across the room, scantily clad and thin as a rail. Her heels clicked against the floor as she rushed to Luca’s side. She pulled a book of matches from her skirt pocket. Flipping her blonde hair over her shoulder she smiled coyly at Luca before striking a match. Luca stared at Erin with a bored expression in his arrogant gaze. He waited impatiently, his eyes tracing Erin’s face in judgment. As he watched her, Luca appeared to be sizing her up. Snarling his upper lip in distaste, Erin didn’t pass whatever test it was that Luca had imposed upon her. Sucking on the end of the cigar, the embers lit up in the dark room. As he exhaled the fragrant smoke of his Havana, Luca waved Erin off with a swipe of his hand.

Two couches lined the far wall of Luca Delgaiso’s office with a teenager sitting in upon each cushion. He couldn’t see their faces in the dark. Luca didn’t need to. They were all the same to him; all pawns to be used to protect the king. Leaning back in his leather wingback chair, Luca had a look of overconfidence permeating from his eyes. Peering over the silhouettes of the newest recruits, he had already sized up each of them. They were ordinary at best. No diamonds in the rough. No special abilities to speak of. But the Kingpin is not a stupid man. I know that there is a use for everyone. I always find use of every person I meet. The girls, while no great beauties, were attractive enough to lure in more business, and with their love affair of their little pills, I had them right in my pocket. The boys, strong and confident, would prove useful in pushing product. Pick-ups, drop-offs, and I might even let them have a taste. They are just stupid enough to think that the sweet taste of ecstasy and power will come for free. Nothing in this life comes for free.

Blowing smoke between his lips, Luca continued to stare with an icy gaze. Breaking his eyes from them, he spun around in his chair and peered up at the wall behind his desk. Candid photographs littered the wall with snapshots of just about every neighborhood kid taped to the cracking white wall. Standing from his seat, Luca rose to his full height, holding his cigar in one hand, he buried his other hand in his suit jacket, rubbing his thumb against the rough edge of an old coin that rested in his pocket.

“Street cred,” Luca said strongly. “It’s born out of fear.”

He paced back and forth as he cast a serious look towards his recruits. “What people know can make or break you. But what’s more important is what people don’t know about you.”

Silence fell over the room as Luca allowed his words to sink in.

“Shroud yourself in mystery. Keep people guessing. Keep ‘em wondering. Their fear will elevate you. That fear will escalate. Rumors are born. Word spreads like wildfire through the streets. They’ll say, ‘Oh, yeah. I heard ‘bout him. He’s not the one to fuck wit.”

Luca took a draw of his cigar as he continued to pace across the floor. Zoning his eyes upon a candid snapshot of peck, Luca could feel his aggression rising in his chest. His eyes snapped to another photograph. Alanna Anderson was riding on the back of Peck’s bike with her hair whipping in the wind. She wore an unreadable expression on her face, and her lips provided no smile or comfort.

She is something of a pet to him, Luca thought. Or is it the other way around?

Luca’s eyes flashed to another photograph. Alanna Anderson was walking down Front Street surrounded by a rough and tumble group of teenage boys. Alanna wore an intense scowl, her finest poker face which prevented people from starting any trouble with her. Dressed in jeans and a black hoodie with a purple raven on the back, Alanna commanded Luca’s attention. Surrounding her, Peck, Cris Serrano, Nick Anderson and Charlie Foley all looked at her as if she was giving them guidance of some sort.

“Street cred,” Luca repeated darkly. “It’s something you all lack. That’s why you’re starting at the bottom. You might say, ‘Yo Kingpin, we’re just kids’… And to that I say look around. Some of your peers have more cred than is good for them.”

Luca began pacing again. In a voice as serrated as a knife’s blade, Luca addressed the recruits. “You wanna roll with me… You want the status, the crew, the benefits… You go hard. You do what I say. And unless its me askin’ the questions… you keep your fucking mouth shut!”

Luca turned on the heels of his Italian leather Ferragamos and eased himself back down into his chair, casting a cool look towards the opposite wall. In a voice as smooth as honey, Luca cooed, “Tell me about Alanna Anderson.” The words fell off his tongue like a song.

There was silence as the teens peered at each other nervously. Then, as Luca drilled them a calculating gaze, a boy cleared his throat.

“In the streets, she’s known as Raven,” Jake admitted.

“Raven,” Luca whispered, allowing the name to roll gently from his lips. The dark hair. The mysterious gaze. Her tight lipped smile. Luca’s thoughts streamed in his mind as he recalled their encounter at the skate park. Smart. Calculating. Bold and Beautiful. Defiant. The nickname fits her. “It seems Raven she has her own crew.”

“Those boys follow her everywhere,” Erin called out.

“Who are they?” Luca asked. “The boys?”

“Like you don’t know,” Teagan said plainly.

Luca shot Jake an amused expression. “Humor me.”

Teagan shifted uncomfortably in her seat. Silence took over the room as she prepared to out her former friends. Clearing her throat, she spoke, her usual snark and attitude removed from her voice. “Her cousin is Nick Anderson,” Teagan began. “He’s nothing to really worry about. Nice, quiet kid. A bit annoying. Charlie Foley is loyal to the death. He’d go into war for Alanna… He even chose her side over his own brother. But the one’s you really gotta watch are Serrano and Peck. They love her, and they don’t give a fuck. They’ll go after anybody that messes with her.”

“Serrano and Peck, huh?” Luca asked darkly as he peered at Teagan with unreadable eyes. “What’s Serrano’s first name? There’s a few of ‘em.”

Luca turned in his seat as he peered up at his wall. He glanced at candid snapshots of all the Serrano kids, his eyes flickering over the faces of Tony, Josefina, Salvatore and Cris.

“Some weird foreign name,” Josh added.

“Cristobal,” Teagan added. “He goes by Cris. And the other you have to watch for is Peck. Tim Peck.”

Luca laughed darkly. “Oh, I know all about Peck, girl. You don’t gotta tell me.”

All at once, the teens started to ramble off what they thought about Alanna.

“Yo, Raven ain’t the one to mess with,” Russell added.

“No shit!” Jake complained. “Fucked up my face today.”

“Yo, somebody said she pulled a knife on you at the park today,” Teagan said to Luca.

“Damien said he used to go out with her until she went nuts,” Josh added.

“I heard she attacked him,” Erin said.

“Yeah… She wasn’t in school for four months,” Rory added. “Heard she was in a mental hospital after she attacked Damien.”

“I heard she was in juvy,” Jake said. “She messed his face up bad. He has a huge red scar straight across his face now.”

“Where the fuck is Damien, anyway?!” Erin asked loudly.

“He’s in juvy now,” Teagan admitted.

“For what?!” Russell asked.

“Some bullshit he didn’t do,” Teagan spat as she rolled her eyes.

Luca glared at the group of kids in front of him who could most certainly not qualify to be called Philly’s finest. Waving his hand, Luca spat, “Enough about Foley. I don’t give a fuck! I want to know about Raven.”

The teens all stared up at Luca with nervous expressions oozing from their eyes.

“I used to think all these guys followed her around because she was pretty,” Jake admitted, “but there’s more to her than that.”

“She’s smart. Like, really smart…” Josh said.

“That’s an understatement…” Teagan said. “The teachers at school would always tell her grandmother to get her IQ tested. Well they finally did last year. She qualifies for fucking MENSA.”

Luca had a confused look on his face. “What the fuck is MENSA?”

Teagan rolled her eyes. “It’s like an organization for really, really smart people. Geniuses.”

“In computer class, the teacher raved because Alanna figured out how to build databases on her own,” Erin said in an annoyed voice. “Principal Lesher lost his marbles and asked if Alanna would let him use it for the front office.”

“It’s not just book smarts, though. She’s got street smarts. You can thank your boy Peck for that one,” Josh added. “He taught her how to fight a while ago.”

Luca looked intrigued as he listened to the teens talk about Alanna. Keeping his gaze upon Alanna’s photograph, Luca recalled their encounter today as his tongue swelled with desire.

“Beauty, brains and balls…” Luca moaned. “I may have to make this Raven my own.”

Teagan scoffed, “Good luck getting to her. Miss Goody-two shoes.”

Luca turned in his chair and gazed Teagan’s way. “Meaning what?”

“Dude, she’s as straight laced as they come,” Jake griped.

“Snobbishly so,” Teagan added.

Luca laughed as he rubbed his hands together. “A challenge. I’ve always loved the thrill of the hunt.”

Josh laughed, “Yo Pin, how do I say this? She ain’t buying what you’re throwing down…”

“Like at all…” Teagan spat. “I don’t even think she’s ever smoked weed before.”

“Nah, I seen her smoking with Peck the one day near school,” Josh added.

“Shit, find me a kid around here who doesn’t blaze up,” Jake said.

Luca laughed. “You kids are cute,” he said facetiously. Standing up from his chair, he approached Teagan and messed up her hair. He then reached for Jake’s face and mock slapped him. “You think I’m trying to recruit her? If today provide anything, it’s that Alanna is too smart to fall for any of the tricks used to reel in the likes of y’all.”

Teagan and Jake exchanged a dark look.

“No, no, no,” Luca continued in a smooth voice. “Alanna is collateral. A worm on a hook for a much bigger fish…” And while I have her, I just might take a bite, Luca opined.

“Peck,” Jake added. “He’s your bigger fish?”

Luca didn’t say anything as he glanced over at his wall of pictures. The gears in his head churned as he formulated his plan. I’ve seen the way he looks at her. Protective. Loving. Desperate. He eludes me now, but I know, the way to Peck is through Alanna. The Raven said that she cannot be bought. But I’m not interested in buying. Simply tasting. She is a gem on loan, the match to my powder keg. The cost of Peck’s disloyalty will be his sanity, his life, and maybe her’s, too.

Taking another puff of his cigar, Luca blew out a fragrant cloud. As the details of his plan formulated in his brain, a satisfied smile curled up from his lips.

“Yes,” Luca said in a firm voice. “That is the way you unravel a man.”

-End-

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