The Twelve Zenati Pt. 28

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Marcella sat before the mirror looking at a woman she barely recognised. The woman in the mirror had perfectly styled, honey blonde hair that hung in straight lengths over her shoulders. Her heavy makeup hid her face behind the mask of the passive woman who went through the motions of living day to day with a remorseless killer for the last two weeks. Even the name was wrong, and she sighed, Michelle Barrow. This was what she had wanted, or at least said she wanted. A new life and new start except she still didn’t have the freedom she craved or the joy of sharing it with someone she knew would at least be her partner in crime.

The man she was bound to now was not that man and not for the first time she considered the day she had spent with Noah doing everything she had said she wanted. She had resented him for his family and their values, not the man himself. She had held him at arm’s length because of a slight she now knew wasn’t there and had forced him to the blackmail she had accused him of. She would never have let him stay with her if he had given her any other choice. Looking back now, she could see that he probably wouldn’t have had her dragged back to the family but instead followed her himself to ensure her safety. For every incident where she had raged at him, she could see her own fault in the experience.

Her mind went to the man who now held her leash in a very similar blackmail scenario. Even though he had never voiced any threat toward her and had been nothing but a gentleman in his interactions with her, she knew quite clearly what her alternatives were if she spurned his kindness and the advances that he constantly pushed on her.

Konrad had assured her that he was a patient man. He had not forced himself on her even if his displays of affection and desire were becoming heavier in tone as time wore on. His only demand was in limiting her movements from his home for her safety. She had been allowed to watch television freely. The early news reports had listed her as wanted as a person of interest in a murder case. Then she had been labelled as a missing person with a sizeable reward put up for any news of her whereabouts.

The truth was, however, that even if she wanted to return to the Zenati’s or her family in Perth, Konrad could not let her go and chance that she would go to the authorities after witnessing the massacre he and his men had carried out. Even if her memory of that night was more than a little hazy thanks to the relaxants she had been fed in her drinks, she knew enough to report her version of events. Not that she had seen Konrad shoot anyone, but she had seen his right-hand man do it and understood that all of his friends were responsible for the dead that surrounded them once the bullets had stopped flying.

Her door clicked open, and she knew without looking who had entered her personal space. Anyone else in this house would have knocked first. She picked up a diamond-studded hoop earing and threaded it through her ear, locking it in place before reaching for the other one.

“You look beautiful, Mischa,” Konrad used his pet name for her as he smiled as he came to stand behind her. “The news reports are becoming infrequent now, particularly in this part of the country, so I thought we might go out tonight.”

“Out?” she turned her head to look up at him.

“Dinner and a walk through an art gallery that is opening a new collection tonight,” Konrad offered. “You have seemed more sombre than usual today. I thought perhaps you required a change of scenery.”

“Yes, please!” Marcella smiled genuinely. She had training in how to be the perfect companion for a man like this, and she used every ounce of that training to stop him from turning his homicidal tendencies on her. She could be grateful for her life and what he was offering in this sanctuary while still maintaining a small semblance of independence.

“Good,” Konrad chuckled. “Shall we go?” He held out a crooked elbow for her to take.

“Of course,” Marcella stood and took his arm slipping her lipstick into her cleavage. She had nothing else to warrant a clutch or purse. She had no keys or phone or money of her own at this point which made her feel her captivity even if her host did not overtly treat her as a prisoner. He gave her everything she needed, designer clothes, gourmet meals prepared by attentive staff and a suite of rooms that she could if she had a mind, decorate to her own tastes. As far as prisons went, she knew this was more than she ever could have hoped for from other men in her past who claimed to care for her. She knew that keeping the man beside her happy was the key to still being alive. She also knew without a doubt that she was a liability to him and his men because of what she had seen and heard on that fateful night.

“We are a bit remote here to go to a gallery, aren’t we?” she asked as they walked down the stairs together to meet the men who would accompany them tonight.

“We will need to travel a little bonus veren siteler to get there, but I have to admit I have been tempted by a personal invitation from one of my favoured art dealers, Dante Donati. We will be able to see how well your disguise holds up when meeting with people from the Tables. Inevitably it will be unavoidable as I do business with several of the tables,” Konrad informed her. “Fortunately for you, the Zenati and Gambaro tables are not among my business associates. The uncultured Battaglia doesn’t even register on my business radar so you will not have to meet with them either in the circles I move in.”

“You have friends amongst the tables, yet you worked with the Siebi?” Marcella asked curiously as he led her out onto the lawn to a small golf cart surprising her again

“I assisted in helping them to bring down the remnants of their own organisation. I was not happy with the last attack they made on people I considered friends amongst the tables and have been assisting with the decimation of the drug-addled insanity of the Suebi in my own way. Having said that I have no allegiance to the Tables, the Suebi or even the Tatar one way or the other and I am open to any proposal sent to me requesting our assistance. It just so happened that Madonna’s proposal aligned with mine when her original plan went awry.”

Marcella said nothing as they drove the small distance to a helipad, so Konrad filled the silence.

“My allegiance is to myself and my brotherhood. The Suebi engaged us to help them with an internal war, which we did and were paid handsomely for our assistance. You cannot think Mad Madonna came up with that plan on her own?” he asked incredulously. “Once our bargain was fulfilled, I was free to rectify the mistake of my own making. Had I realised earlier just how far from sanity Madonna had grown, I never would have taken the role of advisor and strategist.”

“So, you’re a troubleshooter? An assassin? A mercenary for hire? When did you become involved with the Suebi in Darwin? Were you responsible for the death of Remington Royce as well?” Marcella asked her quick mind trying to work through what he was telling her.

“The brotherhood has been known as an elite special force of men for hire throughout history. When the ancient European world was falling to the Italics who birthed the legend of the twelve tables, our ancestors would not bow to them or anyone. They served kings and queens as long as it served their needs, fame and fortune, not out of duty or allegiance. The term mercenary does not cover what we can do for the right price,” Konrad said conversationally. “We are the best of the modern-day special ops just as our ancestors were the best of their time and we hold allegiance to no faction other than our own and that, as I said, is for sale temporarily for the right price.”

“I see,” Marcella said with a frown not quite understanding how this man and his men fit into the bigger picture of hostilities between the different sects that had battled since ancient times. “You’re not concerned that even with the changes to my appearance that I might be recognised, particularly by people of the Tables?”

“It is all part of the game, my dear Mischa,” he grinned at her using the shortening of her new name that he preferred. He did not doubt that he would conquer her in time. But she would come to him willingly, wanting him as much if not more so than he wanted her in his bed or not at all. A beautiful woman was only made more so when she had a backbone and the intelligence to understand the people in her world were not always what they seemed.”

“Ah, it’s a dangerous game you play. What if they do recognise me and want to return me to my family?” she asked as they pulled up in front of a jet. She expected it was the one she arrived on but had been too deep in shock and whatever drug he had given her to appreciate it.

“I guess that would depend on you, my dear,” Konrad said quickly as they climbed the stairs then he made sure she was settled in a seat beside him with her seatbelt in place. “The flight usually takes an hour and a half, but we should do it in an hour tonight,” he commented as if taking a jet rather than a car for an evening out was an everyday occurrence.

“Why would your decision to return me to my family depend on me?” she asked.

“The games I like to play of course,” he chuckled. “Relax while we take off. I’m not too fond of takeoffs or landings, but they are a necessary evil to do the flying part. I’d rather leave by parachute rather than get decapitated in a crash if that is an option.”

“That’s a little extreme, isn’t it?” she asked with wide eyes.

“We all have our little foibles,” he chuckled again, but Marcella could see him grip the arms of his seat as the engines whirred to a stronger thrum and the jet taxied toward the end of the runway. Feeling for the big man who had been nothing but courteous and indulgent of her since taking bahis her from the Suebi yacht, she covered his hand with hers and squeezed slightly.

“I have the utmost faith that you have the best pilots working for you,” she grinned. “I can’t imagine you would settle for anything less.”

“That is true,” he agreed. “Every person that I surround myself with is the best at the job I require them to do. Including you, my dear.”

“Job me?” she tilted her head questioningly.

“You are an intelligent woman Mischa, do not play the fool for me now. I have made my interest in you very clear. While I will not force you or rape you under the guise of punishment or training as others in your past have, I do intend to worship that delicious body of yours as soon as you realise the inevitability of our affair. Regardless of how brief it may be.”

Marcella just looked at him made speechless at his words. He had flirted and let her know where his interest lay, he had never voiced it quite so bluntly before, and she was taken aback. He wasn’t offering a relationship, he was offering a fling, a sharing of pleasure for pleasure’s sake and she had to admit she was tempted until the images of the massacre reared up to remind her that this man was a cold-blooded killer. A man who had no remorse for his deeds or the betrayal of those he had aligned himself with only moments before.

The plane sped up to take off, and they both sat back pushed into their seats by the velocity. Marcella was grateful for the extra few minutes of silence where Konrad was concentrating on something other than her for a few minutes as the jet climbed into the late afternoon sky.

*****

Noah drew a breath and closed his eyes. He’d arrived back in town that morning from chasing a sighting of Marcella which turn out to be yet another dead end. Marcella’s last words rang through his mind, and he slammed his fist down on the steering wheel. He should never have let her go alone. He’d known how much danger she was in and he hadn’t protected her, now she was gone. Not a trace of her remained on the yacht amongst the massacred victims of a deal gone wrong. It was as if she had never been there and if she hadn’t called Gideon and had his brother not let him speak to Marcella, he would have doubted she had even boarded the massive yacht with the victims.

Gripping the steering wheel tightly, he fought to regain control of his emotions again. He knew he was now the most significant cause for concern amongst his family. His rage had overtaken him for several days after her disappearance. He hadn’t heeded the doctor’s warnings about his injury. Then after three days fighting the world, he found himself sedated and placed in a bed beside his recovering cousin, Zanto, in the small clinic on the family property where the gathering was being held. The fact that his cousin always wanted to discuss Marcella’s disappearance only exacerbated his anger at the world for keeping the woman he loved from him.

Vivienne and Olivia seemed to believe she would have left the boat after getting what she needed and disappeared rather than be trapped into staying with either the Suebi or the Zenati after the pressure Olivia had put on her to stay. Noah didn’t believe that. He knew she would have come back to make sure that her sister was in the clear before she left if that was what she wanted to do. No matter what conjecture met his ears, he couldn’t believe she left of her own volition. Or that the Suebi would have harmed her in any way given what they wanted from Olivia. No, she had been taken, the question was, who would have taken her and why? They still held her Uncle in custody, and the Gambaro’s had taken her father into custody. He was sure if either of them knew what happened to her, they would have spilt that information by now.

He saw Genesis’s car pull up behind his, and he took another moment to get himself under control before pushing out of his car. He’d handed Olivia’s case over to his father and Isaac so he hadn’t understood why his brother had insisted he be here today and why they wouldn’t have come together. Still, he had reluctantly agreed to meet him here because of the slim hope that Genesis had discovered something no one else had.

“Noah,” Genesis smiled and turned to where a second man got out of his car. A priest. Noah frowned even more confused by what his brother wanted from him. Had one of the suspects died or been attacked so severely he had called for a priest to confess before he died?

“Gen,” Noah nodded. “Who’s your friend?”

“Noah, this is Father Rosie,” Genesis introduced the two men who nodded at each other warily.

“Bob,” the priest said. “Father Bob or just plain Bob is fine.”

“Well Bob, got any idea why we are here? Or has my brother kept you in the dark as well?” Noah asked.

“Time will tell I expect,” Bob said without any conviction.

“Bob was the priest who came to me and told me a Gambaro girl was hiding deneme bonusu in our hospital under a different name all those months ago,” Genesis explained. “I trust him and think that his source from that time is asking to speak to him again for a reason, and I also believe that source just lost his lawyer and will need a new one. Me I’m just along for the ride because I am not bound by any oaths to keep secrets.” He grinned. “Of course, I always protect my sources when they have information worth my time.”

“You think this man has information on what happened to Bea and her cronies?” Noah asked purposely leaving Marcella from his question. He was walking a tight rope with his family, and that included his brothers who seemed to be waiting for him to breakdown and lose his shit again, starting another rampage of rage through their ranks. For now, he was in control, but he wasn’t sure this was the best place for him if he wanted to maintain that control.

“Let’s go,” Genesis said after checking his watch. He knew both men with him would be reluctant to go along with his plan, which was why he hadn’t told either of them what he was doing. He may have been sidelined and preoccupied with nursing Olivia back to health, but she had come a long way in the months they had been together. Now it was time for him to remind his family of why he was the best investigative journalist in the country. He knew with the right prompting he could get everything he needed from the man he was here to see. Entering the correctional facility, Genesis purposely strode toward the reception desk.

“I booked a visitation for Kairos Keppel,” he said confidently indicating the men behind him. “His priest Bob Rosie and his lawyer, Noah Zenati. I am sure he agreed to see us today when he learned of our request.”

The guard nodded and checked his computer a second time printing out visitor passes and handing them to the three men to sign.

“Follow the yellow line down to the green door and wait there until it is opened for you,” he grunted and went back to his perch in front of his computer ending any further interactions they may have wanted with the guard. Genesis looked down at a multitude of lines on the floor, and as he was told, he followed the yellow line down a long corridor. They went through three different security points where they emptied their pockets and walked through detectors.

Aside from their own movement through the unadorned corridors, the whole facility seemed strangely silent, and that was off-putting to Genesis who had been in correctional facilities before. This one seemed wrong, somehow. When he got to it, Genesis knocked on the green door even though he had been told to wait, it was a door after all, and in his mind, he needed to let the occupants know he was there.

“Genesis Zenati?” The voice of the guard said as a question as he opened the door for them.

“Yes, and Bob Rosie and Noah Zenati,” Genesis explained as the man stood back and allowed them entrance.

Once inside, he looked around, taking in every detail. He took one of the chairs dragging it to a corner and standing on it to reach a camera.

“I asked for a room without surveillance, you can guard the doors we are hardly going far in this place,” he huffed and pulled out some wires.

“I assure you that wouldn’t have been used during your interview,” the guard said taken aback by Genesis’s actions.

“I assure you that I believe you believe that, but that doesn’t mean I trust everyone in this facility not to sneak a peek at a private conversation between a man, his lawyer and his priest. The sanctity of those conversations are all covered by judicial conduct,” Genesis said, stepping down and returning the chair to the table. “I trust our man is on his way?”

“Yes,” the guard said tersely and leaned against the wall his arms crossed as they waited.

Each man took a seat and said nothing as the minutes ticked by. When the door finally opened, a man who looked like he had been in this place for years rather than months entered the room.

“Kairos!” Bob got to his feet first. “What has happened to you?”

“That answers any lingering questions I had about who had saved Olivia, not once but twice,” Genesis whispered to Noah. “If you will excuse us, gentlemen,” Genesis said to the guards narrowing his eyes at them as if daring them to argue with him about leaving them to their business.

“I look like any man who has lost everyone he cared for in the world,” Kairos brushed off the priest and took a seat. “I read between the lines of your message Genesis Zenati. “You’re offering me something I want for information, yes?”

“In a manner of speaking, one more minute if you would?” Genesis held a finger up to the man signalling silence as the door finally closed behind the slow-moving guards.

Then he stood and moved around the room with his phone searching for any other devices that might have been left behind after he was distracted by the large camera he had disabled. Finding two more devices possibly for audio, he crushed them uncaring if those that had placed them knew. They would hardly reveal that they were the perpetrators of illegal happenings within a government correctional facility.

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