Twin Cities, Gemini
Cadence was exhausted. Emotionally and mentally.
First there had been the incident with Nico and Werner. And now there was Olive’s emotional dilemma. Those two events had just exacerbated Cadence’s exhaustion.
Olive’s memory of the fire had been seared into Cadence’s mind. The screams, the smells. Awful. And then there was Olive’s suffocating self-deprecation. In that moment, Cadence had truly felt that it would be better if she too just disappeared. Terrifying.
It was all too much.
But still, Cadence had a job to do.
She stood in front of the Vitae Roll now in the guise of Duccio. Beside her was Matilda, and behind them were what remained of Matilda’s street gang. A bunch of ragtag kids so scrawny the wind could knock them over. Since their numbers dwindled, they looked much less fearsome than at the warehouse.
Matilda turned to face the fifteen kids behind her. “This is what we’ve been waiting for,” she said calmly. “Verga is in there smoking a v-cig without even a care in the world about what he’s done, so let’s remind him.”
Each person looked to the person on their left and their right. They nodded at one another in acceptance of whatever was to come. Like true residents of the Twin Cities.
They rushed the building like a storm.
The door was blasted open by a well-aimed kick, and they flooded into the building swinging their pipes and bats at everything they could see. Glass cases shattered, premium v-cigs were sent flying through the air, and the wood that splintered off from the randomly dispersed chairs flew out like shrapnel.
The store owner let out a screech before ducking below the counter.
They bypassed him and stormed up the stairs leading to the room where Verga resided. Matilda was the one who moved to open the door. With a steely look in her eye, she pushed it open and stepped into the room.
Verga was there all right. He was standing by the boarded-up windows peering out into the empty street below. He was there and so were fifteen men holding guns.
“Knew you’d be quick, Cadence,” Verga chuckled without turning.
The children stared out in confusion.
“Sorry, kids.” Cadence shrugged as she crossed the invisible line that divided the two groups. She turned on her heels with raised hands. “That’s just how the cards fall.”
“D-Duccio…?” Matilda stuttered. “Wh—”
There was a barrage of gunfire followed by a cloud of gun smoke and then silence. Cadence wrinkled her nose at the smell and waved the smog away from her as best as she could.
When the cloud cleared, the bullet holes riddling the wall opposite became apparent. As did the bodies. They were toppled over each other, limbs tangled up with one another, eyes still wide in horror. Red pools spread across the floor.
Cadence rubbed her neck and turned to face Verga. “Okay, okay, that’s done an over with, I’d like to—”
A pistol was pointed squarely in her face.
The gun fired.
Cadence’s body hit the ground and red formed beneath it.
Verga grinned and shrugged, waving his gun loosely in the air. “Did you really think I’d trust you enough to not tell the Foxmans or Ricardo after this was over and done with? Guess you really are rusty!”
Verga laughed heartily and his newly hired guns laughed with him. But then he frowned. He squinted down at Cadence’s body which still held tightly onto the guise of Duccio and then—
Hook. Line. Sinker.
“Did ya really think I’d not tell the Foxmans or Ricardo before this was over with?”
The entire room glowed copper before cracks appeared along the walls, over the bodies, and across the ceiling.
“Shit,” Verga managed before the cracks along the room around them shattered.
What was revealed beneath the broken illusion was probably Verga’s worst nightmare. There stood the children looking alive and well. Behind them were Francis Foxman, Carl Foxman, and Allen Foxman along with about ten of their men. Cavallo stood to the side with an expression of disappointment.
Cadence, looking very much alive and like herself, stepped out from behind Cavallo and shrugged. “Turns out I’m not gettin’ rusty after all.”
* * *
Cadence had already realized how stupid the deal was from the very beginning. There was no way Verga would let her go just like that. He was a bastard. But how to go about saving her tail was another story.
It was Nico’s appearance that had started it. Nico’s appearance paired with Werner and Jericho’s insights. To have two people whose jobs were to kill other people judge her was baffling. She’d expected judgment from the prince and Atienna, but not from those two.
Frankly, with how this whole connection thing worked, it felt as if all their misgivings about her actions were her own misgivings. And she couldn’t live with that.
‘Save the children’ it was.
Attempting to pull the kids out of the hole was going to decrease her chances of surviving this mishap. It’d be risky. But the higher the risk, the greater the reward.
So she had revealed herself to the children during their pre-raid meeting. It had been quite the debacle, and she had to spend about fifteen minutes arguing for her life before the kids settled down and lent her an ear. From there it was smooth sailing. Like Jericho, the kids had a rather one-track mind. Revenge, revenge, revenge.
Then she had brought Matilda to Cavallo and the Foxmans. Francis had offered his condolences while Carl insisted on at least smacking the children around a bit, but Francis was the voice of reason.
Cavallo and Ricardo were informed subsequently. Cadence thought Cavallo was going to shoot her on the spot, but Ricardo intervened with his fondness for children. Verga’s assassin was taken care of quickly. And that was that.
* * *
The execution happened in an instant. There was a shower of bullets, then a ring of bodies hit the floor. Verga was the last man standing.
The man was visibly shaking. “So… you gonna cement me and dump me in the bay?”
“Oh no,” Francis said pleasantly. “Mr. Ricardo said that it was only fair that the people you wronged dole out your punishment. And we agree wholeheartedly.”
Verga frowned in confusion and then realized that the ring of children was now approaching him.
Ricardo was as kind as he was cruel.
“At least you’re dressed for your own funeral,” Cadence said as the children descended upon him.
While the Foxman brothers and Cavallo watched the children tear Verga apart with a strange, sick amusement, Cadence excused herself and descended the stairs. She felt like she was about to keel over there. She’d definitely expended too much of her vitae with that light show. She was thinking about a goodnight’s rest when she was abruptly synchronized with Werner.
Werner who was beating a Capricornian soldier to death with the blunt of a conductor.