Written by Joe Kaminski and retold by Drudge

Take this ,he said, tossing a gun to me as he swung open the door and stepped out of his armored Chrysler 300. The streets were quiet as I stepped out myself, using the night as cover. I had held guns identical to this in the past, but this time it felt oddly different. It felt colder…heavier.

I didn’t dare to speak. Only an insane man would talk in the alleys of the city. Talking meant you were strong enough to be alive. Alive meant you were holding items of value to the looters and thieves. Holding items of use to the looters and thieves meant you weren’t going to be alive for long. Sure, I held a weapon of choice, but it was dark. It would have been easy for someone to sneak up from behind and kill us both. I gripped the brim of my fedora just thinking about the possible lurking dangers in this darkened alleyway.

I straightened my hat and pulled the gun closer to me, then followed him down the road. I wasn’t a noob still under protection. I’d made arrangements with other families from the union before. Smaller arrangements — such as an acre of land or a single block in the city. But that night, my uncle and I were fighting for something much larger. An acre of land, or a block wasn’t worth much. But the entire city itself was!

My uncle was going to lead it, I was merely there for support. My grandfather — his father — was on his deathbed. We would be claiming the city from him before the rest of the family…or one of the rival families…took their chance at it. Violence could be avoided, and more importantly our family could continue to hold the land.

We moved quickly, and finally made it to the correct building. Grandfather lives inside — protected by guards. The last sixty years had been terrifyingly cruel to him, and several assassination attempts had been made against him. But now, he lay dying to old age. The family would collapse if the land weren’t properly given to a successor.

My grandfather hated my uncle. And if he refused, well…that was why I was holding the gun. The entire south district would stay in our pockets.

For now, anyways….

“Well, well.” My uncle spoke slowly, entering the bedroom where my grandfather lay dying. I followed him, holding the gun. Once this was done, we were to make our way back to the car. Once back to the car, we would be safe. Of course, the gun would be disposed of. The mafia would live on — and the city would finally be controlled by only one family.
My grandfather stared directly at us — no strength left to stand up and kick my uncle out. The tension was thick, like the blood that would definitely be spilled if the transaction wouldn’t happen.

“You know you’re not welcome here,” My grandfather wheezed, staring past us. “The guards should have stopped you.”

My uncle smiled.“The guards know what is going on here. My brother has been dead for ten years now, and you can’t give your district to his remaining child,” motioning towards me.

“That child is more of a man than you have ever been!” My grandfather rasped. “He’s more than old enough to inherit MY district.”

“Inherit? In this city?” My uncle laughed.“The minute you die the other families will begin a war unless you hand it over. A dead man cannot give away a district. A dying man can. So, you can either hand the south district over to me…or you can face the consequences.”

“Consequences. What will you do, kill me?” My grandfather looked forward in disgust. “As you said, a dead man cannot give away a district.”

“Yes, but a living man can,” my uncle smirked. “And either way, I get the district… and the city.”

“You don’t deserve it.”

“Neither did my brother.”

“Closing his eyes, my grandfather spoke louder. “I will NOT give you the South District. You can contend with the war that my death will initiate. Do you hear me?”
“Oh, I hear you.” My uncle smiled once more then turned to me and firmly said, “Shoot him.”

I stared in silence, watching my grandfather.

“What are you waiting for? Shoot him!” My uncle’s smile vanished. “Shoot him dead, and the South District is ours.”

Speaking with no emotion, I replied, “You mean yours.” I pointed the gun at grandfather, and did no more.

“Boy, I thought you had something more than a rock on your shoulders.” Uncle spoke. “If he lives for tonight he will only die tomorrow. Or the next day. Or the day after that. And after his death, which is soon, the war will begin. Land will become the most important thing in this City.”

“This City.” I grunted. “The City controlled by our family.”

“Our family, yes. The direct line states power is to be handed from generation to generation. Right now my father—your grandfather is the weakest link in this family tree. If he doesn’t give it up the damn land the state is dead.”

I cocked my head to the left, staring at my grandfather.

“Shoot him, you fool.”

“What good is killing him? Wouldn’t that start the war sooner?”

“If he dies now who’s watching? You and me. We claim the land was given, and the family lives on. If he dies another day the guards know the land is owned by no man. The south district will be targeted. The state will die. But if we get the land from this elderly scum today, the state will live. Blood won’t be shed. And when I die it will be handed to —“

“Your cousin!” My grandfather sneered, opening his eyes. “Don’t be blinded by this man!”

“Shoot him.” My uncle yelled. “Shoot him now!”

I stood still, finger casually placed on the trigger. If grandfather died then, my uncle would claim the south district. The state would live, the country would continue to thrive. The war would not happen between the rival families. But…then what? My uncle had very few years left for himself. Once he died the power would obviously transfer to his son…my cousin. The bratty man who wished to become a noble in some far off land, one undeserving of the title for this mafia state. I would be cut off from the line of power.

If my grandfather was spared, war would begin. The state would kill itself in a massive battle for power. Perhaps a new family would take control. The state would be re-birthed to a new surname. A new empire. The south district — along with the north and east — would change. Blood would be lost over mere land. I would still be cut off from the line of power.

I sighed, and my grandfather stared at me — his eyes, dying embers in a once thriving fire, staring into mine. My uncle shouted once more, and moved closer to his father. My grandfather.

The gun, sitting like burning ice in my hands, was aimed between the two men. One old and corrupted, the other older and loved. One with no more than fifteen years left in his life, and one with no more than fifteen days. My uncle and grandfather, next to each other for the first time in ten years.

“Shoot him, now!” My uncle roared. “Think of the war you’ll be starting if he stays alive for much longer! You’ll never have a chance to be in power if the family is overthrown. I shouldn’t have let a kid do a man’s job.”

“Shoot him, now!” My grandfather sneered. “He’s using you! If you kill me now you’ll never see the promises of power. You’ll never be able to avoid a war with a corrupt supposedly exiled man left in power!”

I pointed the gun back and forth, aiming at each man. My mind was scrambled, my trust was confused. Everything seemed fuzzy. My finger pressed slightly against the trigger as my heart jumped to my throat. I wanted to run. I wanted to leave. But before I could decide on what exactly to do, I pushed my finger down completely on the trigger.

In the darkness of that night, one man was shot… and two men died.

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