It’s a Man's World
Written by: Janos

This was her fucking warpaint, and she applied it with precision. Blood lips. Smoke eyes. Selene’s hair. Aphrodite’s neckline. Sure, it was a man’s world. But men were weak.

The sal wood door trembled under her hand as she crossed the threshold into the most important boardroom in the city. She ran her finger over the leather seam of the chair that used to belong to Nick Esposito. Nick Esposito had been weak, and now the chair belonged to her.

She took her seat and glanced around the table. The other capos were here - Sal Barone, Vincent Shapiro, Gio Ferrari. Lina suspected the last name was made up; Gio was the sort of person to do that sort of thing. But you never know.

The door opened with a crack as a potato of a man with a bald, sweaty forehead and permanently flushed cheeks entered. Rick Conti was the Underboss of the Sforza Family, and the intermediary between the boss and the captains. There was another underboss - Mick Silozzo, “Slots” to the Family, but Lina had never seen him. He handled the Miami arm of the Family.

A second man entered the room behind Conti - a mousy man with sandy brown hair, horn-rimmed glasses, and a face that belied the fact that he was pushing 50. Joseph Hester, Consigliere to Sforza himself. Shit. This was serious then.

Hester walked around the table and quietly sat in a chair in the back corner of the room. Conti tossed a folder onto the table as all eyes turned to him.

“I don’t want to do this. You all know I hate doing this shit.” He was sweating more than usual. Cunty, Gio called him behind his back. Lina never admitted it, but she thought the nickname fit. “I really hate this. But someone in this room has made it impossible to ignore.”

He took in an asthmatic breath. “Someone’s skimming off the top.” Almost every pair of eyes immediately turned to Gio. Lina turned to watch Hester. He was looking down, picking a scab or a wart off one of his fingers. He wasn’t going to give any clues, then.

Gio had gotten defensive. “The fuck are you looking at, Shapiro? I fucking earned my place at this table while you were still shitting in diapers!” Gio did too much cocaine. Everyone knew it. The man put every dime he made straight up his nose.

Shapiro scoffed. “You haven’t been shit since ‘08. You’ve got the lowest numbers of anyone here.”

Gio sprang out of his seat, slamming his hands on the table as his face turned red. “The fuck do you know about my numbers you fucking wank stain?”

Lina rolled her eyes and Gio turned to her. “Have an opinion, do you? Who invited this slut to the big kid’s table?” Lina didn’t blink; she stared right back at his bloodshot eyes. She was going to enjoy watching him burn. And he would burn, no doubt about that. One day every person in this room was going to burn in her wake.

“That’s enough, Gio,” said Conti. “No need for that. We’re not blaming anyone. Not yet. We’re giving you all a week to make sure this problem goes away. If it’s one of the people in this room, we’re going to be very disappointed. If it’s one of your people, make it stop.”

The meeting descended into minutiae. Some upstarts were trying to muscle in on the gambling scene in the northern part of the city, and there were reports of a new drug flooding the street - some new party drug that was becoming the star of the club scene. They traded ideas for the next hour, until Conti called the meeting over.

As the others were leaving, Hester touched Lina’s arm.

“Why don’t you stay behind for a moment?”

Lina’s stomach clenched; Joseph Hester didn’t ask you to stay behind unless it was something big. Joseph Hester didn’t do jack shit unless it was something big.

Lina glanced at Conti, who locked eyes with her before walking out of the conference room and closing the door. Hester waited until they were alone and then gestured to a chair.

“Please, sit.”

Lina sat.

“I’ve got a bit of a problem I’d like you to take care of. We don’t think the new gambling rings are a fluke. They’re located in a part of town we’ve been looking to expand into for months now. It was the perfect location at the perfect time. I believe that a person within the organization is skimming money and funnelling it into these operations.”

Lina’s mind started to churn. “To what end?”

“I think it’s a member of the Family who is looking to go solo.” He paused. “I think it’s Sal.”

“But he’s the top earner in the family. What would he gain from ruining that?”

Hester sighed. “We have passed him up for promotion to Underboss twice now, and we think he is convinced he could do better on his own.”

Lina’s eyes narrowed. “Why are you telling me all of this? What’s my part?”

Hester cleared his throat. “We know you were sleeping with Nick Esposito. We would like you to use your charm to get close to him.”

Lina felt her cheeks flush involuntarily. “Then what?”

Hester silently pushed her a sealed envelope and stood to leave.

“Rick will fill you in on the details.”

Lina opened the envelope and a piece of paper fell into her hands. On it, in neat handwriting, were three words.

Take him out

………… to be continued.