I woke with a start, my eyes darting around and taking in my surroundings, making sure I was still safe. I wasn’t sure whether I was woken up by the plane’s turbulence, or my recurring nightmare… Although the sweat that accumulated around my hairline gave me the answer.
It was the nightmare.
Taking in a deep breath, I tried calming myself down as I looked out the round window on my right. Even thousands of feet up in the air, I felt like a hunted animal. I was trying to escape… Trying to overcome everything I’d seen, everything that was going on, and everything that resulted from my testimony. It wasn’t going to be easy.
In fact, it’s going to be pretty damn difficult, I thought to myself.
Blinking back the tears, I exhaled and shook out my hands. The last thing I needed was to have a panic attack somewhere over the middle of the freaking Atlantic Ocean.
Beneath the body of the plane was nothing but dark blue water for as far as the eye could see. There was not a cloud in the sky, and the sun was just beginning to set on the horizon. It was hard to admire a scene so tranquil when I couldn’t feel that same peace inside.
Images of that insane night rotated through my mind, flickering like ruined pieces of a film reel. I bit my lip and tried to concentrate by thinking of other things. The night played on in my head regardless…
I was working another late night at the hotel, filling in for Rosita so that she could help watch her grandchildren. It was the least I could do after Rosita had helped me out so many times before. The top level of the hotel was specifically reserved for its higher-paying clientele—and most of us hotel workers knew—that meant some pretty dangerous people were roaming the halls. It was an unspoken agreement to keep quiet and never make eye contact, which probably saved our necks more times than I could count.
While cleaning one of the last rooms along the expansive row of penthouses I heard some arguing going on inside another room across the hall. This wasn’t too common, but I was smart and had learned to mind my own business and keep my head low. When the arguing turned to shouting, I looked to the barely-used walkie-talkie on my cart and wondered whether I should radio in for security or not.
But I never got the chance.
The next thing I knew, the door to that room flew open, and out strolled someone that even I, a nobody of a girl from Brooklyn knew. It was the head of the Five Families, Angelo Verdicci.
Angelo ran the city’s underground with an iron fist, probably hoping to go down in history as one of the roughest heads of the Mafia there ever was. When he came walking past me, eyeing me all suspiciously, I nearly bolted right then and there.
I gotta hurry up and finish school so I can get away from all of this, I had thought to myself, hoping he would continue walking down the hall without looking back. I noticed he didn’t have his usual slew of beefy bodyguards. When you’re the crime boss of one of the most dangerous cities in the world, you don’t fly solo anywhere…
Which might have been the reason it was so easy for the other man who came out of the room behind him to shoot Angelo in the back of the head.
Even living in Port Morris my whole life, I had never been this close to a gun going off. The noise was unlike anything else I’d ever heard. My brain rattled and a piercing ring resounded through my ears, muffling everything that came after.
I sat there whimpering as I dropped to the ground, hoping to God that the man wouldn’t carelessly dispose of me too. I didn’t know who he was—probably just another gangster—and when he turned to face me with his gun cocked back I sobbed. This was the end. All I could do was pray it would be a swift death. There’d be no begging on my part. He wouldn’t be merciful. I’d seen his face.
Instead of a gunshot, there was a loud thump. When I finally opened my eyes, the man had been tackled by two huge men who were both trying to wrestle the gun away from him. A shot fired out, then two. I could see the cold-eyed man pulling himself out from under his dead attackers, but I didn’t hesitate this time. I launched myself into the elevator and hammered the ground floor button.