Monday 4th October 1971 ~ Hudson Psychiatric Hospital ~
With his second week of ECT now complete, Syd was generally finding it easier to control his reactions. Fewer uncontrollable outbursts meant more control over what he chose to tell the doctors and what he kept to himself. Overall, the doctors and nurses were relieved for his positive response to the treatment - but though he gave the appearance of being calm and more rational, it was partly due to the fact that he had worked out what they wanted to hear. The truth of the matter was that in his head, all he could think about was his family and Roxie, worrying about their safety after everything he had told Maddox. The only way to make himself feel better was to plot Maddox’s murder. He would sit down to rest during recreation, returning the nurses’ smiles - and all the while, be daydreaming about how far up the wall Maddox’s blood would reach, the terror in his eyes as he realised he had seconds to live, that Syd had finally come to take the power back. It was the only productive thing he could think to do from inside the hellish hospital.
Once again, to be escorted into the visitation room took him by surprise. The nurses insisted that they had told him, but his memory was suffering after two weeks of induced seizures; it only made him all the more suspicious of their intentions. Now that there was an even lower chance that he would remember what they did or said to him, he felt more vulnerable to them messing with his mind as his counsellor had. Aside from his blank moments, the man never left his mind; each time that he was called to the visitation room, he was terrified that he would be met with Maddox Parker.
By this point, though he hadn’t revealed who it was that he was afraid of, the nurses had learned that he tended to get extremely anxious on his way in and so always assured him that it was family that had called in for a visit, even though they didn’t actually know.
“You always say that…” he muttered, raising his trembling hands over his scar as he stared at the chair that the nurse had pulled out for him.
“And I’ve always been right so far, haven’t I?” the nurse answered, holding onto the back of the chair patiently. Syd shifted from foot to foot, grimacing to stretch the tension in his jaw. Without saying anything, the nurse picked up on it, having seen him display a number of anxious ticks that he recognised as a side effect of the antipsychotics. “Come on, stop being silly and sit down.”
As usual, however, Syd remained standing until he saw who walked through the door. When he finally looked up to see Conor, part of him instantly relaxed at the familiar friendly face - but another part of him was even more nervous, believing that Conor had come to confront him about the accusations he had made against their shared counsellor. Maybe he would tell him that he was being crazy, and that would be that. He didn’t think that any amount of treatment would stop him from getting upset, and that would surely lead to an extended time in the hospital - maybe even forever. Syd looked to the nurse again, and after being prompted once more, he gave in and sat himself down.
“Hi...Hi, Uncle Conor,” he stuttered, and the nurse left the pair to themselves. Even though he hadn’t managed to look his uncle in the eye since they sat down, he added, “You look good.” Syd scratched the back of his head before finally rearing his head and looking Conor over. He had been especially worried about his uncle still being manipulated by Maddox and was anxious to know whether he was still under his spell. Another thing he was afraid of was that his uncle had come to inform him that the confidential information he had shared with Maddox had brought harm to the family. All things considered, Syd didn’t really know how to navigate a conversation with him. “Y-You doing okay? What do you...Why are you here?”
It had been a week since Maddox had come clean to Conor about the full scale of his betrayal. Conor may have surprised himself and everyone else by not caving the counsellor's skull in when he learned the truth, but that didn't mean thoughts of just killing the bastard hadn't crossed his mind since. Conor knew he had to play the situation carefully so as not to risk Syd's life and his own freedom. For now, Conor wished to see his nephew and try to reassure him he was going to get out of the hospital. He knew he couldn't tell Syd everything about the situation with Maddox, not when there was a risk his nephew's mental state could result in him saying something that could jeopardise the plan. It was going to be tricky, but Conor needed to see his nephew. After Ryan's death the week before, Conor was keen to reach out to all of his loved ones, to distract him from staying inside and reaching for the bottle he'd been struggling to avoid.
After signing in at the hospital reception desk, Conor was made to remove his watch and leave his other personal belongings in a tray to collect on his way out. Next, he had to stand still as one of the guards frisk searched him. Conor understood it was for everyone's safety, but it didn't mean he was happy with it, not when it felt too much like being back in prison. Regardless, he held his tongue and simply got his frustration out through his irritated-looking facial expressions. "I look forward to our second date," he lightly commented to the male guard before being taken to the visiting room.
Conor saw Syd standing and looking tense, but the younger man seemed to relax a little when he saw who his visitor was. The older man remained standing as he watched the nurse prompt Syd to be seated. Conor followed suit and sat at the table opposite his nephew. "Hi, Syd," he replied to his nephew, sending him an encouraging smile. Conor was aware the nurse stepped away to leave them to it and subtly shook his head. "Feels weird, huh? It was usually you visiting me," he pointed out, referring to the visits Syd made to him whilst he was in prison. When Syd told him he looked good, Conor flashed a smile to try lighten the mood. "Ah, I've got to keep the ladies happy, haven't I? Although, it's working too well, one of the blokes working out there was all about touching me up too," he added, referring the the guard. In reality, Conor wasn't sure how he was managing to maintain a good appearance on the outside while there was Ryan's death and Maddox's betrayal weighing him down on the inside.
"I'm doing alright, mate. Getting through things as we always do. We're fighters, aren't we?" he firmly reminded Syd. When asked why he was there, Conor briefly chuckled. "Syd, I wanted to come see you. I'm not here to give you any kind of bad news or anything like that," he assured him, expecting someone else would have told him about Ryan by now. It had been a week since the man's death and a week since Conor found out the truth about Maddox. "I also wanted to tell you to sit tight. Your Mum and Dad told me what you'd been saying about Dr. Parker. I'm dealing with it and I want you to know that I'm safe, so you don't need to worry about me. What I do need you to do is to keep quiet to the staff around here when it comes to Dr. Parker. Whilst I don't believe you need to worry about the nurses working here, you don't want them talking, do you? It's like the pigs, yeah? If I accused one of them without enough evidence, the rest of the cops would cover his back and he'd get away with it. It's one of those unspoken loyalties, kinda like we've got in our family. Do you understand, Syd?" he asked. It was important that none of Maddox's colleagues suspected him of being dodgy, not if Conor was going to use the counsellor to help Syd, himself, and the rest of the family against the Morettis.
Monday 4th October ~ Hudson Psychiatric Hospital ~
Being so certain that Conor had come to discuss Maddox with him, Syd couldn’t understand how his uncle appeared in such high spirits. He had brought his usual sense of humour with him, and even gave a light-hearted chuckle at Syd’s nervous display. The revelation of Maddox’s true intentions had shaken Syd so much that he hadn’t stopped thinking about it since, and had convinced himself that everyone in the mob and in his family were in grave danger. It didn’t seem even remotely believable that Conor wouldn’t have bad news to bring to him by now, and the fact that he spoke with such confidence to assure him that nothing had happened only filled him with further uncertainty.
Syd sat stiffly in his chair as he searched his uncle for signs of betrayal. Given where he was, he was wary of people softening reality for him, doing whatever it took to not upset him. Conor assured him that he was safe, but he was so vague that Syd wasn’t convinced the man had even seen their counsellor’s true self. Even if his uncle had confronted him, he could have denied it, softened it, told him something different. It would only make Syd look crazier, and further isolate him from his family - both things that would benefit the counsellor and whoever it was that he worked with. Doctor Parker was an expert in the art of psychological manipulation and there was no way of telling how much of a grip he still had on his uncle’s mind. Conor assured him that he was dealing with it, but didn’t say how; he said that he was safe, but didn’t provide Syd the proof he needed.
As always, the visitation room was infested with watchful nurses and Syd’s eyes darted around to make sure none of them had picked up on Conor’s words of advice. Having earned himself a reputation for having intense, uncontrollable mood swings and fitful outbursts, there was usually at least one member of staff with their eye on him at all times. It was almost impossible to keep them off his back, and he had to make every effort to appear calm, despite his suspicion. “Yes,” he answered, keeping his voice down. “Keep it to myself. Don’t tell anyone.” Syd wrung his hands beneath the table and scooted his chair forward to be closer to Conor. “I’ve been trying to do that, but I don’t know for sure...they hear more of what comes out my mouth than I do and it's on my mind constantly. I don’t remember them ever asking me about it, though, so I think...I think I can do it. I just need to get out of here soon.”
After one more brief scan of the room, Syd then leaned over the table slightly, his eyes brimming with worry. “Conor, what the hell happened?” he asked under his breath, before biting down on his lip in a desperate attempt to hide his distress. “One minute he was - and then -” He shook his head and ran a hand through his untamed hair, feeling the anxiety begin to spread through his body. “How can you be so sure you’re safe? What exactly did he tell you?” A dark expression fell across his face and he jabbed a finger down onto the table. “And no sugar-coating! Tell me exactly.”
Conor nodded his head when Syd mentioned the nurses likely knowing more of what comes out of his mouth than he did. "You know what to do? Mumble some other stuff for them to hear that'll confuse them or throw them off," he casually suggested. However, he sat forward and placed his hands down flat on the table as he addressed his nephew levelly. "You are going to get out of here. I just need you to be patient with us. We're working on it and you will get out of here."
Syd leaned forward and addressed Conor in a more intense manner. The worry was clear in the younger man's eyes but Conor forced himself to maintain a strong and calm expression so as not to concern his nephew. The anxiety seemed to increase within Syd as he spoke about Maddox. Syd was demanding answers and he didn't want it watering down. Conor was conflicted, unsure how much he could tell Syd and believing he would become more agitated if he knew the counsellor was presently working with them as a spy and to help get Syd home.
"He told me everything... about what he did to you. He can't do shit to either of us now. We've got him under control and after you're out of here, we can deal with him."
Monday 4th October ~ Hudson Psychiatric Hospital ~
Syd held his glare on Conor as he spent a few seconds processing his answer. It was still as vague as his previous one, but firm. Eventually his expression softened and he relaxed, no longer leaning in so close. “Okay…” he relented. “Just don’t let him out of your sight. He’s got friends. All the kidnappings, the murders...he must have had something to do with them, right? The ones who did this -” he yanked his shirt down to reveal his inflamed scar. “- everything they threw at my mam, at Sinead, they must have got from him. From us.” Syd raised a fist to his mouth and began to gnaw on his knuckles as he thought back to that day, Sinead and Lucy’s screams replaying n his mind. “He doesn’t deserve to know shite about our family,” he uttered, doing his best to keep his volume under control. “I just wanna bash all the information he stole from us out of his twisted fucking head. I don’t want him to ever think about us ever again. I want him to forget us. Drag him to this shitehole and give him that operation that kills part of your brain or whatever. There’s a guy in here that’s had it and he’s just this walking empty shell, like a zombie. That’s what Dr. Parker deserves - to be stripped of everything he is, forced to live without a fully functioning brain. He’d hate that worse than death.”
As much as he loved to be visited by family, seeing Conor again had stirred up so many upsetting memories that he shrank down in his seat, resting his elbows on the table and hiding most of his face behind his fists. He had to dig the cuffs of his sleeves into his eyes to push back the tears before they fell, hoping that the nurses would just think he was tired rather than upset. Keeping his voice low, he continued. “Are you...are you gonna see someone else?” Syd finally raised his eyes to meet his uncle’s and let out a sigh. “I don’t see how we’re supposed to tell anyone anything after this. How do we know who to trust? Anyone could just do the same thing. If it’s gonna give someone the power to hurt my family, I don’t want to open up about anything...but they’re telling me the only way they'll let me out of here is if I agree to keep up counselling indefinitely, and I just...I don’t think I can do that ever again. Do you know what you're gonna do?”
Conor firmly nodded his head. "We're not letting that snake out of our sights, I can tell you that." He let out a sigh at mention of the kidnappings, remembering what had happened to Syd, Lucy and Sinead. Remembering how their torture had been a nod to something he had been all too familiar with for over 20 years. "He was involved, mate. I told Dr. Parker a lot about when Vinnie tortured me. He made it seem like he was helping me resolve my issues and finally putting those nightmares to rest, but yeah, turns out he had me tell him all that shit so they could use it against us." Conor wouldn't admit to anyone out loud, but somehow he had managed to stop waking up in the middle of the night gasping for air when his dreams forced him to relive the drowning feelings. The way it no longer felt like Vinne was holding him back and forcing him to lash out. Conor refused to admit Maddox had actually helped him, knowing he himself and his family would be repulsed by the idea. Conor preferred to think his recovery had been an accidental error on Maddox's part; that the counsellor had underestimated him.
Syd didn't hold back on how he wanted Maddox to suffer and all Conor could do was nod along. Regardless of how he understood first hand how Maddox had felt when his father was gunned down by the mob in Dublin, Conor knew his grief for Emmet had never led him to being so cold and calculating as to seek revenge in the way Maddox had. Conor remained torn about the whole thing and how he would deal with Maddox once both Syd and he were free. What he did know, was that when the time came to decide, he owed it to Syd to consult him in the final decision that was the counsellor's fate.
"The prick isn't going to get chance to hurt anyone else, Syd. One way or another, he'll find his actions have consequences."
When asked if he was going to see another counsellor, Conor pursed his lips together before letting out a frustrated groan. "I don't have much choice, mate. I've got a few months left of my parole and one of the main conditions is that I keep seeing a counsellor. Whoever it is signing those reports after each session, I'm going to just keep telling them what they want to hear. Give them enough to work with, so they think they're doing a great job and rehabilitating this aggressive thug." Conor leaned forward and lowered his voice. "You're smart, Syd. Just play along with them while you're in here. Don't forget, you're in here because Parker messed with your meds and and he pushed you too far. He's a smart guy and he knew how to get to you. You don't belong in this place, alright?"
Conor nodded his head as he couldn't deny Syd would still have to see a counsellor indefinitely. "We'll sort that. Finn knows a lot of professionals and we've got enough contacts in our family to do our research, this time. We'll make sure we can trust them." He shrugged his shoulders when asked what he was going to do. "I suppose I'll just have to see Dr. Henderson, because I don't get much choice in my counsellor, as the parole board decides. But you'll get a choice. We've already been and checked out everything we need to know about Sinny's counsellor. Her doctor is clean," he assured him.
Monday 4th October 1971 ~ Hudson Psychiatric Hospital ~
After a long build-up of suicidal urges, it had been the discovery of Maddox’s true intentions that had finally pushed Syd over the edge. It struck a different cord, however, to hear of how Maddox had betrayed his uncle. Ever since he had found his place in the family and realised how much he had to be grateful for, Syd had become highly territorial. If ever there was a threat to someone he loved or to something belonging to the mob, he wouldn’t be able to rest until justice had been served. In a way, it was morbidly reassuring to not be experiencing such a devastating betrayal on his own, but he would still much rather Conor hadn’t been involved in any of it.
“They were copying Vinnie…” he mumbled to himself as it pieced together in his mind. Squeezing his hands together, Syd blinked hard as he fought to remember if he had already come to that conclusion before. He couldn’t imagine how his uncle would be taking it - the calmness that he was displaying was surely only for his sake. “I’m sorry, Uncle Conor,” he whispered, forcing back tears as he looked down to the table. “That he did this to you, too. It’s not your fault.” With no healthy idea of how to process the horrific news, Syd had immediately taken on the heavy burden of guilt for trusting Maddox and giving him ammunition to use against him and his family. Yet, now that he was hearing more about Conor’s involvement, he realised that he didn’t want his uncle to be carrying that same burden; it was only Maddox and his associates who deserved the blame.
Conor told him his plan to convince his next counsellor that they were helping him get better. It sounded like he had it under control, and Syd could only hope that he was doing well enough not to genuinely need counselling anymore. The way he described it made it sound like a sort of game, but a difficult and dangerous one that relied on expert self-control, an ability to act and a sharp mind. At that moment Syd didn’t believe he had any of those things, but Conor spoke with great faith in him that he realised it really was his only choice. If he was going to get out of hospital, he was going to have to be extremely careful about what he told the doctors and nurses. He looked his uncle in the eye when told that he didn’t belong in the psychiatric hospital and gave him a grateful nod. It was reassuring to hear it from him. He didn’t believe that Conor would ever just tell him what he wanted to hear, unless it was really true.
The idea of having to continue with counselling after what had happened with Maddox was wildly unnerving, but he knew he had to keep going with it. Conor tried to assure him that the family would find him an appropriate counsellor while managing to uncover any potential threats. “And we don’t stop, yeah? If any of our enemies find out who I’m seeing, they could threaten my counsellor for information or draw them over to their side…” Syd’s leg started to bounce under the table, his eyes darting around the room to check who might be listening in. “So we don’t just do a background check. Follow them, spy on them, stalk them - I don’t care. I have no problem doing that shit. If we don’t exploit their privacy, we won’t know if they’re exploiting ours.” There was a break in the conversation as Syd grew steadily more anxious at the thought of sitting in a counselling room again. It was from a combination of anxiety and hatred that his ideas all stemmed; they had built a high, impenetrable defence around him that blocked out much of his compassion and reasoning, and his ability to structure a logical plan. But he wouldn’t notice any flaw in it - his trauma was too raw.
When the bell sounded, Syd looked to his uncle with a small smile. The conversation had left him feeling physically tense but at the same time he was grateful to have received an update and be reassured that Conor was okay and apparently handling it well. One of the nurses came over to the table and prompted for Syd to stand. “Conor…” he began, but held his tongue in the presence of the nurse. “Take care, okay?” He was sure there was much more he wanted to say, but a fear of being questioned had made his mind go blank. Rounding the table, Syd managed to give his uncle a quick hug before the nurse forced them apart and began to lead Syd towards the exit. He kept his eyes on Conor as he walked, bearing a look of desperation and uncertainty.
Sometimes - but only very occasionally - Syd wondered if he was wearing Roxie out by his constant attention to her. Ever since she had got home from the hospital he had been trying to undo all her discomfort, pain, starvation and trauma by balancing it out with love and affection, hot baths and soft blankets and cakes and foot rubs and anything he could think of to make her feel far away from the horrors she had experienced in that basement. But he hardly gave her a break from it - and even when she withdrew herself from the room to rest he had to fight the urge to go upstairs and check on her every few minutes. If she was on her own at any point, he would quickly descend into worry, imagining her suffering alone. However, he was aware - at least, sometimes - that he could be quite intense and exhausting to be around, so there came a point when he had to accept that she needed peace and quiet away from him.
After seeing her to her room and leaving her with a kiss, Syd returned to the room where Savannah was waiting and sat himself down on the sofa beside her, twisted in his seat to face her. He let out a small, contented sigh and sent her a soft smile. “Hey, listen...I know it was Roxie you came to see,” he began. “But I’ve missed you, Sav. I know it must have been hard for you when Roxie was taken, and I guess I just wanted to say I’m sorry that I never reached out.” His smile turned apologetic and he reached forward to take one of the leftover cupcakes on the coffee table. Shifting his gaze to the glittery lilac icing, he seemed to speak to the cake instead of his cousin. “I’ve been away in a lot of ways, for a long time, but I heard you’ve been…” He cleared his throat, finally glancing up to her. “You’ve been through a hell of a lot yourself, lately. Have you talked about it with anyone?” Unable to hold a cupcake in his hand without eating it, he instinctively took a bite out of it before deciding he had more to say. Raising a hand to shield his mouth, he added, with his mouth full, “‘Cause y’know, you can talk to me if you want. We’ve got a lot of shite things in common. It’s good to get them out - with someone you can trust.” Syd thought briefly back to when Skye had first passed away - that had been the first of many things that had brought him and Savannah closer together. She had only been a child then, and he had been too lost to do much for her at first, but as the two of them grew older, their shared loss had given them a deeper understanding of each other. Knowing something of the pain she had felt had given him a soft spot for her, and now he felt especially protective of her and interested in her wellbeing.
With Sinead wanting to spend some time with Lucy, she'd also encouraged Savannah to come along to the Porter house, hoping that seeing Roxie would brighten her daughter's spirits. Savannah had gladly joined her mother and had spent some time with Roxie, getting caught up with everything she'd missed. Roxie had been through a lot over the previous weeks, but Savannah was just happy she'd been brought home safe and the news of her expecting twins gave double the excitement. It was good to have things to look forward to, so she didn't doubt both Syd and Roxie had some positivity to focus on now.
Roxie soon needed to go rest and Syd helped her to her room. Other than the 9-month old rottweiler, Bruno, the blonde was left alone in the lounge for a short while. The young dog jumped up onto the sofa and decided to sprawl out over Savannah's lap, rolling onto his back to command she tickled him. "Jeez, Bruno. You're getting so big and heavy now. Uncle James spoils you, you naughty boy," she told the dog, knowing all too well Bruno had a reputation for breaking the house rules. It wasn't long before Bruno had fallen asleep, still resting his weight on Savannah's aching legs. She didn't really register her discomfort as the quiet time only drew her mind back to the heavy weights on her mind. She still couldn't believe Warren was gone. If she felt comfortable around and friends with any of her bodyguards, it had been Warren. Even more than that, he was family. They'd already lost Arlene and Keegan recently, as well as Ryan, who was practically family. It was nerve-wracking to think she had to attend yet another funeral soon. She had to wonder if the guy she killed would have a funeral...
Savannah was dragged out of her thoughts as Bruno clumsily got up and jumped from her lap, his foot digging into her thigh as he did. "Bruno!" Savannah lightly berated him as the pain registered with her. She soon realised it had been Syd's return that caused Bruno to excitedly jumped onto the floor. When her cousin took a seat on the sofa beside her, Savannah turned sideways and knelt up, resting her head against the back cushion of the sofa as he spoke to her. "You don't have to apologise, Syd. You've had a lot going on yourself and you needed people reaching out to you as well. She watched him as he picked up one of the sparkly cupcakes. "Is that what happens when our mums get together in the kitchen?" she drily remarked, figuring Sinead had some influence on the design of Lucy's baking that day. She didn't take a cupcake for herself, having had very little appetite for the last couple of days.
Savannah looked down to her hands as Syd asked her if she'd talked to anyone about what she'd been through. "Yeah, um... Mum, Dad, Ali... and Danny," she said, looking back up to meet Syd's eyes. She'd never had chance to tell Syd about her relationship with Danny and she wasn't even sure if anyone else would have told him given everything that had been going on for Syd. She let out a deep sigh. "I worry I'm going to lose sight of who I am, Syd. Two days ago, I killed a man. He was going to kill me, so I had no choice," she was quick to add. She wasn't sure if news of what she had done had spread beyond the older generation of their family - their parents, aunts and uncles. "I took another person's life and I haven't even been punished for it. I once got yelled at and sent to my room for saying "fuck off". But, I killed someone and nobody was even angry with me. Don't get me wrong, I don't want to go to jail or have those thugs get revenge on me, but... I have to pay somehow and I worry my punishment will be having it eat away at me from the inside," she admitted. "I know it's only been two days, but I don't know how to overcome what I've done."
When the name 'Danny' jumped out at him, Syd realised he hadn’t given a single thought towards his employee in several weeks. Adam had taken over that side of the business on his behalf during his extended recovery period and so none of the responsibility had fallen on Syd for a while. Catching her eye, Syd’s gaze hardened slightly as he wondered it was the same Danny that Savannah spoke of. The defensive part of him felt compelled to ask her, concerned about her getting mixed up with a drug dealer - but given the weight of the conversation, he decided to let it rest for now and let her get her problems off her chest.
As soon as Savannah confessed what she had done, the cupcakes that Sinead and Lucy had made suddenly seemed inappropriately cute and despite how delicious it was, Syd felt silly for eating one during such a dark conversation. He had heard on the grapevine that Savannah had suffered a traumatic day, but it had been overshadowed in the Porter house by Warren’s death, the restructuring of the mob and Roxie’s recovery. From the moment she had stepped through the front door to visit Roxie, the unmissable darkness in her eyes brought it back to the front of his mind.
Although he hadn’t given much thought as to what might have happened, nothing could have surprised him more than to hear she had killed someone. Syd set the remainder of his cupcake down on the armrest beside him and closed his eyes, letting the dismal news sink in. The vivid imagery of the murders he had committed were still so fresh on his mind that they were the first thing he pictured. He dragged a hand across his face before looking to her once again. He had invited her to share what was troubling her and even though discussing murder was a conversation he had never thought he would ever have with her, he was determined to push through it.
“Sav…I want you to listen to me, okay?” Although they were alone in the room, Syd kept his voice low when he spoke. His heart was already beginning to pound in his chest as her doubts and fears brought his own to the surface. But even though he hadn’t overcome his own trauma, the fact that he had made his first kill on the same day that she had meant that he was especially eager to help her. Perhaps focusing on her situation would help him to view his own from another perspective. Leaning into the space between them, Syd reached for his cousin’s hand and his eyes demanded that she looked at him.
“This lifestyle of ours,” he began. “This world you and I are in, it doesn’t run by the same rules as the rest of society. I mean, it can’t. They say murder is wrong, violence is wrong, but sometimes...we don’t really have a choice. When you’re put in a position like that against your will, your options are very limited, everything becomes morally grey. You’ve gotta remember that if we wanna survive out here, protect ourselves and the people we love, we can’t live by the laws that other people live by. We have to live by our own. You understand what that means?” Syd looked deep into her eyes, hoping he was getting through to her. “It means you don’t have to pay for what you did with a lifetime of guilt. You don’t owe him any guilt. It’s easy to get tangled up in this idea of what’s good and what’s bad, but at the end of the day it all just depends on who you ask. What really matters is whether you did the right or the wrong thing. Do you think it would’ve been better if you’d let him kill you?”
Still keeping her hand in his, Syd turned to rest his back against the sofa and let his gaze fall somewhere beyond the window. He fell silent as he tried to comprehend the fact that Savannah had killed someone. When he let his own memories of that night return to him, he tried to see if what he had told Savannah would fit his situation, too. Of course, he didn’t believe it entirely - there was always a choice in any situation. His had been killed or be killed. Kill or have to scrape what was left of his dead comrades up off the dirty ground. Kill or never see Roxie again, never meet his children, and watch his whole future drain away faster than the blood that poured from her fatal wound.
Syd closed his eyes for a brief moment just to reset his troubled mind. He meant to look back at Savannah when he opened them, but they were already settled on the window ahead. When he spoke again, his voice was as distant as his gaze. “Maybe he had a family, I don’t know,” he quietly mused. “But anyone who mourns the shithead that tried to kill a girl as sweet as you deserves the pain of grief. And if they’re grieving for any ounce of goodness they remember him for, they should have started grieving a long time ago. Because no one that wants to kill my cousin is a good person.” Syd’s grip tightened on her hand and he finally turned his head to look at her, offering her a faint smile.
Despite the lack of faltering in his words, he had to wonder whether he was really qualified to be guiding her through her trauma. After all, she knew as well as most that Syd had always struggled to overcome his own. He wished he could present to her a healthy solution, but the truth was, he had never found one. If it hadn’t been for all the people that had interrupted his suicide attempts or found him moments before he lost his last chance to survive, for all the counselling and medical treatment, for all the extreme measures his family had had to take to protect him from himself, Syd wouldn’t even be alive. He had never managed to overcome anything alone and he knew no counsellor would be able to help her. The very idea of ever opening up to anyone outside of the family again made him sick to his stomach.
As much as he wanted to be strong and positive for her, his own experiences with murder were still far too raw to hide his emotions and his eyes sagged from the weight of trying to hold back tears. “You didn’t have a choice,” he whispered, shaking his head as he squeezed her hand even tighter. At that point he wasn’t sure if he was talking to her or to himself. “You didn’t have a choice. You’ve just gotta remind yourself of that. You didn’t owe him shite. You did the right thing. You -” The gunfire in his head got increasingly rapid as it replayed over and over. His breathing got faster and he squeezed his eyes shut before suddenly launching himself at Savannah and wrapping his arms tightly around her. He bit down on his lip hard, holding his breath in an attempt to slow it down - or at least suppress his panic. Holding her close reinforced his affirming words and reminded him that they had won and that everyone was safe. “I’m glad you made it home,” he exhaled, stroking her hair as he held her. “Took a lot of strength to do what you did. Your dad trained you well.”
Eventually, Syd pulled back and looked down to their hands. “Problem is,” he went on. “You can train someone to use a gun, but...I don’t think there’s a way to prepare someone for murder.” As much as he longed to open up to her, he thought it best not to voice his own feelings about what he had done in too much detail in case it made her feel worse. “I...I killed Roxie’s dad.” His brows knitted together, the disbelief as plain in his expression as it was in his voice. The words tasted bitter on his tongue. It was the first time he had said it aloud since his emotional outburst at the hospital with Jackson. “I-I’m always gonna h...have to live with that.”
After a few more seconds had passed, Syd raised his head to meet his cousin’s eye. His mouth moved to make what could have become a smile, were he not so worn down by his inner conflict. “We do have a lot of shite in common, don’t we?”
When Syd took hold of her hand, Savannah looked to him through her large, glistening eyes. She nervously chewed her bottom lip as he addressed her about the lifestyle their family led. She understand that the nature of the business meant they did have to live by their own rules, but she found it difficult at times as it wasn't the way of life she'd planned for herself. The family business was never meant to be her life but by now it had become evident that there was no way it could be avoided and she couldn't escape it. She slowly nodded her head when he mentioned things being morally grey. She knew after what she'd done, she was no longer innocent of her family's crimes, that she was now in the same grey area as everyone else she loved. "I understand. It just feels like I've failed after I tried so hard to prove it was possible to be different. To do my parents proud by having a successful career."
Savannah quickly shook her head when asked if it would have been better if she'd let the awful man kill her. "No, that wouldn't have been better. I just wish there had been another way. Something my conscience could handle much easier..."
As Syd gazed to the window, Savannah lowered her eyes and let out a soft sigh. When Syd pondered whether her victim had a family, Savannah took in a deep gasp, almost choking up at the thought. What if he'd had children? But then Syd went on and made her realise a man as repulsive as he had been was probably better off out of some poor child's life. She looked to Syd and managed a weak smile as he tightened his grip on her hand and said the man had to be a bad person for wanting to hurt her. "He really was horrible, I won't deny it. He had these rotten yellow teeth that were just as unpleasant as his soul..." she recalled the twisted smile of the man she had gone on to shoot dead. "He had this one gold tooth that had no place in his filthy mouth." She visibly shuddered at the thought of it before tightly closing her eyes to try make the memory go away.
As Syd reassured her she had no choice and owed the man nothing, she quickly nodded her head, despite wishing she could convince herself that was the case. She noticed Syd becoming anxious and suddenly worried she was being too heavy for him so soon after his release from the hospital. "I'm sorry, we should talk about something..." she trailed off, falling silent as her cousin wrapped his arms around her and held her close. After momentarily freezing in surprise, she returned the embrace and took comfort from him. "I'm glad I'm home too. I couldn't leave you all like that," she said as tears streamed down her cheeks.
When they both pulled away from the hug, she slowly nodded her head as she agreed nobody could have prepared her for how it would feel after killing someone. Suddenly, Syd told her he'd killed Roxie's father, causing Savannah to freeze as her jaw dropped slightly. It was more the person he'd killed than the action of killing that had caught her off-guard. "Oh, Syd. I'm so sorry..." she began. She pulled him in for another tight hug before pulling back to continue. "Does she know? I mean, she's here with you now, so she's okay with out, yes? I... I know it was her dad who kidnapped her, but I didn't know that you'd killed him. From what I understand, he was a bad man too," she said, her voice now lowered. "I know you and you wouldn't have killed him if you didn't have to. He hurt his own daughter," she reasoned.
She nodded in agreement when Syd told her they had a lot of things in common. "I suppose we'll have to support each other through this, okay?" she suggested. It was clearly an uncomfortable and raw subject for Syd. She didn't want to burden him with her darkness when he was struggling through his own. She tried to think of a way to change the subject and somehow boost their spirits. "You know. Everyone's been really sweet and forgiving towards me, even after learning that I killed that man. Danny has been really sweet and supportive," she said, looking Syd in the eyes to gauge his reaction. "Do you know about Danny and me? We've been dating for a little while now and he's really sweet. He's been there for me a lot lately and he doesn't judge me or our family..." she trailed off. She managed a small smile. "I think he misses having you at the club, especially now he's got Adam breathing down his neck."
Though determined to be strong for his cousin, being strong from himself was a different matter entirely. His love for Savannah made it easy to do his best to steer her towards a less damaging perspective of her situation, but when it came to his own it was much harder not to dwell in the complexity of it. She pulled him in for a tight hug and while he managed to keep his composure steady, he couldn’t keep a stray tear from rolling down his cheek.
“She does know, yeah,” he whispered. “But we don’t talk about it.” Syd looked down to his lap while she helped to justify his actions, before lifting his head and clearing his throat. “I’m sure Roxie is a better judge of that,” he replied, when Savannah suggested that Stefano was a bad person. “But if you’re asking me...anyone who poses a threat to her and my babies deserves to rot. And he shot her, so…” He shrugged and shook his head. “I had to do it. It was instinct.” Looking to his cousin with a faint smile, he quietly thanked her for being on his side.
Sensing the uncomfortably heavy atmosphere, Savannah shone a positive light onto their problems by suggesting that they support each other through it. “‘Course we will,” he smiled, reaching to cup her face and wipe away her tears. “And Sav, you know...your parents are proud of you. We all are. And we’re gonna make sure you won’t see any pigs or any more gold-toothed wankstains, alright? You’ve got a whole mob standing between you and them. Go and focus on your career - you’re a shining star in this family, and we need more positivity around here.” Syd gave her an encouraging smile and squeezed her hand - but when she mentioned Danny’s name, he released her and drew his hands into his own lap.
Ever since he had caught Danny dealing drugs to his Aunt Gwen, Syd had wanted to keep a close eye on the young man. He demanded detailed reports from him of who his customers were, how much he sold to them and where they met, and then measured them against the profits. There was no definite answer as to how long it would be before Danny would gain his trust, but as long as he remained employed he didn’t complain.
Softened by the previous conversation, Syd was able to keep his initial reaction contained within him, and only gave Savannah a questioning look. “So you do mean Danny Vaughan, then,” he quietly clarified, raking a hand through his hair. Hearing that Adam had been giving the young man a hard time made him chuckle. “He misses me, does he? I must be getting soft on him.” The room fell silent as Syd rested his elbows on his knees and gazed ahead. He was pondering the compatibility between his employee and his cousin, trying to imagine what they would look like together. In all honesty, he didn’t really know what Danny was like; his candid way with words and amiable demeanour gave Syd the impression that he was himself all time, but being friendly with him was something he had never managed to do, so the two had never talked about anything that didn’t directly relate to business.
With a sigh, Syd sat back again and looked to his cousin. “I guess I can see why you like him. Most people do. He’s charismatic and friendly, good with people - it’s what makes him good at his job. I want you to be happy, Sav, and if he makes you happy, then that’s fine. Just, you know...be careful. I keep a close eye on that kid for a reason. He doesn’t come from a reliable background - before I took him in, he was working for the same gang that your kidnappers worked for. He claims he never met his superiors but the fact that a bigger salary was enough to get him to switch to our side doesn’t say a lot for his loyalty. I don’t want anyone else sharing confidential information about us or what we do. Ever. So if you’re falling for this guy, Savvy, make sure he’s on the same page. I don’t want to have to say it, but if he ever betrays you...that’s the end for him.” Syd chewed on his lip for a moment. He felt somewhat guilty for having reservations about their relationship given how grateful she seemed to be for Danny’s company, but he couldn’t help it. Savannah, as well as himself and the rest of the family, had been through far too much to simply let in any more risks. As he considered their relationship further, one more issue popped up in his mind that put a subtle frown on his face. “He hasn’t given you any drugs, has he?” he asked, trying to keep his tone free of judgement. “‘Cause I swear to Christ, if he gets you hooked on anything, no one will ever see him again.”
Hearing Syd ask for confirmation it was Danny Vaughan she was dating, Savannah lightly nodded, though her mentioning of Adam's involvement was confirmation enough. She laughed at Syd's comment about Danny missing him, but then a short silence followed. Savannah awkwardly looked around the room, sensing there was some kind of tension, that her cousin perhaps didn't approve of her dating Danny.
Syd soon broke through the atmosphere and spoke of how Danny was a likeable person. She smiled apprehensively when Syd said he wanted her to be happy. She was expecting a "but" to follow, though instead it was more of a warning to be careful. With it came the justification that Danny didn't have a clean background nor did he have a track record of loyalty. "I am falling for him and I'm certain he cares about me too. I tell him about how good and sweet my family is, but I don't tell him about the business. I don't give him family secrets or stories of our family's crimes, if that's what you're worried about," she firmly assured him. "I don't believe he wants to hurt me. I believe he's genuine with me. In return, I can be myself with him. I don't have to put on an act that I'm some confident, adventurous, perfect person. I can just be me."
Syd asked her if Danny had given her drugs, which caught her by a surprise that she wasn't quick enough to mask from her face. Her cheeks reddened as she felt like she'd been caught out doing something she wasn't allowed to. She slowly nodded her head before looking her cousin in the eyes. She knew her initial reaction had been too obvious to allow her to try lying now and risk making things seem worse than she believed they were. "We once shared a joint," she admitted. "After I was kidnapped from the theatre, I was a wreck. My body still ached from being thrown about and my head was a mess. I was constantly on edge; it felt like everyone was watching me, either will ill-intent or simply to judge me. But you know what? Despite having a sheltered upbringing, I knew exactly what I was doing when I accepted Danny's offer. There was no pressure or persuasion. I smoked those drugs because I wanted to. You can't blame him for that and I won't be happy if you scare him away, Syd. I've already asked my parents and I ask you too... please, let me try doing this my way. I need you to trust my judgement on this and that if I do have any concerns about Danny, I won't ignore them."
There hadn’t been many conversations between Syd and Savannah that even came close to being as dark as swapping confessions of murder. Yet, Syd’s indirect threats towards Danny had managed to make the atmosphere even heavier. His cousin was serious about defending him. Hearing her speak about her relationship with such confidence made him see just how grown up she was and wondered if his caring for her had prevented him from viewing her as an independent adult. As much as he wanted to protect her from all the risks that came with their dangerous lifestyle, he had to admit that some risks were simply universal, like experimenting with drugs or giving one’s heart to somebody else.
Still, he couldn’t hide his concern when she nodded her head. Syd knew exactly the kind of drugs that Danny distributed because he was the one who supplied him with them, and the thought of Savannah taking them was frankly horrifying to him. When she clarified that it had just been a joint that she had shared, he found himself relaxing slightly, and softened further when given her reason for smoking. The kidnapping was a terrifying thing to have happened and he remembered how traumatic it had been for her. Like her, it was stress and trauma that had driven him to start smoking cigarettes back when he was 18 and his addiction had only worsened over time. Her choice of drug may have been mind-altering, but it didn’t seem to have done any damage or pulled her into dependency.
Realising he had been somewhat hypocritical, Syd gave a sigh before sending her an apologetic smile. “I’m sorry, Sav,” he said, reaching out to cup her face. “I do trust you. You’re a sensible, smart person, you don’t need me telling you to be careful. Hell, it’s pretty rich coming from me, anyway. Can’t trust my own judgement half the time - not to mention all these cigs I get through, or 'cancer sticks' as my mam calls them.” Syd reached around to pick up the remains of his cupcake and began peeling back the paper case. “None of this shite that happens to you is your fault, I know that for a fact. You’re mature and strong and can clearly look after yourself, you’re not just some naive kid...I just care about you a lot and I can’t help feeling protective. But if it means you’ll be comfortable talking to me if things go wrong, I promise I’ll let you do things your own way.” After giving her arm a quick squeeze, Syd bit into the cupcake, causing crumbs to scatter across the sofa cushions. "I love you, Sav," he spoke through a mouthful of sparkly icing. "Now come on, you've gotta taste one of these things!"
~ Monday 31st January 1972 ~
~ Battery Park Docks, Lower Manhattan ~
The night time air was cold with a frost already threatening to set in enough to coat the ground in a thin white dust in time the following winter's morning. The city was bright and the full moon only served to lighten up the sky further. Across the water and in the distance, the Statue of Liberty was visible. A monument Gabriel could never grown tired of looking upon. From his seat in the passenger side of his vehicle, he was passing the time doing exactly that. He'd made a point of arriving in advance of the planned meeting time, as he often did to ensure he didn't walk into any surprises. Sacrificing some of his valuable time was preferable to falling into any traps or risking his own safety. Beside him was his trusted driver, and standing outside, alongside the vehicle, were two of Gabriel's bodyguards. Two more were positioned atop of nearby storage containers with a suitable vantage point. It wasn't that Gabriel didn't trust David Johnson. Not specifically. He simply didn't trust anyone and even if the man he was meeting was genuine, there was always a chance someone hostile could follow him.
When David did arrive with a couple of his own men, Gabriel's two bodyguards standing outside approached him to check everything was in order. Once sure, one of the bodyguards opened the passenger door for his boss. Gabriel stepped out of the vehicle and stood tall, straightening his coat out as his shadow reflected across the rippling water. The cold snap in the air was felt, but Gabriel quite liked the chilly winter, especially when compared to the warmer climate in Miami. With a gloved hand, he reached out to shake David's before motioning to an area where they'd be concealed by one of the metal storage containers. He signalled for his men and David's to drop back so the two of them could talk in private.
"Mr. Johnson. I trust you had a pleasant Christmas and New Year," he asked, offering a pleasantry before they jumped straight into business. "It proved quite productive for me," he remarked, flashing a smirk. He reached into the front pocket of his coat and retrieved two cigars. "Smoke?" he offered him one. Regardless, he proceeded to light up his own cigar and after a long drag, he blew out a mouthful of smoke that was visible in contrast to the cold air outside. "Our shared ally spoke highly of you" he began, making reference to Tony. "But I find it's often wise to cut out the middleman and get straight to the point. What can you offer me, Mr. Johnson?" he asked, taking a moment to look the man over.
~ Monday 31st January 1972 ~
~ Battery Park Docks, Lower Manhattan ~
It was cold, almost bitterly so. Down here on the docks there as little in the way of cover, and the cold easterly wind blew unabashed along the open expanse. The motor launch powered it's way towards the docks, it wasn't particularly large, enough for a crew of 5 at a push, but today there were only 3 occupants aboard. David sat in the cabin , a newspaper clamped in his hands, reading it by the small electric light above his head, gently swaying. His black coat was pulled tightly around his thin frame, a white collar and fire red tie visible at his neck. Despite the cold he didn't shiver or complain. He'd experienced worse, and the chances are he would go onto experience worse again. This wasn't a social call or a conjugal visit, this was strictly business, and the weather would not dampen his spirits or demeanour, no matter how foul.
There was a brief rap on the door, the noise echoing about the cabin, and a heartbeat later one of his bodyguards appeared, similarly attired, the only main difference was the MP5 slung rather conspicuously over this shoulder. It was a private berth, and furthermore enough money had exchanged hands that there was no question of them being disturbed by some nosy dockworker. As such the firearms wouldn't be seen, and if they were it was by more than just his expected guests or an unknowing third party.
"Our man watching the gate has eyeballed Moretti. He's already got a couple of his men stationed in the dock. He reckons about 5 in total,"
David simply nodded, and folded his newspaper, his fingers running along the bend and setting the crease. Flipping open the briefcase that was set on the table before him, he slid it in before closing it once more. Arising from his seat he stepped out from the relative shelter of the cabin. He straightened his tie and collar. After a few moments a car could be spotted pulling into the docks ahead. They still had their man on the gate making sure there was no surprise coming their way. Not that he was expecting any, Moretti was a genuine customer and he would be a fool to try anything at this stage of the deal before anything had exchanged hands, and once again enough palms had been greased to prevent most unexpected eventualities. But he hadn't survived this long in the business by being lackadaisical. Better safe than sorry. The boat slowly pulled up to the shore, the bodyguard leaping onto the dock and tying the vessel into place. David stepped onto the dock, his polished leather shoes glinting under the artificial lighting. Whilst his bodyguard accompanied him the driver of the boat remained aboard, there was no need for a show of force.
And there was the man himself, Gabriel Moretti, the man who had brought war to the Big Apple. The man who there was a very good chance, was going to make him a whole lot of money one way or another. He extended his own uncovered hand, shaking Gabriel's own, matching but not exceeding the grip exerted.
"A very fine Christmas indeed, far too much food and booze and far too much time with the family. I trust yours was equally successfull?"
His thick Glaswegian accent was the sort of thing you could wrap yourself in to keep warm. He flicked his free right hand towards his own man as he followed Gabriel. He'd done his part and got him safely ashore, wasn't much need for him otherwise. He raised a hand at Gabriel's offer of a cigar, instead reaching inside his pocket and flipping open a cigarette tin, selecting one and clamping it in his mouth,
"Too rich for me I'm afraid. I got hooked on these bloody South African things a few years back. The filter is made out of something like wet paper and it tastes like the arse end of a van, but it gets the job done," He drew a match across one of the containers, taking a deep drag of the cigarette, acrid smoke drifting from the end of it as the warmth filled his lungs. "My sort of man Mr Moretti, remove the middleman completely, saves time, confusion and a whole lot of commission,"
He leaned back against one of the containers, propping the briefcase down next to him as he sucked at the cigarette once more.
"What can I offer you... A very good question Mr Moretti. If you're looking at a little gang war, then I'll offer you the same old peashooters that you can pick up from any corner, sort of thing that'll do the trick if you're trying to stick up some old dear for her weekly pension packet or shake down the local offie. However the way I understand it you're not just here to smash a couple of windows are you. You're here to take back what some say is rightly yours. Either way I don't give a flying fuck you understand, I deal in absolutes, politics is all 'I said, he said, they said'. I don't care why you're doing what you're doing, I'm just happy to set you up with the resources you're going to require. And from what I've been hearing, peashooters aren't going to be doing the trick. What I'm offering is fire and brimstone. Weapons Grade, Government certified, Fire and Brimstone."
~ Monday 31st January 1972 ~
~ Battery Park Docks, Lower Manhattan ~
"Frankly, I can take or leave Christmas. However, it serves as a reasonable excuse to have the family together and to treat them. As far as that goes, I'd say it was a complete success," Gabriel explained. In honesty, he enjoyed spending some time with what was left of his family. It was more that Christmas made such an affair come across as more forced. Gabriel liked to arrange and control meetings, but Christmas was a date in the calendar he had no control over!
When David declined the cigar, Gabriel placed the one he'd offered him back into his own pocket. He took another long drag from his own cigar as the arms dealer explained his preference for the South African cigarettes. Gabriel clamped his thumb and index fingers onto the cigar to remove it from his mouth, blowing out a puff of smoke to the side. "Ah, we all have our vices," he reasoned.
Enough pleasantries had been exchanged and both were keen to discuss the business at hand. "You are quite right. I can get my hands on peashooters from dozens of places around the city with little effort or cost." David made it clear he didn't wish to know the details of Gabriel's plans or the reasons for his war. Gabriel was pleased with that, as such information was only divulged on a need to know basis, and he didn't believed many people at all needed to know. All David needed to know was what Gabriel wanted from him and if he'd agree to the price tag.
"How long have you been in the States and away from Scotland?" Gabriel asked, picking up on David's obvious Scottish accent. "Across the water from here is Liberty Island," Gabriel said, pointing towards the Statue of Liberty in the distance. "Four years ago, I stood here with my brother and some of our associates. It was the 4th of July and they put on quite the show over on the island. The fireworks were spectacular - the greatest I've seen, so far. I'm told they get better every year. Bigger and louder. The sky lighting up along with those thunderous claps." Gabriel looked back to David. "Fire and brimstone is what I want. Enough firepower to make the Independence Day fireworks seem like insignificant little crackles."
~ Monday 31st January 1972 ~
~ Battery Park Docks, Lower Manhattan ~
The smoke curled lazily from the end of David's cigarette. It was truly foul stuff, burning the lining of hiss nostrils and throat. It would probably be the death of him in the end, if the new medical research was anything to go by. Worst ways to go though, he could confirm that first hand.
"Aye, and we all need them. Can never trust a man without vice. Just means he's trying to hard to hide something far worse than a propensity for women, booze or narcotics."
He eased himself down onto one of the nondescript boxes within the container as Moretti spoke. His left hand resting on his suit clad knee, and the burning cigarette clenched in his right.
"Oh I've been here a while now. Aside from the Christmas trip back I havent been there properly for the best part of a year. Never hear the end of it from the wife, but that would mean handing over the reigns for a length of time. I've still got the energy and the will, and if I hand them over, chances are they'll seep away from home comfort and rest. And I'm not ready to hang up my hat and spend my last days growing old on a golf course somewhere,"
David nodded sagely as Moretti told his tale. Americans and their Fourth of July. That weird fascination... no obsession with Freedom. But not just any freedom, but the kind that was attained and established through the barrel of a gun. The very connection between the two was born into them, it's what made them such great customers. A financial first world nation, with the propensity for violence of a tinpot third world Republic, a match made in heaven.
"Well that myself and Clyde Exports can most certainly achieve for you Mr Moretti. I have a small selection coming ashore from the boat, my boys should have unloaded it by now. A chance to peruse the catalogue,"
David stepped out of the doorway and made his way towards the dock. As promised a number of wooden crates had been hefted onto the dock, their tops already removed. Within the straw filled contents lay the merchandise itself. The tools of feats and destruction that kept David and his family in a rather comfortable lifestyle. American most of it. That was the thing, their military so loved sending out hardware to anyone with the most modest dislike of the Reds. Only problem was when the fight was done they were happy to spin them for a profit; or even before the fighting had begun. That's where he came in, effrctively taking guns from the government and giving them back to someone of their less discerning citizens.
David walked along the boxes, his hand trailing over them in turn.
"M16s, your workhorse. Reliable, and with enough stopping power to get your boys out of most situations. We're looking at $850 a pop, that includes 3 mags per unit and 200 rounds of ammunition. Unused and still in the same boxes Uncle Sam shipped them off in,"
He moved over to the next box.
"M60 belt fed general purpose machine-gun. This alone and you're bringing a gun to a knife fight. Brick, wood, metal, fuckijg concrete, doesn't matter, this will go through it like a knife through butter. $1,800 and 600 rounds, became full though, she's a thirsty beastie and will go through them like they're going out of fashion,"
David quickly moved past the next boxes, hand guns, fragmentation grenades and a couple of German built submachine guns, pretty standard affairs for most of them, what you see is what you got. It was the last box that was the game changer.
"Now funny that you mentioned fireworks Mr Moretti, right here I have your firework,"
Reaching into the box David removed a squat metal tube, just under a metre in length, he hefted it up onto his shoulder.
"Let me introduce you to the M72 Law, Uncle Sam's answer to removing any armoured threat or obliterating anything unarmoured. Youre looking at a 66mm solid fuel warhead, point the barrel of anything vaguely offensive and I I promise that it'll be gone. These are top of the line stuff. Short of walking into the Pentagon and trying to buy a pair, you're not getting them anywhere else. These are one shot, you pull the trigger and then I advise you melt down the tube, if the feds find you with these you're going yo have more than the NYPD breathing down your back. $3,000 a shot with these. Now that's pricey aye, but like I said you wanted fireworks,"
David dropped the tube back into the box, and took a step back, the cigarette still clamped in his mouth but now burnt down to near the butt.
"So what'll it be. Shipping will take a week, I'll let your boys know the details of the drop, cash on delivery and prices are final as I'm sure you well know. Give them a handle and a feel, they're racked up with blanks so they're combat weight,"
~ Monday 31st January 1972 ~
~ Battery Park Docks, Lower Manhattan ~
Gabriel nodded his head when David spoke of not wanting to hand over the reigns for too long. It had been a long path for Gabriel, with even his childhood back in Sicily all preparing and leading him to where he was and who he was in the present. He was still physically strong and fit, which had been the case when he fought in WWII, as well as two decades ago when his father had first sent him to Miami to run the business ventures based there. But it wasn't until now that Gabriel believed he was at peak performance. Though never losing his family at all would have been preferable, he had to admit that after overcoming his grief, he'd become mentally and emotionally stronger. Gabriel believed he had now entered his prime, so every opportunity to achieve his greatest aspiration of controlling New York City was to be taken. "Don't take your eye off the ball, Mr. Johnson. You should only rest when you are tired, and even then, consider if you've pushed yourself hard enough."
When David explained a small selection of weapons should have been unloaded onto the docks, Gabriel took a finally long drag from his cigar. He blew out the smoke to reveal a crooked smile on his face as he nodded along. Just as naturally as the cigar smoke had dissipated, so did the Italian's grin, his face returning to its usual stern state. Following David towards the dock, Gabriel flicked what was left of the cigar onto the ground. The city was no doubt going to get messier if he was going to rip it from the Irish, so he'd concern himself with cleaning up afterwards.
Gabriel noticed one of his bodyguards following them, but too closely for his liking. After motioning for the dutiful man to drop back and maintain more distance, the Italian focused back on David, walking with him alongside the opened boxes. His eyes scanned over the rifles. Nothing massively extravagant to the Italian but crucial and hard-hitting, nonetheless. He knew better than to shrug them off as they were an important part of his arsenal in the likely war that was looming. The Italian's eyes subtly lit up as he moved on to the machine guns and David detailed their capabilities.
Gabriel glanced over the other boxes as they moved passed them; weapons that played their part and wouldn't be overlooked, but were nothing new or game-changing to soldiers on both the Italian and the Irish sides. It was clear he was being led to one box in particular and the Scotsman soon introduced it as the fireworks Gabriel had spoke of desiring. The Italian clasped his hands together behind his back as he watched the arms dealer remove the metal tube from its box and rest it on his shoulder. Truly a magnificent weapon of war, which in a way left Gabriel envious as he knew in reality he wouldn't be the one to fire it even if it was to become his possession. "I'm sure I can think of few targets worthy of obliteration," he commented, in a somehow casual tone of voice. He nodded his head when David gave him the price. This wasn't the time nor place for bartering and money wasn't an issue when it came to securing triumph over the city.
David put the M72 LAW away, then explained the shipping time and details of the arrangement. Gabriel meanwhile traced his gloved hand over the anti-tank weapon, nodding to himself in approval. He then retraced his steps along the other boxes. He took the M60 machine gun from inside its box and held it up in position, as if ready to aim and fire. After feeling the weight for himself, he lowered the weapon, freeing up one hand so he could beckon his bodyguard towards him. When the man reached them, Gabriel presented him with the machine gun, aware it was loaded with blanks. "How does that feel, Alonso?" he asked his employee. After trying it out for a moment, Alonso handed the weapon back to Gabriel and nodded his head in approval.
After dismissing the guard back to his position, Gabriel turned to David. "I'll have one of my men confirm the numbers with you within 24 hours," he confirmed, placing the gun back in its place as he spoke. "I'll be putting on my own fireworks display in no time," he assured the man. As he outstretched his arm to shake David's hand once more, his eyes fixed on the end box in particular, making it clear the M72 LAWs were going to be on that order."
Wednesday 15th September 1971
Marriage Counselling W/ Lousie Summers
In all honesty, Ali was looking forward to seeing the marriage counselor with Conor. Their relationship had always been rocky, a roller-coaster with many ups and downs and it was something she was used to. But, maybe that wasn't a good thing. While their relationship didn't have to be stagnant it didn't have to be crazy. Somewhere inside, she really wanted stability in their marriage. Of course, that wasn't
something that was just going to happen considering everything they had been through. From Alex's return, to Ali's own relationship with Tommy, to Conor ending up in prison and Aliana distancing herself from him. There were a lot of things unsaid to Conor that she wish she had said, a lot of things that she had never gotten over that she wish she had. All of it, she thought, was to blame on her now failing marriage with the person she wanted to spend her life with... So she thought. Recently she had doubts that they were supposed to be together, considering every time they were in the same room they were arguing or disagreeing about something. But, then again, that was what this counseling session was supposed to be right? She didn't want to give up on them because of how much they had been through together but she was struggling with the motivation to keep fighting. So when the suggestion of seeing a counselor together was brought up, she was all for it.
It had been an early appointment, around 9 so they could enjoy the rest of their day either together or separately. Wanting to keep their business private, Ali find a counselor that was in a different building from Maddox. Sure, Conor was probably going to tell him all about this but still Ali would like to keep her portion of it to herself, her husband, and their counselor. The morning of, she was all jitters and nerves as she was dropped off in front of the big, brownstone building. The two of them had agreed Conor would move back in the house and while things had been tolerable, she knew it could be better. She had some things of her own she needed to do that morning, so they’d had to come separately. Sitting in the lobby, she kept fiddling with her blue blouse as she waited for her husband to arrive. She played with the ring she had bought a chain for and placed it around her neck; a nervous habit she had started doing once the necklace was created. The bracelet Tommy gave her rested on her right wrist while the ones from Leo's rested on her left. The three things she held dearest to her heart given to her by the three people who meant the world to her. The receptionist offered her a selection of drinks to which Ali replied, "You don't have any whiskey?"
~ Wednesday 15th September 1971 ~
~ Marriage Counselling ~
It had been a few days since he moved back in with Aliana and things felt like they were going well, but Conor wasn't looking forward to seeing the marriage counsellor. Since leaving prison he'd been trying hard to stay out of trouble and to control his drinking, not to mention he'd been doing everything he could to prove to his wife and son that he wasn't going to let them down again. Regardless, he was concerned the counselling session would turn into some kind of slanging match, with his many flaws being publicly aired and him blamed for everything. He had to remind himself that the sessions were intended to help his marriage rather than pull it apart, especially as he was so used to having to defend himself. If Maddox and Mitch had taught him one thing, it was that he couldn't judge all counsellors and lawyers based on the snakes he'd met in the past. Both men were decent guys and ones Conor considered friends now he'd got to know them, and since they'd help him get his parole approved. Though he'd spent some time talking to Maddox about how Tommy's memory at times caused barriers, Conor expected his old friend would come up again in the marriage counselling sessions. He wasn't looking forward to that.
Aliana had left the house earlier in the morning, so Conor relaxed at home until it was time to leave for the appointment. When he entered the strange, new building, he couldn't help but wish he was at Midtown Medical Center and he was going to be greeted by Maddox. Instead, he knew he would have to start all over again with trusting and respecting a new counsellor. Conor stepped into the reception and saw Aliana speaking with the receptionist who had offered her a drink. He asked for a coffee before taking a seat next to his wife and placing a kiss on her cheek. "Have you been here long?" he quietly asked, conscious of disrupting the silence of the waiting room.
Soon enough, the nearby door was pulled open and a female counsellor called out their names. Conor let out a quiet groan and subtly shook his head, though his face remained neutral. "I don't stand a chance against two women," he drily muttered to Aliana. "Everything's bound to be the bloke's fault, ain't it?" he quietly joked to his wife. By the time he reached the counsellor, Conor had his usual cheerful smile on his face. He outstretched his arm to shake the counsellor's hand and introduce himself.
The receptionist had given Aliana a blinking stare as she reached for a water bottle, shaking her head. Obviously she didn't find her joke funny, probably because the office was also known to treat alcoholics. It wasn't until the receptionist told her so that she turned pale and placed her hand over her chest. "...I am so sorry." Oddly enough the married woman had smelled her husband before seeing him in full sight. A small smile crept on her lips once their eyes had connected but before she could speak the receptionist did instead. "Coffee it is, Mr. Sullivan." Ali raised an eyebrow at Conor before suppressing a laugh until the receptionist got him his coffee. "I'll go tell Louise the both of you have arrived." Watching as she disappeared down the hall, she turned to Conor and shook her head in response to his question. "No no. Well, long enough to get the receptionist to hate me. She just LOVES you though because she did not talk to me like that." Placing her hand on his knee, she fixed a piece of his hair that had fallen out of place.
Dr. Louise Summers
Before Ali got a chance to say anything more, Louise walked from behind a door and began to walk towards them. Ali slightly elbowed her husband for her comment and spoke behind a smile, "Behave." Once the older woman reached the younger couple she gave them a wide smile before excitedly shaking their hands. "Oh you must be the Sullivans! Aliana and Conor, right?" Ali nodded her head after shaking her hand, Louise taking notice of the bracelets. "Oh how pretty and... Interesting." Looking back at the two of them, she clapped her hands together and motioned them to follow her. Ali led Conor behind the woman while passing by several other doors, no doubt holding other psychologists and those with issues.
Once they reached her office, Ali was taken aback by the bright room housing natural light. The view outside of the window was amazing, trees and pristine buildings prominent. Louise had been glad to get first dibs on the office space, since she had so many plants that needed light. To make it even better, the walls had already had neutral colors and the hardwood floor contrasted to create the safe, calming space she wanted. She offered her clients a seat on the soft, white couch before sitting in a matching chair across from then. Louise preferred to take her notes in a padfolio, the ink on paper feeling natural for her. Setting in on her lap, she smiled again and put on her reading glasses. "Well, let me introduce myself. My name is Louise Summers and my job is to help you guys get over whatever obstacles you think you may have going on in your marriage. Whether you just need help getting over bumps or you just want to make sure your relationship is where it's supposed to be, that's what I'm here for. Nothing is off limits, you say how you feel and I will do my best to get you two back to feeling confident about your marriage. I work for you, so let's get started. Why are we here today?"
~ Wednesday 15th September 1971 ~
~ Marriage Counselling ~
Conor shook Dr. Summers' hand and sent her one of his usual friendly smiles. "Aye, I'm Conor, and she's Aliana," he joked, gesturing as appropriate. He thought he'd find it easy entering the office as it wasn't his first time seeing some kind of counsellor, considering his sessions with Dr. Parker. Still, this was for different reasons and he didn't know if the woman would prove to be as friendly as Maddox was once things got started. Upon entering the room, he looked around, finding something familiar about the calming space that was presented for the counsellor's clients. He figured it must be a standard kind of setup to ease the clients in gently.
Conor sat on the couch beside Aliana, briefly squeezing his wife's hand before pulling away to give her some kind of personal space given he expected her to want to get things off her chest about him. Conor listened to Dr. Summers' introduction and what she hoped to help them achieve. When she posed the question of why they were there, Conor unconsciously folded his arms in front of him, perhaps to deflect any attacks as he anticipated coming under fire. Letting out a sigh, he decided he'd speak up first.
"Because I screwed up," Conor said, briefly turning to Aliana before looking back towards the counsellor. "I once made a promise I wouldn't end up in prison and a few years back I fuc--" he paused, not sure the woman would like him swearing. "I broke the promise and got myself locked up. Couldn't control my temper and even in jail I still got into trouble for a while. But my temper ain't a direct reason for our problems. I'd never raise a hand to Aliana or my son. The blokes I hit out at weren't innocent and they were asking for it." Conor slowly shook his head. "While I was in jail I started seeing a counsellor and he helped me find better ways of dealing with my aggression. He's helped me sort myself out, get my parole, and I've stopped being so reckless. I believe I've changed and I'm doing everything I can to prove it." Conor turned to Aliana with something of a sad look in his eyes. He relaxed his arms, unfolding them to automatically begin fidgeting with the wedding band on his finger. "I know I broke a promise I made and I was a dickhead, but... Well, I guess part of the reason we're here is because, justified or not, I don't think Ali believes in me. I'm not sure she trusts that I can do this," he reluctantly admitted. "But I love her and I love our son. I don't want to let them down again."
Conor looked down towards the floor. He knew there were other reasons for their marriage issues, but some he never felt comfortable bringing up. He hadn't missed Dr. Summers pointing out the bracelets Aliana was wearing. One of them a gift from Tommy, that unfortunately often came with it a kick in the guts to Conor. A reminder that he would never be as good a man as his old friend was. He believed Tommy would never had let Aliana down and he was sure she would have chosen Tommy over him had the poor guy not been murdered.