Add alcohol and stir!
Although Syd felt well-informed by now of the history of the Irish Mob, Conor’s own past wasn’t something that came up very often. The two had known each other for 36 years, supplying Syd with plenty of memories of his uncle during his wilder, less stable days - but now he seemed so well-established as the mob boss that he barely thought about him like that anymore. Until Conor brought it up, it hadn’t occurred to him that he had shared a similar situation with Roxie: grieving the loss of not just a family member, but also a leader, and being expected to fill their shoes. While Syd had been closer to Roxie, it sounded to him like Conor understood more about the path she was about to take. Just as he was pondering the possibility of Conor talking to Roxie instead, his uncle suggested getting everyone together for an official meeting. “You’re right... I’ll get her back on the phone, drive home everything she’s risking by doing this,” Syd nodded, pushing aside any feelings of discomfort at the thought of talking at length with his ex. “If she makes the decision to do it then I can’t stop her, but I just want to make sure she’s thought it through fully. So, I’ll get on the phone with her tonight to arrange a proper call to discuss it and I’ll let you know how that goes so we can move onto getting a meeting sorted out.”
When the car door wouldn’t open for Jeanie, Jane rested her back against it. “They’re always slow,” she yawned, before letting out an exhausted sigh. “Oh, I don’t want to have to study when we get home! I just want to get some ice cream, put the TV on and repaint my nails…” She held her hand out in front of her to examine the chipped paint that she had put on for the party a few days before. “What colour do you think -”
A sudden roar of gunfire made Jane jump out of her skin and she grabbed onto her sister in terror. Matthew shouted something and she immediately look over to him, just in time to see him, Roxie and JJ all collapse onto the ground in a heap. Jane screamed, not understanding what she was witnessing, and despite Reina’s firm instructions, she wouldn’t have moved from the spot had Jeanie not pulled her down to the ground beside her. The earsplitting gunfire echoed across the car park and Jane curled into a ball on the concrete, eyes squeezed shut and hands pressed firmly against her ears.
When the firing finally stopped and the cars that it had come from sped off down the street, Jane stayed on the ground, too terrified to open her eyes - but Jeanie was there and brought her to her feet. Before she could register her surroundings, her eyes were covered by her sister’s hands and she was told not to look. Jane didn’t push her hands away, too shaken to move or ask questions. Instead she waited, shaking and breathing heavily, for whatever was next - and when the car door was open she climbed inside, along with Jeanie and JJ. That’s when she realised that Matthew and their mother weren’t with them, and just as she was about to open the car door again to look for them, she heard JJ speaking on the phone, announcing that Matthew had been shot dead. Jane scrambled to look out of the window and saw her mother bending over Matthew, who lay lifeless on the ground. All at once she erupted into loud, terrified sobs, as she took in the horrifying scene.
Just as Syd was glancing down at his watch to see if Roxie and the children would still be at the pizzeria, the telephone rang. He let Conor pick it up since they were in his office, but he could hear the other end well enough from where he sat. There was no response at first, only rustling, which aroused some suspicion. Syd threw a cautious look at Conor, wondering if someone was trying to scare them. But then he heard a child’s frantic voice come through the line and as soon as he recognised it as his JJ’s, Syd launched himself at the phone and snatched it from his uncle’s hands. “JJ, is that you? Are you okay?” He heard the distress in his son’s voice, accompanied by the distinct sound of his daughters’ crying. “We’re on our way, get somewhere safe and wait for us!”
Only a few minutes later, Syd and Conor arrived at the car park. His heart was hammering in his chest at the thought of his children being caught in a shooting. Upon exiting the car, his eyes were instantly drawn to Roxie. The car park was filled with pedestrians, panicked customers being ushered to their cars by the restaurant staff, and a crowd had begun to gather on the street as they craned their necks to see the damage, but he saw her at the heart of it all, kneeling over Matthew’s body, and his heart broke at the sight. Even though they barely knew each other on a personal level these days, it still pained him to imagine what she must have been feeling in that moment. Still, he didn’t reckon he would be who she wanted at her side, so instead he went looking for his children. “Reina?” he called out to alert the woman that he and Conor had arrived. When she pointed him in the direction of the car, Syd looked to his uncle and placed his hands on his shoulders. “I’m taking the kids back to mine,” he announced. “I’ll call you later.”
Turning his back on the scene, Syd ran over to the car and opened the door to the backseat. Jane practically threw herself at him, still crying so hard she couldn’t speak. Syd caught her, and scooped Jeanie and JJ into his arms, too. There was nothing he could say to comfort them, because nothing would bring Matthew back. “I’m gonna take you home now,” he told them, his own voice thick with emotion. “We’ll be safe there. I’m gonna take you home and look after you alright? Reina and Conor will look after mam.” Syd kissed each of them on the head, tears coming to his eyes at the thought that he could have lost his children a few moments ago. “Okay, we’ve got to go now,” he told them, as he settled them into their seats and helped them with their seatbelts.
Syd listened to their cries the whole way home, keeping his own tears silent as he drove home a little too fast. There was no reason, as far as he knew, for Matthew to have been targeted, so he could only imagine that he had been covering Roxie. As much as he hated to admit it, it was far more likely that Roxie had been the intended target in the shooting given her recent change in role. Names and faces started flying through his mind; all the family members of hers back in New York whom he had tracked and spied on while he and Roxie had been together. After Stefano kidnapped and tortured her for weeks while she was pregnant with the twins, he couldn’t trust anyone in her family. Of course, it could have been someone else, anyone who wasn’t happy about Roxie taking over the business - word travelled fast without Roxie even having to sign any official documents. It could have been an act of misogyny, of personal dislike, or even because of her ties to the Sullivans through him and their three children. And of course, so soon after Giovanni’s will reading, he knew that jealousy could be at play, too.
Once they were inside, Syd locked the door and went to fill a jug of water, carrying it with three glasses and a big bar of chocolate into the living room. He placed everything on the coffee table and then grabbed a few blankets from the sofas to drape around his children for comfort. “You’re all going to stay here with me tonight, okay?” he said, as he sat down on the rug with them. “I’m gonna be here, right here beside you, all night.”
“They killed him!” Jane sobbed, the first words she had managed to get out since the shooting occurred. She was kneeling on the rug beside him, bent over her knees, her movements completely dictated by the sobs that poured out of her. Syd reached out and pulled her gently into his lap. “I’m sorry,” he muttered, struggling not to choke up again as he stroked his daughter’s hair. “I’m sorry there are bad people in this world, I’m sorry you had to experience that…” Doing his best to remain composed for their sake, Syd looked to Jeanie and JJ. “You were so brave, getting in the car and phoning for help. That was the best thing to do. I’m proud of you all.” Letting Jane rest her head in his lap, Syd reached up to pour out the glasses of water before opening the chocolate bar and starting to break pieces off. “Drink,” he gently but firmly ordered, wanting to make sure they stayed hydrated after all the crying. “And eat the chocolate, it’s good for you after a shock like that.”
Misty Gray Conor, MMM (God rest him)
Bella:D Jeanie, JJ, Roxie