Chapter 7:

Chapter 7 - Right Bower


The Blunderboss rolled around in his embroidered silk pajamas, trying to will himself back to sleep. The big bay windows of his bedroom were impressive, and they excelled at keeping his quarters well-supplied with natural light… But, sometimes (especially on mornings when he felt like sleeping in), the ruthless crime lord wished he had a set of dark curtains to cover them with. By the time he finally roused, though, he had typically forgotten all about his grand window-covering ambitions.

It was probably for the best. Diallo would never have allowed it, anyway.

The big man sat up in bed, stretching his arms out in a long, luxurious yawn. Then he looked to the clock on the wall, his beady eyes narrowing in a squint as he attempted to decipher the time.

“7:35… No, 7:40?” he mumbled, scratching at the stubble on his broad chin.

Such tasks were not his strong suit. That was what Diallo was for; together, they were a perfect pair. His top lieutenant was, however, his opposite in many ways: calm, composed and fiercely intelligent. He could tell the time at a glance, down to the exact second! How did he do it? All those clock hands moving around; some slow, some fast. Some tall, some short. Sometimes pointing at numbers, sometimes pointing at the spaces between–as if that meant something! It made the boss’s head hurt. He couldn’t understand why no one had invented a clock that simply showed you all the numbers you needed. Of course, maybe someone had, and he just hadn’t heard about it…

That was when Diallo swept into the room, interrupting his train of thought. He arrived with the current edition of the Port Pistola Times tucked neatly under his arm, his hands occupied with two piping-hot cups of strong coffee. And, as always, a young girl with an impish grin and a sky blue bow in her long, black hair dashed out from behind the man’s legs to throw herself onto her father’s massive bed.

“Beretta!!” cried the boss, beaming from beneath his bristly mustache as he reached out to cuddle the girl close.

“I had meant to hold off on disturbing you for another quarter-hour or so, but the girl was particularly… Rambunctious today,” Diallo explained, smiling thinly.

“Is that you, today, my treasure?” the boss crooned, “Are you feeling ram-bunk-tyus?”

She simply giggled, nestling into the man’s broad chest. Diallo moved next to them, resting one of the steaming mugs he carried on his boss’s night table before straightening again and clearing his throat.

“I imagine that, as usual, you would rather skip my reading of the headlines?”

“Yes please, Diallo,” the doting father replied, “We make the news–no need to read it! Right, Beretta?”

“Right!” she echoed, earning a look of disapproval from the boss’s right-hand man.

“It is a dangerous example you set, Marka,” he cautioned, handing over the newspaper funnies-first–a custom that had become all too common in the Moukahla household of late. “She is the only true heir of the family, and I will not always be around to manage the business side of things. One day you must teach her to accept all the burdens of leadership–even those you do not take on yourself.”

The boss wasn’t listening. He was already engrossed in the handful of comic strips that occupied the newspaper’s back page, pointing out his favorite parts to Beretta with one beefy finger as he read aloud to her. Diallo could only sigh, taking a few sips from his own mug as he awaited the end of his employer’s family time. Eventually, his opportunity came; the minute Marka finished narrating the latest exploits of Tropical Ted, Diallo swooped in to divert his dull-minded cousin’s attention.

“Can we get down to important matters now, boss?” he wheedled, “The latest batch of, ehh… ‘Precious items’ you requested have begun to arrive, and I cannot wait to tell you all about them.”

Marka’s eyes lit up at that, just as Diallo had hoped. He eagerly laid the newspaper aside and turned to his daughter, planting an affectionate kiss on her forehead.

“Okay, Berry. You heard Uncle Diallo–it is time for us to speak of grown-up things.”

Beretta pouted, but was ultimately used to leaving the room on such occasions. She crawled away from her father’s side and slid to the floor, turning to face him with her hands clasped behind her back.

“I will go then,” she declared, “but remember: you said you would tell me more stories of the sunken continent before bed tonight…”

“Of course, child. Your father would never forget such a thing!” Marka laughed.

She cocked an eyebrow, prompting her father to laugh again–more uneasily, this time.

“...Again, I meant! Your father would never forget such a thing again…”

“I will believe it when I see it,” she said curtly: one of Diallo’s favorite sayings, which she had managed to infuse with the appropriate level of skepticism. Then she skipped out of the room, leaving the mob boss to scratch his shaved head as he marveled at the girl’s ever-increasing knowledge of his ways.

“Hm. Perhaps I was wrong,” Diallo mused after she’d closed the door behind her, “I think, at 9 years old, she may already be fit to take your place…”

“Hey, now. I am not so incompetent as that, am I?”

Diallo acted as if he hadn’t heard the question, picking a piece of lint from the front of his vest. Marka scowled, well aware of how his cousin thought of him. He considered him dim, brutish and irresponsible… And, as Marka had long ago admitted to himself, he was right on all counts. But what else could the family have expected, elevating a street thug like him to the highest position in the organization?

His brothers had backed the idea of his promotion, considering it his just due for committing–and flawlessly covering up–so many violent crimes on their behalf, thus elevating the Moukahla family to its current position of prominence in Port Pistola society. In the years since he took on a leadership role, though, Marka’s tactical mistakes had cost them their lives, as well as the lives of many competent men under him. There was a reason that Diallo had taken over so many of his former duties: the organization was bleeding to this day, and the man’s skill and acumen were needed to staunch the flow.

“Anyway, I have some news before I show you the new acquisitions,” Diallo began, having noticed that the boss’s attention was drifting. “It has been a long time coming, but I have finally succeeded in bringing the police force under our thumb. The new chief is far more accepting of our… Incentives for his good work, and I hope to–”

“Yes, yes,” Marka interjected, waving his hand dismissively. Thinking of his brothers had put him in a foul mood, and he was eager for some kind of distraction. “That is your domain, cousin. I trust you to do what is best. Now, the new pieces…?”

Diallo offered a small bow, stifling his growing frustration with the kingpin as best he could.

“Sure, boss. Right this way; we have started keeping them in the dining room, now that the storage rooms are full.”

He led his cousin from the bedroom then, and through the long, arched hallways that led to the main foyer. As he did, Marka became visibly excited; he rubbed his hands together in anticipation, no doubt believing that this crop of relics would surely be different from the rest. Diallo could barely contain his annoyance.

“You know, it is very costly to keep having these trinkets dredged up from Enfield. We must pay for skilled divers and nautical equipment each time, as well as discretion. Those waters are a protected site…”

“It will all be worth it,” Marka said, cutting him off again, “If we can recover a truly powerful relic of the Old Magocracy! Think of it, Diallo; the weapons of our enemies will become like playthings! We will be invincible–we may never lose a man again!”

Diallo bit his lip. The man was becoming more unhinged by the day, caught up in reminiscences and fairytales while his kingdom fell to pieces around him. Fortunately, their arrival in the main hall kept Diallo from saying something he would have regretted; one of their informants was there awaiting him, and the promise of a forthcoming advantage–a tangible advantage–did much to lift his spirits.

“Go ahead to the dining room, boss–I will catch up,” he encouraged, and Marka was only too happy to oblige. Then he waved the informant over–a sleepy-eyed man in a dark suit–to apprise him of his latest findings.

“What do you have for me?” Diallo asked.

“Maybe nothing,” the man answered, “But if a dead bartender, a new Gunslinger from Wesson and the activities of our, ehh, ‘person of interest’ from the waterfront district intrigue ya, I can keep talking.”

Diallo’s eyes glinted, and he smiled his first genuine smile of the day.

“You have my attention.”

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