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Trey stalked into 1520 at two in the morning as livid as he had ever been in his entire life. With one direct challenge as to Trey's intentions with Marina, Scarritt had put him on his knees. It had been a humiliating show of obeisance Scarritt demanded and Trey wanted 1520 so badly he did it, which made him as much of a whore as Gio and Brody. On his knees in front of Scarritt figuratively sucking his cock, Scarritt looking at him with a calm smirk of satisfaction.

Now Trey had a very good idea why Boss Tom hated him so much he was willing to hand 1520 over to Trey, and Trey didn't need to know particulars. He also now knew why Boss Tom thought getting Marina pregnant would wipe that fucking smirk right off his face.

And Trey was more than willing to comply because he couldn't justify murdering that motherfucker.

Not yet anyway.

"You're late," Vern said as he stalked by the bar. The place was only half full but it seemed bursting because of all the sinning going on. It wasn't nearly as loud in the bar as it was in that fucking tent.

"I got Jesufied," Trey snarled, ready to snap anybody's neck.

Vern's eyebrow rose. "Already?"

"Whaddaya mean, 'Already?'"

"Scarritt's gonna put you through hell, makin' sure you know who's boss."

That snapped the remaining thread on Trey's temper. "Goddammit!" he roared, putting his fist through the mahogany bar top. Trying to anyway. "Motherfucking son of a goddamned bitch," Trey swore with the pain that exploded through his knuckles and arm so hard he sprouted tears.

Vern looked at him calmly. "How are you going to explain a broken hand to Scarritt, nice insurance salesman like you? Stupid shit. Had to use your right hand."

"I'm left-handed, you motherfucker! An' it ain't broke! Get back to work!"

God, could this night get any worse? He stalked halfway to his office before turning right back around and snatching a bottle of whiskey off the bar. "Get Ethel down here. I know she's not doing anything!"

He snatched a brick of ice out of the brand new freezer in the kitchen on the way to his office, then dropped himself on his patched-up divan. He laboriously opened his bottle and tipped it up, drinking a third of it in one swig.

"God, you're pathetic when you lose," Ethel sneered.

Of course she'd know. "Battle, not the war. Shut up and strap my hand."

They were silent as she worked, carefully weaving tweed strips in and around his fingers like a boxer, then over his knuckles.

"This may surprise you," Ethel said quietly, startling him, "but I want you to win that bet."

That sure as hell did surprise him. "Whatta you care?"

"Have you thought about what you're going to do if you lose?"

Oh, Trey had plans, all right, but he wasn't sharing those with anybody. If the Machine or Mafia didn't get him before he dropped out, they would if they found out his ultimate career goal.

"Trey, if you lose, you might end up buried in Brush Creek."

And that was where he'd stopped thinking, but Ethel had said it for him. It was true. He'd be useless as an underboss because he'd have failed at a task given him. The task didn't matter. It wasn't just a bet, wasn't just an order. It was a test and he wasn't sure that Boss Tom would pay up.

And, like making himself a goose, he'd fallen for it.

"Might. As long as I'm bankrolling Boss Tom's gambling habits, I won't," he said gruffly. He'd have no choice but to take care of 1520 as well as he had for the last four years, but he'd be seething with resentment the entire time. What he could do to ease his pain was find more ways to skim more money. "Still don't tell me why you care."

"I don't want to work for anybody else. You're not all flowers and sunshine, but you're fair, you pay decent, you don't raise a hand to us, you never make us take customers we don't want, and we can tell you what we think. I can't do any better on my own or with any other pimp. None of us can."

"I'm efficient," he muttered.

"Yeah, and you keep your people longer and cut better deals than anybody else in town. Boss Tom doesn't like that."

"Boss Tom ain't got nothin' to fear from me. I just wanna lay low an' have my little piece. Not lookin' to get it on anybody else's action."

"No, but they want in on yours. Lazia was here tonight."

Trey threw his arm over his forehead. "Shit," he hissed. "Brother" John Lazia was one of Boss Tom's underbosses and boss of the Sicilian Mafia on the Northeast side. It didn't pay to catch the attention of the cat who was bootlegging enough whiskey for every speakeasy in Jackson County.

Except ... Trey didn't get his whiskey from Lazia, which was a sore point for Brother John. Boss Tom knew Trey didn't buy his whiskey from Brother John and had never ordered Trey to buy from Lazia, which meant Pendergast approved of Trey going around Lazia's operation. It wouldn't matter if he didn't. Trey had always been difficult for Boss Tom to control, but he was a dependable stream of revenue, carried out clean hits, and generally made himself indispensable in all the most important ways. Lazia would toe Boss Tom's line because he was easier to control than Trey, but now if Boss Tom ordered Trey to buy from Lazia, he would.

Because Boss Tom had something Trey wanted.

And that had been Trey's fatal mistake: coveting someone else's racket instead of taking his money and building his own in a different county. He thought about manufacturing his own whiskey, but that was an operation that had to be built from the ground up and good whiskey had to be aged. That'd take three, four years Trey didn't have.

"Did you clean the bathroom?" he muttered.

"I told the new girl to do it."

Of course she did. As long as it was clean, Trey didn't much care. As soon as Ethel was done strapping his hand he sent her away and proceeded to get stinking drunk.

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