Chapter One

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Past: Zerro

            “Momma!” I cried out. My body heaved with every breath. I couldn’t find her even though I heard her scream. I had never heard my mother scream like that before. My stomach twisted in knots as fear coursed through me. Maybe Daddy had just snuck up on her?

            I circled down the stairs and down the hall to her room. I was just outside her door when I heard her scream again. It wasn’t the scream that she made when she was scared; it was a different scream, a terrifying scream.

            “Just take me! Leave Alzerro alone!” I heard my mother cry. I wanted to run to her, to hold and protect her. Something was holding me in place though. I knew if whoever had my momma saw I was there, that they would take me.

            “The boy will be a mafia king someday. You think that we’ll leave him here with you?” It sounded as if this man was screaming at her, but his voice wasn’t raised. The hairs on the back of my neck stood on end as I continued to listen to her pleas. Where was my father? Why wasn’t he saving her?

            “The boy is ours,” the man I hadn’t seen yet said. Then I heard it, the last cry, the last plea leaving my mother’s lips. A gunshot went off, the sound reverberating through me. One shot that forever changed my life by taking away the only person I loved, the only person who loved me. I prayed my mother hadn’t been shot, but I knew she had been.

            “Remove her body from the house. I don’t want the boy finding it.” I turned on my heels as the man’s voice grew closer to the door. Everything in me said I needed to run, to hide. I couldn’t let him see me, nor did I want to see him.

            I ran up the stairs with all my might to my room where I shut the door and locked it. I knew it would do no good if they had guns, but I had to try. Whoever they were, they were bad men.

            Not even a minute later, the door handle shook. My body quaked in fear as I took as many steps away from it as I could.

            I could hear the wood splintering against the weight of whomever was on the other side. Looking around the room, I couldn’t think of a place to hide.

            Then my eyes landed on the closet. I scurried across the floor, my socks causing me to slide and fall. I had just closed my closet door when the door to my room came crashing down. Fear was rooted deep within my body, making it impossible for me to move. Why had these people killed my mother?

            Two men covered in black from head to toe, walked into my room. Their bodies were bigger than anyone I had ever seen. I wanted to be strong like my father always told me to be, but I couldn’t be. I didn’t want them to find me.

            “Where is he?” one man said in frustration as he whipped the mattress from my bed. I watched from a slit in the closed door as they ripped my room to shreds. As they came closer to the door, I pushed further back into the closet until I came to the wall.

            I knew I had to figure something out; my life depended on it. I felt along the wall to see if there were any hidden passages. I remembered all the times my mother and I played hide and seek when I was younger. I was always trying to find the best hiding spots; my momma always pretended she couldn’t find me. One of the times she “couldn’t find me” while I was hiding in here, I watched her open a hidden wall. I never asked her about it, and she never mentioned the secret spot. It was as if she knews I would need it someday.  I searched the wall frantically until I found the distinct little wood piece that fit into the wall perfectly.

            Pulling it out quietly, I crawled into the unknown space. It was a very small area, but I managed to sit down. The men’s footsteps grew closer with every passing second, so I clumsily and quickly picked up the wood piece knowing if I made a mistake, I would be found.

            My hands were sweating and shaking, and I felt like puking. I wanted to run to my mom; I wanted to be enveloped in the safety of her loving arms. I knew I would never feel her warmth again, though, and that broke my heart. However, I couldn’t think about that because I had to focus on surviving.

            Just as I slid the wood into place, I heard the bad men enter the closet. The door flew open and hit the wall with a fierceness that shook me to my core. I heard them rip down my clothes that were on hangers and throw my boxes of prized possessions across the room.

            “He’s not fucking here,” one of them growled. I listened to them shuffle around in my room as I forced my breaths to slow. The darkness surrounded me, banishing all the light that I had in my life.  

            How could these people come into my house and kill my wonderful, kind, sweet mother? What did they want from me? How did they get in here? Who else did they kill? We had security, didn’t we? Where were the maids? Were the bad people still here?

            As the house settled and the events filtered through my mind, I continued to sit in the crawl space in the dark. I was terrified to come out and discover that my life really had been ripped away.

            I don’t know how long I sat in the darkness, but at some point, a steely resolve settled in my heart and soul as I made a promise to my mother. Someday, when I was much older, I would make those bad men pay. I would find them and hurt them like they hurt my mother. They owed me their lives, and I would make sure they paid their debt.


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