-1Family Matters - Part 10 By Susan Evelyn A month later, Nick had a few moments to himself as he was being driven

back from a meeting. He took those moments to review what had become a fairly routine lifestyle. Sam had got back to him about the mystery assailant a few days after the incident, confirming the identity. The cover story had not been too far distant from the truth. Reports showed that the man had been drinking at several bars starting arguments with patrons or staff before being thrown out and progressing to the next place. He had been in Sicily for the intervening three years’ absence, and the FBI would still have liked to have interviewed him about the attack on the Yakuza even though the books had been shut on the case. However, apart from speculation, Sam had nothing to offer as to motive or intention for the break in. He did assure Nick that there was nothing in the reports that led back to him and that there would be no charges or further investigation. He finished by hoping that they would stay in touch. Nick was noncommittal. The information gathered by the family was much the same, although they did uncover evidence of a deep seated animosity towards Nick over the incident that had all but wiped out the Campanela Mafia cell. The wife had survived and lived quietly until the arrival of the cousin that they had heard. There was some gossip that the cousin had taken up residence in the Campanela mansion and some speculation as to a strengthening relationship. So things had stalled at that point, although Nick was sure that the smooth sailing was merely a veneer covering a roiling sea of ill feeling. Something was going to explode, but how soon was impossible to gauge. The two families did not meet each other in the field too often, for which Nick was grateful. The Mafia were not as organized as they had been, nor as skilled. He also took some pride in the family and their training which meant that they usually trounced any opposition. However, this could lead to some awkward questions leveled in their direction if it happened too often. They specialized in offering security to their clients, not front row seats to a blood bath. Absent-mindedly, his fingers tapped the armrest on the car door in a rhythm of frustration, his head was turned to look at the passing scene but he saw none of it; he was still immersed in his thoughts. He had, of course, changed the locks on the door to his apartment. “Damn Mafia highway,” he had mumbled. Internal latches had been added and a security system installed. Two junior family members, Yori and Jun, had spent four nights in the apartment, taking turns to be on guard. It had not helped to cement relationships with Nick that nothing had happened and they had deemed it a huge waste of time. For that week, they had followed Nick home where he had provided them with their meal hamper for the night while he stayed at June’s apartment. The young men had little to complain about while relaxing with Nick’s collection of music and visual entertainments. Staying with June had been most pleasant. She had fussed over him, cooked him “good wholesome meals”, insisted on doing his laundry, all that fun “playing house” that new girlfriends like to do, but the nights were the best. He grinned to himself. The drumming of his fingers took on a sprightly rhythm. The boys, as he thought of them, had eventually settled into their new station as his “security”. How he disliked that term. They were bodyguards and he hated the idea that he may need them. He liked to work alone, a maverick, a ronan. But that was what had brought him to this situation. The way he had been able to make those snap decisions, call on an inner strength to do what he deemed necessary, to see the justice not the law and take a chaotic approach. The ideal recruit for the Yakuza, no matter what the cultural background. A hint of a wry smile played at the corner of his lips. He never failed to be a little surprised at the euphoric warmth that spread through his being at the memory of being adopted into the family. His fingers stopped beating out a soundless tune as he ran his hand down the knife edge pleat of his suit pants before smoothing

the silk tie beneath the jacket lapels. He had certainly come a long way from the endless trailer parks and scrapping in the mud when his peers called his mother a slut and his father a drunken bum. He shook the image from his mind’s eye and drove it into the deepest pit of his memory slamming the mental door tightly. He sighed deeply, and turned to look through the lightly tinted windows again. After the week of bliss sleeping in the arms of a delightful woman, he had returned to his apartment telling her that the work had been completed and it was now safe. She never asked about that night, or for any details of what had happened. She seemed delighted for whatever reason had meant that she could play happy family so never questioned it in case it disappeared just as quickly. With the return to the apartment, his boys were released from their night duties and seemed much happier with their lot. Nick continued to drive to and from work, but once there at least one of them accompanied him everywhere and drove him to any appointments. True to his word, Shu had given him more work to do and shared those of their clients who had accepted Nick as an integral part of the business. His office had been made into a replica of Shu’s, but without the dividing wall. At least he did not have to play aggressive charades with the rest of the team, other than for that first meeting with Shu each morning. Slowly, a grudging respect or at lease acceptance of him was growing amongst all the men. He massaged his forehead with the heal of his hand then ran his fingers through his hair. Maybe he should wash it before going out tonight. Going out. Socialising. That had also become routine. He would go to the San on Friday night with Shu, and then again on Saturday but usually with June. Sometimes they went as a couple, but mostly she would go with her friends and he would join them for a short time before the others left. They would dance, drink, laugh, talk about inconsequential things. He loved the amusing way she told stories about the everyday things that happened at her office. The rest of the weekend would usually be spent together, swapping between apartments. The car drove through the big gates to Shu’s place. Instead of pulling up at the front of the house on the curving driveway, Jun parked to the side of the building, under cover. Nick stepped out, handed Jun his briefcase and told him that he would probably see him later. As Jun continued inside, Nick walked over to his car parked nearby. Tonight was a special occasion, Shu’s birthday party, and there would be a large gathering of family, friends and clients. Nick negotiated the circling driveway and waved to Shu who was standing by the window as he left for home.