To start at the beginning go here.
The one with the black and red scarf (or Balaclava if you prefer) blustered at me, got up from the couch to come to the pen’s entrance and stared at me with the same kind of hostility that he had when he was pinned under the chain in the cafe. I kept waiting for him to bluster out, but he went on long enough that I could feel a few of the Factory’s sentries break away from their posts, rotating in a slow orbit around the Corsicans’ cage, sensing trouble. I kept grinning, suddenly aware that if Max or the others got violent it wouldn’t be three against one, but it’d be free-for-all on the club floor, with me in the middle, the only one who wouldn’t care who he hit. Somewhere deep inside I heard Cheryl ask me if that was the reason I had come here, hoping for something like this, rather than my pretense of wanting to talk to the Corsican. With prison and then my duties at the casino I had been so bored for so long – maybe she was right. I had been dying for something to happen.
The thought of the chaos and damage I could cause widened the smile on my face as each image of violence passed through my mind. This only angered Balaclava more, his gesticulations and wrath increasing with each increased interval of my grin. His threats and insults were causing spittle to fly, some of it landing on me, but this only increased my amusement, which only angered him more.
I was pulled out of that feedback loop when I felt the Algerian retreat from us rather than step in to defend his friend like I expected. I kept my eyes on the screaming mess in front of me but raised my antenna, trying to sense what had changed. I was worried that someone might be trying to get behind me when this seemed to be confirmed by Balaclava going quiet, his eyes darting off me to something over my shoulder. He stepped back, deeper into the cage, the anger that had been so righteously his a moment ago draining away. For a moment, I thought he was going to drop to one knee. It was only then I decided it was safe to see what was behind me.
I noticed his heavies and the gossip of the crowds surrounding him before I saw Sarti himself. A full head and shoulders shorter than me, he was equally wide, taking up a space that was increased by the respect and fear emanating from those around him. Even the people who didn’t know who he was picked up on the vibe, whispered questions and answers buzzing out, layering the distant bombination of the Swede’s bass.
I hadn’t been this close to Sart since he had visited the casino and longer before that. He was older than he looked from a distance, his thick, black hair and heavily muscled body hiding the ravages of time. However, this close you could see the deep lines on his face, particularly around his eyes and mouth, and that his bulk was at least partially attributable to the spare tire around his middle the years had put on. The dark well-tailored suits he favored helped hide that as well, draping over him right down to his practical, rather small, well-polished shoes.
Sarti stared at me with one of his grey eyes, closing the other one as if he were squinting at me down a sniper’s scope. Without opening his other eye, he stepped around me to look at the Idiots, who couldn’t seem to decide between making eye contact or staring at the floor. I could feel the Algerian gaping at Sarti, his eyes wide as if he couldn’t believe he was actually there. I could hear Fatty trying to fumble with a lighter, his attempt to appear cool through a casual smoke burning down.
In the moment that Sarti examined the four behind me, I quickly examined his entourage. Two flanked him like rooks, tall and thin men reduced to silhouettes by their imitation of their boss’ dark dress code. I counted at least four others similarly spaced out. It struck me as a lot of muscle to travel with, even for a crime boss.
In addition to those, the Factory’s bouncers aligned themselves around Sarti, facing the cage and all of us in it, making it clear how that was going to go down should something kick off. I hadn’t known the Factory belonged to Sarti, but it wasn’t surprising. As the rest of the crowd watched us, thick with anticipation, I heard a whispered, “Gouverneur nuit.”
The Night Governor. I had heard the nome de guerre mentioned before and I couldn’t imagine that it displeased Sarti. Its origins, I imagined, were prosaic, taken from his hand in the nightlife all over the city, but it certainly had the sinister ring that men in his position loved.
Stepping back to face me again, Sarti’s expression didn’t reveal anything about his opinion of the Corsican or his brethren. I was only given a hint of this by a roll of Sarti’s shoulders that continued down one arm until it became a wave of his hand, beckoning for me to follow him. “Why don’t you leave these children alone?”
Sarti oriented himself towards the exit and everyone else in the room seemed to follow his example; first his security apparatus, then the shadows behind those shadows. Without waiting to listen to any response I watched Sarti start off. I hesitated to follow, wringing the umbrella as I found my attempt to speak with the Corsican frustrated again. But then the ring of his bodyguards moved with him, forcing me to move along or bump into them. I choked up on the steel rod, giving a thought to maintaining my position with a quick straight arm, then heard Cheryl’s distant voice telling me not to be stupid.
I followed Sarti.