1. All Stories Begin With a Bang...Mature

The reigning Cincinnati mafia family, the Hansuns, are forced to investigate the causes of a variety of attacks made on their organization, and struggle to stay afloat as an old rival group suddenly begins to rise.

The local café, known as Grayson’s, was located deep in downtown Cincinnati, right alongside the ruckus of everyday life. It was as dismal as a prison, as empty as a nuclear bomb strike zone, and tucked neatly away in between a dollar store and a run-down Laundromat. Only one medium-sized, foggy window displayed the interior of the establishment to those passing by.

Though a few lamps hung from the ceiling, most of them didn’t work, thus leaving the building in a very bleak environment. The chairs and booth seats all appeared to have once been a vibrant green with checker patterns, but long-term usage had rendered them monochrome. The walls suffered a similar treatment; what might have been at one point neon yellow was now a mellow shade of orange, peeling off at multiple parts.

To the right of the entrance was a long wooden bar extending all the way to the back of the room, with a door at the end leading into a lackluster kitchen. In its prime, the bar may have been crowded with many different personalities and there were a slew of waiters kept busy handing out drinks and snacks. But in present-day times, all of the building’s previous life had been sucked dry, never to return again.

At this time of day, activity was a rarity; the sky was pitch-black, and the time was nearing midnight. The moon was not present in the sky, and the only available lights were those produced by the surrounding skyscrapers and other buildings that dominated the downtown district. The roads were virtually devoid of action.

Residing at a booth table near the back of the café were two male individuals dressed in faded black suits. One of them was tall, skinny, blonde-haired, and had a face that suggested he had not yet passed his teenage years. Opposite him was an equally tall individual with short, jet-black hair, a strong build, and a face with sharp features and a pair of intimating, dark-blue eyes.

The younger man was grinning, periodically sipping on a glass of soda, ignoring whatever his companion had to say. The older gentleman, very annoyed at this, still persisted with his conversation.

“As I said, it’s due by the end of this week. Against my protests, you’re going to be the one overseeing the whole thing” the older man said. He sighed as his counterpart continued to look away. “It’s not something you just walk in to. It actually requires effort”.

The younger man finally turned to face him. “Y’know something, Damien?” He gestured to the beverage in his hand. “I think they musta switched things up. This drink tastes funny”.

“I realize this is a new concept to you, being in charge of something. This isn’t something you can take lightly as you usually do with everything else. Now, I have the details all figured out for you already, and-“

“I seriously think Paulie is pullin’ tricks on us. This just ain’t feelin’ right to me”.

“… And the most important thing to remember is that-“

The teenager gave up his antics and focused on the man attempting to talk to him. “Damien, I swear, you say one more Goddamn word, and I will spill this drink on you”.

“Go ahead. It’s your life after all” Damien replied, giving off a fake smile. He looked over the booth towards the window, peering out of it as though searching for something. He then returned to look at his partner. “Now I know this is all fun and games for you. But your father won’t take kindly to his son fucking things up”.

The teenager responded, laughing. “My dad won’t do shit. You’re the one in charge of me”. He pointed at Damien. “That’s your life”.

“That’s right, I’m in charge of you. I’ve been nice. But I will drop all that and I’ll start beating sense into you if I have to”.

“Alright. Alright” the juvenile said, raising his hands as though he were under arrest, “Lemme take you seriously. Gimme what you wanna to tell me, right now. I’ll try to follow you straight as an arrow”.

Damien scowled, unsatisfied by the answer he earned. “As I was saying, then. It will be arriving at the usual factory at noon, no sooner, no later, you have to be there on time. These guys are shitkickers, and they won’t take lightly to someone who goes against them. Which means cut all of the ‘rebellious child’ attitude for a few minutes, if that’s so hard”.

“That’s a pretty mean judgment there” the teenager responded in a mockingly hurt tone.

Damien frowned and shook his head, his eyes shifting to the decrepit wooden table separating the two. He then turned towards the bar. “Paulie, gimme another”. He glared at his partner once more. “It’s gonna be a long night”.

Out of the storage room emerged a man who appeared to be as old as the café he owned. His hair was nearly nonexistent, and what was left was white and practically invisible. A large gray beard dominated most of his face, which was sullen by life’s many disappointments. He silently, seemingly mechanically poured a drink and delivered it to the table without a word spoken.

“Lemme ask you, Paulie” the younger man spoke up, “if you were dealing with a bunch of assholes, what would you do?”

He simply shook his head and walked away, not wanting to get involved in the dialogue at all. He returned to his position inside the storage room, but then emerged once the phone on the bar counter began to ring.

Damien buried his face in his hands, then resumed glaring at the man opposite him. “Harry, if you could listen to me once, my world would light up like the sun. Acting arrogant like this is just going to get you killed. Hear me?”

“Nope” Harry retorted with a grin. “I know you think I’m just stupid… but that ain’t me. I’m just tryin’ to enjoy life, y’know? Somethin’ that you serious people ain’t got no knowledge of”.

“This is a serious life. And Melvin will not take ‘no’ for an answer. You know that”.

Harry slammed his hands on the table. “Man, what the hell do you know? Ain’t you ever stopped to have fun for once? You just asked me to come on down for drinks, if I had heard this was a damn business call, I woulda stayed at the apartment pool”.

“Making out with your girlfriend too I assume. Who no one is even sure exists…”

“Well you’re the one in charge of my life, shouldn’t you know who I’m acquaintin’ myself with?”

“Hmm. Mafia son having a regular girl. I sincerely doubt that” Damien replied, almost laughing.

“That’s cause I drop all of that shit. I actually am a nice man, believe it or not”. He looked up at the roof of the building, and for a time it seemed as though sadness with evident in his eyes. “All I ever asked for was a good, fun life. Dad wants me in his footsteps… I don’t want that shit. I never did. I never will”.

“Like it or not, he chose you” Damien said, pointing at him. “So please give up on the sentimental bullshit. This is a business talk, whether you love that fact or not”.

Once again, the conversation grounded to a halt, Harry nonchalantly draining his beverage while Damien looked on, sickened by the unbearable responsibility he had on his hands. This moment of silence allowed Damien to hear Paulie’s phone conversation. He began to listen very intently, picking up every word that was spoken.

“Yeah… they’re here. You wanna come get ‘em, then they’re here. Alright? Yeah, right here. I ain’t givin’ ‘em to ya. Come ‘n get ‘em yourself”. With that, the chat ended. At this point, Damien’s hairs were standing completely upright.

Harrison suddenly stood up and walked from the table, stretching as he did so. He turned to look back at Damien.

“I’m gonna get a smoke in. You want some?” he offered, producing a pack of cigarettes from his suit pocket.

Damien shook his head, his eyes wide open. “No, you’re staying right in this room. You’re not going anywhere”. He strode towards the counter where Paulie was stationed. “Who the hell was that on the phone?”

“Jus’ a buyer. Wanted to know if I ha’ got the new shipment of beer in. He be payin’ me a mighty price for it” Paulie said, laughing with glee, but he soon stopped when he realized Damien’s seriousness.

While he was preoccupied with Paulie, Harry shrugged and continued towards the café’s exit, oblivious to the warning he had just received. He produced a cigarette from the pack and took a lighter out of his other pocket, fiddling with it, trying to produce a flame.

As he did so, the previously empty street in front of the building began to slowly light up. The brightness became greater and greater. Soon, a black van, windows completely blacked out, had parked in front of the building.

The doors swung open, revealing four entities cloaked in black clothes and armed with sub-machine guns. They loaded their guns in a routine fashion and pointed them towards the window of the establishment.

Damien spun around and saw the scene that was emerging before him.

“Harry get down!” he shouted, struggling to take out the pistol in his pocket.

Without warning, the trespassers opened fire, guns pointed directly at the hot-headed teenager still struggling to light his cig. He didn’t even have the time to look up and see what had happened. He could only collapse as the bullets ripped through his skin, killing him instantly.

Damien dove under the booth table he was at, and Paulie took refuge behind the bar. However, as soon as Harry had fallen, the shooting stopped, and Damien could hear the men scrambling to re-enter their vehicle.

He managed to draw his pistol and fired a barrage of futile shots at the van. Within seconds, the car had departed, leaving a mess of glass and the dead body of Harry behind.

Damien slowly approached the deceased figure of his companion and kneeled beside him, a feeling of dread beginning to rise inside of him. He didn’t have to check for a pulse; the abundance of bullet wounds and the copious amounts of blood spilling from his corpse made the diagnosis obvious.

Gradually, he got back on his feet, and gazed out the window. Out of the seemingly dead night, terror had emerged, and claimed the unprepared. The streets were barren again, but the café left behind the story of what had happened.

Damien took a cellphone out from his other pocket and began dialing a number, almost as if he was in slow motion.

“Mr. Hansun” Damien said, choosing his words carefully, “I regret to inform you… your son is dead”.

The End

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