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“You’ve been working really late these last couple of nights.” Zachary said as we sat down for dinner one night not too long after our conversation with Dad.

“The advertising spot we paid for was a good idea. We’re getting a lot more customers now.”

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“That’s great. We should start making more investments into ads and promotions to generate business. I think it’s time we start making the store more legitimate.”

“It is a legitimate business.”

“You know what I mean. Stephan was right when he said his time would be up soon and there’d be no one responsible enough to take his place as the leader of his gang. When that happens, I don’t think we should continue to do business with any of those fools.”

“I don’t want to talk about this.” The conversation was annoying and I just wanted to enjoy my dinner without discussing business seeing as how I already made my decision.

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“Why not?” He persisted. “Gemma it’s important that we discuss this now. We need to get out while we can. The store is successful enough without the laundering. Sure, we might not make the same kind of money but all we need to do is put in some hard work and with time it can be better than before.”

“I just don’t like talking about my father dying that’s all. Especially since everything he worked so hard for would just go down the drain when he dies.”

“Do you really want to take over for him?” He asked. “That’s crazy Gemma. We can’t take on that kind of risk, especially now that you’re pregnant again and the twins are still so little.”

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“Who said it will be a risk? It will be just like before.”

“No it won’t. Like I said before, there was nothing linking your store to the gang but the moment you become the leader your name and face would become associated with them. Other criminals will know who you are and that increases the likelihood of the police taking notice. Gemma, this is huge and we’re not prepared for this.”

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I sighed. “You’re right. I just…I’m just a little moody from the pregnancy symptoms and not thinking straight. It’s definitely not a good idea and you’re right about cutting ties with the gang from now.”

 He looked at me suspiciously. “That was a bit too easy to get you to agree with me.”

“No, I totally agree with you. You know I would do anything for my Dad that’s why my first instinct was to agree to what he asked but you and our children are my life now and if you think something is bad for our family then I have no choice but to side with you on this. I just hope Dad understands.”

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“He will once you tell him we’re expecting another baby. Besides, leaving behind a gang isn’t much of a legacy now is it?”

“What? I thought you were in support of what he did.”

“I was never in support of it. I was just loyal to him for what he did for me as a child and I got involved because he asked me to. Then I remained on board because I fell in love with you and I wanted to make sure you were protected. Why do you think I still keep my job in spite of all the money? I don’t want to live that kind of life and I’m relieved that it will all soon come to an end.”

I always believed that Zachary liked being a part of this deal. I never knew he wanted out of it for a long time but only stayed in because of me. Dad was right about him. He was too moral. It’s a good thing I never told him the truth about Jeff, what happened with Mother, or even about how I’ve been meeting with Dad all these nights instead of working late at the store like I told him. He wouldn’t approve of it all.

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As far as Zachary was concerned I sided with him, but the truth was that I accepted Dad’s offer and he’d begun training me and showing me the ropes to prepare me to take over for him.  But unlike him, I would not be leading the group into the art galleries and museums for the acquisition given my present condition. I would be something like the director of the missions, doling out everyone’s responsibilities and keeping everyone in line but from afar. I had no interest in getting my hands dirty when other people can do it for me. My only interest was the money and the power of knowing I was the boss!

I was getting ready to leave to go to the store to meet with Dad for one of our training sessions when I received a call from his number. “Hey Dad, I was just about to come meet you…”

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“Mrs Sloane, its Gunnar.”

“Gunnar? Why do you have my father’s phone?”

“I’m sorry but I have some bad news. Boss passed away a half hour ago. I’m really sorry for your loss. I just thought I should call and tell you… hello….hello Mrs Sloane?” His voice trailed off as I ended the call. My throat went dry and my eyes burned with fresh tears. My father was gone.

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Zachary came outside probably because he heard me bawling like a baby from all the way inside. “Gemma, what’s the matter?”

“Dad’s…Dad’s dead. He died not too long ago.”

“Oh darling, I’m so sorry…”

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“I didn’t even get to tell him about the new baby. I was going to meet him this evening. If I wasn’t running late I could have been with him when he died.”

“You had no way of knowing that today was going to be his last. Don’t beat yourself up about it.”

 “I can’t help it. I didn’t even get to say goodbye or even plead to the Reaper for his life.”

“Gem, don’t do this. You are not to blame, okay? Come on, let me run you a bath so you can relax. I’ll take care of the twins for the rest of the night.”

“No, I should go over there. I need to meet with the gang.”

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“Why?”

“Because… I should make sure they’re coping well.” I lied. I didn’t care about whether or not they were coping well. I needed to get over there so they know that just because Dad was dead didn’t mean that they had no one else to answer to.

“There’s no need to do that. We’re not affiliated with them anymore. You should focus on your well-being and that of the baby. And you need your time to grieve so head upstairs missy and let me take care of you.”

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I couldn’t refuse him when he was being so sweet to me so I acquiesced. The next few days Zachary did everything he could to take care of me and make it so that I wouldn’t have anything at home to worry about. He even took time off of work to help out at the store so I wouldn’t be too stressed out during this pregnancy.

His constant watch over me left me with little opportunity to meet with the gang but when I did get the chance I made sure not to waste it. Zachary went back out to work after the twins aged up so I went to the store and had my first meeting with them.

“Good evening gentlemen. I’m glad you all can make it to our first meeting with me as your leader.”

1264

Dad already informed Gunnar, Braylon and Vincenzo that I was to take over for him as their leader. When we weren’t able to meet face to face I made sure to keep in touch over the phone about the progress of their missions until we were finally able to meet in my office on the floor above the store. Gunnar had also brought the duffle bag containing the cash we needed to launder into the business. “I am pleased that you all have kept working as a team and following my instructions in spite of my physical absence. Now, so not to waste any more time as I have a doctor’s appointment, let’s get down to business. What’s the intel on the museum in Newcrest I asked you to check out?”

Vincenzo cleared his throat before speaking. He was always nervous when speaking to me probably because he never forgot our earlier encounter where I taught him a lesson. “Two days ago they received a new shipment. We learned that it was a collection of rare jewels from the 14th century. They’re worth thousands of simoleons each.”

“And how many are we talking about?” I asked.

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“Fifty pieces in the collection, plus anything else we can get our hands on once we’re in.” Braylon added.

“No. No taking anything other than the target.”

“But ma’am…”

“How many close calls has this gang had over the years because one of you got too greedy and decided to grab one extra thing to add to the stash only to set off an alarm or get caught by a security guard? Too much to where the stories stopped being funny and started getting scary. I won’t have any of you risking any operation like that on my watch. The target is the collection of jewels and nothing more. You are to get in and get out within ten minutes and that’s that.”

“There’s no way we can get in and out in ten minutes.” Gunnar stated.

“To disable the alarms alone will take fifteen and then we still have to hack into the camera system and then grab the items. We’re looking at no less than half an hour here…”

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“Fifteen minutes,” I said firmly, “you all need to put your little pea brains together and figure out a way to organise yourself better. A job like this should not take longer than fifteen minutes if you spent your time working together instead of goofing off.”

“With all due respect,” Braylon added, “you have no idea what goes on when we’re out there. We’re taking all the risks while you get to sit comfortably in your mansion and give orders.”

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Who the hell does he think he is? “Is this insolence I hear? Because I know how to take care of insolence and I know you all are aware of that! Remember Aubree?” I saw them flinch so I knew they got the point.

“S…Sorry ma’am. Please forgive me…please…”

“Forgive you? I think I should teach you a lesson since you obviously didn’t learn anything from her mistakes!”

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“No ma’am, please, I…I got a kid on the way…please, I’m so sorry. I won’t make this mistake again, I promise!”

It was hilarious listening to him grovel for my mercy. I could not help myself from laughing so hard at his pathetic pleas.

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I decided to be generous and give him another chance. I figure I should give them all just one chance to screw up since they are only human. But one chance was all they were going to get. Aubree learned that the hard way.

It was so strange the way the days were flying by so quickly. I was halfway through my pregnancy when the twins celebrated their birthdays. Isabel and Ivy turned into beautiful little girls.

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Isabel was more outgoing than her sister. It concerned me how easily she would walk up to strangers and start talking to them. She would have grown adults in stitches as she told them stories about school and jokes about weird animals. She was very creative for sure, always making up stories and coming up with the strangest ideas.

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In a way, she reminded me of Leni as a kid except she’s my daughter so I’m pretty confident she won’t grow up to be anything like my crazy sister who, by the way, has been MIA for quite some time leading me to wonder if she secretly moved out of the house. Anyway, Zachary says it’s completely normal for a child to be sociable at her age. They are actually pretty close as she talks to him more than she talks to me which, as of right now, is not a problem for me at all. Sometimes I’m relieved when he gets home early from work so he can take over listening to her yap about her dreams and all that crap.

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Ivy is very different from Isabel. While Isabel loves to play with her toys and draw pictures, Ivy loves reading and playing chess, all the things I love to do. Sometimes we would play a game or two together and I thought about letting her win but I never did as I thought it better for her to learn more through her failures. She certainly came close a few times. She and Isabel are really sweet kids. Who would have thought I would make daughters who were considered sweet.

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But I don’t really understand why Ivy likes collecting. My Uncle Felix loved doing that stuff as well but to me the idea of digging around in dirt and logs just to find fossils, gems and frogs made no sense at all. It all seemed so unsanitary.

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Nevertheless, I was pleased with the way my girls turned out and I was very excited to meet the one that was on the way. No twins this time, thank goodness! Just one baby girl who didn’t drain my energy or tap dance on my bladder like her sisters. The only thing I was concerned about was Zachary finding out the truth about what I was really up to. It was really hard living a double life. It’s no wonder why Dad couldn’t keep it up for long before Mother found him out. I wish I could be honest with my husband like before but now I was so knee deep in the lies that I couldn’t possibly come clean now.

Besides coming clean to Zachary would result in him giving me an ultimatum to choose between him and being the boss and I loved being the boss! I couldn’t give it up just like that. The only way to go forward was to continue the act but I knew I had to be smarter because I could not afford to get caught. I had to be a better boss than Dad was. I had to also be a better wife and mother at home as well. No one suspects you if you’re good at your job.

This was going to be a lot of work!

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