It was just another day at the store when Gunnar came earlier than he was supposed to and asked to speak to me privately. I didn’t want to go all the way upstairs as going up and down the flight of stairs was becoming difficult now that I was in my third trimester. “You better have a valid reason for coming here during opening hours.”
“Sorry boss, but, well John’s asking for a higher percentage on the jewels we stole from the museum last Thursday. He wants twenty percent commission now.”
John was the fencer who liquidized our goods. He used to work for Dad for decades and was always fair to him but now it seemed like he didn’t feel he had to be fair to me as well. “He always took ten, why is he changing his mind all of a sudden?”
“I don’t know…”
“I didn’t ask for an answer!” I yelled at him. Obviously, my question was rhetorical because I already knew the answer. “He thinks because I’m new to the game that I don’t know how it’s played. You tell him to either take ten percent or we’ll find another fencer and make sure he goes out of business permanently.”
“But ma’am, he’s been working with us for years. Maybe he…”
“I don’t give a crap Gunnar. I will not have anyone thinking I’m a weak leader even if it means I have to make an example out of him. If loyalty meant anything to him then he wouldn’t try to haggle me. Ten percent…or send Braylon to take care of him.”
“Braylon? Ma’am, Braylon’s never done…anything like that.”
“Are you volunteering to do the job then?”
He shook his head and looked away, obviously in shame. He was too much of a nerd to be brave enough to do the dirty work. “Very well, do as I say. We’re through here.”
Being the boss was becoming a never-ending job. It’s no wonder why Dad ceased having a social life when he started his own gang. There was always something happening that you had to deal with. Good thing our establishment was small compared to others. I would have no idea how to handle it all.
That night I went into labour so Zachary went with me to the hospital. The baby was coming fast and I was in so much pain that I think I made my otherwise calm and collected husband panic like the house was on fire.
I made sure to request a different doctor this time so I wouldn’t get the same quack I had when I delivered Isabel and Ivy. She was younger and for the life of me I could not remember her name, but her bedside manner was impeccable and she was very knowledgeable. At least this time, I didn’t feel like my heart being ripped out of my chest.
I had an easier delivery and before I knew it my baby girl Johanna Sloane had entered the world. She seemed like such a happy baby, giggling the moment the doctor laid her in the crib. Just like her sisters, she was beautiful. Zachary and I certainly know how to make great looking kids.
When we returned from the hospital with Johanna the twins were very upset because there was a new baby in the house. I suppose I can relate to how they feel. I wasn’t happy to come home from camping with Granddad to see that I had a sister and I was no longer the baby of the house. But then, I also learned that my father had left so baby or not I was sure I would’ve been sad. Still, Johanna’s presence changed nothing. They were still my first-born babies and I still loved them just as much. Maybe Mother really wasn’t lying when she used to say the same thing to me.
Isabel eventually warmed up to Johanna once she met her. She loved trying to make her little sister coo and giggle. I guess my little chatterbox was just so happy to have another person to talk to that she immediately lost any feelings of jealousy towards the new baby.
Ivy, on the other hand, had a tougher time warming up to Johanna. She was angry for a while and especially hated whenever she would cry. That too only lasted a few days before she started asking to play with her. Like I said, I have some really sweet girls. She couldn’t stay mad at the new baby for too long either.
How could anyone be mad at that little face anyway? Oh Watcher, I never thought I’d be one of those mothers who swoon and get all gaga over their children but here I am making silly faces and talking in baby-talk like an idiot because I know how much she likes it. I love being a mom. I get this weird exciting feeling whenever I’m with my children. It’s the same feeling I get when I’m with my husband as well.
Falling in love with Zachary was tough for me to allow for myself because it was hard for me to open my heart to anyone. But when it came to my three girls it was so easy to love them as soon as I saw their little faces. I always thought mothers who fawned over their babies were just exaggerating about the amount of love they feel for their children because they had nothing better going on in their lives. Honestly, I’d rather be at home with them than to go to the store or out meeting with my gang.
My phone rang, it was Vincenzo calling. I was actually expecting Gunnar to call to update me on the laundering of the money we received from the jewels we had fenced from our last heist. He was supposed to call last night and now it was almost midday and I heard no word from him. “What is it?”
“Ma’am there’s something bad happening.”
Vince was such an exaggerator. He overreacted for almost everything. “What? I’m sure there’s no real problem. I don’t understand why you…”
“Ma’am, the Feds are raiding our house!”
I was stunned into silence. He had to be joking! “You better not be exaggerating this time!”
“It’s true. I’m watching from across the street with Braylon. We’re hiding in that vacant house ‘cause the cops have the whole street blocked off. It’s all over!”
“How the hell did this happen?! One of you slipped up, didn’t you?!”
“No, no ma’am. I think it was Gunnar. He didn’t come home for the last two nights so we started looking for him and the bartender at the Rattlesnake said he saw him meeting with a man and a woman last night. He said Gunnar gave them some files and a flash drive.”
This didn’t sound good at all. This sounded like that rat bastard Gunnar sold me out! “Did you get a description of them?”
“He said the woman was pretty – green eyes, long hair, and she had on a purple top. The guy, he recognised him from around, a cop!”
A knot developed in my stomach at the realisation of what Vince was telling me.
“What should we do ma’am? Hello…?”
I hung up on him, speechless and slightly nauseated. And pissed off!
I stomped down the stairs and went straight to the living room where I knew she was playing on her dumb piano. My sister, the witch, was the one Gunnar met in that bar. Green eyes, long hair, purple top – that was her to a T. How did she even know about my involvement in the gang, and how did she even know Gunnar?
“By the look on your face, I’m guessing one of your minions called to warn you about your impending doom. I bet you’re wondering how I managed to do all of this without you knowing.” She said as she stopped playing and looked up at me with dead eyes.
“YOU!” I spat out.
She laughed. “What’s the matter Gem? Didn’t think I was capable of taking you down? Thought I was too mentally unstable to be able to come up with a plan like this?”
“How dare you do this to me?! You have NO idea who you’re messing with Helena! No idea!”
“Oh, I don’t? I think I know pretty well the kind of person you are. You’re a selfish, lying, conniving, thieving, murderous little witch! And I’m glad that pretty soon I’ll get to see the police take you away to jail!”
I took a seat on the couch as the dark reality of the situation sunk in. If the cops were raiding the hideout that means they were most likely on their way to get me. Leni came over and sat on the other chair and it was a good thing she didn’t sit right next to me because I wouldn’t have been able to stop myself from yanking her hair out if she were close.
“How did you know? Were you spying on me?”
“Then how? How did you know about the gang, the laundering…everything else?”
“Mum confided in me about what you did to Jeff. That’s why she was in my bathroom when she died. She and I were talking that night about how she figured out you killed Jeff to protect Dad and his gang and how she also believed you were cleaning his money for him through your store. But she didn’t have solid proof, only a strong hunch. So after she died, it became my mission to find that proof.”
“It wasn’t easy as you were very careful. All your accounts appeared in order. I even had a friend of mine hack into your computer and then had your files analysed by an auditor and they found nothing incriminating. You were good. But then one night I came home and found Dad in the garden and that was when I got my first break. He told me everything I needed to know.”
“You’re lying! Dad would never do that to me!”
“You are so conceited that you honestly believe that Dad was content with just having you as the only daughter in his life. For years he tried to reach out to me but I declined him until I realised that getting closer to him might be my chance to get to the truth. It took a few more discreet meetings for him to finally open up to me and all I had to do was reassure him of how accepting I was of him and his choices and pretend that I wanted him in my life. Soon he was telling me everything I needed to know about how Zachary was your advisor in the beginning, how Gunnar was your accountant, and all those other idiots that did the dirty work.”
“All I needed to do was get one of them on my side and that’s what I did with Gunnar. I befriended him.”
“Sure, you befriended him. Is that what they’re calling it these days, Leni?”
“I’m not a slut thank you very much. I love Ayden and he’s the only man for me. Being nice to someone who’d been treated like crap his entire life makes them trust you with all of their secrets, and Gunnar trusted me because I was his friend. When you became the boss after Dad died, you released your inner tyrant on those guys putting them down and threatening to kill or torture them as punishment. It’s no wonder why Gunnar was so quick to betray you. He gave me all the proof I needed and then together we went to the police. Right now he’s on his way to a safe house as part of his deal with the DA for him to testify against you.”
“A part of me is impressed.” I began. “Here I thought you were some little weakling but as it turns out, you’re a lot smarter than I gave you credit for. But here’s the thing, you not only ruined my life but you ruined my family’s life! Zachary, the twins, hell I just had a baby and now because of you she’ll lose her Mother! I may have done some unsavoury things but I never turned my back on my blood. Does family not mean a thing to you?!”
“Don’t you dare talk about family, Gemma! Not after everything you did to me!”
“This is so typical of you Leni. Your life is screwed up so you decide to ruin mine, over what? Some guy who dumped you because I told him the truth? That’s what this is all about isn’t it? This is your revenge for what I did to you and Ayden!”
“NO! This is more than that. When I found out about what you said to Ayden, yes, I wanted revenge. I thought I’d flirt with Zachary to drive you a little nuts but that was the extent of it. And even after Mum died I wasn’t motivated to find evidence against you until I found out that YOU were the one responsible for my poisoning back in high school!”
“During the renovations… there was no label on a box of your books so I thought they were mine. When I went through them I found a book on poisonous mushrooms that you borrowed from the library a week before I got sick.”
I thought I had gotten rid of that book years ago. Crap! I should have been more careful in getting rid of my evidence.
“You got me sick on purpose! I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why you would do something like that knowing the side effects. How could you do something so evil for no good reason? Because you found out Ayden and I were dating when you had a crush on him? No, that wasn’t it, was it? You did this because of the legacy! You wanted to compromise my health and mental stability so that Mum would choose you over me as the heiress!”
“Fine. You want me to admit it? I admit it! I was mad at you for stealing Ayden and I wasn’t about to let you steal the legacy from me as well. I was the first born and more capable of taking the reigns than you! It was my right! But you would have gotten it because Mother liked you more. I had to do something and honestly the only thing I regret was that I just poisoned you instead of killing you! Then I would have secured the legacy and none of this would have happened!”
She started laughing hard and it only served to anger me more. “I guess you really should have killed me then. Because now you’re going to spend the rest of your life in prison thinking about your regrets while I’ll be free to live mine. Don’t worry about Zachary. He’s a good man and I don’t want your daughters to have both parents behind bars so I asked Gunnar to keep him out of it. You, on the other hand, you’re going to lose it all! I can’t wait to see your snobby butt all dressed up in an orange jumpsuit!”
She was taunting me! Like this was a game she won! How dare she find enjoyment in this! “Leni, I swear, I will get you for this…!”
“Gemma Sloane,” a heard a male voice say from behind me. Based on the badge hooked onto his waist I knew he was a detective. “I have a warrant for your arrest. Come with me.”
I stood up feeling a surge of rage towards him, Leni, hell the whole world! “Don’t you touch me, you pig!”
He ignored my yelling and continued to read me my rights before handcuffing me while Leni got up and cheerfully skipped upstairs, pleased that she was able to witness my downfall as repayment for the sins I committed against her. Pfft. This case doesn’t have a leg to stand on. I may spend the night in jail but I will be out on bail by tomorrow morning and when I am Leni better watch out because I’ll be coming after her.
No one messes with Gemma Sloane.