The chains around Fakir's hands rattled around as he tried to rest his back against the metal beam to which he was fettered. His knees were sore from being forced into a kneeling position for so long, but he stubbornly ignored the aches and kept his focus on the white haired capo before him.
Mytho reached into his coat with his left hand and took out one of his guns. To the side Autor let out an uneasy moan at the sight of the weapon. Mytho smiled at him. "I would have preferred to keep this conversation private, but I don't suppose I mind an audience. For now."
Turning back to Fakir, the pale haired mobster ran his fingers along the gun. "Do you remember, when you first started going to school, what it was that you taught me?"
Fakir frowned. The beating he'd received earlier had dazed him, and it took him a moment before he recollected. "You mean, when we were throwing stones at cans?"
Mytho nodded with a satisfied smile. "You wanted to make sure I could defend myself against anyone who might try to bully me when you weren't around. I remember after about a week of practice I started to get pretty good at it, but you insisted we hold a contest just to be sure I had it down."
Fakir remembered that, all right. They'd set up a row of eight cans on a fence and whoever hit the most won. Fakir managed to knock down six, but Mytho took down all eight on the first try. It was the first time the young dancer had beaten Fakir at anything, and at a skill Fakir had been proud of no less. Even now Fakir's ego still felt a tingle of indignation at this memory.
Pushing the recollection aside, Fakir asked, "But what does that have to do with—"
"With this?" Mytho held up the gun. He tucked the gun back into its holster and took out a long object wrapped in faded crimson silk. Fakir's eyes narrowed when Mytho unwrapped it to reveal a thin stiletto knife with a handle the shape of a metal raven.
Mytho turned the stiletto over in his hand, examining it. "After I came to New York, I studied at the Crown Dance Studio to learn ballet, just like I said I would. But the money Father Muller left me ran out after two years, and unable to find work to pay for my lessons, I was forced to leave the studio." He paused. "At that time, I met Rue, who offered me a job working for her father. You could say that it all started with the good aim you had instilled in me."
Mytho held up the knife up by the smooth metal handle, his fingers curving over it as though it was a dart. Aiming his hand straight at Fakir, he made a sharp flicking motion with his wrist.
The dart landed in the center of the impromptu dartboard, and the crowd inside the speakeasy burst into cheers. This particular speakeasy was in a noisy cellar hidden beneath a dried goods store. It was a cool Saturday night and there were roughly twenty people packed into the small room, a good two-thirds of them with cups of home-brewed bathtub gin in their hands.
Mytho stood at the center of this raucous crowd, which roared again when he threw a second dart into the board less than an inch away from where the previous dart had landed.
Mytho smiled shyly as the men patted him heartily on the back, their faces flushed from alcohol, his from the praise they showered upon him. As the boisterous crowd returned to their glasses, Mytho picked up the newsboy cap he'd left on the bar counter, now filled with coins and even a silver dollar or two. Tucking his earnings from the dart game into his pocket, Mytho wondered when the act of visiting a speakeasy had become such a normal activity for him.
When he had first started working for Rue's father, Mytho had been ill at ease with being involved in the illicit alcohol trade. As a distributor—Mytho could not quite bear to call himself a bootlegger—he had grown nervous every time he passed a police officer. But as the months went by and his internal guilt went unnoticed, Mytho became complacent and could now drive past a copper with a practiced smile on his face.
Alcohol also factored greatly into Mytho's life outside of work. While he was never particularly fond of drinking himself, his coworkers in the trade had a strong habit of visiting the neighborhood speakeasies after a hard day's work and would often persuade him to join them. Granted, none of the hole-in-the-wall bars these working class men frequented could compare with the posh, glamorous clubs that Rue preferred, of which he had already visited on a few occasion with her. Nonetheless, Mytho enjoyed the companionship of these men. Even though this was not the stage he'd longed for and had trained so hard for, he still felt genuine enjoyment in entertaining the crowd with a few games of darts.
While everyone else returned to the affair of getting inebriated, Mytho was preparing to leave when a hand from behind seized his shoulder.
Looking back, Mytho recognized the man immediately, gasping in surprise. "Mr. Taccola! What are you doing here?"
Taccola was a tall fellow wearing a sharp tan-colored coat, which Mytho estimated was worth the collective weekly wage of everyone else crammed inside the room. The man cast a distasteful look at the people crowded around him before saying tersely to Mytho, "There's a job for you."
Mytho looked at him with confusion. Taccola was, strictly speaking, his superior and the one who gave the actual orders for delivery; Mytho himself had few personal interactions with the man. It was rumored that he was close with the Don, which was hardly a surprise, given that Taccola was in charge of all deliveries in the city of New York. What puzzled Mytho was why the man had sought him out in person like this, outside of work hours.
Whatever the reason, Taccolo looked none too pleased about it as he quickly turned to leave and Mytho made haste to follow.
Once they were outside, and Mytho had checked that there was no one around to overhear them, he asked, "Is there something urgent that needs to be delivered?"
"In a way," Taccola said. "The Boss wants something delivered in Brooklyn tomorrow night, and he specifically said he wants you to come along."
"The Boss?" Mytho arched an eyebrow.
Taccola snorted. "Don Corvo, of course! Be at this location tomorrow at the time written," he said, holding out a folded note to Mytho. "And make sure you come alone."
Still confused by this sudden request, Mytho asked, "You said he wanted me for this task?"
Taccola shrugged. "Beats the hell outta me why, but those were his orders exactly. I don't know what he sees in a delivery boy like you, but a wise man doesn't question the Don's decisions." He eyed Mytho condescendingly. "Just be there on time, and don't screw up. I don't want to look bad in front of the Don because of you."
With that, Taccola walked away and turned a corner, disappearing into the night.
The idea that the Don had personally requested a specific task from him had preoccupied Mytho for the rest of the night. Rue was gone for the week, meeting with a director regarding a new movie, so Mytho was left lying in bed, alone with his thoughts.
Though he'd been going steady with Rue for two years now, Mytho had never once met the man who was both his employer and the father of his girlfriend. Rue had once told him that her father was watching out for Mytho in order to find a suitable position for him in the family's business, and Mytho couldn't deny the fact that he had risen steadily through the ranks of the Corvo shipping enterprise in the short time he'd been employed by them.
Nonetheless, the minimal—if not altogether nonexistent—interaction he'd had with Domenico Corvo made Mytho wonder if Rue's father entirely approved of their relationship. He was a no-name dancer who had grown up in a small town orphanage, while she was a budding actress on the verge of stardom. Up to this point, Mytho had all but convinced himself that his promotions were entirely due to Rue's efforts, and not from any genuine interest from her father himself.
Now though, with this strange new request from Don Corvo himself, Mytho wasn't so sure.
The next evening, Mytho headed for the location written on the note. After disembarking from the tram, he'd taken care to make sure no one had followed him and had wound his way through the waterfront until he arrived at a warehouse.
The adjacent street was empty and the only noise came from the boats on the river and rats rustling around in the dustbins. Mytho knocked on the door and was quickly admitted by a stranger.
Inside the warehouse Mytho saw Taccola standing next to a parked Studebaker, a rigid leather briefcase in his hand.* Mytho did not know Taccola well enough to read the man's expression accurately, but from the rapid tapping of his feet and the frown on his face, it seemed like Taccola was deeply anxious.
Besides Taccola and the man who had opened the door for him, there appeared to be no one else in the warehouse, which Mytho found to be very peculiar. Normally on one of Mytho's jobs, there would at least be a few other workers around to help out with the deliveries. There were other boxes lying here and there, but none of them looked as though they would fit inside the car, and neither of the men looked interested in the other crates.
"Is the merchandise in the car already?" Mytho asked.
"Not yet," Taccola said. "Give me your hand."
Surprised, Mytho hesitated.
"Hurry up, we ain't got all day!" Taccola barked.
Not sure where this was headed, Mytho tentatively held out his right arm.
Taccola stepped up to Mytho, and to the young man's shock, took out a pair of handcuffs and cuffed one end to his wrist.
"What are you doing?!" Mytho tried to jerk his hand away, but Taccola caught his wrist and motioned for the other man to help him clasp the other end of the handcuff to the handle of the briefcase.
Once Mytho was attached to the briefcase, Taccola moved away, leaving Mytho holding the container. It was only then that Mytho realized how heavy the briefcase was, pulling his arm down with its weight.
Turning sharply to Taccola, Mytho demanded, "What's this all about? What is in this briefcase?"
"This is the merchandise, and it's your job to keep it safe. That's all you need to know. Oh, but one more thing."
Before Mytho could interrupt, Taccola reached into his coat and pressed something into Mytho's free hand.
It was a revolver.
Mytho's eyes widened as he gasped. He stared at the man who sat across from him. "Why are you giving this to me?"
"Insurance." The man looked away and snorted. "I just hope your aim is half as good with a gun as it is with darts."
The weight of the gun in Mytho's hand felt far heavier than the briefcase chained to his wrist as Taccola ushered him into the car. Wordlessly, they drove off into the night.
With the briefcase on his lap and the revolver tucked into his coat pocket, Mytho remained staring at the simple rectangular box in his possession as they passed by dimly lit streets, heading into the city.
As the minutes passed, the situation Mytho had found himself in morphed the nervous flutter in his stomach into a gut-wrenching dread. Transporting illegal alcohol was one thing, but carrying a deadly weapon was something far more serious. If Taccola had thought the job so dangerous that he would give Mytho a gun for "insurance"…
Mytho gazed down apprehensively again at the briefcase locked to his wrist.
Sitting beside Mytho, Taccola looked out the back window and suddenly let out an oath. He leaned in and muttered something Mytho couldn't make out to the driver. Wondering what was wrong, Mytho glanced behind him and saw a car some discreet distance behind them.
The driver of their car suddenly banked a sharp right turn at the next intersection, and the pursuers sped around the corner after them.
The driver then stepped on the gas and made another sharp turn to shake off the other vehicle, the car's tires screeching against the unevenly paved road before tearing down the empty street.
But the car behind them had a far more powerful motor, and rounded the corner a few seconds later, quickly gaining on them.
Mytho ducked down as bullets whizzed past them from the pursuing vehicle, his free arm covering his head. Taccolo took out a gun from his coat and started firing back at their assailants through the passenger-side window.
A bullet hit the back window of the car, shattering it and showering the passengers with shards of glass. The car swerved sharply to the left and Mytho was tossed forward when their speeding vehicle struck something hard and came to a sudden halt.
Dazed, Mytho opened his eyes and as his hand came away from his head he saw a patch of something dark and wet splashed across his arm. As his vision refocused he realized what it was: blood. Was it his? Patting his head, he didn't feel any open wounds on himself…
He glanced up and in front of him, inches from his bloodied arm, the driver was slumped over the wheel, a gaping gory hole in the back of his head. Mytho had barely any time to take this in before Taccolo dragged the young man out of the car and pulled him into a nearby alley way.
"Who are these people, and why are they shooting at us?!" Mytho yelled, crouching in fear.
Taccola cursed, pulling out a handful of bullets from a pocket, his fingers fumbling around as he attempted to reload his gun. "They're after the dope! Word must've gotten out that there was going to be a delivery tonight!"
Mytho looked down at the briefcase chained to his wrist. Was that what he was carrying? Drugs? That explained why the briefcase was so heavy, and so dangerous.
A slap knocked Mytho out of his thoughts as Taccolla yelled, "What the hell are you doing?!" Down the street the sound of squealing tires became louder and louder. "Don't just stand there! Shoot 'em, you idiot!"
Clutching the case in his arms, Mytho could feel the weight of the revolver in his pocket, beckoning to him.
No, this is wrong! Mytho's trembling gaze shifted to the car nearby, and he locked eyes with the now unseeing glazed eyes of the dead driver. No, no—I don't want this!
With a scream, Mytho broke free of Taccolo's hand, running blindly into the dark backstreet of the docks.
Behind him, Taccolo cursed vehemently as he finished loading his own weapon and began shooting back. The cracks of gunfire layered over one another, and Mytho barely registered from behind him a gurgled cry from Taccolo as he dashed down the dark alley.
He felt as though his chest was going to explode from his heart pounding his blood through his veins, but Mytho kept running. Small creatures scurried to get out of his way, their movements startling the panicked young man, tripping and knocking him down onto his knees.
Mytho's head snapped up when he heard the ominous drone of a car motor coming his way. His hands fumbled to push himself back up, when his fingers came upon something cold and smooth.
Mytho glanced down and saw the gun Taccolo had given him resting on the ground in front of him, having fallen out of his pocket during the fall.
With no time to think, Mytho picked up the gun, and continued to run.
Holding the case under one arm, Mytho darted into a small side street just as the headlights of the pursuing vehicle pulled around the corner. Stumbling over himself in his haste, Mytho dodged between boxes and trash heaps, while the car behind him came to a stop, and unable to fit inside the narrow alley, angry voices followed him.
Knowing only that he needed to continue running, Mytho panted when after some fifty yards into the alley, a brick wall loomed in front of him.
Mytho collapsed onto his knees, his eyes wide with terror. Turning around and backing himself into a corner, he clutched the gun with shaking hands as two black silhouettes slowly approached him.
"He's still got the dope with him?" one of the faceless figures asked.
"Sure does. This will be easy pickings, heh!" The second figure laughed and Mytho heard the click of a gun being cocked.
Am I going to die here?
The face of the dead driver flashed across Mytho's mind.
I don't want to die, no! I DON'T WANT TO DIE!
Mytho's eyes burst open, and his mouth opened to scream. But his cry was eclipsed by the exploding bangs of gunfire, and the world went dark.
When Mytho next opened his eyes, he found himself gazing up at the ceiling of an unfamiliar room. The room was dim, but Mytho thought he could hear the din of the city beyond the ringing in his ears.
Craning his head to the side, Mytho saw that the walls of the room were lined by rows of bookshelves along with an unoccupied desk across from him; a single desk lamp on it provided the only source of illumination in the room. Mytho himself was lying on one of the twin couches, with a low table positioned between them.
His ears still ringing, Mytho rubbed his head and tried to get his bearings. He gingerly pushed himself up from the couch when the door clicked open and a raspy low voice said, "Ah, you're finally awake."
Mytho's head shot toward the voice, and he saw a short, stooped silhouette by the light from the hallway.
"Wh-who's there? What happened? Where…a-am I?" Mytho's unsteady voice asked.
The light vanished as the door closed noiselessly, returning the room to its previous gloomy state. The rhythmic thump of a cane on the carpet echoed in the room as the raspy voice said, "I had intended for the delivery to be a test for you, but it seems the rascals of the White Hand Gang caught wind of the delivery and threw a wrench into my plans."*
In the dim shadows, Mytho could see the figure approaching him. As he came into the light, the silhouette gradually took the form of an old man, his right hand gripping a cane, a hat shading his eyes. Combined with the matching black suit, he seemed to meld with the shadows in the room.
Mytho stroked his head, his skull still aching, and stuttered, "I-I don't understand…a test? For what?"
Mytho's right arm froze when he noticed the weight of the briefcase was absent. He held his hand up and saw that indeed, the briefcase and its handcuffs were gone.
Then, he realized he had been alone in the room until just now, and there was no sign of Taccola anywhere. He had remembered hearing Taccola scream, and Mytho shuddered to think of what could have happened to the man. However, he forced himself to ask, "Is Mr. Taccola alive? What happened to him?"
At that the old man scoffed, and instead he answered Mytho's first question. "I wanted to see whether you had the guts and nerves to handle high-stakes deliveries so that you could take over Taccola's position eventually. He was a competent man, but too proud for his own good, and lately he'd gotten it in his head that he'll be the one inheriting my place." He frowned, shaking his head. "Still, I would've preferred for him to retire in a less obtrusive way. We were fortunate that at least the case was not lost, thanks much in parts to you."
Mytho looked up to the stranger's face and was startled to find himself looking into a pair of penetrating red eyes. Despite the man's age, there was a cold, calculating edge in them that stood in stark contrast to the frail body the eyes inhabited.
Disturbed by what he saw in those eyes and not wanting to dwell on what he had experienced, Mytho looked away and stood unsteadily from his seat. "I'm sorry but I-I need to leave…"
"And where will you go?" the stranger asked pointedly. "You have the blood of two men on your hands now, you know."
At those words Mytho stopped dead in his tracks and slowly turned to face the elderly gentleman who took out an object wrapped in a handkerchief. He tossed it toward Mytho, who flinched and recoiled away. The object wrapped inside the handkerchief fell out, and a revolver hit the floor with a dull heavy clunk. The cylinder of the gun swung out, showing that all of the chambers were empty.
The old stranger made his way over to the couch opposite the one Mytho had laid on earlier and took a seat, hands perched on top of his cane. "When we found you in that alley, you had fainted, but this was still in your hand. It was a good thing my men found you before the cops did. There were two dead men in front of you, and six spent casings on the ground." Smirking, the old man chuckled at Mytho. "Not bad for one who had never handled a gun before."
For a long moment Mytho stared unblinkingly at the gun on the floor, his mind unable to comprehend what this stranger had told him. His memories of what had happened in the alley were hazy, but Mytho remembered the coldness of the gun against his palm and the fear he'd felt as the two men approached him, their silhouettes illuminated by a car's headlights.
"I…shot them?" Mytho whispered. He raised his hands and only then did he notice the specks of blood dotted over the front of his clothes. Gripping his shirt, his hands shaking, Mytho wailed, "Oh God…I-I shot them; I killed them!"
The old man stood and walked up to Mytho, his cane tapping on the ground a measured, ruthless rhythm. "We live in a cruel world, Mytho. If you had not killed those men, they would've killed you. Compassion and kindness are foolish illusions. If you do not have the resolve to think and act for yourself, you will be trampled upon and worn down without mercy."
"'But how would I know?' you ask?" the old man said with a sneer. "Oh, I've been through it all, and trust me, I would know."
The stranger took Mytho's elbow and guided him to the couch on which the old man had previously sat. Sitting beside the older man, Mytho gazed into his face and was startled by the deep burgundy eyes that peered back at him with an intensity that belied the man's age. The familiarity of those eyes slowly made the pieces fall into place, and Mytho realized who this old man was.
"You…you're Domenico Corvo, aren't you? You're Rue's father!"
Don Corvo smirked. "I wondered how long it would take you to figure that out." He stood up and slowly made his way to the desk. "I became interested in you after Rue recommended you to me, and I decided to do a little research on you of my own. You were born and raised in Nordlingen, a small town in Pennsylvania at a church orphanage, and came to the city a few years ago to study at a dance school."
The Don paused to unlock a hidden drawer by the desk and took out a bottle of amber-colored whiskey and two crystal tumblers. He opened the bottle and poured two shots of the liquor into the pair of glasses and made his way back to the couch.
"A man's story is important. It tells me where and with whom his loyalties lie. And as for you," he looked at Mytho and set a glass down before him, "you have few ties to your hometown, and besides Rue, you have no close friends here in the city." Don Corvo sat back down and gestured for Mytho to take the glass.
Mytho looked at the liquor hesitantly. Again, the Don seemed to read his mind and gestured to the glasses. "Drink; it will help calm your nerves. Wine is far more sophisticated, but at times like this some 'medicinal' whiskey will do the trick."* He himself took a sip of the amber liquid, and watched as Mytho picked up his own glass and took a tentative sip, then another one less hesitantly.
The warmth afforded by the alcohol gradually eased away the quivering in Mytho's limbs, and after half of his glass was gone, a strange calmness had returned to Mytho's mind and this was when Don Corvo spoke again.
Domenico Corvo twisted the ring on his finger, his eyes not focused on any particular object. "You remind me somewhat of myself when I was young, Mytho. Do you know why?"
"I…no, I don't," Mytho admitted.
The Don glanced at him with a distant expression before peering back down at the ring on his finger. "My mother died when I was young and my father was often absent. The world I lived in was a harsh and unyielding one: a tooth for a tooth, an eye for an eye. Unconditional love was but a fairy tale—in this world, you were truly on your own. To obtain love and respect, you must have the power and conviction to attain it. You must be ready to fight with tooth and claw to take what it is you want, as I have done all these years.
"With this philosophy, I have come far in the world. But, Time cares not for the achievements of any one man. After observing you these past few months, I have seen the same potential in you. You have what it takes on the inside to be my heir someday, if matured properly." Don Corvo turned toward Mytho. "With Taccola gone, I need another worthy man to work at my side, and you have the brains and the talent to do it."
The Don leaned in and whispered, "Your life has changed tonight, Mytho. Whatever you decide, I won't turn you into the police; snitching is the worst of sins in our line of business. But, you know that you can't go back to that innocent world under the light anymore. What you have done tonight will stay with you forever."
His finger hovered over Mytho's chest, gazing at the receptive young man, the Don's crimson eyes full of temptation. "If you join me, if you let me take you under my wing, you'll become the brightest star shining on our stage of darkness, and all others will bow down before you…"
In the basement where Fakir was held captive, Mytho paused in his recollections as the tip of the stiletto tapped softly against the wood of the crate he sat on. Somewhere above, the water from a leaky pipe dripped with clock-like regularity onto the damp floor.
Fakir was slumped against the beam behind him, his eyes wide, and mouth slightly agape as he stared at his old friend in bewilderment and disbelief. The gentle boy he'd known in childhood had willingly turned into a murderer, a monster. How was this possible?
The words trickled from Fakir's mind to his tongue. His voice came out hoarse and dry. "But…that doesn't make any sense, Mytho," he whispered. "If you joined Domenico Corvo because of what happened to those men, I'm sure if you'd explained the situation to the police—"
"And what do you think they would have believed?" Mytho retorted. "I was the only one who came out of that alley alive that night, Fakir. All the evidence pointed to me. I would have been guilty of all charges. And, even if I had left Father's place that night without agreeing to join him…" His eyes narrowed darkly. "He was right. I would never forget what had happened. What I had done."
"But, that…!" Fakir, even now incredulous at Mytho's admission, struggled to find his words. "That still doesn't explain why you decided to join him! If you were so repulsed by all this, why did you continue to associate with the Corvos? Not just that, to be his heir?! All you're doing is making yourself into what you fear! What you hate!"
To Fakir's surprise, Mytho broke in sharply, "No, you're wrong!"
Grasping the telephone earpiece in one hand, Duck sat with trepidation, waiting for the connection she had requested to go through.
In her other hand she clenched the transmitter and the napkin tightly in her fingers. Each second felt like hours. Duck glanced down at the napkin with the three rows of telephone numbers Rue had given her.
Duck had completely forgotten about them after Rue had given them to her at the opera gala, too shocked she was about the discovery that Rue was the daughter of Domenico Corvo. It wasn't until the captain had offered the napkin to her to dry her tears that she saw the numbers, and an idea arose in Duck's mind.
It was a gamble, a huge gamble; but with no clues on Fakir's whereabouts, it was a risk she would have to take.
Now, as she sat in Charon's office, the captain and another officer sat nearby, their eyes concentrated on her as they all anxiously waited for a response.
The first number she had dialed was Rue's home on Long Island, but the maid had informed her that Ms. Legnani wasn't home and she wasn't aware of her mistress's whereabouts or when she would return.
Crestfallen, Duck had gone down the list and asked for the operator to connect her to a number in Manhattan, which was supposed to be the residence of her father, Domenico Corvo.
Duck's hand was shaking as she held the brass receiver. She was calling the very people who were trying to kill her. Charon had questioned the wisdom of calling the Corvo residence itself but Duck had been insistent. This was the only thing she could do to try to help locate Fakir. If Fakir was willing to put himself in harm's way to save her, she would do anything, everything in her own power to save him.
The ringing tone was suddenly cut off when a familiar but unmistakably irritable voice asked, "Who is this?"
Duck started, and she brought the transmitter closer to her lips. "Rue, it's me!"
On the other end of the line Rue's eyes widened and the receiver nearly slipped from her hand. She had anticipated the call to be from Mytho, and would never have expected Duck, of all people, to be calling her now.
From sheer instinct Rue pulled the receiver away from her head, and was about to hang up, when she heard Duck's desperately pleading voice.
"Rue, wait! Please don't hang up! Please!"
Hesitantly, Rue brought the receiver back to her ear. She glanced toward the door of her room, afraid that her omnipresent father would walk in at any moment. In a hushed, hurried voice, she asked, "Why are you calling me? Are you with the police right now? If you want to talk, send them away."
As Duck covered the transmitter, she looked up at Charon, who seemed to understand immediately. He motioned for the other police officer to exit the room before standing up to take leave himself. He paused beside Duck and said quietly, "You don't have to do this, Miss Stannus."
Duck only gazed up at him and smiled wanly. "I must."
Hearing this, Charon closed his eyes and sighed deeply before giving the young woman a brief nod and exiting the room.
Once the door had closed behind Charon, Duck removed her hand from the transmitter. "Okay, I'm alone now."
Rue took a deep breath, trying to collect herself and calm her nerves. "How did you know where to find me?"
"The telephone numbers you left me; I wasn't sure if I'd actually find you, but I'm glad I have."
Rue's brows drew together. Had Duck forgotten that Rue's own family had attempted to abduct her only hours ago? But the sincerity she heard in Duck's voice was genuine: as an actress Rue could tell.
To make sure Duck understood the position she was in, Rue asked, "Are you insane? What are you trying to do by calling the people who are trying to kill you?"
At such frank statements Duck paused. She gulped, and answered, "I know your family is out looking for me, but you're the only person who can help me, Rue."
"Help you? Why? Do you think I can somehow convince my father to leave you alone? Don't be foolish—"
Rue was again surprised, this time by the passionate response from the simple, silly girl she'd thought Duck to be.
"No, it's…not for me, but for Fakir. Please, I'm the one you—no, your father—wants! Fakir has nothing to do with this. Please let him go!"
"And what makes you think I have any power over that?"
"Do you know where he is?"
At Rue's silence Duck saw a glimmer of hope and she pressed the other girl further. "Please, Rue, I'm begging you. I-I'll do anything!"
On the other end of the telephone line, Rue sat in silence, her hand pensively at her lips as she listened to the other girl's entreaty.
Rue knew if she were to give away where the detective was likely being held, her family would disown her, or worse. Talking to anyone associated with the police was equated with snitching, the one greatest sin anyone in her world could commit.
If only Duck had never been a witness, then this whole mess could have been avoided. Because of her, Rue's relationship with her father was now precariously rocky and Mytho had become even more distant.
If only Duck could disappear…
Rue brought the receiver close to her mouth and walked to a window far from the door, where she was least likely to be overheard. "Anything, you say?"
After a split second of hesitation Duck nodded, answering firmly, "Yes. Anything!"
Rue took a deep breath. She knew that what she was about to say next could very well come at the cost of her father's love for her, precious and tenuous as it was; in order for her gambit to work, she would have to confess to her father that she had held Corvo dealings behind his back—again.
But powerlessness bred desperation, and it was with a desperate hope that her impudent action would ultimately bring calm back to her family that Rue answered Duck's plea, her red eyes darkening. "Fine, then. I'll tell you where the detective is. But, only under one condition…"
Mytho peered up at the ceiling lamp, its weak light barely reaching the young mobster's amber eyes.
"Fakir, answer me this," Mytho said finally, his eyes still gazing upwards, "do you know why I loved to dance so much?"
Still stunned from Mytho's outburst moments before, the sudden change in topic threw off Fakir. To him, Mytho's name and the word dance were synonymous, so for Mytho to ask this question was like asking why the grass was green or why clouds were white.
Mytho must've told me the reason at one point… Fakir wracked his memories for such an exchange, but none existed. Uncertainly, he answered, "Because…you love it."
Mytho looked back down from the lamp. "Yes, 'love'. From the beginning, I had always wondered why it was that my mother abandoned me. Was I not worthy of her love? Was there something about me that was undeserving of it?" He scowled, his eyes narrowing. "People think young children cannot comprehend feelings like guilt or rejection, but you and I know otherwise, because neither of us was foreign to these feelings when we were young, were we?"
Those words seemed to register something in Fakir, and he looked away, his eyes disquieted.
Mytho looked at him knowingly before continuing, "A few years before I first met you, the ballet school in town put on a recital. It was the highlight of the town's events; everyone attended, even the unwanted orphans at St. Vitus."
In Mytho's mind, a younger version of himself sat in the front row next to the stage, the other adults crowding around and behind. Before him, clad in satin toe shoes and sparkling costumes, the dancers moved in elegant form across the stage.
He'd watched with wide eyes, and when the music closed with a crescendo, the crowd around him burst out in applause and cheers. His young eyes were fixated on the smiling dancers, beaming as they took in the adulation of their audience.
"It was the most beautiful, amazing thing I'd ever seen. So then, I wondered: What would it be like to feel like that, to be adored by so many? If I could dance like the people on stage, then would I too, be loved by everyone?" Mytho closed his eyes, as if lost in the memory. "I wanted to find out if that was true, and from then on, all I could think of was how I could dance like them. I said to myself that one day, I will become a dancer, and for all those years I never shied away from that goal."
Eyes still closed, he smiled wistfully. "Once, when I was on the path towards that dream, there was a time when I truly felt that warmth, when someone truly cared for me, when I thought I truly belonged. During that time, what I'd always dreamed of had finally become real, and I could hold it with my own hands."
Then, his eyes opened, and they were hard and cold. "But after what happened that night, I knew I could never return to the stage under the light. If I continued to work for Father, did his bidding, then tainted though I am, I would be surrounded by people who would show me adoration and love."
Mytho held up his hands demonstratively, displaying the stiletto knife in his palm. "I've already stepped into the darkness; my hands are forever stained with the blood of those two men, and now many others. Even if I had returned to the world of light, I would have been turned away by that very world I had once lived in.
"There is promise for me in the darkness, Fakir," Mytho smiled, a smile of an innocent bright-eyed child. Seeing it sent shudders down Fakir's spine. "And with it, I could have anything I've ever wanted. Everything that I never before had."
Unable to contain himself, Fakir strained against his bonds as he spoke with desperation. "But, at what cost?! What you have now is built on the blood and tears of other people! Innocent families!" Fakir's teeth clenched, and his eyes became moist. "Mothers, and fathers, and children, Mytho! This can't be what you want!"
A shadow flashed over Mytho's eyes, as though the words had struck a nerve. With a frigid edge in his voice, Mytho retorted, "How would you know what I want, Fakir? You, who grew up surrounded by love, by a family who cared for you whether you pleased them or not, and whose mother and father died protecting you—how could you know how I feel and what I want?"
The sting from hearing such words from the man whose friendship he had so cherished made Fakir recoil with shock. His voice came out shaking, growing in conviction, "I…I can't believe it. I won't believe it. Mytho, you were my best friend. I knew you. You were a gentle soul. You don't belong here! This isn't who you are! You're not one of the Corvos, Mytho!" He took a breath and shouted, "You are not a coldblooded murderer!"
Mytho's voice became deathly quiet.
"You don't know me anymore, Fakir. I am one of them now. And if you can't believe what I say…"
He deftly gripped the knife in his hand. "Then I'll simply have to show you."
Mytho raised the knife, his eyes icily still, and the narrow blade flashed in the dim light for a second before he drove it deeply into Fakir's shackled hand.
Taccola is Italian for "jackdaw", a type of bird commonly found in Europe and is a member of the corvus genus, the same genus that crows and ravens belong to.
* Probably better known for their 1950's bullet-nose cars, the Studebaker was a more discreet vehicle than say a flashy Lincoln or Chrysler. If you're a drug trafficker it's probably not a good idea to draw attention to yourself by hauling your goods around in an eye-catching car, no matter what era you're in.
* The White Hand Gang was an Irish gang in the Red Hook waterfront area of Brooklyn. Red Hook, which is on the Erie Canal, was one of the busiest freight ports in the world in the 1920s and the gang made a living extorting money from dockworkers and people living in the area. Supposedly the gang wasn't involved in smuggling, though it was said some members felt they should get into the business since it was profitable. Thus I can see some rogue members trying to ambush the Don's deliveries to get their hands on that drug money.
* Yes, the sale of alcohol during Prohibition was illegal, but it was legal up until 1933 to get alcohol, including whiskey, with a prescription at a licensed pharmacy. The supposed medical benefits of "medicinal liquor" varied, with some for example, claiming to treat rheumatism, while others had more "grounded" claims, such as for nervousness.
And as always, big thanks to Tomoyo Ichijouji for editing!