Today Me, Tomorrow You

May 27, 2024

Determined to prove his worth to his family roots and his new job in the CIA, Nate finds himself running through the twisting catacombs beneath his ancestral homeland.

 

Mumbling a curse under his breath, Nate continued his mad dash through the damp catacombs. Stale water soaked through the seams of his boots, slowing him down.

Nate could not hear any sounds of pursuit, but his gut told him they were close behind. If he failed in this mission, it would be the end of his short-lived career. 

The tunnel took a sudden turn. He gripped the corner of the wall. Beneath his gloved hands, he could feel the bones of ancient Christians lining the catacombs—the root system of the imperishable city of Rome.

Nate had been back for less than forty-eight hours. There was no time for sightseeing. That wasn’t the purpose.

His purpose was buried deep within his pocket. With every step, he felt the two-inch thumb drive press against his thigh and the hacksaw attached to his belt bounce against his hip. 

It was a crude weapon—certainly not Nate’s first choice. But a message needed to be sent. Recently, Nate’s cousin Gino Mariani was appointed don of the crime syndicate the Banda della Magliana. Gino desired to ensure their enemies knew they were dealing with someone well-acquainted with the old tools of the trade. 

As such, Gino had tasked Nate with this “errand” to solidify his role and responsibility within the family. 

Which was precisely what the CIA wanted. 

Beneath his feet, the ground sloped, the tunnel growing narrower. Nate stooped beneath the low ceiling. 

The stones shifted at a sharper angle until Nate was forced to drop to his seat and slide. Palming his gun, he held it near his face to keep the weapon dry. 

Below, a warm light illuminated an iron grate. Sliding rapidly, Nate grunted as his boots forced him to a show-stopping halt.

A lock and chain were looped around three of the bars. 

Perhaps Gino isn’t completely psychotic, Nate thought.

Holstering his weapon, Nate unclipped the hacksaw from his belt. He noticed the water had washed off most of the unfortunate bodyguard’s blood.

As he began sawing the iron chain, Nate glanced up the steep incline. There was no masking the screeching sound. Fonti’s daughter had sounded the alarm at the palatial villa, setting the ‘Ndrangheta dogs on his trail. He’d done his best to lose them in the catacombs. Now, Nate was practically calling them to himself.

Once through, he flung open the door and dropped into the chamber below. He splashed into a shallow pool of stagnant water that ran around the perimeter of the square room. Several other tunnels branched off. Golden chandeliers cast an orange glow along the walls—walls covered in rows of skulls and stacks of leg bones. In the center stood three skeletons. The one in the middle had a large set of feathered wings attached. At the pedestal’s base was an inscription: Hodie mihi, cras tibi. Today me, tomorrow you.

But it wasn’t the remains that caused Nate to pause. It was the triumphant sneer painted across the face of Massimo Fonti. 

Stepping down from the top of the pedestal, Massimo spoke, his accent coloring his words. “Nice try, CIA.” 

Feigning confusion, Nate cocked his head. 

“We know what you really are. Now, hand it over.” 

Wading through the pool, Nate stepped onto dry ground. “We, is it? I wasn’t aware your father had taken you into his confidence. I thought Salvator was his right hand.” 

The sneer dropped into a snarl. “Leave my father out of this.” 

“Fine. Then let me pass.” 

“My sister’s reputation is at stake.” 

“Not my problem.” 

Massimo strode toward him, his pistol casually in his left hand. “This is the problem with you half-breeds. You don’t value family.” 

Shifting, Nate moved cautiously, trying to see a way past Massimo. The man was merely a distraction from his real target. “I’ve every right to be here.” 

“And that is what, exactly? Incriminating my sister?” 

“It’s insurance. Our families are locked in a turf war. Salvator overstepped.” Nate tapped the hacksaw with his left hand while reaching around his back with his other. “I’m here to ensure that doesn’t happen again. Surely you can appreciate that.”

Quickly, Nate drew his pistol and aimed it between Massimo’s thick eyebrows. Before the man could react, a hollow laugh came from the tunnel closest to them. 

From the shadows stepped the slim figure of Salvator Pannunzi, his revolver trained on Nate. “My, my, Nathaniel Mariani has his hands full. Wouldn’t you agree, cousin?”

The greeting snapped Massimo into action. Nate suddenly found himself outnumbered and outgunned.

Nate grinned. “Just in time. I was about to convince Massimo to rat you out. You want to tell him, or should I?”

A callous chuckle rattled in Salvator’s throat. “You couldn’t possibly know what you’re talking about.”

Nate glanced at Massimo, whose face was clouded with suspicion.

Crossing toward Salvator, Nate slowly swung his pistol in his direction. “Massimo, this man is why the CIA wants the drive. He used your sister. If your father knew, do you think he’d let him live?”

“Liar. Don’t listen—”

“You snake!” Hot-headed Massimo spun toward Salvator, taking a wild shot. 

In the space of a breath, Salvator lunged, fired at Massimo, and then collapsed as a bullet from Nate’s gun lodged in his chest.

The guns’ reports echoed through the twisting tunnels. 

With measured steps, Nate approached Salvator as he lay choking on blood filling his lungs. Several feet away, Massimo was dead. Over all of them, the chandeliers threw a sinister shadow painted by the wings of the skeleton. 

Nate unhooked the hacksaw, then knelt at Salvator’s side. As Nate unlaced the man’s shoes, Salvator’s eyes grew wide. 

“You overstepped.”

 

As an author, Alexandra Rexford enjoys writing stories with wit and romance, including a dash of danger. In a perfect world, she would spend all her time writing, reading, sipping hot cocoa, and snuggling with her dogs.

 

 

 

Featured image by Karim Manja.

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