Ciaran by Naomi West

1

Ciaran

“God, I hate this shit,” I mutter to myself, watching everyone file into the bar.

It’s already been a long day, and I know I have to get through it—but the last thing I want to do is spend hours drinking with the rest of the Family, hearing people talk about my dad, nodding along to drunken songs.

At least—I think—nobody can shame me for the show I’m putting on. Nobody can claim that I’ve been disrespectful, or that I’ve stinted on anything.

I look around the room, and as more and more of the men and the approved dates come in, the bartenders start getting the bottles out to serve. This is the last thing that needs doing. After this, I can get my suit off and maybe start thinking about getting some sleep.

I haven’t slept since I got the call that Dad had been shot, that I needed to come and identify and claim the body.

“Here, Ciaran,” Sean says. He works directly under me, one of my guys from before I rose to the top, so of course he’s the first one to bring me a decent shot of whiskey. He’s hoping I’ll promote him to underboss, alongside David. I haven’t even begun to think about replacing any underbosses, and right about now I don’t want to.

The shot’s Jameson, I can tell by the smell, and I accept it from the guy, raising my glass to clink against his.

“To Odhran,” Sean says, and I echo it. I knock back the shot and remind myself not to get too wasted, even if the whole point of the exercise is for everyone to get as drunk as possible.

I get a seat near the bar where everyone can see me, and settle in to spend half the night drinking, after having spent most of the day either in church or at the cemetery. The pub’s a safe place; it’s really the only place that would have taken all of the Family at once. That’s because the Family owns it, one of a half dozen pubs and bars we own across different parts of the city.

Gentrification has been good to the crime families of New York City. Nobody much notices anymore if a place doesn’t seem to have a lot of traffic but still stays in business, and no matter how ridiculous some of the Family-run businesses look, none of them are any more ridiculous than some of the genuine concepts that hipsters have brought in. Compared to a nail salon for hamsters, a half-empty bar doesn’t seem so out of place.

This place, Seamus’, is firmly in Kelleher territory, the big reason it was the top choice out of all our properties for the night’s wake. All of the apartments above it are owned by our men, with the penthouse set aside either for my father or one of his favorites, visiting associates, and the like.

Only now it belongs to me, I guess.

I watch the crowd of men—and maybe half a dozen women—wander around the room, drinking whiskey and talking about my dad. I let people bring me drinks, and accept their condolences about my dad.

“He was a tough bastard.”

“He knew the game, but that doesn’t make it any better what happened to him.”

And so on and on.

I sing along with the bar songs, the old Irish lays that get passed down, that only seem to come out when everyone is drunk and someone is dead.

I still hate it.

I hate it just as much as I ever have—but even more now. Dad wasn’t ready to go yet, and that puts a fire inside of me that I’m not sure any amount of whiskey can extinguish.

Matt O’Sullivan, my father’s chief advisor, comes to the table as things are finally starting to wind down. Some of the men who brought their girlfriends are wandering off to celebrate the life of my father in the best possible way: by trying to bring a new life into the world.

I’m half-drunk by now in spite of the fact that I’ve been trying to take things slow, and Matt has to say my name a few times to get my attention.

“What the fuck do you want, Matty?” I gesture for him to sit down across from me, irritated.

I know damn well what he wants. But I’m not ready to take over from my father. I thought I’d have more time to get ready for it—and really, it might have ended up being one of Dad’s bosses instead of me at that.

Except that nobody really wanted to take things up, the way they stand now.

“We need to talk about the D’Antonios,” Matt says as he sits down. “We’ve already taken long enough to mourn your father.”

I groan. “The rest of the families won’t shit bricks then?” I take a sip of whiskey and set my glass aside. It’s practically sacrilege to switch to water on a night like this, but I want to keep my wits at least a little about me.

“They’re waiting to see which way we’re going to jump,” Matt says.

I take a breath and drink down half a glass of water, thinking.

“What do you say, consigliere?” I sneer at him when I use the Italian term. It’s always seemed stupid to me that Irishmen would use the Italian terms, but there’s no really good Irish word for the same position. “What’s your advice?”

“They knew they could get at our guys, and your father,” Matt says. “That tells me they had someone on our side in their payroll. That’s something we’re going to have to figure out—but later.”

I shake my head. “I’ve already looked into that,” I tell him, dismissing the idea. “They lucked the fuck out, is what they did. Nobody’s a rat.”

Matt looks skeptical, but he doesn’t argue with me. “They killed three of our guys, and your father—the boss,” Matt points out. “That demands an equal response.”

I look around the room. I know Matt’s not the only one thinking that same way. Probably half of my father’s men are chomping at the bit, just waiting for me to announce who the targets are.

The D’Antonios killed four Kellehers in one night, including my father. Now that we’ve buried our dead, we have to hit back fast, or the Family will lose status.

I knew as soon as I claimed my father’s body that we’d have to find a way to hit back. But there was all the other shit to take care of, too: filing the paperwork, all of the bullshit that trails in the wake of a dead man.

“Go on,” I say, drinking down the rest of my water before I go back to the whiskey.

“I say we take blood for blood,” Matt says. “Four of their guys, if possible, on one of their properties.”

I think about it for a second or two and then shake my head.

“No,” I say. “They didn’t just take four of our guys. They took my father. They’ve taken my brothers, too. We need to take their blood.”

I remember the sight of my father’s body on the slab. I was the one to identify it. It had to be me. I’ve seen a lot of bodies in my life already—but it’s a whole different ball game when it’s your father.

The only thing worse than that was seeing my brothers dead.

“What do you mean by that?” Matt sounds excited, and I can see the whiskey roses in his cheeks.

It’s probably not the best call to make decisions right now. Everybody’s at least half drunk, me included

But Matt’s right that we have to hit back as soon as possible, and that means making a decision and announcing it right now. I have to do something, be seen to do something, or else I’m a coward and the other Families will start encroaching on our territory.

“Marcello wants to kill my Family. Fine. I’ll kill his,” I say. “We go after Adriana D’Antonio.” The words feel good, feel right, as they come out of my mouth.

Adriana is Marcello’s daughter, and his top person in the Family other than his own consigliere. She is the perfect target.

“Not bad,” Matt says.

I get to my feet. Everyone quiets down a bit as I step away from the table I’ve been sitting at, so I can address everyone—all the members of the Family still hanging around—at one time.

“I’ve made up my mind,” I say, and everyone goes completely silent. “The D’Antonios took my father’s blood, so I’m going to take his. Bring me Adriana D’Antonio’s body and you can name your fucking price.” I pause and let that sink in, and then flash everyone a bit of a grin. “As long as it’s a reasonable one, of course.”

A sudden murmur ripples through the room, the rumble of satisfaction accompanied by nodding heads. I’ve chosen well. Adriana’s blood is the right choice.

The money is appealing, too, though these men are part of the Family. They’re not going to try and get me to pay them millions for the blood of our enemies. In this particular feud, revenge is its own kind of reward.

But I’m willing to give whoever can take out D’Antonio’s daughter a good price for her head, and a vacation outside of the country while the heat dies down, to boot.

I go back to my seat and watch as the news takes effect. The guys start talking again amongst themselves, and nobody seems to be all that eager to get too spectacularly drunk anymore. Not when they can be working on making a nice tidy bit of money by bringing me what I want.

David Byrne, my right-hand man, comes to the table when Matt leaves to make some calls to those who missed the announcement. I accept another whiskey from him and we clink glasses. “To Odhran,” we both murmur quietly.

“I want to talk to you, respectfully,” David says.

“Yeah, Byrne? What have you got to say to me?” I’m feeling wobbly again, and set my whiskey down. I’ve lost track of how many shots I’ve had to drink.

“I don’t think taking Adriana out is the solution,” David says. “Before you shoot me—I get it. There was no call for them to kill your father. They escalated things. But your dad killed Ezio before Marcello killed him.”

I growl. “And Marcello killed Kevin and Quinn before that,” I tell my underboss. “If Marcello wants the blood to end, he’ll hand over his fucking daughter and that’ll make us square.”

“He probably thought killing your dad made you square for Ezio,” David points out. “And your dad thought that Ezio was square for Kevin and Quinn. This whole thing just keeps getting bigger.”

“Are you my consigliere now?” I laugh. “Matt has no problem with me going after Adriana.”

“Of course he doesn’t,” David says with a shrug. “He wants to obliterate the D’Antonios, so we can take things over in this corner of the city completely.”

“And that’s a problem?” I look at my main man, my most trusted soldier, for a long moment.

“We can do it differently,” David says. “We can destroy them economically.”

“What’s wrong with doing both?”

David looks at me for a few seconds, looks down at his drink, and then looks at me again. “I love you like my own brother, Ciaran,” David says. “Your father was a great man, and they got the drop on him. If you keep escalating—if you get Adriana, like you called for—then they’re going to take you out. Then what’s the point in it being the Kelleher Family anymore? We’ll become the O’Sullivan Family or the Nolan Family or whatever else. Your name will be dust in the wind, brother.”

I glare at David. “You’re saying you think they can take me out,” I say.

David sighs, looking awkward. “Did you think they could in a million years take Odhran out?”

I don’t want to answer that question. Of course I didn’t. I never imagined my dad would get taken out, especially not so soon. Part of what makes this all so brutal is the fact that none of us thought my father would go out this way. He was invincible.

Until he wasn’t.

“I have to make the impression,” I tell David instead. “I have to get the blood that’s owed to me. If the D’Antonios want to put an end to this, they have to surrender.” I knock back the last of the whiskey in my glass and wave off David’s attempt to pour me some more. “I’m gonna take a leak,” I tell him.

I just want the night to be over…

And I want Adriana D’Antonio’s head on a spike.