So… due to the fact that I live in Kansas and there is a blizzard (which apparently stretches across the entire Great Plains and Ozarks area) I have had no classes for the past two days and that meant that I got to update this way earlier than I had anticipated!
I hope you all like it – THANKS sincerely for the lovely reviews I got on the first chapter!
And thank you to my sister (Abbygreeneyes) for a certain older sibling's lines! She's amazing; the conversation wouldn't have been the same within her! It was so much fun creating that bit!
Alfred stood and held out a hand to Katyusha who smiled and mumbled a small "thank you." He then turned to her sister who was just sheathing her daggers into a strap on her thigh. Alfred quickly looked away, embarrassed.
He walked to the open window and resting his palms on the sill, he breathed in the cool wind blowing across the river. He spoke to the sisters without looking back to give Natalya time to compose herself. "That was Feliciano Vargas. He is shorter than his brother; his hair is slightly lighter, a mahogany color and curls on the other side."
Natalya was suddenly behind him. For some reason it gave Alfred the chills. Was he really considering a deal with this woman? Before he could answer his own question she let out a low whisper as though she was talking to herself. "Good to know. I will not make the same mistake again."
Alfred turned to face her, "And he always has that tall German around."
"Hmmm" Natalya appeared to be thinking; her eyes flickered toward the doorway of the cabin. She turned to her sister, "Sestra, we have much to do. First, we must find out how they found us here and what they know of us." Katyusha nodded and went to stand by the door as her younger sister stepped over splinters and broken pieces of furniture.
Suddenly Katyusha spoke up as Natalya reached the door. "Should we perhaps tell Ivan what's going on? Maybe he could-" but Natalya cut her off. "He is far too busy right now, we've talked about this!"
Katyusha acquiesced to her sister, "Da sestra, of course." Alfred stayed quiet as he watched the two sister's exchange. As they both began the decent to their motor boat he followed them out onto the deck.
"I will bring Feliciano Vargas to you." Natalya spoke again, looking up at him from the ladder; her sister was already readying their boat below. Alfred realized she may not understand the law in America.
He straightened his glasses and leaned over the railing as she continued her descent. "Um, you know I can't just arrest him without evidence or a confession." He wasn't sure what he had expected her response to be, but it hadn't been the look he saw now. Her grey-blue eyes lit up malevolently and a shadow seemed to cross her face for a moment though the sun was not out to cast one.
"A confession? I can do that." Her lips split in a wicked smile as she hopped off the last rung of the ladder to join her sister in the boat.
Was this the kind of woman he wanted to make a deal with? Alfred thought again. "Just – Just get that confession and then we'll talk." He called down to them. There, he thought to himself running a hand through his hair, he hadn't really made a deal. He only said he'd talk to her and see where it went from there. Alfred wasn't stupid. He knew he may just be trading one crime syndicate for another. He would have to make sure he played his cards right here. His mind trailed off as he looked around at the damage done.
"Damn. I was so close to having this thing paid off, and now it needs repairs." He sighed, then put it out of his mind. First things first, he would have to get back to the office, see what he could find out about these sisters. Maybe a trip to Russia wouldn't be a bad idea, either. Ivan would undoubtedly be more sensible than his clearly unstable sister.
It was an hour later when Alfred unlocked the door to his office and strolled in ready to dig up whatever he could on Natalya and Katyusha. As he set his coffee on the desk he noticed a letter. It was from his brother Mathew in Canada. Alfred hadn't seen him in ages; he happily tore open the envelope to read it.
Alfred, I've decided it been too long since I visited! I know you're always busy but I'm coming down there. I know you'll make time for my delicious pancakes! I'm leaving tonight so I should be there the day after you get this letter. I wanted to write you instead of call because I know sometimes you forget when I'm coming for a visit. This way you can pin the letter to your office door so you won't forget.
See you soon!
A bright grin lit up Alfred's face. He plopped down in his seat, put his feet up on the desk and sipped at his coffee. Mathew's pancakes were the best! He would have a day to dig up any dirt on the sisters, and then he could hang out with Matt for a few days before heading over to Russia to meet with Ivan. His grin faded just a bit at a sudden thought. The civil war over there was still going strong. Would that be a problem?
He reached over to the filing cabinet beside his desk and pulled out the file marked Braginski, I. He didn't need to look to find the edges of the worn file. Ivan had been on their side during the Great War before the Russian Empire became the Soviet Republic and left the war effort. Alfred had met him personally once, once that he could remember…those dreams, but no, he shook the thought from his mind, they were only dreams. The image of a violet eyed soldier swam into focus in his mind. Alfred recalled his bloodstained and torn uniform; the strangest thing had been Ivan's scarf. It was immaculate. How had he kept that scarf so pristine?
Alfred shook his head again and the image of Ivan from his mind. Now he was part of the Bolshevik government, which Alfred's government definitely did not support. America had recently been helping the counter-revolutionary White army instead and had only just pulled their troops from Siberia that year when it was clear the Reds were going to win.
He let his feet drop from his desk as he sat up straighter. He would go to Russia. What was their civil war compared to the Great War? Before Mathew arrived he'd get it all set up and after his brother's visit he'd travel straight to Moscow. He'd simply avoid getting involved in their politics and get back home as quickly as possible to deal with Feliciano and his foul mouthed brother.
Alfred took another sip of his coffee before flipping open the file.
Closest Family Members: Two sisters. The elder, Katyusha Braginskaya is now living in Chicago, owner of the Gold Star hotel. The younger, Natalya Arlovskaya is known to have contacts with criminal organizations in Belarus and Lithuania though her current whereabouts are unknown.
Well, he'd have to amend that, Alfred thought as he flipped through the file. His eyes fell on the picture of Ivan stapled to the page of his known history. It couldn't hurt to read up on him a bit, Alfred thought. He reached for another sip of his coffee and resting his chin in his palm, his elbows on the desk, he began to read.
As Alfred sat in his office late into the night, Feliciano was leaving his brother's house. Romano had told him everything that had happened. Most troubling was the agent's willingness to work with the Byelorussian. Feliciano's stomach growled as he got into the car and he asked his driver to make a stop at the first phone booth he saw.
The petite man played with the ends of his jacket as he went over the day's events. Feliciano had thought he had paid off enough in the local government to keep this sort of thing from happening. Clearly, he hadn't paid off enough in Washington to keep the feds at bay. He would have to do something about this over zealous agent Jones.
Feliciano was frustrated and hungry. He wouldn't be able to think straight until he got some dinner. He had meant to ask Ludwig to join him as well, but in all the commotion after rescuing Romano he had forgotten to ask him. Once they had gotten Romano safely home, his German capo had left to collect the monthly protection money gathered by his men. Surely he had still not eaten.
The driver stopped and Feliciano immediately got out and made his way to the phone booth. He looked to either side and satisfied at seeing none of his enemies, he whistled happily as he dialed his favorite restaurant.
After making the order he dialed Ludwig's number.
"Hallo" the familiar voice came over the receiver.
"Ludwig! How much did your guys bring in in protection this month? Anyone resist paying? Feliciano asked cheerfully.
"The usual $20,000." Ludwig's voice was serious as always. "One resistance, but no need to worry, I persuaded him that it vas in his best interest."
Feliciano chuckled lightly. Ludwig was always able to lift his spirits. "I was thinking, have you eaten yet? Its been such a long day, if you haven't would you like to come eat with me?" Why was there suddenly a lump in his throat? He stood up straight and adjusted his collar.
"Ja, I vould like that." Ludwig replied after a moment. "Vhere do you vant to go?"
Feliciano grinned into the receiver, "I'm actually picking something up. You can meet me at my place Veh~."
Silence. Feliciano's heart raced.
Why was he so worked up? After three years, still? Surely he just needed to eat. He was about to add something else when Ludwig's voice came back softer than usual.
"Ja. That sounds nice."
Feliciano let out his breathe relieved. "Veh~ Great! I'll see you soon!" He hung up the phone and rushed back to the car, glad to be out of the December wind and on his way to pick up dinner. He would think about what to do about that agent and the Byelorussian later. It couldn't be too messy. A government agent would be missed. He shook the thoughts from his head. He was on his way to food and deserved a break just for the night.
Ludwig hung up the phone and turned away from the stove. He looked over to his brother Gilbert seated at the table feeding the tiny bird on his head breadcrumbs. The taller blonde took the jagersnitzel he had just made them from the stove and made his brother a plate. The pale haired man looked up from his seat, "Only one plate?"
"Ah, Ja. I have to go meet mit my boss. He said he would have food there, so…"
Gilbert looked up with a smirk, "It seems you're always with these days." He said, "Moved up quickly in the ranks, didn't you Bruder?"
The tall blonde slammed the plate down on the table, "I believe in a good work ethic. I don't know vhat you are insinuating!"
His brother looked to the plate and raised and eyebrow. "So touchy Ludwig. Slamming dinnerware like that. Work must be stressful. Or...", he emphasized the next word with a wink, "distracting."
Ludwig spluttered incoherently before getting his wits about him again. "Work is just fine - you are stressful! Feli - ciano is my boss and a good friend. That is all! Oh god , he had almost used the nickname! Ludwig could feel his face grow hot and prayed his brother hadn't noticed.
Gilbert cheeped on his older brother's head. "Feli...?" Gilbert grinned wide as he said the name. Ludwig's face grew hotter still.
"I..I had a hiccup..." He said reaching for his coat, determinedly not meeting his brother's eyes. Before he had had a chance to put the coat on his brother frowned.
"Bruder you can't leave with out bringing me my beer. You can't expect the awesome me to get my own Beer can you?"
Ludwig let out a low rumble from the base of his throat, "Ja! Get your own beer!" He was to busy looking for his keys, the sooner he left the better at this point. "Where are my keys?" Ludwig tossed pillows from the sofa angrily and bent down to peer beneath.
From his position on the floor he was unable to see his brother's eyes alit on a pair of keys on the table and pocket them. All he heard as he stood back up was "I don't know Ludwig. You've been unusually scatterbrained lately. It's obvious you have something else on your mind." Gilbert leaned suggestively across the table at him before continuing, "and I spend all day at work pouring beer. The least you can do is get me a pint."
Ludwig stomped back toward the table as he retorted, "I have nothing on my mind!" As the last syllable dropped from his tongue, he recognized the beginnings of a laugh on his brother's lips. "I mean, anything on my mind is none of your business!" He amended loudly from the kitchen as he reached into the icebox for a beer.
He returned from the kitchen and resentfully slid the beer across the table to Gilbert. "here - have your damn pint!
His brother's red eyes sparkled with mirth as he gloated at receiving what he wanted. "Here!" he pulled the keys from his pocket and tossed them to Ludwig. "Have your damn keys!" He took a sip and leaned back in his seat throwing his feet up on the table. He took a second sip and then continued with an ever wider grin. "and I wouldn't want to see anything on your mind Bruder. I never went for Italians."
Ludwig's eyes went wide, "Vhat?"
His older brother just ignored Ludwig's outburst and waived his hand dismissively. "Ja, ja, just go. Gilbird has more of a clue than you." Ludwig glared as he began to finally put on his coat.
"Ja, I vill go."He lifted his chin, trying to will the blush from his face. "Enjoy your dinner bruder".
Gilbert chuckled, and whispering to the little bird he said, "You can't blame him. He does have that cute little curl."
This comment sent Ludwig over the edge. He was talking about his boss- his friend- he…well, he didn't quiet know how to explain himself, but it was the last straw. The tall blonde was at his brother in an instant, both fists slammed into the table on either side of the shorter man. "Augh! If you were not mein bruder!"
Gilbert stared at his irate sibling for a moment and then burst out laughing. Gilbird chirped and flew in circles above the two men.
Oh, his brother was impossible! "Vhat are you laughing at?" Ludwig bellowed at the paler man. The younger brother reached into his coat and brandished his pistol. "I mean it! I vould shoot you in the head!"
Gilbert's laughter finally subsided but his grin remained "So possessive West!" His grin split now from ear to ear as he continued, "and yet so incapable of staking a claim!"
Ludwig stood up and spluttered again, "I didn't mean...you, augh! I'm going to be late!" He turned, grabbed his favorite hat, a grey fedora with blue stripe around the band, and headed for the door. He had turned he knob and was just stepping onto the porch when his brother called after him.
"Careful Bruder, if you don't, I might!" He continued to guffaw from the dining room.
Ludwig didn't know what to say, but his blood was boiling. He turned to face Gilbert again, "Its not like that! You don't know vhat you're talking about!" completely involuntarily he added under his breathe, "und he vouldn't be interested if you did." As he turned back outside.
He was just about to slam the door when Gilbert's laughter subsided and he became unexpectedly serious. "Bruder, I run a speakeasy. It is not as uncommon as you think. No one cares what goes on behind closed doors. I've seen some suspicious things in your room." He teased; Ludwig grunted a non committal sound. "And yet you seem so straight laced! It is impossible to tell what people like. Take it from your wise older brother Gilbert."
Was his older brother actually trying to impart advice? Ludwig once again turned back to the house. He honestly didn't know what to say about the feelings he had toward Feliciano. For years he just chalked it up to wanting to be good at his job, always there if Feliciano needed him, but for a while he had to admit… he had been unsure if that was all it was. It didn't matter. Whatever it was, he would suppress it. He sighed deeply and returned his brother's uncharacteristic seriousness.
"I do not have your life. If I vanted...not that I do...vhat I mean is, my job is...vell, you just have to maintain a certain image." He cleared his throat. "I..I have to go."
It seemed that Gilbert understood what he was saying, and in another of his rare moments he stood at the table and looked at Ludwig seriously. "Ja, Bruder I know. You should come to the joint sometime. Relax."
Ludwig chuckled, Maybe he did need a break. "Ja. Ja, vhen I have the time I vill try to come by." With that he closed the door and stepped out into the cold air. As he started the car and headed in the direction of Feliciano's penthouse he breathed deeply. Whatever he was feeling would stay deep inside. Feli didn't feel the same way, of course. 'But if he did?' a little voice whispered in his head. Ludwig turned the radio on. As loud as the dial would turn.
End o' Chapter 2
I hope you all enjoyed reading that as much as I did writing it!