“I like ya’ kid,” the boss said over the phone. No one spoke to the boss in person. Ari knew that by now. He was moving rapidly through the organization, his natural wit and intelligence serving him well. He also knew it wasn’t, quite, the time to push too hard.
“You got a future here,” he continued. “Are ya sure you wanna go this way? It ain’t a good idea. This ain’t the right line o’ work for dames. Maybe in a few years, when we moved ya up into… well, safer work. Supervisory type.”
It was a delicate conversation. He needed the syndicate. They could hide his records, put off his pursuers, protect him and his family. But that was the point, without a family, it was just him they were protecting. He was tired of eating alone, he had a house where he wanted a home.
His new home was, to put it kindly, far less impressive than his old.
The land was undeniably beautiful, but it was also empty. It took every cent he had to his name to put up a shack. And not a very good one at that.
He thought about Adria and felt ashamed. She might not be alive, and if she were, she might be enduring far worse than he was. His thoughts turned aside from his worst fears. If all he had to suffer was the indignity of a shack, he should count himself lucky.
Sadly it was not all he had to endure.
A phone call to “Boss Tweed” did not land him as high as he’d hoped. His name didn’t carry the weight it once did. The Boss was angry at Aristotle, claiming he’d have to “carry” the former rich kid.
“Don’t be an…” he started, but stopped himself in time. “I think you’re taking the short view,” Ari explained. “I have the manners, bearing, and education you’ll need to get into targets you couldn’t even approach otherwise. With my help, you’ll be able to reach targets you couldn’t before. They don’t even have to know they’ve been taken.”
As far as he knows, he is the last survivor of the storied Nobbs family. His older brother was the first to go, and his father did not long outlive him. The mob, though, was never sated. It burned him still that their so-called friends, allies of long standing, abandoned them when the hounds bayed loudly at the door. Together they could have faced down the riots, but the Nobbses stood alone. And alone they burned.
He prayed his little sister Adria survived. She deserved better than she got. His mother managed to sneak the little girl away before everything burned, but from there on Aristotle had heard nothing. She was just… gone.
His escape was messier. A corpse, one of the mob who’d gotten careless when trying to break in, dressed in his clothes and taken by the fire, provided a distraction. Just enough time for him to get ahead of the crowd and slip away to the sewers. He tried to escape by air only to find the airports closed to him. The mob had turned even the government against him. Never again would he walk the streets of London or Paris. All of Europe was closed to him.
It took everything they hadn’t seized from him to pay the bribes he needed. Months crossing the Atlantic by ship while disguised as a common seaman. But he made it to America, where there was safety for him. All he had left to his name was the family patent and a small tract of land in the country’s south.
It would have to be enough.
He would rebuild the Nobbs family. They would stand as tall as they ever had, even if it would take more than a lifetime to do it. No one would stand against him. He knew the value of “family friends,” and that value was zero. The manners of the nobility had booted his father nothing but an early grave. If he must compel by fear he would do so.
His family did have a few less reputable contacts. He knew just where to turn for the lessons he’d need.