211 Gun, Whales, and Wine

    "Shit." Dave felt sweat pop out on his forehead.

    "Language. You owe the swear-jar a Benji," the man said. He was still pointing the gun unwaveringly at Dave's face.

    "Uh, a Benji, sure. But would you mind pointing that somewhere else? I really don't like guns, had a bad experience with them, I'd prefer not to get my head blown off because of a misunderstanding." Dave pasted an ingratiating smile on his face. He his heart pounding and the sweat gathering in his armpits, but acting like a wuss in front of the man with the gun wouldn't help.

    The man obligingly lowered the weapon.

    "This thing? It's harmless. I was in my office when I heard you come in. If I really wanted to do some damage I would've grabbed the .88 magnum. It shoots through schools," the man looked at Dave expectantly, then shook his head when the young man didn't respond.

    "Dante Silvana," the man said, putting his hand out to shake.

    Dave stood and shook hands with the man.

    "David Ruster,"

    "Ah yes, you're the fellow my daughter's been spending time with." Zoe's father walked around to sit in the couch opposite of Dave.

    He crossed one leg over the other, put the gun in his lap and reached into his jacket to pull out a battered pack of cigarettes.

    "Cigarette?" he asked as he shook one out and brought it to his mouth.

    "No thank you."

    Dante shrugged, picked up the gun, brought the muzzle to his cigarette and squeezed the trigger. Dave twitched as it clicked. A tiny flame popped out, lighting the tip of the paper-rolled tobacco.

    'It's a god-damned cigarette lighter!'

    Dave was trembling, equally furious and relieved.

    Dante Silvana drew on the cigarette and shot twin streams of smoke out through his nostrils, looking at Dave.

    'Evil. THIS guy is the real demon!'

    "So, David, how do you know my daughter?"

    "We met in Conquest," Dave said.

    "Kids these days, nothing is real anymore. I don't understand the appeal of those fantasy games."

    "Have you ever played Conquest?"

    "I tried, but it didn't interest me. I'm not into fantasy or swords and magic. Don't see the point. I like Westerns. And guns."

    "Yeah, I'm getting that," Dave said.

    "But I saw the CCN feature with your Mr. Skeletal. It was a lot of fun to watch."

    "Thank you," Dave said. He didn't know what was going on, why Zoe's father was asking all the random questions. He just did his best to remain calm and collected.

    "Who are you talking to Dave?" Zoe asked as she came down. "Daddy! You're back early!" she said, running over and hugging him.

    "Ewwww, daddy you stink. You're not supposed to smoke. Put a grand in the swear-jar!"

    "It's just one little ciggy, pum'kin."

    "Uhhh oh, what is that silly lighter doing here? Were you teasing our GUEST? You promised to be a good host!" Zoe looked back and forth between her father and Dave.

    "Zoe, I would never! But he does owe the swear-jar a hundy."

    Dave didn't say anything.

    Zoe narrowed her eyes at her father. She knew he was lying, and he knew she knew he was lying.

    "You are incorrigible, daddy, we'll talk about this later. Where is uncle Sam?"

    "He should be here soon, we finished earlier than we expected today. So, this is your new friend. I like his taste in clothing."

    Zoe smiled, "He can wear a suit."

    "Did you show him around?" said Zoe's father.

    "Not yet, we just got here and I went upstairs to change."

    "Okay, you should show him my collection. He's going to love it."

    "C'mon, I'll give you a little tour, Davey," Zoe beckoned to him.

    Dave stood up and followed her through the downstairs of the expansive high-rise as she led him around through the spacious rooms; library, office, dining and billiard rooms.

    "Your dad is scary."

    "Oh, pish. He's the best. Did he try to scare you with that gimmick lighter?"

    "Yeah, and it worked. I think I peed a little."

    Zoe giggled.

    "What about the collection he talked about?"

    "You'll see,"

    Zoe pressed her hand to a scanner on a bare wall. The wall lifted up revealing a room that looked like a museum, filled with wall racks  and glass cases.

    Hundreds of guns were on display.

    "Whoa, that's enough guns for a small army!" Dave said.

    "Heh heh, daddy is a gun-collector and trader."

    "Is that legal?"

    "It is when my uncle is your lawyer."

    Dave followed her through the rows of cabinets to where a machine gun sat in a display case with belts of ammunition draped across it.

    "This is really cool!" Zoe said.

    "What is it?"

    "This is an M60. THE M60!"

    Dave tilted his head at her, he didn't know what she was talking about. It was just a big machine gun.

    "It's the one from Rambo. The old movie with Sly Stallone, remember? Dad is a big fan."

    Dave just shrugged.

    "Oh, Davey. Okay, but you have to know what that is," she said, pointing to another display.

    Dave looked where she was pointing. It was a minigun, complete with handholds and a feed chute.

    Zoe made an exasperated sound, "Look at the signature on the barrel."

    Dave bent down closer to the mini-gun and read what was written on it, 'Hasta la vista...baby!'

    "This is the minigun from Terminator 2?"

    "Yep. Daddy paid a fortune for it."

    Her father's voice came over an intercom.

    "Zoe your uncle is here, we're in the living room."

    "Let's go, we can finish the tour later," Zoe said.

    They returned to living room, the Demon was sitting on the couch next to Dante.

    "Zoe, David," Sam nodded at the two.

    "Uncle. How is aunty?"

    "She couldn't make it. Women's night or some such," he shrugged. "David, did something happen in the game lately?"

    "Actually yeah. I was robbed"

    "What do you mean robbed?"

    "I think it's an in-game event, I filed a complaint and sent a message to Emile Kada."

    "Did he reply?"

    "I'll check," Dave pulled his phone out, "Yeah, he did, let me see. Kada said he doesn't know what is going on, but something big is happening in the game. He is trying to figure out what."

    "Hm. Keep me informed, copy all communication with the company to me. Kada seems like a decent sort. But he doesn't control the corporation. Some people hold grudges over these sorts of things, idiots.

    "Yes, sir, I will,"

    Dante changed the subject, "Zoe, let's have some wine before dinner. Can you get a bottle of my favorite, please."

    "Sure, daddy."

    As soon as Zoe left the room the men turned and looked at Dave like two hungry tigers at a sacrificial goat.

    "Soooo. David, just how far have you gone with my daughter? Do I need to get my shotgun out and 'persuade' you to make an honest woman of her?" Dante asked.

    "Wha...? Whoa! We're just friends!"

    "Zoe's never invited a male friend to dinner before," Dante said sternly.

    Dave's mouth opened and closed like a fish as he stared tongue-tied at the protective father who also happened to be a dangerous and connected arms-dealer.

    'Dude, you're the one that told her to invite me for dinner.'

    Samuel spoke soothingly, "Dante-"

    "No, Samuel, let me do this," Dante interrupted his older brother.

    "All I hear these days is 'Dave this' and 'Dave that.' A father doesn't like being replaced by some young punk, you know," Dante said, glaring at Dave. Then he cracked up and started laughing out loud, unable to maintain the facade.

    Samuel grinned at Dave apologetically, "Dante loves his practical jokes. Where do you think Zoe gets it from?"

    Dave exhaled noisily and put a hand on his chest. It was one thing after another. He didn't know how much more his heart could handle.

    The two men continued chatting with and teasing Dave in a friendly way until Zoe came back followed by a maid rolling a cart laden with a charcuterie platter, wine glasses and a bottle.

    The wine glasses were passed around and the bottle decanted to let it breathe. They chatted until the wine was poured then sipped the fine red vintage while nibbling on the meats and cheeses.

    Finally Dante set his wineglass down in a decisive motion

    "David, we have some business to discuss. Is it okay for Zoe to stay for this? In a very small and indirect way it could involve her."

    Dave was flabbergasted. Business? What the hell did he, or even a barely-famous Mr. Skeletal, have to do with the circle of people an arms-dealer ran in?

    But he nodded to Dante to go ahead.

    "Shortly after I asked Zoe to invite you to dinner I was approached and asked to set up a meeting with you. The people who asked represent Tivo Giovanni."

    "I don't know who that is," Dave said, still completely mystified.

    "I believe you've met his daughter, Caitlin Giovanni, in Conquest. You might know her as Mercy."

    Zoe turned to look at Dave with an indecipherable expression on her face. But Dave turned livid with fury at the mention of the character, Mercy.

    "Sorry sir, I don't want to meet those people. I want to stay as far away from them as possible," he grated out through clenched teeth.

    Dante nodded to Samuel.

    "David I'm Dante's brother and Zoe's uncle. But I am also your attorney and I look out for your interests. Dante will not pressure you to agree to the meeting if you don't want to. But before you make your final decision, hear me out.

    "It's obvious you have history with the Giovanni family, probably related to your hospital stay and the men trashing your old apartment. Men like Giovanni do not accept 'no' for an answer, or allow their plans to be thwarted by those they perceive to be less than themselves. He will find a way to get what he wants one way or another. It would be better if we control the how and when. And in case we weren't clear, if you agree to the proposal you will not go alone, Dante and I will accompany you to the meeting."

    The knot in Dave's stomach unclenched a little at that. He had people on his side, powerful people.

    Dante spoke again, "David, Conquest is fun and games, you've done well for yourself in a very short time. But the real world is intruding into your life and you need to overcome the feelings you have from past events and deal with what is happening.

    "Very few people get to see how power-brokers do things away from cameras and behind the scenes. 'Seize every chance in life because some things happen only once.' This kind of meeting could open up new opportunities for you. While Goivanni isn't a world-shaker, he is a whale, one you cannot afford to offend or avoid. So consider what Samuel and I have said here carefully."
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