The Marked One (The Marked Series Book 1)

BOOK: The Marked One (The Marked Series Book 1)
11.21Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

The Marked One


The Marked Series

Book One



By Chevoque



The Marked One


Copyright © 2016 by Chevoque.

All rights reserved.

First Print Edition: September 2016



Limitless Publishing, LLC

Kailua, HI 96734


Formatting: Limitless Publishing


ISBN-13: 978-1-68058-789-0

ISBN-10: 1-68058-789-7


No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.


This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to locales, events, business establishments, or actual persons—living or dead—is entirely coincidental.




Jessica DeFrancesco, this one’s for you.

Thanks for all your help and local info. You really are the best Pittsburgher—Heinz 57—I know…and the only one. ;)
















Tristano Gerardo
felt dizzy as his father yelled and his mother cried. His high was quickly fading, his uncertainty slightly dissipating, but his fear began growing again. He only remembered the light, then the pain came, and then this haze.

He looked down at his hands, the bandage tightening as he tried moving his fingers. Something stung in the back of his neck and his head fell forward, his eyes closed. He felt queasy. Slowly, he brought his head upright and looked at his father’s silhouette in the dark room. The light spilled in from behind him.

His father was making elaborate hand gestures, and Tristan could hear his mother’s sobs as the relentless ringing faded from his ears. He watched—more attempted to follow—as his father walked up to the liquor cabinet and poured himself a hefty serving of bourbon. Tristan’s mouth went dry with need for a drink of his own, but as he rose, he fell back into his seat and his mind drifted off.




“Tell me your story,” little Tristan cheered as he sat on his father’s lap. His baby sister was crying her little heart out. Their mother tried calming her in another room.

“Not tonight, Tristano,” his father mumbled tiredly. As Tristan was, he turned gloomy and got his way when his father didn’t want to see his son sad. “All right, all right, but then you are off to bed.” Tristan nodded, and the long, scruffy, dirty blond hair fell into his eyes as he looked at his father in wonder.

His father combed his fingers through Tristan’s hair. “You need a haircut, my boy.”

“Story,” Tristan whined.

With a heavy sigh, his father began, “I was—”

“No, tell it like a story. Like I don’t know you, silly.” Tristan cheerfully giggled.

His father patiently adjusted Tristan on his lap and settled. “Arnoldo Vittorio Gerardo was the negotiating genius everyone wanted to have on their side.”

Now Tristan was pleased and he gave his broken smile, feeling his tongue through the gap of his missing front teeth. He had gotten a quarter for each from the Tooth Fairy and bought himself some candy, while saving one quarter to give to his sister, for when she could start eating it as well.

“He had moved to Pittsburgh with his wife,” his father pressed on with the tale, “at only nineteen years old, from Sicily with big dreams. The man was born and raised by traditional Italian parents and when he began having a relationship with a girl from England, they disowned him. They chased him out of his family home even before he had spent a fortnight with the woman, whom they called a
. For she was not of the same religion and this made the parents furious, but Arnoldo was in love, so he now calls the very woman his—”

“What is dis…ow again, father?” Little Tristan’s eyelids were growing heavy. His father always worked late, but it was a rule that he was allowed to at least say goodnight, even if it meant bedtimes weren’t followed.

“Something you never need to worry about.” Tristan settled in his father’s lap. His father made sure he was quiet and continued. “Elizabeth Luedke was just a student on holiday when her life was changed by the fine Italian man who helped her buy tickets at a museum.”

Tristan’s mother only smiled at him from across the tiny living room, where she was standing in the door with a now quiet Gabriella in her arms, fast asleep.

“One look and they both were done for. His tall, dark, and handsome fit her short, fair, and beautiful better than she’d ever thought.” Tristan saw his mother’s beautiful, loving smile as she stepped into the room. His father continued, his voice now gaining more enthusiasm with her present. “When they moved to the States, they had nothing and no one, only each other, as she had a little child growing inside her and—”

“That’s me, right, Papa?” Tristan was momentarily less sleepy, even if he knew the tale by heart. The part where he came in always excited him most.

His father nodded and continued. “Her family also wanted nothing to do with either of them and in the new country, they had new hope. So Arnoldo began as low as low could get. He polished shoes with a smile for a dollar, while Elizabeth took temporary cleaning jobs wherever she could. Before Tristano arrived…” at this, Tristan was sleepily beaming, “…a lucky day only comes once in your life and when Arnoldo got his, he went from the bottom and worked himself up. When a businessman requested for him to have his shoes polished at his office, Arnoldo was excited to go up in the tall building he’d always admired from below. Inside, it felt like home. His dreams had true meanings and he knew what he would do. He would prove himself to the businessman, no matter what, because one day, he wanted to be admired by another shoe polisher in the same manner.”

Tristan’s eyes fluttered open when his father stopped speaking. “Tell the story. I’m not dreaming,” he whispered.

His father went on as little Tristan fought his heavy eyelids. “The man looked like he sat on a throne when Arnoldo arrived, and when it became clear the man was in a hurry, Arnoldo did his job and stepped over a line. He told the man that if he’d work with local producers, his company would have far more growth. The man only stared back. He asked a few questions and before Arnoldo walked out of the tall building that day, he had a job as a junior negotiator and never after that day would he, Elizabeth, the little Tristano, and Gabriella be hungry again.”




“Tristan!” his mother yelled next to him. His dream state broke. “You need to stay awake for a couple more hours.” Her voice sounded like a Siren’s call, but he’d only just made it out of the rocky shore, because his head was once more swimming with confusion.

He looked around; his father was now a blurry image standing in front of the window with his palms resting on the sill and his head hanging low. If Tristan focussed enough, he could see his father’s shoulders shake a little, as if he were crying. He still couldn’t quite remember anything, so he clumsily found his feet and half-stumbled toward the liquor cabinet.

He took hold of a decanter, but his arm was quickly pulled into a tight grip by his father, sending the beautiful antique piece straight to the floor. It clattered and the sound rang through the room like a death bell. Like his death bell, as the noise made his head ache.

“Don’t you dare reach for a drink when it is the thing that has put us in this situation!” Tristan saw the tears on his father’s cheeks, but nothing made sense. His head kept swinging from side to side.

“Leave him alone,” his mother tearily called from their left. “It isn’t his fault that—”

“She would still be here if he weren’t…” It was the last Tristan heard before the world went black, as his memories assaulted and tormented his mind.

Laughter turned to yells.

Light became darkness.

Glass became blood.

Life became death.









Chapter One




Years Later


Aaliyah Labuschagne looked at her father. He was not happy that she had decided, after gaining citizenship in America, she would be staying and making a life for herself there. She had studied many years as an exchange student and had done better than expected, but her father’s familiar hazel eyes were glistening with restrained tears.

O.R. Tambo International Airport was bustling. As he spoke, no one even saw the old man’s tears. “You can do what you want to do there, here.” His voice was raspy from the combination of years of smoking and his present sadness.

“Daddy, you always said that I could do whatever my heart desired,” Aaliyah rejoiced, knowing the counter.

“That was when you were only five years old and wanted nothing more than to stay with your old man forever,” he replied like so many times before, and gave her the usual follow-up. “And yes. I know you grew up, but what about
? Those secondhand Europeans can’t make anything like we do, and they are all ruining body standards in more ways than one.”

“Says the man with the waistline of two,” Aaliyah noted as she folded her arms over her chest in challenge. She looked at her father, taking it all in. She knew in a week she’d be crying to come back, when she tremendously started missing him.

His bald head sported only a few grey strands around the lower portion and apart from his midriff, he looked pretty healthy, if you avoided his nicotine-stained teeth and moustache.

“Dad, I was away for a long time. We can do it again. You can even come to visit, once I’ve found a place. It’ll be so much fun. I can take you to see the Point State Park fountain, which I actually really still want to go to as well.”

Tears rolled over Matheus Labuschagne’s eyelids and he wiped them away with the back of his hand, before they fully reached his plump cheeks. “It is expensive,
. Would you even have enough money to have a place to stay? You are going into that place and you don’t even have enough money. I wish I could’ve given you more—”

“Daddy, don’t. You know I’ve always appreciated what you gave me and never needed more.” The bursary Aaliyah had when she was in the States to study had provided everything, but now she had nothing. She needed to get a job in the first two weeks or she was going to need to sell the few furniture pieces she owned just for a ticket to get home.

“You understand what we had went for your mother’s hospital bills. Otherwise I would’ve—”

“Daddy, please. I know we lost a lot, but at least we had Mum for a while longer.” Now she was too close to crying and her throat was tightening. Her mother would’ve been so proud of her, and Aaliyah could only dream about her mother’s smile and happy tears if she were here.

She looked up at the screen with the flight times behind her father. It was mostly just habit, as she did it to hide the
side of her face from passing onlookers. Since she was going to have a long flight, she didn’t try covering it up with makeup.

, I think you need to go.” Her father leaned forward and kissed her. “Now, remember to call, and…”

She hated that her father
made her say it, but it had to be done. “And don’t care what other people think or say.”

“Good girl.” He picked up her carryon and handed it to her. “Be careful now.”

She began walking toward the check-in. “Yes, Dad.”

“And call,” he shouted from behind her.

She stopped and faced him from where the line was quickly shortening. “Yes.” She was about to turn when she realised she’d almost forgotten to say the most important thing. “And I love you.”

A bright yellow smile formed on his face. “I love you too,
!” The closest people all looked as Aaliyah felt her cheeks burn. She shuffled through the security checkpoint in record time.

When she got onto her flight, numerous people had stared. Some pointed and children loudly asked or laughed at her “little piece of being special,” as her mother would have referred to it. She tried to shake it off as she settled into her seat. She looked as passengers filed in and focussed on keeping her head turned toward the window, trying to hide her face.




A week later, Aaliyah luckily had found a place she could afford, even if the location was a little dodgy. The old warehouse had been turned into a loft. Neighbours seemed scarce and the sound of the railway was close by, but that wouldn’t bother her. It would only help in reminding her a little bit of home, where they could hear the train.

“So, as you can see, it does need a little work, but it’ll have to be at your own costs,” the landlady said as she stepped up the stairs along the side of the wall. The small warehouse was about ten metres long and five metres wide, and the small loft was at the back, where the stairs were leading. “The previous tenant left the bed, but, as you can see, a double fits easily. Would you like to keep it?”

Aaliyah didn’t want to sound unkind, but sharing someone else’s bed was not the way she was planning to get her first illness in the States. “I have my own bed. If this could be removed, I’d be very pleased.” She smiled at the woman, who was named Vera Martinez.

She looked about early forties. She was almost as tall as Aaliyah, but few ever exceeded her height, and she had long, ratty black hair. The woman seemed far too skinny. Some substance abuse was Aaliyah’s initial thought, but Vera at least didn’t look at her the way most people did.

“Very well.” The woman walked to an old wooden door a few metres from the bed.

“There’s another door?” The condition of the front door was worrying, and Aaliyah wasn’t sure she could manage to have both replaced. When she first knocked on the front door, it’d opened by itself, but this one at least looked a few decades younger.

Vera faced her. “Dear, calm your soul. This one is not an original. The last people who actually used the warehouse used this part as the office, and the manager used the balcony as a personal smoking area. This door is a bastard to open though.” She made a few
sounds as she pulled on the door. It swung open. “And it is a bitch to close, but you’ll get used to…”

Aaliyah stopped listening as they stepped onto the balcony with the most beautiful view of the city she had ever seen. She was maybe on the wrong side of the train tracks, but what she saw distracted her enough to barely notice the old jockey left on the balcony.

“I’ll take it,” she blurted out.

“It is four hundred and fifty dollars a month.” Vera’s tone held an uncertainty toward Aaliyah’s capability but Aaliyah nodded, knowing that in the next week she needed to get a job, otherwise her trip home would need to be a smuggle out of the country. “You can give me the deposit with your second month’s rent.”

“But you said—”

“Listen, you are clearly a little fighter. You’ll make it.” Vera gave a kind smile and headed down the steps. “That building where I came from is where you can come to if you need help. I’ll have this place cleaned tomorrow. You can move in the day after.” Aaliyah took one more glance at the cityscape that already felt like her home and followed Vera out.




The unloading of the movers’ truck took just over a half hour, and the movers luckily took her bed up the stairs, before they left. The part Aaliyah wasn’t expecting was how exhausted she was with moving the small couch around the space, finding it a nice spot with a proper view. She’d had it since she had begun studying.

With the kitchen nestled at the back, the large window view, which was the only window in the entire place, was taken. The lockers along the right side of the wall were less of a nuisance than she’d expected. Where they split—the newly picked separation point between the kitchen and living room—was the bathroom’s entrance. It was at least a proper bathroom with a shower and a bath, with enough space to spare for a cabinet.

Getting the bigger pieces of furniture in their spots, she looked at how empty the place looked compared to the campus dorm she had previously lived in. There, her and her roommate’s, Madeline’s, furniture packed the place, and walking over the couch had been common practice to get from one side to the other.

She fell onto the couch and stretched on the old thing. It should have been replaced two years earlier. Hugging her jacket around her, she realised the things on her flat requirements checklist, like not being too cold, were missed when she had seen the view.

But as a girl who came from a small town in the Karoo, she noticed the rivers were far more abundant, the tall buildings were a hundred times taller, and the people were millions more. Yet, as ever, the people were the same amount of unfriendly you’d get anywhere else. The evidence could be compiled in just the previous day alone. She had done two more interviews with small firms, but only one made half the interview and the other didn’t even want anything more after meeting her.

She was losing faith, but for now she got up and focussed on unpacking her kitchenware to make some dinner, which, at this rate, was going to be just another cheese toast. She was trying her best to save money to extend her stay. As “When the Stars Come Out”
The Hawk in Paris
played on her small stereo, she hummed along, distracting herself enough to forget about the worries dominating her mind.






fixed himself a Virgin Mary and a straight-up gin for his business partner. They’d closed a deal in Chicago, and to celebrate, they decided to head straight home on the company’s private jet. He had to make the drinks for them, as the air hostess couldn’t make the sudden flight and was left behind. Tristan wasn’t cruel, so he made sure she had a ticket back home for the following day.

Handing Mr. Marx his drink, Tristan sat back down and looked at the setup laptop’s screen. The market shifts showed at the top and the news of Gerardo Corporation’s new acquisition was the top story on the business page. Most importantly, on the window next to it, he saw the money being transferred.

“Mr. Gerardo, we are ready for liftoff. We can go whenever you are ready,” the captain said, his head popping through the separating door from the cockpit.

Tristan checked the transfer. All looked well, but his father taught him to be cautious and always make sure. “Five minutes, David, then we can go.”

“Very well, sir,” said the captain. He ducked back into the cockpit.

“All going well I suppose then,” Kellen Marx said, polishing off his drink and standing up with a grunt to get another.

“Yes, just waiting to make sure,” Tristan replied flatly with his eyes focussed on the screen.

Mr. Marx had been there since Tristan’s father began Gerardo Corporations, and he was the CFO of the company. He was bright, late fifties, and carried a head of brown hair implants that looked almost natural. The most important thing about Mr. Marx was that he had mentored Tristan to take his father’s place when Arnoldo had decided to step down as CEO a few years earlier.

Years after that tragic day, Tristan had pulled himself together and had finally done what his father always wanted him to do. He stopped partying, wasting money, being completely careless, and grew up. He learned the company from the bottom up, and as the current controlling CEO, he had all he needed and could ever want.

“David!” he called the pilot and when the cockpit door opened, he continued, “We can go now. Thank you.” He saw the money in the company’s account, saw the company’s stocks immediately pick up, and knew the following day he’d take on the world with the news of the buyout of their rival company at a press conference his assistant confirmed would take place at 10:00.

After liftoff, Mr. Marx was out for a quick nap, but Tristan only wanted to get back to Isabella, the only love of his life.

BOOK: The Marked One (The Marked Series Book 1)
11.21Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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