"Dis is ridiculous..." Gris-Gris commented. "We are no better off now dan we were when Candra was in charge! It’s ridiculous.
The High Council of the Unified Guild of Thieves and Assassins was assembled in the meeting room in the Boudreaux Mansion on the outskirts of New Orleans. They were the only ones who had been in the Guild prior to the recruitment to bring their numbers up. Bella Donna, being a smart leader, had named them her High Council, in charge of helping her lead the new and much bigger Unified Guild into the future.
Mercy LeBeau, Viceroy and current second-in-command of the Guild, nodded, her blond hair bobbing behind her in its customary ponytail. "I know. But Bella Donna..."
"Dey say love is blind." Emil Lapin, the Guild’s main computer specialist, commented wryly.
"Does she love him?" Fifolet scoffed. "Or is she jus’ tryin’ to get back at Remy for tellin’ her to move on?"
"Hard to say, but I don’ like him." Theoren Marceaux, Harvest Master and co-third-in-command of the Guild, said. Everyone nodded their agreement.
"I tried to warn her..." Gris said sadly. He held the title First Kill and was co-third-in-command of the Guild alongside Theoren. Prior to the unification, Gris had been Bella Donna’s most trusted confidant and advisor. But now...
"I t’ink we all tried to warn her, Gris." Mercy replied. "She has no desire to listen to us. Not when it comes to him."
"So, what do we do?" Genard Alouette, Harvest Disseminator and fourth-in-command of the Guild, asked, absently shoving his glasses up on his nose so he could see his companions better.
"What can we do? He’s got Bel wrapped around his little finger. He won’ let dis go easy." Gris replied.
The man they were discussing in their impromptu meeting was Donyell Taylor, better known as Bandit. He was one of the newly-recruited members of the Guild. The High Council respected him as a thief because he was pretty damned good at it. They all saw that. After all, they couldn’t have amateurs in the Guild. But the black man had very quickly secured a place higher up in the pyramid when he and Bella Donna started dating. The Guild Matriarch claimed she was in love with the powerful mutant thief and he was using that to his advantage. He started dropping hints to Bel and turning her against using her own High Council. She did everything he told her to do and ignored the advice the Council gave her.
It had to be admitted by the High Council that things weren’t that bad. The Guild got plenty of jobs and was doing well for itself. The dozens of new recruits were working out. But the Council didn’t like the way their Matriarch was leading them. Technically, she wasn’t doing the leading, her boyfriend was. And that was wrong.
"We could kill him..." Singer, one of the quieter members of the Council, stated softly. Her voice, like everything else about her, was like smooth porcelain and very beautiful.
"She would never forgive us..." Mercy pointed out in return.
"But you heard him last night...! He wants us to kill Remy an’ not tell Bel! An’ wit’ added incentive from dat crazy cop, Tanaka, who knows what’s gon’ happen!" Emil exclaimed in protest. "None of us would do it...but we got dozens of people under us ‘gain an’ dey looked pretty interested if you ask me..."
"Well, we are de High Council of de Guild..." Theoren said. "We could technically order dem not to do it...say de order came from Bel. Dat would really get under his skin."
"It would piss him off, dat’s what it would do." Fifolet grinned. "I like de idea, but he’d prob’ly try to kill us all for tellin’ Bel, even t’ough we wouldn’ have."
"He calls himself de leader of de Guild, y’know..." Claude Potier, one of the thieves, commented softly. "I heard him."
"Some nerve he’s got, pullin’ a stunt like dat." Gris snorted. "An’ he could try to kill us, but he’d fail. Look who we’re talkin’ ‘bout. We’re better’n him an’ we all know it. He needs to be stopped."
The ten High Council members sat there in silence for a few minutes, trying to figure out how to accomplish their goal without hurting Bella Donna or the Guild. Finally, the silence was broken by Zoë Ishihara, the only one among them who hadn’t been born in New Orleans.
"Donyell wants the Guild to kill Remy and not tell Bel, right? Well, what if we told her? Told her all about the meeting last night and the incentives we were given, including the ones from Detective Tanaka, and said we felt she had a right to know what her darling boyfriend is trying to do. We all know Bel doesn’t want to see any harm come to Remy, any more than she wants harm to come to any of us. She does have a right to know."
"And if Donyell is gon’ get mad at us for somethin’, it might as well be somethin’ we’ve actually done..." Questa grinned. "I like it."
Theoren sighed. "She isn’ gon’ b’lieve us, mes amis."
"Non, prob’ly not." Gris agreed. "However it would plant de seed of doubt...an’ dat might be enough to make her come to her senses."
"All in favor of actually tellin’ Bel what Donyell’s up to, say aye." Mercy stated. She and the other nine members of the High Council all said it. "Well I guess it’s settled. We’re gon’ tell her. Dis meetin’ is adjourned."
Mercy went to Bella Donna later that day. She knocked on the door of Bel’s office at the Guild’s Garden District safehouse…where Bel and the ten High Council members lived with their spiritual healer and mother figure, Tante Mattie.
"C’min." Bel said. She was up to her shoulders in paperwork and hated it; she was more than grateful for whoever was on the other side of the door. She needed a break.
"Hey Bel." Mercy said with a smile when she entered. "Can I talk to you for a few minutes?"
"Sure, Mercy." Bel put down her pen. "What’s on your mind? It’s not about de new recruits is it?"
Mercy sat across the desk from Bel. "Well, not directly. De Guild got a new contract las’ night...an’ it’s one de rest of de Council an’ I don’ agree wit’ an’ don’ plan on fulfillin’."
Bella Donna frowned, her violet eyes turning slightly stormy. "I wasn’ aware of any contracts comin’ in..."
"An’ dat’s part of de reason we don’ wan’ do it. Part of de contract was dat we do de job wit’out ever tellin’ you it was us who did it."
"Go on..." Bel urged.
Mercy sighed. "Besides de person who gave us de contract, we’ve got help an’ incentive from one of de NOPD detectives...Tanaka...who gave us a lot of A.I.M. weaponry to aid us in de contract." She shook her head. "Dirty cops are worse’n dirty t’ieves." "An’ why doesn’ anybody want me knowin’ ‘bout dis?" Bella Donna asked.
"B’cause de contract is for Remy. Dat’s de other reason de High Council wants nothin’ to do wit’ it. We talked ‘bout it dis mornin’ an’ we agree dat killin’ him is not somethin’ we’re willin’ to do." Mercy admitted. "We t’ought you had a right to know ‘bout de contract. However, de rest of de Guild...dey don’ know t’ings like we do...an’ dey seemed very intrigued an’ interested in de challenge."
Bel was quiet for a long time. "Who put out de contract on Remy’s life, Mercy? Dis cop? Or someone else?"
"I t’ink Detective Tanaka wants him dead...but she wasn’ de one who ordered the hit on Remy..." Mercy trailed off.
"So...who was it den?"
Mercy swallowed and tried to prepare for the aftermath of what she was about to say. "It was Donyell, Bel. He called us all together an’ said if we killed Remy wit’out tellin’ you, he’d make sure t’ings got even better for de Guilds dan dey’ve been in years."
"Dat’s crazy!" Bella Donna scoffed. "He would never do dat. Someone else gave him dat contract."
"I’m sorry, Bel. Ask some of the recruits if you don’ b’lieve me. We all heard him. He wants Remy dead b’cause, as he says, he’s worked too hard to get where he is for Remy to come back an’ take it all from him."
Bella Donna blinked. She couldn’t believe what she was hearing. "All what...?" She asked softly.
Mercy sighed again. "You an’ de Guild leadership. You know as well as we do dat he’s really runnin’ de show ‘round here, not you. He’s usin’ you, Bel. Usin’ your love for him to get control of us. He’s jus’ as bad as Candra was. Next t’ing we know, he’ll be demandin’ tithes an’ threatenin’ to kill us if we disobey him, jus’ like she did."
"Dat’s ridiculous!" Bel exclaimed. But there was something in her voice that didn’t quite believe what she was saying. She dismissed Mercy and stood at the window once the other woman was gone. She stared out at the cars passing on the street and sighed.
Was Mercy right? Bel knew she had been listening to Donyell a lot lately…more than she should have been. Was her judgment that clouded by love that she was willing to risk her Guild to please the dark man? If it was true, she certainly was not impressed with herself at all...
Donyell came to visit Bel shortly after Mercy left. Much to his surprise, she turned her head when he tried to kiss her.
"What’s this?" He frowned.
"I need you to level with me..." Bel said.
"Of course." Donyell smiled that charming smile of his.
"Did you contract my Guilds to kill Remy an’ not tell me anythin’ ‘bout it?" Bella Donna Boudreaux was never one to waste time or words.
"Bella Donna...! What makes you think I would do that? I barely know Remy, and you’re the Guild Matriarch! I would never keep anything from you." Donyell played innocent perfectly.
"I have my sources." Bel replied. "An’ my sources have been tellin’ me you’re usin’ me an’ want Remy dead so he won’ try’n reclaim de Guild…or me."
"Sources..." Donyell wasn’t stupid. He figured out the sources were in the Guild.
"And you trust these sources over your own boyfriend?" He was trying to act like the victim in this discussion. And if he was talking to anyone else, it might have worked.
"Oui, actually." Bel replied smoothly. "I’ve known dem all my life, after all. I’ve only known you for a few months."
"Well, I guess your true colors are showing now, aren’t they Bella Donna! After everything I’ve done for you and your family for the past few months, you repay me by accusing me of betrayal! I see how you do things now." Donyell said.
"Donyell..." Bella Donna tried to backtrack. "You know I appreciate what you’ve done..."
"Do you, really?" Donyell nearly yelled. His loud voice alerted the High Council that something was up and they all met at the office door; they waited there for any sign that Bel needed assistance.
"Of course!" Bel said. "Your ideas have been wonderful for de Guild."
"But dey won’ go after Remy, an’ dey sure as hell wouldn’ do it wit’out tellin’ me first." Bel retorted.
"They seemed pretty eager last night...the only ones who weren’t were the ones you call your High Council. Fools, the lot of them. They don’t deserve the honor of being what they are. The only council you need is me, can’t they see that?" Donyell said, much to the anger of the people out in the hall. "You don’t need them, Bel. You’d do so much better without them ruining things. Get rid of them…the whole lot. Have them killed...or I’ll ensure your ex-husband dies the slowest, most painful death…with you watching."
"Donyell..." Bel tried to protest.
"I’m serious, love. Very, very serious."
"I understand." Bella Donna nodded. "It will be done."
"Good. I expect it won’t take you long." He said, satisfied that he was still able to call the shots even when she doubts him. He still had a firm foothold. He kissed her deeply and then left, almost catching the High Council, who scattered and hid seconds before he entered the hallway.
Once he left, they trickled into Bel’s office, questioning looks on their faces.
Bel sighed. "You heard everythin’, didn’ you."
"For what it’s worth, I ain’ gon’ do it. I lied to him to buy us some time. I don’ know what we’re gon’ do, but…he can’ keep doin’ dis to me...to us. I’ve been a failure as a leader an’ I’m sorry." She sighed. "I should have known better an’ listened to you guys an’ not him..."
"Ev’ryone makes mistakes, Bel. You’ve seen de error of your ways. Now we have to fix it." Theoren commented. "De question is, what are we gon’ do?"
"I don’ know." Bel admitted. "But surely b’tween de eleven of us we can t’ink of somethin’. After all, you guys are s’posed to be here to help me make decisions. Dat’s why I made you de High Council. It’s your job. So..."
"We’ll t’ink of somethin’." Mercy assured her. "No matter how long it takes."