“As a bodyguard, I was always close to the don. And I was good at what I did. Nobody laid a hand on him without his permission in all the years that I was with him. It meant breaking a few arms, and ending a few lives, but he saw me well-rewarded for what I did. The money was good, but more important was seeing how the don handled business. It was a masterclass in running an empire, served up on a platter. And there I was, a fly on the wall. The don didn’t care if I heard what was going on; he certainly didn’t have any idea that I was his most devoted student.”

“And then one day, the don made a mistake. He was getting on in years, and it was the first real slip that he’d had in years. I realized, that day, that no one in his inner circle had noticed, or cared. And I knew then that I had exceeded the teachings of my master. I stepped into the breach, plugging the holes as his mind started to go, and the claws of old age and dementia sank in. By the end, I was the only one who saw him.”

“I wanted to thank him for, however unwittingly, setting me on my path to greatness. So I gave him the best I could: a merciful, painless death in his bed. By then I was in control enough that the coroner never cared to tell anyone about the fatal morphine dose in the old man’s system. The don’s son–a born-in-the-purple halfwit who only knew about the family from what he’d seen in movies–he was the one chosen to lead. And so he did.”

“When I walked away, I took all their best people with me, all the old don’s connections which were now my connections. And I paid my dues by giving the cops who were on my payroll a bloody kill that they could take up to their masters, like a cat with a bird. That would-be don died serving a live sentence, shivved by one of mine who did it for a lifetime supply of cigarettes.”

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