Radge by Esther E. Schmidt


Six years ago


“Dammit,” my father grunts and drags his gaze away from the road in front of him for a breath or two to glance at me through the rearview mirror. “Remember rule number one along with the rest I taught you.”

I give him a tight nod. No words are needed as his voice slices through my head, reciting rule number one; be brave, Meribeth. It’s the sentence he always starts our weapon and training sessions with to make sure I stay calm in any situation.

Panic causes your brain to short-circuit. You need to move past the panic to be able to focus on what’s important. In this world we live in, being brave can be the difference between life or death, for yourself or those around you.

I whip my head around and watch in horror as a car comes up from behind us. He’s driving at full speed as he passes our SUV and slams into us from the left. My father curses and tries to keep the car on the road but everything is going too fast and yet I feel as if we’re moving in slow motion.

“Dadddd!” I shriek.

Yes, I can shriek and still be freaking brave because ice fills my veins when our SUV starts to spin. The seatbelt holds me back when the sound of crunching metal fills the air. Pain explodes in my head and shoulder as the car comes to an abrupt stop. My ears are ringing and I’m completely out of focus.

Groaning, I call out for my father but he doesn’t respond. I unbuckle and reach out to him. His head is slumped over the steering wheel. When I crawl over the midsection and onto the front seat, I realize the front of the SUV is wrapped around a tree. Movement catches my eye and I see the car who pushed us off the road has stopped behind us. Two men are getting out.

“Dad,” I whisper shout and shake his shoulder. “Dad, please, they’re coming,” I urge.

He’s still unconscious and not responding to anything. I don’t have time to check if he’s still breathing because the two men are closing in. Everything my father has taught me kicks in and my “fight-or-flight” instinct drives me to grab the gun my father keeps close to his chest.

The weight of it in my hand is familiar. The pain in my shoulder is a dull throbbing when I flip the safety off. My mother might have raised me as the girl who needlepoints, plays the violin, rides horses, and wears fancy dresses, but my father added the dirt bike racing, along with fight and weapon training. And he added more training sessions after I was kidnapped at the age of nine.

Being a mafia princess comes at a price, one that’s tangled with blood and never-ending destruction to protect the empire that’s built through our family’s legacy. A legacy I can never escape from since I was born into it. This is the reason why my father made sure I could thrive in it, even at an early age.

I take all the strength he gave me over those years and brace myself for what’s to come. A man’s hand enters through the shattered window and I notice the ink on his forearm right before I look him in the eye and pull the trigger. The bullet enters the man’s brain and he falls back.

I whip my head around–ignoring the pain shooting through my neck–to see where the other man went. Movement through the back window lets me know he’s running toward his car. My father taught me not to waste ammo but my aim is flawless.

It’s for this reason I line up and take a deep breath, letting it flow as I pull the trigger. The man doesn’t get a chance to get into his car but crashes into the dirt. With both men dead I focus back on my father and gently guide his body backward instead of having him hang over the steering wheel.

His eyes are closed and he’s still unconscious. Glancing down, I feel bile rise in my throat at the mangled sight of his left leg. Normally, when one of our people are injured, we have our own doctor to come to the house. But I can tell my father is too injured for a normal doctor; he needs surgeons and to be inside a real hospital.

My father might not have explained everything in great detail to me but, I know a lot and am anything but a naïve teenager. I know enough to be aware of what’s going on and how to act when shit hits the fan. Like now

I take my phone and look up my uncle’s number, he’s my father’s underboss. It rings a few times before it goes to voicemail. That’s weird; he always picks up. I try again but it goes straight to voicemail this time.

Thinking fast, I search for another number. This is one I’ve never used but my father made me put it in my phone in case of emergencies. It’s his consigliere, Aaron. He picks up after the first ring and when I quickly rattled off what happened he tells me to stay calm and that he’ll handle everything.

I stay on the line and hear him bark out orders to others. When he’s back he tells me help is on the way and an ambulance is coming. I know what this means. My father has massive influence and we have several cops and people higher up on our payroll. Minutes tick away and I place my phone on speaker when my father starts to groan in pain.

“Dad,” I croak.

His eyes fly open and he surges forward, his seatbelt stopping him abruptly as he grunts in pain, “My leg.”

“Help is coming. I called Aaron. Everything is going to be okay.” I hope my voice is stronger than I feel.

My father is the strongest man I know. All my life I’ve looked up to him, ran into his strong arms to hide in his embrace as a kid whenever I got hurt. I remember very vividly how I felt when he held me after I was kidnapped at the age of nine and managed to escape by climbing the furniture and going out the window.

Escaping wasn’t as easy as I made it sound. I was injured when I climbed over a spiked fence, earning myself two jagged scars on the inside of my thigh. But when I returned and my father held me while the doctor stitched those long gashes? I’ve never felt safer. I might have been brought up in a world of havoc, but it’s my fucking world of havoc.

In this moment, I’m the one who is there for my father–the way he has always been there for me–and I will pull him through this. And just like the kidnappers who took me all those years ago?

The ones responsible for this will be killed as well because the two I took out to save us only received the order for this assassination. Though it’s not something I have to focus on; my main priority is to be there for my father.

I take his hand in mine and give a firm squeeze. “We will find out who did this, Daddy.”

My father groans and his head falls to the left but it instantly turns back to me. “The car that hit us. The dead man next to me. What…how?”

“I took care of it, just like you taught me. I have no clue who they are. He had a tattoo on his forearm. A bear with a crown, I saw it clearly before I killed him.”

My father’s eyes widen and he growls low in his throat, “Logan Bane. He did this, those men work for him. The tattoo you’re describing is an initiation tattoo.”

I have no clue who Logan Bane is. My father might have explained some details of our world but it’s not like I’m his consigliere. He closes his eyes and I can tell he’s in pain.

“Who is Logan Bane? Tell me,” I ask, in the hopes it will help distract him from the pain.

He starts to explain and it actually helps pass the time and soon enough EMTs are at the scene and my father is rushed to the hospital. Hours of surgery are needed and the surgeons do everything possible but they are unable to save part of his left leg.

It will be a long road filled with rehabilitation to get used to the prosthetic leg due to his below the knee amputation. But like I said, I’m going to be strong and be there for him because I don’t want to be afraid of a next time where they might be successful. Rule number one; be brave. Brave enough to face everything this twisted world throws at our feet.