House of AcesBy: Pamela Ann & Carter Dean
Can you put a price on a human being?
Can you put a price on love?
In the Katana family, a price must always be paid, be it with currency or a life.
Bombarded by a house full of dark secrets, abuse, a never ending sequence of lies, and with no one to trust, how can one survive a harsh world full of deception and trickery?
“Business or pleasure, sir?”
“A little bit of both.” I smiled and gave her a deep stare, which seemed to have her eyes mesmerized, locked onto mine as she reached for the stamp without flinching or even looking down to make sure that she was grabbing the right object. She then gave a hard stamp on the last page of my passport.
Her clear, sky-blue eyes scrutinized me further. “You travel a lot. What do you do for a living?” Her business-like tone had a tinge of playfulness in it.
Without batting an eyelash, I responded to her, “I’m an importer of rare objects.” Amongst other things, I thought as I thanked her, reaching under the window to get my passport that had a piece of paper underneath it, sealing our conversation with a slight wink and a mischievous smile before clearing my throat and then proceeding towards the exit.
As far as I could remember, my uncle had always told me that women and money were the easiest things to achieve in this world; to maintain them was the hard part. He was a man of few words, so when I would sit with him during teatime, my ears were open and my mouth was shut. That was how things were done in his household. It was a tradition that had been passed down from one generation to the next for decades. Men had the upper hand; they were the ones to make all the decisions, the ones to have the last word. If anyone would attempt to protest, argue about how things were done, those people disappeared and would never be heard from again.
My father passed away when I was six-years-old. My mother vanished shortly after. My paternal uncle and my aunt were the closest things to family I had. They took me in as their own and I didn’t want for anything. They put me through school, bought me my first car, and they kept nice clothes on my back and shoes on my feet. They gave me everything I could wish for, and I felt lucky and blessed to have them in my life.
Now, at the age of twenty-nine, they were the only parents I knew, and quite frankly, I was happy with that arrangement.
I had started working for my uncle at the age of nineteen, and it really hadn’t been work until a few years back, yet there was nothing that I could find to complain about it. I had always been under Tony, my aunt’s bastard son who was probably the meanest thing on this planet when he was not in the presence of my uncle and aunt.
My job responsibilities had been pretty lax back then. I didn’t say anything or do anything other than observe how he worked; how he did things, how he breezily accomplished several successful business trips, and there were many. For six years, I stayed by his side while I was in training.
I still remembered the first flight I had taken with him to Croatia. The city, Kozara Bok. We flew first class to Istanbul and from there we took a smaller plane into Zagreb, the capital of Croatia. While all my friends were backpacking in nicer European hot spots for the ultimate vacation, Hawaii, Cancun and the Tropics—I had been actually visiting the countries and cities that were heavily struck by poverty and destitution. The economy was so bad and had been for so long that the stench from these areas could be compared to a microwaved dinner served on the flight, the scent sticking to your skin and hard to forget.
As time went on, I gradually got used to it, amongst other things.
We were in town to recruit young students in high school; eighteen-year-olds that had exceptional track records who also were stunning to look at. Beauty and brains.
We had a rule that we would limit two candidates per visit.
Our pitch to those lucky few would be a full scholarship to a four-year degree at UCLA. A life in America that was fully paid for with their cost of living included—a tantalizing offer that not one of them could refuse. For those Europeans, who’d lived an impoverished life, it would be like winning the lottery. Or so they’d think.
Imagine, a family of five or seven in one household with running water that was tinted brown or green, and only small portions of food to be shared among the big family. With the lack of food and transportation, since most of them walked or commuted to school, there was an abundance of skinny women with definition in their bodies in every place that counted—voluptuous in ways that were vital for business.