WARNING: This chapter has visible blood and descriptions of violence. Tread with care.
It was the middle of the night and Vittoria couldn’t sleep until she saw Marta back safe. The idiocy of relying on a small girl to deliver messages had been obvious as soon as Franco suggested it, but she couldn’t think of a better way. She needed to be able to contact Franco in case one of them learnt something important – phones were out of the question, as were online means, and they didn’t know anyone else they could trust. So, that was how Marta had become their courier.
There were a million ways it could go wrong. A million ways that doing this could harm everyone, including Marta.
And so, even though it was late at night, Vittoria didn’t close an eye or relax for a second until she heard footsteps and laboured breathing from below the balcony.
She ran to the railing and as she had expected, it was the girl, racing across the lawn. Marta may be a good climber like a sloth, but her speed was many times more than that of the animal. Even more impressive, she was quiet.
She hated that her brain went there, but Marta would have made a pretty good asset for any criminal. Alessandro certainly would have seen the use in her. Thankfully for Marta, Vittoria had no intention of letting her stay involved in this. The girl was already paranoid, careful, and sullen. Next thing you knew, she was going to stab her husband in the back and run off to join a rival gang.
That couldn’t happen.
Vittoria leaned out and watched Marta climb back up, as quickly and quietly as she had done everything else tonight. She didn’t even really need the hand that Vittoria extended towards her when she came closer to the railing. Nonetheless, she took it and let her haul her over the wall and pull her back into the house.
Vittoria made sure no one had heard anything and then she barricaded the door and took the note.
Marta was quiet all the way through her reading, even more than usual. Once Vittoria was done, she turned to Marta.
“I take it you read this, too?”
Marta nodded. “They found Lucia.”
“More like she found them.”
As if it were a coincidence that Lucia fell into Carlo’s hands just as Vittoria returned.
“It also… says that you killed someone.” Marta looked down at her feet, looking more like a child than Vittoria had ever seen her. “Did you?”
Franco had related the story Lucia told Carlo. The whole sordid tale of how evil, evil Gallo turned Vittoria against her mother and encouraged her to kill Alessandro.
“Yeah. My stepfather, Alessandro.”
“Because Gallo made you?”
Vittoria shook her head and knelt in front of Marta.
“No. Not Gallo.”
“But he’s not nice.”
That was an understatement if there ever was one, Vittoria thought. But it wasn’t wrong. Gallo really wasn’t a nice guy, but he also wasn’t smart. He wouldn’t know how to influence anyone, except with violence. Vittoria wasn’t sure how to convey that in a way that Marta understood, but she tried anyway:
“You’ve met Gallo. Do you think if he wanted to kill someone, he’d make someone else do it?”
Marta bit her lip, then shook her head.
“He would do it himself, wouldn’t he?”
Vittoria nodded. “He enjoys causing suffering, but only the direct kind. Hitting, kicking, that kind of thing.”
She knew from first-hand experience just how much Gallo enjoyed all that – she had been his sort-of girlfriend, after all. He was a direct kind of brutal. The kind of guy that took what he wanted and didn’t much care if you said no. It was an evil of sorts, but it was a kind of evil that was easy to understand and to deal with. There wasn’t any backstabbing or scheming from him.
Of course, he had tried to scheme and to use her. Every asshole in that gang had. After she killed Alessandro and took over, every guy in the vicinity had flocked to her and tried to woo her about as effectively as you could expect from a gang of scumbags. They figured that if they could get in her good graces, they could wrestle control away from her. It was almost fun to see them grovel at her feet.
Even Gallo got in on the action as well, but the main difference was that she had a soft spot for him. They were all bad, but he was the one who most convincingly faked affection. In his own, strange way, she believed her cared for her. If nothing else, he wasn’t smart enough to go behind her back.
Vittoria explained all that to Marta, slowly and carefully. And when she was done, Marta nodded and said:
“Then why did you do it?”
The easy answer would have been that she wanted to. In the days after offing him, she had laid awake and wondered if she had enjoyed it. The feel of the knife meeting resistance, the sticky, metallic-smelling blood on her hands… but the truth was that it all featured in her nightmares and that the first thing she did after killing him was to empty her stomach in an alley behind the warehouse.
Even though it was her life, even though it was something she had always done, she had never gotten used to it. It was never what she had wanted to do because she had never done anything that she wanted to do until she ran away.
She did Alessandro’s bidding, or she acted to please Gallo or others in the gang. More importantly, she did what Lucia wanted.
Everyone at the gang treated Lucia like the village idiot or a court jester. She provided entertainment, but otherwise they let her be. It took much too long for Vittoria to ask why everyone were so eager to keep Lucia around. The woman was crazy. She was a liability to any gang. Who knew if a crazy, simple girl like that would go into the streets and spill al their secrets.
But Lucia’s madness was a controlled madness.
When Lucia talked nonsense, it somehow never came back to bite her in the ass. She confided in her husband how concerned she was for her baby, how she wished Vittoria could defend herself, and Alessandro turned a fifteen-year-old into a murder weapon.
How odd it was that everything Lucia said to that murder weapon later turned her against Alessandro. How odd that the more Vittoria talked to her mother, the more attractive it seemed to kill her stepfather.
Lucia played her every step of the way. What she had told Carlo back when they talked about her mother was true. Her mother was dangerous. A cunning, manipulative woman hiding in the body of a womanchild.
The truth was that Vittoria never ran the gang. She was a figurehead. A marionette. Lucia pulled all the strings in the gang and like a cancer, by the time Vittoria realised what hold her mother had on everyone, it was too late. Right before she ran away from the gang, someone tried to have Vittoria killed and there was no doubt in her head that it was Lucia. Sure, she hadn’t held the gun herself, but that wasn’t her way.
She preferred to use others, the weaker the better, so that they were easy to control.
She had always used her own daughter and later on the little girl Vittoria was kneeling in front of. The little girl who had listened patiently all the way, looking grave and mature and horribly wrong for a child. It was bad to tell her this, just like it was bad to use her as a messenger. In a way, she didn’t think she was any better than her mother. Sure, she felt bad about bringing Marta, she felt bad about dragging her into this instead of leaving her with Carlo. But she still did it.
“I’m very sorry about all of this,” Vittoria finally said. “I never should have brought you into this.”
“It’s okay,” Marta said.
“No, it’s not. And that’s why it ends here.”
Marta suddenly looked scared. “Ends? You’re going to…?”
“Oh Marta, no.” Vittoria lowered her knee and pulled Marta into a hug. “No one will ever hurt you again. All I mean is that you need to go back to Monte Vista and find Carlo. When you do, you tell him what we agreed on, okay?”
“That you kidnapped me?”
Vittoria nodded. “He’ll take care of you. I know him. And then you just leave all the rest to me.”
Marta tightened her arms around her neck and buried her head in her hair.
“But what about you? What are you going to do?” When she didn’t answer, the girl continued: “I don’t want you to die.”
The lie was transparent, but when Marta pulled back from the hug, she nodded gravely. Without being asked to, she went about gathering her things while Vittoria changed.
It was an enormous weight off her chest to see Marta disappear into the darkness this time. Hopefully, her trip would be as pain-free as the last one. As for her own trip to Monte Vista, that was another matter. Nothing about it would be pleasant, but it would be over. It might even be easier this time.
After all, it wouldn’t be the first time she killed a parental figure – but it would be the last.
Feeling lost? If you’ve forgotten previous chapters and need a recap you can find my recap page here. Be aware that it contains spoilers for the story.
Author’s note: Hi guysssssss! It’s Monte Vista time – time for more I-Have-No-Idea-What-I’m-Doing-With-This-ery! Can you smell the lack of an outline? That’s what you get for posting what is basically the first draft. Lots of meandering! But at least this chapter moves the plot along, so that’s something, right? ……………. Right?
Oh god it’s so bad don’t look at me. Okay, so maybe I’m exaggerating, but seriously guys, I promise I’m still working on an edit of this and it’s a billion times better. Please give it a chance when I post it I’m desperate.
*AHEM* Anyway, that’s really all I had for you today. Thanks so much for reading if you made it this far (how did you make it this far? You are a freaking champ wow) and I’ll see you for the next post 🙂