“Is this your house?” Lucia asked, looking around curiously.
“No, it isn’t.”
She had tried to pry little things out of him since the drive back to Monte Vista. He had only told her that he was married to Vittoria. Every time she asked about the kids or their home or what had happened the past four years, he told her it was off-limits. They had put her up in a house owned by a friend of the gang, after Carlo dismissed putting her up with one of the members. The less Lucia knew, the better.
Not that she seemed to completely understand what was going on. She yet again asked where Vittoria – or Lisa, as she called her – was.
“I need your help to find out,” he told her. “She… left in quite a hurry.”
“But I thought she was dead,” Lucia said with a sigh. “I don’t know where she is.”
“No, but maybe you can tell me about her and that might lead me to her. See, I don’t know her that well, because she never told me everything. So…”
She frowned and nodded. “She didn’t tell me, either. It’s… it’s all my fault.”
Lucia leaned forward and put her arms around herself, while a stream of tears fell down her cheeks. Mercifully, she didn’t wail again – he didn’t think his eardrums would survive it – but the distress obvious in her face still cut his heart.
“How is it your fault?” he asked.
“I let Alessandro take care of her. He… he said he’d protect her. Keep her safe. But when she came back from being with him she was weird.” She looked at Carlo from under her heavy mess of brown hair and added: “She was cold.”
“Lisa told me that he taught her to kill,” he said.
Lucia nodded. “I never should have let him, but he said it was best. He said that my baby had to learn t-to fend for herself. She had to protect him as well, because there were so many people who wanted to hurt him. He was her daddy, you see. So they’d protect each other.”
“I take it he didn’t really protect her.”
She sniffed. “He was nice to begin with, he really was! And he was so good to my little baby and he helped her so much. But then h-he started… training her.”
What Lucia told Carlo then was nothing new. Alessandro was an unpleasant man and he trained his stepdaughter to protect him from she was pretty young – an enlightened plan because who would expect the mousy little girl in the corner of hiding a knife on her person? And she had a certain flair for it as well; her few shortcomings were quickly ironed out. If she made mistakes, punishment came quickly and severely. That much was familiar, but then Lucia steeled herself and started telling of a specific episode. That time it really went wrong.
Lisa ran as fast as she could that day. She had been away, trying to gather intel on the other gangs in the area. It was what Carlo could gather from Lucia anyway. She would only say that Lisa went on ‘missions’ because she thought Alessandro should know what happened around town and he didn’t care. He didn’t appreciate his bodyguard telling him what to do, not even when what she suggested made sense. This day she had been out, and then while out, she received a call that he’d been shot. She ran all the way through town and made it back, drenched in sweat.
Alessandro was pissed. He’d been shot; not fatally, but the point was that Lisa wasn’t there. He admonished her in front of everyone. Lucia cried while she told him how he hurt her baby. How he screamed in her face. If it had stayed with the screaming, maybe he wouldn’t have died, but it seemed like his treatment that day sparked something in Lisa.
That day, he grabbed her by the neck and slammed her face-first into the ground, so her glasses splintered. It was only because they quickly got her medical care that she even got to keep her eyesight. After that, Lucia said that Lisa wanted him gone and that their lives would be better off if it was just the two of them.
“It wasn’t her fault!” Lucia said quickly when she noticed how Carlo reacted to that part of the story. “My poor baby, she was hurt so bad, and then that… that boyfriend of hers came up with the idea.”
“Gallo, he’s called. I didn’t like him. He didn’t treat her right.” Suddenly she looked up and frowned at Carlo. “Did you treat her right or is that why she ran?”
“We’re not discussing my marriage. Tell me about the boyfriend.”
Lucia nodded mutely and continued. She told him that Lisa changed after what happened. It was like the brutal attack had lit a fire, and even after it was all done, after she had her eyes looked at and got new glasses, there were still embers left. They were glowing and just waiting for something to bring the fire back to life.
When Lucia finally made her talk, she’d only say that she wished that someone better would take over the gang. Alessandro was violent and ignorant. He abhorred strategizing, and his solution to disobedience or challenges was a hail of bullets.
Lisa said she could do it better. Smarter.
“Lisa,” Lucia said with a sniff, “would have never even considered hurting her daddy, if it wasn’t for that boyfriend, Gallo. He wasn’t nice.”
Gallo goaded her into doing it, she insisted. The more time she spent with him, the stronger became her conviction that Alessandro had to disappear. Carlo didn’t tell Lucia that he’d been told it was all her doing. Vittoria had been insistent that her mother planned the whole thing, but the snivelling mess in front of him told another story. It was definitely Gallo who made her do it – it might have start with the embers in her, but he fanned the flames.
“Lisa killed Alessandro?”
Lucia nodded, but any other words she would have said drowned in a sob. He had to leave her alone after that because the crying came back and he honestly needed the quiet.
Instead of going home, where everything was quiet and empty without her, he asked Franco to join him in a walk across the town centre. They walked past places that were wrought with memories, but it wasn’t nearly as hard as being home or with Lucia. Both were quiet for a long time and then Franco asked the question that he had been turning over in his own head:
“Do you believe the story?”
Even now, he still weighed it and didn’t answer for a long time. It contradicted what Vittoria had said, but that meant nothing.
“I think it’s true at least that Vittoria killed her stepdad. Who else but her had access?”
The more he thought about it, the more he wondered that it hadn’t occurred to him before that she wasn’t telling the truth. It would have been easier for her than anyone else. After all, who would protect him if his own bodyguard turned on him?
“As for her lying about it, that makes sense as well,” he told his friend, thinking back to the day when he had asked for an explanation and she’d told him everything.
She had kept a wry smile on her face through all of it and he wouldn’t have been able to tell truth from fiction.
He continued to Franco: “She would only have to have spent a few weeks with me to realise that I don’t appreciate pointless violence. After the attack she was frightened and desperate for protection. It didn’t help that I practically kicked her out. At that point, she would have said anything to make sure I gave her my protection. It was safer to say it was someone else who did it.”
He didn’t have a hard time imagining his wife killing her stepfather. Hell, it made more sense than her vague old stories of Lucia’s conspiracy.
“So, we trust that the mother is telling the truth?” Franco asked.
Carlo laughed. “Trust? When it comes to those women, we don’t trust a damn word they say. But we will look into it.”
Author’s note: Hi guyssssss! Welcome back to Monte Vista, in which I suddenly started using another antique photo effect from the last one because I swore I’d use the other one for the rest of this generation and then I got distracted by the pretty effect. And that’s how that happened!
In other news, if you’re curious to read a little more about Carlo and Vittoria, you can check out the OC Tag I did of them yesterday. It’s also been added to the story page as an extra 🙂
For once, I don’t actually have a bunch of other nonsense to spew. I guess I’m just nonsensed out after all the posting I’ve been doing 😀 So, thanks for reading if you’ve made it this far, have a great weekend and I’ll see you in the next post!