Vittoria shifted uncomfortably in her seat while listening to Gallo’s report of the museum incident. He loved talking about it, about how shocked the Good Guys leader was. He praised her especially, praised the long con she had pulled. She didn’t reach for her concealed knife, and she made sure to smile and laugh at the appropriate times, all the while repeating like a mantra in her head: It’s all part of the plan.
“But is he dead?” she asked when he had gone on for long enough, getting a bit of a rush out of the disappointment on his face.
“I take it that’s a no,” she said with a scowl. “Three against one, and you couldn’t do it.”
“We were swarmed by four of his people,” said Elena across from him. “They shot Federico.”
Elena was an unnaturally red-headed woman, the most trigger-happy of the gang. Vittoria was particularly careful around this one, and not just because she was currently swinging her gun around like it was a toy.
“Well, that sure is convenient,” Vittoria said, leaning back.
Franco really had come through for him. Good old Franco, as Carlo used to say.
“He must have known something was up,” Gallo said. “You been extra sweet on him lately, baby doll?”
She glared at him and told him for the hundredth time not to call her that. He was going to ignore that as always.
She responded to what he’d said instead: “From the way he reacted, I’d say he didn’t know. More likely it’s because the ones who are loyal to him started distrusting me and decided to keep an eye on him. We’ll be more careful next time.”
Though there wouldn’t be a next time, she promised herself. She wasn’t going to risk Carlo’s life once more. It had been necessary this once, to convince them that she was back.
They ate it up with little hesitation, not least because she slipped into her old role so easily it was scary. In the blink of an eye, she was Lisa again. Now she stood up and the two of them followed her with their eyes.
“We better start making plans for when this dies down,” she told them. “Right now, they’re on high alert, but in a few weeks, when they let down their guard, we need someone on him with a gun. We’ll need someone to scope out his routine, because he’s bound to change it after this.”
“We can keep an eye on your kids,” Elena said with a chilling smile. “Their routine wouldn’t change too much.”
Vittoria kept her muscles from tensing up by folding her arms and matching her smile. “Good thinking.”
It’s all part of the plan.
“Well, we should get back to work,” she said then, and made her way upstairs.
She had no delusions about Gallo leaving her alone, and like clockwork, he knocked on her bedroom door a minutes later. He slipped in with a stupid smile on his face.
“That was quick,” she said, walking over to meet him. “Is my husband already dead?”
“That’s not my job. My job is to take care of you.” He grabbed her wrist and pulled her against him. “Just like the good old days.”
“The good old days,” she said with a snort.
The good old days when he was attractive to her because he at least showered more than once a month, and because he forced himself on her less often. It had seemed like a miracle to her, meeting a guy who only made her feel like a piece of shit maybe a third of the time. A true gentleman. Vittoria pushed him away.
“We don’t have time for that. You think I stayed with that moron for four years for fun? If we want Monte Vista, we need to move. Fucking around isn’t going to get things done.”
Gallo’s eyes flashed with rage for a second, and he grabbed her shoulder hard. Vittoria set her jaw and stared him down under the crushing force. She channelled Lisa and repeated her mantra again. It’s all part of the plan. She reached for her concealed knife, something he didn’t miss.
“Still carrying, I see,” he said.
“Yes, and I still know how to use it.”
“No need for that.” Gallo let go of her and stepped back. “Is it ‘cause you got a taste for older men? I don’t do it for you anymore?”
She never should have mentioned that Carlo was ten years her senior. It was all he talked about now, as if it made him clever to notice that he was, in fact, older.
“Kill him, and then I’ll show you how good my taste is,” she said.
He smiled crookedly, did a small bow that seemed more like mockery than respect, and left her alone. As soon as he was gone, she locked the door and barricaded it with a chair, just to make sure. She didn’t let Marta out of the bathroom until she was completely sure that nobody listened in.
That was all part of the plan, too. Marta looked up at her patiently, if nervously, as she sat down on the bed. Like Vittoria herself, Marta had dyed her hair and put on a new set of clothes.
“Why do I have to stay in the bathroom, don’t they know I’m here?” she asked. “Not that I mind. I can be a spy.”
Vittoria smiled, leaning on the nightstand.
“They know, but I don’t trust these people as far as I can throw them. I promised that I’d take care of you, remember?”
Marta nodded. “Like Lucia.”
“No, not Like Lucia. I mean it, I won’t let them hurt you. And when all this is blown over…” Hopefully, she added in her head. “I’ll take you straight back to Carlo and he’ll take care of you.”
If she survived this mess, there was no way in hell Carlo was taking her back, so she said: “Don’t think so.”
The girl nodded, and Vittoria thought how small she looked. Especially without the mess of curls on her head. She couldn’t say Marta was a very cheery girl – the past four years had done their best to beat that out of her – but she had at least been more so while she was safe. Since Vittoria convinced her to go with her, she had been like this. Sullen and more adult than she should be, not to mention afraid and desperate to hide it. Vittoria tried to alleviate the tension by smiling at her.
“But before that, I have a little job for you. How is your climbing?”
Marta’s eyes suddenly lit up, and she bounced on the bed. “Daddy called me a sloth!”
“Because you’re lazy?” Vittoria asked with a lifted eyebrow.
She laughed. “No, silly, because I’m a good climber. Sloths are really good, too! So, where do I need to climb to?”
There were many more things that came to mind when Vittoria thought of sloths than ‘good climbers’, but she let it rest and told Marta how to climb down the drain pipe and get on a bus to Monte Vista.
Once Carlo was done giving out orders and setting up defences for himself, he called the only person he could think of right now. His brother arrived all of ten minutes after he had hung up, looking about as confused and dishevelled as he felt himself.
Camillo hugged him, and it was the first time he felt nearly human since the incident at the museum. His brother’s eyes were full of worry, something that was more comforting than his children’s innocent questions about mummy. He wasted no time in asking what had happened, and he listened quietly while Carlo explained.
He’d thought it would be harder than it was, reliving the experience by saying it all aloud, but he found that a part of him shut off. When he joined the gang, he taught himself to do that. Dead bodies and murder attempts were easier to deal with if you didn’t allow yourself to feel any of it. The past four years he had been open with her, pouring emotions out wherever he went, but going back to it wasn’t hard.
When he ended the story, Camillo was quiet. Normally he never involved his brother in any of this, so he took it better than Carlo would have in his place.
“It just doesn’t seem like her,” Camillo finally said. “I thought she was nuts about you.”
“Apparently, she’s a good actress.”
He had made believe that she seemed genuinely in love with him. Increasingly, however, he was forced to realise that it was wishful thinking. He had wanted her to love him as badly as he loved her. He read into all the tiny little things that she did and ignored it when it seemed like her heart wasn’t in it. All the little things that had never added up were starting to fall into place now.
His brother – bless him – really tried to help him out here.
“But, I mean, that good? You have two damn kids with her. Maybe it’s…” Camillo lowered his voice, sounding like a third grader’s idea of what a spy would sound like. “Some kind of double bluff? You know, to… do… something.”
“If Franco hadn’t been keeping an eye on me, I’d be dead,” Carlo said. “You think that’s a bluff?”
Camillo’s shoulders fell. “I dunno. Maybe she thought you’d do fine on your own?”
“She knows I don’t carry a gun and that I’m not particularly dangerous.”
“That was maybe a bit risky, then.”
“Because she wanted me dead.”
Carlo stood up and started pacing. Any relief he had felt talking to his brother before had disappeared. Camillo wanted her to be innocent as badly as he did. His brother was silent for a long time, and then finally said:
“So, all you can do now is find Vittoria, and then…?”
“And then do what I have to, I suppose.”
“Which is kill her?”
He hadn’t thought that far. He still refused to think that far. He shrugged and sat down next to his brother again.
“What do I do?”
“I don’t know, bro. The worst my wife’s ever done was call me a pig.”
Carlo cracked a small smile. “What for?”
“I threw my clothes on the floor again. Right next to the hamper.”
For a brief moment, he wondered what that would be like. Simona was the simplest, most uncomplicated woman he had ever met. Not a murderer, not a gang leader. She was open and warm and sweet. It was tempting to just get out of this mess. He could fake his death, run away to the south of France and find a sweet woman like that… he rejected the thought before he even finished it. It sounded nice, but nothing more. He would miss his dishonourable job, almost as much as he would miss the excitement of being with the woman who had just tried to have him murdered.
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 guys, and welcome back to Monte Vista in this massive update craziness of the 20th of January! This chapter? Not happy with it. But at this point I’m generally so unsatisfied with the structure of this story that it’s crazy. I think it’s glaringly obvious that I’m making this one up on the fly when you compare it with CoM (which has a much tighter structure because I finished it before posting). Eh, maybe it’s just me that’s super unsatisfied, and that’s what my edited version is for.
Anyway, like I said at the end of the other chapter, recaps for my stories are a thing now. Find the one for this story here,
and see for yourself how bad the structure is. Next up is a posepack, though that’ll take just a little while longer. See you for that!