It was nearly unbearable to look at the old villa now. Carlo Mancini had spent so many hours there, but since the shooting, the sight of it only made him sad. The former owner was Giuliano Buonarroti, one of Carlo’s oldest and closest friends and he had been gunned down in broad daylight in the town square. It was a clear message to Carlo and to the Good Guys: another gang was in town, and they wanted control.
Whoever did the deed was quick, effective, and silent. Apart from the gunshot, nobody had seen or heard from them since, and Giuliano had died quickly. One instant he was a great friend and confidante, the next he was only a pale shell bleeding out in the streets.
“It would make a great home, I think,” said a voice.
It belonged to Franco Bianchi. He was an older, quiet man, and the last person you would expect to belong to a gang. He looked more like a school janitor than a criminal, but his influence on the underground was undeniable. Franco knew everyone. How he had amassed his seemingly endless list of contacts was a mystery which Carlo suspected would always stay hidden behind the man’s ever-present sunglasses.
Carlo relied on Franco for nearly everything. Getting information, making weapon’s deals, arranging robberies, ordering hits—he said the word and good old Franco had a contact that could take care of it. He trusted Franco with his life.
And yet, on the matter of the house, he wasn’t so inclined to do as he suggested.
“I can’t live in a dead man’s house,” he said, and in his head he added: Especially Giuliano’s.
“You’re forgetting that it’s also his widow and children’s house. They passed it on to us so that we could put it to good use. Considering you want to live separately from your brother, this is perfect.”
“My brother isn’t ready for me to move out yet,” he said. “He only just bought the restaurant and I’d like for it to turn a profit before I move.”
“That makes sense, though by the time it does, the villa will still be here.”
“I know Franco and it’s a wonderful house; it’s just that…”
“You wish we hadn’t acquired it the way we did.”
He went silent, and not for the first time the weight of the loss settled heavily in his stomach. It was times like these, when the ugly sides of his profession came out, when he wanted to stop more than anything. The death of a friend was part of the job, but he couldn’t help but think… what if it were his brother next? The sooner he retired from this business, the better.
“Carl,” Franco said, drawing him back to reality. His voice was tense. “I don’t want to alarm you, but we’re being watched.”
Carlo glanced to where Franco motioned and saw that he was right. Underneath one of the trees in Giuliano’s orchard stood a young woman. It was impossible to tell at this distance how old she was, but she looked youthful, dressed in clothes that were a few sizes too big.
“I felt like we were being watched earlier today,” said Franco in a low voice. “I hope you don’t mind my asking, but is it an ex-girlfriend of yours?”
Carlo looked fixedly at the woman, then shook his head. “No, it’s not. It must be a neighbour, come to see the new owner.”
He waved and the woman waved back, though she didn’t come closer. She stayed in her spot under the tree.
Franco didn’t look convinced, but he nodded. “Let’s be careful.”
“Of course. We’ll leave now and you keep an eye out to see if she follows us from here. If she does, we may need to have her in for a talk, especially considering…”
He let the words hang, along with the pain they brought with them.
“If the young lady follows us, I’ll have a talk with her,” Franco said.
The young lady, as it turned out, did not follow them. At least neither of them noticed her on the way back to the town centre, and thus Carlo concluded that she must really have been a neighbour. Franco wasn’t certain, but then he was usually the first to worry over his boss’ safety—especially after the recent murder, he was more quick to reach for his gun.
Franco’s nervousness manifested on the walk home as well. Instead of heading straight home, he insisted on walking Carlo to the door. At home, he always had firearms around, and someone nearly always watched the house.
Normally, he didn’t like to cause a stir like this. The townsfolk knew about the Good Guys and knew that they had a firm grasp on the town, but they liked to pretend that they didn’t. That meant keeping a relatively low profile. However, with Giuliano’s death, he wouldn’t leave his brother without protection. Camillo wasn’t a member of the gang, but someone may well hurt him to get to Carlo.
The stroll through town was serene, and Carlo wondered how long that would last. When he found whoever had killed Giuliano, there would be retaliation and this act of revenge may well lead to another. Before they knew it, they would have a gang war on their hands.
I need a break, he thought, walking across the square.
It may have been fate that, just after he had thought it, a woman appeared in front of them.
“Excuse me,” she said, drawing their attention.
She was, Carlo noted, a beautiful woman. She carried a small purse over her shoulder and was dressed simply, but neatly, in a short jacket and jeans. Her dark hair, clean and cut into an asymmetrical bob, framed a heart-shaped face. Carlo smiled warmly.
“I’m so sorry, I’m new in town and I’m wondering if you can help. I just can’t find my new doctor’s office. It was supposed to be near the square, but…”
She unveiled a small, crumpled note with the address and showed it to Carlo.
“It’s down that alley there,” he said, pointing to the street that ran alongside the cinema. “Then to your left and into the courtyard. It’s a little hidden away, but just look for the large building covered in ivy.”
The woman breathed a sigh of relief. “You’d think with such a small town, it would be easy to find my way around, but… Well, thank you so much, Mr. …?”
“Mancini,” he said and swept up her hand to give it a shake. “Carlo.”
Her mouth fell open a little in surprise, but she quickly regained her composure and said:
Carlo took his hand back. “My reputation must precede me. I’m sorry to have startled you.”
“I have heard of you, yes,” Paolina said. “But I confess you’re… different to what I expected.”
“Good different, I hope.”
Franco let out a barely audible sigh, but Carlo chose to ignore that. He was quite a bit too busy studying Paolina’s face, which was currently blossoming a lovely shade of red.
“Oh, definitely,” she said. “Thank you for the help.”
“No problem. If you need any additional help getting around town, please don’t hesitate to ask. I live right across the square.”
“That’s so nice of you,” she said. “Thank you.”
She bit her lip and Carlo felt a shiver of excitement when their eyes met.
“I’d better…” she said, pointing. “Thank you so much again.”
He nodded and stepped gallantly aside to let her pass. However, before she could make it too far, he asked, spur of the moment:
“Would it be too much for me to ask you to dinner tonight?”
Paolina stopped and looked back. There was hesitation in her features.
“No pressure,” he said gently. “I’d be happy to tell you a bit about Monte Vista.”
A beautiful smile spread on her face. “You know what? Why not. You can call me, is that okay?”
She reached into her purse and got out a business card. Paolina Biagi, Artist, it said. So she was one of the many hopefuls who came to Monte Vista, wishing to glean inspiration from the famous names the town had produced.
“I’ll call,” he said, smiling.
Franco tutted all the way to Carlo’s front door.
“I’m not sure it’s wise to pick up random strangers,” he said once they were there.
“She’s hardly going to turn out to be a hitman, now, is she?” asked Carlo. “She looks like an ordinary woman to me, and I need something to take my mind off the situation we’re in. It’s perfect.”
“Whatever you say, boss.”
If it had been any other subordinate, Carlo would have told him off for his tone. Since it was Franco, he only said goodbye and went inside.
Once in the door, he found his brother by the kitchen table, and he was immediately alarmed when he noticed he was slumped over at the table with his head in his hands.
“Camillo, what’s the matter? Did something happen?”
His brother’s head shot up. Camillo was three years his junior and besides blood, they had little in common. His brother was in shorts and sandals—something Carlo wouldn’t be caught dead in—and he was of a nervous disposition, always had been.
Camillo stood and said: “Yeah, sorry, I’m fine. I just had a meeting with the bank and it’s… stressful. Feels like I’ll never know how to sort everything out for this restaurant.”
“I’m happy to help you,” Carlo said. “If you need anything…”
“No, no, not at all. You know I’m doing much better, but it’s a little overwhelming sometimes. I wonder why I didn’t just work at someone else’s restaurant.”
“You’re much too talented for that,” Carlo said, looking proudly at his brother.
“You’re being too nice.”
“Not at all, it’s the truth. I can’t imagine you starting as a dishwasher and working your way up—your talents would be wasted.”
“It’s what everyone else does.”
Carlo snorted. “But you’re a Mancini and we don’t do what everyone else do.”
This was especially true for Carlo, of course, but most of their family had made their way in the world under unusual circumstances.
“I could have been making enough to live on my own if not…”
Carlo put a hand on his brother’s back.
“Don’t say all that nonsense. I don’t mind supporting you, so long as you get to do what you want to be doing.”
“I should already be independent. Should have been years ago.”
Camillo stared into the air, his mind no doubt returning to the time when he had been ill.
“Don’t think about that,” Carlo chided.
“I want to be independent as soon as possible,” he protested. “The sooner that happens, the sooner you can find a job.”
Carlo sank something and repeated: “I have a job, so don’t think about that.”
“I mean a real job. You never would have been in the gang if it wasn’t for me, and you’ve always said you would only stop once you were sure I can take care of myself. Well—soon. Very soon, I promise.”
Carlo didn’t say anything, instead squeezing his brother’s shoulder.
“Your restaurant will be a success,” he said. “Don’t worry. If you need, we’ll look over the paperwork now. I have to go out later.”
Camillo sighed. “A job?”
“As a matter of fact, no.”
His brother eyed him, and when he noticed the satisfied expression on his face, he grinned.
“Another date, huh?”
Carlo shrugged. “She’s new in town, so I offered her a meal. It’s such a bother to cook when you’ve just moved.”
“How selfless of you, brother.”
Paolina arrived a little after Carlo had been seated. She was dressed in a cream sweater and black denim skirt and looked a little flustered when he pulled out the chair for her and poured her a glass of wine.
“I feel a little under-dressed,” she said, looking first at Carlo, then the surroundings.
“Nonsense, you look beautiful.”
Carlo sat down himself, smiling at her all the while. She was quiet at first, but once their meal had arrived and they dug in, she opened up little by little and started talking about herself. She was, as he had gleaned from the business card, an artist, though she had been working as a teacher for a few years before she decided to stop and pursue her passion.
“I know it’s crazy,” she said and sipped her wine. “My poor mother thinks I’ve gone insane.”
“It’s not insane at all,” he said. “My brother has just bought a restaurant because it’s his passion. I fully support that.”
“Ah, so your brother isn’t… um…?” she said, biting her lip. “Sorry if that’s rude or something.”
“It’s not rude. My brother isn’t in the business, no. He’s a chef, and a damned good one at that.”
“I still don’t know how to feel about your, um… job. It’s… well…”
“It supports both my brother and me. I’m grateful to have a way to provide for him.”
She smiled softly and smoothed her hair. “It’s good of you to support him.”
“It’s what any good brother would do. But enough about me, tell me what kind of artworks you do…”
As soon as she launched into a description of her works, he was enthralled. She had a sweet, sincere enthusiasm about her. Her hands danced when she spoke and her eyes glowed in the candlelight. Carlo didn’t think anything could draw him away, until he saw a spot of forest green out of the corner of his eye.
The woman who had been following him and Franco earlier. He had no doubt it was her, for though she had been far away at the time, he recognised the strong, dark green of her shirt and the baggy trousers. She was sat in a leather chair, leaning over with a beer in her hand and her eyes on nothing in particular. When she noticed her gaze on him, she looked up and he was hit by recognition.
Her face was strange—beautiful, but with oddly sharp lines and a sarcastic draw about the mouth. Carlo couldn’t place her. Something about the her, the colour of her hair and the shape of her lips and eyes, was familiar, but it didn’t click. When their eyes met, she smiled sardonically and raised her beer to him. Any doubt as to whether this meeting was a coincidence left his mind. He automatically reached for his phone, ready to call Franco.
“Someone you know?” Paolina asked, following his eyes to the woman.
“Not as such,” Carlo said. “I’m sorry to cut our evening short, but I think I’d better walk you home.”
She nodded and got up without protest. Carlo grabbed his blazer, then stalked out with his date trailing behind. The strange woman’s eyes never drifted from him.
Outside the restaurant, he picked up his phone and told Franco to find him as soon as possible, then he walked Paolina to her home.
“Is it all right to ask what’s going on?” Paolina asked carefully.
Carlo offered her his arm and after she had taken it, he said: “The woman in there seems to be following me. I think I’ve seen her before, but I can’t place her. It’s safer if I walk you home.”
Paolina nodded, a serious expression on her face.
“I don’t think you’re in any danger,” he said. “It could be a coincidence that she appeared, but I have to make sure.”
They were mostly silent on the walk to Paolina’s apartment, and once they made it there, he ushered her to the door.
“I’m sorry for this,” he said. “I had a lovely evening.”
Considering what had happened, she didn’t seem very frightened. When he offered her his hand, she instead moved in and kissed him once on each cheek.
“I did, too and I hope… that you’ll want to go out again soon.”
Carlo beamed and, in a fit of passion, he kissed the back of her hand. “I would love that.”
He promised to call and left to meet up with Franco. He had found Carlo—how he did this, Carlo would never learn—and had his gun out when they walked back to the house. He was about to say to Franco that it could be a coincidence, but when they turned the corner, there she was.
She was on the step to his house, leaning against the wall with her arms crossed. When she saw him, she smiled. She completely ignored Franco and the gun, as though they weren’t there.
“You’re Carlo Mancini, right?”
“Who’s asking?” He walked up the stairs and faced her.
The woman straightened up and stuck out her hand. “Vittoria Nespola.”
Carlo shook her hand tentatively and said:
“You’ve been following me around all day.”
Vittoria leaned back again, shaking her head. “Not all day. I took a break around lunchtime. Sorry if I fucked up your date, by the way.”
Her eyes glittered with amusement in a way that suggested she wasn’t sorry at all.
“It’s all right, though perhaps you’ll tell me what I can do for you, Vittoria.”
She pushed a strand of hair behind her ear and said: “Well, for one, I need a place to stay.”
Author’s notes: Surprise! This happened 🙂 I know there’s going to be another gen 2 chapter soon, but I couldn’t help myself. Boyfriend read this chapter and said it was good, so why not? The next chapter is a little more uncertain, since he wasn’t so keen on it. He’s right about the stuff he’s said: It needs work. But hey, that’s the good thing about this particular one not being on a schedule 🙂 Now, I want to talk a little about the changes I’ve made, but since it’s probably going to be long-winded (and the chapter itself is already long enough), I’ve put it in a little collapsible thingy. Just click it if you want to read some of my thoughts behind the changes – or don’t, if you’d rather not! There are a few minor spoilers in there, so tread with care.
Click here for boring change notes! 😀
- This chapter is quite different from the original, but one thing remains the same: The title. I don’t think anyone’s noticed, but both the first and second generation have first chapters that are called the first name of the major female character of the generation. I’d like to keep the “trend”, and thus the title stays for the rewrite as well!
- The villa that Carlo and his kids later live in makes an appearance from the first chapter this time. In the old version, I had that ratty old farm. I was originally going to have them live in that until they could afford a nice villa. For this, I decided to forego the farm entirely and just have the villa be there from the start. In gen 2, a significant portion of chapters take place there and I’ll probably end up keeping it for all the gens.
- Obviously, there was no mention of a dead friend of Carlo’s in the old version, but his friend Giuliano has actually been canon for a while. In Carlo and Vittoria’s son Giuliano’s entry for the OC challenge, he mentions being named after his dad’s friend who died in a gang related incident.
- Speaking of gang related incidents – tensions are brewing from the very first chapter now.
- Franco has also been introduced right away! In the old version, he didn’t turn up until chapter 6, and that was out of nowhere. I’m establishing him a bit better. Also, giving him a chance to be a little sassy. I like sassy Franco.
- Womanizer Carlo is here! I implied in the old story that Carlo used to be a womanizer, but he was over that by the time the story started. No more! We will have no boring behind-the-scenes character development for this rewrite. I like the change a lot and it’ll tie into his character arc as the story progresses. I briefly wondered if Carlo being able to just pick up a random woman in the town square was unrealistic, but then it’s Carlo. I think we all know we’d say yes, even if he is a gang leader.
- Womanizer Carlo is also the reason I created Paolina, who’s a new character.
- One thing there’s very little of in this version of the chapter is our lovely Vittoria. That’s because the first chapter has kind of been split into two. The next one will have more of her. A change I’ve made here is that she’s now stalking Carlo for a bit before talking to him. She has her reasons, of course, but more on that in later chapters 😉 I’ve also ramped up her weirdness a bit. Who waves at the guy they’re stalking? Vittoria does! I’ve also given her more relaxed-looking clothes. In the original she wore a lot of skin-tight clothes, but as I’ve developed her, I’ve started to change that. I consider her someone who cares more about being comfortable and mobile than looking good. In gen 2, she also nearly always wears loose shirts.
- Camillo now has a story arc! Woooo! That means he will have an actual personality and won’t just randomly disappear halfway through. No, seriously, I promise. He has a more significant role as the reason Carlo joined the gang, and he has a goal in life. My little nugget is all grown up and becoming a real character!
With that said, I thank those who made it this far for reading, and I’ll be seeing you in the next post!
EDIT (1/12-18): Swapped out the last picture so it fits with the next chapter.