Vittoria was up early, much to the chagrin of Giacomo, who had been sitting outside her door while she slept. Judging by the look on his face, he’d nodded off a few times and was hoping to get another chance.
“You were up late,” he complained. “Go back to sleep.”
“But I’m awake.”
She headed downstairs with quick steps and he followed while muttering curses under his breath. Vittoria walked into the kitchen and started rooting through cabinets for a mug and coffee.
“Hey, if you fuck with the boss’ stuff…”
“Relax, I’m only making coffee,” she said, holding up a packet. “I’m sure he won’t mind.”
She realised that he might mind, however, once she took a sip of the coffee she had made. It was barely drinkable and it didn’t really help to add milk.
“Well, this is a disaster,” she said with a chuckle, raising the cup to Giacomo. “Can I get you any?”
He looked at her through eyes that were tiny slits. “I don’t think so.”
“What? I’m not going to poison you.” She took another mouthful and grimaced. “Well, not fatally, anyway…”
“You’re Vittoria, right?”
She started, looked up, and got her first look at Carlo Mancini’s brother. The resemblance was clear enough from his figure and the dark hair, but besides that she had a feeling the two of them were very different. He lifted a hand to scratch his neck and looked away shyly. His brother drew all eyes when he entered a room, while this guy tried to disappear into his loose, baggy shirt.
“You’re Carlo’s brother, I presume,” she said. “Did he tell you about—?”
“He did,” he said. “I’m Camillo. It’s nice to have you.”
From his body language, Vittoria got the sense that it wasn’t nice, but she could tell he was trying his hardest to be welcoming. She felt a sudden stab of sympathy for the guy and when he remained quiet, she took over the conversation:
“I fucked around in your kitchen and made this,” she said, lifting her cup. “I’d offer to make you some, but it’s probably best for public health if I don’t.”
Camillo’s shoulders relaxed and he smiled. “Let me. I’ll fix breakfast.”
“I don’t want to bother—”
“Not at all. Give me ten minutes.”
There was an instant transformation in Camillo as soon as he stepped into the kitchen. He cleared away the mess she had made and started setting the table with practised movements. The tension left his muscles while he worked and he gently hummed to himself.
“How do you like Monte Vista so far?” he asked while slicing bread.
Coffee was brewing and spreading a heavenly scent in the room.
“It’s pretty nice,” she said. “Sunny.”
“You chose the best time of year to come here, right, Giacomo?”
Vittoria’s silent guard grunted in response. It didn’t seem to faze Camillo, who finished cutting bread and putting it in a basket.
“You like cooking and stuff?” Vittoria asked when he had finished and asked them to sit.
“I’m a chef,” he said. “Soon to be the owner of my own restaurant.”
If his coffee was anything to judge by, he would do great. She told him and he blushed a little and said a careful thank you. Then he pushed the bread basket her way and encouraged her to eat.
The bread was even better—soft and fluffy, with heaps of marmalade; all homemade, he assured her. He added a careful apology that it wasn’t from today, but she didn’t really mind. Vittoria hardly ever had homemade bread and exclusively when she visited her best friend, so she ate until she thought she was going to burst. While eating, she decided that she liked Camillo. He disappeared a little into his own world and only asked simple, easy questions and despite his obvious nerves, he was relaxed and easy-going.
At least, she felt like that until Camillo suddenly said: “Okay, this is crazy, but I’m sure we’ve met before.”
Vittoria put half a slice of bread down and her heart dropped. Him too?
Giacomo, who had until now eaten with them in glowering silence, suddenly straightened up and crossed his arms.
“The boss said the same thing.”
Vittoria took a few deep breaths. It was a coincidence. It had to be. She didn’t recognise either of the brothers, but if she had met them while drunk… No, ridiculous, I never drink enough to forget.
“Oh, you’ve been to Velleci?” she asked. She took a sip of coffee to mask the panic.
Camillo squinted. “No, but I’m sure…”
“Apparently, Vittoria has one of those faces,” came a voice from behind them.
She hadn’t noticed Carlo coming down the stairs, but now that he was there, she didn’t know how she could have missed him. His presence was demanding, larger than life in a way. He was as perfectly groomed as he had been the day before, only he had exchanged his suit for a dark one, matched with a red shirt. Giacomo stood up when he noticed him and he was just short of doing a military salute to his boss.
“’Morning,” Giacomo said.
“Good morning,” Carlo said back. “I take it everything’s in order?”
“It is. I’ve been keeping an eye on our guest all night.”
“Very good. I’ll call Alonzo over to replace you. You must be tired.”
Giacomo shrugged like he didn’t even know what being tired meant, even though Vittoria had seen him yawning plenty of times. Carlo now walked up to his brother and placed a hand on his shoulder.
“And you’re going to be okay with this?” he asked, motioning to Vittoria.
Camillo nodded. “Yup, it’s no problem. It’s nice to have someone to make breakfast for, for a change.”
Finally, Carlo looked over and met Vittoria’s eyes; she strained to not squirm in her seat. She hated the way he looked at her, like he could pry all of her secrets out of her just through that intense stare. This, she thought, was a man who was used to being able to doing just that—he was used to everyone being scared and doing as he said. Unfortunately for him, Vittoria had never been the reverential type. She met his eyes and smiled, despite the uncomfortableness his stare caused.
“Heading out?” she asked, casually leaning back.
“Yes, off to a meeting.” He returned the smile. “If you want to see town, Alonzo will go with you.”
“Great, I can’t wait.”
Carlo straightened and took his eyes off her. “Lovely, I’ll see you all later.”
Carlo walked briskly once outside. He was headed towards the same place as he had taken Paulina the night before. It was one of the places the gang did favours for, and thus one of the places that didn’t object to a bunch of gang-members gathering. At the same time, it wasn’t too shady, so it had been a fine location for the date. Other establishments that they frequented didn’t have that advantage.
Franco was already outside and he had ordered for the both of them. He was having breakfast, while all that waited for Carlo was a cappuccino. Franco knew him well enough that he wouldn’t be getting him anything to eat before noon.
“What have you got?” Carlo skipped introductions once he made it to the table.
Franco pushed his sunglasses up. “Her story checks out.”
Carlo frowned. “All of it?”
“Most of it,” his friend amended. “Gallo Terra took over after Alessandro died and he’s been leading in secret all this time. Apparently he slept with Alessandro’s daughter and that’s how he got enough power to pull it off. I’m guessing he offed the old man himself.”
Carlo sank into the seat across from Franco and had a sip of his coffee.
“I can’t say I expected it to be true.”
“No? You don’t trust her?”
He shook his head. “No. Not that I think she’s necessarily dangerous but she’s… weird.”
Vittoria wasn’t threatening or scary. She was cheerful, a little sarcastic, funny. If she had come to him at any other time, he wouldn’t have had a second thought about her, but Giuliano was dead and she was the only person who knew anything.
“Well, there are a few things to consider when it comes to this story,” Franco said. “Gallo hasn’t publicly taken responsibility for killing Giuliano. He may brag and hint at it, but he’s not outright making a proclamation yet.”
“That’s to be expected.” Carlo leaned back and folded his arms. “It would be suicide.”
“But it leaves us with a problem—we only have Ms. Nespola’s word for it and she’s a whole other matter.”
“Oh? How so? What did you find out about her?”
Carlo straightened up, blinking. “Nothing as in she’s not affiliated with any gangs?”
“Nothing as in she doesn’t exist. Nobody of that name ever lived anywhere near Velleci and I’m certain of that. At first, I merely asked through the usual channels but after that gave me nothing, I looked at public records. There is no birth certificate, no records of her ever going to school, no visits to dentists or doctors or anything.”
Carlo couldn’t say he was surprised.
“A fake name, then. So are we thinking someone sent her?” he asked Franco.
“Maybe.” Franco rapped a hand on his coffee cup so his wedding band did little taps on the porcelain. “All I know about her is that she might be a prostitute.”
“I looked into Gallo Terra some more. Before he joined the Giocondos he was a small-time drug dealer and pimp. He got himself in Alessandro’s good graces by providing them with… wares from both of his businesses, if you take my meaning. When Ms. Nespola said he picked her up at a bar…”
“She means that he recruited her?”
Carlo sighed. He thought of her skittish behaviour, the vague insinuations, her reluctance to speak. She said she was Gallo’s girl and punching bag—that sounded like a lot of violent pimps he knew about.
“If that’s true, her story just got a good deal more tragic.”
“Yes, if it’s true,” Franco said, frowning.
“You don’t believe it,” Carlo stated.
“She’s too clever.”
Carlo cocked his head.
“Are you saying if she were a prostitute, she wouldn’t be? It’s a little conceited.”
“What do you think?” Franco asked.
Carlo thought for a moment. “I believe she’s scared for her life, even if she’s trying to make light of it. I believe she doesn’t want to be found by this Gallo person. She’s using a false name, leaving out details… I’ll let her stay for now, but you need to deepen the search. Get me her real name and we’ll take it from there.”
He stood up from his chair, because just then he noticed a familiar figure walking across the square. Franco followed his eyes and sighed.
“Ms. Biagi is out early.”
“I promised to show her around town, remember?”
Franco grumbled in return. “Well, before you head off to do your civic duty, are we going to take action against the Giocondos?”
Carlo rubbed the stubble on his jaw in thought.
“Send a few people to drive by their headquarters. No need to make it big, but we’ll let them know that we’re aware. Try to avoid deaths, but if there’s bloodshed, so be it.”
“Understood. Good morning, Ms. Biagi.”
Carlo rushed over to greet her with a kiss on each cheek and she blushed.
“Under-dressed again,” Paolina said, looking him up and down.
“You’re as beautiful as ever.”
“If you ever see Carl in something other than a suit, he’s deathly ill,” Franco said from his chair.
Paolina chuckled sweetly while Carlo glared at him over his shoulder and said: “Have a nice day, Franco.”
His friend grinned and returned to his cake.
“Perhaps we should go?” Carlo asked, offering Paolina his arm. “I was thinking, since you’re an artist, the museum would be a good place to start. If you don’t mind?”
“That’s wonderful. I’ve been meaning to see it.”
Paolina smiled and placed her hand on his arm. Carlo felt his muscles untensing at finally having something other than his work in mind.
Author’s notes: Hi guys! I thought it was high time I updated the rewrite. I’ve gotten a few new readers to this, so I just want to say hi if you’re a first time reader of this gen and thanks for reading along. In other news, I’ve updated the theme of my blog as you may be able to see if you’re reading this here. I’ve been running the same general layout for a long, long time, so it was high time for a change and I’m not going to lie – I’m pretty damned pleased with it. You may also have noticed that I’ve dropped the usual borders on the pictures and actually I went back and changed the previous two chapters to have these simple, rounded corners as well. I personally like the clean look a lot better, even though it’s a little more work for me to do it. Now, of course it’s time for change notes. As usual they’re in a hidden list and they contain spoilers, so be careful if you’re a first time reader. There aren’t many change notes this time since this chapter is pretty new.
Click here for boring change notes!
- In the original version, Camillo pretty much just went with it when Carlo said Vittoria was going to stay at their place. I’m expanding his character, so here he’s a cute, nervous little darling. He accepts her staying at their place, but he’s not entirely comfortable with it. The only time he’s comfortable is when he’s doing what he’s passionate about – i.e. cooking.
- In contrast, Vittoria is now an absolute disaster in the kitchen.
- Vittoria is more wary of Carlo, as is perfectly logical. He is a gang leader, after all. Because Camillo isn’t, she likes him more than Carlo at this stage.
- Vittoria’s narration refers to a ‘best friend’ whereas in the old version she didn’t have much of a connection with anyone apart from Gallo and Lucia. We’ll get to know more about this person in later chapters. It’s not an entirely new character, though they haven’t played a large part before.
- In the original version, Carlo and Franco made no effort to get to know more about Vittoria. This is also because Franco wasn’t introduced until later.
- We’re learning more about Gallo here, namely that he’s a drug dealer and pimp. You may also notice someone mentions he’s been sleeping with Alessandro’s daughter and that’s how he got power. If you remember back to the first generation, I think you probably know who I’m talking about here.
- I’m letting Carlo be a bit of a bastard. Basically he’s ordering a drive-by shooting here, which is something I never had him do in the old version. I want to expand on his character and retain his good qualities while also making it clear that, yeah, he’s not a good guy. It’s in the job description.
As always, I thank you guys for reading along. I hope everyone is having a good time and I’ll see you in the next post. 🙂