“You should have kept this hand still,” said Laetitia, the doctor Carlo had called.
She was an old acquaintance, one who always made him promise not to call her when it was gang-related but who always got dragged into things anyway. She was a stern-looking woman with red hair and green eyes that were shooting daggers at Gina. As though it was her fault that her dad called her.
“Sorry,” Gina mumbled.
“Don’t apologise to me,” she said sharply. “This will only hurt yourself. If you had gone to the emergency room right away, we could be sure that these bones would set correctly. It will take a longer time to heal because of your foolishness—you might even lose mobility.”
“But you’re done soon, right? I need to talk to—” Gina began, though a glare from Laetitia cut her off. “I mean, uh, thanks for the help.”
Laetitia kept doing her work, all the while muttering under her breath about reckless Mancinis. Gina let her mind drift, only now and again being reminded of the doctor’s work when she felt a jab of pain in the hand. The doctor had arrived right after Lotta, and everyone had insisted that her hand get taken care of before she could hear everything Lotta had to say. It drove her crazy—she was cold with worry, wondering about the Foundation.
“Sit still,” Laetitia said.
Gina grumbled, but did as she was told. After another couple of minutes, her hand had been properly bandaged and Laetitia left with stern warnings to keep the hand still. Before leaving, she marched up to Carlo, looked him square in the eyes, and said:
“Do not. Involve me. Again. Are we clear, Carlo?”
Carlo smiled charmingly. “Of course, Laetitia. Thank you so much for helping my daughter.”
The doctor left the house in a huff and Gina walked over to Lotta who was waiting by the fireplace.
“The charity. Tell me what it’s about.”
“First,” Lotta said. “I thought I had heard the name Moretti before and I was right.”
Lotta gestured to Vittoria who was leaning on the armrest of the sofa. Vittoria ran a hand through her hair.
“I knew an Antonio Moretti,” she said. “He was a hitman back in the day. One of my exes made use of his services on a regular basis. Kind of a psycho, but then most hitmen are.”
“Wait, the Moretti Foundation are hitmen?” Gina asked.
“No doubt a few of them are,” Lotta said, “but that’s not their whole deal. Antonio Moretti himself died years ago and the foundation’s leader is Nero Moretti, his son, who went off the radar after his dad’s death. As far as I know, he hasn’t been relevant in the underworld at all… until recently. Some time ago, there started being rumours of him showing up in and around Collesena, working for wealthy clients, but because of our presence in the town, he’s been working on the downlow.
“It seems he’s slowly establishing his own gang. He’s getting a few followers and building a client base. He’s made sure to go after all the collectors that we won’t work for, Gina. The ones who can’t offer up as much money or who are so morally bankrupt that we won’t take their jobs.”
“Son of a bitch,” Gina said. “That’s almost clever.”
“Indeed. He’s been secretly growing a presence and with enough time and resources, he’ll be big enough that he can push us out of town. That would let him have all the wealthy clients and if he can get the wealthy clients…”
“He could potentially expand even further,” Carlo said.
“But he still doesn’t have half the resources that the Good Guys do,” Vittoria said. “It’s hard to expand without.”
“And that’s where his secret benefactor, Fabrizio Aiello, comes in,” Lotta said.
Gina’s mind spun with all the information and she was barely aware of what was going on. Somewhere off to the side, she heard her dad question why a man like Fabrizio would support a fledging gang.
“Because he’s a pathetic little frog-man,” Gina said in reply, making both her parents and Lotta look at her. “I think he likes feeling big and scary, so he’s blackmailing Enzo and supporting a big, bad gang to seem dangerous.”
Lotta smiled. “That’s very insightful of you, Gina.”
“What can I say? Your weird magic powers are rubbing off on me.”
Gina put her hands on her hips and started pacing in front of the fire while the others looked on. It fit together perfectly. Why Fabrizio would want the money from the painting instead of using his own, why he would blackmail an acquaintance. It even explained how Fabrizio knew about Gina. Nero Moretti would have kept tabs on her and the Good Guys and had warned Fabrizio that she was hanging around.
Finally, though, another thought dawned on her, and this one made her feel cold all over again.
“But Fabrizio won’t stop supporting the gang just because he gets what he wants from Enzo,” she said. “He’ll be in their pockets for the rest of his life.”
Lotta looked at her, eyes severe. “Oh, do you care about that? Since he dumped you, you owe him nothing. Isn’t that right?”
Gina winced. A month ago, she would have agreed with that sentiment. She wouldn’t have thought there was any way she could ever forgive someone who dumped her—another rich asshole who used her and broke her heart. But it would be delusional to think that he was like that. It was why she had stormed out instead of screaming at him, after all. She couldn’t find it in her to hurt the blue-eyed rich boy who had sat in the grass on the hill and told her he stayed in love with her for eight years.
She steeled herself and turned to her best friend.
“I can’t have anyone taking Collesena. Lotta, call everyone in and tell them to meet me there. We’re going to take the town,” she said out loud.
They already had a presence there, but no definite centre of power to prevent what Moretti was trying to pull. They would have that now. Gina turned to her parents.
“Dad, will you take charge there when I’m not around?”
Carlo smiled wickedly at the idea, but he hesitated and glanced at his wife. “I’m retired, honey.”
Vittoria snorted. “As if. He’ll do it—maybe he’ll finally calm the fuck down.”
“Good,” Gina said. “You have to leave now, before we get the rest of the gang here. I’ll talk to you later.”
She spun quickly from her parents and left the room with Lotta at her heel.
“Lotta, will you arrange something else?” she asked.
“What do you have in mind?”
“I need someone to keep an eye on Enzo until we’re done.”
Lotta turned and looked at her. “So, this isn’t just because you won’t let anyone else take the town.”
Gina let out a sigh. “You know just as well as I do that it’s not that. It’s for him. Even if we’re not together I… I care enough about him that I want Fabrizio off his case for good.”
Lotta nodded. “Good, I just wanted you to admit that. So… right now, the only person we have in Collesena is Marco.”
“Leoni?” Gina said. “I don’t know…”
“He’ll help us, trust me.”
Gina put a hand on her best friend’s shoulder. “I trust you.”
“Then we’re doing it.”
The two of them headed to the car, though before they could make it, Gina stopped. She had just remembered something and it was probably foolish of her to think of it now. But at the same time… part of her had to know.
“You said you know why Enzo’s mum hasn’t contacted him,” she said.
Her friend told her and Gina felt a rush of anger as well as an odd spark of hope.
“Can you get proof?” she asked Lotta.
“I think you’d have go talk to Georgette for that.”
It was stupid. Gina wasn’t supposed to focus on that—there was plenty for her to do with Moretti’s gang. But if there was even a small chance… Her heart skipped a beat from longing. Lotta nodded, as though she could tell exactly what thoughts were passing through Gina’s mind.
“Go talk to her, you can drive with the others and I’ll take my own car to Collesena.”
Gina felt her face grow red. “I-I… He’s so brainwashed, he… Even if I tell him, he might not leave. He might…”
He might decide to stay and hurt her again.
“Give him the information,” Lotta said.
Gina bit her lip. “If he stays, I don’t know what I’ll do. I…”
“You said it yourself: You care about him. Even if he decides not to do anything with that information, he deserves to know.”
Gina nodded slowly. “Okay. I’m doing it.”
Georgette Villeneuve woke up when something rattled downstairs and a light came on. She sat bolt upright, her heart beating frantically. Her hand sought her husband’s form in the half-dark and found him, further adding to the fear. It wasn’t him down there.
“Bastien,” she whispered.
At first, he didn’t stir—he was a heavy sleeper—but when she shook his shoulder insistently, he turned and looked at her. His groggy grumpiness disappeared as soon as he saw her worried eyes.
“Gigi?” he asked. “What’s the…”
Georgette put a finger to her lips and nodded towards the stairs where they could both see the glow from the lamp downstairs. The two of them shared a concerned look and then Georgette swung her legs out of bed. Bastien caught her arm.
“Honey, please be careful,” he whispered.
“I’m just going to check,” she said. “You stay here and get ready to call the police.”
“I don’t like it, Gigi…”
Georgette didn’t either. Any number of people could be waiting downstairs, but at the same time… they were waiting. Surely, if they had wanted to hurt them, they would have rushed upstairs right away.
She grabbed her robe and pulled it on while tip-toeing to the stairs. As soon as she was at the edge of the landing, she could see the person waiting downstairs. It was a familiar young woman with dark hair who was dressed in a black leather jacket and tight jeans. The creaky board at the top of the stair alerted Regina Mancini to her presence.
“I need a word,” Gina said.
Georgette looked back at Bastien who stared back with fearful eyes.
“I think we’re okay,” she said, so loud the woman downstairs could hear as well.
Despite her husband’s hesitant look, Georgette descended the staircase. Their uninvited guest sat in the sofa with her legs and arms crossed and her eyes scanned Georgette.
“You already got the painting,” Georgette said. “And it was the real one.”
“I know. That’s not why I’m here,” said the woman. “I’m here because of your son and your ex-husband.”
“It’s Ms. Mancini, right?”
Georgette took a seat a good distance from her ‘guest’.
“Gina is fine,” she said.
“You’re the girl my son met back then.” Georgette cut straight to the chase and looked her up and down. “Regina Mancini. I remembered the name and when you mentioned the Good Guys when you were here…”
Gina smiled, though it didn’t reach her eyes. “You have a good memory. Guess it’s because I’m the reason you left your husband.”
Georgette frowned. “What a ridiculous notion. You had nothing to do with it.”
“I thought not.” Gina leaned forward, resting her elbows on her knees. “Your kind are pretty fucking shitty people, but I think even for you that would be unusually cruel. Nonetheless, that’s what your son and daughter believe. They believe you left them behind because your son stepped out of line and your daughter had the gall to be fond of him. They’ve believed for years that you walked out on them because you’re angry that he made out with a criminal.”
The silence that settled in the house allowed the hoot of a lone owl to be heard. It took a long time before the lump in Georgette’s throat allowed her to speak.
“If what you’re saying is true, that explains a lot.”
“The restraining orders… the ones my own children filed against me.”
A light came on in Regina Mancini’s eyes and she leaned forward.
“Do you have proof?”
Georgette bit her lip, something she hadn’t done in a long time. She did it when she was a girl to mask her tears when they threatened to spill. She nodded.
“I do.” She had kept them even though they hurt to look at.
“I need that evidence,” Gina said. “I know a good lawyer who needs to have a look at it.”
Author’s note: Hi guyyyys! Welcome to Monte Vista and to the land of cliffhangers! At least we got some new information this time, so it’s not all bad. 😉 Things are speeding up quite a bit from now on as we’re nearing the end. I still can’t believe it’s already coming to an end but it’s happening.
Which brings me to something I consider doing. I might not start gen 3 right away. There are a few reasons. First one is that it isn’t clicking for me yet – I’ve had an idea for the story for ages, but it still needs some love before I feel comfortable starting it. Now that could of course happen before gen 2 is over, but that brings me to my other reason: I want to do other things. I love MVS to bits and I love the characters, but I want to try and work within a different framework. I’ve promised myself that MVS will never suddenly go supernatural and I’m sticking to it, but at the same time, ya know, I want to do fantasy. That’s actually my preferred genre and one that I miss working with. So those are my thoughts. It’s not that I won’t do gen 3 at all, but I might just have that as a secondary project for a while and focus on something different. It would also give me a little more air to get more of gen 1 done. I’d love to hear you guys’ thoughts. I know ultimately it’s my decision, but I am curious, especially when it comes to others who have worked for a long time on one story – do you ever get the urge to do something totally different? A palate cleaner, if you will?
Anywayyyy, I hope you enjoyed this chapter and I hope you’ll return next week for more. Thank you so much for reading if you made it this far and thank you for liking and sharing your thoughts. It means the world to me. I’ll see you all in the next post.