CHAPTER 1: Mistaken Identities
The three men sat in the car watching the local drugstore, Paulie 'Walnuts' Gualtiero, Bobby Baccalieri and Charlie DiAngelo who worked for Tony's crew. They had been given the assignment last week to kidnap the rich daughter of financier Douglas Harrison who not only owed Tony Soprano 60g's but who Tony also wanted deep in his pocket for his HUD scams. It was Harrison who controlled a lot of the appraisers and other key people needed for the appraising and final Ok of the run down units in Newark NJ.
Sarah, daughter of Mr. Harrison was supposedly in her early 30's a bit of a humanitarian and bohemian who didn't often dress in overly expensive clothing and who also showed up at this particular drugstore to get her weekly prescription of narcotic painkillers that she was addicted to. The three men had seen her walk in less than 5 minutes ago, and they hoped the heavy pouring rain would help hide some of the details of what they were about to do.
"Fuck." Charlie lit up a cigarette as he tried squinting through the downpour, "I hope this bitch comes out soon and this goes well."
"For all our sakes, it better." The sharply dressed form of Paulie grunted, "Otherwise both Tony and Silvio will be all over our asses."
"So do ya think Harrison will pay the ransom on his daughter and all?" Bobby spoke up trying to avoid Charlie's cigarette smoke, "I mean what if he thinks we are just bluffing, or worse gets the feds involved?"
"Shit!" both Paulie and Charlie chuckled at the same time. Paulie shook his head, "Fuck that, Harrison owes money to both Tony and to New York on some illegal deals, you think he is gonna risk indictments and such bringing this out into the open? Fuck no."
Bobby shut up at that point and the three men just continued watching the front door through the pouring rain, hoping Sarah Harrison would be coming out soon. The picture they had of her wasn't the best, just a half blurred snapshot, and the woman was known to often just wear plain old jeans and flannel shirts as she owned a horse farm. "Kind of a plain and ugly chick, ya know?" Charlie murmured. "She wouldn't be my idea of any kind of fuck, ya know?" There were a few more half hearted chuckles at that point and the men once again fell silent, waiting and watching.
Charlene Lynch had gone inside the drugstore a few minutes earlier herself to pick up her refill on her husbands thyroid medication. She could have been a dead ringer for Sarah Harrison, except where Sarah dyed her hair auburn red, Charlene's came by naturally. Because she worked at a dog training facility and was on her lunch our she was also dressed in casual clothing, faded jeans, a denim jacket and a t-shirt on underneath that read "Bite Hard!" on it. Charlene was already in line to pick up her prescription when Sarah got in line behind her. They were close to the same size and weight, dressed differently but similar. Charlene's long auburn hair in a neat ponytail while Sarah's was just loose down her back; Charlene had the glow of intense intelligence and awareness in her emerald eyes, while Sarah had the look of a narcotic addict in her faded blue ones.
"I hate these lines," Sarah grumbled, "Lunchtime is always the most damn busy time." She spoke to Charlene.
Charlene half shrugged, "Yeah, but what can you do, just wait, ya know?" she tried to smile kindly at the other woman.
The line finally began moving again and Charlene picked up her medication and paid for it. Her mind was on her date with her husband of 9 years and she and her husband had a whole romantic evening planned together, they had been having trouble in the marriage lately after he had, had an affair with his secretary. Charlene hoped this would help mend the marriage and she couldn't wait to see Rick tonight. "Well good luck to you." Charlene said to the other woman in line behind her and then tucking her medication into her denim purse and half pulling up her jacket went to run out into the rain to her car.
"There! Over there!" Paulie pointed as a woman who looked like the picture of Sarah Harrison came jogging out of the drugstore. "Grab her!" Charlie nodded and threw the 4-door sedan into gear and screeched around to the front of the drugstore. "Get the bitch!"
Charlene wasn't even thinking as the car suddenly screeched along side of her; two men suddenly grabbed her and pulled her into the back seat. It was all happening so fast, the strong hands of these strangers who dragged her stunned into the back seat of the car. "Shut up and cooperate, bitch!" one of them growled.
It was the move that broke through her terrified numbness; she knew that if she didn't get out of here, something very bad was going to happen to her. Primal instinct kicked in and she did the only thing she could, fought like a wildcat. Thrashing, biting, kicking and screeching she desperately tried to fight the two men in the back who were trying to hang onto her and tie her up.
"Fuckin' bitch!" one of them growled and the goons renewed their struggles to subdue her. It was literally a free for all in the back of the car, as Charlie now had the car in gear and sped off as fast as he could through the pouring rain. Bobby tried to hold her down and throw the ropes around her, one of his meaty fists catching her on the back of the neck, but instead of calming down, the girl only panicked and fought more. Paulie 'Walnuts' now had gotten to her front and was trying to control her flailing arms, "Would you fuckin' quit you bitch!" he growled, his eyes flaring with his dangerous temper. He went to smack her alongside of the head when by sheer luck her teeth and his hand connected. She caught his hand in her teeth and then bit down as hard as she could, hoping to rip his hand off, to gain enough freedom to somehow get out of this awful situation.
"AAAAAHHH, FUCK!" Paulie screamed in pain, blood was already flowing from his hand, "Fucking cunt, let go!" the agony and anger in his voice was undeniable. "She has me by the fuckin' hand!" he screamed at his men, "Fuckin' get her off!"
Bobby was trying to smash his fist into her gut but it was hard as Paulie was half on top of her. It was just one tangled mess of bodies writhing and fighting in the back seat. Bobby vainly tried twisting her leg at the knee, hoping the excruciating pain would make her release Paulie's hand. But Charlene had adrenaline and sheer terror flowing through her, she was not going to let go of the man's hand no matter what, in fact the more Bobby wrenched her leg and knee the harder she tore with her teeth and ground down, like a terrier with a rat.
Paulie was getting desperate and worse his temper was on overdrive now, "Fucking puttana bitch!" he screamed in rage and drew his gun, "Yer dead! Yer fucking dead ya cunt!"
"No, No!" Bobby tried to reason with Paulie; Tony would have all their asses if this didn't go down as planned. "Don't kill her!"
In a brief moment of self control, Paulie swung the gun around so he was holding it by the barrel and used the heavy handle to pistol whip her. He swung the gun down with his full force into her head above her eye, a sickening crunch sounded throughout the car.
The shock of the blow loosened her grip and Paulie was able to drag his bleeding and injured hand out of her teeth, his own anger filled adrenaline now surging through him. Again and again he swung the handle of his gun down on her forehead and temple like a crazy man wielding a hammer. "I'll fuckin' kill ya!" he growled, "Yer fuckin' dead ya bitch!"
Blood began to splatter Paulie, the seats and the doors of the car as Paulie now beat her senseless fully giving into his burning rage. "Paulie no!" Bobby grabbed hold of the capo trying to restrain him. Beneath both men they could feel the woman quivering in convulsions from the cruel blows to her head. "Quit, goddamn it!" Bobby finally got hold of Paulie's arms, preventing him from finishing the job. "You want Tony to go nuts?"
Paulie finally settled, letting Bobby restrain him. "Get off me you fat fuck." He growled. Both men looked at the girl below them. She still lived, barely. Her breathing was ragged; the left side of her face was bloodied and ruined, the eye swollen shut, blood flowing freely all over her, the car and them. She was no longer fighting anyone; instead she lay beneath them unmoving in unconsciousness.
"Aw shit Paulie." Bobby just barely grunted releasing the capo, "We are fucked."
"Eh," Paulie tried playing it down. "We just say she fell, ya know? The bitch fell, got it?" He glowered at the other two men. "Besides, we are taking her over to that place Furio has secured, he's the one gonna be watching her, we are out of this now. We can blame it on that fuckin' zip Furio."
Bobby just shook his head and said nothing, knowing better than to argue with Paulie at this point. "Shit." He muttered under his breath, this was not how this was supposed to have gone down. They had been told that Sarah Harrison wasn't that strong, that she was usually high on her painkillers. Now Bobby didn't wonder if they were all gonna be screwed by Tony.
They drove out to some backwoods hunting cabin deep in the Pine Barrens, the plan was that Furio Giunta, Tony's enforcer from Naples was now going to be taking over her care and securing her until the ransom was paid to Tony. Bobby was frankly surprised that the girl still was breathing and living, in fact there were occasional ragged moans of pain that softly came from deep within her.
The rain had eased off some now and the sky was just a leaden grey with a steady drizzle that trickled off the late winter tree branches and low hanging pine boughs. "I hate this goddamn place." Paulie grumbled, "I always have after that incident with the fuckin' Russian." Charlie and Bobby were already grabbing the semi-conscious woman and carrying her towards the front door. Paulie just walked behind them glaring around him.
Furio had already opened the door and saw the men bringing the badly wounded girl inside. "What happened?" he asked roughly, "This was supposed to be easy thing." His steel grey eyes flashed with a sudden darkness.
"She fell, my fine Italian friend." Paulie rudely jabbed his finger into Furio's muscular chest, "and that is all we know, you understand?"
"Yeah, yeah. Whatever." Furio's accented voice grunted with menace. He was not intimidated by any of them. The Mafia here he felt was a joke, and so was Paulie Gualtiero. "Put her there on couch." He motioned to Bobby and Charlie.
"Well she's all yours now." Paulie glanced around with obvious distaste at the small dingy hunting cabin, "Tony will be contacting you soon. We got places to go and things to do. Come on boys." He glared once more at Furio and then turned and stalked out. Bobby and Charlie tried to look apologetically at Furio, but they felt a bit uncomfortable under the hard unwavering glare of the dour enforcer. Many of the men had heard stories of Furio's cruel deeds and enforcement jobs.
Furio watched as the men left and hurriedly drove off. He hated America now, hated it with a passion and even worse his mood was one of total anger and betrayal. This whole thing with Tony's wife Carmela still grated on him. He had indeed fallen for her, but maybe it was because she was the only one, the only woman who had actually cared about him, taken an interest in him and had intelligent conversation with him. The comare's they were nice for quick sex, but they were empty inside, mindless puttanas, who were only interested in a man's wallet. And everyone else in Tony's famiglia treated him at best as some robotic menacing guard dog to do their every dirty enforcement job and at worst as an outsider.
The rain was starting to pick up again and Furio strode over to the kitchen to fire up some coffee and some pasta, like most Italian males, cooking was something he enjoyed doing and it relaxed him. He had spoken to his uncle about the whole Carmela Soprano thing and his uncle had told him that Furio had really only one of two choices. Leave the states or kill Tony. Furio had been in the US for over 3 years now, but in many ways he felt just as alone and foreign as he did when he first stepped foot here on American soil. He had enjoyed his visit back to Naples and his homeland of Italy, and while he had missed Carmela, his own homeland still called strongly to him, and even more honestly deep in his heart and soul he truly knew there could never be anything serious between him and Carmela. They were far too different and worlds apart, she was used to money, to a man who was a boss and pulled down a Boss's salary. In many ways' Carmela was like so many of the mafia wives here, greedy and self centered, not at all like the ones back home in Italy.
With an angry grunt at himself for his own mental wanderings he threw on a pot of water and then poured himself a cup of wine. A slight groan from the living room dragged him out of his daydreams and he walked back in to see the girl lying wrapped up on the couch, fighting to regain consciousness. 'Fell my ass' Furio's mind hissed. He knew it was probably Paulie who had roughed her up so badly, Tony had been explicit in wanting this woman unharmed and now Furio felt he would probably get the brunt of this shit as well.
"Settle back." Furio touched her lightly and soothingly, "I get you cleaned up." She seemed to immediately calm under his touch and he went back to the kitchen to get some cloths and warm soapy water.
Dragging a small rickety chair next to the couch he went about using the warm water to clean the blood off her face, even though it was still oozing. He could see her left eye was swollen shut and the left side of her face horribly bruised, swelled and cut open with a cruel looking indentation on her forehead. "Vaffanculo." He muttered under his breath. She had been very badly beaten and he was surprised she was still fighting to live.
Soft rumbles of thunder began to roll across the skies outside and occasionally the girl would jerk away or tremble at the noise.
"Hey, easy, Ok?" Furio grunted. "Is done now, you Ok. You let me clean you up."
Again she settled under his gentle touch and soothing words and allowed him to finish cleaning off as much of the blood as he could, but Furio was no doctor or medic and her injuries were far beyond his capabilities to help. "I know it hurts, I think maybe I have some aspirin. You think you can swallow pills?" he tried to ask the semi-conscious woman. She just groaned a bit in response to his question and he wandered off with the pail of water, now stained an awful red with her blood to search for some aspirin.
As he dumped the water down the sink he threw some pasta in the pot of now boiling water and some coffee grounds in the percolator then dug around in the kitchen for aspirin. He found a first aid kit in one of the cabinets, inside the first aid kit was some kind of bottle with pills that said Tylenol. Furio's grasp of reading and writing in English was fairly poor, but he could tell it seemed like some kind medicine for pain and he shook out 3 tablets into his hand and drew a glass of water from the tap.
He was surprised when he reentered the cramped living room and saw her sitting up, weaving and looking around with a dazed expression in her one good eye.
"Hey, hey." He said firmly but calmly. "You supposed to be relaxing, but maybe is good thing you are up though, you can take these medicines, eh?" he could tell she was in pain, disorientated and still scared. He sincerely hoped he would not have to tie her up or restrain her as injured as she was. "You just be good, cooperate with me and everything go fine, Ok?"
Her one good eye struggled to focus on the man in front of her, her hand trying to reach for his that held the pills, but her judgment was off and she reached about 2 feet to the right, groping blindly in mid-air. "Here, here." His large hand firmly but gently took hold of hers and poured the tablets into her hand. "You take, they help you pain." She almost hungrily put the pills in her mouth and Furio put the glass of water also into her grasp, helping to steady it as she drank thirstily.
Normally weakness in someone was a turn off to him, made him uneasy, but ever since he had been shot in the leg his outlook had changed. Also there was something so compelling to him about this girl he couldn't put his finger on it. Perhaps it was the sheer strength of will inside her, or maybe it was even the way she had unconsciously responded to his calming of her, but for some odd and unexplained reason she touched the dark and haunted soul of the Neapolitan enforcer.
No sooner than she had swallowed down the tablets than she once again succumbed to her injuries and sank down into unconsciousness. Furio helped swing her feet back onto the couch and then wrapped her securely in the blankets. It was only March out and still quite cold here in New Jersey, so he strode over to the large unused fireplace and then went to work stoking up a fire to keep them both warm. After that he stalked back into the kitchen and poured himself a cup of the strong coffee he had made and checked the pasta now cooking enticingly. As he began to reheat a jar of homemade sauce in a skillet his cell phone rang, checking the number he could see it was the boss, Tony Soprano. With a slight sigh he flipped open the phone. "I here." He said.
"So, everything go good? Is our guest taken care of?" the voice of the boss on the other end asked.
"Yeah she here," Furio deliberately left out the extent of her injuries, he didn't want to be the one to piss off Tony, "A little roughed up, but so far things going just fine."
"Good." Tony mumbled noncommittally. "I'll be over in 3 days to check things out personally, we've got word going over now to the father. Keep her secured and in line." In the background of the call Furio could hear one of Tony's comares giggling and laughing.
"Yeah, got it." Furio grunted a bit more angrily than he intended to, and hung up the phone. As he stirred the sauce and kept an eye on the pasta his mind was speeding down dark and twisting corridors he had not imagined he would be thinking of. A huge part of him had, had enough of Tony Soprano and his crew and wanted to go back to Naples and his true Famiglia there; but another part of him, the part that had always been raised as a Camorrista fought those thoughts. It was disloyal, he had been told by Don Zio Vittorio's daughter to come here and supervise the deal with the car imports and to work for Tony as his soldier and enforcer. 'Avanti-indietro. Push-pull.' He felt like two Families, two countries were playing tug of war with him and worse his own soul was pulling away the hardest. "Stupidaggini testa di cazzo." He grumbled again under his breath as he dumped the noodles into the sauce and allowed the whole mess to simmer for awhile.
After dinner was cooked he ate his portion and then threw some pasta and sauce on a plate for the girl and took it out to the living room. "Hey, wake up there, Sarah." He sat down half on top of her, half on the couch balancing the plate of noodles in his hand. "You eat now, eh?"
She struggled to wake up, all her body wanted to do was sleep for days on end, and the agonizing throbbing and pounding of pain in her skull wasn't helping. Now this person was forcing her awake, why wouldn't he just leave her be? Who was he? She fought through layers of muddled sludge to remember, to piece together what had happened to her, but it was useless. She had vague memories of being beaten in a car, she had been shopping somewhere for something but it seemed everything was just a disjointed mess in her mind. She had nothing to draw on, there was one image, a handsome man with smiling blue eyes and she felt she should know him; her heart seemed to know him. A vague image of her and him in a wedding ceremony pervaded her thoughts. Her husband perhaps, but what was his name? This strange man, the one with the accent who was now pushing her to awaken, she had no memories of. A part of him scared her, but a part of her felt safe with him as well.
"Come on, up, up." Furio nudged at her again, trying to get her to eat something. "You need to eat."
She pulled away from him, tried to fight him but she was far too weak and injured and he was far too muscular and strong. He tried to force a forkful of the pasta into her mouth, but her jaws were too sore, still too swollen to work properly. It hurt her even to think about eating. She just flopped over limp and unfighting like a rag doll wanting to drift back into blessed sleep. "Oh forget then," He groused, "you want to go hungry, then go hungry." He got up, his temper flaring. Not at her, no, it was that idiot capo Paulie Gualtiero he would have liked to have beaten to a pulp. He dumped her uneaten plate in the sink and then went back into the living room to sit for awhile drinking some of the strong coffee he had brewed.
A few times he went over and checked on her wounds, shaking his head with a half frustrated gesture, he wished he could do more for her but he just didn't know what to do. The angry wounds were still oozing blood, and he was certain that her skull was fractured from the way it was sunken in by her temple and forehead. Since she was so deep in sleep he checked out the rest of her body as well for any other injuries, gently removing her jeans and her flannel top. His eyes fell on the bruised and swollen sight of her knee; someone had tried breaking her leg as well as her skull. "What, one woman to strong for all three of those cafones?" he half snorted. "They have to beat you senseless to get you to cooperate? Stupido's." he commented more to himself than to her. He knew he wouldn't have to tie her up, with her injuries she wouldn't be going anywhere, if she even survived the night.
As night slunk silently over the Pine Barrens with a sinister foreshadowing Furio easily carried her in his arms and put her in the bed next to him. If she did get up, fight or try and escape, her moving around would instantly wake him up. Thunder still rumbled ominously over the land and the rain continued beating down as Furio stripped down to his underwear and slid in under the covers next to her. He had placed several towels on her pillow and gently around her head to try and prevent the oozing bleeding of her wounds from getting everywhere. However she just lay there quiet and unmoving where he put her, soft sighs of pain coming from deep within her. "Dormire sereno," he spoke to her soothingly in Italian, "I here if you need anything. Rest easy now." Her breathing leveled out and even her groans of pain subsided as Furio briefly ran his fingers almost hesitantly over the uninjured areas of her face. After adjusting the covers snugly around her he laid back himself and his mind swiftly dreamt of the warm breezes of the Gulf of Gaeta and the beautiful farmlands and estates outside of Mondragone and Gaeta, his homelands outside Napoli.
He woke up fairly early the next morning and immediately turned his head to look at his bed companion. For a brief moment, he thought she was dead. Her one eye that could open was staring at him with a startling intensity, but then she slowly blinked and her emerald green eye continued looking at him, meeting his own tombstone grey eyes.
"You up, eh?" he spoke a bit hoarsely, still waking up himself. "How you feel?" She tried to work her painfully stiff jaws and could only mumble some reply he couldn't quite understand. "I glad you still with me." He said honestly as he stretched sending blood flowing through his awakening muscles, "I think maybe you not make it through the night, but you tough. That is good." He sat up, his back against the backboard. He was pleased to see that her good eye followed him fluidly, still keeping him firmly in her sights.
"Who…Where?" she barely was finally able to get out of her mouth.
Furio put one finger against her lips and briefly shook his head. "You safe, that's enough to know." He eluded that he was giving her no other information, that this was all she was going to get from him. "You hungry now?" he asked as he glanced at her.
She just nodded and made a half strangled grunt of agreement that he took as a yes. "Ok, I go make breakfast. You keep resting, understand?" he instructed as he swung off the bed and quickly dressed himself and then padded over to the bathroom to take his morning piss.
As he stood in the kitchen scrambling up some eggs with fresh peppers and sausage to make omelets for the two of them, he saw that the rain had cleared leaving it sunny and bright outside with a hint of warm spring weather sliding in over New Jersey. He had just finished scooping the omelets onto two plates when he heard a loud crash and a thump!
He hurried to the bedroom and saw her half lying on the floor, gripping her injured leg with her teeth bared in pain, fresh blood flowing down her face with a steady drip.
"Cazzarola!" he growled at her, "What the fuck you doing?" his grey eyes flashed with unreadable emotions. Weakly she pointed towards the bathroom as her world swam in extreme pain. "Why you not ask me to help you?" Furio half growled in anger, again it was anger more at his himself for forgetting she would need to take care of basic necessities as well.
This time a tear ran down her good eye mixing with the blood that was also flowing down her face. While Furio had never been bothered by any of the violence he had ever had to exact on anyone in the name of 'business' male or female, her tears touched him far more deeply than even he could understand.
"Ok, Ok, easy." He held his hands up in a placating manner, his voice back to being soothing and gentle, "I know, because you not able to talk. Come." He held his arms open to her and leaned down to scoop her up. She allowed him to assist her and he carried her to the small bathroom and leaned her up against the sink. He pointed to her underwear, "Can you…" he paused, "You know, do this yourself or what?" She nodded yes and sniffed back anymore tears. "Ok, well after you done, you wait," he emphasized the words, "You wait, for me to come back and help you. I be back like in two minutes. No trying to go out of here yourself." He turned and left giving her privacy to attend to her needs.
Skillfully balancing two plates of eggs, and two cups of coffee he placed them in the bedroom and then carried her back to the bed. This time when he bought the food around she actually tried reaching for the plate her arms trembling and reaching outwards for the food. "You eyesight still bad, I help you." Furio said flatly and sat next to her to be able to feed her. But his eyes had fallen on something else far more intriguing to him. On her left hand she bore a wedding ring, a single band of gold on her finger with no other jewelry. From what he had been briefed Sarah Harrison was unwed, and certainly not engaged.
"What this?" Furio glared a moment and grabbed her left hand looking at the ring. His fingers tried to slide the ring off and with a growl of anger she tried to pull back preventing him from doing so. "Quit fighting or I break that finger." He hissed and held her hand even more firmly; he slid the gold band off and could see the telltale sign on her finger that spoke of a ring that was never voluntarily taken off. Her finger held the pale indentation that spoke of years of having worn that wedding band, put there by some man who truly must love her. He glanced at the ring he now had taken off and looked inside of it, it was inscribed with some elegant writing in English he couldn't read but he could make out two names, Rick and Charlene.
Furio's heart began to slam within his chest. Could Paulie and his group have made a horrible mistake? Was this not Sarah Harrison after all? "What you name?" he looked at her, his storm grey eyes seeming to pierce her soul. "What you name!" he growled again more forcefully.
She was scared now, so far this strange but handsome man with his thick Italian accent had been fairly nice to her, but for whatever reason right now he looked positively deadly. "Charlene." She barely whispered still trying to work her painfully swollen jaws. "Charlene." She dared to hiss back at him as she tried to reach for the ring.
"Oh fuck me…" the man leaped off the bed still gripping her ring and began to pace like a caged animal. Now he mumbled and growled in Italian and she couldn't understand a word of what he was speaking. He walked over to a dresser and pulled out a wicked looking 9mm pistol, his voice still growling and cursing in Italian.
Now she was truly terrified. The man had flung the ring across the room with a violent gesture and stalked over to her with a calm professional look on his face, the cruel gun pointed right between her eyes. "Bad mistake was made, Charlene." He said with almost no emotion. He pulled back the loading mechanism as a round slid into the chamber, the gun now mere millimeters from her. She didn't flinch, she didn't move. In as much pain and confusion as she was in over this whole mess, she almost welcomed the quick end. Her green eye just glanced up at his sharp and deadly grey ones as they locked gazes, the seconds dragging between them.
"Vaffanculo!" Furio half screamed in anger and lowered the gun. Why was this whole thing crashing down around him? It wasn't the girls fault Paulie and his idiots had grabbed her instead of the real Sarah Harrison. Technically Furio knew he should do the right thing, kill Charlene and bury her out in the Pine Barrens and then let Tony know the wrong woman was grabbed before this whole house of cards came falling down with dire consequences on all of them. But right now Furio Giunta hated Tony Soprano and his crew with a passion; it was only this waving of his own loyalties that kept him from killing the hostage. He remembered the way the girl had calmed under his touch and the intelligent look in her exotic green eyes.
In almost weary submission he sat down on the foot of the bed facing the girl, the gun gripped tightly in his hand but not pointed at her. "We talk, and you best answer me or I finish what I was going to do a moment ago, you understand?" his eyes bore into her.
She released the breath she had been holding and nodded wearily back at him. Deep down she didn't really want to die, her instinct for self preservation was far too strong.
"Now, Charlene," Furio spoke to her. "What you last name?" Charlene thought long and hard but it eluded her, she thought it began with the letter L, but that was all she could remember. She told this information to the dour looking Italian in front of her. "Hmmm." He nodded with no further comment. His questioning went on for the next 15 minutes, and all the two of them could figure out was that she had gaping holes in her memory, dates and information screwed up or disjointed into fragments. She knew she was married to a man named Rick. She did remember the name of the dog training kennel she worked at but not what town she lived in.
"Eat," Furio finally thrust the plate of peppers and eggs in front of her as he got up and began pacing again, his mind churning in multitudes of thoughts and plans. He knew Tony was going to find out soon enough this was the wrong girl. As soon as the ransom note was delivered Harrison would think the Soprano's nuts as his daughter Sarah was safe and sound, and it would only be a short matter of time before Tony figured it all out as well and either ordered Furio to kill Charlene or had someone else do it. Furio knew this was the final push he was waiting for to leave here, not just New Jersey and Tony's famiglia, but this whole damn country. There was nothing left here for him now, no dignity, no life, and no love. His soul longed to be back home perhaps once again working for Zio Vittorio's people or even being a simple farmer or worker on one of the rich palazzo estates deep in the countryside of Gaeta or Capua.
He glanced at the girl again who was working with shaking hands to stuff the eggs as best she could into her jaws that could only open slightly. He didn't know why but he wanted her, wanted to make her his, to take her from her husband and make her belong to him, to have her fall in love with him. Once in Italy she couldn't complain or tell anyone, she couldn't speak the language. But here in the states she was a dead woman no matter what. Even if Furio turned her loose, the police would be investigating and Tony would have someone take her out before she could finger people and testify.
Charlene paused a moment as though sensing Furio staring intently at her. "Not to worry, all going to work out just fine." He quietly said then went and retrieved her wedding band he had thrown across the room. It would help pay for the things he needed to buy, the extra plane tickets and such. Besides, if she was ever going to wear a wedding band again it would be his.
She looked hopefully a moment as he idly fingered her wedding band, one of her hands trying to stretch out hoping he would give it back to her. He just looked at her matter of factly and shook his head. "No." he said and pocketed it, "You not have need of it anymore." And then he turned and left the room, he had a lot of calls to make in a very short time.
CHAPTER 2: Flight of the Fugitives
Charlene spent most of the day in bed, confused and hurting both physically and emotionally. She could hear the voice of her caretaker/guard making dozens of calls, in nearly all of them but a few he spoke in his native tongue of Italian, but the one call he did speak in his broken English in, she heard him put his house up for sale with a realtor. Occasionally he would pace around and walk back to the bedroom to make sure she was behaving herself and not trying to escape, but Charlene knew even if she were to escape (nearly impossible with her torn knee ligaments and busted up face) she had no idea where to go to, or where she was or anything. Hell, she didn't even know the name of this strange Italian man who was guarding her.
The few times he walked in to bring her a glass of water, Tylenol or some soup while still talking on the phone and she would discreetly study him. The steel grey eyes that could be almost gentle or as deadly as a storm depending on his mood, the shoulder length hair he kept in a tight ponytail and his tall but well muscled form. Her husband was around 5'9 and this man was most definitely taller than him, and was broad-chested with a narrow toned waist. His face was clean shaven and pleasant enough yet it had a very hard edge to it; this Italian was just one big enigma and mystery to her.
Finally as evening began falling he walked back into the bedroom and started hurriedly throwing his belongings in a duffle bag. "We go now, under cover of darkness."
"Wait, wait." She hoarsely croaked. "I don't even know your name, where are we going?"
He paused just long enough to fix her with his steely gaze. "Furio," he said calmly, "My name is Furio Giunta. I going to drop you off at some friends of mine who will help fix you injuries and get you ready until we fly to Napoli." He then turned back to his packing throwing in his personal hygiene items. Time was of the essence here, and he had so much to do in the next three days.
"Napoli?" she tried to digest this information. "Napoli, Napoli!" he growled a bit impatiently, "You know, how you say, Naples. In a Italy."
Her mouth just kind of hung open, stunned. He was taking her to Italy? "Furio, wait…" she spoke his strange name trying to get some information out of him, "I don't want to go to Italy."
Suddenly with lightening fast reflexes he pulled that gun out from his waistband and pointed it at her again. "You want stay here?" Furio growled angrily, "Then you stay here dead and buried. Otherwise silencio, tenere la bocca chiusa! You going to Napoli and you better behave, no give a me trouble or I stop being nice to you!"
Charlene cowered in a small ball back against the pillows, she had no want of his temper or anger and she could see he was in a busy almost frantic mode now. "Good." Furio slid the gun back into his waistband, "I glad we understand one another, eh?"
She didn't dare interrupt him anymore as he hastily packed up, threw his two duffle bags in his small car and then came back inside to dress her back in her jeans. He tried being as gentle as he could but she still groaned in pain as her injured knee was stretched out full length as he slid her pants back on. Wrapping a blanket around her to keep her warm he carefully carried her out to his idling car and securely seat belted her into the passenger seat. Once he slid into the drivers' seat he pulled out that bottle of Tylenol and fed her another 3 tablets and gave her some bottled water to wash it down with.
For the first 15 minutes he said nothing to her as they sped down the highway following the signs for New York City, then once he was more comfortable he began speaking to her again in that low soothing voice of his. "Look, I know this hard for you. Right now both of us in a lot of trouble. If people find you they will kill you, because they thought they had got someone else." Charlene wasn't quite following this but she merely sat there silent and let him finally talk, it was the most she had gotten out of him since she had first woken up at the hands of this strange man.
"It was big kidnap plot," Furio continued again as he turned onto the exit he wanted continuing north into the city, "You were supposed to be Sarah Harrison, but obviously you not. Paulie and the others they fuck up, grab you instead." He glanced at her briefly and then turned his attention back to the road. It was pitch black out there now, "I come here to America from Italy three years ago, but I get myself in trouble too, eh? If a certain woman opens her mouth to anyone, then my boss will be looking to kill me. Especially since that woman is the boss's wife."
Charlene was slightly amused by this info; Furio had gotten himself in trouble with his boss's wife? Charlene was fairly certain all these people including Furio were some kind of mobsters or Mafia just by the vague references he made. After all who went around kidnapping people? Who went around killing people and speaking of it so casually and carrying guns on their person? Furio glanced at her again and she just silently nodded hoping it would be seen as sympathetic and encouraging to him.
"Good, good." He mumbled briefly seemingly placated at her nodding at his explanation and not questioning him. "Now, I going to drop you off with fellow countrymen who live in the city eh? People even my boss not know about, other people also from Italy. They going to clean you up heal you injuries and get you ready for when I pick you up in a few days. I got to get lots of shit done, you know, fake passports and such. I need to get money for travel, have things I need to do. I can't have you constantly with me until I ready to leave once and for all. Eventually once you heal better and can keep you silence I let you return back here to you home, Ok?" Not that Furio had any intention of any such thing, but he needed her cooperative, and those last words seemed to settle her immensely.
Both were silent for another 15 minutes especially as they were nearing New York City now, the huge lit skyline and increased traffic casting flickering shadows and bright lights over the two people in the car. Finally Furio spoke up again, "These people I put you with, they not speak English, and if you smart, you just shut you mouth and not say nothing to them. Let them help you and you be respectful and nice to them." Furio paused a moment, "And be forewarned," he turned to her and glanced hard at her. Even in the dim and flickering night Charlene could sense the piercing gaze of him at her. "These people are very loyal to me. You give them no shit, no problems, or you and I going to have very big problems."
Charlene nodded again, but Furio's strong voice cut through the silence. "No! You say it aloud to me, you say you understand! You give me you promise!" he growled. Charlene turned towards him and spoke as clearly as she could through her swollen mouth. "I promise Furio, I understand." She felt an icy chill go through her.
Furio relaxed some at her words, loosening his death grip on the steering wheel. "Good, very good." He said again in a normal tone. "See, things going to work out just fine."
Furio drove them down to a run down section in the city and Charlene noticed that several men nodded at Furio's car as he drove past, almost as if they were silent sentinels on the street watching for outsiders. "By the way, you not use that name Charlene anymore." He said thoughtfully a moment. "Now you name is Aria, get used to it."
They pulled up near a tenement building and two women came out to greet Furio carrying on in Italian. Furio spoke to them as he got out of the car walked over to Charlene's side and then picked her up in his strong arms and carried her inside, the two women chatting with him amiably the whole time. Her caretaker placed her gently down on a fold up cot which had been freshly made up with sheets and pillows in the living room, then still talking to the two women he handed them a large wad of cash.
"Listen to me," Furio finally turned back to Charlene after nearly 10 minutes of talking with the women. "Those two ladies, the older one is Sophia and the younger one Marie. This is they house; they have an older son named Enzo who lives here too. They have a doctor going to come out tomorrow to fix you." Furio glanced around to make sure Sophia and Marie had left back to the kitchen. "You remember you promise to me, you behave. Enzo he have a gun too, you not behave he not be nice. I be back in 3 days to get you, it be best if you just keep you mouth shut, eh? I tell these two that you are my fiancée so you better act like it." Furio waved a warning finger at her and then said no more.
"Furio..." She barely mouthed, still scared, still confused. She didn't know what to think, her heart ached that he was calling her his fiancée and yet she knew that he had saved her from something very dark and deadly and even worse that he had the power to revoke that privilege and take her life himself if he so desired.
"Enough! Is better for me with INS and to get paperwork if it looks like we married or engaged, got it? Now no more talk Aria, shhh." He gently touched her lips and then with surprising kindness ran his fingers over her uninjured cheek. Unconsciously she felt herself calming under his touch no matter how she tried to fight it with her heart and soul. "You will be Ok now. You safe now." He turned and then after talking to the two women a moment who both gave him strong hugs and a kiss on the cheek he stalked out back into the night.
Charlene could only lay there with tears running down her cheeks, her body was in pain, her mind was in pain and her heart was in pain and full of fear. Sophia and Marie came out and it was obvious that they spoke no English at all and Charlene certainly didn't understand a word of Italian. Charlene wondered what 'story' Furio had told them about her, and her condition. The two women must have been thinking that Charlene was missing her 'fiancé' Furio, if only they knew the awful truth. However both women could tell she was in terrible physical pain, and they both went about trying to clean her up and help bind her wounds until the doctor would come tomorrow. As they were cleaning her up a small but powerful man walked into the house, a gun at his waistband, his dark eyes glancing briefly at Charlene. This must be Enzo she figured.
He spoke briefly with his mother and aunt and then leaned over glancing at Charlene. "I speak very little bit English, eh?" he said in an accent even thicker than Furio's. "Not lot. But little." Then with a nod that all was Ok he just stalked off to his room.
The truth was Charlene was so tired that she was ready to sleep. Once Enzo was in his room both Marie and Sophia gently but efficiently undressed Charlene and then dressed her in comfy pajamas. They had used gauze and linen strips to bind her head wound and also wrapped her knee tightly to reduce the swelling. They then hand fed her a thick minestrone soup and some wine along with some aspirin and finally tucked her in and dimmed the lights letting her sleep. She was out and dead to the world in a matter of minutes, her mind filled with fitful dreams of Furio Giunta killing her husband while laughing the whole time.
She awoke the next morning to the wonderful smells of strong coffee and warm breakfasts that reminded her of her grandmother. She also had to pee like a race horse. The younger woman Marie helped her limp off to the bathroom and also helped her with her morning hygiene. After Charlene/Aria had eaten breakfast, Sophia ran the bath and both women with surprising strength and efficiency bathed her and gently washed all the dried blood out of her hair and cleaned her up, careful not to get water into her wounds. Obviously these two old-world women were a lot more knowledgeable and practical about treating injuries, and acted like they saw this kind of stuff all the time. After they dried her off they wrapped fresh linens around her wounds and again around her injured knee to stabilize it. Several times they consulted among themselves with stern or worried looks on their faces or spoke soothingly to Aria, but they seemed to know also she couldn't understand them.
Later that morning a doctor came, but Aria's heart sank. Obviously he was a doctor used to treating illegal immigrants or other people wishing to stay out of hospitals or under the radar of the law. He too spoke no English and while he was very efficient with her, he seemed a bit rough with her as though she was simply a piece of meat. Thankfully Enzo was here when the doctor came around so he was able to help translate the best he could.
"Doctor says a you have broken bone here…" Enzo pointed to his forehead, "and torn legamento." He pointed to his knee. "No very much he can do for you. He give you medicina, and do best he can, eh?" The doctor handed several prescription scripts to Enzo and spoke to him again. Enzo turned back to Aria, "He say maybe when you go to Napoli, they can do operation there. Not much he can do here without …" Enzo struggled a bit for the word, "Hospital."
Aria just sighed and worked her hardest to remain stoic while the doctor used butterfly bandages to clean and close the wound on her head and then gave instructions to Enzo, Sophia and Marie.
Enzo went out to the drugstore to get the medicines and also a strong metal knee brace to stabilize her injured leg, as well as a sturdy cane for her. Already Aria had a slight fever and was exhausted and still in pain. The medicines were antibiotics, painkillers and an anti-inflammatory, once she had some of the medicines in her and they began to kick in she finally was able to rest deeply and fully.
While she had slept for nearly 9 hours, Marie must have went out and gotten some clothing in her size as well as some personal items for her such as a toothbrush, deodorant and other such things. They also had gotten a small suitcase for her. Marie and Sophia's taste in clothing for her obviously ran to conservative and what respectable, engaged women in Italy probably wore, long dresses and sensible shoes and other such things. Aria was touched but also felt a hollowness in her. They were doing exactly what Furio had wanted, molding her into what he wanted; a woman to be his. She glanced again at the finger that used to wear the wedding band from her husband, and she felt a dull ache in her heart that had nothing to do with any of her physical injuries. Was Furio actually going to claim her as a wife and take her as a husband would? She felt light headed and sick to her stomach but dare not show any emotion to anyone.
If she could have escaped she would have tried, she honestly would have. But in as much pain as she was in, as tired as she was and as weak as a newborn babe she wouldn't even make it out the front door. Instead her mind just shut down and she allowed her body to do what it wanted to and that was to sleep and try and heal the best it could. By day three Sophia and Marie woke her up and helped her do her hygiene and dress, as well as style her hair a bit to try and hide the awful injuries to her forehead. Aria's memory was as bad as ever and even worse now she discovered that the right side of her body was weak, her right arm not even able to hold a glass or grip anything. Her swollen left eye had finally opened enough and she could see that the pupil inside was dilated and "fixed" meaning she had bled in her brain or still was bleeding inside her brain. It began to dawn on her with a cruel certainty that while she had been severely injured she was not going to get any kind of proper medical care, only her own strength of will and powers of healing were going to do the best they could. With all the illegal stuff going on there was no way Furio was going to take her to any proper hospital here or in Naples. A part of her was afraid, wondering if she was to much a 'burden' if this Furio Giunta was not just going to kill her anyway so as not to be saddled with her.
By the time the two women were done getting her ready and packed up the stuff they had bought for her in the small suitcase they went about making lunch for everyone, when Furio returned. The first thing the man did upon entering was walk over to her and look her up and down, his fingers once again running lightly over her face. "You looking much better, Aria. You look nice in that dress, Sophia and Marie, they do good job with you."
Furio went and talked to Marie, Sophia and Enzo, who gave him her medications and spoke to him in Italian again for several long minutes, probably telling him what the doctor had said. Furio gave them all another thick envelope of cash and then began gathering Aria's suitcase to carry to the car. She could tell he was in a hurry, like the other night, his mind only concentrating on what needed to be done. When Furio came back in, he slid his 9mm out of his waistband and handed it to Enzo as a gift, hugged Enzo warmly and the two women and then scooped Aria up in his arms and carried her out to the small rental car. "We not have time to linger." He said as he closed the seatbelt over her, "Our flight to Napoli leaves in 3 hours." As he slid behind the wheel of the car he placed a bunch of paperwork on Aria's lap, tickets, a passport and other official looking documents. She glanced down at one of them and saw the name Aria Rosa-Giunta on it. Her heart slammed against her chest even deeper in sorrow, but she dare not show it to Furio.
"We married now," Furio slid a small box out of his leather jacket. He flipped it open, inside was a fairly nice wedding band. "For the paperwork, it was easier this way. Now you wear my ring, you Mrs. Giunta now, you understand?" the grey eyes half glared at her almost daring her to disagree or argue with him. He slid the ring onto her left hand where the ring from Rick had sat on her finger for nearly 9 years. A soft sigh escaped her and she just looked out the window, she could have sworn she heard a soft deep chuckle from the dark Italian's lips.
As they turned in the rental car Furio fed her about 4 of her prescription pain pills hoping that the narcotics would make her tired, sleepy and compliant. In as much pain as Aria was she didn't complain when he handed her the pills and water bottle and glared at her ordering her "You take all four. Make you able to fly and get sleep, no argue with me." In fact each time she complied with his wishes or kept her mouth shut it only worked as a balm to keep him more calm and soothed. "Yes, good." He reached over and stroked her face, "You see. In time you will grow to like me, eh? I see to it. But in the airport, you better be a good girl, yes? No give a me any problems. I not need any gun to keep you in line, trust me, and I can still change my mind and dump you dead body in a bathroom you cause me to much problems."
Aria wasn't going to argue or fight with him. At this point she figured she had better lull him into a sense of security and trust. She could always try and get away from him once she was in Italy, maybe get to the authorities or consulate there. But for now, she was going to be as behaved as she could, she knew Furio was walking a stretched line and was overly wound up and stressed. He obviously really wanted out of the states and now, and nothing was going to stand in his way or slow him down.
Whatever illegal paperwork he got passed all inspections and they got through all the lines and onto the Air-Italia flight to Naples. Aria had a window seat and Furio was next to her, she watched as the plane took off and the city below them got smaller and smaller as the plane climbed up and over the wide expanse of the Atlantic. Once they were airborne an almost drastic change came over Furio's features. He seemed calmer and more serene as though his worries were disappearing along with the rapidly receding U.S coastline. Furio had personally gotten the stewardess to bring Aria a blanket and pillow and almost like a doting husband or lover he worked hard to make Aria as comfortable as he could.
"Now we get to know each other a bit, eh?" he turned so he was facing her, the grey eyes studying her face and looking into her green ones. He was not repulsed by her injuries instead he often touched them gently or spoke low words in Italian under his breath. "I want to know about you. What you like, what you love."
Aria didn't know really what to say, what did Furio want from her? They were both facing each other in the airline seats and she did have to admit he was a handsome man if not a bit intimidating looking. His large hand was now holding her left one, his finger idly touching the wedding band around her finger he had placed there. Aria longed to know what deep thoughts were running through this Neapolitan's brain.
"What hobbies you like?" Furio tried again, to make things easy for her.
"I like fishing." She hesitantly spoke, "Camping, the outdoors, nature, animals…" she weakly said.
It must have been an answer he approved of because his own eyes seemed to smile with an inner light. "Me too, where I grew up, there is wonderful scenery and is near the oceans, lots of fishing there, I used to work for a fisherman there. You like the ocean?"
"Yes." She whispered and briefly closed her eyes, she did love the ocean, loved it dearly. "The ocean is special to me, so very pretty." She spoke and then opened her eyes.
Furio nodded at her, "Yes it is. You will look lovely on the beach." He nodded and caressed her hand again. "You ever been to a Italy?" he asked her. "You speak any other languages or just English?"
She shook her head twice, "No, and no." she said, she was beginning to feel the narcotic painkillers taking effect and so she was able to move her jaws a bit better, the pain not so sharp and biting.
"I teach you," Furio said offhandedly, "Italian easy language to learn." His eyes pierced her a bit harder now, more intently, "You remember anything else about Rick or you family?"
She knew it would be a mistake to lie to him, especially if she was trying to lull him into a sense of trust and security. "Yes," she sighed almost softly. "Next week was to have been our 11th anniversary."
The dark look in his eyes surprised her and even chilled her blood a bit. "Well now it our anniversary." He said levelly with a firm control in his voice. "Now next week is first anniversary of Furio and Aria Giunta." Almost weakly she tried to pull her hand away from the strong grip of Furio, but his eyes just twinkled with a determined amusement as he held on tighter. "Ah, ah." He chided, "No run-away bride for you. Now," he paused used his other hand to once again turn her face towards him in a gentle but firm manner.
"Still so much I want to know about you…"
And so that is how her flight was, she was either sleeping or being given the inquisition by Furio over every little thing she liked or disliked. Apparently most of her answers made him even more calm and happy as he often nodded his head with a pleased expression. He told very little of himself to her except when recalling his earlier times in Italy where he grew up, or describing the scenery, but he discussed nothing of his job, the people he worked for, or anything else that gave her any deep clues into who he was and what made him tick.
When dinner was bought around he helped feed her with a kindness and efficiency that truly surprised her. He seemed a bit worried about the loss of the use of her right side, but then just grunted at her softly, "Paulie is vecchio schifoso, is his fault not yours. You tough like I said, we work through this, eh? You just need nice surroundings, you heal just fine over time." He leaned in even closer so as not to be overheard by anyone. "I know man once, he shot here…" Furio pointed at his head, "2 times, deep, you know? He healed up Ok, was blind in one eye, limp a bit, but he still was a strong man, and lived a long life. He died naturally of old age at 78."
Aria quirked an eyebrow at him, wanting to know more, but not daring to ask; Furio looked intently at her again, and in his own brief sharing of trust spoke quietly, "The man I speak of was mi Padre, my father, Vincenzo. He was Don Zio Vittorio's brother." Furio leaned back, "Now enough of this kind of talk, you rest. We be home in 3 more hours."
She slept the rest of the way until the flight crew announced their arrival and landing procedures into Naples, she fought the sleepiness to look out of the small window onto the cramped and run down looking city of Naples below. It was both dark looking but yet so very historically compelling as well. She and Furio were the last ones off the plane, and since she had that metal knee brace she was able to use her cane and Furio's strong body to limp slowly off the plane under her own power. This bought an even stronger look of pride in his steely eyes. "Tough, just like Vincenzo." He smiled and held her firmly.
A small wiry man with tight curly hair and obvious southern Italian features was waiting for the two of them when they came off the plane. He had an airport wheelchair with him and when he saw Furio his eyes lit up like two onyx stones. "Mi amico, bentornato!" he grabbed Furio and the two embraced heartily clapping one another on the backs.
"Malco!" Furio grabbed the smaller man by the shoulders and playfully messed up his hair for a moment. Both men's faces held the look of two souls who had known another a long time for good or bad and who had always stood solidly behind the other. "This my best friend, like brother to me, Malco." Furio glanced briefly at Aria, a wide smile still on his face. "Now I really am home, eh? You are sight for weary eyes my friend." He spoke in Italian several minutes to Malco as both men helped ease her into the wheelchair, finally switching to English Furio said, "Malco, this is Aria, she is mia moglie."
"Moglie?" Malco looked shocked a moment at Furio but then smiled widely, "Ah, Aria! E un piacere incontrarti." He warmly shook her hand, and then said something in Italian with a wink to Furio.
"He says he glad to meet you." Furio only half translated as he pushed her in the chair, Malco happily chatting away the whole time like an over exuberant Labrador retriever. It was clear to Aria that Malco spoke no English, and of course she had absolutely zero understanding of Italian, it made her that much more painfully aware of how reliable on Furio she was, and even gave her a strong respect for him in that he was intelligent enough to have learned English. He had told her on the plane that he learned it late in life, when he was 28, and had mentioned it was the hardest language he had learned. He also spoke Spanish as well, since Spanish and Italian were so similar.
Malco had obviously hooked up Furio with a car, for after grabbing Furio's duffle bag and Aria's small suitcase; Malco led them to a small green older Alfa Romeo. He also briefly pointed under the passenger seat and made a quick sign with his hand that looked like a gun. Once Furio had put Aria in the car, she just tiredly watched as the two men continued chatting away for almost a half hour, occasionally they would flash discreet finger signs to one another that Aria was certain must have meant something in 'underworld code'. However they knew one another she could tell trust and loyalty flowed deep between them. Finally after embracing one another warmly again, Furio slid into the drivers seat as Malco walked off still waving to the two of them.
"Malco, he my best friend." Furio said as he briefly waved and then pulled the car out into traffic, "Ever since we were boys, we both grew up in same apartment building on east side of Napoli."
"He seems a really nice guy." Aria said sincerely.
"Oh he is, only one I trust. Only living soul I trust, he one of the only people who know I now back in Italy. He even got house set up for us outside Mondragone up north." Furio fixed her with his serious gaze as the tiny car began flowing into the thick traffic of Naples. "Pay attention here Aria, we need talk seriously now." She swung her gaze around from sightseeing back to Furio giving him her full attention. "Even here in my old homeland I not 100 safe, I did disrespect to Tony's crew by just leaving, and also now that Don Zio Vittorio is dead, I may not have 100 protection here either. His strega puttana of a daughter, Annalisa could very well turn my location over to Tony Soprano for the right price, so I, we…" he emphasized the word, "We, have to go deep in hiding for awhile. This is good too since you need time to heal, to get well. Malco he is trustable, but anyone else," Furio made a rather half assed gesture of wariness that even Aria understood. "Anyone else is not trustable. At least for now, until I know who my real friends are and who are my nemico's."
Aria just nodded still looking at him, like that one night when they had first fled this seemed the most information about himself and his circumstances he had opened up about, so she was indeed curious to know, perhaps hoping it could help her someday escape in the future.
"Right now, you and I are all we have in the world." Furio swung the car through some busy areas with roads that were almost as narrow as sidewalks, every once in awhile he would beep the small horn angrily or shout some curses in Italian out the window moving pedestrians out of his way. As historic as Naples was, Aria thought it a dark and ugly city, filled with a hidden and foreboding undercurrent as well as dirty and polluted.
Furio had reached under Aria's seat at one point and pulled out a wicked looking Beretta pistol that looked even more intimidating that the other gun he had before. As he got near one run down section, he waved the gun briefly out the window and barked cruelly in Italian scattering people as he hurried along his way.
"Right now," he spoke again as they got out of the congested part of Naples onto a highway running to the north, "All you have in the world is me." He placed the gun inside the breast pocket of his short leather jacket and readjusted the leather tie around his ponytail. "You no speak the language, you no can barely take care of you self. Right now I am you everything; caretaker, protector, guardian, nurse and husband." He turned and briefly those grey eyes of his pierced her soul as cruelly as any sharpened stiletto. "You not forget that I did you favor in sparing you life. I could have just …" he paused and took his hand forming it like a gun and placed his large forefinger between her eyes. "…Pow!" he said softly. "Left you dead in that hunting shack in New Jersey. But I took huge risk and spend much extra money to bring you here to Italy with me."
"Why, Furio?" Aria dared to finally ask the question she had worked so long the last 4 days to wrap her brain around, "Why did you do this?"
For the longest time Aria thought he was not going to answer her at all, he just stared straight ahead, shifting the car through its gears along the winding curves that followed the beach front, signs pointing them to the village of Mondragone. "Because," he finally spoke, his voice low and only barely audible. He turned towards her and again her eyes felt locked into his steely gaze that seemed so penetrating, "I like you, and I tired of being alone." This time Aria thought she saw something flash in his eyes she had never seen before in him, a haunted look, one of love and of love lost a deep longing of simply wanting to be truly loved and needed by someone. But then the wall slammed down and his eyes grew hard again and he simply concentrated on the road ahead. "Now, silenzio and enjoy the view." He quietly commanded.
All the traveling around by plane and driving was taking its toll on the still healing woman. She was exhausted and her head was pounding in painful throbbing with the thrum of the Alfa Romeo's engine. She finally just let her head loll to the side and tried to sleep. After awhile the shutting down of the car engine awoke her from her painfully cramped position in the small car, but now she could smell the salt air of the ocean, and the constant but peaceful roar of the nearby Mediterranean Sea. Furio said nothing to her but picked her up and carried her inside a small little sea shanty. It was even smaller than the tiny hunting shack they had stayed in back in the New Jersey woods; in fact this tiny place looked even more battered and worn. "We home now," Furio spoke as he carried her inside. "See, Malco already stocked us up with supplies."
Aria wanted to stay awake and look around to imprint the sights and sounds on her brain but she was too tired and too weak, she was dimly aware of Furio speaking to her in Italian as he placed her on a bed and then went about a few minutes later undressing her and putting her into some comfortable pajamas. "Now you sleep and heal, Aria, Ok?" he soothed her as he drew the light cotton blanket around her. "Everything taken care of now." He assured her, and she did exactly that. Her eyes closed and her mind filled with the steady but soothing sounds of the distant ocean.
Chapter 3: Avanti-Indietro
She awoke and felt still and sore but yet refreshed. She noticed her vision was fuzzy out of her left eye and swiped half heartedly at it. The air was warm and soothing and she could still hear the distant sounds of the surf. Charlene turned over hoping to see Rick in bed with her, but the bed was empty. Where was this place? This wasn't her home in New Jersey? Had she and Rick partied too much and she had gotten drunk? Her mind struggled, trying to fill in blank spots, as dark thoughts began to come back in bits and pieces to her.
She remembered a car, strange men dragging her inside, fighting for her life… Someone with an Italian accent named Furio? Who was Furio? She had vague memories of plane trips and stern Italian women tending to her. With a groan she lay back and allowed her mind to try and merge as much of the disjointed memories as possible, trying to index them in some kind of coherent order in her skull. Her right arm was stiff and didn't cooperate very well with her commands to move it, but she thought she may have slept on it funny. With her left arm she ran her fingers over her face and eyes trying to wake up even more. She could feel some lumps on her forehead, soreness and a rather cruel indentation near her scalp line by her temple. She realized she could only see fuzzy shadows from her left eye, but her vision was fine in her right eye.
It was warm and breezy in here, bright sunlight streaming through the open bedroom window, white cotton curtains that swept back and forth in the balmy ocean breezes. She struggled to wake up more, to move her body. Her left leg had some kind of rigid metal like brace on the knee, and seemed sore and stiff. Her mouth felt dry and her lips a bit chapped. She was panicking now, trying to work her throat muscles. "Rick?" she tried calling out, at first it came out little more than a whispered squeak, now she fought even harder to scream her husbands name, each time her voice growing a bit stronger until like the roar of the ocean outside her voice came through as a scream of panic, fear and terror.
"RICK, help me!" she screamed over and over.
A man suddenly came flying into the room, dressed casually with longish hair loose around his broad shoulders, cold grey eyes glaring with concern at her distress. The scream of terror died on her lips, "oh god" she remembered then with a cold clarity, this was Furio. And she had been bought here by this man.
"Shhh, quiet, I here now." Furio had quickly come over to her side, his hand coming up to gently stroke her cheek. With an angry growl she shoved hard at him, trying to push him back and get him away from her.
His strong hands gripped her wrists and she felt tears burning in her eyes, anger and sadness in her heart. "Leave me alone! Go away! Where is Rick?" she tried still fighting him. She saw Furio's eyes grow as cold as ice as he easily pinned her wrists to the bed, leaning his frame half atop her.
"Stop fighting me, Aria." He said with a cold level tone. "I am you husband now, No Rick! You not say his name anymore."
She lay there now, not fighting him still desperately trying to piece together missing chunks of the whole puzzle, fresh sobs still choking her throat. "What is going on? I don't understand?"
With a soft sigh Furio let go of her wrists and still leaning against her began to once again stroke her face and his eyes softened. "You forget again, didn't you." He said with a resigned gentleness that surprised her. "Not unexpected, you have done this like 3 times now." He touched her once tenderly on her forehead and then leaned back. "Ok, this time you look much more awake and coherent so maybe now you will understand."
She could only tremble slightly and look at him, as he relaxed and began to tell the tale of what had had happened. "First, you have been asleep for 2 weeks, eh? Sometimes you would wake up and fight or just mumble things… Thankfully it look now like you truly are healing. Maybe that bleeding in you brain stop, maybe you just needed to shut down and heal for a long time." He then filled her in on everything she had forgotten, the story of Paulie and his group mistaking her for Sarah Harrison, how they had beaten her, how her and Furio had fled the country all of it. As Furio filled her in more became clear in her mind, and she remembered more and more of what he spoke of.
"Napoli." She said a bit hoarsely as he finished the tale, "We're in Napoli."
A slight smile crept up the man's face. "Napoli, yes. Well about 60 kilometers to the north in a small town of Mondragone."
Almost hesitantly she reached up and fingered the shoulder length hair of his, she was used to seeing it tied up, but he still looked just as darkly handsome and even intimidating with it loose. Next her fingers trailed slightly over the smooth planes of his face then down the strong shoulders and finally she just let her hand slip back to her side.
"There, easy now." He seemed almost pleased at her gentle explorations of him, "how you feeling now?"
"Hungry, thirsty." She was able to pull herself into a sitting position, "Stiff as hell."
"I imagine so." He got up and went over to the dresser and pulled out some fresh clothing for her. "You cuts and such have healed pretty good. I am sure you knee still…" he fought for the English word for it a moment, "you know, messed up. Hopefully it will fuse together soon and not cause anymore pain. I would guess you broken skull is knitting together good as well." He held out his powerful hands to her and she gingerly and a bit slowly at first swung out of the bed. She was able to bear her weight on both legs thanks to the metal brace and she felt more alert and awake than she did from the beginning of this whole screwy nightmare.
"Yes, very good," Furio's face broke into a pleased smile. Still holding her hands he backed up some. "Walk with me." Her first few steps were like a child learning to walk for the first time, stiff and hesitant, but as blood flowed back through her limbs she found herself growing stronger more awake with each step.
She couldn't help the unconscious smile that crossed her lips, she could move now, and indeed did seem to be healing up as best as her body could. Furio stopped her by a small mirror in the bedroom and she gazed in shock at her reflection. The skin was pale and hollow, the bruising on her face now yellow-green as it was healing. The jagged cut by her forehead was indeed closed up, the swelling of her eye and face had gone down. She ran her fingers across her face feeling the slight indentation by her scalp line where Paulie's gun had cracked her skull. She had regained most of her ability to move her right side it was just weak, a bit sluggish. Her long red hair hung limply over her gaunt face, but her green eyes still looked sharp as ever, even her left eye.
She gave a little sigh but felt Furio standing strongly beside her, his fingers stroking her red hair. "You beautiful in my eyes, Aria, no matter what." He said plainly but honestly, "You will feel much better after you take shower, eh?" Now barely having to support her he led her to the small cramped bathroom that was here, there was a small shower and he went about turning it on for her. "I leave you in peace to shower up, I think you strong enough to do on your own. I put fresh clothes for you here," he gestured to the bed, "you need any help you call me right away, yes? No falling or hurting yourself. I go make some nice lunch for us." He gently kissed the nape of her neck a moment then quietly left her in peace, leaving the door open a crack. She could hear him humming some song as he walked back somewhere to wherever the kitchen was in this rustic shanty.
She began to undress a bit clumsily at first but gaining more confidence as she concentrated. She was surprised she didn't hate Furio more than she thought she would. She knew somehow like her, he was caught up in something he had little control over, and he had saved her life. She still had no idea why this strange Italian seemed to like her so much, but for some odd reason she felt no anger or disgust when he touched her and soothed her. In fact if anything she was almost angry at herself for the feelings of growing attraction to him she felt deep inside her. He was not bad looking, he had been nice to her, and she somehow felt he was being truthful, that if Tony Soprano got wind of either of them that they would be killed. At least right now, a part of her still longed to go home, back to the husband and life she had known but she knew better than to bring that subject up in front of Furio now, it only made him angry and jealous.
She let the cool water cascade down her body cleaning and refreshing her, as she carefully soaped herself and shampooed her hair. Whether it was the foreign ocean air, or the shower or the long sleep, she truly did feel revived and even better after she had gotten out of the shower and dried off and redressed. Furio had put out a knee length gauzy white skirt for her, and a light blue gauzy like tunic top for her, it made her feel even more swept up in the warm oceanic environment as though she was on a beautiful Mediterranean vacation and not the forced bride of Furio Giunta. She smelled the inviting smells of strong Italian coffee and rich food as she limped out of the bathroom using the cane to balance herself.
Aria entered into the kitchen and saw him standing by the small rickety stove happily sautéing sausages with peppers in tomato sauce with some pasta nearby. Already a steaming cup of java was on the table for her. Furio seemed to sense she had entered the kitchen and he swung around to say something when she saw in his eyes then a look she had not seen before; a look of lust and passion that nearly froze her to the spot. "Sei bellisima, mia moglie." He lay down the spoon he had been using and walked over to her, his hands gently cupping her face.
"What did you say?" she asked looking up into those compelling blue-grey eyes, "What did you say, Furio?
He pulled her close a moment against him, breathing deeply of her freshly washed hair his hands trailing over her back and shoulders, "I said you are most beautiful vision I have seen." He smiled, "I truly am glad you are feeling better. I did not want anything to happen to you, I was so worried, but now…" he held her out at arms length his smile as warm as the sunlight outside. "As I said, you are tough. A strong woman, but so very beautiful." As though sensing he should go slowly with her, he released her then and turned back to his cooking. "You sit and eat, eh? There is already coffee for you, the sausages they be ready in just a moment."
She slid into the wooden chair at the small table and gingerly sipped the rich dark coffee. "Furio, did you take care of me all this time? While I was asleep and all?" she asked.
"Of course," he glanced back at her a moment, his eyes again with his normal serious look, "I let no harm come to you, I tend to everything you needed. I no doctor, but I talk to you every day. At night we sleep side by side and I talk to you then too." He paused and expertly dished out the sausages and peppers onto the two plates of pasta. "You remember I told you, my father, he had gotten shot in the head yes? I had tended to him as well, until he could move around. I had done everything for him while he was healing, for nearly two months he not even remember that I was his son, but then his memories came back to him. So I took care of you, the same way I had taken care of him." Furio bought the two dishes to the table and then sat down himself.
"Thank you." She said, "Not for just the food, I mean for all you have done for me. I know it was not easy." She paused and remembered a brief vision of Furio leveling a gun at her in New Jersey when he had first found out she had not been Sarah. "I mean, you could have just killed me many times, I am sure I was not an easy burden to drag along."
"Shhh, shhh." He gently interrupted her. "No bring that up anymore. I did what I did because you were how you say, innocente, in all this. I see something in you, a spark that touch me here…" he pointed to his heart. "I sorry, I not know the correct translation into English." He shook his head almost apologetically a moment and glanced down at his plate as he mixed his noodles and sauce together.
Gently she reached out a moment, touching his hand. "Teach me Italian, Furio. Teach me to communicate with you."
"You want to learn Italian for me?" he asked slowly. She just nodded a slight smile on her face. "You said you learned English late in life and that impressed me, it's hard to learn a new language. I respect that in you." Now it was her who blushed a bit. She was not supposed to be falling for this man! She was simply supposed to be cooperating with him until she could find a way to escape.
"After lunch, we go down to walk on beach, I will help you learn Italiano!" he smiled and began to heartily eat.
Indeed after lunch he helped lead her down to the shore and they walked along the beach. There seemed no one else around; there were some old docks, a few more abandoned and broken down shanties here and there, and some small boats out on the blue waters fishing. The warm air washed over her and it felt so good to have the sunlight bathing her in its gentle caress, as though her body had craved it.
Occasionally Furio would stoop down and pick up some shells for her, or an unbroken sand dollar. "You remember what you said to me at lunch, about you grateful for me not taking you life?" he asked gently, broaching the subject carefully. She nodded and took one of the small shells he proffered her. "Well I know you are not born into this life that you are not Italian, but you must never speak of that again. There is word for it, called omerta, it means silence and not discuss anything with anyone…" he pulled up a moment and once again tilted her face towards his, "Is just how it is with this life, with many Italians. We keep our silence about things, we independent and fiercely loyal and private people, we trust only our own. Hard to explain in a small nutshell, eh?" he said understandingly. "But basically, we never discuss what happened anymore. Not discuss Tony Soprano, and you not ask questions of me about what I do before, or what I do now here. You just trust in me, and let me take care of you, but you not ask questions about things I cannot tell you. You never discuss our private business near anyone who can overhear. Omerta, you understand?"
"Omerta." She nodded saying the strange word. She had heard it before in gangster novels and such, but she never really understood it until Furio's explanation of it. It helped explain the behavior and independence and loyalty of people like Sophia and Marie the two women who had helped her and Furio out. "I understand." She quietly said and glanced back out towards the wonderfully blue sea and the warm skies with fluffy clouds dancing around it.
"Good, very good." Furio nodded and they continued gently walking, "now we work on that Italiano." He picked up another sea shell and held it up. "Conchiglia, seashell. Conchiglia." He said gently.
They stayed outside for nearly two hours Furio teaching her Italian in baby steps as one would teach a small child. She liked the sound of the language, the way it flowed from Furio's lips. He was a good teacher and very patient with her explaining, "Believe me, no one learn a language overnight, eh? It take a long time, and even worse, Napoli has its own dialects that even other Italians have hard time understanding." He chuckled.
"Now, you getting sunburned out here with that fair skin and red hair." He led her back towards the shanty, "I going to have to get you lotion to keep you from burning."
She was sad to return inside so soon, but she knew he was speaking the truth, she could already feel her skin hot and red from the warm spring sun. Furio seemed drawn to her fiery red hair and he was always gently caressing it. "You know, many Italians think red hair is bad thing, that redheads unlucky and sinister people." He laughed a moment, "but I think you most beautiful woman I have seen, I love you red hair." He caressed it again and gently kissed it.
She turned for a moment a slight look of worry on her face, a look of confusion. "Furio, I have to know, have we…?" she tried to put into words the question she so desperately needed to know, "Have we made love?"
He harshly shook his head a moment, "No. What you think I am?" he snorted angrily, "I not want to make love to you until you were truly awake and healed. I not a rapist, Aria." His gaze grew a bit dark again, "I want you to want me, is no good if I just take you is it?" he hastily got up; she knew she had insulted him and she felt ashamed.
"Furio, wait I'm sorry, I never meant…" she tried to explain but he merely muttered some curse in Italian and had abruptly left the room. She truly did feel bad in her heart, Furio could be a very passionate and expressive person, at least with those he trusted, and she had not meant to hurt him. She just had not remembered. Why was her own heart and soul wavering so strongly with him? She was supposed to be loyal to Rick, he was her husband, even if he had cheated on her, and she was supposed to be repairing her marriage with Rick. Why was she being so drawn in and seduced by this enigmatic man Furio? What had he called it? "Avanti-Indietro" Push-Pull. That is indeed what her heart and ethics felt like, being pushed and pulled in two different directions.
Dinner found Furio calmed down by then, and Aria wisely chose not to bring the subject up anymore. They had large salads with a simple antipasto of fresh tomatoes and some prosciutto drizzled in olive oil and balsamic vinegar, crusty warm bread and red wine. She noticed he was quite a skilled cook and seemed to enjoy cooking a variety of dishes. "Tomorrow night, Malco will come have dinner with us, you remember him, yes? He is the one who has helped me; he's my migliore amico, my best friend."
"I remember him," she said, "the really happy fellow you said you trusted with your life."
"That's Malco," Furio nodded with a smile, "always happy, always the optimist. Tomorrow we go fishing see if we can catch some fresh fish for dinner, eh?"
"That sounds fun." She agreed, wanting to enjoy another day of warm sunshine and the beautiful ocean. Outside the wind had picked up and there was some soft rumbles of thunder beginning. A nocturnal spring shower was blowing in from the ocean.
"I close up windows before rain gets here." Furio finished up his dinner, "Do you know how to brew coffee the old way with a press pot?" he asked and pointed to the strange contraption on the stove. Aria shook her head and looked at him almost helplessly. "Not to worry, I teach you. I let you get started on cleaning dishes, does that sound fair?" he asked.
"Yes," she said pleased to be able to do something at least. So far the man had taken care of her every need, seemed to be the one to do everything, so she welcomed a chance to use and strengthen her limbs and help him out. He nodded in gratitude and went around the shanty closing up and securing the windows. Since this had been an abandoned fishing shanty there was no electricity here, light came from oil lanterns and candles, there was no hot water and the stove ran off a small rusty propane tank. Furio had told her eventually they would move to a better house once he got situated and found out what the word on the street was, but for now this was best for hiding under cover. She washed the dishes by hand using the soap and put them up to air dry.
When she was done Furio had come back into the small kitchenette and he showed her how to use the press pot to make coffee. "Takes some getting used to, yes? But once you learn it, is easy to do and makes wonderful coffee." And indeed the man made one mean and delicious cup of coffee.
They sat in comfortable silence together on the front porch watching the lightning in the distance and smelling rain in the air of the impending storm. As a loud rumble sounded overhead she found herself unconsciously scooting closer to Furio and he in turn wrapped one strong arm around her waist his fingers caressing her ribs and back in a soothing way.
It was then that he suddenly sat bolt upright, his eyes narrowing with a dangerous look. "Get in house!" he hissed. Before she could even comprehend or react she heard what sounded like distant firecrackers and the whine of bullets hitting the porch sent adrenaline coursing through her. "Vaffanculo!" he growled and with a strength that stunned her, he easily dragged her into the house and slammed the door shut. "Get down and stay down!" he demanded as he sprinted to the living room and pulled out his Beretta 9mm. Ducking down low, he stalked to the kitchenette and grabbed a large and cruel looking chopping knife and gently slid it over to her. "You hang onto that, now go hide in closet."
She could see Furio was sidling over to a back window to crawl through it. "Furio, no!" she pleaded. "Please don't go! Don't get yourself hurt." Panic was racing through her now, she could not conceive of him being hurt or killed. She was afraid of these assassins and of Furio being taken out and then these killers coming for her.
"I have to, don't you see. Otherwise they burn us out. I have no choice, now get in closet!" And then before she could protest further he ducked nimbly through the window and disappeared into the darkness. The rain began to fall in a torrential downpour now, and she was even more panicked. What was going on out there? She could suddenly hear the distant sounds of gunfire even above the rumbles of thunder, above the pounding of her own heart in her throat, above the sound of the rain beating down on the small shanty.
There were a few screams of pain, some angry shouting in Italian and then suddenly the front door flew open, there silhouetted in the doorframe stood a man dripping wet and dressed in dark clothes, his eyes black like the grave. Blood covered the front of his shirt and dripped steadily down him onto the wooden shanty floor with a sickening drip, drip, drip. His dark eyes swung around and saw Aria cowered in the corner, the knife gripped in her hands. She was frozen in sheer terror and as her and the stranger locked eyes; she saw her death in those eyes. He narrowed his gaze at her and with trembling muscles bought up his left hand that was gripping a pistol. His breathing was labored and heavy, and Aria felt herself grow lightheaded as time seemed to slow down. Where was Furio? He must have been killed by this assassin.
Still it seemed as if in slow motion that the killer was drawing up his gun, aiming at her, his face a mask of fury and determination now. There was another crash of thunder and Aria practically jumped out of her skin. Before her the assassin's chest seemed to explode outwards and blood and gore spilled out as he toppled forward onto the floor. Behind him stood Furio his pistol in his hand, his eyes even more fiercer and dangerous looking than the assassins had been. A wave of relief swept through her as Furio came back into the house, "You Ok, mia cara?" his own breathing was deep as though he had been running hard, and he was soaking wet with rain.
Aria nodded yes and with shaking hands dropped the knife she had been holding in a death grip. "I was so scared for you Furio." She said the words running out, "I was afraid you were hurt, thank God you're Ok, I..."
He made a shushing noise and sank down near her, his arms wrapped around her. "I fine, Aria." He said stroking her hair, "just settle." But when Aria looked up into his eyes she saw a very dangerous and angry look indeed in his eyes. She knew it wasn't directed at her, but for the first time she felt that something behind the wall Furio held in check was about to come crashing down and it sent an ominous feeling through her.
"You need to sleep now," he said helping her up and glancing over at the dead body that lay on the living room floor of the assassin he had shot. "I have lot of work to do, I will be up late."
"Furio, no, let me help you with it tomorrow…" some how she sensed what his 'late work' was going to be, that he would be out in the torrential rains hiding the bodies of the two killers.
"No." he said quietly but in a tone of finality. "You sleep, I have to do this now, no question me…" he paused then looked at her deeply and briefly caressed her cheek. "Please, Aria." He added gently.
She nodded and gave him a brief hug, "Ok, but I will clean up in here. You do what you must, but I will clean the inside." She too glanced at the blood splattered floor and the assassins body.
He kissed her forehead for a moment and gave her shoulder a squeeze. "Thank you." He sincerely said, and then slipping the gun back into his waistband he casually walked over to the corpse and grabbing it by the leg began to drag it out the door like a dead deer. The body left a long, wet smeared trail of blood as he disappeared with it out into the rainy night closing the door behind him. She used the cane to limp over to the kitchenette and began mixing a bucket with sudsy water, as she glanced outside the window she saw the lightning briefly illuminate Furio as still dragging the body he grabbed an axe from the side of the house and began towing his grisly cargo on towards the shoreline. Her heart felt bad for him, knowing indeed he would have a long night.
She worked hard scrubbing and cleaning the floors of any trace of blood, double checking the walls to make sure she had cleaned any evidence off them as well. The whole time she cleaned her mind kept wandering over Furio, how many times did she owe him her life now? He had saved her, cared for her, saved her again. She remembered how he had looked framed in the doorway after killing the assassin, a look in his eyes of deadly fury and protection of her. With a sigh she forced her now aching and tired body back up dragging the bucket filled with bloody water and dumped it in the sink. Since she was still recovering she was beat, sore and exhausted, but she could only imagine how tired Furio must be right now. The rain had let up at least with just occasional flickers of lightning as the storm moved on. She was determined to wait up in the living room until Furio was safely back inside. She figured she might even make him breakfast when he came back home.
Chapter 4: Betrayal of trust
She was naked and serving breakfast in bed to Furio, both of them having finished just making passionate love… "Wake up cara mia." She heard the familiar voice and she jumped a bit, the dream rapidly fading from her mind. Sunlight was streaming into the living room now; the warm breeze had returned blowing through the curtains. Next to her on the couch sat Furio, on the table near her were two cups of coffee. "You fell asleep; I didn't want to wake you until I had cleaned up and made coffee, eh?"
She shook the cobwebs out of her head and noticed he had indeed cleaned up and redressed, his hair once again neatly pulled back into the tight pony tail, no traces of any of last nights gruesome crime on him.
"When did you get back in?" she touched him briefly on the arm as though to assure herself he was really here and she wasn't dreaming.
"About two hour ago, but as I said, I didn't want to wake you." He handed her one of the cups of coffee, "I had thinking to do, stuff to plan."
She took the coffee from his hand and glanced at him, again she saw a shadow of something so dark and angry in him it frightened her beyond anything she could imagine.
"Furio?" she gingerly asked. "What is wrong, are we going to have to leave now because of those men?"
"Nothing, nothing." He slammed the dark look away, "Yes we will have to leave again, maybe tonight. I have to think." He drank his own coffee and then stood up stretching his weary muscles. She could tell he had gotten no sleep at all.
"Why don't you sleep some while I make breakfast?" she asked reaching out to caress his arm lightly.
His face relaxed a moment at her soft touch, the eyes returning to the calmness she was used to, "Is sweet offer my angel, but I cannot." He looked almost sadly at her. "I need to stay awake eh?" he glanced briefly at the door way and she knew what he was thinking. That perhaps more assassins might come.
"Then let's go now, Furio." She said, "Let's just drive off and go somewhere else, run away from here."
"We will." He said without looking at her, "But not until I talk to Malco tonight."
With all the excitement last night she had forgotten that Furio's friend was to be coming over for dinner tonight. Her eyes lit up momentarily, "Yes, he can probably help us." She said hoping her words would sooth him.
However Furio's eyes grew dark a moment as he glanced down at her. "Yes, maybe." He said elusively and then just quickly turned away. It was not the reaction she had expected but she somehow sensed that to push at him or question him more was not good at this time.
"What can I do to help out?" she asked sincerely at a loss for his distant behavior.
He turned back to her, his eyes softening once again. "Forgive me," he said, "I not mean to be harsh with you. You want to help out?" he asked honestly, "Then go in bedroom and find our two suitcases, pack everything you can in them. Stay inside today do not go out for any reason. Pack up the bedding, all our stuff in bedroom." He walked over and gently caressed her face. "It going to be Ok, I promise." He said sincerely.
This time Aria stood up and without even thinking threw her arms around him and hugged him tightly. Again she felt that brief tug at her soul, that guilt about hugging and falling in love with a man who was not her husband of 11 years, but this man had put his life on the line several times for her, and slowly but surely her heart was bending to him, being pulled even more strongly into his grasp. He bent his head down to nuzzle gently across the nape of her neck, and Aria turned his face to hers as her lips began brushing his as she gently but seductively tasted his lips, his mouth. She felt him tense up in passion against her, the heat rise in his body as a low moan overtook him, she could feel the aroused bulge inside his pants pressed against her.
His tongue sought out her lips and pressed between them as he kissed her deeply, with such fire it almost shook her to her knees, he paused a moment and picked her up in his arms, "Ti amo, mia tesoro." He murmured briefly as he carried her to the bedroom.
He put her on the bed and then gently lay his weight down atop her, once again his lips closing passionately against hers.
She reached up and wrapped her arms around his strong body, her own passions coming to life deep inside of her with an intensity she had not imagined or felt for many years. She so wanted this, so wanted to give herself to him and feel him take her completely. She felt his hands caressing her body, running arousingly over her. She moved her hands to his pants to undo them, when with a playful look he pulled away.
"You Americans do everything so fast, eh?" he teased lightly, "I show you how an Italian makes love, it take a long time." He leaned back down over her and gently restrained her wrists as he began to kiss and nuzzle her neck again. He began to undress her slowly and for the next half hour he simply explored and caressed every inch of her body with his fingers, his tongue and his lips. Occasionally he would speak lovingly to her in Italian or simply groan in deep passion.
Finally he undressed himself and for the first time she had known Furio she was able to see him fully naked. She was not disappointed in the least, now it was she who conducted the same playful and sensual explorations on his body with her fingers and lips, kissing and nuzzling him. She saw a rather cruel scar on his right inner thigh and she touched it briefly, "What happened?" she asked softly.
"I was shot there, it pretty much healed now." He said matter of factly. She just nodded and kissed the scar and continued her explorations of him. Finally he pulled her up against him, once again his lips meeting hers. She could feel her heart and soul wavering and falling deeply under Furio's sway as she gave herself fully to his sensual foreplay of her. He merely chuckled playfully as he continued pleasuring her. "So fiery you are, so passionate." He kissed her and then moved down tonguing her erect nipples. Her hips were bucking up beneath him now, wanting him to fill her up with something besides his fingers, as good as they were. She wanted him inside her, wanted to feel him consuming her totally.
"You want?" he asked playfully but his eyes already were burning with consuming need for her.
"Yes," she begged, "oh God Furio, please! let me feel your hard passion!" she moaned practically arching her hips beneath him.
"I love you, I need you…" Furio said in a low, husky baritone. His lips came down on her small ones, in a passionate kiss. Hard. Insistent. His tongue slid deep into her mouth, drawing her breath, his arms crushing her against him. She could feel his arousal pressing against her. He broke the kiss and with his hand held her face and made her eyes look deep into his soul. "You are mine." He said simply, dangerously, succinctly. The music of primal lust and passion seemed to flow over both of them as strongly as the roar of the ocean outside their window. Aria felt her body surrender to his utterly, she wanted this, needed this. Needed to feel him give his emotions to her utterly, to use her as his vessel.
Furio's strong hands picked her easily up and crushed her to his strong chest as his lips again came down on hers, harder now, more intense. He drew the breath from her, seemed to squeeze the very life out of her with his strong arms as he enveloped her, almost as though he was trying to physically jam her into his heart. Furio now laid her out beneath him; his large hands grabbed her wrists, almost painfully, hard, stretching her arms taut above her head. His head came down and his teeth nibbled and tasted her soft innocent flesh.
Aria was too lost in the emotions of his passion, to notice any one act other than the forcefulness of his actions, the intensity of his love as he claimed her utterly. His mouth sucked, nibbled and bit into her shoulders and throat. Her body was still stretched tight by his strong arms, stretched out on Furio's rack as he like the cruel enforcer tore into her with his weapon breaking her body and soul making her totally his.
Finally she felt her breath catch in her throat for a moment; her body was already beyond exhausted, sore, throbbing in pain, pleasure and lust, as both of them were lost in their emotions of passion. Aria was a slave to her body's needs and lusts with no control, a total trust and giving of herself to him in to her deepest seductions and fantasies in the dark Italian. But she knew he wasn't finished with her, not by a long shot.
Poor Aria's breath was slammed from her body once more, as red stars flashed through her brain and vision. Pain, pleasure and total need melding into one volcanic flow of lava in her soul. She knew her soul was now being fully consumed by Furio Giunta, her mind, body and soul totally under his spell of passion, strength and seduction. One of his strong hands grabbed her shoulder caressing but yet possessive. "Mine!" he hissed with a longing and possessiveness that surprised them both. He drove his seed, his emotions his passions deep into Aria's body and soul. "Appartieni a me, anima e corpo, mia moglie!" he growled deeply in Italian and then in exhaustion himself released her and rolled over pulling her up against his chest as they both began to come down off the high of their passionate lovemaking.
She lay against his powerful body as he breathed deeply beneath her, both their bodies covered in the wetness of sweat and passion of their love making. She kissed him gently, tasting the salt of his body. "I love the way Italians make love." She murmured in an exhausted but playful sigh to him.
"Ti amo, it means, I love you." he soothingly stroked her body. "We need to shower Aria, I need to stay awake and you need to pack our stuff." But they were both too comfortable, too sated and before either of them realized it they had drifted off in one another's arms, with the warm ocean breeze caressing their bodies through the bedroom window, the sound of the roaring ocean out in the distance lulling them into a much needed rest.
"Wake, wake, Aria." She heard Furio's voice shake her from a warm comforting sleep. She was still tired and wanted to sleep more, but he was shifting at her side untangling himself from her embrace. "We need to shower, Malco be here soon." Furio was already sitting up now rubbing sleep from still weary eyes and pulling out his gun from under the bed.
She could tell they had slept maybe 4 hours, the sun had shifted position in the sky signaling mid afternoon. She saw Furio was almost as nervous and anxious as he had been in New Jersey when they had fled, he was stalking around the shanty the gun in his hand as he glanced briefly out some of the windows, "Come on!" he grumbled, "Alzarsi!" he motioned her towards the tiny bathroom, "You first, I watch." he said. She didn't know what Furio meant at first. What? He was going to watch her take a shower? But it dawned on her as he just stood outside the door with the gun, seeming to keep guard at the window while pulling out empty suitcases as well; he was being a look-out. She was confused, what was going on, wasn't he going to discuss this with Malco? She hurriedly took a quick shower, dressed and took over throwing their stuff in the suitcases as he took a quick shower himself, the gun he kept with him on the tiny sink.
They both dressed silently in fresh clothing as Furio slipped the gun into his pants pocket out of sight. "I start some pasta, you finish here. Do not put the suitcases into the car, do not leave the house." He emphasized darkly, "Neither of us touch that car, you understand?"
Aria just gulped and nodded yes. She didn't really understand, but she was not going to argue with him. What was wrong with the car? Why was he acting so angry and jumpy? She would have thought he would be relieved that Malco was coming so they could figure this whole thing out, but it seemed obvious she was missing the line of thought Furio was. This was not her world; she knew nothing of the criminal world Furio and Malco belonged to.
Furio poured her a glass of wine, but took none himself. "Listen to me," he stood near her as she tended the boiling pasta, "When Malco come over, you going to open the door. I going to be standing behind the door. You not look at me, not make any indication I there. You just open the door, smile nice say 'Ciao Malco' and step back. Are we clear?"
"But what is going on? Why Furio? I thought he was your best…" She began but Furio cut across her, his eyes filling with that same deadly look the day he had shot that assassin. "No!" he said harshly, "What I tell you about questioning me, Aria? Not ask me anything, just say you understand." His hand shot out and grabbed her by the jaw, not in anger but imploringly, his eyes willing her to understand to just simply comply so he could protect them both.
"Ok." She barely whispered. "Ok, I understand." She said to calm him down. He pulled her close a moment and gave her a quick kiss on the top of her head. "You indeed so beautiful, I take care of you, I promise." He said in a gentle tone now.
Furio hunkered down by the wall near the front door and simply sank down his hand gripping the gun, his head resting on his knees. He didn't want to be harsh with Aria, but there was so much he could not tell her. She would never understand and even more important she needed to play her part in this. He was only going to get one chance at this and he knew he had to do it right or things would go badly very quickly. His mood grew darker by the moment as his own soul felt torn and shattered within.
Furio had no idea how long he had simply sat there, on guard but resting himself for what he knew was to come. His mind had simply run through plan after plan, plot after plot as he allowed himself to go into an almost half state of wakefulness and a light rest. He was so tired, dismembering and burying those two bodies in the pouring rain had drained him physically and mentally, worse they had died before he could have gotten any information from them. He had gotten lucky and shot them both first, but as he was in a gunfire fight with the second, the first man he had only wounded had managed to get to the house and had almost killed Aria. The thought still shook him to his core, yes the Camorra here was far more deadly, dangerous and determined than the arrogant gangsters in America.
"Furio," Aria's soft voice instantly snapped him awake, "I see Malco pulling up."
"Is he alone? Is anyone else in the car?" Furio asked in a low voice. "No. Just him by himself." Aria assured him.
'Thank God,' Furio's mind dared to breathe a quick sigh of relief; this might work out after all. He stood up quickly and silently to his feet, pressed up against the wall where the door would open, his gun drawn and ready. He knew he would have only one momentary second of advantage, after that… There was footsteps on the porch and knocking on the door. Aria stepped over to the door and glanced once briefly at Furio who just held his finger to his lips in a sign of silence and tried to communicate with his eyes what they had discussed earlier.
He saw Aria open the door with a smile on her face, "Ciao Malco!" she smiled and stepped back to let him in. "Aria! Ciao, come stai oggi?" Malco's voice responded, but he didn't sound as exuberant as he normally did. In fact he sounded a bit hesitant to Furio's ears.
As soon as Furio sensed the man's body crossing the threshold Furio slammed the door with a violent fury into him. The move stunned Malco for the briefest of seconds, enough for Furio to aim at the man's leg and shoot him. With a screech of pain Malco went down as he instinctively reached behind him for his own gun. Furio went to shoot Malco's other leg but Malco was no inexperienced thug, like Furio he was a deadly assassin and enforcer, the two men knew well every trick, every move, and every street fighting skill in the book. His good leg shot out and caught Furio in his leg knocking him back momentarily. Even though Furio was taller and a good 60 lbs heavier than Malco, the wiry and deadly man had speed and agility on his side, he also was not exhausted.
"What are you doing?" Malco screamed at Furio as he rolled to the side as another bullet tore into the wooden floor near him. "Are you fucking crazy?" With the strength of adrenaline and fear fueling him on Malco launched himself at Furio, despite being shot in the leg. They grappled briefly as both men tried to wrestle the other man's gun away and shoot the other.
"It was you!" Furio hissed with anger and vendetta in his own veins as he managed with a quick move to grab Malco's gun and shoot him in the other leg. "No one else knew I was here, no one else knew I was in town! Who did you sell out to?"
"AHHHH!" Malco screamed in pain, "Furio, I didn't sell you out to anyone!" the man panted in tortured agony as he writhed on the ground. His legs useless now, he tried to roll near the table, anywhere where Furio couldn't shoot at him. But Furio had information he needed to get from the man.
Furio tossed both guns into the far corner out of reach and now dropped down onto of Malco, his fist crashing into the smaller man's face with unbridled vengeance. A spray of blood and teeth flew out of the man's mouth as Furio unleashed his anger on him. "Do, not, lie, to, me!" Furio punctuated each of the words with cruel blows to the man's head.
Malco had managed through the haze of pain to try one last desperate attempt, his hand closed around his switchblade deep in his pocket. Since Furio was half atop his chest, the larger man was not aware of the move.
"Furio look out!" Aria's voice screamed in terrified panic. It was enough to make Furio move at the last second avoiding a lethal stab wound to his neck. Instead the blade sank deep to its hilt into his shoulder joint.
With a growl of pain and rage Furio now swung himself fully onto Malco sitting on his chest, and pinning the smaller man's arms under his legs as he grabbed the man's head and slammed it repeatedly into the wooden floor, dazing him. "Tell me why, you owe me that!" Furio screamed in anger and pain atop his friend.
Knowing he was going to die now, Malco looked up into Furio's face, blood flowing from his nose, mouth and even his ears. "Don't you see my brother, I had to." He struggled for breath, "Tony had already contacted Don Zio's daughter, Annalisa, at least one attempt had to be made or the bitch would not have stopped…"
"Bullshit!" Furio interrupted him as tightened up on the man below him more. "Why you? Why you Malco? The one person I trusted!" The answer dawned on Furio then with a cold and cruel certainty, "Oh Malco…" Furio's voice dropped to a wounded tone, "When did you sell out to her, when did you become Annalisa's consort and lover?"
"Two years ago," Malco managed a half crazed grin, despite half his teeth being knocked out. "You know what this life is my old friend, you would have done the same thing!"
Now a look of pure malevolence crossed Furio's face, a look so cold, cruel and lifeless that the grin vanished from Malco's face. "You are so very wrong there, my enemy. I would have not done the same." Furio hissed, "I would have not betrayed my best friend, not for a whore like Annalisa Vittorio!" And then Furio grabbed the man's neck and with rage burning through him he strangled and wrung the neck of his best friend.
Below him Malco thrashed in vain as his eyes bugged out, his face growing purpler by the second. His feet drummed and thrashed a death tempo on the wooden floor beneath them as the seconds and minutes ticked by with the cruel finality of Furio's anger and heartbreak. Finally Malco grew still and unmoving, his eyes rolled back in his sockets, the blood ceasing to flow from him. With a ragged sigh of pain and exhaustion Furio staggered to his feet, retrieved his gun and then walked back to Malco's corpse. He aimed the gun into the eye socket and shot him, a 'message job' that meant he was watching Annalisa Vittorio and knew she was behind the assassination attempts on him. He had one more gruesome message to do to the corpse, but he would not do it here in front of Aria. Furio swung around suddenly, Aria! Was she Ok?
Aria had been stunned beyond anything she thought she could feel. What had gotten into Furio? She had opened the door and then Furio had gone mad and attacked his best friend. She had understood nothing of what had been shouted in Italian back and forth between them, but it was the look in Furio's eyes more than anything else that had terrified her. His face had held such contemptuous rage and hatred of Malco that it had chilled her to her very soul. Her mind spun in dark spirals of confusion as he began walking towards her, the knife still obscenely jammed deep in his shoulder joint. She had called out the warning without even thinking of it, after all she had just given the man her body, soul and heart earlier that afternoon in their embrace of passionate lovemaking, but this Furio, this cruel killer, she didn't know him and he terrified her.
Furio glanced at the knife in his shoulder a moment, his breathing still hard and ragged. With a cold determination and grimace he grabbed it and pulled it out roughly from his shoulder flinging it on the ground. His world spun in blinding pain a moment, but even worse was the look in Aria's eyes. She was looking at him with a mixture of fear, revulsion and loathing. "Listen to me," he panted half in pain, his mind and heart still distraught over his best friends betrayal of him, and knowing he would have to move him and Aria out of here now. "We need to go now, we use Malco's car…"
But Aria was backing away from him, "Stay back, what is wrong with you? You're crazy!" she was trembling in fear, her eyes casting around for a weapon, anything.
Furio shook his head a moment, he could not believe all this was crashing down on him now, was he never going to get any peace? "Aria, stop…" he tried to talk; his body was so exhausted, his shoulder throbbing in new levels of pain that matched the cracking of his soul. "Let me explain." He moved to cut her off from going for the gun or switchblade he had thrown on the floor. Was she actually debating on using a weapon on him? Had they not connected in heart and soul over the last few days? Was she going to betray him too?
"No, stay away from me, please!" she whimpered in terror still trying to back away moving near the couch, but Furio was on her too fast. With a grunt of anger he knocked her back on the couch and now and sat on her stomach.
"Don't you dare!" he growled almost as angry as he had been with Malco, "Don't you dare fear me!" he grabbed her wrists and pinned them down, her body trying to writhe weakly beneath him. She was going no where. "You want to be mad at me, fine! But you not fear me. Have I ever hurt you? Have I ever! Always I have taken care of you!" he screamed now. He swore under his breath in Italian and bore down on her, holding her even more firmly as tears flowed out her eyes. "Listen to me!" he panted, "It was Malco behind the gunmen the other night. He, how you say, venduto, betrayed me..." Furio could feel the hot blood from his shoulder seeping down his skin making his clothing stick to him with an uncomfortable stickiness. "Don't you understand? He gave me up to Annalisa Vittorio; I had to do what I did. He was never our friend; I thought he was but..." Furio released her wrists and sat back on her a moment, his hand gripping his shoulder, he could feel himself lightheaded wanting to pass out. "I-I had to wait until he came here to know for certain, we could not use the car he gave us because it could have been planted with a bomb by the two men before they attacked us…"
Furio was swaying atop her now, with a grunt of anguish he pushed off her and went to go sit down on one of the chairs to get his wits about him, to get control of himself. His world seemed to tunnel for a moment and he could feel his own anger with himself as he coherently thought 'I don't have time to be passing out now, goddamn it!' With a distant thud he felt himself hit the table and then the floor. His mind dreamed then, warm sweet dreams of him and Malco as young children running through the streets of Napoli…
She was sitting in a ball on the couch, the tears still flowing down her face. She knew she could escape now if she wanted to, could run away, could even take a gun and kill Furio Giunta. Be totally free of him forever, but she could not, her heart wavered in anguish and she remembered his words he had screamed at her moments ago… "Have I ever hurt you? Have I ever!" No he never had purposely harmed her, never struck her, beaten her, or abused her. He had always tried to take care of her, always tried to protect her.
Gingerly she walked over to Furio's fallen figure, and sat next to him gently stroking his head. She glanced one last time at the door and knew then that she would not run away from him, she could not. His words had been so accurately right, she was in danger in the states from Tony Soprano's crew, and she was in danger here from this Annalisa Vittorio woman, whoever she was. She could not desert Furio now, could not run away from him after all he had done to only help her, and even worse, her own heart was filled with only longing and love for him, regardless if he was some kind of Camorra criminal.
"I'm sorry Furio," she lay against his unconscious form a moment, "I'm so sorry I doubted you." She sniffed back her tears and stroked the handsome face. She felt the hot stickiness of the blood beneath his shirt which now was staining her hands. "Shit," she muttered and quickly undid his shirt revealing the deep angry puncture wound on his shoulder. "I'm going to get something to bind that, I'll be back." She spoke to him and then limping off the best she could without her cane she grabbed some bed sheets and the fallen switchblade and began tearing up strips from the sheets. By the time she had several long lengths she could see he was fighting to come around, she crawled back over to him and half pulled his head into her lap. "It's Ok, Furio, I'm here." She leaned over and kissed his pale and sweaty forehead. She began quickly binding his shoulder the best she could, thankfully it wasn't bleeding as though an artery had been hit, but it was a deep angry wound, the kind that could get infected badly.
He was coming around even more, his lips moving and speaking in Italian. One hand shot out suddenly and grabbed her wrist harshly, his eyes opening and fastening on her with the look of a cruel bird of prey. He blinked and then recognized her and immediately his look turned soothing and he relaxed. He tried to lightly brush her off, to bind his own wound but she said "Lay back and let me help you Furio." She kissed him gently, "I know you want to do everything yourself, but you have trusted me, haven't you?"
He froze at her words his eyes looking warily into hers, "Yes." He said calmly. "I thought maybe you would run away while I was knocked out." He said with an eerie detachment in his voice. "Is what you want to do, no?"
"Furio," she paused again, her eyes looking deeply into his, "Forgive me. I am sorry I didn't trust you. You were right, you have never harmed me, and I know you wouldn't." she added as she continued to bind up his shoulder to stop the bleeding, "I was just taken aback with what happened with Malco, I was not expecting it. I know you're a stubborn, secretive and prideful Italian male, but I wish," she finished tying up the ends of the cloth, satisfied with temporary splint and bandage around his shoulder, "I wish you would trust me just a little bit more. We need to be a team, a team yes?" she looked at him and caressed his cheek a moment and then with careful remembrance she said, "Ti amo, it means I love you." She smiled at him warmly, her eyes letting him see fully into her soul. "Ti amo, Furio Giunta."
"Ti amo mi moglie," he said and pulled himself up to a sitting position, "moglie, it means, wife." He said and his hand came up and caressed her lips gently.
"How do you say, husband?" she asked with a soft gentle curiousness.
"Marito, husband." He said as he looked with his grey eyes deeply into her green ones.
A smile formed on her lips and she said, "Ti amo mi marito." She had spoken one whole brief sentence to him in Italian and the way his eyes lit up warmed her soul like a bonfire. She saw something deep in his eyes she had not seen before now, a look of truly and completely trusting in her. A true partner.
He pulled her into his embrace and held her with strength that surprised her after his recent fight and injury. Rocking them both gently he said, "Yes, Ok. I work as team with you. I trust you Aria." He cupped her face and pulled her into him kissing her deeply and passionately on her lips. "We need to go now, we really do." He reluctantly pulled back from the kiss, he would have liked nothing better than making love to her once again, but they had to be going. "Malco's car will be safe, we load up very fast what we can in it and get out of here."
This time without hesitation she nodded her understanding and handed him the two guns and switchblade. He handed one of the guns back to her; "You hold this one for now, eh?" he winked. He showed her where the safety was on it and helped her get a quick feel for it then scrambled back up to his feet. "Listen, Aria. There is another, how you say, message I must leave on…" he pointed to the dead corpse of Malco, "I rather you not see it, not nice message, eh? You wait outside while I do it."
"Ok." She nodded as he helped her to her feet and together they took out the two suitcases to Malco's Mercedes, a sporty but elegant car. "Stay in car until I come back out." He nodded to her and then jogged back into the small shanty, as alert as a guard dog.
Furio walked over to Malco's body and first dug around in the man's pockets for the keys to the Mercedes, then using the switchblade quickly cut through the man's pants to his genitals. With a cruel expertise he cut off the mans penis and balls and shoved them into his open mouth. It was an unmistakable sign in his criminal Camorrista circles of Malco being a rat and traitor even to his own famiglia members, and also a sign that Furio was now fully aware of the Vittorio famiglia's treachery to him and that more people would pay someday. He then washed up briefly in the small sink and grabbed the wine from the counter and stalked back out. He slid in behind the wheel and passed the wine bottle to Aria.
"Now where to?" she asked as the dark night fell over them, the ocean growling its primal song in the distance.
"I know a place, not near ocean, but up in the mountains near Capua, then in a few weeks we can maybe move to Gaeta near the ocean again or maybe even somewhere else, wherever you want." He smiled lightly trying to put her at ease. "Now rest, we have long drive and I we want to get out of here fast." he threw the car into gear and they sped off to the west to the foothills near Mt. Vesuvius.
Chapter 5: The Nest of Vipers
The first two weeks were rough on both of them. They lived off the land on the foothills and slept either in the car or in a small cave where they built a cooking fire for warmth or to make thin simple soups and pasta or salads. Furio would often have to run here and there into the town of Capua for supplies and Aria was sure for other things as well. His shoulder was healing slowly and she knew it caused him a lot of pain, he had gotten an infection in it, and all they had left was about 6 days worth of left over antibiotics and minor pain pills from Aria's injuries. She too was still healing slowly and the cool nights and cramped positions in the car were hard on her aching knee. Never once did either of them complain though. She and Furio worked hand in hand to do what needed to be done, at nights they would drink wine and he continued with her Italian lessons. Sometimes he would come back with some fresh pork or meat from the local town, but she knew he was running out of money fast. A few times he used his own handgun to try and shoot some rabbits, and once he was able to shoot a small yearling deer.
Both were grungy, tired and achy not having any running water but a small local stream, but yet their love for one another only grew with each passing day. Many times they made love and embraced for hours or simply cuddled deep into one another's arms feeling the strength and love of the other. Nights would sometimes be the worst though for Aria, for while she had indeed fallen in love with Furio Giunta and was proud to be his wife, her dreams were often haunted of her previous life. In her dreams she could clearly remember all the good times with her husband and she often wondered what he was doing now? Did he even miss her or had he simply run off with his mistress the secretary?
One morning she woke up in Furio's arms, with his fingers running across her cheeks, his eyes looking at her intently. "You are crying again." his eyes looked at her sadly but yet knowingly.
"What do you mean again?" she tried to play it down, tried to force the recent dream from her memory.
"You cry many times in you sleep, Aria. Sometimes you call out in you dreams at nights." He said soothingly, not with his usual jealous tone.
She tried to shrug it off and turn away, "It's nothing, you know I love you Furio." She said.
"I know that mia amore," he said gently not ready to let it drop, "But I also know that ghosts haunt you in here," he gently touched her heart, "and in here." He touched her forehead. "I not expect you to just forget you other life you had. I know it must be hard on you, I know you willingly chose to stay with me." He pulled her close, "and believe me I am deeply touched." He kissed her and they lay back quietly a few moments. "I have something I must tell you." Furio said levelly, "I promised you trust and so I will trust in you. I have made contact with someone named Don Turi Buccilla; he is the man in charge of this area, a rival to the Vittorio famiglia I used to work for."
Aria sat up now fascinated by this line of talk from Furio; usually he never discussed any of his underworld activities with her. Furio sat up also, his arms balanced on his knees as he glanced up into the strong rising sun that was throwing light over the wooded foothills near the great Mt. Vesuvius.
"Remember I told you, my father, Vincenzo Giunta, who worked for the late Don Zio Vittorio was shot?" He continued. Aria nodded yes, but said nothing. "Well, my father was a captain for Don Zio, and the Vittorio's and the Buccilla's have always been in war over territory and such here in Naples. There are many Don's and clans and famiglia's, but Vittorio and Buccilla are the two strongest. I was around 17 when my father was shot, he had wanted me to stay out of this thing, you know, the Camorra, but when he was shot I swore an oath to Don Zio, I wanted to take revenge on the Buccilla's over what they did to my father. Believe me I got a lot of revenge on the Buccilla clan." He stood up and stretched then went over and poked the fire back to life so they could boil water for morning coffee.
"So anyway," he continued again as he squatted down near the fire, bringing it back to life, " I work many years for the Vittorio's as enforcer, bodyguard for the old Don, whatever they want, you know. But now the Vittorio's they have turned on me, mainly because once Don Zio grew to old to function well the famiglia passed on to his daughter. She is stupido, runs the clan into the ground." He huffed a moment watching the flames leaping up on some sticks he had added.
"You said Don Zio was your father's brother, your uncle?" Aria asked, "That means this Annalisa Vittorio is your cousin?"
Furio snorted roughly with a dark look, "Yes, my cousin. A cousin I would happily put a bullet here," he pointed to his forehead, "As you can see, blood ties do not mean much with her, eh?" He finished stoking up the fire and came back over to hunker down next to his wife as he reached over and pulled her over to him to caress her body, "So, anyway, what I wanted to tell you was this. I made contact with Don Turi a few days ago; he said he will see me at his home in two days. I figure maybe I can get under his protection, maybe get place for us to live, I need to start earning money, mi amore, and I can't do it if I am just sitting around out here, you know?"
Aria just sat quietly a moment enfolded in his strong embrace, the meaning of his words swirling around her brain like the smoke from the campfire. "Can't you maybe…" she began hesitantly, "I don't know. Get a job doing something different, anything that is not with the, you know…" she just couldn't bring herself to say the word 'mafia' or 'camorra'.
"Look at me," Furio turned her head towards him, "this thing, this life." He sighed deeply a moment, "One just doesn't leave it. You can try, yes, but you are always hunted then for things you have done in the past. One needs protection, is just the way it always is. Especially here in Italy, the life is taken so much more seriously than say in the U.S." he stroked her face again, his eyes almost sad for a moment, "If I could, I would leave it but if I do, I sign my death sentence. I will have no protection then at all, no clan, no famiglia to watch my back. Do you think after what happened with Malco that Annalisa would let it go?" his eyes grew dark a moment, "Merde! She was ready to give up her own blood to futtuto Tony Soprano! No, I know how you feel about this, that you worry for me and believe me I am deeply touched. But Don Turi, he is really our only hope in this."
Unconsciously Aria shivered a moment in his embrace; she still had questions she wanted to ask him. Questions like how did he know Don Turi would not just kill him outright for past transgressions? Or worse, turn him back over to Annalisa? But, she knew these were the kinds of questions that Furio had no answers for and perhaps did not even know himself. A part of her wished and hoped that they could have gone anywhere, surely there had to be somewhere in Italy, or in the world that they could disappear to. But she also realized that Furio was going to do what he had to do. He understood this life, the risks, the intricacies and she knew nothing about it. She was sure he must have thought the same questions as she had. After all, Furio was so very protective of her. She knew he must truly feel there was no other way, than talking to this Don Turi Buccilla.
She forced a strong smile on her face then, she had promised to be his partner, had asked for his trust and he had just given it to her with this intimate information. She had to respect that and believe in him. "Ok, Furio." She nuzzled against his neck. "I will wish you the strongest of luck; I am at your side no matter what. You know that."
The rain had been falling steadily now for nearly two days, they had no more food and both of them were nearly out of everything. She sat shivering in the small cave and watched him as he dug out one of the few clean sets of clothing he had left. He had tried his best to clean up in the icy stream and the falling rain. "I still look like crap don't I?" he tried to laugh lightly, "I going to see Don Turi looking like a slob, not good first impression, eh?"
"Nonsense." She assured him, Furio had forgotten his own comb so Aria sat behind him brushing out his hair and then tying it back for him in the tight but neat ponytail since it hurt his shoulder still to move his arm over his head. "There, almost good as new." She said.
Furio held up the switchblade that Malco had used to stab him, "Think you good enough to give me a shave with this and some soap?" he asked hopefully as he had two weeks worth of scruffy beard growing on him.
"No! Assolutamente no!" she chastised him in Italian. "We'll end up slicing your face, silly!" she reached over and grabbed his wrist to stop her stubborn husband who was about to try anyway.
"Hey, hey!" he held her off with one arm, "No get the clothes dirty!" he half teased playing back with her, "I look bad enough, I not need to get mud all over my only clean set of clothes, eh?" he tried to look stern but he winked at her none-the-less.
"Well when you get back, maybe we will find new and creative ways to wrestle and get dirty." She hinted with a sexy and seductive look.
"Donna malefica!" he cursed her lightly and playfully, "Why you do this to me now?" he grabbed her and put her in a gentle headlock, kissing her, "Why you get me all eccitare? Get me all hot and passionate, eh?"
"Because." She relaxed in his hold breathing in his essence, feeling the strength of him against her as he held her strongly in his arms. "I want you back safe and sound to me, what did you call it? Salvo?"
"Sano e salvo." He said and gently released her, "Safe and sound, yes." The serious look returned in his eyes. "I promise you, I come back safe. I not leave you alone." He dug around one of the suitcases and pulled out both the guns. "I cannot take any weapons with me when I go; it would look disrespectful or worse. You hold these, stay here in the cave, you see anyone come up here who is not me you shoot them without question. Not even holler out. Man, woman or child you shoot them."
She picked up the gun for a moment and looked a bit frightened. How could she shoot a child? Especially if it was just an innocent person walking around up here?
"Promise me, Aria." His voice was hard edged, "Assassins here not like you see back in the U.S. Here anyone is open game to be a killer. Man, woman or child is how it is with this thing, here."
She just nodded, "Ok, Ok I promise." She slid the gun into her own waistband, it felt far too cold, alien and heavy around her waist, not comforting at all.
"Little one," Furio stopped a moment before ducking into the rain, his grey eyes piercing into her soul, "It going to be Ok, yes? Have faith in me."
"I do mi marito." She said and ducked back further into the cave to wait patiently for his return. Except for praying there was nothing else she could do.
Furio had run through the rain and down the hidden Mercedes and started it up. He glanced in the rearview mirror, 'I do look like shit,' he thought, 'I can only hope Don Turi sees that I am indeed not planning to kill him.' with a shake of his head he put the car in gear and drove over the winding roads to the elegant estate that Don Turi owned. What Furio had not told Aria was that already over the last two weeks he had been talking with Don Turi's underboss, already working hard for negotiations for this meeting. If he would have just driven to Turi Buccilla's home they would have shot him dead. After all, it had been Furio who had shot Don Turi's second son in retaliation for the attempt on his father Vincenzo. Things like this had to be approached with the finesse of the finest diplomat.
The windshield wipers beat out a rapid tempo as he pulled down the gravel driveway leading to Don Turi's huge farm and estates. Already he could see several bodyguards with luparas, the favored modified and deadly shotguns, from Sicily. Three of the guards pointed their weapons at the car, and Furio shut down the engine, his hands in the air.
They opened the door and one motioned him out while the other two patted him down roughly from head to feet. "Alright, let's go." They motioned to him once they were satisfied that he was not carrying any weapons. He was lead to the foyer of the elegant house and inside he already saw the underboss he had been dealing with, Salvatore Casertano.
"Furio," the heavyset middle-aged man greeted him with a warm hug, "How are you doing? I have worked hard to set this up; Don Turi is indeed intrigued you have come to see him."
"I thank you for that Salvatore, you are the one who has done so much for me, and I am indebted to you no matter what." Furio nodded.
"Our blood ties go way back the Giunta's and Casertano's. Your mother of course was a Casertano before she married your father. I would be remiss in my blood family obligations if I didn't at least try this for you. Now come, let's go talk to him." With a thick hand still on Furio's shoulder in a friendly way the shorter man with sharp eyes lead him down a to a room that was near a set of elegant doors that lead to an outdoor garden with an arbor that had grapevines entwined in it and spectacular views of the foothills and Vesuvius in the distance. Even on this murky, foggy and rainy day the view was breathtaking.
But Furio's sharp eyes had already spotted the man he knew so well, who had for so many years had been his enemy and the hated enemy of the Vittorio clan. Don Turi Buccilla. He was a very unimposing man indeed, in his early 70's with a bit of a paunch and almost gentle eyes, a thick mustache and wavy grey hair. He was not dressed in wealthy clothing, but in the simple dress of a hunter or farmer.
"Furio Giunta, son of Vincenzo, come let me see you face to face." The older man spoke to him with an almost grandfatherly voice.
"Don Turi Buccilla." Furio hugged him gently and then respectfully kissed him on the cheek. He moved not a muscle as the older man cupped Furio's face and gazed deeply into his grey eyes. Furio could tell the older Don had the slight clouding of cataracts in his brown eyes, but Turi's eyes were still as sharp and nimble as the most lethal lion, this was a man used to ruling, a man who ran his famiglia and clan with an iron fist and viciously defended what was his.
"You are the one who killed my Carlino," the Don said referring to Furio's execution of his second son, "the one who was Zio's best shooter and tracker."
Furio knew better than to say anything to Turi's statement, there was no answer expected and anything he would say would only seem patronizing. What was done was done; he could only hope that Salvatore Casertano had convinced Don Turi that Furio's intentions now were true and honest ones.
"Salvatore has told me about you in the last few days, has told me your tale." The old Don finally released Furio's face and pointed him to a leather couch. "Come sit, we will talk."
"Thank you for your hospitality Don Turi." Furio said and sat with an uncomfortable hesitation on the fine leather couch, painfully aware he was dripping wet and probably looked like some Neanderthal caveman. He looked about almost helplessly and felt bad about getting rain water on the fine furniture. His large hands trying to hesitantly catch any dripping water.
"Look at him Salvatore!" Don Turi nodded to his underboss and began laughing, "the man doesn't know whether he will even leave here alive and yet he is worried and ashamed that he is too shabby for my house, that he drips water on my couch!" the old man began to laugh in deep belly laughs now.
Furio knew this was the move that broke the ice, he was safe, and he was not going to be killed, at least not now. Don Turi must truly be willing to give him a chance. Furio knew that Salvatore Casertano had probably already told Don Turi the entire tale Furio had told him, but still Furio told the tale again. Told how he had been sent to America by his cousin Annalisa to work for Tony Soprano, had returned back here, and had been turned on by his old clan and had killed Malco.
"Bah!" the old Don snorted with disgust as Salvatore began serving them all wine, "The Soprano's, the Soprano's, they are shit, they are nothing. Their line here is dead, such a weak link they have with the Vittorio's. My father remembered Corrado Soprano's father and he was a useless fuck as well!"
Furio could not help but chuckle at this, Corrado Soprano was indeed a useless fuck, as was his nephew Tony. "The states, they have their government now all cracking down on the famiglia's over there, it is almost as bad as when Mussolini cracked down on the Sicilians. 'Our thing' in the states is a dead horse, it is a waste." Furio shook his head.
"I know, I know." Don Turi drank deeply of his wine, "It's why more and more of our immigrants are setting up in Canada and South America. But, I know you have more to discuss than just the current state of affairs of 'Our thing' in the states." Don Turi leveled his gaze at Furio, and Furio could feel the power of that simple stare. "Do you know why I even agreed to see you at all, Furio Giunta? Do you know why I did not just have my men kill you instantly in retaliation when you stepped out of your car?" the old man asked plainly.
"No, Don Turi." Furio said and he unconsciously felt his blood chill. He had thought it was because Salvatore Casertano had put in a lot of good information on him, but he was now thinking it was something far deeper. Some karmic fate coming back around to him.
"You know Enzo Garasi?" Turi nodded at him over his wine glass.
"Yes, Enzo, he was dear friend of mine in the states, and his mother Marie and his sister Sophia." Furio nodded.
Another smile broke out on the old man's face, "Enzo Garasi is my godson. He is under my protection as would my own flesh and blood son's be. I sent him to the states about two years ago to get out of this war with Annalisa Vittorio. Enzo says that you had helped him and his family with money and that you personally took care of him and many others from Naples on that small street there in New York."
Furio could not believe this news he was hearing, that Don Turi was Enzo's godfather. "He never told me." Furio said and knew it sounded stupid the minute it came out his mouth, but he was so shocked at this news that he didn't know what else to say.
"And if he had?" Turi asked him.
"No difference. I took care of him because he was a fellow Neapolitan, he was a countryman. All of us were illegal immigrants; we had no one else to turn to." Furio said in a low almost sad voice. It still pained him how rudely and almost slavishly that he and other immigrants from Italy were treated by the arrogant and stupid famiglia's in the US.
"Zips, they called us. We were cannon fodder for their petty idiocies to keep them safe from the law." Furio kept his temper in check. "Enzo was in Carmine Lupertazzi's territory, I didn't want him or the others caught up in that nonsense between the Lupertazzi's, the Castellano's or the Soprano's. Why should they be caught up for something they had no stake in?" Furio downed the rest of his wine hastily.
"Easy Furio," Don Turi soothed him a moment, "I know, and that is the reason I am listening to you now, to your story. Believe it or not, even when you were my enemy I had a lot of respect for you. Both your father Vincenzo and Don Zio instilled in you a deep respect of the old ways. You are hardened, yes. Cold blooded, most definitely. But you were one of Don Zio's best men, his top. Why were you never made a capo?"
Furio shook his head again almost embarrassingly, "It wasn't something I wanted. I was an enforcer, a soldier. I always preferred to trust in others, to be in the shadows protecting those I believed in…" Furio halted as his own innermost realizations seemed to smack him as hard as a fist to the gut.
"And you are here now, because?" Don Turi asked again with that inner fire and sparkle in his eyes. He was ten steps ahead of Furio, and Furio knew it.
"Because I have nothing to believe in now, no one to protect, no famiglia I can respect. But even as an enemy, I always respected you." He said slowly, almost hollowly.
"Yes, I know." Turi said and motioned to Salvatore to refill his and Furio's wine glass.
"You would give your life for me now, wouldn't you Furio Giunta? If I told you to jump into Vesuvius over there, to save my life, or Salvatore's life you would do it unquestioningly wouldn't you?" It was not an insulting or sarcastic question, but a brutally honest one that Furio already knew the answer to as well.
"Yes, I would do it." Furio looked into the Don's eyes without flinching.
Don Turi chuckled briefly and held up his glass toasting Furio. "Salvatore tells me you have a wife, an American woman. I want to hear that tale too."
And Furio told him the honest truth about Charlene/Aria as well. When he was done with the long tale he felt drained both physically and emotionally. This man, Don Turi was as skilled as any inquisitor and Furio felt he had explored parts of his own soul and heart he had not dared to ever realize. It was as though Turi Buccilla knew Furio better than he knew himself.
"And you protect her too, don't you? As fiercely as you did Don Zio, as fiercely as you have everyone else, eh?" Turi smiled and began to light up a cigarette with hands that trembled slightly with age. But Furio saw no weakness in the man, none at all, to him he was one of the strongest men he had even been in the presence of, perhaps even rivaling Don Zio Vittorio at the height of his power.
"Yes." Furio just said. What else could he say?
"Look at me Furio Giunta," Turi said almost gently, brown eyes meeting grey eyes, heart reading heart, soul touching soul. "If I asked you to kill your cousin Annalisa, you would do it and piss on her body and dance on her grave wouldn't you?"
"Yes," the grey eyes burned with a dark and angry intensity that was unmistakable, "Yes I would."
"Still as fiery as ever you are." Turi drew deeply on his cigarette as he glanced out behind Furio to the view of his garden and the vistas beyond. "You are indeed an enforcer and assassin at heart, a bodyguard supreme. I would not ask you to be something you are not. I will take you in Furio Giunta." The old Don swung his intelligent gaze back to the disheveled man on his couch. "Your price for admittance to my famiglia and my protection will be Annalisa's death, you realize this?"
"That is one favor and price I will do for you gladly Don Turi." Furio held up his glass to the Don, "A favor that will make me a happy man also."
"Salute," the Don sealed the negotiations with the traditional toast.
"Salute!" Furio and Salvatore spoke at the same time, returning the toast.
"Now, Furio my new enforcer and assassin, we talk business." The Don switched easily into his mode of calm but iron rule. "Just because you are second cousin to my underboss, Salvatore over there, grants you no special favor with me. Any favors with blood ties are between you and him." Furio just nodded at the Don's words, he knew that was expected. The Don would owe him no special favors until Furio had proven his worth to Don Turi personally in the favor he had asked of him.
"Good," Turi continued. "I give you a six month time frame to do my favor for me, to take out Annalisa; you do it unsanctioned and unofficially from me. But it will be done."
Furio expected this as well. It would be ridiculous for the Don to officially sanction this execution order or put any other men on it, it would start an all out bloody war, and there was already enough petty war between the Vittorio clan and the Buccilla clan. In fact only Annalisa's death would open a possibility for future peace between the two clans, too much blood and vendetta was in the air between them now.
"Of course," Furio nodded but said nothing else.
"I understand when you were younger you worked on some of Don Zio's farms? What skills you have there?" Turi asked as offered a cigarette to Furio.
Gratefully Furio accepted and lit up, it had been ages since he had a good smoke and it relaxed him immediately. "I worked the grape fields and also some of the gardens, helped make wine when it was time for that. When the growing season was slow I would work for the rich tourists taking care of their stables and horses, handyman work, whatever needed to be done."
Don Turi nodded seeming deep in thought a moment. "Salvatore says you and your wife have no place to stay, and perhaps understandable after what just happened with Malco. As you know I own over 200 acres of prime land here, grapes, orchards, I even have horses you can clean the stalls if you like." Turi laughed but again it was not an insulting gesture, but the gently teasing of one who was impressed with a future apprentice.
"My cousin who cleans horse shit and garrotes the enemy, what a combination!" the heavyset underboss had a rich laugh, with Don Turi.
Furio let them have their fun in breaking his balls for awhile, in many ways it felt good to be teased, it was not like the rude teasing of the Soprano's crew, it was the gentler teasing of true blood ties and a clan he knew would protect him with their life once he had proven himself to them. Unlike Tony Soprano whom he had proven himself over and over to and never received one iota of protection or even a simple thank you. So he good naturedly smiled and chuckled along with them at his own expense.
"You have good sense of humor, Furio Giunta." Don Turi finally calmed down after a few minutes, "Too many men take themselves far too seriously. Their foolish pride can get them killed, but I also know you are no one's fool either." He once again studied the man who had killed his son, but there was a definite respect in the old man's eyes, the way someone might appreciate a fine oil painting. "I have a caretakers/guest house that is not being used at the moment; it is fairly deep in the property here, near the western orchards. Fully furnished, it is not bad." The Don paused, "You and your wife can live in it and you can pay for your board by helping out here on my farm and estates. This gives me and my men time to study you as well, to keep you close here…" Turi pointed to his eye.
This did not bother Furio either; he knew he would be watched closely, kept an eye on by Turi's men. One did not accept a former enemy lightly into their clan and famiglia.
"I am grateful again for your hospitality, Don Turi." Furio inclined his head. "You have been most generous and you have my undying loyalty and oath. I swear this to you on my life, and the life of my wife Aria."
Now it was the Don who was deeply impressed and nodded thoughtfully. It was a dear and steep oath Furio had just laid out at Turi's feet. He had basically given the Don permission to kill him and Aria if at any time the Don felt Furio was not living up to his expectations, and unlike in the states, such oaths were taken with deadly seriousness here. "I believe you, Furio Giunta." The Don stood up as did Furio and they both embraced once again. "You go get your wife, move in tonight. It is raining out there, and I don't need you dripping all over my house." He said with a twinkle in his eyes.
"Thank you, I will Don Turi" Furio nodded as Salvatore began escorting him back out.
"He likes you, Furio," Salvatore Casertano said once they were near the foyer, "You are safe under his protection for now."
"Thank you Salvatore for this favor. That is several I owe you for now as well." Furio nodded.
Salvatore patted him on his uninjured shoulder, "And I will put that talent to use, Furio, and I am not talking about farming, eh? In fact in a week from now I have two jobs I will need you to do, enforcements for people who owe me money, we will see how you repay me then." But Salvatore's pudgy eyes were also smiling in a kind way; he knew Furio would do a damn fine job of enforcement. "Now," Salvatore pulled out a thick wad of money, "I would be remiss as both underboss and your second cousin if I did not give you some advance to help you set up your home," he thrust a large chunk of the money into Furio's hand, "and this…" he waved the other half of the large cash wad, "This is your wedding present, so don't say I didn't take care of you, eh?"
"Thank you Salvatore" Furio gave him a hug as well. "Oh by the way…" Casertano spoke up while still in Furio's fierce hug, "I like that Mercedes that Malco had, you sell that to me, yes?" he winked.
"Yes, yes!" Furio laughed, "When I come back I sell it to you for 10 euros"
"Bah! Just 10 euros?" Salvatore looked at him.
"Eh, it's a piece of shit, ever since Malco owned it. But maybe for you it will be a good car. For me, it is a piece of junk." Furio winked slyly at him. The insult to Malco was clear in the crude banter.
Both men laughed at the joke, "Someday Furio, you will learn that sometimes an enemy's possessions are the sweetest of all."
Furio just shook his head. "Not for me, Salvatore." He put one hand on Salvatore's shoulder, "I don't like ghosts in my life, just tangibles that I can deal with head on."
"Turi knows you well Furio." Salvatore inhaled deeply, nodded and backed up a bit almost out of respect. "You are not a man to ever be underestimated."
Furio leaned in close and whispered to Salvatore's ear for him alone, "Ah but you see, Don Turi is wise and realizes this. However, Annalisa she has underestimated me severely."
At that moment one of the guards came over with a set of keys in his hand, "This is for the guesthouse." He said and handed the keys to Furio, "When you come back with your wife, we will show you where it is."
Furio barely remembered the drive back to the cave. His heart was light, his soul was even lighter. Things would be Ok now, he knew this. He now had a new famiglia and clan to protect him and he had been able to keep his word to Aria. They would be safe for now.
Chapter 6: Blood-Oath with the Enemy
Aria had sat for what seemed like hours and hours in that small cave. She dared not light any fires, just cowered in the back, her heart worrying over every possible worst case scenario for Furio. What if Turi was simply luring him in and then would kill him? A few times she had cried nearly silently, she could not even imagine Furio not in her life now, where she to go back to Rick today, her heart would never be able to forget the handsome face and the intense grey eyes of her protector and lover and yes, husband.
"Aria!" she recognized Furio's voice instantly, "Aria, come here! Come out!" he was nearly yelling and whooping like a madman.
In blind happiness she ran out to him and into his arms. She couldn't contain the tears of happiness that ran down her cheeks. "We safe!" Furio laughed and swung her lightly around, hoisting her even higher in his arms. "Is going to be all Ok now, Turi has accepted us, even given us a house to stay in!"
"Oh thank God, my husband. I was so worried, so scared." She was still sniffling in happiness.
"Stop, stop, stop." He kissed her tear stained face, "You no cry, I told you before I would never leave you alone. I promised this to you, yes?"
"Si," she answered him in Italian. Furio gently put her down as his shoulder was still bothering him. "Come, we ditch this stuff and go." He said his face looking like a kid in a candy store. Never had she seen such happiness in Furio's eyes, except for that day they had first made love.
"I'll go get the suitcases." She offered and half scrambled into the cave.
"No, wait." He said and stood up stiffly looking a bit like an imposing lion himself. "We only bring items that I bought." With a very wicked wink he added, "I show you what I think of anything Malco bought us."
Since there were only a few items that Furio had bought for them personally, basically the bare items they had come to Italy with, there was a pile of clothes, bedding and towels Furio had rammed into the corner of the cave. With another wicked chuckle he unzipped his fly and urinated on the pile of supplies Malco had bought them. "This is what I think of Malco's help, eh?"
"Oh, Furio." Aria just stood there flabbergasted a moment, but soon she too was nearly crying in gales of laughter. "That is just,…" she was still trying to catch her breath from laughing as Furio finished up and tucked himself back inside his pants.
"That is just honest Italian expression of my contempt for Malco Cordelli and Annalisa Vittorio." Furio nodded with a smug satisfied grin.
"It's pretty expressive alright." Aria was still smirking herself.
"Where's that gun of his." Furio held out his hand towards her, "I destroy that too!"
Aria went to dig it out when she saw some kind of writing on the custom inlaid handle. She had never seen it before, but her eyes fell on it now. Of course the writing was in Italian. She went to hand the gun to her husband, "What does that say on the handle?" she asked him.
"What, where?" he asked her as she pointed out the small cramped cursive engraving on the side of the handle.
"Malco, your love has shot me in the heart, may this keep you safe, Annalisa." Furio read aloud. His eyes grew dark and then calculating a moment. He remembered Salvatore Casertano's words, "Someday, you will learn that sometimes an enemy's possessions are the sweetest of all…" Furio looked up then to the grey sky outside the cave. "Aver fatto il giro completo, Annalisa." He murmured. He knew the instrument of her death now, the same gun she had given to her lover would be the one to take her life.
"What?" Aria asked him as she touched him lightly shaking him out of his daydream. "What did you say, love?"
"Nothing," Furio assured her as he slid Malco's custom gun deep into the duffle bag. "Nothing at all, we need to go, you will like Don Turi's estate." Furio smiled as they headed back to the car.
When they returned back to Turi Buccilla's farm, Furio felt the smile vanish from his soul. There were 3 trucks packed with guards awaiting them. One man, an older but strong, thick muscular fellow waved him to stop, "I am Valerio Ladone, captain of the guards here." He stepped back and spit on the ground as some of the other guards circled warily around the car. "You will follow us; we will show you where the guest house is, but first out of the car."
"Aria," Furio turned to his wife and spoke in English, right now he was so grateful she couldn't fluently understand Italian. "We need to step out of the car a minute, eh? They want to check we are coming here honorably."
She nodded and got out of the car. Again Furio was patted down, but the men did not touch Aria. A bunch of the men began to check over the car searching it.
"Furio, what's going on?" Aria asked calmly, but Furio could see the concern and confusion in her eyes.
"Aria, just cooperate, ask no questions. Please." He implored her with his eyes, with his steady voice. They could not show fear, either of them or the guards would think something was wrong. Thankfully his wife was made of stern stuff; she nodded briefly at him and then acted as though this kind of stuff happened to her everyday.
"I have heard of you Giunta," Valerio had sidled up to Furio. There was a large AK-47 slung across his broad shoulders, "Had heard the tales from Don Turi for years. So you were one of the most feared enforcers of the Vittorio's. Now you get to come work for us, eh?"
"So Don Turi had generously offered me." Furio said casually. He noticed Valerio's dialect was different, Sicilian not Neapolitan.
Several of the guards nodded an all clear to the imposing captain and then stepped back, their guns at a more relaxed position now.
"Ok, let's go." Valerio said to the whole group and men began to climb back into 4-wheeled drive trucks and jeeps, a truck in front, Furio and his wife in the middle and two trucks behind them.
"Everything is Ok?" Aria asked lightly once they were in motion again. "Yes, mia amore." Furio forced the smile on his face. He hoped and prayed it would be Ok, but he was frankly surprised by the large impressive turn out of guards. He was not expecting this, he could only hope this was not a set up from Don Turi, and even worse, he prayed if it was that they would kill Aria quickly.
The Mercedes bounced around the gravelly and rutted roads as they wound their way past orchards with grape arbors, and fields with apple and peach trees. In the far distance he could see several fine horses out grazing on rich grass and on another field several dozens of cows and steers grazing away as well. They wound their way around some more wooded areas and Furio saw an impressive wine making building. He knew Don Turi was known for producing some of the best wine in all of Naples, but to see the man's expansive estate was astounding indeed. He glanced at Aria, hoping she was not nervous, but instead she was looking intently out the window, her eyes lost in the beauty and splendor of all she was seeing. "Oh my God, but this is the most beautiful thing I have seen!" she said with a look of astonishment. "He owns all this?"
"Oh yes," Furio nodded, "All this. Don Turi is a very powerful man, as is his clan and famiglia."
A rustic but beautiful wooden house had suddenly loomed up on the side of the woods, its back yard wide and open giving scenic views of the grape fields and also part of Mt. Vesuvius in the distance. It looked quite large, probably at least a 2 bedroom. The trucks were pulling in now to guest house, and all the guards began to once again pile out.
But they were not leveling any guns at anyone; in fact many of them were holding back barely contained looks of amusement.
"Furio and Aria Giunta," Valerio Ladone said, "Welcome to your new home, welcome to the Buccilla famiglia." Valerio then walked over to Furio and embraced him fully giving him a hard clasp on the shoulders. One by one each of the guards repeated the same gesture, a welcoming embrace of acceptance. Valerio was the only one who gave Aria a gentle embrace and quick kiss on the cheek. "I hope you like it here, Aria." He said with a nod.
Aria looked helplessly at Furio a moment and Furio translated what Valerio said for her. "She doesn't speak Italian yet, but she is learning." Furio said to Valerio and the rest of the guards.
"Well certainly I hope so!" the front door opened and the short heavyset underboss, Salvatore Casertano came out, his arms spread wide to embrace Aria, "If she is going to someday be of blood clan, and is your wife she better learn it, eh?" he hugged her strongly and gave her a kiss on the cheek. "Hello gorgeous one," he said. "You are the one he protects so fiercely eh?" He stepped back and glanced at Furio, "Don't even bother to translate," he laughed warmly, "In her heart she knows I speak the truth."
Several of the guards laughed, and then most of them began moving off to go light up some cigarettes or talk among themselves in small groups.
"Aria, this is Salvatore Casertano." Furio introduced the two of them in English for her benefit.
Salvatore gave Furio a quick embrace and led the three of them inside the guest house. Furio was floored, it was indeed fully furnished and Don Turi's description of 'not bad' was an understatement, the place was elegant and indeed large. Comfortable but tasteful furniture decorated the living room, there was a full kitchen a small dining nook that had a view of the spectacular foothills and Mt. Vesuvius, there were several elegant rugs scattered around the dark, rich hardwood floors, and a beautiful stone fireplace. On the walls were some taxidermied boar's heads, and deer heads, near the front table was a thick haired rug from some large animal.
"Come, come." Salvatore led them both into the kitchen grinning. "The guards and everyone chipped in to get you started." The kitchen was fully stocked with everything from some of Don Turi's best wine, to fresh sausages, cheeses and hams, the panties overflowing with food and staples needed for a married couple. There was even a gift basket filled with fresh fruit and some expensive champagne.
"Salvatore, I am touched deeply…" Furio was at a true loss for words. He was glad he had been given an opportunity to prove himself to Don Turi and his famiglia, but this…This outpouring of kindness for someone who used to be a hated enemy of their clan overwhelmed him and warmed his heart more than he could say.
"Don Turi meant what he said, you protected his godson and he sees in you someone who is devoutly loyal." Salvatore whispered for Furio's ear alone. "You have a weapon?"
"Yes, two pistols." Furio nodded to the underboss.
"Good so you are set, weapon wise then. Now," Salvatore reached into his pants pocket again, "You said you had a car to sell me for 10 euros?" he grinned.
Furio handed over the keys to the Mercedes, he would not have wanted it anyway and it would be foolish for him to drive around in Malco's stolen car advertising his whereabouts. He would have to be very discreet and go undercover now to be able to kill his traitorous cousin Annalisa.
"10 Euros." Salvatore counted them out. "But, but…" he said with a grin on his pudgy face, his eyes crinkled in inner amusement. "You see that grey Ford Mondeo? That is yours now. Is that fair trade for the Mercedes?"
"Yes, yes my friend." He gave Salvatore another quick embrace; he had to fight hard the emotions that threatened to overwhelm him. He truly was home now, in his heart and soul.
"Now, you two clean up, relax. Don Turi has invited you both to dine with him and his family tomorrow night, and he and I both agree you need a good week to relax with your wife and to heal." Salvatore touched Furio's still healing shoulder, "I will get you some decent pain killers for it. After a week though I have that business I need you to take care of." He nodded.
"Consider it done, whatever you want." Furio gave him another quick embrace and then Salvatore turned and gave Aria another warm hug and kiss on the cheek. "She is pretty now Furio," he teased his distant cousin, "I bet all polished up she could break a man's heart, or capture it fully. She has obviously captured yours."
Furio looked ready to open his mouth to tell Aria what was said when Salvatore motioned him to relax, "Ah, don't bother to translate that either." Salvatore said with a wink and then walked out of the house.
"Well, what you think?" Furio turned to Aria as both of them felt their hearts bursting with joy and amazement.
"You mean besides that I love you?" She hugged him and pulled his head down into a passionate kiss. "I think it's beautiful, like you my protector." She murmured.
The first thing the two of them did was clean up and shower under warm water, even the bathroom had been stocked up with soaps, shampoos, shaving items. There was nothing they would need, except for clothing, and this Furio would go buy himself tomorrow from the nearby village.
Both felt so much better after cleaning up, and looking civilized again. Furio was like an artist unleashed in a studio as he happily began to work cooking up a huge dinner for the two of them. Aria lit a nice fire in the fireplace to add to the ambience. There were two thick terry robes in here, so Aria went about washing the few clothes they did have. Nothing needed to be spoken between them as they occasionally worked side by side or passed one another, their eyes kept locking on one another's as lovers, their hearts bridged any language gaps between them. Still in their robes they ate their dinner together in front of the roaring fire, as Furio taught her the different names of food in Italian and she helped him work on his English.
"Now," Furio looked at her finally, "I do what I have wanted to do fully with you, yes?" he smiled a deep mischievous grin. "You husband is now going to carry you over the bedroom threshold the proper way." He scooped her up and carried her out of the living room and into the large bedroom with an elegant four poster queen-sized bed.
At this moment in time he wanted nothing more than to be with her, inside of her, and a part of her in all ways. To feel the life, the love, the strength and vulnerability and spirit that was all her. He lay her down in on the elegant bed and knelt over her, his eyes looked into hers giving himself totally to her, taking all of her essence in him. He lay atop her and let his lips linger softly over hers, touching lightly, tasting. He could feel her warm breath, the sweet innocent smell of her. His hands slid up her body running lightly over her ribs, pausing to caress her breast and to brush lightly her nipple. The sensations caused electricity to ripple up and down her body.
As they continued to kiss more passionately, he bought his hands further up, his thumbs caressing the curve of her soft delicate throat, the soft angle of her jaw. He rolled on his back, pulling her up onto his chest; he could feel the passion and fire that was ignited deep within her, deep within both of them.
His own body was a live wire, fully aroused in all ways, his own skin tingling with the soft feel of her bare flesh against his, the ticklish way her long red hair draped over him and touched with feathery touches his chest and neck. Her lips kissed and tasted his freshly shaven cheek, his lips, and nibbled seductively at his neck. She climbed up further onto him, using her hips to tease and taunt fueling the fire deeps even more within him.
Furio's pulse felt as deep and roaring as the primal pulse of the lands outside. His chest heaved deeply, as he struggled to control the fire he felt within. So badly he wanted to just impale her on his manhood and take her so intense and hard, but not yet. He, like Aria wanted to build their inner fire until it was a great mutual bonfire of passion, until it exploded out of control with such sexual need for one another as to drive them to that highest plane of joining. He allowed her to tease and seduce his manhood and inner fire, as he mutually aroused hers. Hands on her soft flesh, then pulling her close, lips on lips, breath drawing breath.
Together they danced then, the timeless trance of that most intimate and entwining dance that two souls could make.
Still in a cloud of numbness and overwhelming physical senses, she could feel him then, not just physically in her with his body, but the joining of their souls. This was always the most intense part for her and never had she felt it with any other soul. The awareness in the great vastness of mind-numbing pleasure and love, of her Furio being there together, along side of her and in her as though joining with her very matrix of life. It was an experience that mere words could never describe. It was ethereal, magical.
And then as their souls merged in the final throes of the timeless dance that was theirs alone, their bodies merged in the most intimate act of mutual passion and pleasure..
Furio leaned heavily over her, in the last spasms of mutual orgasm, his own face nuzzled against hers as he wiped away the tears of her pleasure, of their intense love making. Together their bodies and souls floated down, gently down, like two feathers still entwined. Aria was too weak for words; instead she merely smiled at him, her green eyes speaking volumes of love and trust in them.
"Ti amo mi moglie," Furio murmured in her ear, "I will always be with you. Your need of me makes me whole, it give me purpose, eh."
Barely remembering the rest of the night, Furio tucked her in bed along side of him as she pressed her naked body close along side his, her head on his chest. It was the first night she did not dream of her former husband and life.
She awoke the next morning and saw him in bed looking at her with his intense grey eyes. "Buon giorno amore mia." He smiled at her.
"G'morning love," she returned the greeting and playfully grabbed his loose hair. "How long have you been up staring at me?" she tickled him with her good leg.
"I dunno," he said, "maybe an hour?"
"Voyeur!" she giggled and grabbed at him trying to roll atop him. "What?" he chuckled back at her feistiness allowing her to pin him down a moment, "You no like your husband looking at you?"
"I love my husband looking at me." She murmured and nibbled at his ear, then tried tickling him. He easily rolled her off him and now he pinned her down beneath him, sitting naked atop her.
"Well good." He said, "Because you have no choice, I like looking at you." He playfully teased. "I go make breakfast, you can shower first."
"Ok, ok." She relented, "let me up!" They kissed briefly and she went and showered in the elegant bathroom. After the tiny hunting shack, the cramped tenement apartment in New York, the run down fishing shanty and the cave, this place was positively heaven. So rustic with old world charm, but yet with classic and historical strength to it. She figured Don Turi must be a very wealthy man indeed to own all this land, and this was just a guest house-caretakers house.
During breakfast Furio explained a few more basic details to her, how Don Turi and Salvatore Casertano were now the men he would work for and she should show them as much respect as she could. "There will be times I will have to be away in the next coming weeks here and there, taking care of some minor jobs for them. I will also be working some here on the estate, whatever odd jobs they want me to do. Remember what we talked about before on the beach, yes? Omerta, anything you and I say, or you overhear, you never talk about. Even some things I do, you never talk about. Some things no matter how much I love or trust you I just cannot discuss, so don't ask me to talk about, Ok? Be a respectful woman, but no be kowtowed either, you are my wife and the men should treat you with respect. If they don't you come to me privately and let me know. Today you and I are going down into the town and going shopping for clothes and other goodies, so finish up."
As they were driving out to the front they saw several of the guards waved at them and Valerio pulled them up, "Hey Furio, you got time later maybe we share a glass of wine, eh?"
"Anytime, Valerio. I have dinner tonight with Don Turi, but before then or tomorrow or whenever you want."
"I'll drop by this afternoon maybe if it's not too late. If it is, then tomorrow invite me for lunch." He nodded running his hand through his short cropped hair.
Furio nodded and put the car back into gear. He felt safe wearing a weapon on him again, so he wore Malco's custom Beretta 9mm inside the pocket of his leather jacket. "Valerio wants to come visit either today or tomorrow." He told Aria as they sped down the road towards the town of Capua, "He's the main boss of the guards, so probably a good man to know, best if I stay on his good side eh?" Furio said as explanation. Furio was indeed curious about the man; he was interested to hear how a Sicilian was now working with the Camorra.
The rest of the morning was spent as Furio and Aria bought themselves' new clothes, new shoes and had an enjoyable lunch out together. Furio took her to a jewelry shop and bought her a few gold necklaces and a bracelet, and a thick gold chain bracelet for himself. He stopped at a tailor and had himself a nice suit measured out that would be ready for him in a week or two, and then they finally stopped at a leatherworker where Furio picked up a shoulder holster for his gun and also special leather strap he could wear on his leg to conceal either a small snub nosed pistol or a long stiletto. The sun was out shining brightly and it was balmy now here in Capua, the warm late April air like medicine for their souls.
Finally for their last stop Furio took him and his wife to a local doctor for check ups to their healing injuries. The doctor was shocked at the extent of Aria's healing wounds, but said that since so much time had passed since the initial injury there was little that could be done, especially on her knee, without major surgery and even then it was no guarantee. He snapped an X-ray of her skull and indeed it had been broken, but was fusing as best it could, healing strongly. Furio still had some minor infection in his shoulder and the doctor gave him some antibiotics and painkillers but he said only time could heal the wound.
On the way back home, their car loaded with packages, Furio looked almost sad, "I wish I could get you more things, better things. I could in Napoli, but I don't dare take you inside the city. Too many people looking for me there. In time though, I get you some clothes and gifts worthy of a queen."
"Furio, I don't need things. I am happy to just have you. You make me feel like a queen, Ok?" she squeezed his hand and he smiled warmly over at her. "I still get you some stuff there when I have a chance. You special to me, I like to make my wife look pretty. Maybe someday I buy you that house near the ocean we wanted."
"I told you…" She rolled her eyes at him nearly exasperated with him, "I am content just to have you. Can't you believe I am telling you the truth?" she smiled.
"I know you are." They turned back into the entranceway for Don Turi's massive farm, "and I am glad to have you. I guess I keep you." He said with a wicked grin.
"You're lucky your driving!" she hit him lightly on the arm, "Or I would I would kick your ass Furio!"
The teasing continued playfully between them when they pulled up to their house, and they indeed ended up playfully grappling and wrestling until the wrestling turned into a much more intimate physical dance between them.
That night with new clothing and cleaned up the two of them ate at Don Turi's big house along with Salvatore Casertano and his wife, Turi's youngest daughter Gianna and her children and Turi's eldest son Stefan and his wife, children and grandchildren. The place was overflowing with people and Aria thought she would be overwhelmed by them all, especially since she didn't speak the language. Don Turi greeted her warmly and he actually did speak English as well as Furio, Turi's university educated daughter Gianna spoke it fluently as well. While Don Turi was a 'simple' but impressive man in just his mere character, his daughter, around Aria's age, was definitely flashy and a bit snobbish.
Furio was as happy as a clam at being part of a big Italian gathering and family again, smiling and laughing as Aria had not seen him with anyone else but her. After the meal Furio enjoyed playing with Gianna's young children and Turi's grandchildren for awhile and then meandered off as many men did in small groups to discuss business that was obviously only for men. The women tended to congregate in their own groups serving food, gossiping or watching over the boisterous kids.
Finally late at night around midnight Aria and Furio made their way back to their guesthouse. "You have a good time?" Furio asked her.
"It wasn't bad; I was just overwhelmed a bit I guess." She said a bit hesitantly. She knew he had been having a wonderful time and it made her happy to see him so relaxed again.
"What is this mean, 'overwhelmed'?" he gently asked not sure what she meant.
"You know, a bit nervous?" she faced him, "I guess there were so many people and my Italiano is still so woefully awful, I just felt out of place, an outsider, you know?"
"Ah." Furio said understanding now. "You not an outsider, Aria. It just takes time, I know this is hard on you, this culture shock and all, but you make me so proud, eh?" He kissed her briefly as they were just about to enter the guesthouse when a soft cough made Furio quickly spin around on full alert. It was the capo of the guards, Valerio.
"Sorry." He nodded towards Furio, as he materialized out of the dark night. "I'm not interrupting am I? You got time for that quick glass of wine? I bought some smokes for us; we can sit on the porch and talk briefly."
"Yes, of course." Furio motioned to him. "Please, I'll go get the wine." He then turned back to Aria and spoke in English to his wife, "Look, I'm going to sit out here and have a few glasses of wine with Valerio, you wait for me in the bedroom. If you fall asleep I will wake you when I get back in." Furio walked in with her, grabbed a bottle of wine a couple of glasses and then headed back outside.
Aria paused a moment in the kitchen, she could hear the two men's low voices speaking in Italian as they both sat down on the wooden stairs. With a slight sigh she walked into the bedroom and undressed getting ready for bed. It was perhaps the only time since she had been here that she now felt so much an outsider with these Italians and their language and customs.
Crickets and night insects buzzed and chirped softly from the fields and woodlands around the guesthouse and farm as Furio poured out two glasses of wine for him and Valerio. "You have a good dinner with Don Turi?" Valerio asked as he lit up a cigarette and offered one to Furio.
"Yes," Furio said taking one of the proffered cigarettes and handing Valerio his glass of wine, "My heart has longed to be back here at home in Italy, no matter what my mind said about being in the U.S."
"I bet." Valerio took a drink of wine as he looked out across the dark fields only some soft lights here and there from the stables or winery. "But then Annalisa sent you there, not like you had much choice in it."
Furio shrugged, "What can I do? I go where I am sent. You know how it is."
"Oh yes I do indeed." Valerio leaned back and drew hard on his cigarette. "So I will tell you my amusing tale, I am sure you are curious how a Sicilian is now running with those in Naples, eh?" Furio nodded lightly as he drank his own wine, "I did wonder." he admitted.
With a quick drink of his wine, Valerio began his tale, "For many years I was on the police force in Palermo, I was young and had a lot of high ideals then, you know. Thought I could change the world or maybe even eventually get into the military and go more to the north, somewhere near Rome or Tuscany." He paused a moment, "Of course my lofty ideals over the years changed and hardened and I soon came into the pocket of a certain Don Perrino. I had the best of both worlds, money from 'The Friends' for certain favors and being taken care of by others as well. I got pulled in more and soon it wasn't even just simple favors, or looking the other way but more darker and direct involvement." He paused and made a half hearted hand gesture, "You know, when a rival of Perrino's was arrested he might be harmed as he resisted, or commit suicide in jail."
Furio glanced at the hardened man; Valerio appeared to be in his early 50's but was still thick and strong as a bull. He had a few cruel scars on his face, and hard eyes that looked cold and wary of life in general. He wondered how many internal scars on his soul, Valerio had.
"So anyway," Valerio spat on the ground and then took another drink of wine, "All good things come to an end. To make a very long story short, as the government began to crack down on things in Sicily, Don Perrino was ready to hand me in on a silver platter to the government to protect his own sons and family. Don Turi had some loose ties with Perrino and 'The Friends' down there and so he made a deal as he was looking for a good enforcer and triggerman. I've been with him and the Camorrista now for nearly 20 years, about 8 years ago when the last capo of the guards was killed by a car bomb in Naples; I was promoted to head of all the guards here on the estate."
Furio leaned back listening to the sounds of the night, feeling the warm late spring air flow over him. It was gorgeous and peaceful out here, he felt relaxed and good. He sipped his own glass of wine and took a drag of his cigarette and just glanced over towards Valerio "Interesting story." He said mildly. He knew there was more that Valerio was wanting, that this was not just Valerio's way of trying to buddy up with him, so he was waiting for the 'real offer' but he knew protocol dictated small talk first.
"I've heard about your tale already." Valerio pulled out an elegant carved pocket knife and flicked it open as he idly began using it to peel off the label on the wine bottle, "What man hasn't, eh? It's not every day we get someone from Vittorio's clan wanting to come into the nest of vipers." He chuckled a minute. "Already word of your message to Annalisa on Malco's body got out. I am sure she is livid with rage, in fact word is on the streets your head is commanding a high price, my friend."
"Not surprising," Furio said, "She fucked me over twice now and like your Don Perrino left my ass hanging in the wind. If she wants to play with the big boys then she knows what to expect."
"So she does." Valerio said and then turned his full attention to Furio, "Look what I wanted to offer you was this. You and I are in similar boats, we came here as outsiders to prove ourselves, I respect you Giunta, I really do. That being said I know you are on wary guard here, not surprising. But I wanted to let you know you have someone watching your back. Me. Whatever you need to do, whatever is called for you to do, I will help you with." And then holding up the knife so Furio could see, Valerio took the sharpened blade and cut the pad of his thumb with it bringing up a line of blood. "Eh?"
Furio sat there stunned a moment. The man wanted to make a 'blood oath' with him? Such an oath was never taken lightly; it meant that in some respects you were pledging oath and protection that might even go against the very famiglia you were serving under. Furio had only ever made one other blood oath with someone, and that man had betrayed him 3 weeks ago.
"You don't want to make a blood oath with me, Val." Furio said levelly as he leaned forward and looked at the ground between his feet. He glanced out the corner of his eye and could see Valerio hadn't moved a muscle, he still held his thumb up with a line of blood trickling down his thick hand and wrist. "There are things I must do, that you do not want to be a part of." Furio continued, "Things that Turi would never authorize for you to be a part of. Besides, I made that oath with only one other…"
"Yeah I know." Valerio interrupted him, "And he betrayed you. Which is why I don't make the offer lightly." He took the knife and with an expert flick sent it into the ground near Furio's feet. "But I am not like that one; I have never made one of these oaths with anyone." The hardened man said almost softly.
"Then why me?" Furio narrowed his eyes at the man who still sat there with his thumb raised up like some dour and grizzled Roman emperor giving the thumbs up sign. "Why do you put all this on the line for someone you do not even know, but who was an enemy of this famiglia? Why put all this on the line when it could endanger all you have worked for? You and I, we don't even have any history between us."
Now it was Valerio who glanced up with a hint of surprise in his hard eyes. "You don't know, do you?" he asked mildly surprised, "You mean Salvatore Casertano or someone else hasn't told you yet?"
Furio felt the hair prickle at the base of his neck. "No, tell me what?" he asked levelly.
Valerio gave a long deep sigh and pulled out another cigarette for himself, and lit it, finally letting this cut thumb rest over the dirt, where it still dripped a bit steadily. "I had thought you had already heard, but I might as well be the one to tell you then." He glanced at the knife next to Furio's feet but made no move to pick it up. He spat on the ground again and took a long drink of wine before beginning to speak once again.
"When I first came to this famiglia, to Don Turi, I was a soldier, just like anyone else. I was sent directly into Naples just as the war between the Vittorio famiglia was at its height. I and another man were specifically sent to do a hit on a capo, the man who was the brother of Don Zio Vittorio…"
Furio's ears stopped listening at that point, to be filled only with the rushing sound of blood in his ears. He felt as though Valerio had just reached over and punched him in the stomach knocking the wind out of him. Furio's mind wavered to that hot day in July when his whole family, his father Vincenzo, his mother Maria and his younger sister Michele were coming to pick him up where he and Malco had been hanging out near the northern part of the city.
His father and family had been stuck in a typical Naples traffic jam, when two gunmen ran up to the car and opened fire killing his mother and sister instantly and leaving his father with two bullets in his skull. Furio had only been 18 then and he had always carried that guilt in his heart. A few other men had run past him as they heard the gunshots, and one of them, already a soldier in Don Zio's family skidded to a stop near Furio and Malco. "Furio, oh shit, it's your family. Your father and your mother and sister…" two months later Furio had signed up to take his rage and vendetta out on as many of Buccilla's people as he could, getting lucky and taking out Turi Buccilla's 23 year old son, Carlino nearly a year later.
But now… His cold eyes turned towards Valerio, he could feel such rage in his veins, such constricted pain in his soul. He looked down at his hand, unconsciously he had scooped up the knife Valerio had flicked into the ground and he held it in his hand as murderous rage thundered in his ears. He knew deep in his heart that Valerio had been the one of the two men who had killed his mother and sister. The man who hit his father was not experienced and not an accurate shot; it was why his father had survived. But a law enforcement person, a former soldier, he would know exactly where to hit.
Valerio said nothing, made no move for several long seconds, finally he just glanced over at Furio the hard eyes morose and sad for a moment. Almost wearily he picked up his glass of wine and simply drank it. "You would have heard the story sooner or later Giunta." He simply said.
Furio wanted nothing more at that moment than to drive that knife right into Valerio's eye socket and twist it into his brain, but he knew what was past was past. He had killed Turi's son and many of Buccilla's people over the years in revenge for that act. He had been the one coming here with hat in hand to swear fealty to Turi Buccilla and to live in the nest of vipers that was once his most hated rivals and yet they had taken him in.
He felt his chest constrict once in a strangled moan of pain as he slammed down his inner most emotions and then with a sudden and vicious hiss he bought the knife down across his own thumb and held it out towards Valerio, a trickle of blood coursing down his own wrist. "You offered me the blood oath." He said in a low dangerous voice, "Then we make it."
With sudden and deadly accuracy Furio flung the knife back towards Valerio and it stuck into the wooden porch just millimeters from the large man's leg. Valerio pulled it out of the porch and reopened the wound on his thumb and together the two men silently pressed their thumbs together. They were oath bound as true brothers now, an oath even deeper than that of the Famiglia.
Valerio poured out the rest of the wine and the two men drank silently for several long moments. "So," he asked finally, quietly. "What is the favor Don Turi wants you to do for permanent admittance into his famiglia?"
With a thin smile on his lips and his voice barely above a whisper, Furio turned towards the man, "We are going to kill my cousin, Val."
Valerio just nodded a slight smirk on his own hard face. "Sounds good to me, Giunta. Salute."
"Salute." Furio returned the toast quietly. The two men spent the next 20 minutes just quietly in their own thoughts finishing the wine and another cigarette, no more words spoken between them.
Finally Valerio Ladone stood up and ran a hand through his closely cropped hair. He leaned down and retrieved the knife he and Furio had used to make the blood oath and then after a few seconds closed it and handed it almost gently to Furio. "It's yours now." He said quietly. "Talk to me when you are ready to plan that thing, I will keep my ears open also. Good night." and then he just quietly melted into the darkness.
Furio was actually glad that Aria had fallen asleep when he reentered the house. His mind was just in to much of a tailspin over the strange meeting with Valerio, now the man who had killed his family and nearly killed his father was his 'blood brother', oath sworn to protect him no matter what. Furio still couldn't understand Valerio's need to do this, but as payment for his past transgression against Furio he was more than willing to take the blood oath and hold Valerio in his debt. He glanced at the knife and saw that it was a standard issue police blade of the highest craftsmanship. Although old, it looked meticulously cared for, as though it was a part of Valerio's soul. A reminder he must have carried with like a haunted memento of his former life.
With a sigh he stripped down to his underwear, turned out the table lamp and slid into bed beside his wife as he gently touched her a moment. At 42 years of age this was the first time Furio had ever pledged his heart and soul so fully to a woman. He had always wanted a family and a woman to love and be his partner, but the Camorra and other things had always come first in his life. Things had just never seemed to fall into place for him to have a family, but now things were going his way.
Chapter 7: Repaid in Full
The days and weeks began to blend into a comfortable gel for Aria. Each day she grew stronger, more healed physically and her heart still felt only love and longing for her protector and soul-mate Furio. She noted that he seemed to have two modes of operation in this famiglia. On some days he would dress casually and would work around the farm, or in the winery or even go hunting and target shooting with the fellow guards. On these days he often came in with sore muscles from a hard day's physical labor and Aria would massage the stiffness out of him. The days he worked here he was 'her Furio' with the laughing eyes, easy smile and gentle personality. Then there were the other days. Usually the days he would drive Salvatore Casertano around. On those days Furio would dress much more formally or else in dark clothing, his eyes were dark and intimidating on those days and he often came home in a taciturn mood, his knuckles scraped up and bleeding or cuts and bruises on him. Those days he never discussed with her, occasionally he would make runs into Naples with his boss Salvatore sometimes to be gone overnight.
Aria knew full well what her Furio did on the days he was with Casertano, those were the days he was like the deadly and terrifying Furio she had seen at the shanty outside Mondragone, as he had shot the assassins, or killed Malco, and in her heart she truly did not want to know about that Furio and what he did. That was the 'enforcer Furio' and she was glad that she didn't have to see the violence she knew he was capable of. Regardless of what work he did that day, she noticed he seemed to spend a lot of time with Valerio after dinner, often the two walking around the fields at night or sitting on the porch and chatting in low, quiet tones.
For nearly 3 weeks Aria hardly saw anyone but Furio, or occasionally Salvatore Casertano who would sometimes stop by for coffee or breakfast in the morning or Valerio Ladone who would stop by on some evenings. And to be honest Aria really had no want of meeting a lot of people. She still felt so lost and an outsider as only a very few here spoke any English and she often felt embarrassed at her rudimentary Italian if she spoke it to anyone other than her husband.
One day there was a knock on the door and she saw Don Turi's daughter Gianna standing outside. Always the woman was impeccably dressed in the most expensive of clothing; even her casual clothing was designer jeans or expensive custom clothes.
"Ciao, Gianna." Aria opened the door for the woman to let her in.
"Hello Aria," Gianna spoke in her sultry voice in nearly flawless English. She entered and gave Aria the automatic hug and kiss that most Italians who knew each other greeted one another with. She was an attractive woman with dark brown hair and intense almost hazel eyes. Her skin was lighter in color than many of the other southern Italians, and she was a good 5" taller than Aria who only stood 5'3 herself. "So I have come to get you out of the house and integrate you a bit more around here." She said as she glanced around the guesthouse. "You spend too much time in here alone; you're a young woman, not a spinster. You need to make an effort to meet and work with some of the other women. Believe me; they are as shy and wary of you as you are of them." Gianna said truthfully but not unkindly.
"I do want to," Aria said feeling a bit embarrassed as she offered Gianna a glass of wine. It seemed almost customary, Furio had told her, that when someone came over you either poured them a glass of wine or a cup of coffee depending on the time of day. "I just don't know what to do. All this is so, new and alien to me."
"Then make an effort, jump into it with both feet." Gianna said as she sat down at the table. "You won't learn just being cooped up in here. We are going to be canning a bunch of early spring fruit and making jars of marinara and pesto starting tomorrow, you can come and help us then. A lot of wives will be there, Salvatore's wife, you know her." Gianna offered. Aria just nodded and sipped her own wine, "That sounds good, thanks for the offer."
"Also," Gianna continued, "We can drive into Naples sometime and do some real shopping. After all there is nothing really classy to buy this area. Trust me; I am sure Furio is not expecting you to be a nun in here." Gianna eyed Aria levelly if not a bit sultry a moment, "So you certainly did land yourself a handsome husband, that is for sure. What is he like, good?" she asked boldly as she winked at Aria.
Aria felt the heat rise in her face a bit the way Gianna had asked the question as well as the look in Gianna's eyes. She had seen Gianna at the party staring at Furio or often touching his arm in an almost seductive way. Aria said nothing because she knew many Italians were touchy or expressive, but regardless of culture she knew in her heart as a woman, that Gianna thought Furio a hot commodity. "He's quite good." Aria said playfully but also elusively. "How about yourself, are you married?" she asked. If Gianna wanted to ask bold questions, she could play the same game.
Gianna laughed a deep throaty laugh. "Yes, we have an ocean home near southern Naples, my husband, Roberto he spends most of his time there. He runs some export business for my father and such and is one of my father's most trusted capos, but I much prefer the serenity of my father's county estate here. It's a much healthier place for my children to grow up in, and their grandfather enjoys having his two grandchildren underfoot."
Aria could only nod, "Yes, this place is beautiful."
Gianna looked at her with a look of slight smugness, "Oh, it is. I certainly enjoyed growing up here along with my brothers. You met my older brother Stefan, my second older brother Carlino was killed by your Furio nearly 20 years ago, you know." She added with an almost arrogant drawl.
Aria had not known this, and the almost casual way that Gianna had thrown this out felt like a hard shove to her gut. "Oh." She said stupidly not knowing what to say at this news. Frankly she was shocked to hear Gianna talk so casually about Camorra business, Furio had always told her not to talk about it, but yet Gianna just rambled on about Salvatore Casertano the underboss, "He's a lecherous old man, watch out for him, he would fuck a woman right under his wife's nose I think." and her brother Stefan who she said was the family consigliere or counselor.
"Although my father has been setting up the family to be run by Salvatore Casertano, I think it's a mistake. It would make much more sense for him to turn it over to Stefan, his true blood." Gianna seemed almost miffed. "So is Furio with Salvatore today or is he here around the farm somewhere?" Gianna asked switching subjects as rapidly as a bee darts from flower to flower.
"He went with Salvatore." Aria said drinking more wine. She was just not having anything in common with this 'mafia princess' except that she spoke flawless English, and even worse, Aria was beginning to develop a dislike of the arrogant and smug woman.
"Well," Gianna got up after finishing her glass of wine. "I will stop by tomorrow around 10 am to pick you up. Dress casual as we'll be doing a lot of cooking and such. Ciao!" she said in an offhand way and gave Aria a quick kiss and then departed.
"She is an arrogant snob!" Aria told Furio later that evening when he came home, "You know, I think she had the hots for you."
"Hots?" Furio asked finally glancing up from his dinner plate. "What means 'hots'?" He had been sullenly quiet ever since he had come home.
"Lust, passion, sesso; she wants to get in your pants, have mad sex with you!" Aria said a bit indignantly.
Furio snorted at this and actually laughed. "My, my, do I detect jealousy in you Aria?" he said with a wicked grin. "Besides, why would I do something to insult Don Turi? His daughter is not my type."
"Yeah, well she doesn't care. She likes you; she asked me how good in bed you were!" Aria said even more tersely.
"And what did you say?" Furio looked at her his grey eyes dancing with laughter.
"It's not funny Furio!" Aria threw her napkin at him and stormed off to the kitchen. "That woman drives me nuts!"
"Aria," Furio stood up and came over to her, "Come on, I was just kidding. I'm touched that you are so jealous of me, after all, I thought I was the only one possessive and jealous about you." He winked and held her close. "So what did you tell her, that we had hot, roaring sex?" he teased.
Aria smacked him hard in the ribs, and he just laughed and grabbed her wrists in an iron grasp. "Ah, ah. No get feisty with me woman." He teased. "Or maybe we get feisty in the bedroom, so you can have something to gossip to Gianna about, eh?"
Aria tried to twist out of his grasp, her own fiery temper rising. But Furio just enjoyed her getting worked up even more. He picked her up and carried her still struggling and mad at him to the living room, then put her on the thick animal skin rug and pinned her beneath him until she settled down. Then his own passions ignited, he undressed her and the two of them made crazy love, their moans and her screams of lust and orgasm as loud as her fiery soul.
Later as they lay in bed together Furio turned to her and gently stroked her cheek, "Aria, listen to me a minute." He said in his serious voice that she knew far too well. "Maybe is good thing Gianna going to get you to meet people tomorrow and such. I going to have to be in Naples for little while; I'm not sure how long, maybe up to a week."
Aria turned to him as though to ask him a question but he just covered her lips with his fingers, "Shhh, mia amore. I can't talk about it, Ok? And even more important you cannot talk about it. You do not know where I am or anything until I come back, Ok?"
She just nodded and held him close to her, snuggling against him. "Ok." She whispered.
But already there were tears in her eyes, she always missed him when he was gone, always worried about him.
"My, my." He said soothingly, "You so emotional lately. Angry one minute, crying the next. Moody you are, eh? What is wrong?" He whispered gently soothing her like a frightened animal.
"I don't know." She said snuffling against him. He was right, she had been moody lately and she had no idea why. Shouldn't she be happy that they were in this wonderful house, that she was with her soul-mate, that he had some protection now from this Buccilla famiglia? But sometimes he seem stretched so thin, with his running around with Salvatore, or working for 12 hours on the farm or long nights he would spend with Valerio. A part of her had liked when it had just been the two of them, alone, relying on no one but themselves. Their love, passions and explorations of one another had been so special it was the most precious memories she could remember. Of course he was still passionate, still her beloved husband, but he just seemed to be constantly running here and there. "I just miss you I guess." She said softly.
"I am always here…" he touched her heart, "and here," he touched her head, it was a little gesture he had always done with her and it aroused her and filled her with such love every time he did it. "And you are always in my heart and soul. You know that, yes? You not worry about people like Gianna. You have something that she will never have."
"What?" Aria looked up at him.
"You have my heart, Aria. I chose you, remember? I could have had 100 women like Gianna or Annalisa or Carmela Soprano, but in you I saw a mix of passion, loyalty and even innocence. But best of all I see in you not just a 'woman' but someone I could grow old with, someone who is a friend. I so wanted that more than anything in the world and you gave that to me. I would be stupido to throw away what I have wished for all of my life, eh?"
"Thank you, mi marito." She said this time the tears she shed were of happiness at his words to her heart. With a soft smile he kissed her head, "You so moody lately mia moglie." He teased.
While Aria fell asleep in his arms rather promptly Furio lay there awake, feeling her gentle and soft breathing against him. His mind was far to wound up to sleep for he and Valerio had been working and planning hard over the last several weeks, and tomorrow he and Val would be leaving to put those plans into motion, to kill Annalisa and fulfill his promise to Don Turi.
Furio while finding Valerio Ladone a capable and sometimes quiet man given to broodiness on occasion still wondered about the whole blood oath thing. Nothing else had been spoken by either of them after that night. So far Valerio had indeed worked to get Furio information and had even gone on a few enforcement assignments with him. In one assignment things had gotten out of hand and the person they were supposed to be beating up had a few of his buddies pop up in at the last moment. Had Furio been alone it would have been a bad outcome, but Valerio had indeed stood solidly by Furio and together they had badly beaten and killed two of the 6 men. Furio was impressed by the strength and vengeance that Valerio could dish out when he was on a job, but outside of working together they rarely talked of personal information.
On one occasion Furio thought Val might have said something, it was the day they had fought the 6 men and on the way home Valerio had mentioned that Furio was lucky to have such a good woman to return home to at nights. "That one," he had said as he was driving them back from Naples, "Your Aria, you can tell she really loves you."
Furio had glanced over at him briefly, "Yes, she is a special woman indeed. No one else could ever be like her."
Valerio just grunted an affirmative reply, "Women like that, they only come around once. Just once." A dark and haunted shadow had flickered briefly over the man's face and then he said no more on the way home.
The next morning Furio was up before the break of dawn, he had to get an early start still under the cover of darkness. Valerio had told his friends he was taking a 'much needed vacation' and told Furio he would meet him outside a small café on the outskirts of northern Naples. It would do no good for Val and Furio to be seen leaving together, after all, this was an unsanctioned-unauthorized execution, and Valerio would have to cover up his whereabouts even from Don Turi and his men. As Furio showered and dressed he had to give Val credit, it was actually the capo for the guards who had come up not only with the ideal plan but had gotten wind of the perfect time to do it. Furio was a bit surprised when he came out of the shower and smelled coffee going in the kitchen and some scrambled eggs with tomatoes and bacon. He got dressed then walked in to see Aria working in the kitchen still dressed in her camisole and pajama bottoms.
"What you doing up?" he asked gently as he slid on his leather coat and double checked the custom pistol he had kept from Malco.
"I didn't want you to leave before I said a proper good bye." She said with a sharp look in her eyes that told Furio he would have gotten an earful had he left without waking her.
He walked up to her and kissed her hair as he ran his hands across her sexy body, "You a treasure, I not leave without saying goodbye, but you didn't have to make this." He motioned to the cooking breakfast and gave her a squeeze.
"I wanted to. Why is it you have such a hard time letting me take care of you on occasion?" she eyed him a moment and then slid a coffee cup over towards him.
"I guess because I never had a woman who wanted to before." He said with a small smile at her tenacity and love, "Always I had to do for myself or everyone else, but believe me, is very nice."
After breakfast Aria was overcome with nausea and had to run and go throw up, but she assured Furio it was just because she was nervous about him leaving and would miss him.
Furio looked concerned a moment at her almost as if not believing her, "You injuries not hurting you are they?" he asked, "You have been a bit wired up lately, eh? Nervous, moody. I worry about you Aria."
"I'm fine, I promise." She sighed and hugged him tightly after she had cleaned up, "I just love you so much, promise me you will come back to me safely. Promise me." She hugged him so tight Furio thought she would never let him go.
"I always promise you, mia amore." He soothed her, "I will always come back to you safely, this time is no different. In fact when I come home I bet things will slow down as far as me running around all the time, eh?" reluctantly she released her hold on him and stepped back, her eyes filled with only love and loyalty for him. "Ti amo, remember?" he said with a soft voice.
"Ti amo, my love." She said and gave him one more quick kiss, then watched as her darkly dressed husband disappeared out into the still dark early morning. As loving and gentle as he had been with her, she saw a hidden darkness and revenge in his eyes lately that reminded her of that awful day he had killed Malco.
Furio met up with Valerio nearly an hour later at the assigned place. "Hey Giunta," Valerio greeted him while sipping some espresso and munching down on some frittatas.
"Things are still on target so far."
"You never told me this plan yet, Val." Furio eyed the big man quietly then ordered a cup of espresso for himself.
Valerio waited until the waiter had served them before he began talking again in a low but strong voice. "I have a connection with one of the men who drives Annalisa around; you know her driver and bodyguard. His name is Luca. Anyway, the day after tomorrow she has an appointment in the evening time at the home of some lover of hers."
"She wastes no time, does she?" Furio interjected with a rough grunt. "Malco's dead 3 weeks and she already has another lined up."
Valerio shook his grizzled head at him, "Man, you are out of the loop. She has 4 lovers she runs back and forth to, a regular whore she is. Whether Malco knew about the others, who knows? My guess is he did, but wanted to ride Annalisa's tail to the top" Valerio even sounded like a cop as he continued his briefing in a level and almost no-nonsense tone. "She tends to put her favorites high on the command chain, you know? Anyway," Val finished shoving the rest of his frittata in his mouth, "This Luca will be driving her to her lover's house 2 days from now. When he does, he usually waits outside until she is done and drives her home. But this time we will be driving her home, or rather I will take Luca's place and you get to hop in the back seat and…" Val just trailed off and made a quick but discreet hand sign of a gun.
Furio nodded his head slightly a moment and really looked at Valerio, studied him intently now. How did the man get all this information, make these connections? As though sensing Furio's unspoken thoughts Val looked up at him, "Luca is a fellow Sicilian, he also had worked for Don Perrino but came up here much like you did when you went overseas with the Soprano crew to cement relations between the Vittorio's and them. The Perrino's in Sicily have long wanted to get into Camorrista business. I had worked with Luca before; he's a pretty sharp bodyguard and soldier. Besides you're no babe in the woods, you know that war or not, people are always making friends among other clans and famiglia's, how else could we all spy on one another. Business is business, but there is also life outside the business too."
"And he is just handing over the car to you? Turning a blind eye in all this?" Furio asked very quietly in disbelief.
"I never said that Giunta." Val looked up at Furio, and for the first time Furio saw a quick sardonic smirk run across the man's scarred face. "I just said I know the time and plan and that I'd be taking Luca's place."
Furio leaned back and nodded. His respect for Valerio climbed a lot higher in that moment. "Ok, so what is the plan for now?"
"I gotta keep in contact on and off with Luca, just to make sure things are still set. You need to keep a low profile here in Naples, you're a wanted man. Until all this is ready to kick off, just make sure to stay firmly in Buccilla territory here in the city." Val and Furio had already exchanged cell phone numbers weeks ago, "When everything is set for that night I will call you about 2 hours before and give you last minute details. I take it you are carrying?" Valerio alluded to Furio having a weapon.
"But of course!" Furio nodded, "Remember that piece I showed you that once belonged to Malco?" he hinted.
"Oh yeah," Val grunted his eyes half closing for a moment like a content mastiff pondering a delicious morsel. "Well that will be a sweet irony won't it then." He chuckled slightly. "Alright, time to split up, we don't want to be seen hanging out with one another." Valerio said as he threw some money down on the table for both his breakfast and Furio's coffee, "Stay low, I will call you as needed. I'm supposed to be on vacation for a week." He grunted in a dour laugh, "Hell of a vacation, a little hunting is good though." He said and then with nothing further to say he spat on the ground and walked off. Furio noticed that Val moved a bit stiffly today, and he had also noticed that ever since he had met Valerio three weeks ago, the man seemed to be getting a more sunken look to his hard and grizzled body.
Furio spent some time shopping for himself and Aria in a few shops as well as stopped at an expensive jewelry store to get her a necklace with a medallion on it and on the back had engraved "il mio amore per te è eterno.-Furio " 'My love for you is eternal.' He knew it would please her to have something of his spoken love close to her heart when he wasn't there. After picking out some clothing for her and a few suits for himself he kicked around parts of the city he knew he would be safe looking up a few more items he had in mind for his and Aria's future.
Aria actually found that being in a throng of nearly 30 Italian women at once cooking was actually not bad at all. Several of them did speak some type of English, since some of them worked in tourist areas of Naples, and all were very kind to her about her learning Italian. Gianna seemed to enjoy presiding like a queen over the throngs of women and while she could be arrogant, she was very respectful of many of the older ladies such as Salvatore's wife, and several others. Aria had a few more bouts of sudden and quick nausea over the next couple days, (the preparing and canning would be going on for the next 4 days) and it was Salvatore's wife, Marta who finally came up to Aria and cupping the woman's face spoke to another older woman named Portia who spoke some English and translated for Marta. "Marta say congratulations, are you happy?" the older matriarch spoke.
"Happy?" Aria was confused now. Marta once again smiled and went on and on in Italian to the older woman Portia, while hugging and kissing Aria on the cheek, or patting her stomach.
"She say you, incinta." Portia didn't know the word, instead she made a gesture with her hands indicating a swollen belly, "You know, baby. Marta never wrong about this thing, she always has sense about this."
Aria felt her world seem to suddenly lighten with an inner happiness; she was pregnant with Furio's child! She hoped he would be as happy as her, but somehow she sensed he would. She could already feel a silly grin on her face and again her eyes almost filling with tears of happiness. Aria excitedly hugged Marta and Portia back and said, "Si, certo!" Both women nodded and smiled at her look, as Portia said, "Yes, you happy." She winked at Aria. Marta Casertano and Portia Vitelli now became almost like protective matronly mentors with Aria helping her to blend in.
Aria could think of nothing else as she happily worked along side some of the other women now. Pregnant with the child of the man she loved more than life itself, she couldn't wait to tell him. It explained much about her moodiness and sudden nausea on occasions. After all Aria had not had a menstrual cycle since she had been with Furio, she thought it was just because of her injuries and all the moving around and stress, but as much as the two of them were constantly having passionate sex, it didn't surprise her. She was also glad that Marta and Portia had befriended her almost as a daughter. She had a lot of respect for them and their wisdom.
Furio had been staying in one of the various brothels run by the Buccilla gang, it was dingy and run down but he was able to stay in the back out of the way in hiding, often playing cards with some of the various soldiers or associates. On the afternoon of the second day his phone rang and he recognized Valerio's number. "Pronto," he said.
"We're on for that thing tonight," Val's voice said to him. "At 8 pm come down to the following location." He gave Furio an address.
"Got it," Furio said, "See you then." He flipped off the phone and then went and began to meticulously clean and oil his gun. He read the inscription once again on the handle.
'Malco, your love has shot me in the heart, may this keep you safe, Annalisa.' "This gun will shoot you in the heart alright," Furio thought with a sadistic warmth beginning to burn deep in his heart and soul, "and your head as well my traitorous bitch of a cousin."
Furio met up with Valerio near a west end garage, inside several cars were in the midst of being repaired, or 'chopped up' for stolen parts, it was hard to tell which. Valerio just gave him a brief nod and cautiously the two men walked inside. It appeared deserted except for one smallish middle age man who was digging around some oily rags near a Cadillac. "Stay here in the shadows." Valerio nodded to Furio, "Until I take care of him." and then the large man lumbered into the garage as if he owned it.
"Eh, Valerio!" the smaller man's face lit up in a smile of recognition as he saw Val, "You came right on time. I bought those items you wanted,"
Val gave the smaller man a quick embrace and then reached inside the pocket of his pants and pulled out a thick envelope. "Here." He discreetly handed the envelope to the smaller man. "Let's see the items." He smiled warmly.
Luca bent down in one of the nearby trunks digging around and searching as he jabbered away to Valerio the whole time, mostly talking about Sicily and old times. Valerio cast his eyes around a moment as though searching intently, and then spying a short thick tire iron rod; he smoothly picked it up and held it loosely at his right side. No sooner was Luca beginning to stand up then with an expert aim and the power of a professional baseball player he swung that tire iron into the smaller man's throat instantly crushing his trachea and shattering his larynx.
Luca's eyes went wide with fear and surprise as he silently grabbed at his throat unable to breath. Instinct was making him back up and he crashed into a small cart with tools that fell with a loud clatter to the floor. Holding the tire iron now almost like a sword, Valerio advanced on the man who was backing away from him and with no expression on his face, and with the aim of years of skill he thrust the tire iron right into the man's temple. Luca dropped instantly on the spot dead as a door nail.
Furio cautiously crept into the shadows of the garage in case the clatter of tools bought any guards or soldiers, but apparently everyone was out right now. "Remind me never to piss you off when you have something in your hand." Furio grunted lightly with a raised eyebrow.
"It's an old law enforcement baton trick." Valerio dryly said as he began dragging Luca's body into the shadows. Furio immediately scooped up the dead man's legs and helped him. After hiding Luca's body Valerio walked over to the Cadillac the man had been working on. "This is the one." He gently lowered the hood and then picked up the suit that was hanging on a hook near the wall. Valerio sighed a bit and Furio looked slightly amused as Valerio who was at least 6" taller and around 70 lbs heavier than Luca tried to jam his thick body into the tight pants and coat. "Well it only has to work for a second or two." Val glowered at Furio for a moment as though daring him to laugh aloud at him.
Furio went and opened the garage door and then slid into the back seat of the Cadillac DeVille and lay down on the seat so no one would see him in the car. He felt Valerio get into the car, start it up and begin driving out into the street, thankfully no one stopped them or even seemed to notice anything as Valerio scrunched down a bit in the seat himself and began to drive around some of the narrow streets of Naples. "Ok, here is the plan Giunta." Val spoke after several minutes, "I'm gonna drop you off up here about 2 blocks away, we hid Luca good so I doubt anyone will find him tonight and hopefully when they find him in the morning our main mission will already be done." Valerio turned a hard right onto another street and then continued talking, "The address is this," he flung a piece of paper over the seat where Furio expertly snatched it, while still laying down in the seat. "At midnight I will be picking Annalisa up there, so you better be right there in the shadows ready to run into the back of the car after her, got it? Because I doubt she will buy that I am Luca more than a few seconds."
"I got it." Furio said, already his own instinct was kicking in, and as long as he was in the back of the car he discreetly felt under the drivers seat, passengers seat and between the cushions of the back seat for any hidden guns or knives. He found one tiny snub-nosed revolver and a wicked looking folding knife hidden between the seats which he quickly pocketed. Valerio's hard eyes just seemed to nod in silent approval of Furio's checking the vehicle out for hidden weapons and then he dropped him off. "See you in 3 hours." The capo nodded quietly then added with disgust. "Damn tight pants are crushing the shit out of my balls."
Furio melted into the shadows as he thought about his own plans and plots. He still wondered if he could trust Valerio Ladone 100, wondered if somehow the man wasn't involved in all this or playing double loyalties to both families. After all, Furio had trusted Malco and he had easily betrayed him, he would not trust Valerio under any circumstances unless the man truly proved himself to him. There was still that matter of Valerio being the one who had executed Furio's mother and sister over 20 years ago. He would definitely be on guard and alert for any treachery, he knew this now. However Furio's inner voice was telling him differently. He had seen him kill a fellow countryman with his own eyes, and from the way Luca had greeted Valerio it was obvious the two were indeed friends on the sly. In many ways this only made Furio think harder and confused him more. If Valerio was indeed being loyal and honest to Furio, fulfilling the vows of the 'blood oath' why? Why had he chosen Furio, the man who probably hated him the most, to take such an important vow with? He just trudged onward to the destination staying low and out of the way of eyes who might see him. This was easy enough to do, after all this is what Furio had done nearly all his adult life. Stay low, kill, intimidate and enforce for the Vittorio family, he knew this end of the town backwards and forwards.
Finally at a few minutes to midnight Furio sidled up along behind and to the side of the stone staircase that lead to the apartment building that Annalisa was in with one of her lovers. He could see that Valerio had pulled up with the Cadillac and was just sitting there awaiting Annalisa to come out, probably as Luca would do. Furio was glad that there seemed to be a streetlight out, making things even more dark and shadowy and he half wondered if Valerio hadn't somehow disabled the light himself earlier in the day.
But he was shaken out of the thoughts as he heard the main door open and the sound of a womans high heels striding down the steps towards the awaiting Cadillac. Furio already had Malco's gun in his hand, his dark eyes watching with cruel intensity towards the outline of his cousin as she grabbed the back handle of the car door and began to get in.
Already Valerio had started the car, and with a sudden rush of speed Furio darted forward and dove into the backseat and half on top of her before Annalisa even knew what was going on. Furio had grabbed her wrist cruelly grinding the bones together, as he looked down at the person he hated even more than Valerio or Malco. "Hello my cousin." He said in a level voice, there was no emotion in his cold eyes, none whatsoever. "Did you miss me?" For the first time that Furio could ever remember he saw total fear and terror on his cousin's smug, arrogant face. Her eyes were huge with horror and terror, her body going almost limp with fear in his strong grasp. Already Valerio had the car in motion as he smoothly drove off into the dark night. There were two sudden loud reports in the Cadillac DeVille, two flashes of quick light from the muzzle of a gun.
Furio sat back in the seat and glanced at the body of Annalisa Vittorio, half her skull blown out against the side door, her eyes still holding a look of fear in them, even in death. Furio glanced at the gun in his hand and for the slightest of instances had the urge to place it to the back of Valerio's skull and kill him as well. He slammed down that emotion and then with an easy move slid his body into the front passenger seat.
"Listen to me well, Valerio." Furio said as he took out a set of car keys. "I have my own friends who are expecting me in one hour. If I do not drive the car back to them in one hour, they will be looking for you. Understand?"
"No problem Giunta." Valerio said almost with the slightest hint of amusement. He didn't even bother to look at Furio as they drove the Cadillac with the dead body of Annalisa in it to the heart of her territory and then both men got out and locked the car, and melted into the shadows. The message was unmistakable and clear, hopefully now the Vittorio's would be willing to concede and renegotiate with the Buccilla's to avoid anymore bloodshed. The boss of their famiglia was dead.
Neither man talked as they walked together to where Furio was leading them, where he had parked a car earlier for his return trip to the brothel deep and safe in Buccilla territory. Furio had put his gun back in his waistband, but still his eyes would occasionally cast towards Valerio as they walked at a fast pace nearly a mile towards the docks. Every so often the older man would spit heavily onto the side walk or cough deeply, but other than that he made no talk or complaints or even bother to look at Furio.
When they got near the small Fiat, Furio tossed the keys to Valerio, "You drive." He said.
"No problem." Valerio walked over to the car. Furio was still slightly shocked just how compliant and obedient this man was acting with him, even though Furio was riding him hard, keeping him firmly under his watchful eye. The man was acting as though he and Furio were truly blood brothers, no matter what requests Furio made of him, even though he outranked him as a caporegime and even more surprising he had truly fulfilled his oath to Furio of having helped kill Annalisa Vittorio. Furio had to admit, without Valerio Ladone's intense planning of this, it would have taken him weeks or months longer to set up the execution of her.
They both got in the car and Valerio slid it into gear and smoothly drove out. "So Giunta, where to?" he asked. "We have 35 minutes yet, just drive around some here in Buccilla territory." Furio said offhandedly.
Finally Valerio looked over at his companion, the man's dark eyes peering into Furio's. "So Furio," Valerio asked almost in a quiet gentle tone for him. "You've had your chances, why don't I have a bullet in my brain yet? Or are you waiting until you drop me off?"
Furio glared over at Valerio in both shock and embarrassment. Had the look in his eyes been so easy to read? Had his emotions been that strong? "Is that why you made the blood oath with me, Val?" Furio asked him bluntly, "Hoping that I wouldn't kill you then, because we would be bound as brothers?"
Valerio gave a deep snort and grinned. "Of course not! The vow didn't mean much to Malco did it? Frankly, I meant the oath. And if you killed me after doing your favor for Don Turi, it would not matter to me."
Furio turned and looked harshly at the man a moment. "Pull up over there, near that empty parking lot." He quietly ordered Valerio. Not surprisingly Valerio complied with almost an amused glint in his eye. Valerio's last words had shaken Furio so deeply he felt almost as he did that night Valerio had first told him he had been the one to kill his mother and sister.
They pulled up and Valerio turned off the car and faced Furio, the look in his grizzled face was that of a very tired and weary lion now, one who almost welcomed death. But Furio had no intention of reaching for his gun, "What did you mean, it would not matter to you if I killed you?" Furio demanded. He knew Valerio was telling the truth for there was no fear or distrust in the man's eyes. "I still want to know the real reason you made the blood oath with me Val."
"Ok, Ok." Valerio said and held up his hands in gesture of placation and gentle submission. "You deserve the truth now; we have history together now as you said. Have fought along side one another, have killed together, and have completed this thing you needed to do together." Valerio reached slowly inside the pocket of the tight sport coat and pulled out a pack of cigarettes, he lit one up and offered one to Furio. "The short of it is this Giunta." He said as he exhaled the smoke out in a thin stream, half closing his eyes. "I truly did mean the oath when I offered it to you, we may have been enemies once, but I do respect you. I am already a dieing man," Val paused slightly. "I have been diagnosed 3 months ago with cancer of the stomach and the throat, it is so advanced there is nothing to be done, the doctors figure I only have about 6 months tops anyway. So a quick death is not something I feared, if you were to take your revenge on me."
Furio felt himself chilled deep within his core and heart, despite the warm balmy May night. This he had not expected Valerio to say, but it did explain the man's recent gaunt and haggard appearance and his habit of constantly spitting all the time.
"But, my condition is something very few know of." Valerio continued, "I don't want sympathy Giunta, but I do need to make things right in my life. To try and rectify whatever little things I can, that I have done to hurt people. It's just a thing with me, I know, this coming from a Mafioso, eh?" he laughed a deep rumble, then coughed and rolled down the window to spit outside. "When I met you, when I heard your tale," Val continued, "I heard of a man with extraordinary loyalty. A man who worked with undying loyalty for Don Vittorio, who went to a strange land where he was unappreciated to work for the Soprano's on behalf of that crazy woman Annalisa, and then a man who came back to his homeland knowing his life was in danger on all fronts. A man who had to kill his best friend and blood brother and a man who showed bravery and courage to come to the very people who were once his enemies to serve them as loyally as he had served the Vittorio's."
Furio watched as Valerio smoked in silence a few seconds catching his breath. He felt still rooted to the spot, knowing Valerio was going to confess everything in his heart and soul to him tonight.
Valerio nodded again and picked up where he left off. "As I said, all that loyalty impressed me. Including the love and loyalty to your wife Aria." He looked at Furio again, that haunted shadow briefly crossing his face. "Before I came here to Napoli, I had a young, beautiful wife. Her name was Sabina, a beautiful Sicilian woman; we loved each other with crazy love as much as you and Aria do. We had just had our first child a son, Armanno who was 3 months old. Remember I told you that unknown to me at that time, Don Perrino was trying to set me up, to get me to do darker and more deadly deeds on behalf for him. He had Sabina and my son killed one day as they were driving into town. Of course I had no idea it was Don Perrino at the time. Oh, he was quite helpful in helping me find the mysterious shooters, and 'discovered' they were people from his enemy famiglia, the Caggiano's.
"So with vengeance and vendetta in my veins I happily went around killing members of the Caggiano family. It wouldn't be until I came here that I would find out that not only was it Don Perrino behind the shooting but how he was also setting me up to take the fall with the Italian government to cover his own ass. Like you, Don Turi did me this great favor, perhaps because he also sensed in me loyalty and a strong sense of duty to the famiglia."
Furio still said nothing. He could not even imagine the road this man had tread; his life was one bad experience after the other. Furio's mind briefly thought of Aria and he knew how he would feel if anyone ever laid a hand on her.
Valerio reached out and briefly put one thick hand on Furio's shoulder, "Ah, but now we get to the real question, why the oath with you and why am I telling you all this now." Furio just nodded slightly, he could feel his own heart and soul softening towards Valerio more and more by the minute. "Simple," Valerio spit out the window again and then leaned back. "As I said before, one, I felt I owed you something for the past transgression against you and what I did to your family. Of course we know it is just business, we do what we are told to do, no more different than you killing Carlino Buccilla. But now you are not an enemy of the Buccilla's you are one of us, so I felt I owed you something.
"Second, once I received my diagnosis several months ago I have planned and looked for who I wanted to replace me as captain of the guards. Of course Don Turi has final say, but Turi and I are actually very dear friends. He trusts me implicitly, almost as much as he trusts his best friend and underboss Salvatore Casertano. While the current line-up of guards are good loyal workers, none of them have exceptional leadership skills and none of them have the unfaltering loyalty that you do, Giunta. You are a man gifted with brains as well as courage, even though you fight being given a position of leadership. Myself, I think you fight it because you would take the lives and interests of the men who serve under you very personally, for good or bad. And that is precisely why you would make such a good leader, because you care deeply."
Furio had to look away a moment, like Don Turi had so easily read him and seen deep inside Furio's soul, so Valerio seemed to be as insightful. It was one of the reasons that Furio had never wanted to be anything other than someone who worked alone. He wanted to make sure everything always went smoothly and he knew whether something went good or bad he would have no one other than himself to account to.
"Think about it Giunta, I ask nothing else." Valerio patted Furio's shoulder again briefly, "As much as you think you would not be good at it, you would be an excellent caporegime I am still going to recommend you for the position to Don Turi." Valerio leaned back and closed his eyes briefly, he was so weary and tired now, and he desperately wanted to have some wine, anything to fight the pain that was gnawing like a hot iron within his body."That is the reason I made the oath with you. The reason I extended my hand in friendship. You have been betrayed on many fronts and still you are always strong and courageous. I wanted to let you know that sometimes people do keep their oaths that sometimes people do offer fully the friendship and protection they promise. It was a gift you had earned and deserved, and if instead you would have shot me out of revenge for what I did to your family years ago, then that would have been your choice and you would have given me a quick death anyway." He finally turned and looked at Furio. "I really need some good wine, my friend." Valerio managed to smile a toothy smile at him.
"Yeah, sure, you come with me to the brothel, they have plenty there." Furio said; his heart truly ached not only for Valerio, but that he would not have time to fully know this complicated man more. He had no more hate or anger in his heart and soul for Valerio Ladone now, only true devotion as a friend and fulfillment of the blood oath. In many ways Furio felt far more respect and friendship for Valerio than for Malco, even though he had grown up with the man.
"I can't." Val said, "We have to split up, remember? I'm supposed to be on vacation. At least you get to go home now, your mission is done. Maybe I will go hang out at the beaches for a few days and look at the pretty girls, soak up some sun."
Furio smiled then at Valerio, a true smile of friendship. "That sounds like a good idea my friend." He said and meant it. "Come, I drive you to a place that has some wine and fun and drop you off." Furio and Valerio got out of the car and switched seats as Furio now took over the driving. Furio drove down to one of the sections of the city he knew was still hopping with nightlife activity. "Val," he put the car in park a moment and turned to the capo, "Promise me you come back safe from your vacation, eh?" Furio did not want the man to end up committing suicide or doing something stupid to get himself killed to end his life.
Val gave a short honest laugh, "I'm Sicilian and Catholic, so I won't kill myself and while I would be lying if I said it wouldn't be pleasant to die fast before the pain was intolerable," he paused a moment, "I will come back home safe, Furio."
The two men briefly embraced in friendship and Furio gave him a hard squeeze and warm clap on Val's shoulder. "Take care, my friend. I'll see you in a week." Furio said quietly and with respect as he watched the man get out of the car, spit on the ground and then wander off over to one of the loud, raucous nightclubs.
Chapter 8: Ways of the Heart
Furio returned to the brothel and then called Salvatore Casertano to tell him the favor for Don Turi was done, and that he would be returning tomorrow. He slept in a back room of the brothel and while at first many of the women had come onto the handsome enforcer, they quickly learned he was a dark, quiet and dour man who usually politely but firmly brushed them off. Furio's heart and soul belonged only to one woman and it always would. He was older, wiser and had sown any wild oats long ago, he now wanted to have a partner and best friend in his life, and he had no room for any mistresses or comares. He knew many men especially here in Italy were not as promiscuous with the mistresses like those Mafioso's in the States. He remembered with a grunt of disgust how Tony Soprano would put his dick in just about anything with a pussy, the man had no honor and no respect in Furio's eyes. He was a piss poor boss and in many ways Furio had far more respect for Carmine Lupertazzi and his underboss Johnny Sacrimoni from the New York families, there were two men who had the honor and dignity of the true old world bosses.
The next morning Furio once again left before daybreak, passing the one lone bodyguard who was half asleep behind the bar. "So long Nico," he reached out and playfully slapped the man on the leg waking him with a start.
"Uh! What, what?" Nico instantly shot awake and saw Furio's grinning face in front of him. "Madonna! You trying to give me a heart attack Furio?" he stretched but smirked back at Furio. "You are leaving now? It's only like 4 am."
"Yeah, I'm done here for now. Thanks for everything eh? Tell Mario thanks as well." Furio gave the man a brief but warm handshake.
"Anytime, glad you are on our side now." Nico stood up and went to go fire up some coffee, "If you hang around a few, I can make you some espresso before you go?"
"I appreciate the offer, but I need to get going." Furio was anxious to get back home to Aria and out of the city. He was sure Annalisa's corpse had been discovered by now. He waved and walked out to his car, his step light and his heart filled with inner happiness he had not felt in years.
He pulled up at the guesthouse just as the sun was beginning to rise up over the misty foothills, scattering the pockets of fog and mist as it brightened the land. He quietly entered the guesthouse and stalked nearly silently to the bedroom, he could see his Aria asleep on her side holding his pillow close to her as if it was him. She looked so beautiful that his heart ached, wishing that the two of them could be immortal forever. With a playful glint in his eyes he walked over to the bed and pounced on top of her. "Ciao, bellisima!" he grabbed her and kissed her as he playfully pinned her down beneath him.
She startled for a brief instant but as soon as she saw it was her beloved she calmed right down, looking at him with love and happiness. "Buon giorno, ti amo." She smiled to him. "I'm glad your home early."
"Me too," He sat up and pulled her into his arms, "I have lots of gifts in the car for you, but I have not eaten breakfast yet and I am starving, so how about you get dressed, and we make breakfast together, eh?"
She did, and they indeed cooked breakfast and coffee together. Of course Furio discussed nothing about what had gone on in Naples, only to mention he had been happy to pick up some clothes and other goodies for them. "I have something to tell you, mi marito." She said and looked at him so intently and lovingly it nearly consumed his soul with lust and want of her.
"What my love," he sipped his espresso, "You can tell me anything, you know that."
"I'm pregnant with our child." She looked up at him almost demurely from under penetrating emerald eyes that were so filled with love and happiness.
He sat there a few moments as the news sunk in, his own soul filling with such happiness and contentment it nearly threatened to overwhelm him. "Oh, mia amore, I am so happy! You are happy?"
"Of course I am silly." She chided him playfully, "I love you, and I am honored to start a family with you. It was why I was so moody and such before you left. I did not even think I was ready yet, but apparently you are one very virile Italian man." She blushed. "Marta was the one who noticed it and I took a pregnancy test and it was positive."
With a sudden loud whoop of joy Furio launched out of his chair, ran over to her grabbed her up in his arms and swung her around as he laughed with joy and happiness.
"I going to be a father!" he laughed and then looked down at her with such intensity it nearly froze her blood. "This is the most special gift you give me, eh? Special because it is a child created by our love and passion for one another. Grazie, ti amo con tutto il cuore, mi Aria." He carried her into the bedroom then and for the next 40 minutes they spent entwined in their own intimate and passionate dance of love.
As she showered he bought in all the gifts he had bought and then opening the jewelry box placed around her neck the necklace he had engraved for her. "It says, 'My love for you is eternal, your Furio'," he translated as he showed her the writing. "Now when I cannot be here next to you, you have this piece of me next to your heart and soul, eh?"
She hugged him tightly for a moment and then with a mischievous grin walked over to the nightstand, "I was going to save this for later, but now seems like the perfect time." She also dug out a small jeweler's box and opened it standing in front of Furio. Inside was a man's simple but handsome titanium wedding band, engraved with the symbol for infinity around it. She took out the ring and held it up to Furio, "Will you marry me and by mine forever, Furio Giunta." She asked her beautiful green eyes so full of life and happiness.
"Yes, always forever only yours." He said his right hand caressing her cheek tenderly. She showed him the inside of the band, since it was in English she translated, "It says, 'To my soulmate forever, Love Aria'." She slid the wedding band onto the ring finger of his left hand and both of them kissed deeply.
"Is beautiful my love." He said, "But then so are you. You make me such a happy and contented man, I am truly lucky, eh?"
"You captured my heart and soul that day nearly 3 months ago. And I am glad you did, perhaps it was fate, I don't know. But I am glad to be yours." She said and ran her fingers over the smooth planes and angles of his face, over the sensuous warm lips and across his muscular neck and shoulders. Furio said nothing but just held her tightly against him, breathing in her essence, allowing his heart and soul to be lost in the feeling of this moment of love between them.
Later that morning as expected, Don Turi sent for him and Furio talked to the old man in private, even Salvatore Casertano did not go inside.
The Don sat listening as Furio told the tale of killing Annalisa and fulfilling his part of the bargain, but of course he made no mention of Valerio whatsoever. "And so you have fulfilled your promise to me, Furio Giunta." The Don stood up and embraced Furio. "You are accepted fully now into this clan and famiglia." He paused and gave Furio a kiss on his cheek, the traditional sign for total acceptance of him into his clan and the Buccilla family, of a debt fulfilled. "Now," he switched tack and sat back down to discuss business, he motioned that Furio should pour both of them some wine, which Furio did.
"Valerio Ladone has spoken and vouched highly for you. He has recommended you for the position of caporegime of the guards. I must say I concur with him and would be honored to give you this promotion, if you want it." Turi paused a moment, "I know you said you prefer being the lone wolf enforcer and protector, but I really would like to see you in Valerio's position. Do you know why he is giving it up?" Turi asked fixing Furio with an intense gaze.
Furio nodded quietly, "Yes, he told me the tale. Valerio is my friend, and I will gladly accept the position. I am honored that both you and Valerio feel I am qualified for it."
The old Don nodded with a smile on his face. "And so you are, you have proven this in many ways. I am glad to have you onboard protecting me, of course you will get a capos salary since the captain of the guards' works a bit differently than say a capo on the streets, eh?" Turi explained. "You get a take from whatever the guards earn from their own business' on the side and of course you are welcome to conduct your own money earning in other areas so long as you don't step on any toes, and of course kick up tribute up the chain."
"Of course, Don Turi." Furio nodded.
"Right now Valerio has a room here in the main house, but he is a single man. So, I am willing to give you the guesthouse to keep living in with your wife, if you can occasionally still do some help around the farm, here and there, during harvests or wine making."
Furio idly waved a hand, "I would do these things anyway for you Don Turi. I enjoy it here and working the land relaxes me." He smiled lightly. The two men sealed the deal by chatting lightly about neutral topics and finishing their wine as well as a fine cigar that Turi offered Furio.
"Well good then." Turi said as the two of them finished up about 40 minutes later, "When Valerio comes back from his, ah, vacation," the Don eyed Furio with a glint of humor in his old cataract clouded eyes, "He can put you in harness next to him and show you what your new job entails. That way it is a smooth transition."
Furio felt his heart lurch in his chest at Turi's words and the look he had given him. Had the old Don somehow known that Valerio had been a part of Annalisa's execution? Somehow deep in his soul Furio felt yes, he did know, but for reasons of his own the old man said nothing and kept quiet.
Nothing was to be said about Furio's promotion until Valerio came back home, and Don Turi would announce it. Of course Furio had told Aria about it but told her to keep it quiet until it was publicly announced within the family. She was happy for him, because she knew this meant he would be here at the estate almost exclusively, and not running here and there doing enforcement jobs or putting himself in so much danger down in the city of Napoli.
Three days later around lunch time there was a knock on the door, Furio answered it and saw Valerio standing there, he looked weary and a bit more haggard but he had a rare smile in his eyes that Furio had not seen before. "Well, well, my friend." Furio teased him lightly and invited him in, "You have a wild time down there? Did you make it to the beach?"
"Yes I did indeed. Had some good drink, some good sex with some nice women and had one hell of a wild time." Valerio embraced Furio with a hard hug. "Boy, things are sure stirred up now in the city with the death of Annalisa, I tell you." He said coyly, "Whoever did that job, they sure did the Buccilla's a big favor. The Vittorio's are scrambling to make peace with us now." He winked slightly.
Furio pulled his friend inside to feed him lunch and wine, and Aria came out of the kitchen to give Valerio a hug. "Ciao Valerio, contento di vederti." She smiled at him.
"You're learning Italian well." He said in Italian as he hugged her back and gave her a kiss, "By the way, congratulations." Valerio winked at her privately, "When are you due?"
Valerio was hard to understand because his Italian was so peppered with Sicilian dialect but Aria waded through the best she could. "8 months." She smiled back. Aria then went into the kitchen to serve the two men lunch and give them privacy. At first she had been slightly miffed at the way Italian men always seemed to go off by themselves to discuss things never letting any women near them (or perhaps it was just the way of the men in this lifestyle) but it didn't bother her at all anymore. In fact she served both of them wine and fresh cappricio sandwiches for them, and then taking her own sandwich she winked at Furio letting him know she was giving them privacy and then she went outside to eat her lunch in the warm sunshine.
"As I said before," Valerio toasted Furio, "You are a lucky man. I can see how much she loves you. Congratulations, on your first child."
Furio grinned deeply a moment as he took a big bite of his cappricio, "And she can cook, she learns fast, both the language and how to cook." He winked.
Valerio's eye fell on the new ring on Furio's finger and he grinned deeply as well. "Now, I am glad you decided to accept the promotion." He said. "It makes me at peace and happy to know that someone with intelligence will be running things in the future."
"If it brings you peace Val, then it makes me happy." Furio said honestly, "Besides, it means I can work close to home, the wife is happy about that, and I must confess, now that I am not a young cugine anymore, I have no death wish either. Each day my own reflexes grow a bit more slow, eh?"
Valerio chuckled at that, "Perhaps, but I could think of no one finer I would want fighting at my side with." He drank some wine.
The men chatted about business and about life in general. Furio was truly sad that Valerio would be gone in less than a year, he really did like the man and wished he could have had more time to know him as a friend, but yet somehow they both felt as if they had known one another a lifetime.
As Furio listened to Valerio talking he glanced out the window and saw his beautiful wife Aria talking with Marta Casertano and Portia Vitelli. Aria looked so radiant and happy with her long red hair glistening in the sunlight, her hands dancing with excited energy as much as any Italian as she talked almost as exuberantly as the two old Italian ladies. Furio knew he was indeed home now, had a permanent and safe place here in the Buccilla famiglia. It was no longer the nest of the enemy, but his famiglia that he had pledged all to. His life had come full circle and he was back home in the country and culture he loved and had grown up with, but yet he was so much richer in his heart and soul for his experience in the U.S. After all he had come back with his soulmate and with a much finer appreciation for that which was here in Italy, the way true Camorrista's and Mafioso's were. With a smile he nodded at whatever it was Valerio was chatting amiably about, it mattered not. Furio Giunta was content and fulfilled now, at last.
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