“What’s going on here? Whose house is this?” Cedric asked, bewildered by everything that had just happened.
“I’m going to show you my memories. The past. Ten years into my past exactly.” Melina said, “This is what happened on the night my family and I, got murdered.”
“Wait, you were also murdered on that night! We never found your body. What did they do with it?”
Melina didn’t answer, but instead pressed her thumbs, forefingers and pinkies together. The stress on her face hinted that whatever she was doing was either painful in some way, or required profuse concentration. The fact that she was not a physical entity probably meant that the latter was more likely to be true, Cedric thought.
The air itself shook violently and shot off random shock waves in all directions. The shock waves didn’t seem to affect the matter around them, but came together to form a person. Then the past played itself before Cedric and Malina’s eyes, like the most immersive film ever. Sight, sound and smell bombarded Cedric’s senses as he experienced the vision before him. Melina was quiet, as she refrained from commenting on the events that unfolded. From the peripheral Cedric could see Melina’s stance. Her head was down and her shoulders hung slightly forward. Maybe she had emotions after all, Cedric thought.
He turned his attention to the scene playing out in front of him, Grace, Melina’s mother, was in the kitchen preparing the dinner table. She dished up three plates of food, then called Melina, and her brother, Marcel, downstairs to the dinner table. Barely five seconds later they heard footsteps running down the stairs, and watched as the two siblings happily enter the kitchen, vying to be first at the table. Melina and Marcel were about the same height with her brother only topping her by an inch or so. He seemed a little older as well, but Cedric couldn’t be too sure about that.
“How many times must I tell you two to not run up and down the stairs. Do you want to fall and break your necks before you listen?” Grace snapped, in a rather harsh but placated manner.
“Sorry, mother, we’re just hungry, plus the food smells delicious,” Melina said.
It did look and smell delicious, Cedric thought to himself. It smelled like the pot on the stove was concealing some stew.
“Are we eating alone again, Mother?” Marcel asked when he sat down at the table.
“Your father seems to be working late again.” Grace said, as she dished up the chicken.
“We may be just children, mother,” Marcel said, “but we are not dumb, we know what he does.”
Grace was a bit shocked to hear Marcel speak these words at first, but her expression eased quickly.
“I’m not even going to try and deny it.” Grace said, as she placed another piece of chicken in Marcel’s plate. “Whether the two of you knew what is really going on with your father has always been a question floating around in the back of my mind.”
“It’s not awfully difficult to put the pieces together, mother. Dad has a well paying job, but we never have money, and he always comes home late drunk,” Melina said. Grace nodded.
“Yeah, when we were younger we never understood why dad was always so clumsy when he came home at night.” Marcel said.
“I should have known that you knew, but let’s just pretend that he’s working late. Ignorance certainly is bliss,” Grace said.
Melina and Marcel looked at each other and shrugged. They obviously didn’t understand the love spell their mother was under.
Just as she was about to sit down, Melina saw three large black cars stop outside their house, not one of them were her father’s car.
Three men got out of the first car, all were armed with an Uzi. They stood and stared at the house, like they were appraising it. Their low placed fedoras threw dark shadows on their faces, but it was obvious that they had malicious intent. Melina could see that these men weren’t a gay bunch on a social visit.
“There are men outside, mother, they have guns!” Melina said with panic in her voice.
At this moment Cedric stepped towards the window and saw three black mercs in the driveway. The three armed men staring at the house were a dead give away that these guys were Mafia gangsters. They were your typical la familia, virgin worshipping, cold killers.
Grace, and Marcel peeked out and noticed them as well.
Grace knelt down and grabbed hold of the children and brought them down to her level. The desperate look in their mother’s eyes confirmed to the children that the danger that both of them were sensing were real.
“Children, listen to me now,” Grace said, calmly. Her tone was mollified, but her visage spoke a different story. “Go down into the basement, hide, and whatever happens, do not come out.”
“These people don’t look friendly at all, mother. Are they here to hurt us?” Melina asked. Her voice was panicked, and rightly so.
“Don’t let your mind wander on those thoughts, Melina. I promise I will not allow them to touch a hair on your head.” Grace said, as she guided Melina, and Marcel to the basement door. “Now go, Marcel will take care of you.”
“No, mother, come with us. Let them think that no one is home.” Melina pleaded, in vain.
“Melina, don’t be afraid, I will take care of you.” Marcel said, as he had to force a reluctant Melina down the stairs.
Grace stood up and saw three men walking to the door, another three men were standing by the car, they knocked on the door loud and forcefully.
“Who is it?!” Grace asked as she placed the three plates in the oven. The doorknob turned, and one of the men came in. It was a tall man with a sturdy frame. His dark grey suit had vertical pin stripes which ran from the collar, all the way to the bottom of his pants. His fedora casted a dark shadow on his face, but Cedric had an eerie feeling that he knew who the man was. But why would a man like that have any interest in a family living on a farm far away from the city which he controlled?
“You should really lock your doors, madam.” the gangster said as he entered. He spoke with an articulated voice, “The world is full of dangerous and nefarious individuals.” he went to sit on a chair, and placed his fedora on the table.
When the light finally revealed his face, Cedric couldn’t believe that the notorious gangster commonly known as Vito actually had interests with a rural family far away from the city.
Two of his men also stepped in and stood behind him, by the door. Each armed with an Uzi directed directly at Grace.
“Beautiful country house you have here,” Vito said, observing the interior, “I’ve always wanted to live on the country side, such a peaceful life, away from all the ado of the city.”
“What do you want?” Grace asked. She inched closer to the knife drawer.
“Straight to the point,huh? Small talk isn’t really my thing either.” Vito said, followed by a single scoff. “Are you, Benson’s wife?”
“What has he done now?” Grace asked with a sigh. The gangster nodded at a scrawny looking gangster, which in turn whistled and gestured to one of the gangsters standing at the car.
“Your husband has been a bad man, he failed to meet our ... agreement, and instead tried to flee.” Vito said.
Through the window Grace saw the gangster outside open the boot and pull out a blindfolded man. It was Benson. He was easily identifiable by the ridiculous yellow toed dress shoes of his. He was gagged and his clothes were bloodstained.
They dragged him to the house like a life sized rag doll. He made flimsy attempts to get to his own feet, but seemed to weakened to succeed.
Grace watched on as a clean cut gangster bring her husband inside the house, blindfolded, tied and gagged.
Cedric watched on in complete horror as his friend and former partner man handled Benson into the house.
“Can this be real?” Cedric asked. “Did the Mafia really have Rocco in their back pocket?”
“These events are real, Cedric. No one can manipulate reality. Your friend had a lucrative agreement with the Mafia. Your friend was never what you thought he was. You were illusioned by him.”
Benson’s face was swollen, the gag in his mouth was stained red from the blood. He also had a limp. Rocco took out his gag and threw Benson on the ground, he fell hard, and started to sob.
Grace felt no pity for him as he laid battered and crying on the floor. Her only concern were her two children hiding down in the basement.
“Grace? Please give these people all the money we have,” Benson shamelessly cried out. The gangsters started laughing.
“He slept with the finest prostitutes at our expense, and when the time comes to pay his dues he cries to his wife for help. Pitiful!” Vito said.
“He is a pitiful bastard.” another gangster said standing by the door.
“Hey, Franky take off his blindfold so his wife can see his pitiful face.” the seated gangster said.
Franky stepped forward and ripped the blindfold off Benson’s eyes. His eyes were black and swollen, his left eye was swollen shut, and he was missing more than one tooth.
“Why are you just standing there? Give these gentlemen their money!” Benson cried out.
Benson has always been an impudent man, it surprised Grace little to see that not even his impudent nature ceased, under the circumstances.
“I have money hidden in the entrance, may I go get it?” Grace asked. She didn’t want to give them the money for Benson’s sake, but solely for her children’s. She knew the men would leave if they received their money.
“Instruct, Franky where it is.” the seated gangster said.
A short and scrawny gangster sprang to life when the gangster spoke his name. His way of dress was incongruous. His pants were slim and his spotted tie hung just below his belt.
“Under the plank, on the seventh step.” Grace said.
“Go get it, Franky.” Vito instructed with a wave of a finger.
“No problem, Mr Vito!” Franky said, and headed to the staircase with a bit of a bounce. From a distance, one could hear Franky count each step he ascended.
Grace was never interested in what goes on in the city, but even she recognised the name, Vito. He was known all over as a ruthless Mafia boss. Even though he was a known gangster, the police could never tie him to any crimes.
“There’s a lock, boss.” Franky came in and placed the box on the table.
Grace took off one of her necklaces, there was a key attached to it. She handed the key to Franky which hastily opened the box. There were stacked notes inside.
“Five thousand, cash, that is all we have. Now if you gentlemen would excuse us my husband and I would like to have our dinner in peace.”
“Good.” Vito said as he took out his pistol from its holster under his jacket and shot Franky in the head, right between the eyes. Smoke oozed from the pistol, and Vito attentively watched as it evaporate into the air. Deadly silence filled the room for a few seconds. Everyone, including Vito’s henchmen, were relieved when Vito placed the pistol back in its holster.
“The wise-guy said my name fellas, you know what that means,” Vito said.
“Now we have loose ends, boss.” Rocco said. “A family tragically murdered, slaughtered by unknown assailants!” the rest of the gangsters laughed.
“I gave you the money, now leave us be!” Grace shouted, angrily.
“I don’t remember saying that. Do you remember me making such an arrangement, fellas?!” Vito asked.
“Heard no such thing, boss.” Rocco said.
“We will keep quiet about all this, I promise you. Please, leave us be.” Grace desperately pleaded.
“I did make an arrangement with your dear husband, though.” He looked at Benson laying on the ground. “Tell your wife what I told you I’d do to you if you tried to double cross me, Benson.”
“Please, I will pay you the rest back soon, every cent, Vito, plus interest, I promise. Please just...” Benson started crying again.
“You’re wasting my time, Benson,” Vito said, as he placed his hat back on and stood up. “Make it quick fellas, we have other business to attend to.” Vito, left the house and climbed in the back of one of the cars and the car drove away.
“Now, boys.” Rocco said as he went to sit where Vito was sitting. “There’s someone down in the basement, go get them so we can end this.” Grace ran to the basement door, and blocked it.
“I implore you gentlemen to leave, please, I beg of you. We are a meagre family with not much need, but life.”
“How about we just kill Benson,” said a gangster who has been quiet this whole time. “We can leave the woman, she promised she wouldn’t tell no one.” Rocco turned and aimed his Uzi at him.
“What’s your name?” Rocco asked.
“Demario,” Demario said, nervously.
“Demario, go get the people downstairs, or end up like Franky.” Demario nodded and gently shoved Grace from in front of the basement door.
Then the scene stopped, and the house degraded again.