1. Newcomers in Town
The arrival of a car with tinted windows at the Rosario Ranch caused so much fear in the small town in Oklahoma. Neighbours passed around word that two new young faces had dropped by with their suit cases at Piero Rosario’s ranch. No one could see Piero except on Sundays at the local church where no one but the priest shook hands with him and that was his only point of contact with the citizens of the small town.
Piero Rosario was a wealthy and powerful man in his 30s who everyone feared in the small town. But laid low. His income was said to be from a whiskey plant in the outerskirts of the town as well as his own Cider making business that had many customers or so people guessed. He had many visitors on daily basis who were not locals. Normally they arrived in cars with tinted windows and funnily enough all his visitors were men in suits.
Locals knew to keep away and never show any signs of curiosity towards the activities at Piero’s ranch.
A few store keepers years ago had become too curious about the household and had confronted Piero and reported him to the police in front of him. Needless to say no charges were ever pressed against Piero Rosario and of course those who had dared call the police ended up on the missing list.
On another occasion months ago, gun shots were heard being fired at the Rosario Ranch property and again the police were called to the scene. Ultimately nothing suspicious was found and the police returned was not able to press ant charges. Seemingly, Piero Rosario had calmly asked the police to reveal who had made the call to report him and fearing for their lives police had revealed it was his next door neighbour who had reported him. The entire family living next to Piero Rosario’s ranch had disappeared over night and their dead bodies were found in New Jersey days later.
Unexpected incidents happening over time to those ever crossing Piero Rosario intensified the fearful atmosphere of the small town and everyone knew that who ever tried crossing this family was going to meet their maker.
Now the old man Piero had young guests that many people were concerned for. The boys did not seem to be older than 14 and 15. Surely someone had to intervene to help save the youngsters before they became victims of Piero somehow. However, luckily for the locals the boys moved to the small town on a Sunday which only meant Piero Rosario was going to be in church and so some of the men in suits that normally accompanied him too. People of the town were hoping he would bring the boys with him to church so at least the priest could make some enquiries and check up on them since calling the social services was out of question.
The locals were not disappointed. Exactly at the usual time Piero’s car with tinted windows pulled in front of the church and he got off. Another car with tinted windows followed shortly after and the two young boys left the car. Of course the usual men in suits follwoed them into the church. But the locals were relieved the boys were safe.
After the service at the church finished, Father Rwan walked to Piero Rosario and whispered. “May I have a word with you privately after all the attendees leave.”
Piero Rosario shrugged “Of course Father. I was going to also speak to you about a donation I was going to make to your church to buy a new piano. Your current one seems very old. I would remain behind but my nephews and my business partners also need to remain behind. Please don’t take too long. I wish to take my nephews to the main market to get them some necessities for their rooms. Well, they arrived only today and they are to stay with me indefinitely since their father ..... is not around much these days due to business commitments.”
As Piero said this one of the youngsters laughed. Father Rwan was startled and looked up. his church was now empty and only the youngsters and Piero’s men were present.
Piero turned to the youngster and frowned “Watch your manners Francesco. You are in a church.” He then turned to Father Rwan “I am sorry. Let me introduce you to my nephews, Francesco who is 15 and Costanzo who just turned 14 a few days ago. You will be seeing them every sunday at the church and hopefully Francesco wouldn’t ever cause any problems. Will you Francesco.”
Francesco smiled and shook his head “No. Of course not uncle Piero. I just laughed since I found your choice of words for our father’s absence interesting.” He then turned to Costanzo and spoke “You have got to agree.”
Costanzo paled as he saw his uncles hardened expression staring at him and whispered “Francesco..... Say no more. You are displeasing uncle.”
Francesco sighed and murmured “Always the law abiding one.” He then saw his uncles cold stare and his smile dropped and kept quiet.”
Piero turned to the Father Rwan “Now that these youngsters have stopped interrupting, please state why you wished to speak with me.”
Father Rwan looked nervous. He was not sure how to put this. Piero Rosario was the most anti social man in this small town. But he had to try for the sake of checking up on the well being of these youngsters to find a way to get Piero to open up his walls. He cleared his throat and spoke carefully “Well. I was hoping to interest you in joining me and many other members of the community for a feast at the main hall of this town today and in the coming weeks every sunday. There are some new residents who have arrived to live here in the past fortnight as you know due to the opening of the new hospital. The staff working at the hospital are all new residents and don’t know anyone in this town. Every sunday, there will be feasts at the main hall to help integrate these new families into our community. They are mainly doctors and nurses and good citizens. We need to make them feel welcome to encourage them to remain in our town. So please if you don’t mind accept this invitation to attend as a valued member of this community.”
To the surprise of Father Rwan, Piero smiled brightly “I am very happy that there are some honourable men like you Father Rwan that show respect to the valued members of this community. Sadly I have to refuse but I would send my nephews on my behalf every week to this weekly gathering or feast or whatever its called.”
Francesco spoke with fury “I don’t wish to go to any gathering. Uncle Piero... my father gave you instructions to keep us safe. A night time feast is too big a risk.”
Piero turned to Francesco “Watch your words young man. My ... partners would accompany you every night. No one would touch you and your brother in this town. I have my men housed in many safe houses surrounding this town. They are well equipped and would report to me any suspicious activity they spot before anyone can reach the town centre. Besides you have to leave the house at some point. You must go to school which is in walking distance. Don’t even think about remaining at the house to be home schooled. There is no way I am putting up with the two of you twenty four hours a day. In case your father didn’t tell you, I hate teenagers otherwise I would have had children of my own.”
Costanzo looked concerned “Uncle. Do you think its safe that the priest heard all this? What if he does anything to threaten our safety knowing you have men stationed in safe houses surrounding the town.”
Father Rwan thought that was it. That was the moment death was going to greet him. But then Piero turned to the priest with a soft expression “Forgive my nephews, Father Rwan for their poor manners. Their father hasnt taught them anything. I bet its their first time attending church. They most likely don’t know that anything said to a priest remains confidential and a priest never discloses any secrets he hears to a soul. I would have a word with them when I return to my mansion. Hopefully they would learn to be more respectful from now on. If there is anything you need Father, drop me a letter at the gate and I would get back to you. Farewell Father Rwan. ” He then without another word turned around and walked to the exit of the church. His partners and the two boys also followed him. But Father Rwan did not miss the threatening look that Francesco gave him when he glanced backwards before they left.