ONE || Undying Loyalty
The unfamiliar country roads twisted and wound around hills. The rustic houses that littered the landscape didn’t appear to have been inhabited for years. Paint peeled off the plastic walls and the doors hung lopsidedly on their hinges. Even in the orange glow of the early morning sun the place was eerie - a ghost town. All the window shutters were tightly closed. If anyone did reside within the rundown buildings they didn’t want to be seen. Or didn’t want to see. The drive was slow over the dirt tracks, passing a barren vineyard. The trees were noticeably bare and grounds unattended to, weeds sprouted up through the dry soil. The country village was quiet and uncomfortably far from any other form of civilisation. It was certainly atmospheric and secluded. Unnecessarily secluded.
Icaro wasn’t sure where he was being taken as the driver had not said a word to him since he had entered the car. ‘A meeting with the boss’ was all he had been told. While wary, there was no other choice but to obey orders. If he was to be killed it would have been done by now but both men knew what this was. A test of loyalty. It didn’t have to be said. A situation like this had Don Tavano written all over it. Icaro supposed something of the same effect could have been done in the city, it would have saved a significant amount of time. However, the clan leader was very stuck in his ways and much more theatrical in running the organisation than was necessary. It was one of the many reasons the Tavano clan had fallen behind. The world moved on while the Don refused to, still employing war time methods.
There was no disagreeing with Don Tavano. Icaro had many conflicting ideas and plans for the clan yet had quickly learned not to voice them. Tavano didn’t take well to change, even if it was for the betterment of the clan. He had kept his mouth shut, building on his own ideas in the background. It was dangerous, it potentially put his life on the line were the Don to ever find out. The man was old fashioned, but he wasn’t stupid. Being born into the mafia Icaro had displayed nothing but undying loyalty to the clan from a young age. He was well known and well liked by many. Aside from Tavano and his circle of goons. Icaro had too much to say for Tavano’s liking. What the Don hated even more was when Icaro was right. For every success he had he could see it damaging Tavano’s fragile pride. It didn’t matter if it was good for the clan or not. It seemed to have to follow Tavano’s strict set of ideals, all of which were pushing the clan to an early grave.
While being one of the oldest, the Tavano clan was also one of the smallest clans within the Camorra. That left them weak, an easy target for neighboring clans. One too many times they had conceded their territory, running at the first sign of danger. It was almost a family, everyone knew each other and the only way you could join was if you were born into a trusted family. It was foolish, like something seen in a movie. Icaro could only watch as perfectly suitable young men were brought into other clans. It was a waste, so behind the Don’s back Icaro had started to recruit these men as his own. He didn’t pay much but people like them would do anything for a few euros.
It had crossed his mind that Tavano had found out about his little side project but Icaro doubted he would have made it this far if Tavano wanted him dead. There were much easier ways to go about something like that.
The car stopped. Icaro jolted upright, almost surprised by the motion. He was more on edge than he was admitting to himself. He caught the driver staring over his shoulder expectantly. Icaro took this as a signal to get out.
The sun was still low in the sky but the morning was already warm, perhaps too warm to warrant him wearing a suit. It was too big on him, a hand-me-down, and already felt stuffy. He would suffer more later on. For now he was spending whatever he earned on more important things, paying off picciotto being the biggest strain on his wallet.
Icaro shielded his eyes from the sun’s rays, frowning up at the building. It was a decrepit looking barn, much like the other structures in the area. This time the windows had been boarded up, rotting wood haphazardly nailed to the windows. There was an empty car already pulled up outside the building. Black, expensive and polished. The Don was waiting inside.
The smell of rot filled Icaro’s nostrils before he had even neared the door. It was disgustingly sweet and heavy enough that he could practically taste it in the back of his throat. It was difficult to swallow down the lump in his throat that had formed. He knew what kind of place this was and he certainly knew the stench of death.
It didn’t take him long to compose himself. He couldn’t afford to show any weakness or fear in front of Tavano. While he was worried about appearing suspicious before the Don it was also a matter of principle. Icaro had no such plan in cowering before the man, no matter what was thrown at him. Backing down now was impossible in his mind, not when success was within his reach.
Hesitantly he reached out to place his hand against the large wooden door. He sighed out, pushing it open slowly and stepping inside. The smell was worse than it was on the outside. Icaro could hear heavy, laboured breathing and the sound of flies buzzing past his ears. Momentarily, the darkness blinded him but it didn’t take long for his eyes to adjust, slowly starting to make out three figures and a fourth tied to a chair. The man was slumped forward. Bruised and beaten, unable to lift his head. Even then, Icaro was able to recognise the man as his father.
He stared a little too long, questions overflowing in his mind. His whole body had stiffened. Icaro’s thoughts had jumped to the worst conclusion. Tavano had found out. It was the only reasonable explanation that came to mind. His father had been interrogated, not that Icaro had shared anything with the man. He couldn’t possibly believe his vision hadn’t even been set in motion and it was already crumbling. Icaro barely registered Tavano’s voice addressing him.
“Do you know why you are here, Pirelli?” for a moment Icaro was unsure if Don was addressing him or his father by surname. It took Icaro some time to force his eyes off his father and up to Tavano only to find the Don staring back. The question had very clearly been for him.
“Apologies, Don Tavano,” Icaro bowed his head a little, feigning ignorance that he was sure Tavano would see right through. The man was old and frail looking now and certainly did not look the part of a mafia don. Although, Icaro knew more than anyone else that the man hadn’t kept his position out of respect and tradition alone. His body may have been failing but his mind was as sharp as ever. He was a stubborn old bastard but it made him ruthless. His thin, slouched figure wasn’t telling of the man. Nothing went on in the clan that he didn’t know about, unless you could outsmart him. Icaro was sure he had done just that so said nothing, acting ignorant.
“I was not told details,” he continued, maintaining a polite attitude. He wasn’t going to give Tavano the benefit of the doubt. One wrong move and it could all fall apart. Until Icaro was sure why he was here he would keep his mouth firmly sealed on the matter of his side project.
“You don’t know why you’re here?” Tavano hummed and shook his head. Icaro figured he was being interrogated now, although repeating the same question wasn’t as intimidating as Tavano had wanted it to be. Icaro just shook his head in response, silently staring the Don down. The older man didn’t seem impressed with Icaro’s confidence.
“Your father has been selling out members of the clan,” Tavano explained simply. Icaro let his eyes wander back down to the broken form of the captive. It took a moment for his mind to process the Don’s words. Part of him was relieved. After all, he had worked hard to keep his plans from unravelling and being torn apart by Tavano. Yet another part of him felt betrayed, by his own father nonetheless.
“Che?” was the only word that escaped his mouth in a tone of genuine confusion. Once the initial shock had passed it had all started to click together, “The arrests?”
Over the last few weeks, multiple clan members had been caught by the police. Many were doing incriminating activities at the time of their arrest. Tipped off by an anonymous citizen, the police had said. Of course, Icaro had suspected it was someone within the clan, he just never expected it to be his own father. It made his stomach churn when Tavano nodded. Icaro already knew what he was going to be asked to do. A sick ploy to get rid of him because he was threatening Tavano’s position too much.
Icaro was only in this position because his father couldn’t keep his mouth shut. He couldn’t bring himself to care what the rewards were. Freedom, protection or money. None of it mattered all that much because good men, useful men had been imprisoned. Now Icaro was in a situation where everything was going to fall apart before his eyes. He would be killed too if he didn’t obey Tavano’s orders.
“He had nothing interesting to say. Just the usual story. A man trying to protect his family,” Tavano practically sneered. Icaro couldn’t quite agree. It was a man trying to protect himself and now he had dragged his own son into the mess he had created. It made Icaro resent him but he didn’t think it was enough to go through with it.
“I find it hard to believe you were ignorant to this, Pirelli,” Tavano continued, the same smugness to his tone that Icaro so detested. He thought he had won. Icaro desperately wanted to prove him wrong but was unsure he had the resolve to, “You knew nothing?”
“No, signore,” Icaro replied tightly, his jaw set in an attempt to remain composed. He wasn’t sure who he should resent more in the moment, “I have been nothing but loyal to the Tavano clan.”
“Then you will have no problem proving it,” Tavano said, the words Icaro had been waiting to hear. It still made his stomach drop, nausea threatening to overcome him, “Kill him.”
One of Tavano’s lackeys approached, pulling out a pistol that Icaro instinctively recoiled from. He took a step back before steading himself. The weapon was pressed into his hand. For a moment he considered shooting Tavano and being done with it then and there. It was too soon and too dangerous. The second Icaro would have raised the gun to Tavano he would have been shot down too by the two thugs Tavano had brought as protection.
He could feel his hands trembling and had to clutch the grip until his knuckles turned white for fear that he might drop it. Now had to be the time for his father to muster up the energy to raise his head.
”Figlio, please,” his voice cracked when he spoke. It was almost inaudible, barely a whisper. It made Icaro’s chest feel tight and forced his gaze to the ground below.
He had faltered, his arms unable to lift up the gun. After he had tried so hard and came so close to taking over the clan. He couldn’t quite believe he was going to fail now. Everything he had worked for was starting to come apart and it wasn’t even his own doing. His father’s selfishness had backed him up against a wall and put him right at Tavano’s mercy. The Don was not a merciful man.
Icaro swallowed thickly. He didn’t want to fail. He didn’t want to give Tavano what he wanted. But his arm felt heavy as he raised the gun, pointing it between his father's eyes. He had nothing to say. The fear he had seen in his father’s eyes was almost enough to stop him. He could barely keep his hand steady.
“If you can’t kill this traitor then…” Tavano sounded mocking. Icaro clenched his teeth together. Raising his gaze again to look the traitor in the eyes. He pulled the trigger before Tavano could even finish his sentence.
The sound of the gun made Icaro feel like his heart had stopped. For a moment silence had fallen in the room, the only sound was the occasional drop of blood falling to the ground from the grotesque hole between his father's eyes. He swallowed down the bile that was threatening to rise in his throat and forced his gaze up to Tavano, who looked just as shocked as Icaro felt. Whatever victory Icaro had gotten over the Don he didn’t enjoy it.
Numbly Icaro offered the gun back to the man who had presented it to him. It wasn’t long before he found himself staring at the fresh corpse again. The corpse of a traitor, nothing more. Yet, even when he looked away he couldn’t quite burn the image from his mind. He thought he could hear his father's voice pleading with him one last time.
“Good,” Tavano congratulated, although it didn’t sound like praise. His voice was tight and almost annoyed sounding. He hadn’t expected Icaro to go through with it, “You can clean this up then. There’s a shovel in the back of the car, your driver will take you to a good spot.”
“Yes, Don Tavano,” Icaro nodded, although he didn't manage to look back up at the man. The sight was so horrific that he couldn’t quite tear his eyes away from it. The door had opened behind him as the trio of men left, fully highlighting the scene before him with the sun’s rays.
The door swung shut shortly after, shrouding the room in darkness once more. Icaro’s knees gave out beneath him. His trembling figure dropped to the floor. Even then, he couldn’t quite look away from the sight before him.