Yesterday, I took a day off... which means that I was busy as hell! But it was time well spent. I was in Virginia City again. I didn't take my camera, but if I had I would not have had much time to take any pictures. I spent the entire afternoon and part of the evening in a tiny room in an old house (almost all the houses in VC are old) I was talking to a guy that is an amazing poet and song writer. He has had a full life and met some of America's most celebrated heroes. Now he wants to market some of his poetry. He has over 140,000 poems, which even for a poet is a lot of material. He has never actually met someone like me. I didn't fawn all over his recitations. I didn't praise his work. I did praise his ability to speak well and to present his material well and I did tell him that his poetry was good. It is good, really good. But I'm not the fawning type. I was broken of that long ago when I was in the Way Corps. I don't usually show a lot of emotion, except in private to personal friends. So this guy, his name is Jim, he spent a lot of time trying to get a reaction out of me. It was in vain. I was there to help him focus his abilities and to help him make a decision on what it is he wants to do, and by extension what he would like me to do for him in regards to his work. After many hours, I think that we came to some conclusions. I can however see that this is going to be one of those roads that is hard won. It will be worth it in the end, but it's not going to be an easy row to hoe.
Because of that little excursion I did not get a blog written. So today I am giving you the next chapter in a book that I am calling, either The Italian Affair or The Family Affair. I haven't decided yet. This next chapter, if you recall, Cali has entered the brothel and things are not as smooth as they should be. From the opening paragraph this chapter kind of just wrote itself. I hope you like it. //////
Slowly, reluctantly the employees of the family Vinccencio started to stream into the room. Lavender was the scent of the day for man and woman alike. It was not unpleasant. They were all waiting on her. Was she meant to make some kind of announcement? They thought that she was there to render some kind of verdict on them. But, they were vagrants, unless… for some reason they were stuck here, all of them, whores and employees alike. Cali tried not to let her thoughts change her facial expressions. If they were all residents here, then she could understand why she would be seen as a judge and executioner. Had they all been abandoned and left to rot? She had been under the impression that this was just a whore house. Employees came and made use of the facilities and then returned to work. But she had been wrong. That’s why they now had a wall and an inner compound and why Nickola, a man who was in the good graces of the Vinccencio family did not know about it. This is not what he had expected either… or what Angela had expected. How can that be? Right now, Cali knew, that she was alive because she represented some kind of hope for these people. Death would be welcomed by most. For the rest, they would be happy if they were simply forgotten, and left to live as they wanted without the yoke of the family on their necks. Unfortunately, she did not have the power to make any major decisions, but she did have the power to influence any future for this place and these people. That is… if Angela is actually in control, like I’m thinking that she is.
Cali let her vision take them all in. They had all bathed and changed into clean clothing. They still looked like ragamuffins, but they had made an effort. Her eyes stopped on Umberto. “Thank you” He inclined his head slightly and a quirk of a smile played at the corner of his mouth. Her words returned to him the honor that she had stolen in the courtyard. “I need to inspect the house and everyone that lives here.” Nickola translated for her.
Several people shifted nervously. Many looked at Umberto for guidance. He seemed reluctant to speak. The eyes of his people urged him on. He spoke to Nickola, but he never took his eyes off of Cali.
“He… they wish to know if you will give them… freedom?” Once again, Nickola was not certain of the translation. But, there was no time to try again as others were talking again, and Umberto seemed to be having an argument with some of them.
Cali held up her hand. The room fell silent. She glanced at Nickola, giving him a chance to explain what he could of what had just happened.
“They are afraid. I don’t know how much you know of what has happened here, not here in this house, but here in this country. The return of…your sister…” He was trying to say Ben and Angela without saying their names. Cali got it and urged him to continue. “There was a… struggle for control. Many people were… banished… umm… killed. There were many…” He used his hands to try and express that there had been a power struggle between more than just two factions. “These people here… worked for a loser.”
She looked around the room again. Eyes that had seemed dead before, now held a mixture of fear and hope. “Do you know who put them here?”
“Yes, well… most of them… but he is no longer in power either.”
“That’s how this has slipped through the cracks.” He nodded. “You did not expect this either. Did you?” He twitched his head just enough to indicate that he had not, which meant that Angela had not either. Cali had guessed correctly. “They’re hoping that since I am here, I will welcome them back into the fold, or set them free?”
Cali had to think quickly. This situation had nothing to do with why she was here. “Tell them…” She looked around at how many faces changed, a faint increase in hope came into their eyes when she began to speak. Lord how do I get myself into these things? Suddenly a thought came to mind. She turned and looked at Nickola. “The guards, at the station, do they belong to my sister?”
He hesitated. He had to think. “I don’t think so. They… I don’t think so.”
“They could be calling their boss right now. This could be a death trap for us all.”
Nickola’s forehead creased. He began to nod. “Yes, you could be correct.”
“Okay, hold that thought. Tell them… I need to make a phone call. But, don’t tell them why. They can see that we are suddenly concerned.” She glanced at her audience. “I’m going to step outside and make this call. Please, give me some privacy.” She tried to look confident as she stepped out the side door.
The phone rang a half dozen times before Angela picked it up. “I didn’t expect to hear from you. Is something wrong?”
“You’re damn straight something is wrong.” Cali’s words were not matched by her expression. She did not want to alarm anyone more than she already had. This situation was a powder keg and she was holding a torch.
“We can speak freely. What is it?”
“Why didn’t you tell me that the family is fractured? And what exactly are you in charge of?”
Angela let out a long breath. “I had hoped that you could finish your business and not get caught up in the mess. But, clearly that has not happened. Why don’t you tell me the problem that you have right now, and we can discuss the big picture later?”
Cali laughed. It was a ruse. “Oh my God, Angela. Do you have any idea what is going on out here in the middle of this farm or whatever it is? These people, all of them are being held captive here. The guard shack down the road is acting as a gate house, keeping people in and keeping people out…oh and by the way, we don’t think that they are really taking orders from you. If we’re wrong, we would sure like to know about it.”
“What are you saying?” Distress was clear in her voice. “The brothel is what it has always been. It is a place where employees may relax for a time before returning to work. It is a reward. It is harsh there yes, of course it is. There are a few people there that are not in the highest of esteem right now… but… what you are saying is not possible.”
Cali listened to her friend. Angela had been fed a lie and since no-one had told her any different she saw no need to look into it. “Angela, you have a young boy here, a young American boy, who has not been here long enough to learn Italian. This place is a prison, and let me tell you, the inmates are not happy people.”
“But, what are you saying?” She needed a moment to think. “You need to get out of there. Now Cali, you need to get out.”
“Hmmm Ang, I see a problem with that idea. Even if the inmates let us out, I don’t think the guys in the gas station will. Did you know that they built a wall around the house that even Nickola didn’t know about?”
Again Angela sighed heavily. “Oh my God, what have I sent you into?”
“I told you, it’s a prison. But… I think that I can talk my way out of here, if I have your permission to grant some leniency to some of these people. It’s the station that I’m concerned with.”
“Uhh, of course, yes… I trust your judgment. If I’m understanding you correctly, the people there are being shut away because they were loyal to someone, but who…?”
“I think that some were loyal to you, but not all. What’s important is that they are all looking to me for help, for now. Whoever owns the men at the guard house, they’re the problem. Can you deal with them while I try to fix a few things in here?”
“Yes… yes, I can deal with it. Hang on, it may take a couple of hours. It’s not like you’re in the house next door. Cali, Nickola will keep you safe…” Her words trailed off. “I’m sorry, I…”
“Listen, don’t worry about it. Nickola and I will be fine. In fact, I think that I can muster my own little army in here, on this side ofthe wall. Just make sure that you honor what I tell these people.”
“Are you kidding, if they keep you safe from harm… any harm, from within, or without… I will honor whatever you tell them.”
Cali smiled for real this time. “Thank you, I can use that.”
Angela let out a relieved breath. “Good, I will have men on the way in less than 5 minutes.”
“Thanks, we’ll be here waiting for the Cavalry.”
“We don’t have the Cavalry in Italy.”
“You do today.”
Angela let out a small laugh. “I love you my sister.”
“I love you too… my sister.” She had new resolve and higher hopes for a positive outcome when she hung up the phone. The atmosphere inside had turned a bit sour since she had walked out, but when she walked in with a smile on her face, she seemed to bring the sunshine with her. “Alright Nickola, help is on the way. But... in the meantime, just follow my lead.” He didn’t need to answer her whispered comment. He just nodded. “Ask them if they know who the guys at the gas station work for.”
Nickola asked the question and Umberto began to laugh. His answer was spoken between guffaws.
“He said that he is happy that they don’t work for Ms. Vinccencio. But, not everyone here was in her employ. He is pleased that you noticed… I mean about the gas station men.”
“The power struggle is far from over. You have been left here to rot, by someone other than Angela Vinccencio. If you stand by me now, I can offer you your choice, freedom or employment under Angela.”
There was a great deal of discussion after her announcement. Of them all, only Ettore remained silent. His gaze could have cut through steel.
“Everyone says that they will stand by you for a chance to make a choice.”
“What of you boy?” She looked down at Ettore. His gaze did not change when he nodded. “Good, then we will stand together. Nickola make ready to defend this place. Take with you anyone that wants to fight. If they have weapons then find a way to make use of them.”
“And if I may ask, what will you be doing?”
“I still want to check this place out. Ask them who’s been here the longest?” She knew it would be a woman, one that would not want to fight. The woman’s name was, Gioia. It meant Joy in Italian. She had been born here. Her mother had been a whore. She had dreamed of a better life for her Joy. Gioia, had never been outside these walls. One good thing, was that she understood English if you spoke slowly… or so she claimed.
Cali reassured Nickola that she would be fine and set off for a house tour with Gioia in the lead and Ettore trailing behind the woman. Cali came up the rear. Finally away from the great crowd of negative people the ghosts could be seen. Their energy was no longer dwarfed by the living.
As she suspected most of the ghosts were women. In general, they were unhappy. But, she still didn’t have enough information to make any assessments of the ghosts. She wasn’t here to assess ghosts. She was looking for one in particular. Still, she couldn’t help her curiosity. “How many of the women here are volunteers, I mean before the Vinccencio battle?”
“Uhm, most… many… no… most, si most.” Her pronunciation was horrible and her sentence construction was still Latin in style, but Cali got the gist. She knew enough Spanish from Connie that it wasn’t difficult to understand the accented words, or the occasional Italian substitution.
“What about you. Did you volunteer?”
Gioia seemed genuinely confused by the question. Cali rephrased it several ways before Gioia understood the question. “Me… home, here only. No other place a go.”
She showed her every room. Most had at least one ghost in them, several had multiple ghosts. But, so far none of the ghosts looked like they were discontent, like they wanted to leave. All of the women that she had seen before, had their own rooms. They finally came to the back of the house. The women that worked back here, or lived back here, did not come to the front of the house. Most that lived back here stayed here because they had small children, and this is where they were kept. There were about a dozen small children, ranging from infant to about 8. Right now all of but the infant were in a side yard playing. There were 7 mothers, one mother had two children. Besides these 7, there were 2 others that lived back here. One was a woman that had accidently been shot, in a drunken dispute. She was still recovering. The other was a woman that lost her mind after receiving a severe beating. Cali was surprised, there were no old women here and no teenage women either.
“Where are the old women?”
Gioia got a sad look on her face. “In trees” She pointed out towards the back of the house.
“And the teenagers.” Again Cali needed to describe what she was asking several times before Gioia was able to answer her.
“Gone… take…men… take.” She looked around at the living area of the back of the house. This had been where she had grown up. “Take many.” A tear rolled down her cheek. “Kill many. My son, kill. My son, trees.” Her gaze went to a window. All of the windows looked out at the wall, but for Gioia, the wall was transparent.
In this area of the house the ghosts were different. They seemed to carry a larger burden. She looked carefully into each room. Lilly was not here. “Gioia, do you remember a woman, an American, named Lilly?”
Gioia looked at Cali like she had just asked for fart flavored ice cream. The question had surprised her. Finally, she nodded. “I remember.”
“Can you tell me what she was like?”
“Lilly mother you?”
“No, she was not my mother.” Cali couldn’t help the revulsion in her voice.
“Good” Gioia, also allowed her dislike to be heard in the tone of her voice. “Lilly, stupida… not smart. She angry e fight, sempre…always… fight. She see no her…” She floundered for the right word and began to pani-mime, one hand over the other. First pointing at Cali and putting her hand high, and then pointing to herself and putting her hand lower, finally pointing at Ettore and putting her hand even lower. “Her…”
“Place…” She felt the word in her mouth, and slowly she began to nod. “Yes, she see no her place here. Lilly make problemi for all. Many puneri…” Again she floundered.
Ettore knew this word and supplied it. “Punished”
Gioia had to think about the word before she repeated it and plowed on. “Punished per… uhh… for she. Stupida donna!”
“Yes, well I suppose there is something to be said for consistency.” Cali looked at the ghosts. Most were women, and most seemed… new. She turned to Ettore. “What happened here? Recently I mean.”
He cocked his head to the side. He was assessing her. “I don’t understand it all. My Italian is horrible… but… some men came here. They brought some of us with them. Some women and some of the others. We’re all stuck here. You got that much right? You may be stuck here too. At least you might be one of those in charge. That will depend on the others… if they want you in charge. Honestly, I think that your handicap is that you can’t speak Italian. You’re a foreigner. Like me. You may be on top now. But it won’t last long. Everyone’s stuck here. But some of ‘em take it out on others. Do you see?”
It was as she had figured. One faction was using this place as a prison, leaving Angela’s faction in the dark. She had walked in unaware and if they had their way, she would not leave. It was a good thing that they were unable to block her cell phone, or they just hadn’t thought of it. “I see. But why are you here?”
For the first time since first seeing the boy, she saw something other than malice in his eyes. “I was out late with my friends. I was supposed to be at home. But I snuck out. We got jumped just outside the arcade. I thought the men belonged to my dad. But… they laughed at me when I told them that he’d make them pay if they hurt me.” His voice broke with emotion. “I think they killed Brad and Jaz.” He whimpered and a tear formed. He took a deep breath and brushed the tear and the weakness from his face. When he looked at Cali again his eyes blazed. “I was drugged and I woke up here. I don’t know where here is. Italy I guess.” He dared her to ask another question.
Cali had no need for more questions. He had answered the mall, well… all but one. “Before you were knocked out, do you remember hearing any names?”
The question confused him and angered him. She didn’t care about him at all. She just wanted to know who was really in charge. “Look, I told you all I know! You just want to know who’s really in charge. I can tell you this… it’s not you!” He snarled at her.
She smiled. “Don’t be so sure about that, young man.” She glanced up just in time to see a ghost, a young ghost of a young woman trying to get her attention. So, they’ve been listening. Cali took a step towards the ghost. Others came closer. As they closed in behind her, the voice of Ettore became muffled. He was trying to get her angry. His words were increasingly profane and desperate. But Cali was not listening. The ghost in front of her seemed at peace. But if she was truly at peace, she would not be here. The ghost floated into a room. Cali followed. The door slammed shut behind her and the ghost turned on her like a rabid dog. Cali was startled by the sudden change, but if the ghost was looking for fear, she was looking in the wrong place.
////// I admit it's both a little difficult and exciting to try and write a little in Italian. Let me know what you think of the direction that I am taking this chapter.
I'm still having some trouble seeing comments. But, I'll get to the bottom of it. Don't be discouraged if you have written a comment and I have not responded. The number of comments keeps going up but I've only seen 3 in the past week. They don't correspond.
Live well and be good to each other.