Chapter Twenty-one. It's a long one, but I needed to put one last Demon to rest.
Angela wanted to go with them to see Monica. She had never officially met the girl. She had never been involved in her father’s transactions, especially the transactions of this sort. Now she was the head ofthe family, all of the family, she needed to know a lot of things.
Originally Cali and Nonna were just going to peak at Monica and see her. But when Angela became the new head of the family, things changed.They discussed the entire thing, and decided that traveling around and meetingthe big families that owed fealty to the Vinccencio family was a very good idea. Angela could start here, with the family Mazza.
After a considerable drive they found themselves at a nice outdoor café, in a quaint little town. The air was fresh and the food was good.After lunch they sat with drinks chatting about everything and nothing. Cali couldn’t help but notice that Bobbie and Nonna were getting quite cozy. But,she wasn’t saying anything. The women were both old enough to be her grandmothers, and she would have welcomed either at the job. She would never insult them by asking a personal question like that.
Despite her own inner pep talk, Cali was nervous, anxious even. Monica, she hadn’t seen Monica since that day. The day she had left her father and that bitch, Lilly standing in Ben’s office. She had walked out. Monica and JW had not been taken to the play room. They were left standing witha couple of guards in the foyer. Cali had not expected to see them. They had not exchanged any words. Monica looked at her sister like she was looking at stinking trash. Her nose wrinkled and in her eyes, Cali could see contempt and dismissal. Cali was too angry at the time to care. But now, while she sat here at a café, halfway around the world from where she had last seen her sister,she was filled with doubts and fear.
Her mother had told her to not allow Monica to see her. Howwas she to manage that little trick? She wanted Monica to see her. But… why?Why do I want her to see me? Cali’s mind was unhinged by thequestion. Images of Monica in a plane black dress shuffling along behind somewealthy people came to mind. What do Iexpect to see? Do I think that now, I can gloat? Do I want to throw it in herface how I betrayed her and went on to live a good life? Cali’s own mindsnorted at her in disgust. She would love to have proof of how I became justlike Lilly in the end. I betrayed my own blood for my own gain. The thought slammed into her mind like a hammer.
Connie and the others at their table continued to talk of pleasant things. They seemed oblivious to Cali’s inner turmoil. Cali felt likeshe might drown in the guilt alone. Until Connie squeezed her hand. She was still talking and laughing pleasantly. But, in a brief moment, with a small gesture she told Cali that she was not alone and that someone did understand.Another moment passed and Connie leaned closer to Cali. She kissed Cali on the cheek and whispered in her ear.
“You did what you had to do to survive. Let go of the guilt. You have nothing to be guilty for. If anything Monica should feel guilty fornot standing at your side.” Connie kissed Cali under her ear and pulled away to answer a comment made by Nonna. Then she leaned back in for Cali’s reply. She knew it was coming.
“How… I’ve not been over here muttering have I?” Cali thought that she had been carefully schooling her face. She was mortified thatshe had been so remiss.
“Relax, I know you. To me, you were screaming. To everyone else, you’re just sitting here quietly enjoying your wine.” Connie smiled atthe look on Cali’s face. “All this time, and I still surprise you. Hmm, good. Now, pull your hat down a bit more. I think that it’s show time.” She inclined her head to the car coming down the road. Everyone turned to look.
It was big and black and expensive. It passed them andstopped. Cali watched from under the brim of her hat. Five people exited thecar. Three men and two women. One of the women was Monica. She was well dressedand looked healthy. In fact, at a glance, no-one would discern any differencebetween her and the other woman, only that the other woman was much older. A passerbymight assume that Monica was her daughter.
Four of the five stepped up to their table. One man returned to the car, he apparently was their driver. Cali had her back to them. Sheturned just a little in her chair so she could see. The women curtseyed and the men made a small bow, in deference to Angela. Belatedly they saw the ring onCali’s finger and made an awkward attempt to mimic the deference to her.
In mid curtsey, Angela spoke. “You have a nice little townhere.” She spoke in English. She had been informed that the family Mazza spokeEnglish. Her comment successfully diverted their attention away from Cali.
“Thank you Senora. It will be our pleasure to show you around if you wish.” The older man spoke.
“Senor Mazza, it has been many years since I have seen youand your family.” Angela was making a statement to see where he would take it.
He erroneously assumed that she was asking for an introduction. “Of course, of course Senora… I am Thomas, this is my eldest son Charles and my wife Jeanette. We have not seen you since you were but a snip ofa girl. You and my Charles are of an age.” He was wringing his hat in his hands.
The café had emptied, and the employees were all inside watching through the big plate glass windows. Everyone had noticed that Angelahad not asked the family Mazza to sit down. They had also noticed that the bodyguard count had gone from one, to nine that were visual. All street traffic had stopped. Even pedestrians were nowhere to be seen. Only the song of birds inthe trees, and the clicking of a dogs toe nails on the cobblestones, broke thesound of humans breathing.
Cali watched in silence as did everyone else at the table. This was Angela’s dance, and no-one would be welcome cutting in.
The anxiety of the Mazza family was growing. Charles stepped forward a half a step. “I don’t know if you remember me ma’am. I just want to say, that you look very nice and…” Angela held up her hand and he came to a stuttering stop.
“I do remember you Charles. You were the bratty little boy that pulled my hair and pushed me into a wine vat. My hair had purple highlights for over a month and my skin was stained so badly that my parents kept me locked in the house until it went away. That’s not to mention the dress,that my grandmother made for me was ruined. Oh yes Charles, I remember you.”She spoke dryly. Angela held him no ill will, but she needed them to know thatshe did remember them. Again, this was her dance and she was going to make themplay her tune. This meeting would be broadcast everywhere. She wanted the rest of the family’s allies to think of her as strong, and no-one’s fool.
Jeanette had turned white during the recitation. Monica hadsnickered. “Surely ma’am, the antics of a boy can be forgiven.”
Angela smiled. It did not reach her eyes. “Of course, Jeanette. We were discussing my memory. Were we not?”
Jeanette’s skin now turned red. “Of course ma’am.”
“Speaking of my memory… this woman at your side, I do not recognize her. She stands beside you as family, but you do not introduce her.”
Thomas, still worrying his hat, spoke up. “She is our servant. Nothing more. We have brought her because she is a problem child. Shecannot be left alone.” He sounded exasperated. He was also a liar.
Angela leaned forward just a hair. It was enough to make theMazzas take an involuntary step back. She placed her hand on the table.Something was cupped in her palm but, she did not open it. “That’s interesting Thomas. Are you sure that you want to stick to that story?”
“Ma’am, I’m not… sure what you mean. She is our servant. Nothing more.” He was stammering. Charles looked like he wanted to run.Jeanette looked like she was watching a ping pong match her eyes were darting back and forth between Thomas and Angela so much.
Angela glanced at them and then looked back down at her hand. She toyed with whatever it was she was holding. But, not even Cali couldtell what it was. “Perhaps you misunderstood me. I said that I do not recognize her. I did not say that I do not know who she is.” She glared at him without lifting her head. “Or the arrangement that was made with you for her.”
“You don’t understand…” Jeanette began before Thomas overroad her.
“Jeanette! Your father understood. He agreed… she was too much. It is better this way.” He was red now as well but, his expression wasfrantic and his words were rushed.
Very slowly, Angela licked her upper lip and raised herhead. “Now you see… my father is dead.” She lifted her hand to take up her wineglass, and left on the table the bloody Vinccencio ring that she had cut from Ben’s hand.
Cali couldn’t help but smile. Connie sighed quietly, and gripped Cali’s hand a bit tighter. On the other end of the table Bobbie andNonna both looked like stone, only their eyes moved.
“This is my family now.” She spoke slowly and quietly. She made them strain to hear her. “The child, Monica Stewart was to be adopted by your family. At the very least, made a ward.” She let the comment hang as an open question.
Thomas stopped worrying his hat. Cali heard the hammer on Nickola’s gun cock back. He stood with his hands behind his back. She wonderedhow many more hammers were cocked that she hadn’t heard. Sweat dripped downThomas’ cheek. “She tried to escape. We didn’t know what to do. She was so much trouble. Your father told us that she must not return to the United States.” He looked like he had more to say but, he had no idea how to say it.
Angela let the silence stretch. She looked at Monica. She felt no pity for Monica. The child had been a terror. But… this conversation was not really about Monica. It was about obedience. Had the Mazza’s obeyed the commands of their betters or had they simply asked for forgiveness after havingdone something that was convenient for them? “Monica tell me, you are dressed well but, are you treated well?”
Monica glanced at Thomas and his family each in turn. She looked ravenous, like she wanted to devour them. But she did not speak.
“She doesn’t speak English anymore.” Charles offered. Helooked at his mother hopefully, as if he had just offered something helpful. She closed her eyes in shame. She knew that Angela spoke Italian. ApparentlyCharles assumed she did not.
“Well, that’s easy to remedy.” Angela looked at Monica again but, before she could ask anything in any language, Monica pushed Jeanette aside and stepped up close to the table, and opened her mouth wide. She uttered no sound.
Nickola and the body guards reacted, and guns came out like porcupine spines. When Monica stopped and just stood there mere inches away from Cali with her mouth wide open, everyone stopped. The Mazza’s stopped breathing. Cali couldn’t even swallow. Connie had a death grip on Cali’s hand,and even the two stone statues on the other side of the table looked breathless. Only Angela had the ability to move. She slowly stood up, and came around the table. Monica followed her, at first with her eyes but, then as Angela rounded the end passing Connie and then coming up behind Cali, Monica turned to face her. Her mouth was still wide open.
Cali looked up at the scene playing out just behind herchair. Monica, with her mouth wide open. Her eyes defiant. She still looked like a female version of their father. When Cali looked in the mirror she sawthe spitting image of her mother’s face. Now, after all these years, she understood. She understood the comments made by the grandmother, and theunwanted attention of her father. Monica would never have his love, in the sameway, because she looked like him. It’s not how he was taught to love. How could he look into his own face, and do to her what he had done to Cali?
Angela stole a glance at Cali. She wanted guidance but couldn’t ask. What was going on? Cali wanted to know. She couldn’t ask either.
“Close your mouth.” Monica did as she was told. “It seems, Charles that she speaks English just fine… or she could, if she had a tongue.”She threw out the words like the accusation that they were. Her hand slid over and rested on Cali’s shoulder. She could feel her sister’s body stiffen at the news.
Cali was mortified. Everyone, including Nickola glanced at her. Cali had still been looking up at Monica, she saw none of their looks. Shefelt her own tongue in her mouth. She ran it across her teeth. Her tongue had been one of the few things that had not been reconstructed. In most cases it was not possible. Monica, could not be fixed by any Doctor on the planet. The thought drove all the air out of Cali’s lungs, and all thought of revenge, or gloating were expelled from her mind. Monica had been a shit but, no-onedeserved this.
Cali lifted her shoulder slightly under Angela’s hand.Angela glanced down as she turned to return to her seat. She saw the fury inCali’s eyes before she averted her eyes again. The look was all she needed.Cali had worked off of less approval when she had killed Ben. Monica was an ass, but she was blood.
Angela sat down slowly. She let her thumb play over the blood stained ring on the table. Then just as slowly she raised her eyes andriveted the three people in front of her. Monica had stepped to one side, oddly she stood with her hand on the back of Cali’s chair. “Let me get this straight.You couldn’t handle one thirteen year old child, so you cut out her tongue, and made her into a servant that you lock up each night, and never let out of yoursight in the light of day. Does that sum it up?”
“You don’t understand…” Thomas began again. Angela cut him off with a hand.
“Did I sum it up?”
For a moment Thomas looked defiant, then he dropped his head. “Yes ma’am. That is the sum of it.”
Angela nodded. “Very well, I will make a decree here today.I suggest you all listen well to what I say, for I will not repeat it. I am notthe kind of person that likes to repeat herself. Thomas and Jeanette Mazza, you were given the charge of adopting this woman, or of making her your ward. Instead you have maimed her, and made her your slave.” She glanced at Monica and at Cali below her. Before she continued she flicked a finger at Nickola. He leaned down to her. She spoke a few words to him, which caused him to glance atthe girls as well. Then he abruptly backed up and started talking into his bluetooth.
She took a sip of her wine before continuing. “My father was not a kind man. But, he would not have condoned this. I must assume therefore,that you went ahead without his approval and simply asked for his forgiveness once it was done.” She continued to rub the ring. Just to keep them all humble.“Henceforth, Monica Stewart is no longer in your care or trust.” The Mazza’s sighed in relief. “But, as you know, I have a long memory. This matter is not going to be forgotten. I suggest that you make it a practice to step very lightly, until your debt is repaid.As far as I am concerned you have betrayed the trust of the Vinccencio family…and in such a small matter… more the pity.” She actually sounded vexed. The Mazza’s seemed to be taking the news with mixed reactions. Monica must havebeen a truly big pain in the ass.
Speaking of Monica, she was looking extremely pleased withherself. Time for Angela to chop that wicked tree down to size. “Monica, the Mazza’s will begin to repay their honor debt to me by giving you seed money,and one of their many holdings as a gift.” She looked up at the stricken family. “You will bring to me the amount that you are giving her and the deedto the property that you will gift her. If I do not approve, then you will incur more debt to me, and you will give her more. Am I making myself clear? I do not expect you to bankrupt yourselves, only to be fair.” Thomas nodded. She returned her attention to Monica.
“Monica, you will not return to the United States. You will be hunted down and killed if you do. I will personally see to it. I understand that you would like to reunite with your family. So let me give you some information. Your father is dead, Lilly and JW are also dead and Calisto is not in the United States. I don’t pretend to know all the history of your family. But I can say this, if Calisto has not come to you in all this time, she does not want to see you.” She let the words sink in. While watching Cali’s face aswell as Monica’s. How convenient for her that, Monica stood behind her sister. Strange even. “I suggest you let her go. I know Calisto, very well. If she does not want to see you, you will not see her. I also know that she would not begrudge you a good life. So I say again, let her go. The Mazza’s will make sure that their debt to you is paid. You will be very comfortable. Live yourlife, and let her go to live hers.” Once again she let Monica digest her words.She saw a kind of acceptance settle into the younger woman’s eyes, while a tear glistened on Cali’s cheek. She wiped it away before anyone else saw. Angela looked back at Thomas and his family. They all seemed cowed. “Good, I see thatI have made myself clear.” She nodded back at Nickola. Once again he started talking on the blue tooth.
As their car pulled up the Mazza’s made to curtsey and bow their way out, but Angela stopped them. “Thomas, Jeanette, please understand,that I am not angry with you. You were given a job to which you were ill suited. You were left little recourse. I understand that you did what you felt was appropriate action. Under my father you might have been correct. But under me, similar action is not acceptable. I am simply attempting to correct a mistake. One that was made by my father, and by you.”
Her words seemed to ease their burden. They smiled and left, taking Monica with them.
When they were gone, the bodyguards melted back into the walls, the streets came alive again and the café reopened.
“Cali… I don’t know what to say.” Angela made the ring disappear.
“I don’t think any of us know what to say.” Bobby agreed.
“I know.” She sighed heavily. She could still feel Monica’s fingers pressed against her shoulder blade. Had it been anyone else she wouldhave leaned away from the hand. But, for some reason she had wanted to feel her sister’s fingers. If she thought for one second that, Monica would actuallywant to hug her, she would have jumped up the second that she had seen her. The urge had been great to try it all the same. Despite the probable outcomes. But, she had refrained. Still, Angela had done her a great favor. The Demon that hadbeen the guilt associated with Monica was now laid to rest.
She had no other Demons that were related to family. JW had been a sexual pervert and had been killed by the gang he had joined, afterraping a woman to death. Somehow Cali could feel no remorse other than the lossof a young life. In her mind JW had been wrong right from his inception. There had never been a Demon associated with him. Somehow, that seemed like a loss.
Her thoughts had carried her full circle. She came back to reality and saw her dearest friends, her real family gathered around the cafétables that they had drawn together for Angela’s party. Behind Angela she saw abright light that could only be an Angel. It came into focus once Cali acknowledged it. It was her mother. She was smiling and nodding. Patricia blew Cali a kissand disappeared.
Cali put her hands on the table and leaned in. “It seems that I did not come to Italy to chase ghosts, but to chase away Demons.” Shelooked directly at Angela. “Thank you, for what you did for Monica. She will probably cause you more trouble but, I hope not.”
“If she does she will find that I do not repeat myself.”
“That’s true, you don’t. So, I thank you in advance for the trouble you’re going to have to deal with.” Cali grinned mischievously.
“That’s what family is supposed to do. I needed help, andyou came and helped. You needed help, and I came and helped. There are no scorecards, just love.” She lifted her glass. “To family”
They all raised their glasses to the toast. “To family.”
One chapter left. Stay tuned
Live well and be good to each other.