Peter Giletti had just pulled his Ferrari into the Giletti mansion when Matteo came bursting from the front door, his face a mask of terror so stark it made Peter’s balls creep. Putting the sports car in park and setting the emergency brake, he hopped out and waved.
“Matteo! What the fuck is up?”
Wild-eyed, Matteo looked around. When he spotted Peter, he rushed over, seizing Peter by the shoulders. “Pete! You gotta help me! I lost her and your uncle—”
“Whoa whoa whoa, first things first, drop the Armani,” Peter said, pushing Matteo’s hands away from his tailored jacket. “I just got this. Now what about my uncle?”
“He’s gonna kill me if I don’t find Bianca!” Matteo said, wringing his hands.
“Wait a minute, where’s Bianca? What happened?”
Matteo blurted out the night’s events, circling back to the salient point. “He’s going to kill me if I can’t find Bianca! Peter, you gotta help me!”
“You really ditched Bianca to go fuck a whore? That’s pretty—”
“Yes, I know what it is, but it is what it is and if I don’t find her, I’ll never fuck anything again! Now will you help me or not?” Matteo waited, shoulders heaving.
“Yeah, yeah, sure thing,” Peter said, opening the door to his Ferrari and sliding back inside. “Come on.”
They made good time back to the carnival, Peter pushing the little car up to nearly 130mph on the straight stretches. The police in the area knew the Giletti family cars on sight and knew better than to interfere with them. Peter concentrated on his driving, Matteo sat rigid in his seat, savoring each breath he took, wondering if they would be among his last.
Before long, the lights glowing in the night became brighter and they were pulling into the parking lot of the Gyspy camp. Matteo reached beneath his shirt and pulled out a Glock .9mm. Racking the slide, he ensured a round was in the chamber and stowed the gun away again. Peter watched, an eyebrow raised.
Matteo shook his head, scrabbling at the car door handle. “Just a little protection. It’s up to them.”
Shrugging, Peter chambered a round into his own Glock and tucked it back into his shoulder holster.
Passing under the gate to the scruffy midway, Peter popped a cigarette into his mouth and lit it with a practiced motion as he surveyed the meager crowd while following Matteo. “Pretty weak carnival. Everything is rusted. You couldn’t pay me to ride one of these fucking things.” He took a drag as his eyes swiveled to follow a blonde girl with a painted face and jeans which looked to be painted on as well. “Rides are for kids anyway.”
“There,” Matteo said, pointing as he quickened his pace. “That’s the tent.”
Peter looked from the sign proclaiming Your Fortune for $5 to the scrawny man beneath it. The man grinned invitingly, gesturing to the door. Rolling his eyes, Peter caught sight of something far more akin to his tastes.
“You go ahead,” he said to Matteo, who was fumbling in his pocket for a five-dollar bill. Beating him to the draw, Peter pulled out a five and gave it to the skinny man who made it disappear. “My treat. I’ll wait out here, I want to finish this.” He waved the cigarette.
“Okay. I’ll yell if I need backup.”
Peter saluted with the cigarette as Matteo disappeared into the tent. He took another drag and dropped it to the ground in front of the Gypsy, grinding it out and turning without a word toward the Pleasure Tent.
“Hiya,” said the girl attending its entrance, flashing a dazzling white smile over the barest of tops. “Looking for pleasure?”
“Yes, and I’m in a bit of a hurry,” Peter said, glancing over at the fortune tent.
The girl smiled. “Take our newest girl. Tonight her first night.”
“I’ll take her. How much?”
“$200,” the girl said, holding out a hand.
Peter’s fingers nimbly extracted two Benjamins from his wallet and slapped them into the girl’s palm. She tucked it down her skirt and beckoned him to follow as she slipped into the tent. Peter followed her through the labyrinth of cloth stalls, adjusting himself as the sounds of sex further stimulated his growing member. The girl stopped at one of the curtains and gestured.
“She new. Start tonight. No worry ‘bout that. She ready.” With that and a smirk that gave Peter’s peter a twinge, she retreated into the dim of the tent.
Peter licked his lips and pulled the curtain back. A girl lay on the cot, staring at the ceiling. The shadows hid her face, framed by her long dark hair. She was nude, her arms over her head and legs slightly apart. At the sound of his zipper, her eyes flickered towards him, then back to the ceiling. Unbuckling his pants and pulling down his underwear, he mounted her and slid himself inside. The girl at the front had been right, this girl was prepared. It didn’t take him long and the whole time, her expression never changed.
Panting, Peter slid out of her and wiped himself on the cot before standing and refastening his pants. “Good for you, honey?”
Peter’s hands froze in the act of buckling his belt. It was not the word itself, nor its delivery, flat, dead, devoid of any emotion. The voice he had heard at the Giletti mansion more times than he could count. It was Bianca’s voice.
“…Bi?” Peter croaked.
She looked at him blankly. With shaking hands, he pulled his lighter from his pocket. Flicking it open, he cast a soft glow over the room, illuminating the face of his cousin, Bianca Giletti.
“Bianca! What the fuck are you doing here!”
She said nothing, just continued staring at him. If not for her breathing, she could have been dead.
“I’ve got to get you out of here. Can you walk?” Peter reached for her, weak-kneed at the thought of touching her again after what he had just done. “Bi, I’m sorr—”
A harsh whisper of canvas behind Peter made him spin. An enormous man covered in tattoos and body hair had torn the curtain back and was reaching for him. Peter’s heart leaped into his mouth as he staggered backward.
“Where you tink you goin’ wit our girl, eh?” the man growled, stepping forward.
Peter’s reflexes, honed by years of the family business, came to his rescue, drawing his Glock from the shoulder holster and pointing it squarely between the man’s eyes. The big man halted, the gun’s barrel an inch from his forehead.
“Go ‘head, city boy,” he sneered. “If you got da guts—”
The Gypsy’s hand moved, amazingly fast for his size. Unfortunately, his aim was not good; as he attempted to grab the gun from Peter, one sausage-sized finger slid into the trigger guard of the gun, its girth inexorably pressing Peter’s more modest digit into the trigger. There was a shot. The giant man’s ugly sneer turned into a look of shock as the back of his skull and brains splattered across the tent wall.
Peter was still trying to process what had happened when the screams began, galvanizing him into action. Pulling the gun from the finger of the dead giant, he looked around wildly. Bianca lay on the cot, splattered with bits of bone and brain, her expression as vacant as ever. There were yells from within the tent as interrupted men and women expressed their fear and concern. There was no choice.
“I’ll get you out of here, Bi, I promise,” he whispered to her, unsure if she would hear him or if it would even register. Slipping out of the stall’s entrance over the dead giant, he fled down one of the corridors between the stalls, heading for the exit. The girl who had admitted him was standing in it, a machete in her hand. She had dispensed with the knowing smirk and her face was a mask of rage.
“You murder a Rom, white man,” she hissed, raising the machete. “You will pay.”
Peter raised the gun, pointing it at her chest. “Step aside, lady, or those pretty tits of yours will be the next thing to get splattered.”
Curling her lip, the girl stood aside, still holding the machete. Peter eased around her, trying to keep an eye on the machete and the rest of her at the same time. As he passed her, she spat at him.
“I’ll remember that, babe. You’ll be hearing from me again real soon,” he snarled, slipping into the crowd of oblivious carnival patrons outside the tent who had somehow not heard the gunshot.
Elbowing his way through the throng, Peter halted, panting, before the fortunes tent, his gun beneath his bloody Armani coat. The scrawny Gypsy eyed his hectic expression with what appeared to be a look of amusement.
“Where’s my friend?” Peter demanded, looking over his shoulder toward the Pleasure Tent, sure the girl would be coming after him with the machete.
“You friend ‘as gone,” the Gypsy said, spreading his fingers. “He say, he see you later.”
Peter pulled the gun from beneath his coat, keeping it low. “He wouldn’t do that, don’t take me for a moron. Now you tell me where he is, or—”
Behind the scrawny man, another mammoth Gypsy appeared out of the darkness of the fortunes tent. “Or what, slicker?”
Peter heard shouts from the direction of the Pleasure Tent and, performing an analysis of his odds, holstered his weapon and took off, shouldering his way through the crowd of increasingly agitated carnival-goers. He did not stop until he was in his Ferrari pushing sixty mph on his way out of the parking lot.
Matteo pushed into the dimly lit interior of the fortunes tent to see a thin old woman wrapped in shawls seated before a dark glass orb. She raised her eyes to his, and a smile crept across her mouth. “So, you come for your fortune?”
“I come for my girlfriend, Bianca,” Matteo said. He pulled his phone from his pocket and showed the woman his phone’s wallpaper. From the screen, Bianca was blowing a kiss with a bottle of tequila in her other hand. “She got her fortune read earlier tonight and now she’s missing.”
“I donno whatcha talkin ‘bout,” the woman said. Her smile widened. “If I read ya fortune, maybe we find hers?”
“Sure, fine, whatever, only her dad has told me he’ll cut off my nuts if I can’t find her so I really need—”
The woman threw up her hand, freezing Matteo in mid-sentence as the crystal ball’s surface flared bright blue. “Silence!”
She moved her long fingers over the ball, peering deep into its depths. Matteo waited impatiently, hopping from one foot to the other. Waste of time, this, he thought furiously as the woman whispered gibberish to the ball. Bianca’s father is going to have me castrated and I’m sitting here watching this old bat poke a piece of glass.
“Well?” he demanded when he could stand it no longer.
The woman looked a moment longer and then raised her eyes to meet his. “Well what?”
“Where is Bianca?” Matteo’s voice was becoming shrill.
“Ah,” the woman said, and shook her head. “I can no tell you dat. But I tell you, you be reunited wid her soon. You VERY HANDSOME!” she shouted this last, causing Matteo to recoil.
“You VERY. HANDSOME.” She repeated, if anything, louder.
“Listen,” Matteo said, his voice cracking as he pulled the Glock from his waistband. “If you don’t tell me where Bianca is—”
There was a rustling noise behind him. He half-turned in time to see an enormous man swinging a baseball bat at his head before the world exploded into blackness.
“I tell you, Matteo,” Madam Zara stood, looking down at the prostrate form of Matteo. “You be seeing her soon.”
The giant snickered.
“Good swing, Grog,” she said with a smile. “Take him to tent.”
The sound of a Ferrari caught Don Giletti’s ear and he turned, frowning, to glance out the window behind the desk in his study. Not just because he and his wife Lucia had bought it for their son Peter not six months ago, but because he had made the modifications to that engine himself, and he couldn’t mistake the sound of its tachometer reaching the red line.
He turned back to face the room. His brother Rocco stood by the tray of amber-filled decanters, pouring himself a snifter of cognac. Giletti’s wife Lucia leaned against the front of his desk, her cosmetically perfect ass seated a few feet from Giletti. “I’m sorry, my dear, what were you saying?”
Lucia rolled her eyes. A few years Giletti’s senior, she sometimes felt as though she were a mother chiding her son. Turning to face him, she leaned against the desk, palms down. “The body trade is down all of a sudden, and you know that is one trade that is recession-proof. Something has changed, Lorenzo, and we need to figure out what it is. I have girls sitting idle at night.”
“My supplier is getting ratty as well,” Rocco said, coming back from the bar with a drink and lit cigarette in the other hand. “I told him I only needed half a container this week and he warned me not to let it become a habit, then hung up.”
Giletti snorted. “I try not to lose sleep over it.”
With a sudden bang, the doors to the study flew open, making them all jump. The men had their guns half drawn before their brains registered that their brother, Brando, towed his son Peter by the arm. The latter’s eyes were giant saucers, staring around though not seeing. Coming to a halt, Brando dropped Peter’s arm and slammed the doors shut, locking them. He strode forward and prodded Peter in the back, pushing him forward.
“Go on, tell them!” he barked. “Spit it out, boy!” His face was red and his hair looked as though he had been pulling chunks of it out. Giletti had never seen his brother looking quite so deranged and felt a hint of an unusual emotion he was able to identify as fear. What the hell had happened?
“I—they—there’s a car—carnival, up the road,” Peter gabbled, still staring around as though he had never seen the place before. “They had—girls. Bianca. They—I—” Peter shivered mightily and wrapped his arms around himself as though he were freezing.
“What de absolute fuck are you gabbling about?” Giletti roared, on his feet, fingernails unconsciously digging into the desk.
“You’ve been wondering why the girl trade is down,” Brando said, striding forward and shoving Peter out of the way, who took no notice. “I think you’ll find it’s been down the exact length of time as a certain Gypsy carnival has been set up in the area. As near as I can tell, Peter, saw a tent set up as a brothel, and when he went in to, um, investigate, the girl they gave him…was Bianca, Lorenzo. They’ve got your little girl, brother,” Brando said, tears of rage standing in his eyes.