Bianca was wrapped in a heavy mass, her eyes staring without seeing over a heaving shoulder. Sounds filtered into her brain, the sounds of sobbing and meaningless words. Time and time again, she heard her name, first in a woman’s voice, over and over. Then, a man’s voice, whispering her name in a breathy, disbelieving way. The voices seemed to ring a bell, but she could not attach any importance to them. She drifted off into the darkness, neither knowing nor caring if she would ever come out of it, aware only that she had made it home. Not that it mattered.
When her eyes next opened, she was lying in a soft bed and a cool cloth was bathing her face. Remembering the last time she was laying on a bed and what happened, she snapped fully awake, her heart hammering. The cloth jerked away from her face as the shadowy figure sitting beside her gave a start. Bianca began scrabbling at the sides of the bed, forgetting she had only one hand with which to grip. She bumped the wall beside the bed and white-hot fire shot up her arm from where her hand had lived for her whole life. She gave a little scream and moaned as cruel electricity seemed to sizzle up and down her arm.
There were words coming through the pain. She heard her name again in that female voice that rang a bell, louder this time.
“Bianca, Bianca, shh…you’re home…you’re safe…”
Home. She seemed to recall having made it back there before the world went black. This bed was far too soft to be the one at the Gypsy encampment. There had been no cool cloth bathing her forehead there; the only bathing of any sort she had experienced in that tent had been between “clients” and she had done it to herself, not paying any particular attention to anything above the waist. The smell was different here. Her brain tried to register it and slowly it leaked through to her consciousness.
The smell was her.
Her things, her room, her house, her mother.
“Mommy!” Bianca screamed, throwing herself into her mother’s arms. “Mommy, mommy, mommy…” Her stump bumped into her mother’s back, leaving a red stain. Her cries of pain mingled with her tears of happiness and relief.
Lucia wrapped her arms around her daughter, holding her close, tears of her own coursing down her cheeks. She stroked the bedraggled hair as the girl clutched at her, seeming to never let her go.
“Hush now, Bi,” she said, her voice shaking. “You’re home now, you’re safe…shhh…”
Over her crooning, she could hear the approach of Giletti’s vehicle as it turned down the drive and approached the house. The engine sound died and a car door slammed. From down the hallway, she heard the sound of the front door banging open. Bianca heard it too and froze against her mother, silent tears streaming down her face as she shook with the effort of containing her sobs.
“It’s all right, Bi,” Lucia said, attempting to disentangle her daughter. “It’s just your father.”
Bianca’s eyes were still wide as she looked up at her mother. “I don’t think it’s him anymore…” she managed to choke out.
Footsteps sounded down the hallway, steady and purposeful. Lucia told herself she was being silly, that Bianca’s hysteria had just infected her. Why would she be feeling this sense of dread at the sound of her husband’s approach?
The footsteps stopped at Bianca’s door. There was a moment of silence where all that could be heard was the breathing in the bedroom, Bianca’s short shaky gasps and Lucia’s, growing more uneasy. Then the door crashed open.
The silhouette of Don Giletti framed in the doorway with a machine gun in his arms froze them both for only half a second. Lucia had been married to the Don long enough to be able to read the look in his eyes. It galvanized her to her feet, just as the barrel of the gun swung around and began to fire.
The bullets ripped into Lucia’s body, spinning her around as the muzzle blasts lit up the dark room in a hellish strobe. Giletti’s face was illuminated, its blankness terrifying Bianca as much as the sight of her mother being torn to pieces by automatic weapon fire. There was nothing of the man who had roared with laughter as he carried her around the mansion piggyback as a child. This man had dead eyes, showing no emotion as he continued to pump rounds into the shredded piece of meat that had once been his wife. Bianca cowered in the corner of the bed farthest from the door, attempting to make herself as small as possible, her ears ringing from the gunfire, her eyes squeezed tightly shut.
Suddenly, it stopped. Her belabored eardrums could barely make out the sound of a metallic clicking coming from the gun her father held. Opening one eye the barest amount, she saw him staring blankly at what used to be her mother. Gunsmoke filled the room. His finger tightened again on the trigger, creating that clicking sound. Mercifully, the gun was empty. It clattered to the floor, coming to rest with the muzzle facing Lucia’s obliterated face.
Giletti shifted his dead gaze to his daughter cowering on the bed, seeming to regard her thoughtfully. Her lips moved, producing a tiny squeak that her ears could scarcely register.
He unbuttoned his sport coat and reached inside, toward his left armpit. Bianca had seen her daddy around the mansion enough times in just his shirtsleeves to know what lived under his left arm in a shoulder holster. She began to push with her legs, trying to get farther away from him as her voice mewled protestations. “Daddy, no, please no daddy…”
Giletti unfastened the holster snap and pulled out his handgun.
“No, Daddy, don’t…”
He clicked the safety off and racked the slide.
He leveled it at Bianca’s face.
“Daddy PLEASE!” she screamed.
There was a moment where she thought she had gotten through to him.
Oh, thank you, God, thank you for—
Then there was one more explosion, and all that Bianca Giletti had ever been or hoped to be was splattered across the wall above her bed.
Tony the Nose drove up to the mansion’s driveway and parked beside the boss’s car. Its door was hanging open and it was parked at an angle at odds with the neat parking job usually done. Tony regarded this as well as the keys hanging in the ignition for a moment before getting out and walking to the front door, which was ajar. His big feet made the tiniest of crunches on the gravel drive, belying his massive bulk. Reaching the doorway, he smelled the acrid stink of gunsmoke. Pulling out his own sidearm, he held it down by his thigh, pointed at the ground, his finger on the trigger. Entering the mansion, he hugged the wall as he made his way silently down the hallway toward the room Bianca occupied. There were feet protruding from the doorway, clad in shoes favored by the boss. They were still, their toes facing down. Their owner was lying face down in the doorway, his upper half inside the room. Gunsmoke drifted lazily out of the room. Tony holstered his weapon and walked up to the doorway, no longer making any effort to conceal his approach. It didn’t matter anymore.
Bianca was leaning against the wall, what remained of her head cocked forward, her chin on her chest, her skull an open, empty bowl, still dripping. The wall behind her was riddled with bullet holes and chunky red and grayish-white material was oozing down the wall from a large splash mark. Tony’s eyes traveled slowly from this grisly sight to the body on the ground in front of the bed which bore only a slight resemblance to the boss’s wife. A large pool of blood was forming around her, and Tony was glad he wouldn’t have to bother cleaning that one up. Blood soaking into a carpet was a bitch. The third figure in the room was the boss, his head blown open on one side, a spray of brain matter coating the wall to his left, his gun still clenched in his hand.
Tony looked at the sad tableau for a few moments before turning and going down the hall to the boss’s study. Opening the door, he went to the safe and punched in the code on its keypad. Don Giletti would have been furious if he knew that Tony was aware of the safe’s combination, but Don Giletti would not be feeling any way about anything, ever again. Twisting the handle, Tony opened the safe and, pushing aside the box of fine cigars Giletti favored, began pocketing the stacks of cash. He filled all the pockets in his suit coat and pants pockets with bundles of bills, indulging in only a moment’s regret that he didn’t have larger pockets to accommodate more of them. That was all right though; his years of unwavering loyalty to the Giletti family had made him a very rich man. This was just a bonus.
Turning from the safe, he picked up the cigar Giletti had sitting on his desk. Producing a lighter, he set the tip aflame before the tobacco began to smolder gently, its scent mixing with the gunsmoke that had begun to filter through the house in a very pleasant manner. Tony thought that if they could manufacture a cigar that smelled like that, he would actually start smoking them. As it was, he puffed just long enough to ensure the ember was well lit and would not go out before placing it carefully on the windowsill so the ember was touching the gauzy curtains Lucia Giletti had selected for all the rooms in the mansion. They began to smolder, their own smoke adding to the haze and making the smell much less pleasant. That was all right though; he wouldn’t be here much longer.
Going to his own quarters, he gathered what few items of value he possessed and deposited them in a leather valise. Pulling one of the curtains down from the windows, he ripped a long shred off of it. Opening a bottle of the rum he favored, he stuffed the shred of curtain into its neck. Pulling a few inches out of the bottle, he stepped back into the hallway. The flames had caught in the curtains and he could hear the crackle and roar of a bonfire coming from the boss’s study. Holding his breath, Tony stepped into the office for the last time, just long enough to touch the wick of the Molotov cocktail he had made to one of the flames licking its way eagerly around the walls of the office.
Holding the flaming bottle away from his face, he strode down the hallway towards the main door, hurtling it into Bianca’s room with an almost contemptuous flick of his wrist. The bottle exploded against the far wall, sending flaming liquid splattering all over the room.
Immediately the flames took hold of the fabric in the room. Wall hangings, curtains, bedding and clothing caught fire as though they had been waiting for the opportunity. With the fire in the office now roaring and advancing down the hallway, Tony retreated to the front door, locking it behind him as he slammed it. Smoke belched out of the windows as he tossed the valise into what was now his car. Turning the key and dropping the shift lever into drive, he paused for just a moment, looking at the mansion one last time. He let out what might have been a sigh.
Squealing the car around in a circle, he pointed its nose up the driveway. Toward the future.