Aliyana Capello Catelli
The path to paradise begins in Hell. Dante Alighieri
“Salvatore, I need you. Salvatore,” I scream through the empty church. My heels click on the wooden floors as the harshness of my breath sounds the air with the extent of my madness. My mind reels as I rush down the aisle.
“Salvatore, I know you’re in here,” I yell. His tall form comes from the back door. His black pants and black shirt with his clerical collar, a stark reminder of all that has happened. The ring on my finger weighs heavily on my hand as I face the man who served me for years, without knowing the demon he chose to protect. His scar stands out as he stops in front of me, intertwining his fingers tightly together.
“It’s been almost a year Aliyana. What did you do?”
I drop to my knees, “It is what I didn’t do. Forgive me father for I have sinned,” I say, as my body releases the tightness that has weighed upon it these passing years.
“Oh Aliyana, what have you done?” I look up at the Priest from St Anthony’s church who once served me as a loyal soldier and earned his freedom.
A tear betrays me as I stare into his harsh, unyielding gaze as I once did many years ago. Only then I was a girl touched by the poison of my father and the cruelness of a king. Now I am a queen, wrapped in the robes of hell, soaked in the blood of the innocent and owned by a Venomous King. How far into hell have I fallen?
“Aliyana, tell me.” Salvatore does not know what he seeks when he utters those words. But I look up at the innocent Priest.
“I killed them all.”
There comes a time in life, where even the damned must own up to the truth. There is that moment, when we get away from everything. That specific second, where you are standing there and it all hits you. All the lies, the stories you spun, the people you’ve hurt. The ones you betrayed and ruined for absolutely no good reason other than a hope that by doing it your heart will lessen with the pain and maybe tomorrow would be a brighter day. Only it is not the case. I have lived, loved and felt every emotion they taught me not to.
In my 29 years on this earth, I have done things that no sane person could even fathom. My story is not one filled with the love for one man, but the love for many men. A love for a father who always wanted the best for me, even if his ways of showing it were misguided.
I loved him for all that made him. Be it the sliver of goodness that rests in his deep soul, or his thirst for power that caused many to enter the gates of the afterlife. My love for him is… was everlasting, even if he was the snake leading me to temptation.
Then there was my love I had for the 4 boys who grew up with me in Chicago. The brothers I never knew I wanted until they showed me how it felt to belong to something that wasn’t defined by the blood in my veins, or the gender that made me. Romero, Michel, Gabriel and Lorenzo were the brothers, who become a part of me, until one of them fell and one of them betrayed us.
And lastly, there was the love for two men, both belonging to the Shadows. One set on becoming the most powerful villain of all and the other – who only wished to be with me. But jealousy, hatred, revenge and honor twisted all the goodness and my story became a bitter tale of falling in love with your enemy and honoring your promise to the ones that I swore to protect. My story is no tragedy, nor is it a happily ever after, but it is mine and here I am, still alive, so I can finally tell it.
“Salvatore, I must confess.” I remain on my knees as his fingers unlock themselves and his roughened fingers grip my chin. I lift my head.
“I will listen. Do you promise to confess in all honesty and tell only the truth?” He asks the question he once asked me years ago. Only then I turned away from him, ashamed of all those that I hurt. Now I am no longer haunted by the decisions of my past, I am ready for atonement.
“Yes, I will tell you everything. My confession begins 13 years ago, when we made a pact to take over Chicago, and Elisa Russo was going to be our bait.”
“What was so bad about then?”
I look at Salvatore in his priest attire, a holy man who once almost fell from the crutches of god.
I smile, but it is not happiness that brings the look to my face, more like shame, embarrassment and guilt.
13 Years ago
The past should never be made in the present
And the present should never throw haze on the future.
Lies, a false statement made with deliberate intent to deceive, an intentional untruth, a falsehood.
“What on earth are you devils up to?” Gabriel asks as he sits next to Mero on the carpeted floor. I felt great to be back in Seattle. It wouldn’t be much longer until the day arrived when I could finally say I was putting Chicago behind me.
Chicago was what I would describe as a prison, made specifically for the 5 of us. We were meant to only charter a flight first thing tomorrow. But I couldn’t bear another night in a city treated as one would a rat. It wasn’t the adults that surrounded us who made our stay in the city so unappealing, but the teenagers who would one day control it. I knew better than to tell my father, so did Gabriel, Mero, Michel and Ren when Capo Stagio Russo said that a teenager problem was a teenager problem. His words weren’t just words, they were a warning that what happens in his territory stayed quiet.
It was summer break and Papa would only land tomorrow from his trip to East Africa. Which made our early arrival the perfect time to finally release some tension we kept locked up these passing months. There was a lot going on right now, and Gabriel and Ren were both out for some serious Russo blood. They were the top crime family in Chicago and also primarily our guardians until we graduated from high school.
It was a rule in the 5th State that a group of boys be sent away to their allies’ territory. It was meant as a sign of good faith. But my father sent me a girl to Chicago and our Famiglia. The Catelli’s insisted we granted them the same respect, so the Russo’s sent Elisa. Who was meant to be their offering but turned out she was actually my father’s daughter. Talk about a messed up family. And mine was right there on the top.
It wasn’t just Elisa, who wore the title of illegitimate daughter but another, not so nice girl named Alice. She was already an adult and sister to Matteo Di Salvo, a much hated member of the Russo family. Or if I were honest I should rephrase, I hated Matteo Di Salvo the most. The others never really disliked him, they merely just hated what they presumed he stood for.
“Where did you rush off to? Gone to play good boy by your uncle or did you decide to take a detour to a certain red heads house?” Michel asks Gabriel. Michel is comfortable at the bottom of my white comforter, playing with his switch blade he bought off a guy on our way from the airport. Ren and I take the top left of the bed, going through the hundreds of photos scattered on half my bed.
We were deciding, as we always did, which of the photos were best to show our parents. We tried to keep up the appearance of happy kids, for the sake of not starting a war. And also for not looking like we were made of ice. My father said that a made-man need not burn when he walked through fire. I wasn’t so sure how someone didn’t burn in fire when a fire was meant to burn.
We were already burnt in the fire many times. The only difference is our scars were on the inside, and the windows which were our eyes were too small to notice.
In reality, we were so used to the bullying and the plots and plans Alec and his crew came up with to try to get rid of us. But cutting Gabriel’s car breaks really set the record. They played dangerous games, and while we outsmarted them most of the time, we knew that our clock was ticking.
“How long do you think we can keep this shit up?” Ren questions us, lifting a picture with the 5 of us at Pizzeria.
“I say we make a stand, we’re leaving that shit hole next year. It will be the perfect time to teach the Russo’s a lesson,” Gabriel says from the floor. His blue eyes dilated and focused on Ren as I feel his anticipation and hunger for revenge vibrate across the room.
“I don’t see Alec ruling Chicago, he will cause an all-out war that the Capo Dei Capi would eventually have to intervene. Cassio and Camelid are henchmen, neither screaming Capo, I doubt either of them has the brain capacity to brush their teeth properly let alone rule a city as big as Chicago. Matteo, however…” Mero voices the same thing we are all thinking. Neither of the Russo boys were fit to handle a city as big and as dangerous as Chicago.
“Matteo is going to be the Capo of the Di Salvo, his family is close with the Moretti’s in England and the Di Salvo’s have always run L. A with the Gallo clan. I doubt he wants to rule a place filled with Russo’s. Chicago is nothing to him, but the land his father dropped him off at,” Michel says, getting up from the ground and stretching his lean body. He was getting buff in his late teens. I could see the promise of his athletic legs through his dark wash jeans that he currently wore like they were made to fit every part of his build.
I was the only short one left, with only a pair of breasts and an ass to show for it.
“Do you remember the story about Massimo Catelli?” Ren asks, standing to his full height pacing the room.
I frown, but respond, “Yes, in the later 1800s Massimo and his 2 brothers, came to America with nothing but a fake passport and a pack of cigars. No crime syndicate wanted to be joined with the three of them. They were weak because they were only part Sicilian.”
“And he and his brothers didn’t appreciate that, so they slowly turned their cards, taking out every crime family that stood in their way. Until the Catelli’s controlled New York, it was 40 years later when the Castellammarese war took place. And John Gotti took the fall as a Capo. A legendary story and one that can be repeated in a much more civilized manner with careful planning,” Ren finishes the story, taking a seat next to me. I place one of the pictures next to the bedside table, sit up and look at him.
We all look at him. He is crazy to even consider doing what it is he is thinking. It is a suicide to all of our names. But it isn’t impossible, just madness.
“What are you suggesting, Catelli?” Gabriel questions. And I wonder the same thing because it sounds like he has finally lost all senses of his sanity.
“We take over Chicago. Our Famiglia is big, but we aren’t the biggest in North America. There are a lot of players on the board. If we took Chicago, we will not only cement the Catelli name further, but all of our families would benefit in the long run. Everyone would remember the 5 of us. If we manage that, we create Allies with the Di Salvo and the outfit. It’ll make us the biggest crime family in North America.”
“You are talking about a war, the Russo’s will never play fair. They aren’t going to just shut up and let a group of teenagers take their City,” Gabriel warns, shaking his head in disbelief that Ren would even suggest it. I hate to admit it, but I agree with how absurd it sounds.
We take over Chicago? I doubt Ren is thinking logically. So I laugh and throw myself on the pillow as he gets up. His lanky body makes me want to snicker as he slides a hand through his long hair.
“No, but taking their youth out and killing Stagio is a power play they can’t deny,” Ren suggests.
“Too dirty. A war against the Russo’s would mean their allies, which equals the Outfit. My Papa has only said bad things about the Outfit, they are ruthless,” I say. It is true, the Outfit were a group of misfit Italians that didn’t belong to a crime family to call their own. So they made their own family and the Sanati’s ruled the Outfit with an iron fist.
“If we take out Alec, and maybe one of us marry Elisa, we could be half-way there. I know Lucca Sanati. He is next in line to take The Outfit under his command. He used to be close with Marco and Deno,” Ren informs us.
“What do you think we should do?” Mero asks Gabriel, who says nothing but stares worriedly at Ren.
“Maybe wait for him to become the Outfit boss?!” Ren answers.
“No, Lucca is crazy. He hates the Catelli’s too much after Katrina died. This entire plan is ludicrous. If we want to do this we are going to need a smart plan, a long-term one that doesn’t involve Lucca or killing Stagio,” Gabriel says finally agreeing to Ren’s ridiculous plan a bit too quickly. Going by the fact that a second ago his face revealed how against it he was, I would say he had a plan of his own.
“How about getting a Russo to do our bidding? Take out Stagio, or kidnap Alec?” Michel suggests.
“You mean Elisa? No, absolutely not, she is 15 and my sister. This entire plan is ridiculous. If we agree to do this, I think we should keep our hands clean on the outside. We would have to be smart, as Gabriel says,” I voice out, becoming a player too.
“So what are you thinking, Miss Capello? Play unicorns?” Mero asks with exaggerated sarcasm and I roll my eyes, giving him an exasperated sigh.
“No, I was talking about chess, dumb nut. We play allies against allies. Not just in the Russo’s tight circle, but in ours too. How pissed off do you think our parents need to get before they retaliate?” I tell them, and Gabriel is the first one to smile.
“Like play the one against each other? Technically, we won’t be getting our hands dirty. But we create a war. Question is, how do we use the war to take over Chicago?” Mero asks, scratching his neck, frowning at me as the room fills with the taste of power. Because let’s be honest, we are spawn from the 5th State. We all want to have more power.
“We get someone to marry Elisa, one of us is better than any fucker Stagio will choose,” Ren says nodding his head in agreement to his own plan.
“And Alec?” Gabriel queries.
“We leave him for now, if things get really bad, then we get our hands dirty. The question is, how the fuck do we start a war?” Ren says.
“Isn’t it obvious?” Michel asks with his attention on Gabriel.
We all stare at our friend, and he smiles.
“We go to our Underboss and tell him our plan, of course.” A plan forms as he says those words and it is on this day that the 5 of us, the Misfits that were shoved into Chicago, decide on a plan that would cost many of us more than we could ever have imagined.
12 years ago
Blank spaces in a tale are sometimes
Necessary when someone is lying
“Mero, Micky!” Gabriel yells as Ren, and we stand by the door of their tech-class with our backpacks, waiting. Bunking last period wasn’t the best decision we were making today, with finals approaching soon. We were all accepted into UW about a week ago. Since receiving our acceptance letters, Gabriel had not lifted a book to study.
I informed my friend finals were still a big part of getting in. To say he didn’t care was the understatement of the year. In fact, neither of them have really cared, well apart from Ren. He was always in the books. I knew he got accepted to Harvard. Why he turned it down to come here was beyond my understanding. He swore to me that he will do two years here, then fuck off to Harvard.
He was the better one, smart and funny. I wanted more for him.
“I am done with Matteo fucking Di Salvo, why couldn’t he stay in England like a good fuck boy?” Gabriel states as he walks out with Mero and Michel joining us. His face is flushed, his eyes are small and promising death. This is the thing about having only male friends. There was too much testosterone, and though I knew for a fact that Matteo pushed his buttons, Matteo wasn’t as bad as Gabriel made him out to be.
I wonder what the others would do if they knew Ren and Matteo were friends. It was a secret I was keeping, since I found out 6 months ago. I stumbled into the music room one day after 2nd break and I saw the two of them sitting and chatting about Quantum Physics. It shocked me. Obviously they both decided that their broody friendship needed to be kept a secret, and I agreed. Sometimes secrets were necessary for all our sakes.
“Because pussies don’t know how to stay in one place,” Michel responds, sliding his hand through his gelled brown hair. He is the shorter of the four boys, and the most muscular now. He filled out these last 8 months.
“That pussy better be careful,” Mero says as we all laugh. But my gaze goes to Ren, who didn’t really find it funny. And although he laughs, I know, like me, he is just laughing for no reason at all but to appease his friends.
“So where to? We should sneak Yana in the gentlemen’s bar again. That was funny,” Ren suggests, earning him a smack on his arm in response. The sneaking part wasn’t much fun when I had to creep in through the men’s bathroom window. It also wasn’t fun when I walked in on my history teacher half naked. I try to think of the name I said when he asked me who I was.
Gabriel puts his arm over my shoulders, reminding me of how short I actually am and how tall he is. A reminder that I was also a girl, a Made-Man’s daughter, who was breaking a million rules by just allowing him to put his arm over my shoulders. Skipping school and the rest was a lot of frosting on a flat cake, even for me. I tried to hide it, but in the end my sanity won and I slipped my Papa a text when I went to the bathroom. I was after all my father’s daughter.
He responded with a thumbs up. Which was his way of saying, we will talk about it later and telling him was good. Yes, a thumbs up said a lot when it came from my father.
“I was thinking of somewhere a bit further,” Gabriel says as his usually straight face mutates into a smiling one. I love these guys. They were far from perfect and overflowing with trouble, but these boys made me feel alive.
“Where?” I ask him as my stomach twists with an anxious thrill of what we were going to do.
“My Uncle is around attending some business. He’s given us free rein of his Jet until 7 this evening. I took the liberty to have Constantine clear a flight plan for us to Seattle.”
“What are we going to do there?” Mero queries as his brows furrow in an almost hesitant wonder.
Vincent Vasati, Deno, and Marco Catelli run Washington State. It was also home for Ren and I.
Well, for the most part. I didn’t really have a home since I was thrown into Chicago. But I still liked to consider the possibility of Seattle one day becoming my home. My mother and father bought their home in Seattle and for years before I even existed they lived there. It was the same house I kept returning to during the holidays. I refrained from going to New York for the sole reason of my father’s wife Illaria who lived there. The woman hated me since before she even knew my name.
She was the reason I came to Chicago. The reason I was not embroiled in a brewing I wasn’t necessarily thrilled about. I love these boys, but sometimes loving them wasn’t easy because their love for me came with a condition and that was loyalty.
“Deno has the new exclusive club opening this weekend. The bottom floor is a restaurant, thought, we’ll christen the place and enjoy a meal.” Ren’s glee is unmasked as Gabriel lets us in on his little plan. Ren loves Deno, his older brother. A brotherly love was always good to have, especially when that brother was our Underboss.
I wasn’t so sure about his relationship with Leonardo and Marco. While I swooned over Leonardo, and from afar professed my undying love for him for all eternity, I never set eyes on Marco. Marco was the first-born son of Capo Marcello, then Deno, Anya, Leonardo and lastly, Ren.
While Deno kept close tabs on us and knew most of everything that happened in Chicago, Marco was always MIA. Leonardo dropped by every odd occasion to ‘check how are things’ but we all knew it was Deno’s doing that sent Leonardo here.
Anya however didn’t need to be asked to visit, she always showed up at the most random of times.
His sister, Anya, I liked the least out of his big family. She was false and always had an agenda. I didn’t like people who could do something cruel to those they claimed to love.
I didn’t like to think about what she did to Ren, but sometimes it really got my blood boiling. Ren had secrets, we all did, but when people like Anya knew them, sometimes the price of keeping them just became too high.
“Don’t we get an invitation?” I hear that voice, and we all freeze at the sound of Alec Russo.
Straight ahead of me and down the hall are the Russo boys and their new BFF, Matteo Di Salvo. Alec and Matteo stand side by side, while the twins, Cassio and Camelid, take them back.
“No,” Gabriel responds, his fingers tensing on my arm as he stiffens next to me, all casualty gone.
“Too bad, I was hoping to see my cousin,” Alec says as his evil smile implies otherwise. Yes, that was the thing about Alec, he was a creep and after a year of just sitting by and doing nothing, I was ready to solve the problem named Alec permanently.
“Yeah, too bad. We’re full up, try the airport,” Ren recommends.
Mero nudges his head to say let’s go, and I think his timing is impeccable. Sometimes walking away is better than the alternative.
“We will do just that. I should probably call your brother too, wouldn’t want to start a war now,” Alec yells as the others laugh at his stupid joke. I see Matteo’s gaze scatter from Ren to me and back again.
“I am not sure which one I hate more, Matteo or Alec,” Michel mumbles.
“I thought Di Salvo’s are supposed to be our closest allies,” Mero states as his brows draw down into a scowl I know too well.
“Allies? What the fuck is that?” Ren’s sarcasm makes us burst out laughing.
We ignore the irritant foursome as we turn our backs and walk toward the exit.
I should’ve known it wasn’t over. Far from it.
We get on the plane in the next 40 minutes. I wait till the red light turns green and unfasten my safety belt. The beige leather interior and red marble skirting scream ‘notice me.’ I never admitted this to anyone, but I didn’t like Gabriel’s uncle. There was just something about him that rubbed me the wrong way. Papa always told me my intuition can never be wrong.
Ren follows me when I walk to the back of the plane where the bathroom is.
He places his arm around my shoulder and practically shoves his phone in my face. I have to hold his wrist to prevent him from hurting me. I read the message he wrote.
Don’t hate me, but Deno let me know Gabriel was planning the trip, so I asked Matteo to charter another plane 20 minutes after us. Alec has done some really bad things, we need to stand together. The others won’t agree with Matteo rocking up. Do you think you can stand with me on this?
That was a question I didn’t see coming. What was the right thing to say? And how good of ‘friends’ were Ren and Matteo. Was this going to cause a problem with the plan? There was a lot about the plan I didn’t like. Mostly the part where Mero marries Elisa.
If I did this now, were we drawing an invisible line between the others and us? Is that what I wanted?
I shrug my shoulders and push him aside as I head to the bathroom. I can’t give him an answer. I don’t know.
When I get out, Gabriel is sitting in the front seat staring at me. He’s always been quiet, never saying too much. I admired that about him. But the quality I admired was also what made me wary. My papa told me a quiet man is a waiting man, and that makes him patient, and those who are patient are the most lethal. Would Gabriel prove to be a problem, eventually? I hoped not. I liked to think of him as our secret weapon.
I sometimes secretly wished he would be that weapon when it came to Alec. The guy made me mad in ways that were not sane on any level of the word. He knew how to push my buttons and he pushed them mercilessly.
He chose to pick on Gabriel and I. Gabriel as he was the tallest and the son of a DeMarco. The same DeMarco’s who killed his mother’s brothers. Yes, revenge in the Mafia was a real pain. And the sins of the father fell heavily on their sons and, in my case, daughter.
Which was the reason a made-man was taught to kill the children too, because kids grew up and a made-man’s son would want his flesh of meat when his time came.
“I can’t believe he actually asked to join us,” My temper is still boiling after our flight, mostly because all I managed to do was think about Alec Russo and all the vile things he chose to do.
We jump out of the black Mercedes as the six soldiers Deno sent for us surround the vehicle.
The building known as Azure is a tall face brick architectural dream. Dark-tinted glass going right up to a 5-floor height serves as a front wall. I am sure it’s bulletproof.
“He’s a Russo. What do you expect? There is a reason they are our enemies,” Gabriel replies as he slips on a black blazer over his white school shirt.
To the passersby, we resemble a group of wealthy kids. We are, but the four boys are all Made-Men.
They have killed, and the ring on their index fingers shows that they would do it again.
“It looks like there is a drop zone on the roof. Why couldn’t we land there?” Mero asks as he straightens his tie.
“It isn’t ready. Deno is making a greenhouse,” Ren answers.
“What green are we talking? In house? Purple heads?” Michel goes from mildly interested to very interested. Big hazel eyes widening with glee. His hair is cut short and his once baby face has now sharpened over the last year. His jaw still not quite as sharp as the other boys, but Michel’s hardened exterior in certain places gives off a ‘don’t fuck with me’ vibe that closely matches Gabriel’s broody self.
“I should have stayed in a girl’s only school,” I mumble as I push my hair back from my face.
“And miss the time of your life? I doubt you would. Your father almost castrated my father when he asked him. He almost castrated me for even talking that day. Fuck, my nuts still twitch from that.” Ren shakes his head in mock horror as the 5 of us walk toward the doors of the massive club laughing.
“But he still agreed,” I point out as Gabriel opens the door when the soldiers line up next to the entrance.
“Yes, he did, and thank fuck for that,” Ren’s deep voice is loud as we enter the dark place.
“I am calling dibs on the sound,” Gabriel declares as we enter the Azure.
“As long as I don’t have to listen to that damn classical shit,” Ren says, putting on the lights. The smell of new leather and paint hits my nose as the blue glow brings life to the darkened space.
“The glass is remote controlled. I need to get the remote, give me a minute. Help yourselves to a drink,” Ren states as he disappears to what looks like a big ballroom.
“I have a little present for you guys. Wait here,” Gabriel declares, and I watch him walk with ease and familiarity through the back of the club. His big shoulders and tall body are a wonder to the short kid with keen eyes I met all those years ago. It isn’t the first time I consider how lucky I am to be one of them. Even if that luck came at a price.
“What are we drinking?” Mero asks as his big muscular body comes closer toward me. He is built like a linebacker, but he doesn’t just play football like the other guys, he is a professional boxer. His family is big on cage fighting and martial arts.
“I think brandy to begin with,” Ren replies as he walks back into the room with a familiar guy following carefully behind. It still surprised me at times, especially ones like these on how in-depth to the inner circle of the next generation of Capos I was.
If my father found how I spent my free time I was not supposed to even have, I don’t think he would share in my gratitude that I was, in fact, the only girl amongst four dangerous guys. It was a good thing I mentioned it to him today, else I don’t think I would win this one without a massive blow.
Right now, I wasn’t just alone with them; I was in the company of my future Capo, the Underboss to the Catelli Famiglia, Deno Catelli, and it wasn’t the first time.
“Aliyana. You are always a sight when I see you.” Deno Catelli’s voice is loud.
He opens his arms as his dramatic entrance comes to a complete halt when he gathers me in a big hug. Deno has always smelt like leather and a mixture of something forbidden, dangerous. We had enough of those going around in our world. But Deno Catelli was in a league of his own. I think I have always had a certain amount of respect for our future Capo. I’m not sure if it was due to the fact of his willingness to help us, or his ability to control a situation without making it known that he was the one in control.
It still boggles my mind even now as I stand here wrapped in the arms of this important, dangerous man. He is well over 6-ft tall with hard, sinewy arms that have brought many men to their deaths, and right now, he is kissing me on the cheeks and holding me toward his hard chest.
Yes. I am well aware my father would not be pleased by this. Then again, the thrill is something I find quite liberating.
“I am glad someone remembers I am a lady,” I point out, knowing Mero and Michel can hear. Deno winks at Mero as he releases me when Mero groans.
Mero greets Deno with a hug and a kiss before Michel.
“When Gabriel called me this morning, I was fucking glad you misfits were showing up. Until I got a call informing me the Russo boys were joining. I suppose you don’t want them coming by?” He gives us a knowing look that is evil in intent, and I am glad he is on our side. But exactly who is ‘our side’ since I knew he knew Matteo was invited by Ren. And Matteo didn’t fall in the category of ‘friends’ in the eyes of the others, and if I was being honest, he didn’t fall in my category of friends either.
“Well, considering they are the reason we are here, no.” Gabriel walks in, there is something about his voice that is different. I hear the under note of badass he is giving off, which meant something spectacular was bound to happen. Spectacular meaning we were going to do something dangerous.
Behind Gabriel walks in a familiar boy, though we never got to see him often enough I squeal as I run and throw myself in the arms of an old friend, Dexter Kent.
As I predicted the last time when I saw him 6 months ago. He was now as tall as Gabriel. If not a bit taller. Dexter Kent was hardly a boy any longer. He walked with an air that screamed old money, and a powerful bloodline.
He was confident, with broad shoulders and an alertness in his gaze that I didn’t see often in people. Well, not to that extent. Dexter has always been a part of our lives. And maybe he wasn’t someone I would classify as a BFF, but he was definitely a person I would trust.
“Fuck, Dixie, you’ve grown so tall. You’re like Captain America after his transformation,” Mero informs our outsider friend as Dexter extracts himself from me, long enough to shake hands with Mero, Ren and Michel.
Dexter puts his arm over my shoulder, “It has been a while, but considering the call I got from Gabriel, it was time we had a little reunion.”
“Can I come out now, or have you forgotten about me?” The female voice coming from behind me has all of us jumping into action, walking toward the sound behind the bar.
I hug her close, and the guys follow. I inhale her sweet scent and look at her tanned cheeks. She has grown so much. Her hair is now a dark red and her face is covered in quite a bit of make-up. Not enough that it is too much, but enough that she looks way older than her 15 years. And of course she is beautiful.
“How could we forget a beauty like you,” Deno responds as he encompasses her into his side and touches her nose lightly with his finger. That is odd. I notice, but I am wise enough to say nothing.
“How did you, I thought you were… when did…” My words are all coming out half said as I am speechless. I thought she was halfway to Europe by now.
I stare at her; it has been so long, a year almost, and I want to cry, but I don’t. We have kept this secret for so long. Her life was counting on it. But her life was also counting on her leaving, which she didn’t do.
“No, my father changed his mind. I’ll be staying here and finishing school and if I am lucky, maybe study English.”
“That is great news, Elisa,” I say with a big smile that I hope tells her exactly how I’ve missed her. A part of me finds the complete 360 change so sudden. I haven’t seen her in so long that I’ve forgotten the reason we stopped.
“It has been a long time. I’m sorry I couldn’t see you sooner,” Elisa says, and I try again to wrack my head as to why we couldn’t see each other. I mean, we hardly saw each other as it stood. Our meetings were mostly during the school breaks. We stole a few days here and there. It was easy for Elisa to remain in Seattle during her holidays.
Her father, Stagio, and her mother never batted an eyelash. Secretly, Elisa told me that her parents both wished she’d disappear. I found it hard to believe since I saw how Capo Stagio doted on her, and her mother continuously called her. But what did I know? I was a motherless teenager whose father sent her away. Even if it was for my own good.
“No need to be sorry, Eli, Aliyana knows that your cousin is around,” Deno says. I sense a slight note of mockery and I brush it off as my imagination.
Yes, he was correct. I knew all about Alice. She was around, and where Elisa was a good thing, Alice was terrible. Both my father’s daughters. But Alice, there’s no denying the proof. She looked just like him. How is it that he had no idea? I found my father’s ignorance to his ‘other’ children’s existence hard to swallow.
We lived in a world where fools were few and far in-between. Our men were not stupid, and everybody wanted to know your weakness, and my father’s bastard Russo daughters wasn’t just a secret but his kryptonite. They were proof that my father’s love for my mother wasn’t as real as he led many to believe. It hid something else entirely. A secret that both my parents kept and my mother died with.
It was something a lot of people would want to know because my father, the advisor to the most powerful man in the world, was/is the 2nd most powerful man in the world, and his secrets, his life and anything that could be used against him was information no one would pass up.
And one of those people was the man who helped us when we needed Elisa to remain safe, Deno. But Alice, she was a different ball game altogether. She didn’t know that we shared a father. Well, I hoped she didn’t. However, a part of me knew my father couldn’t have not known he had other kids walking around.
So far, the only people who I was certain knew the truth, were in this room, and the fact we were all standing here told me that this was no casual visit, and knowing Deno Catelli, he was not here to shoot the shit with us. This was something serious.
“Well, now that we got all of that out of the way, let’s begin, shall we?” Deno voices this as his eyes stare at who I can only imagine is Gabriel.
“We need to take out Alec,” Gabriel says, and we all look at him.
“And I am going to help you,” Matteo says as he walks into the restaurant.
“What the fuck are you doing here?” Gabriel explodes as Matteo walks closer into the room. He is dressed in a full grey suit with a shiny purple tie. His blonde hair is sleek and brushed to the back.
He gives Ren a quick glance, and I take it he didn’t know that Ren kept his arrival a secret. Well Matteo, welcome to my world.
“There is some stuff we all need to clear up, namely my involvement with the Russo boys,” Matteo says.
Michel takes a step forward as Deno takes a sip of his whiskey. Our Underboss liked a good show.
“We are all ears,” Elisa answers as she comes from the back. I frown at her for a second, but face Matteo, who is glaring at my sister. Seems like he didn’t like Elisa too? So it wasn’t just Alice, hah. Seems like brother and sister had mutual enemies.
“Spill it Di Salvo, we are waiting.” Mero is stabbing Matteo with his eyes. If looks could kill, he would be a dead man.
“As you all know, my father is Capo of our family, in L.A. Last year, Alec and the twins spent their summer in our territory. They stayed at the Gallo’s household and something terrible happened.”
“What was it?” Mero queries. We all wanted to know. Matteo looks sheepish, which is not in his normal character. The guy was confident and comfortable in all situations. I know, because I have seen him in some bad ones.
“Daleena Gallo was raped. She insisted she didn’t know what happened to her, but my father presumed the Russo boys would, so he sent me. Since they are my stepmother’s people.”
“Wow, how old is Daleena?”
He cringes, “She’s only 11.”
“So you thought you would just swoop in here and get us to agree to everything you say?” Gabriel questions Matteo.
At Gabriel’s tone, I expect Matteo to flinch or show some infliction. But he merely stands there, with his gaze sharp, focused as he slides his hands in his pocket.
“No, he expects you to kill Alec, so he doesn’t have to. Isn’t that right, Matteo?” Deno queries.
“I thought your family was our allies, and by coming here with such news, you would feel some sort of empathy toward the loss of an innocent girl.”
“We do, but your father should have had a sit down with me, and we could have discussed the matter properly. But here you are, a young boy, wanting to rectify a wrong all alone, in my territory. I say you have balls Matteo,” Deno says walking in front of all of us until he is less than 2 feet from Matteo.
Matteo frowns, and if I weren’t so observant, I would have missed the flex of his jaw as he stares at our Underboss.
“Maybe it is my need to see justice done, that mistakes your observation,” Matteo says, and I don’t miss the shuffle Ren does when Matteo remains standing so close to Deno.
Deno laughs and takes a sip of his drink.
“I like you Matteo, you may stay, and I will definitely help you,” Deno surprises us all, and I don’t waste a moment pulling Elisa aside as Gabriel storms off.
She has the brightest smile imaginable, as I start my long tirade story about the last year.
“Can I ask you a question?” I say to her as she ties her hair up. Her body has filled out since I last saw her.
“Why don’t you and Alice get along? I mean, besides our father, I remember you guys fighting plenty of times.” I watch her face for any sign of distress, but there is nothing but sadness and maybe a little bit of anger. But I haven’t seen Elisa angry, besides a few tantrums when she didn’t get her way. She was mostly quiet. Papa always said the quiet ones were the ones to keep our eyes on. But I wanted to believe my eyes were on Elisa only for her protection.
“A difference of opinion, I guess. She prefers to spend her time with her brothers.”
“You mean brother, Matteo.”
“Matteo has a brother and a smaller sister. He doesn’t talk about them at all, but Matteo’s mother is not dead like people claim. She just left his dad and married someone else. I don’t know the entire story, but the once I saw Matteo and his brother with Alice. The three of them are so close it doesn’t make sense.”
“Why doesn’t it make sense?” I question her, trying to wrap my head around it. I needed a map to remember who is who. Seems like there were a lot more ‘unplanned’ pregnancies and ‘secret children’ hiding around in the 5th state.
“Because Ali,” She sighs, “Alice isn’t related to any of them by blood. Matteo’s dad married Marianne Russo, Alice’s mom.”
It must be almost an hour later when Deno pops his head into the room the two of us have been cocooned in.
“Aliyana, can I have a word?” He asks.
“Sure.” I get up and follow Deno to the front of the restaurant.
“Come sit down,” He gestures and I look at Gabriel and Michel who are seated on one table and Ren, Mero and Matteo on the other.
Deno regards me with his brown-eyed gaze, and I choose my seat away from all of them. Deno smiles, quirking his brow, impressed by my decision to not choose any specific side. How could I? When either side was jaded with untold truths and hidden mayhem.
“We have come to a mutual agreement with regards to Alec Russo, and we have decided that we will not kill him, for now. The evidence is not clear enough to start a war. We would need a confession before we do anything. Killing a young boy, like Alec will cause an already torn relationship to explode and we don’t want a war on our hands.” Deno’s words have me swallowing hard, because what our underboss didn’t know was for the last year, a war is exactly what the 5 of us have tried to start.
Matteo’s request basically handed our desire to us on a platter. The only problem standing in our way was Ren’s loyalty to his brother and the implications we would face once we defied our Underboss. Because I knew we would defy him. It was inevitable as the sun setting in the west and rising once again in the east. I think a part of me even then knew that the 5 of us would eventually part ways. What I didn’t know at the time is the events following and the path I would eventually choose to take would end in death for some and a prison for others.
Would I have done it differently had I known the choices I made would eventually be our downfall? No, because even then there was a small part of me that always knew I would make it out breathing. Even if the air was filled with death.
12 Years Ago
A friend is as loyal as the actions you know of,
but an enemy as a partner,
You never need wonder of their loyalty. An enemy always has a point to prove.
It was close to 6pm when I made it home. Gabriel, Mero and Michel left Azure first. While Ren, Deno and Matteo remained there, even now. I was just glad to be home.
I open the door and give Sal, my father’s soldier, a wave to let him know I am safe inside.
What I don’t expect is my father standing in the foyer. I presumed he was in New York, with my other siblings. I should have known he would be here.
“Papa, perche non mi hai detto che eri qui, sarei venuto prime?” Papa why didn’t you tell me you were here, I would have come sooner.
Sartini Capello is a tall man. His broad shoulders, long body and sharp stern features are just the few things that describe what people see when they look at him. The deadly killer lurking inside is what they later learn when they get to know him. My papa is an imposing man, and while I have only ever known the way it feels to be his daughter, even I can’t deny the wrongness of the picture when he smiles at me as he walks across the room and engulfs me in a warm hug.
There is nothing warm about my father besides the temperature on his body.
“I wanted to surprise you. Dinner is on the table, let’s go eat.” He releases me and walks ahead and like always, I follow him. We go to the dining area, where the walnut table is decked with a roast and vegetables.
“How was your day?”
“Matteo Di Salvo came to Azure,” I say, pulling my chair in closer toward the table.
“What did he want? His father has seemed ruffled recently,” My Papa observes aloud as he cuts the roast beef and puts 3 slices on my place.
I dish him veggies, wracking my brain as to how I’m going to tell him something without really saying anything.
“He wanted to talk to Deno, whatever it was got Gabriel upset and Michel and Mero too.” The words taste bitter in my mouth, but I swallow it down with a piece of roasted beef.
“Deno will sort it out. When are you going to pick up your things from the University?” His eyes hold me hostage for exactly 4 seconds before he focuses on his food again.
“They haven’t emailed me as of yet, but I think it will be sooner than we think. How are Guilia and the twins?”
I knew it was pointless asking my father as he hardly even saw them, but the words were naturally asked whenever I saw him.
He chews the last bit of food in his mouth before his attention is drawn to me, “Filippo is arriving with Guilia over the weekend, she’ll be spending some time this side.” He cuts his meat, swallowing his last bite.
“The twins are doing well. You should make more effort to see them, before you know it you will be married with kids of your own.”
“Maybe they could come this side for a bit once I start freshman year.” It was the best promise I could think of. Illaria couldn’t stand the sight of me, and my patience as a whole wasn’t on its strongest point with everything happening with the Misfits.
“How are things at school? The Russo boys still giving trouble?” He asks me.
And here I must confess that my friends knew I started telling my father all the things Alec and his crew did to us. Only my father thought my allegiance belonged to him. In a way it did, but the extent of it didn’t flow into my loyalty to my own best interests. And right now it was directed at the Misfits.
“We saw him today when we were leaving the school, he wanted to get a ride with us to see his cousin, but Gabriel said no.”
“But Matteo showed up by himself correct?”
“Yes, but Matteo is not the bad one, Alec is.”
“I would not expect anything less. The Di Salvo family have been our allies for decades. You must never make an enemy of your allies, it’s bad for business.”
“Yes, Papa. I’m going to go check on the wolves after dinner. Would you like to join?”
“I have some business to attend tonight,” He says, and we both knew very well that business this late wasn’t your average business. It is a wonder why my gaze still goes to the ring on his index finger.
“How many do you have now?” He asks, filling the now silent air.
“Five Papa, two grey ones, three white and Leo, the brown back.”
“Ah, I wish you would choose more normal pets, than such vicious beasts.”
“They are still quite small, Leo and Casper would be 2 soon, I was thinking of getting them a trainer.”
“Of course, set it up and I’ll pay for it. Might as well stock up on food for them. When you get back to Chicago you won’t have to phone Nicolo five times a day, asking about your pets getting fed.”
“Thank you Papa.” I put the last spoonful of veggies in my mouth, as my body vibrates with equal parts elation and embarrassment. My wolves weren’t exactly meant to be pets. But my father didn’t need to know that.
An hour later, I am petting Leo, the brown black wolf I took as a rescue. He was the first wolf I got at just 4-months-old. He wasn’t friendly to anyone besides me, and even then when I got too playful he would growl. I liked that about him.
Casper and Terror were the friendly ones, and when I say friendly I mean solely to me. No one fed them face to face besides me. When I wasn’t around which was more often than I would like my father’s soldiers would put food in the back yard and close it up before they released the pack.
My phone rings and I leave the den, walking up the cemented staircase. The night’s air brings a welcoming chill as the sound of my phone disturbs the quiet night.
I slip it out of my pocket, and stare at the unsaved number on my screen. It is after 9 at night, and I couldn’t fathom who would be calling at this hour.
Frowning, I swipe the green answer button.
“Hello?” I say with a cautious note to my voice.
“Hi, it’s Matteo, and before you put down the phone, I’m outside your house. We need to talk. Your father is gone, so don’t bother using him as an excuse.”
The night’s breeze envelops my skin as I close my eyes in annoyance.
“The Guards won’t let me leave so late without my father’s permission.” The excuse sounds lame even as I say it.
“And when has that stopped you, Little-flower? Are you forgetting the night I landed in front of your bedroom door?”
The day Matteo Di Salvo arrived from England was one of those days I never wanted to remember. Like us, he was sent to foreign territory to finish up his schooling. His father chose England and by the looks of it, and his heir of entitlement, I say it was a good choice.
Matteo seemed to have enjoyed his stay in England, and I bet coming home and getting shipped off to Chicago wasn’t his choice, but his fathers. And that innocent girl was the reason.
“How could I forget? I’ll be out in 10, meet me 3 blocks away from the house and whatever you do, don’t jump out of your car.” I cut the call and make sure to lock the den this evening.
I go into the house as usual. The 2 night staff were already in their respective bedrooms. I begin switching off the front lights, a silent indication I am off to bed. The soldiers know when I get to bed there is no need to watch the house. Only the outer perimeter.
My bedroom window on the right, facing the guardhouse, slams shut. The light in my room goes off and I take a few minutes to slip off my slops and put on my sneakers. The window directly above my bed opens silently. I pull the Jacob’s ladder that was mounted secretly to the floor behind my bed and throw it out of the window. It weighs an easy 10 kilos and was made with thick rope Michel picked up by the docks.
I climbed down nimbly and take a jump, making more noise than I usually do. Landing in a crouched position, I remain still and listen attentively for even the smallest sound. My heart kicks up a notch when I hear a rustle, and I duck behind the bush.
One of our not so bright soldiers, walk past me, and I am wise to hold my breath. He takes a quick detour and I used the opportunity to run across while the camera moves to the other end. I sneak silently along the wall and once I get close enough to the gate; I place my red laser on the sensor, triggering the house alarm. I send Sal a quick text, pretending I am concerned.
Me: Is everything all right?
Sal: It’s just the sensors, it happens sometimes. Get some rest, Miss Capello.
Smiling, I open the gate a fraction of the way, big enough for me to squeeze my way through. I know the men are trying to figure out what happened. Keeping to the dark parts of the road, I rush toward the black Land Rover Matteo owned. I knew it was his car, because I’ve only seen him in it when he came to Seattle. For some reason, he was around a lot the last year. I sometimes felt he was secretly spying on us, but now I knew it wasn’t the case. He was here for Ren.
“This better be good,” I say, slamming the door closed. His car still has that new car smell, and unlike my friend’s cars, his doesn’t have any scent of his cologne. There is nothing in the car saying it belongs to him.
“Well, goodness is overrated.” The car starts and the lights brighten the dark quiet road and with it my heart escalates rapidly.
“Where are we going?” My voice pitches with nervousness and a snapshot of images flood my mind.
“Are you scared?”
Yes, “No.” I am terrified. Matteo was not my friend, but a part of me knew he wasn’t really my foe as well. I hated him, because the alternative was too complicated.
“I can feel your fear, Little flower, even if it’s unwarranted.” Says the teenager with a gun underneath his jacket.
There were many reasons to fear Matteo. The important one was his ability to make you drop your guard before he attacked. He was good at luring his enemy.
“Cut the crap, I have to be home before my father gets back,” I snap, glaring at him. He shows no indication that he cares. And I believe he actually doesn’t. There is no doubt in my mind when it comes to Matteo Di Salvo’s low grade of emotional intelligence.
“You will be home before then. I’m taking us to a place we can talk.”
He drives for another 10 minutes, winding his way through the suburban roads, before he stops by the gas station.
He slips his car in the parking lot and hops out. I sit inside as he rushes to go get whatever he needs to.
I check my phone for any messages, and I have three.
One is from Michel, saying goodnight. The second is from Mero, asking me to meet him at 7.00am for a run, and the 3rd is from Ren, who sent me a screenshot of his chat between him and Deno.
Deno: Why are you getting involved with Matteo?
Me: Our father sent me there to tighten bonds.
Deno: Yes, with the Russo clan, not Di Salvo. Now we have to help the fucker. Marco is going to be pissed.
Me: Only if you tell him
Deno: I already left him a message, he wants to see you.
This wasn’t good. Personally, I’ve never met the infamous Marco Catelli. He wasn’t mentioned often either. But we all knew he was the Eldest of our Capo’s children. Ren wasn’t as fond of him as he was of his other siblings. In fact, I knew this was bad. Marco wasn’t our future Capo and although I hardly heard of his name whenever I did I got this weird feeling in my stomach. Something told me that I wouldn’t like the man if I knew him.
What was so bad with the Di Salvo famiglia? Was there something Deno wasn’t telling us? I laugh internally at that dumb question, shaking my head. Of course, there were a lot of things the Underboss wasn’t telling us. However, there was more we didn’t tell him. He helped us, thinking he was seeing the entire picture, but what he didn’t know was the facade was just so fucking real, that it blinded him from the truth.
Deno was a Bishop, significant but with the right moves, expendable. I knew Ren didn’t entirely agree with our decisions, but he respected them enough to not inform his brother of everything. After all, we were starting a war.
The sound of the car door opening jolts me out of my reverie. Matteo jumps in with 2 juices and a packet of popcorn. He hands me a bottle of orange juice and I accept it.
“Are you ready to talk?” I ask as he twists his juice cap and takes a long gulp of liquid.
“Wow, that’s good.” Matteo’s words have me rolling my eyes.
“Cut the small talk and get on with it, believe me when I tell you that I am not thrilled to be in your company.”
“Why don’t you cut the crap,” He says, and turns his top body to face me.
A look can mean two things when it’s one shared between partial enemies. The 1st is a death stare filled of rage, the eyes of the one who would kill you, and accept the consequences. The 2nd is the one of perplexity.
Yet, I see neither of those in Matteo Di Salvo’s gaze as he examines me with an unblinking, nerve wrecking, attentive stare. My body tenses under his scrutiny.
“Aliyana, how would it feel to have Alec out of the picture? No death, but no life either.”
“Ah, so this is what you were so eager to discuss?” I smile in glee that he had to come to me, a girl. I find it ironic how people can sometimes surprise you in such unbelievable ways.
“If you must know, Deno’s words are not as honorable as you think, he wants something I can’t give him, so it puts us at a crossroads of sorts.”
My mind bubbles with this juicy bit of knowledge. So there is something happening between the Di Salvo’s and Catellis. Question is, what does Deno want from Matteo?
“How exactly do you think I can be of assistance?” I wisely steer the conversation to another direction, catching him off guard. Because I bet Matteo expected me to ask him what Deno wanted him to do. My brother Filippo taught me that when we deal with our rivals, we never make a move that is predictable.
Especially if I was not the smartest one in the room. And in this case, Matteo Di Salvo is the all knowledgeable one.
“We catch him off guard and kidnap him. I have a place to keep him. Once he confesses, we hand him over to my father.”
“You make it sound so simple, but it’s not. How do you think I am going to be of help accomplishing that task? Alec might be an asshole, but he isn’t dumb, nor is he weak.”
He drinks the last few sips of his juice, and I watch in anticipation for his answer.
“Firstly, we both know your methods are more intricate than the others, and secondly, Michel, Mero and Gabriel, will never agree to anything that includes me. To them I am the enemy. But Lorenzo will, if you agree.”
I didn’t like it. It was as though I was asked to betray the Misfits. I didn’t agree, but then again, if Alec did rape that girl, didn’t she deserve justice? Didn’t we deserve our pound of flesh?
The matter sounded tricky, but I didn’t wish to explain my reasons as to why I didn’t agree. Alec needed to be taught a lesson, but not at the expense of the Misfits getting caught.
“I’ll help, I would need to talk to Ren first and see how we are going to do it. It will need to be clean and untraceable. And the rest will agree if they don’t know you’re involved at all. No words coming from my mouth or Ren’s would change the way Gabriel and Mero feel about you.”
He frowns, and his thick, blonde eyebrows draw together as his lips thin.
“Don’t pretend you haven’t thought about it.” My words seem to amuse him, and I ignore his keen eyes watching me.
“I did, but that shouldn’t be a suggestion I make.” He tilts his head, and a piece of hair falls between his brows. Matteo Di Salvo is a handsome boy, and that made him even more dangerous.
“Have you forgotten that I am a made-man Aliyana? We don’t cower in the face of obstacles.”
“It isn’t cowering. It’s nobility.”
He purses his lips, and I wait patiently for his answer.
“I’ll budge this time. Call them, but I want to know what the plan is. I can’t let this get back to me. I’m still tied to Chicago.”
I give him a sharp nod and pull out my phone and send all the boys an SOS message.
Mero is the first to respond, and I send my location pin in response.
“I’ll let you know. You better leave before they arrive.”
Matteo says nothing, and although he shows his disagreement, he does as I ask. I slam the door and walk toward the Petrol station shop. The bell on the door rings as I enter and the sound of Matteo’s car leaving echoes loud, reminding me of the road I was about to take.
Secrets were never meant to be kept a secret for more than it was necessary. I knew that, even as I jumped into Mero’s car when he arrived, and I knew it as the 5 of us agreed to kidnap Alec. No one mentioned anything about killing Alec. And although a part of me knew Ren thought about ending Alec, I never considered the possibility of him actually doing it. I was a fool then, slowly worming my way through crevices without knowing the narrow path I was following led to a river of crimson.
Coming this Monday, 22nd February