Chapter 33: Cheap Shot

Vincenzo didn’t attend Campo’s funeral. He didn’t go outside at all, really. For the next three days, he stayed at home with Sylvia, Nonna, and his cat, sleeping on the couch and staring into the fireplace until he passed out from anxiety around lunchtime.

Dominic, Luis, and Ana went to the funeral. His friends tried to lighten the mood, but Sylvia didn’t know if anyone could help him. He’d been sitting in the same position for hours now, watching the snow fall from the partly closed window.

As their cars drove off, the living room’s grandfather clock chimed three. Its haunting tolls sent Mezzanotte into Vincenzo’s lap and Vincenzo into a surprised, gasping fit.

“Hey, it’s okay.” Sylvia ran in from the kitchen and lifted Mezzanotte off of him. “It’s okay.”

Calming himself down, Vincenzo balled his hands into fists on his lap, then stared into the fireplace until his eyes began  to water.

Sylvia held him. What more can she have done? She needed to be there for him, but she didn’t know how to respond to loss. When she’d lost her father, she’d broken apart. Mentally, emotionally. She stopped pretending to smile, stopped going to school. Her mother had become ruthless and she’d become a shell of her former self, and she didn’t want that to befall Vincenzo. But she knew she couldn’t simply tell him to be happier or to look on the bright side. Right now, there wasn’t any. She just had to be there for him.

After sitting in silence for a few songs on the record player, Vincenzo whispered, “I should’ve gone.”

“Oh, honey.” She kissed his temple. “He was such a kind man to you. He would’ve understood.”

“It’s disrespectful.”

“Your father would be there. To put your well-being first…” She trailed off, unsure of what needed to be said to someone thrust suddenly into grieving. She said honestly, “I don’t know what to say. I’m sorry, sweetheart.”

He sighed and rested his cheek on her shoulder. She pet back his hair to reveal his face. Stress pimples were budding near his hairline. “We’ll be okay,” she landed on.

“How, though?” he asked. “Campo was the only reason we could be together. Without him, we’re doomed.”

“We aren’t. There’re many, many people like us. Think about it.”

“But they don’t have my status.”

“Sure they do,” she lied. He was opening up for the first time that week. She had to see it as progress. “There were probably many kings and queens who loved people just like them. Mayors and presidents, poets and artists. You have to suppose some of them were able to live out their love happily. We might have to be more secretive and lie, maybe run away for a while and leave the people we love, but nothing for us is doomed. Not yet.”

“Not yet,” he said, chuckling. “Not yet.”

Feeling the room’s tension ease, Nonna came in with a plate of chocolates and sat down in her rocking chair.

They all ate together around the fireplace, not really talking, letting Vincenzo grieve in peace. It surprised Sylvia how easily she believed herself and her lies. Of course, this life was burdensome. It was stressful and painful and almost never worked out in anyone’s favor. Her usual doubts settled quickly into her stomach, but that hope she’d spoken into life kept her from plunging into that normal bout of fear. Two years ago and she would’ve laughed at herself for thinking she’d be okay. Now, while faint, something felt different. Lighter. More optimistic.

She called Laurence and Mitsuko that evening while holding Vincenzo’s hand to keep him safe. She updated them on Campo’s death and the ripple effects it had in the Family. They updated her on the Black Kitten and Bobbie. Unfortunately, Severo hadn’t been lying. He’d roughed Bobbie up while they were in France and had given him a black eye that was still healing. He promised her that he had no ill-will towards Vincenzo.

“Just be careful from now on,” Bobbie said. “I think this nonsense is only going to get worse.”

After the funeral, everyone convened at Vincenzo’s place. Despite eating what must’ve been delectable Italian meals and wine, Dominic, Luis, and Ana came back sober and dreary-looking. All the pep Luis usually had had seeped from his face, leaving him haggard.

“I saved this for you,” he said, and gave Vincenzo a red rose from the casket. “I tried sneaking out more, but your father was watching us.”

Vincenzo opened his mouth to say something, then closed it and let everyone sit down.

When no one said anything, Nonna asked, “Shall I make some tea?”

Even though nobody answered, she got up anyway and tended to her guests.

“It was peaceful,” Luis said to cut through the silence. “Everyone had nothing but nice things to say.”

“There were more than a hundred people,” Dominic added. “Friends and distant relatives from Chicago.”

“They said they’re looking into who did it,” Ana said, holding her baby tightly. “The murder.”

“And that there’ll be repercussions,” Luis said. “That’s what your dad said, anyway. Your mother said hi, by the way. She wants to talk with you, she said.”

Vincenzo looked away. To Sylvia’s knowledge, he didn’t have a relationship with his mother but not in the way Sylvia had with Clara. Instead of hating her, because of her involvement with his father, she seemed untouchable. He had more pictures of her in his home than of his father.

Luis sipped his tea. “He was too good for this world. Even though he was lenient on a lot of rules, him and his family were going to do good things for the world.”

They all lowered their heads in respect. The crime scene Sylvia had walked through disfigured that beautiful smile Campo always wore. She closed her eyes, trying to picture happier moments.

Then her eyes sprung open. Outside, a car rolled by. She’d tapped into Vincenzo’s worry about ominous cars lurking in this street and looked out the window to find something bad.

An expensive-looking car drove to a stop outside. She couldn’t see the men’s faces, as they had scarves pulled over their mouths and eyes to hide their identities, but she did recognize them as men she should’ve been wary about. She saw Hannigan’s men. She saw Severo’s men.

It was the first time she saw a Tommy gun in broad daylight, and her first thought was how unnecessarily scary they looked. The large circle that contained all those bullets, how bulky they appeared in their small hands. Why would a man need such a dangerous weapon to kill so many people?

Keeping their car doors open, the men stepped out and aimed their guns at Vincenzo’s home.

“Vincenzo—!”

The rest of her warning was drowned out by a flurry of gunfire that blew out her eardrums. They went off in waves, shattering window glass and shooting the front door off of its hinges. She fell to the ground, not knowing what else to do, and hid behind the coffee table. Nonna wailed brokenly, hauntingly. Ana screamed and ducked beside Sylvia, hiding Sophie underneath her own body.

Seconds passed, and the gunfire never ceased. More people yelled, ran around her, but she didn’t dare open her eyes. Luis choked on Ana’s name. Someone shot from inside the house. Vincenzo’s condition was absent between rounds.

After what felt like minutes, the gunfire ceased, and the car skidded against the pavement and down the cul-de-sac. Someone went for the door and shouted at them: Luis. Anger Sylvia had never heard from him spat out curses and threats for what they’d just done to his family.

Ana clung to Sylvia as she cried into her chest. “Thank you. Oh, God, thank you.” Sylvia didn’t know if she was addressing her or the Man in question.

When Sylvia reopened her eyes, the air was smokey and hard to take in. New bullet holes littered their home like insects. The paintings and trinkets Nonna had up around the house had either fallen to the ground or were shattered completely. Dominic was splayed out across the staircase, holding his bloody shoulder. Luis was tending to him frantically.

Vincenzo was pressed up against Nonna, slumped on the ground, still acting as her shield. Poor Nonna’s face was white in shock as she stared up at Sylvia.

Helping Ana to the couch, Sylvia, shaking, went to Vincenzo.

Both of their chests were splattered with blood. When they separated, Nonna whimpered and reached for her grandson with trembling hands.

Vincenzo groaned and squeezed down his hip, keeping back the blood aching to spill out. He forced himself not to scream out in pain, but the redness was quickly beginning to pool to Sylvia’s heels.

Then he coughed up blood and fell against the mantel, his hand slamming down and crushing Campo’s rose.

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