October 2nd, 2010
Antonio Fortunato was a mysterious man. With ties to the old blood back in Italy and a history of dealing in shadows and whispers, Veronica wasn’t sure what to think when she was told to meet him. Just in case, Axel had imprinted the image of a revolver on her skin, just below the thigh. Her mind reeled back to the blonde haired man, and a conversation with her mother.
“He’s nice. You’d like him.” Veronica, standing in front of the stove, holding a pot by the handle, displaying the extent of her culinary skill. Macaroni and cheese. “…it’s, um, it’s usually him, who cooks.”
“They’re all nice, dear.” Her mother said, a cigarette between her lips, the grooves on her face shifting as she inhaled and exhaled. “Where is he, by the way?”
“Working. He’s in construction.” She thought about his smooth hands and boyish looks. “An union delegate. We don’t live together, though.”
“Why not? You two sound like good friends. If I didn’t know any better…” She trailed off, arching an eyebrow at her daughter.
“Ah… we’re inseperable. Really.” The mask slid off Veronica’s face for just a second, an embarrassed smile slipping through. “We’ve been through thick and thin since we met at the orphanage. But… I guess we’ve been friends for so long, it’d be… too weird.”
“Bullshit. You’re just afraid you’ll mess it up, somehow.”
Veronica paused, blinking in surprise. “Well…”
“I wasn’t born yesterday, Vero. But, if he’s stuck with you through all these years, he must be a good man. I almost feel like I owe him a debt. He was there when I wasn’t.”
“Enough.” It came out like a loaded spring, cutting through the air. “We agreed to let go of the past, remember? If I’m not angry at you, you can’t beat yourself up for it.”
“Alright, alright.” Smoke zigzagging in the air as she waved her hand from side to side. “I’m just glad you grew into such a beautiful woman. It may not mean a lot, but… I’m proud. I’m proud of you, Veronica.”
Veronica closed her eyes, letting the steam rising from the pot graze her skin. “It means more than you’d think.”
Now, she stood before a solid wooden door, identical to the thousands we see throughout our lives.
She put her hand out, and slowly turned the knob.
“Welcome, Veronica.” A pronounced accent. He was young, younger than she had expected. Her elder by no more than a couple of years.
“Don Fortunato, I take it?” She walked into the office, decorated like a hotel room. He had short, red hair and soft features, but her eyes fell on his hands. Strong and firm with hairy knuckles.
“The one and only.” Meanwhile, his eyes seemed to take her in and size her up, the corner of his lip rising on a face that was almost too smooth. “Please, take a seat.”
Feeling much like an animal on display, she lowered herself onto the cushioned seat in front of his desk, draping her hair over her shoulder. “Let’s get right to it.”
“Very well. Shouldn’t be a mystery as to why I’ve called you here. I need an assassin, and it needs to be an assassin I can trust.”
“I can’t promise trust, but if you need someone dead, I think I’ll do just fine.”
“Let’s hope so. In this envelope you’ll find your assignment…” The man slid one white envelope across the desk towards her. “…and your payment.”
Veronica leaned forward and grabbed the envelope, sliding its contents out halfway with her thumb. A set of instructions, and a check…
Her perfectly crafted iron mask came off for just a moment. Seeing all those zeroes put together almost made her jump.
“Just one more thing.” Antonio spoke before Veronica could regain her composure. “I want you to do this alone.”
“I…” After clearing her throat, she looked up at him again. She had slid her mask back on, features gentle and relaxed. “I beg your pardon?”
“I understand you have… a partner, of sorts, yeah? I’d rather see your skills working alone. I hope it won’t be a problem.”
“Not… at all.” It wasn’t – it wouldn’t be the first time she worked alone, but it was the first time anyone had specifically requested it.
Her hair a whip as she turned around, Veronica stepped out of the room.
There was a warehouse, run by a rival family. Her job was simple: get in, kill everyone inside, and get out. And as she stood watching the warehouse from a rooftop, it was even easier than it sounded.
Two guards outside. Possibly no more than four inside. These weren’t experienced men – these were boys, almost.
Veronica approached the warehouse from the side, maneouvering through crates and boxes stacked outside. She wore dark blue clothes, a shadow gliding through the darkness, her steps without disturbing the silence.
Two guards stood in front of the warehouse, trying to stop their chins from meeting their chests, the need for sleep heavy on the back of their heads. Veronica peeked around the corner, raising her left hand. The topmost diamond bubbled for a minute before a needle of ink shot out, digging into the man’s neck.
He fell forward, clutching at his gushing wound. The other guard was jerked out of his slumber, gripping his gun like a child would his favorite toy. Ink soon met flesh, poking a pin-sized hole through nis neck.
“… Like taking candy.” She muttered.
Veronica walked into the darkness of the warehouse, and painted the night red.
Weeks flew by and the money rolled in. It was always the same; an easy job, fit for an amateur. Get in, kill everyone, and get out. No particularly difficult locations – warehouses and pubs with men so drunk they couldn’t hit her as she stood still. And always, that increasing suspicion as she left the scene, like eyes peering out of the darkness clung to her skin.
But she needed the money.
A few more jobs, and she’d have enough. Maybe enough to retire, even.
It was only a few more jobs.
October 18th, 2010
This time, Antonio had specified the rooftop for their meeting. Stepping up a flight of stairs, she gripped the hand rail as a sick feeling grew in her stomach. After what felt like a thousand steps she came upon the door to the rooftop, pushing it open.
It was not so cold yet that she needed a coat. Still, she wrapped her arms around herself as she stepped onto the rooftop, overlooking the city’s lights. There was a dinner table in the middle, adorned with the fanciest cloth money could afford. Antonio sat at one end of it, holding a glass of wine between his fingers.
She took a seat, looking at him with disinterest. “What is this about?”
“A proposition.” He said, eyes half-lidded as they watched her. His hand fell on the table, inches from hers.
“Speak. And make it quick.” Veronica grabbed a glass of water and took a sip, after carefully looking into the liquid.
“You do understand how far the Fortunato family’s power extends, right?” Without expecting an answer he pressed on. “I think things are gonna shake up soon. I’d hate for someone with your abilities to get caught on the wrong side of the conflict…”
“So, you want me to join the Fortunato family.” She stated, idly looking down at her glass. “No… you want me to join you. Is that right?”
“We’d be unstoppable together. What do you say?” His hand crept until it overtook hers. She thought it a moldy, uncomfortable blanket.
Veronica gripped the glass and threw the water on his face, pulling her hand back. She stood up, turning away from him. “I see our contract is over. Don’t talk to me again.”
He was furious. One could swear the water was about to evaporate from his face. Antonio shot forward, grabbing at her arm. “Who do you think you are, you goddamn bitch–“
The moment she felt his hand she whirled around, a revolver in her hands. She brought the grip down on his head, his hold on her arm loosening as his head hit the table. Veronica grabbed his hair, gun pressed against his temple.
“Don’t touch me again. Or I’ll make your head even more hollow. Understand?”
“Might want to hold off on that one, sugar.” Antonio snapped his fingers. From behind them the door to the rooftop swung open, and Veronica dropped her gun.
Her mother, brought in against her will by a thug, a pistol pressed against her temple. She hadn’t cried – Veronica could tell that much.
“Veronica? Veronica! What’s going on here? Who are these –“
“Quiet her.” Antonio ordered, and as soon as the words left his mouth, the woman was hit with the grip of the pistol, head falling forward.
“No. Please. I’ll do anything. I’ll join you.” Her words came out like a waterfall, turning back to Antonio.
“You had your chance, honey. It’s not gonna be so easy now.” He rubbed the side of his head despite the mocking grin on his face.
“I’ll do it. Just let her go. Please.”
“This should be no problem for you.” Interlacing his fingers, he turned his full attention towards her with cold, steely eyes.
Veronica gulped, feeling her heart heavy.
“I want you to kill Axel Dillinger.”