The mafia. The mob. Cosa nostra. Camorra. ’Ndrangehta. Organized crime.
You’d think you could nail down a little consistency with organizations that are behind so much modern crime folklore.
Alas, organized crime in 2014 bears no resemblance to versions from the ’70s, ’80s, or ’90s. The illusion of constancy arises from the mythologies of the men of tradition running them, not from historical fact.
But tradition is not the same as uniformity. And the authorities think they know shit. They don’t. Wikipedia is a joke. I’ve got books. Each tells a different story. And all the stories are true. The facts are not neat and tidy, and the anecdotes often confused with universal truth.
So, let’s do this instead.
Let’s have some fun.
You’ve met my broken billionaire. My submissive musician. My shattered celebutante. My painful dichotomies. I’ve introduced you to my family traditions, my honorable pledges, my versions of ambition and art.
Let me introduce you to my mob.
This is my Neapolitan camorra. These are my rituals. My sold souls. My men of honor.
This is my Los Angeles.
Everything bled. The sun bled gold over the skyline. The deep blue horizon bled over the map of the streets. The trapezoid of light bled across the carpet as the day passed. The smog bled into the cloud. From the tower, I presided over silence.
I didn’t know how many hours a day I sat in front of that window, looking out over the breadth of the Los Angeles basin with its endless ocean of greys and browns, wondering where he was and where I was and how many hours were between us. Wondering if I’d eaten or if my motionless night at the window had been cut by sleep or if my open-eyed diligence was to end in another day of bleeding the hours of life into the endlessness of death.
He was gone. He didn’t talk about what he did, but I was sure the sun draining onto the blanket of the basin was blood shed by him or his men or on his behalf. I feared it was his. Everyone’s blood looked the same once spilled, but his, running the same color as a polluted sun, would have brought me to tears.
The most tender symptom of aging is the reduction of choices. I’d wanted to be everything when I was a girl: a scientist, a politician, a financier, a lawyer. But I’d made a choice to be nothing, bleeding options from a wound where my heart had been pulled out, inflated to ten times its normal size, and put back.
Time had passed in that bland grey apartment. People had come and gone, like Zia Giovanna, Antonio’s aunt who ran a restaurant in San Pedro, and Zo, one of his associates, a sweet man who had no problem beating the life out of someone. Others with names and accents came, bringing food, clothing, comfort, and I still had no idea how I’d gotten there.
Not physically. I remembered the multiple cars, the handoffs in desolate places. But I couldn’t recall the single decision I’d made that had yanked me from my world and into that place, high above the city, where I knew no one, had no connection to the things I’d spent years building, and had no influence on decisions made about my life.
I was able to leave.
People watched me, but I could have eluded them if I’d gotten my mind to wiggle around options and choices. With a well-built strategy for escape, I could have left in a blaze of light or the thick of night. I had a phone. One call to my father, and my confinement would have been over. Or to Daniel. I could manage anything I set my mind to, even if I was watched. And I wasn’t being kept against my will. Not really. Not in a way that was decidedly illegal, but only in a way that left me staring at the breadth of the city and out to the horizon, bleeding time.
Until he came.
He barely knocked when he entered. Maybe the whickCLAP of the lock should have been as good as a knock. Or the mumbles of him and the guy outside, with his voice an interlocking puzzle piece to something in my brain. Something with needs. Something desperate. But every time he came to the apartment, I was surprised and relieved and hungry, like a woman who was so starved she hadn’t even entertained the thought of food until someone slipped a bowl of stew through a flap in the door.
I paused when he closed the door behind him. I never knew which Antonio I was getting when he walked in. It didn’t matter if he was in jeans and a polo shirt or, as was the case that day, a jacket and sky-blue turtleneck. He could be any one of ten incarnations.
“Contessa.” He tossed his keys on the end table.
I said nothing. Not yet. I was afraid speaking would break the spell, and like that, he’d disappear in a flare.
He shrugged out of his jacket, revealing the brown-leather shoulder holster that creased his sweater. He wore it in my presence. He trusted me. He wasn’t afraid, and as he walked toward me, the straps cutting his frame didn’t scare me either. The gun made me bold. The scruff on his face and the circles under his eyes made me compassionate, and the line shadows bleeding from his feet to the side of the room in the late sun made me angry.
“Capo,” I said when he was a step away.
He gently reached for my cheek, and before he could embrace me and sweep me away, I tilted my body back and slapped his face.
I hit him so hard his neck snapped ninety degrees until he was facing the window. The sound of skin hitting skin rang against the walls.
And I felt not an ounce of regret.
I raised my hand again, and he grabbed the wrist. He was not gentle when he drew it down, nor when he stepped toward me, pushing me back against the table. His breath was hot on me, his body a field of energy. His hips pressed against me so forcefully his erection hurt through my clothes.
“Did you want to tell me something?” Antonio let my wrist go so he could put his hand up my shirt. He shoved my bra out of the way and grabbed a nipple, pinching to pain.
“Where were you?” I gasped the question. All the accusation and anger heated to a sticky, molten mass between my legs.
“God,” I groaned. “Go to hell.”
I tried to wiggle away, but he grabbed under my arms and threw me on the table. I swung; he dodged and held me down with his weight while peeling my pants off.
“Did you hear me?” I growled.
“I heard you.”
I kicked at him, twisting. I fell off the table with a crash, pants halfway down, and I flipped so he wouldn’t have me helpless on my stomach. He grabbed my ankle and dragged me across the room. My shirt rolled up, exposing my skin to the burn of the carpet, which matched the burn between my legs.