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Tem 23

The Godmother: Ch. 02

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Francesca changed in her bedroom, a lavishly decorated room with a silk black sheet bed, rested atop a hand carved wooden backboard. The room also housed a white marble fireplace against the far wall, an ornately carved desk which she used for busywork and a balcony identical to the one in the room she had just left Maria in. As she laid out her comfort outfit for the evening, a pair of dark blue jeans, a looser blue cotton V-neck t-shirt and a pair of sneakers she liked, her mind was whirling with thoughts. Mostly business concerns for the next day, a few meetings she had to attend via webcam, a visit from her Capo-Regimes, and finally a dinner with some prospective investors in one of her firms, that the CEO she used had deemed ready to meet the real company owner.

However as she slipped out of the business attire she had chosen for the day, her mind continually fluttered back to her visitor. She could not deny Maria’s allure, the strange effect her presence was having on Francesca. Francesca was no prude. She was a woman with needs. And while she did indulge herself every now and again in a one night stand with some local girl from the bars around town, Francesca had never taken a steady lover, nor entered into a relationship with one. She found such love and connections were distractions and more importantly, a severe weakness. Her father had known of her identity sexually and had supported her, but he had always pressed her to go meet women, settle down and provide grandchildren. The typical desire of any italian parent, indeed most parents. Francesca had always indulged him in these fantasies but never offered a firm desire to do so, always stating the right person had yet to come along. Yet as she sat on her bed and slipped on a pair of white ankle socks, she found herself picturing Maria, on her knees in front of her, gently removing the socks from her feet, letting them fall to the floor and taking Francesca’s foot in her hands. Lightly brushing her tongue over each perfectly pedicured toe, before moving down and exploring the sole of her foot, from the heel, up the smooth surface of her arch and back to her toes. Francesca shook her head like a dog drying from the rain. She had to dispel with these thoughts, she could not allow herself such indulgences with her Goddaughter sleeping only a hallway away.

The thought brought something in the back of Francesca’s mind to the forefront and she swore lightly under her breath at the thought of it. With everything going on and the business of the day she had completely forgotten she had another little “indulgence” that was coming by the mansion this very night. She shook her head as she climbed down from the raised bed and left the room. She would just have to keep Maria away from the study tonight. No matter, she doubted the girl would be interested in what would be taking place in there anyway.

As she descended the stairs she saw a man in the doorway awaiting her. Carlo Burtini was one of her most loyal soldiers and head of the compounds security team. She had found Carlo on the streets of New York when he was but a child and she in business school, already under the tutelage of her father. She had been walking home from an off campus dinner when two men appeared from an alley and tossed her to the ground. She had been going for the gun she kept in a garter holster under her dress, but in a moment found it unnecessary. As the men advanced towards her, a figure dropped from the fire escape stairs above them, landing in between both men, perching on their shoulders and driving his fist into their collar bones. The men collapsed like stick piles, falling inwards in a heap on the ground. As they fell into the glow of a street light, Francesca could see her savior was a boy, no more than 12. Quick as a whip, the boy rolled away from the gasping men, who were grabbing at their necks and in an instant was at Francesca’s side, helping her to her feet.

“You alright miss? Saw the bastards trailing you from the rooftop, figured I’d come down to see what they were up too.” the boy said as he helped Francesca up and respectfully looked away as she readjusted her clothing. Francesca looked at the men who appeared to be writhing in pain.

“What did you do to them?” she asked with an air of mild interest.

“Had a bottle up there, split it and drove some shards into their necks.” the boy had said matter-of-factly.

Francesca turned to the boy, impressed not only by his actions but by the calm with which he was handling the situation.

“Go to the street,” she said, turning back to the men whose gasps had become raspy and struggled. “Make sure there is no one around.”

Carlo did as he was told and after a good look announced the cost was clear. Without delay, Francesca withdrew the gun she had been reaching for earlier from her leg and fired two shots each into both her attackers. It was a small caliber pistol, the rounds only offering an echoing pop and a flash of light breaking the stillness of the night.

Carlo looked kaçak iddaa on stunned, as the woman retrieved a cell phone from her purse and shot off a quick text.

“What’s your name, piccolo amico (little friend)?”

“Carlo.” the boy said, still looking behind them at the now still bodies of Francesca’s attacker. “Carlo Burtini.”

“Francesca DiBartollo” Francesca replied, taking a cigarette and lighting it. “Don’t worry about them. Everything will be fine. We’re going to see my father.”

She had barely finished half the cigarette before a four-seater blacked out Crown Victoria appeared out of nowhere, racing up the street. Francesca put her arm around the boy and led him into the back seat. It was a silent trip, they drove for maybe an hour, Francesca smoking and occasionally looking at the boy with a thoughtful expression. When they finally reached the compound, Carlo had leaned up from his seat, staring out the window at the sprawling plot of land in awe. They reached the mansion quickly, the driver hurrying down the driveway. Her father, Don Alberto was waiting out front. Francesca climbed out of the car and the two began talking in rapid italian. Carlo made to follow her but was stopped by a guard at the door. He stood there for maybe fifteen minutes in silence, the guards fixing him with curious, almost appraising stares. After a time, a man Carlo had not seen yet, came out and beckoned him inside. He followed the man into a dimly lit room with large wood chairs and a ornately carved wooden desk. He saw Francesca standing behind the desk and her father seated at it. The man who brought him in, sat him down in one of the two chairs in front of the desk and took the other for himself. The man behind the desk spoke in a thickly accented deep voice.

“So, Francesca tells me you did her a great service tonight. I want you to relax bambino, you are in no danger here. I am not the authorities and if the story Francesca tells is true, you have done my family a great service tonight. Do you know who I am?”

Carlo nodded. He had seen Don Alberto in the newspapers and on the television. The media called him a mafioso. In the streets however he was lauded for his charity, his food drives and his willingness to help the people. He was well known to Carlo. Alberto nodded and continued, “What’s your name my boy?”

“Carlo Burtini sir.” Carlo replied immediately.

“Respectful. Good. Carlo tell me, in your own words what happened tonight.” Don Alberto asked, leaning back in his chair. Carlo ran through the events of the night and recounted with the best detail he could. However when he reached the part where Francesca had finished off the attackers, his eyes flashed to her. Thinking Don Alberto would be angry with her for such a brash action, Carlo took credit for killing the men himself.

Francesca smiled widely at these words and Don Alberto chuckled.

“You’re a good boy Carlo. Francesca had already told me she finished off the men. Trust me it’s much less than I would have done. Where do you live?”

Carlo explained how his parents had died in a fire a year earlier and fearing the overcrowded foster system, he had been surviving on the streets.

The rest was, as they say, history. Don Alberto lauded praise onto the young man for aiding his daughter and immediately offered him a home and work on the compound. He tended to the horses stabled on the property until he reached 16 and was apprenticed under Frank Nerona, the man who had brought him inside the study on that fateful night, and one of Don Albertos trusted Capo-Regimes. He had worked his way up through the ranks and earned his place in the DiBartollo family. He had several lucrative businesses, a house, a family, children who never have to fear poverty and, was one of the few soldiers who reported to Francesca directly instead of a Capo like most. Today he was wearing a button down white shirt, dress pants and slick black leather shoes, with a black pea coat draped over his shoulders. Francesca greeted him warmly saying “Old friend, it’s too cold for all of you out there.”

Carlo shrugged and said “The cold is good. Braces the girls and boys. Besides, guard duty week is an honor. Not mention the dinner at the end of the week you guys make for them.” Carlo finished with a laugh, patting his tight stomach, “I gotta hit the gym the whole week afterwards to work it off!”

The pair laughed as they walked into Francesca’s living room. Francesca approached a glass bar stand and poured them both a small glass of whiskey.

“So what news of today?” she asked, sitting down into one of her leather armchairs, as Carlo leaned on the arm of her couch.

“What news. Nothing too interesting,” Carlo answered between sips “Some mail and bills sent into your study, some girls came by selling cookies and the boys bought them out in your name. Oh and this,” he said reaching into the breast pocket of his jacket, “Miss Rivera brought this by.” he withdrew a white letter envelope, bulging from the middle. Francesca kaçak bahis looked at it shaking her head. She knew precisely what I contained. Some weeks ago, the kindly old woman who ran the flower stand came to Francesca asking for a loan, to put in a new hydration system. Francesca had given it without a thought, telling the old woman she had no need to pay it back. Francesca knew then she had been ignored and here was the proof. Francesca knew the envelope contained the money, plus interest. She smiled and said “Send one of the boys to give it back to her.”

Carlo nodded, replacing the envelope in his jacket. “I figured but she was insistent I deliver it to you. The old girl has her pride.” Carlo took another drink then looked around, “Where’s your new house guest?”

“Upstairs until dinner. Which reminds me. She may try a break tonight, tell the boys so none of them get trigger happy in the dark.” Francesca said with a roll of her eyes.

Carlo laughed and asked “You think she’ll go for a jail break?”

Francesca shook her head and saying “She’s wild, I can tell. Who knows what she might try.”

“Like her Godmother then?” Carlo said with a joking grin.

Francesca shrugged and smiled. “Better that than a timid deer.”

Carlo nodded and finished his drink. “I should get back out there. Call me if you need anything boss.” He bent low and pecked Francesca on her cheek and was gone.

Francesca remained for a few minutes then wandered towards her dinning room. True the style of the rest of the house, the dinning room was furnished with polished wood furniture and comfortable overstuffed chairs. A large crystal chandelier hung over the 12 seater table, and the walls were papered with paintings of the canals of Venice. She wondered if perhaps she should change the décor in the house, it just screamed old school italian. Perhaps something more modern. She pondered newer designs as she took her seat at the head of the table. After a few more minutes, Maria appeared. She had changed into a pair of large grey sweatpants, a white t-shirt and had Adidas shoes on. She entered like a storm, huffing and angry, sitting herself into the chair next to Francesca with a flourish.

“Well, I’m here.” she said, her words dripping with sarcasm and venom.

Francesca chose to ignore her tone, and said while reaching for a cigarette from a pack she had discarded on the table earlier, “And I am glad for it. I trust the room was suitable?”

Maria clearly was struggling with the next words but admitted, “It’s amazing, thank you Aunt Cesca.”

“Of course darling. About earlier.” she said, pulling off the cigarette and turning to face her niece. Once again she was struck by the young woman’s beauty. The bright green eyes, the way her dark black hair fell around her face in a soft curtain, her thin yet soft inviting lips. She pushed forward despite her mind’s eye, continuing, “I do not apologize for striking you. You earned it. But I will say it will not happen so long as you show proper respect to myself and all the inhabitants of the compound. You are our guest. We will treat you as such, but the same respect is expected back.”

Maria nodded, looking somewhat angry, yet also remorseful. Francesca took this as an acceptance and moved on.

“Now tell me about this business with your teacher.” she said returning to her cigarette.

“Mom didn’t tell you?” Maria asked with a tone of surprise.

“She told me you shattered the mans jaw. After that we had to move quickly to keep you in school and out of trouble.” Francesca said with a raised eyebrow. She turned back and saw with shock the girl looked on the verge of tears.

“Of course she didn’t tell you” Maria said through a choked voice, “I don’t think she believed me anyway.”

“So tell you Godmother and let me determine the truth of it.” Francesca replied.

Maria was about to begin when an older woman rolled a cart into the room. Abella Conto was a friend of one of the Capos, who had retired but still longed for work and a purpose outside her home. She was a immigrant from Naples and Francesca had offered her a job as the house cook, a role she relished in. She and her husband Francis lived on the compound and prepared most of Francesca meals. Tonight she brought out a steaming carbonara with freshly seasoned garlic bread and a bottle of wine from Francesca’s cellar. Francesca thanked her and after a look from her Godmother, Maria did as well.

Their food in front of them, they began to eat as Maria launched into her tale. She had a falling grade in this professors class, although she admitted the fall was due to an excess of partying and time spent at the sorority house. Francesca listened intently, eating her dinner and stopping occasionally for a smoke. Maria had gone to the Professor to ask for extra assignments or someway she could raise the grade. It was then the Professor had confessed an attraction to her and offered extra letter grade in exchange for a night together. Maria had refused him illegal bahis and attempted to leave. He had gotten angry and blocked her exit and began insulting her. She said when he had placed his hand roughly on her left arm, she had struck him with her right and ran out. Francesca finished her dinner as Maria finished her story. She was working hard to contain her rage.

“I wish you had come to me.” Francesca said slowly, trying to control her words. “But you did the right thing.” She stood suddenly, finished with her dinner

“Are you finished eating?” she asked. Maria nodded and Francesca motioned for her to follow her and left the dinning room, leading the girl into her study.

“Do you know this room Maria?” she asked as she directed her to the chair in front of the desk, and sat herself on the edge of the desk facing her.

“Of course, this was Papa Albertos study. I remember it from when I was a kid.” she gazed around the room with fondness in her eyes, “He would tell stories in here and let us watch movies on the old TV in the wall. And we always got candy when we came in here.” she finished with a giggle that shot a tingle down Francesca spine.

Francesca nodded with a smile and asked Maria plainly, “What do you know of my family’s business Maria?”

Maria looked very apprehensive and a little frightened. Francesca leaned forward and placed a hand on her shoulder. She was shocked at how smooth even the small amount of skin she brushed against was. “It’s fine child, tell me what you know.”

“I know you’re not an investment banker like Mom told us when we were kids.” Maria said slowly. “I’ve seen stories about you on the news and online. They say you’re a Mafia Boss. That you took over for Papa Alberto when he died.”

Francesca nodded and was about to speak when Maria continued, “But I’ve been in the streets. I see the food drives Uncle Abe and Uncle Carlo run in the projects, that people say they’ve done for years. I hear strangers call you Godmother. The people I’ve met who know you, call you a hero. So I mean, you can’t be that bad.”

Francesca nodded and put her cigarette down in a glass ash tray on her desk.

“I will tell you this much. Your Papa Alberto built an Empire. When I was of age, he taught me all he could. Today I run that empire. The building blocks that keep me, my family and” she gestured to Maria, “Those I love safe.”

Maria nodded saying, “I understand.”

Francesca picked up her cigarette and took another drag, before she continued “I don’t blame you for what you did. Nor do I think you were wrong for doing it, as I said. You were confronted with a dangerous situation and you saved yourself. As a strong woman should.” She sighed and gave Maria a mournful look, “If only it was, that this world was not as it is, so unfair and dangerous towards women. She brushed her hand lightly over this desk and looked around the room, “My father taught me many things in this room. He taught me that the world would always expect less of me because I am a woman. He taught me I would have to fight ten times harder for what I wanted because I am a woman. But one of the greatest lessons I learned from him, was to hide your anger. To keep it inside you. A flame concealed.” she smiled remembering her fathers words. “Show your enemies a smile, let them believe they have the upper hand, And wait for the perfect moment to strike.”

Francesca looked at Maria with a very serious face, “My father taught me of the world in this room and on this compound. Over the next few months, I would like to do the same for you. You are young, angry and seeking your identity.” Francesca held up a hand as Maria looked prepared to protest.

“This is not a question. I know it because I was the same as you at your age. Rebellious, impertinent. But my father showed me the keys to a larger life for myself. And eventually the keys to his own world.” She held her hand out to Maria, who after a slight hesitation put her own in Francesca’s. Francesca’s mind exploded, her hand was silky smooth, every inch of it sending a shock through Francesca’s body.

“It must be your choice however. I will not force you. You can spend your time here, with the compound open to you. When it is over you will go back to school and that will be the end of it. Or you can accept your Godmothers help. And we will spend your time here together. You and I.”

Maria was hesitant, confusion and apprehension etched on her face. “Would I work for you?” she asked in a small voice, with none of the young brashness she had displayed since she had arrived.

“No.” Francesca replied firmly. “You will not know of that world. But you will know what it is to be a woman of power. And I will teach you to wield it fully.”

To Francesca’s surprise, Maria’s face fell in disappointment.

“What if I want to?” Maria asked.

Francesca shook her head. “Finish school, get a degree that will be of use to you. After that.” She hesitated thinking about how she had entered the life, and now could never leave. But also thinking that it had changed her life for the better as well “After that, come to me as any good Godchild should, and we will see what kind of future you want to build for yourself.”

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