Marquis Allesandri sat alone in the restaurant booth sipping wine and chewing the steak he never gotten the chance to eat, the rest of the party long since gone, their pomp and circumstance nothing but jolly echoes. The manager, a friend of the family, had trusted him to lock the place up for the night. Even he had flown the coop. So it was solitude that night, if not for his two most trusted employees. No, his two most trusted friends.
“I don’t get it boss,” the girl with the thistle hair complained. “What’s so special about him? Why the big secret?”
Her comment, although predictable, made the Marquis smile.
“Nothing’s special about him. He’s just a joe-schmoe.”
“Then you don’t mind if I kick the crap out of him, right?”
“A joe-schmoe who happens to be an old friend of mine.”
The Allesandri capo raised an eyebrow. “Pardon?”
“How old of a friend? Older than me?”
“Of course not. Don’t be a mook, Nayeli.”
“Then I have seniority, right? I can do whatever I want with the goon.”
The Marquis sighed and set down his steak knife. Being the eldest son of a crime family was more like being in a real family than people thought. It meant a lot of responsibility hanging on his shoulders. First and foremost being keeping the little ones from fighting too much. He focused on his right hand woman. The steak could wait.
“What’s this all about, Nayeli? Why do you wanna bust his balls so bad?”
“He disrespected you.”
“He disrespected me how?”
“He didn’t call you ‘boss’. That little punk actually called you by your first name. Your first name,for crissakes! How can you let him get away with that?! It makes me so mad I can’t stand it!”
Sostene groaned. “And here she goes again…”
The Marquis paid him no mind. “Is that really what all this fuss is about?”
“Yes! I mean what else would it be about?!”
“Maybe that I kept his induction into the family a secret from you?”
That made the thistle-haired girl, or rather Nayeli, falter. Flustered, she backed off a step.
“O-of course not, boss. Why would that ever be a problem? You know I trust you!”
“With your life?”
“With my life!” she affirmed vigorously.
He smiled. “Of course you do. But I still shouldn’t have kept it a secret from you. It was a rotten thing for me to do.”
“Then why’d you do it?” the vampire spoke up before Nayeli could get another word in. “Don’t get me wrong, I got nothing against the kid. I’m sure he’s good blood…” A pause. “No pun intended.”
The Marquis waved his hand dismissively, allowing Sostene to continue.
“Anyway, it’s like you said. He’s a nobody. A joe-schmoe. John Q. Public. Why all the secrecy? If anyone, you could’ve at least told us. You’ve known the guy for ten years and I’ve never even so much as heard you speak his name. I just assumed he was your errand boy or something.”
“An excellent question, my fanged friend. Why do you think that is?” Before his other midnight companion could interrupt again, he turned to face her as well. “This one’s for you too, my dear Nayeli. Why do you think I never talked about him ‘till today?”
“Well, I-uhhhh…” the two responded almost in unison.
The Marquis laughed. “Information control, guys. The name of the game here is information control. He may not look like it, but Al’s got something this family needs. Something we need, specifically.”
He pushed a photo of a young girl across the table. Black hair, bright blue eyes. She was only a teenager, the same age as the Marquis’ little sister. But she looked older than that, somehow. So much older.
“This is Alfonso’s sister, Anastasia. We don’t know what it is yet, but something about her is different. We’ve got it on good word that she’s special somehow. Or she’s going to be, at least.”
“Special in a good way, or a bad way?”
The capo sighed. “Who knows. You know how hard it is getting the right kind of information from the powers that be. Whatever they tell you, it’s gonna be impossible to tell the head from the ass-end of it.”
Nayeli nodded grimly. She’d played ball with those same powers before. She had a strong desire to never do so again.
The Marquis continued. “All they gave me was this. She’s important. Which, by extension, makes Al important. It doesn’t matter how or why, but if we want the best possible chance to succeed, we’re gonna need ‘em both under lock and key.”
“Why both? If it’s just the girl who’s got the big red ‘DESTINY’ stamp on her forehead, what do we need her brother for?”
“You don’t seem to understand the relationship between an older brother and his younger sister.” Sostene raised an eyebrow. “A proper older brother and his younger sister. The two of them are attached at the hip. He’s practically her keeper, you can’t have one without the other. If we make both of them dependent on us, it guarantees we’ll have all the pieces of the puzzle when the time comes to put them together. Not to mention we get to make the best use out of both while we can.”
“So that’s it,” Sostene finally realized.
“What’s what?” Nayeli asked.
“You don’t get it yet, Nayeli? I know your parents dropped you off a mountain when you were a kid, but you can’t be that brain-damaged.”
Sostene chuckled a bit at his own joke. Nayeli, on the other hand, was not amused. A golden labrys slid out of her sleeve.
“You wanna say that again, you fanged fuck? Watch your tongue or I might just rip it out of you and make you taste your own asshole.”
That made Sostene think seriously about his next words. Instead of risking being cut up into little pieces and crucified in Nayeli’s garage, he decided the best course of action was to just be quiet.
“Easy, Nayeli. Settle. You know he’s just busting your balls, so don’t go breaking his,” the Marquis insisted lazily. “Go on, Sostene. I wanna hear it from you. Why did I not tell anyone about this before I went ahead with it?”
Still somewhat taken aback, Sostene coughed, cleared his throat, and began anew.
“You wanted to keep it from the rest of the five families. You didn’t want it getting out that an Allesandri capo had been taking a special interest in some street rat nobody, and oh by the way, said street rat totally happens to have a cute little sister an opportunistic wiseguy could totally use as leverage to steal the two of them away from you.”
The Marquis clapped. “Give this man a prize!”
“If that’s the case then, why even make him a made guy? Won’t that just draw attention to him? Sure he’s got the family’s official protection now, but the same can’t be said for his sister, and she’s the one who’s really important here, right?”
“Yeah,” Nayeli interjected, “why not just lock ‘em up and throw away the key? You don’t need to make the goon step up to bat for our team if this is all you’re trying to do.”
“Well unlike you Nayeli, I actually like the guy.” The Marquis returned to chewing his steak. Speaking with half his mouth full, he said, “You might too if you gave him a chance.”
“Don’t hold your breath,” Sostene mumbled.
“Besides, think of this as a reward. All these years we’ve been hands off with these two, he’s been taking care of destiny’s child all by himself, doing our job for us. He’s capable, and he’s even done good work for the family on the side. After all the years I’ve known the guy, I’ve come to appreciate his unique skillset. That’s why I’m making him a part of our little gang.”
“Tch. Fine, you win boss,” the thistle-haired girl conceded, pouting.
“I always do.”
“Heh. Would you like at that, she’s just upset because she has to share you now. How sad. Worried that you’re not the boss’s favorite anymore?” Sostene said mockingly.
“Didn’t I tell you to shut up, you fucking hemo-freak?!”
“Now Nayeli, I think you should listen to Sostene for once. It’s not the end of the world just because I got a new toy to play with. You’ll make do without me, I’m sure of it,” the Allesandri capo said teasingly. For some reason, he felt like joining in on the joke tonight. It seemed high spirits were contagious.
“W-wha?” Nayeli, looking absolutely heartbroken, forgot Sostene completely and turned to blubber at the Marquis. The capo just laughed.
“I’m pulling your leg, Nayeli. You know you’ll always be my favorite.” The Marquis, no, Marq Allesandri leaned in to give his subordinate a gentle and delicate kiss on her forehead. Nayeli accepted it eyes pinched shut, clearly embarrassed by the public display of affection.
“Ah come on, Nayeli. You can’t be this bashful forever, it’s not attractive. Although it is cute,” he said, gently ribbing her once more. “Well, what do you two say to kicking this place to the curb? This is our last bit of business for today, and the night’s still young. Let’s have a party of our own, how about it?”
Sostene shrugged. “I got nothing better to do.”
She just nodded, a token gesture meant to say she was still too embarrassed to speak without sounding stupid. The Marquis smiled, and raised his wineglass.
“Alright then, it’s a date!” He tipped back the glass. The wine was sweet, too sweet for most palates. Almost like juice. For the Marquis, it was this sweetness that made this particular type of wine refreshing. If the flavor wasn’t so pungent, it almost felt like he wouldn’t even be able to taste it.
Rising from his seat, he followed his subordinates to the door of the restaurant, lighting a cigarette now that his hands and mouth were free. He stopped just outside the door.
“Hold up guys. You might wanna take a step back from the door. ‘Specially you, Sostene.”
The vampire obliged.
Blowing a ring of smoke from his freshly lit cigarette, the Marquis pinched the death stick from his lips. Waving it almost like a wand, he drew in the air with fire, forming a sigil for a particular spell with the embers of his cigarette. The owner of the restaurant had told him to “lock up” when he was done. What he hadn’t told him about was the restaurant’s decreasing returns and how they related to his recent divorce. This was his way of asking for some assistance.
The Marquis flicked the cigarette through the circular diagram he’d drawn, setting ablaze as it sailed through the door and into the failing restaurant, bursting into flames in a bright explosion as colorful as any molotov cocktail.
The place had needed remodeling anyway.
“Alright guys, let’s hit the bricks. Best get out of here before the pigs get wind. You got the car, Sostene?”
“Already on it, boss man.”
The Marquis of the Allesandri domain looked to the skies, wondering what would become of his friend now that he’d truly entered their world. It was underhanded of him to call him a true friend of Al’s, knowing that their relationship had been one of convenience for him, but he felt like in all those years he’d done something to earn the right. Maybe he was wrong.
It’s all starting to come together now, Al. You’ve finally got a place in our world. Don’t you or your sister make me regret it.