Meanwhile, in the minds of…
Alfonso and Marquis
Alfonso sat down next to the Marquis on the train ride back home, sighing as the Marquis flipped through a newspaper.
“Well that’s taken care of, I guess. Not the best way to cap off my career, but at least it was exciting.”
“Uh huh. Yeah,” the Marquis said dismissively, sounding bored.
“Hey. You listening to me?” The Marquis licked his thumb, flipping to the next page. “Hey. Heeeeey. You were serious about giving me that desk job, right? There’s a limit to how much even I can lie to my sister.”
“What? Sorry, I’m just reading about this whole drug scandal with the Yanks. It’s some fucked up shit.”
“Yeah?” Alfonso asked. “What’s it say?”
“Just the usual dick about mandatory drug tests. Says here though that the Bambino might’ve been doping on berserkergäng during the ‘26 World Series. They caught him with like five pounds of the stuff.”
“Really? No shit?”
The Marquis raised an eyebrow.
“Yes, Al. No shit, because I’m totally reading the newspaper right now, and not trying to think of a way to save our collective asses and my girlfriend’s ass from the hammer of the Supreme fucking Court. Who needs to work on building a case when Baby fucking Ruth may have been caught with a couple of cadillacs in his Cadillac, am I right?”
“You have been really fucking passive aggressive lately and I’m not sure I like it,” Alfonso said.
“Yeah? Well get used to it.”
“Especially now that we’ll be hitting the mattresses with the Vitalis over this little shitshow. That’s what you mean, right?”
“Yeah, about that…” the Marquis said, dejectedly discarding his newspaper. “The bodies are gone.”
“What?!” Alfonso said, almost standing up. “What do you mean they’re gone?”
“I mean they’re gone, Al,” the Marquis said, sounding annoyed. “I went back to check the bodies and they were toast. Vaporized, burnt to a crisp. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. All that’s left is the metal shit. Choppers and crosses, mostly, and a few silver teeth here and there. Smells like… burnt potpourri in there.”
The Marquis flared his nostrils in disgust.
“Dammit!” Alfonso said, slamming his fist onto the armrest. “What are we supposed to bring to the Council now?!”
“Nothing. That’s the point. Those crucifixes they carry are probably enchanted to spontaneous combust after death so their bodies can’t be recovered. That way Romeo has the benefit of plausible deniability. Everybody fucking knows their secret little hit squad exists, they just can’t prove it.”
“So then what are we supposed to do? We can still testify, right? I mean we got witnesses!”
“Sure we can testify. And get laughed out of the fucking room. Psychometry’s a bust too. Even if we had anyone who knew how to do it, the Vitalis would probably just tamper with the train’s psychic imprint before we could get clearance to record here. Without proof we got nothing, and nobody wants to start a war over nothing, myself included. Not now.”
Alfonso sighed. He understood what the young capo meant. Not while their best weapon was in such a shaky position. Every family had their own different weapons to deter the others from messing with them. With Nayeli out of the picture even temporarily, the balance of power would shift while they scrambled to find something new to fill the void. This wasn’t a time where they could afford to start instigating any wars.
He groaned, rubbing his temples. Marq picked up on this, catching Alfonso’s drift.
“We’re not gonna lose her, Al. I’m not going to lose her. And you won’t lose Theo or your sister either. I don’t know how I’m gonna do it yet, but we’re gonna find a way to make this work.”
“Yeah…” Alfonso said, comforted. “But still. What a fucking time to leave the front lines… Why were they even here?”
“Probably to kill us,” Marq explained. “Exorcising Yoshirō was probably just an excuse for them to be here, or an incidental bonus. They noticed we’d boarded a train with a ticking supernatural time bomb and decided to capitalize on it. Another good reason you shouldn’t have killed all of them. If you’d left one alive, we would’ve had a case to make with the Council and could even learn a thing or two about what kind of secrets the Vitalis might be keeping. But nooooo…”
“Oh stuff it,” Alfonso said before becoming serious. “Speaking of information leaks, remember what I said to you earlier?”
The Marquis picked up on it. “What, you don’t really think they’d-”
“I do. Why are they here? They said ‘the boss’ wanted them to keep an eye on things, but you didn’t send for them. At least you didn’t tell us you did. Eliminate you and that leaves two meanings of the word ‘boss’: the boss or another capo. I don’t think your dad would send these two or even bother with this job at all. That means one of your brothers or sisters did.”
The Marquis sighed. “You’re probably right.”
“You know I am. So what are we gonna do?”
“Wipe their memories, I guess. We can’t let the stone fall into Milo’s hands, or at least not the knowledge that the stone isn’t the one he thinks it is. Otherwise all this whole mess amounts to is just us pissing in the wind. That, and billions of dollars in property damage.”
“Sounds good,” Alfonso said, and the two mafiosos got up and started walking towards the guilty party. “You… were serious about the desk job though, right? I mean, I think it’d be a great compromise-”
The Marquis snorted. “Al, let’s be real here. We both know you’ll be coming back.”
“I’m serious, man!”
Leon, Figaro and Barbie
“Gahhh!!” Figaro sighed in frustration. “Here they go and make a big deal out of sending us in on this job and then we barely get to do anything! It sucks, it really fucking sucks! Don’t they know anything about handling your assets? And here I was hoping I’d to take Barbie out for a little exercise…”
“Stop saying that like it’s a bad thing we didn’t get more chances to go out there and almost get killed,” Leon said. “The sooner this job is over the better. And stop talking about your chainsaw like it’s your damn girlfriend!”
“Why?” Figaro tilted his head and leaned over to ask Leon.
Leon stared at him dumbfounded. “… Do I need to answer that question?”
“No, I mean why you gotta be like that?” Figaro said, frowning. “Here I thought we were having a good time and then you gotta go and be a wet sock about it. I thought we were friends, pally!”
Leon continued staring at him just as dumbfounded as before.
“Okay, one. I am not your friend. I will never be your friend. Because I don’t make friends with people who give kissy-lip names to their fucking chainsaws!” he yelled. “Two! I am always like this! I have never not been like this! And three. The sooner this job is over the better, because until then I have to wear this guy’s fucking face and everybody wants to fucking kill me! Now do you see why I’d be just a little fucking angry?!”
Figaro backed off. “Whoa. Chill, pally. You need a drink.”
“What I need,” Leon said, “is to shed this skin and get Boss Frankie off my back.”
Just then, two previously well-dressed men in tattered, stained suits approached them. They were both technically their bosses, but only one had the privilege of being addressed as such.
“Hey boss, hey Alfonso!” Figaro said chipperly. “What’s up?”
“Oh nothing,” the Marquis replied, drawing circles in the air with his finger. “I just want you to tell us everything you know about the Cintamani stone…”
Annie and Nayeli
Nayeli stared at the door to her compartment, her cigarette hanging loosely from her mouth.
“Ummm… what is this?”
In the open door stood a teenage girl on two crutches, unmistakably the younger sister of Alfonso Anastasio.
“Um yeah, sorry. I know this is weird. I was wondering if I could come in and talk to you about my brother, Miss… Nayeli, right?”
“Okay… and why would you wonder that?”
“Because I’ve still got a few questions about what happened today and no one is telling me anything. You’re a demigod, so I figured you probably had something to do with… that,” she said, pointing out the window at the smoldering, hundred kilometer wide crater. “I thought you might be willing to talk to me. Not that I’m blaming you for it or anything!”
“Uh huh. And let’s say I was the one responsible for what happened. That doesn’t scare you at all?”
Anastasia shrugged. “You must have had your reasons the way I see it. If you just wanted to cause random destruction and chaos, you wouldn’t have done it out in the middle of a nature reserve.”
“Okay,” Nayeli said, understanding but slowly losing her patience. “So what do you think I can tell you that no one else can?”
“What my brother was doing while you all were fighting,” Anastasia said confidently.
Nayeli looked at her like she’d had her head chopped off.
“Sorry, but I don’t care what your brother does. Ask someone else.”
“What?” Anastasia said. “Why?”
“Because to be honest, I don’t think I could care about what your brother does. No way, no how. Anything he could do compared to me or to my family… that’s nothing. Like an ant pissing in the wind. It just doesn’t register to me.”
“… Are you saying we’re just like ants to you?” Annie said almost indignantly. “You’re still human too, y’know.”
“You can call me a monster if you want. I won’t mind. I… I probably deserve it. It’s just…” Nayeli said, struggling with the words. “Ugh. There’s a difference, in how big things are where I come from. In your world, Al can kill a man and that’s just this world-ending news to you. In my world, the head of the house can literally end the world, and that’s a lazy Sunday. Our worlds are just too far apart, and they’re only connected by this one tiny little bridge…”
“The Marquis,” Annie said.
Nayeli nodded. “Yeah.”
“What do you see in him?”
“Hey,” Nayeli warned. “It’s been a long-ass day and I’m tired as fuck, but if you talk shit about the boss I will kick your ass.”
“… You do realize I have cancer and I bruise really easily, right?”
“You do realize I don’t give a shit, right?”
Anastasia blinked. “Wow… that is the first time anyone’s ever said something like that to me… But I’m being serious! It was honest question. What do you see in him? You obviously love him, but why? Especially when he’s already married!”
“Engaged!” Nayeli corrected. “There is a difference!”
“That doesn’t make it okay!”
Nayeli snorted. “What the hell would you know? You’re just a damn kid. You don’t know anything about love or the way this world works…”
“Alright,” Annie said. She plopped down on the seat across from Nayeli, arms folded like she’d just had a toy taken away from her. “Then explain it to me.”
Nayeli stared at her.
“No, I meant… you weren’t supposed to… gahhhh! Fine! Herc’s greasy fucking taint…” she swore, rubbing her temples and taking a deep breath. “Okay. Let’s assume brotherly or sisterly love or whatever is the same thing as romantic love, which it’s not!”
Nayeli mysteriously jammed a finger up at the sky before returning to what she was saying.
” What would you do if someone said you couldn’t be with Al for some completely stupid arbitrary reason, like you couldn’t be his sister because you’re not blood-related? You’d be pretty fucking pissed, right?”
“That’s not the same thing!”
“Yes it is!”
“You just said it wasn’t three sentences ago!”
“Just answer the damn question!”
“I… I guess I’d be pretty mad, yeah.”
“And so what would you do? Would you just listen to what they said and be happy never seeing him again?”
“Of course not!”
“You see? That’s exactly what I mean!”
“But… sometimes it already feels like that…”
“… Hah?” Nayeli said, her cigarette dangling on the edge of her lips. Anastasia stared at the floor, fidgeting. Nayeli sighed.
Don’t give me that fucking look…
“Alright, fine. Sit down.”
“I get the feeling there’s a story here, so come on, spit it out,” Nayeli said, gently but forcibly using her great strength to seat Anastasia next to her. She took a breather from her cigarette, spouting a puff of smoke. “Let’s have a little girl talk and get this over with so we can both move on with our fucking lives.”
Anastasia looked suspicious of her. “This… doesn’t seem like you.”
“Hey, what do you know about me, huh? Maybe I’m actually just a big fucking teddy bear who likes to cuddle. You don’t know that. You don’t know shit.”
“Yeah, but somehow I doubt it…” Anastasia mumbled, sighing. “It’s just… it’s Al. Sometimes it just feels like we may as well be living on two different planets.”
Nayeli raised an eyebrow, suddenly interested. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Well… it’s just like…” Anastasia said, struggling with the words. “He says he wants to protect me, right? Well I want to protect him too. I don’t want this for him.”
“Yeah,” Anastasia said, making confused hand gestures. “This. What he’s doing right now. He has this whole idea in mind for what my life should be like, and he’s doing all sorts of stupid things just because he thinks that’s what’ll help. But because I’m stuck in these stupid crutches and wheelchair, I can’t do anything to stop him. It’s like… it’s like I’m not allowed to have a life with my brother. The kind of life I want for him, where he’s not always trying to get himself killed, or worse.”
Not allowed to have the life you want, huh? Nayeli thought.
“And it’s just… so frustrating, feeling like I’m this powerless waif. That I’m stuck in this situation where I just can’t do anything.” Anastasia laughed bitterly. “But someone as strong you probably thinks that’s really stupid, don’t you? You’re a demigod, after all. You can just take whatever you want. No one can tell you what you can and can’t do.”
Nayeli exhaled a puff of smoke. “Nope. You’re wrong.”
“Huh?” Anastasia said, looking up at Nayeli.
“There’s a lot of stuff I can’t do. I can’t vote. I can’t get a job doing anything besides manual labor. This bracelet I wear, with the little axe on it? I’m not strong if I’m not wearing it, because of a curse. And I… and I can’t be with him.”
Silence passed between them, Nayeli’s words hanging in the air.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Anastasia said, looking at her, confused. “I thought you already were.”
“Oh, if you mean we’re fucking, then yeah, we’re doing that,” Nayeli said as Anastasia blushed. “But I can’t be with him be with him. I’m not ‘qualified’. I’m a mutt. A stray. I don’t fit in in his family.”
Nayeli shrugged. “I’m not fully Italian. Y’know on top of being not fully human. The whole world doesn’t like me, so I can just forget about dinner with the in-laws. I guess what I’m trying to say is… I get it. The whole ‘wanting what you can’t have’ thing.”
Anastasia looked up at her, truly looked up at her, for the first time. “You do?”
“That’s what I just said, isn’t it? It’s hard to keep on living when something you can’t control keeps you from ever being with the ones you love. I get that, I do. But…”
Nayeli paused, looking away and out the window. “We should at least be grateful we’re able to spend the time with them that we do. You especially. At least you still have your brother. Your relationship isn’t gonna be perfect, because they never fucking are, but at least you got family that loves you and cares about you. Even if it is that weirdo.”
“Miss Nayeli…” Anastasia said, hesitating. “Does your family…?”
Nayeli looked down at the infirm teenage girl sitting beside her, and while she never said anything, she didn’t need to. The intensity in the look in her eyes told anyone looking to back off. Then, she closed her eyes.
“Nah,” she said. “Now get outta here, and don’t tell anyone I played nice with you. I got a reputation to keep, kiddo.”
She gave Anastasia a friendly pat on the back, making her go “oof”, and sent her on her way. Halfway to the door, Anastasia stopped.
“Miss Nayeli… thank you,” she said. She didn’t turn around. She didn’t feel like she had to. They weren’t friends or gal pals or anything like that, but even so… she felt like a connection had been made today. Maybe someday, she’d get to call on it again.
“Go on, get outta here,” she said, waving her hands. Anastasia obliged, leaving with the tiniest hint of a smile.
Felicity and a gentleman caller
In the back of the train, the daughter of one of the most powerful men in New York crammed herself into a tight phone booth and started thumbing coins into the slot to make a call.
The phone rang approximately once before someone picked up on the other side.
“Hello. This is Asset Felicity, making my report.”
Felicity sighed. “With all due respect, must we really communicate this way? Speaking like one of them just feels so… wrong.”
A moment of silence.
“Yes,” she said, nodding. “Yes, I know what our mission is. No, I haven’t forgotten. Yes, subtlety is key. We can’t force the Marquis to do anything. Only shape the circumstances around him so that he has no other choice. With that in mind, I think there may be a way for us to spin this in our favor.”
Felicity adjusted herself in the tiny booth, and took out a notepad.
“The daughter of the Olympians will be facing severe criminal charges for this offense. That’s bad for our agenda, but if I may be so bold, it could also provide us with an opportunity. If we use the demigod like this…” There was silence in the booth, the young woman’s hushed whispering being absorbed by the glass. “Yes… what do you think? Eh? What do you mean by that? ‘What do I think’? Surely that’s not important…”
The voice on the other end could not be heard or understood, but the young woman’s facial expressions were easy enough to read.
“Elimination? No. No, I really don’t think there’s any need for that yet. With all due respect, the demigod is troublesome but she could still prove to be a useful blunt instrument in the future. I can handle her. Besides, killing her could have the opposite of the intended effect on Marquis. However…”
Felicity looked back, craning her neck to catch a glimpse of them. The brother and the sister.
“… there may be a few variables whose usefulness could be reevaluated.”
Her grip on the phone tightened subconsciously. That damn thing. Asking to play nice with it, that she could handle. But to simply ignore it after it had insulted her like that? It was like being talked down to by a child. No, by an animal, or an insect. Something so vastly your inferior that its gall to criticize you made you feel indignant. And what was wrong with it anyway? Was it so spoiled by its idyllic life that it had forgotten what its role in all this was? And how easily it could be replaced?
While some of us are out here working hard and trying to prove ourselves, that filthy half-breed thing…
The voice on the other end crackled.
“What? No. No, I haven’t forgotten. Yes, I realize it’s important, but… what? No, I do not feel jeopardized! My position is as secure as ever! And I will not allow any rumors they might spread to persist. I will cement my place in the Marquis’ household without fail! I know my results as of yet have not been promising, but-”
Her bravado faded.
“Yes. Yes, I understand. No, no I do not need to be reconditioned. I will not fail this time. With the demigod out of the picture for a while, I should have some more room to maneuver. Hm? Satisfaction, you say? With all due respect, I have all the incentive I need! I am completely dedicated to… yes. Yes I know. No I am not refusing your kindness. Okay. The hospital then? You can really do that? Okay. That sounds fantastic. Please do that then.”
The crackling grew harsher.
“Yes. Yes I know you’re not doing this for me. The asset needs to be reactivated. We cannot afford to lose control of it at this point. I understand. Goodbye then.”
She hung up.