"WHAT'S THAT SUPPOSED TO MEAN?! LENIENT?!" Ghiaccio yelled at the laptop screen.
"Just what it sounds like. My management style isn't up to par with Passione's." Risotto said calmly, pushing the laptop away from Ghiaccio towards a safer distance where it wouldn't be thrown. Or more likely, smashed.
"I have to agree with Ghiaccio on this one. That's a load of shit, boss." Formaggio shook his head, frowning.
"Just ask what he thinks you're doing wrong, and adapt." Melone hummed, focused more on his own laptop.
"What, he wants you to be tougher?" Prosciutto huffed.
"He doesn't want me at all." Risotto shrugged.
"WHAT MORE COULD YA DO?!" Ghaccio slammed his fist down, just short of the laptop in question. Again, Risotto calmly shifted the laptop away.
"You know about as much as i do. But apparently it's beyond time to simply take review and change. So we're taking orders from the Boss himself. Through someone the Boss has dictated." Risotto shrugged.
"So what?! You're gettin' demoted? We going under someone's brat?! What?!" Ghaccio huffed.
"No name. Just an address." Risotto set a small business card on the table.
"What's this? A house?" Prosciutto picked up the card, looking it over.
"We can assume." Risotto shrugged.
"How lame! Probably the Boss's favorite. I say leave 'em hangin' and keep goin' about as usual." Sorbet huffed, falling back into Gelato's lap.
"They're just going to get this address and find their way here. There's no avoiding it." Risotto sighed.
"It wouldn't hurt to just tell you what you've been doing wrong? There's no such thing as human error to this guy?" Illuso huffed from his spot in the wall's mirror.
"No. Nor should there be. It doesn't matter what i've done wrong. Nor should i be in a position to be pleading for a 'second chance'." Risotto shook his head, standing. "I expect you all to treat them the way you would treat me. I want no harassment, pestering, or insults. I signed us onto this because we were promised a good deal, here. We want to be seen as reliable, yes?" Most of the room nodded in agreement. Most notably, Sorbet and Gelato seemed to have taken the words personally, refusing to look at Risotto.
"Something wrong, you two?" Risotto glanced at the two.
"Ah, nothin. Just......." Sorbet started, looking uncomfortable.
"Sorbet! You're so forgetful! Did you forget already?!" Gelato huffed, running a hand through Sorbet's hair. "God! You'd be lost halfway to Paris if i didn't have to remind you all the time!"
"Yeah, yeah." Sorbet huffed, but accepted the head patting.
"With that said...." Risotto's eyes narrowed slightly, but didn't pursue the issue.
"What, you're goin' now, Boss?" Pesci started to stand out of habit.
"Might as well, right? Sit down, it's probably better if i do this alone." Risotto shook his head as Pesci was pulled back in his seat by Prosciutto.
"Alone?! Like hell you are! We got as much right to see the brat as you do!" Ghaccio snapped.
"That may be so. But in the event that the Boss is there to oversee things, we need to be as professional about this as possible." Risotto stood straighter, making himself even taller.
"Screw professionalism! The man just called you incompetent!" Formaggio huffed. "You're gonna take that sittin' down?!"
"Hardly. But perhaps through observation i can learn the standard. And eventually we can get back to business." Risotto said simply.
"Just go up to the tightass and remind him who he hired!" Illuso rolled his eyes. "You've gotta flex a little, for these big dogs. That's how you get shit done, in the Mafia."
"He's not gonna do that, Illuso. And what the hell do you know about 'Flexin' for these big dogs?" Formaggio laughed.
"A lot more than you do, 'Little Feet'." Melone held back his own snicker as the usual argument started between the three, Melone narrowly dodging a pocket knife thrown his way.
"Go ahead and go get him. Or her." Prosciutto waved him off, already standing to break up the fight as Formaggio was already elbow deep in the wall mirror.
"Oooh! Let me know if it's a her!" Melone perked up, already drooling at the thought.
"Oh, go soak your head in some bleach." Prosciutto scoffed, smacking Melone up the jaw and making him bite his tongue. "Go on. Get outta here."
Risotto quietly excused himself, leaving Prosciutto to handle the dynamic.
The house was.... less than he was expecting. It was old, for sure. Probably as old as Naples itself. Finely made though. Practically the picture of a typical, small family hope. A crudely painted 'Zeppeli' was painted on the mailbox. He had to wonder if it was a family home. Or if he really was just being handed over into someone's brat's hands.
Part of him wanted to believe Passione was more professional than nepotism.
But why would they be?
"MARIA! WHAT IS THIS?!"
There was a loud bang from the garage, followed by a series of swears and a black haired girl in a tank top and shorts running out of the building and into the house.
He could only hope he was looking for the elder 'Zeppeli'.
"Eh?" 'Maria' stuck her head through the front door, snatching a kitchen towel and wiping her face with it. Whatever had been apparently discovered between the two quickly turned into a heated argument, with rather angry screeching from inside and petulant whines from her. Apparently through this, she apparently noticed him at their front gate, and paused. Apparently this further angered the resident inside, Maria just barely dodging a heavy wooden ladle being thrown at her head.
"Damn, bitch! You trying to make a scene for the whole town?!" Maria huffed, snatching up the ladle and throwing it back at it's recipient. "We got a guest and you're throwin' shit at 8 in the morning?! Damn! Have some courtesy!"
"A guest?" Suddenly the house quieted down, followed by a much older black haired woman coming out of the house, wiping a pan out with a dishcloth as if the fight had never happened.
"If i'm interrupting...." Risotto started to back from the gate. The older woman looked him over with a critcal eye, as if he were an art piece on sale, before growing much friendlier.
"No! No. Sorry you had to see that. If you're needing a piece done...." The woman walked up to him, lowering the pan at a much less hostile angle.
"A piece?" What kind of business were these women in?
"A furniture piece? A chair? A table? I don't normally take walk ins, but since you had to see that...." The woman said, straightening up and taking a much more professional look. Furniture makers, then?
"If you've got a couple a' guns need fine tuning too, hand 'em right over. Just write your name and address and i should have them by either the end of the day or tomorrow, depending on if she gives me the time a' day." Maria followed, wiping her hands of a black substance. Grease, then. She dealt guns, then?
"Get back inside, girl." The woman snapped, the tension back in the air as she cracked the towel like a whip towards her daughter. Maria just shrieked, jumping away as the towel left a red welt on her thigh. This was.... an interesting family, to put it lightly.
"Mom!" Maria whined, holding her leg.
"Get your booty-shorted ass inside and give that shop a sweep like i asked!" The woman snapped, holding the towel again threateningly. Maria just gave a dramatic groan, turning back towards the house. Just as she turned she was met with yet another towel smack, this time right where her shorts met her tank top.
"Faster than that! I have to open in an hour, you know?!" her mother snapped, sending Maria running across the lawn. "So sorry you had to see that. Teenagers." the older Zeppeli sighed, turning back to Risotto with a smile and a friendlier tone.
"Uh... ahem. I... don't need a piece done, no." Risotto coughed, trying to cover a small laugh. "Someone actually sent me, here." Risotto pulled the business card from his pocket, showing her. Fishing a set of glasses from her pocket, the woman hummed reading the paper over.
"I don't recognize this writing, sweetie. Did someone else send you to get a piece for them? I have a lot of orders backed up at the moment. i might or might not have it done." The woman shook her head, starting to hand back the business card.
"Er... no. I wasn't sent to collect anything, no. In fact.... i need to speak to someone, here. I assume since you don't know who i am... Is your husband home?" Risotto shifted on his feet.
"Oh, dear.... No, Maria's father died.... a very very long time ago. I suppose you can see a bit of the scars it's left. On both of us." her green eyes softened, looking a bit sadder.
"My apologies, ma'am. But i presume if it's not the father i'm looking for...." Risotto shifted awkwardly.
"You're with Passione, then?" The woman sighed, looking a bit worried. "If you're here to take her.... please. Bring my little girl back in one piece, would you?"
"I don't know if i'm taking her anywhere. That's what i need to ask." Risotto nodded.
"Okay then.... I suppose..... Well. It does us no good to leave you standing out here. Come in. Sit." The woman opened the gate for him, politely guiding him up to the house. "Maria! You've got a visitor! Finish sweeping and come greet them proper, would you?!"
"A visitor?" Maria yelled back, confusion in her voice.
"It's.... The gang!"
There was a sound from the back of the house, a push broom sweeping faster and Risotto was hit with the smell of pine and maple wood as he awkwardly ducked into the small doorway and seated himself at one of the well-made chairs of the table.
Passione never truly prepared one for the responsibility of being Capo. One would argue, she had all the resources she needed at her beck and call. And certainly, that was the case.
But no one prepared you for digging the graves. Risotto had summed it up. 'Everyone's time comes, someday in Passione.' Everyone had accepted that someday, they wouldn't come back. For that very reason, it was better not to make any ties to this world, or settle for things like relationships. It'd get taken from you, one way or another. But....
She'd already had to dig 2 graves too many, in her short time.
If she'd known, she'd have to dig 7 more. Maybe she would've turned the promotion down. Maybe even left things in Risotto's hands like she had half a mind to, back then. Damn her Zeppeli heritage, and damn their sense of honor. And now, because of that honor......
She shouldn't think things like that. The whole thing was Risotto's idea. A stupid power grab. And they all paid the price. She'd warned them all. The boss had ways of finding out, of making each of their lives miserable. Possibly even cost them all their lives. They should've stayed where they were at. Be happy with what they had and waited for Bruno to go through with his own power grab. But.... greed had always been a gang member's defining trait. One could argue it was even her own, at times. They'd been screwed over again and again for at least the 7 or so years they'd known each other. Maybe then she shouldn't have left for her own ideals. Maybe.... If she'd stuck around, she could've talked some sense into Risotto. Or convinced Bruno to work something out with them. But...
Bruno had been the one that had organized their deaths.
If she'd known, a year ago. After everything they'd been put through, against Nirvana, after everything they'd lost together, and the kinship they'd formed in a short race across Europe for an Arrow to end the Stand world.... That he would.....
There were no words sufficient, for the betrayal in her heart. That he would put his own greed and lust for power higher than even the bonds they'd shared.... That he would gladly cut her team down and then assume to seat himself as boss....
Maybe that was what made her angrier than even the deaths of her team. The kid didn't think to so much as contact her beyond sending a bloody cardboard box of 7 personal possessions, let alone offer her a seat at the newly reorganized Passione. He would think to sweep it under the rug. Pretend La Squadra had only been a footnote in Passione's past. That he would.... That he would make their sacrifices meaningless.
She'd barely noticed she'd been shoveling away at rock for the past couple of minutes. Releasing the shovel with shaky hands, Maria finally brought herself to a sit next to the half-dug, unmarked grave, and let the baggie of a dried, bloody belt with an 'R' on it drop into her lap. This was Giorno's fault. Giorno had killed them. Without so much as regret or hesitation, even. And he even thought to seat himself in a position of power while his own team flourished, alive and well. She recalled a time, when her mother had talked about her Uncle Caesar. How brave he'd been.... How he'd always put others in front of himself. How he'd succumbed to what she called 'The Zeppeli Family Curse'. How eventually, it was the Zeppeli family's fate to eventually have their kindness and honor taken advantage of, by those they put their faith and trust in. She'd later redacted such, claiming that it'd been for the better good. And that both her grandfathers had died honorably. Well...
It was a shame that it took 4 generations of Zeppeli's and her team's individual deaths for them to finally wisen up. But if she was living and breathing this day, 2 years later to dig her team's graves, then perhaps it was a sign. Maybe it was about time she did something about the 'Zeppeli Family Curse'. Where was the honor in being taken blatant advantage of?! Where was the honor in watching her comrades.... no, her family, die to whom she'd saved the world with?! Where was the honor in simply being another Zeppeli to take a bullet for a 'Joestar'?! Where was the honor in that Joestar disregarding her and her team and enjoying his newfound power while here she sat 12 miles out of Naples digging a couple of graves for casualties in his journey?! Why should she have to just accept the fact that it was the Zeppeli's duty to be the shadows of those they called their heroes and friends?!
With a growl she threw the belt buckle down the hole, and started shoveling dirt back over it.
This was her duty as Capo. It was her responsibility to be her team's minder. To ensure that they were all well taken care of, and ensure that in return they'd offer their complete loyalty. It was her job to take vengeance on their behalf as well. Their deaths would not be a casualty, nor a needless sacrifice. Not... not when she was still alive to redeem them.
It was suicidal, thinking she could murder her way up Passione and look Giorno in the eye.
But.... at this point, what more could she hope to look forward to? La Squadra di Executione deserved as much, even if posthumously. A life.... for a life. Suppose if it was a Zeppeli's duty to die, then she'd go out in a goddamn blaze of glory.
Honestly she should just trudge back to Air Supplena with her tail between her legs, and leave her old life behind as she'd told Caesar she'd do. But then again, she never wanted to just settle down and be a hamon master like her ancestors. She'd decided on her life, her dreams, years ago. Hamon would just be another skill she'd picked up, another tool at her disposal in getting revenge for La Squadra.
Calm yourself. Breathe, girl. Anger will only make the Hamon that much harder to control. You must think clearly, must be able to act on a split second decision. Anger will muddle that judgement, and make you that much slower.
She had to do this with a clear mind. She had to focus. Anger would only make her that much slower, and that much messier. She would finish here... dig her family proper graves. And then....
Where would she even begin?
What would Risotto do?
What would Prosciutto do?
What would Melone do?
What would Ghaccio do?
What would Illuso do?
What would Formaggio do?
What would Pesci do?
.... Suppose she'd just have to use what they'd taught her. And the rest would come together.
With a shaky chisel and hammer in hand, she started to carve out the name 'Risotto Nero', on the paltry, crude stone. It was shameful, she couldn't even order a few proper headstones, for her team. Nor pay for a proper burial plot. They'd probably spit on her for even leaving them out here, unknown and forgotten by anyone but their dear Capo. But.... at this point, she liked to think what she was about to do next would earn her a little forgiveness. Couldn't be much worse than what they'd suffered in life.
Shovel in hand, she started on the next one. Pesci.
The silence was unbearable.
Her fingers twitched on the wheel, resisting the urge to turn the old radio dial of the car on. She was supposed to be on watch, in case things went south for Prosciutto and Pesci. Passione really did need to pick better spots for their deals than old, boarded out buildings. The two-way radio at her side hadn't so much as let out a static. In and out, a kilo of cocaine, or weed. Intel, or eavesdropping. But she was hardly a newbie to this by now. There was little to no reason to still be leaving her in the getaway car. She's been parked in this dark alleyway for about 20 minutes waiting for the two to get out. They hadn't set a time, precisely. Nor had they even told her what the job was. But there was an inching feeling in the back of her mind that something had gone wrong already.
Maria quietly turns on the radio, softly. The voice is barely audible, a sportscaster rolling off football scores from the last week of matches. She listens for a bit before letting out an anguished sigh. How long does it take to pick up a few documents or hand off some coke?! She snatches up the radio at her side and switches to Prosciutto's channel.
"Page back." She whispers, barely.
The radio crackles and goes silent. It could only mean one of two things. 1) Prosciutto's pissed. Or their cover's been blown.
With a curse under her breath, she tunes it over to Melone's channel and waits again.
"Everything alright, Capo?" In the beginning they'd used the term mockingly, Risotto would only ever be their true boss. To them she'd just be a figurehead to the Boss. But after the first few weeks, and a few near death experiences, the term had started to soften, and eventually even Ghaccio and Melone could warm up to the idea.
"Yeah, at least here." Maria muttered, leaning back in the seat and watching the empty apartment doors out of the corner of her eye. "They're not paging back, but i don't hear gunshots or screams. Think i should go in?"
"Nah. Prosciutto's a professional. Pesci..... well maybe you should worry for him, but with Prosciutto around, he's straight as an arrow. Why? Something weird?" She can hear Melone shuffling papers, checking their dossier.
"I don't know. I tried paging him, but either he or Pesci or someone else hung up."
"Says he's still in the area. He hasn't moved for the past couple of minutes." Melone hummed in thought before clearing his throat. "Give him a couple more minutes. D'you at least look like a customer?"
Maria glanced down at her torn black shorts and pink tank top. Her battered black leather jacket had been tossed into the back seat. She'd refrained from dyeing her hair back to black this month too, letting short, blonde locks fall over her eyes.
"Well.... I don't look exactly desperate, if that's what you're askin'." Maria grumbled.
There was a sigh from Melone's end followed by what sounded like a heavy mug being set on the desk. "Why didn't you-"
"It's fine." Maria interrupted. "I used to do shit like this all the time. I'll just do what i always do."
"Someone's comin'. Gotta go!" Maria switched off the radio before Melone could so much as get another word in. Just a few more minutes. She's about to turn on the car and take another slow drive around the block before there was the flashing blue of a police officer, accompanied by the car itself. Depending on whose payroll this one was on, it could just be a routine check, or the precursor to a drug bust. Taking her hands off the wheel and ensuring no suspicious contraband could be seen in the car, she sat quietly and politely as the officer got out of his car and tapped on her window with a baton.
Maria rolls down the window as calmly as she could and put on her best 'moody teenager' expression.
"Evenin'." Maria grumbled, leaning back in the seat casually.
"Young lady. You're aware you've been parked here for almost an hour?" The officer drawls, returning her expression with his own. "I'm sure you've got places to be, things to smoke. You got plans on leaving?"
While the implication wasn't wrong, something about his attitude actually did spike a sense of indignant in her. Nonetheless just just gave a noncommital grunt.
"A few minutes." She grunted, hopefully in truth, before lying right through her teeth. "My car's engine filter finally gave out. A couple of friends of mine went to a convenience store a little away from here to get another one. Said they'd be back in a bit. They're kinda a slow bunch." The officer narrows his eyes down at her, before backing off with a click of his tongue.
"Tell them to hurry up. I want you gone from here the next time i come around." The officer warned, as she was all to happy to give an acknowledging grunt.
"Understood, officer. Good night." Maria sighed as the officer just returning to his car to resume his rounds.
Maria checks the time of her phone again and starts to reach for the gun underneath the drivers seat as suddenly, there's some shouting from the building. She looks back up to see a pair of patterned suit pants followed by a slam of the back seat.
Maria didn't need to be told twice, and did as told. Peeling out of the alleyway, she speeds down the small empty Venitian street as Prosciutto pulls himself into the passenger's seat and pulls a pair of pistols from under his suit.
"I was just gonna come in after you! How'd it go?"
The expression on Prosciutto's face said it before he even had to.
"It was going great! Money was on the table, hit was all laid out all nice and clean, and then you commed."
She'd done it again.
Maria shut up, taking a sharp turn towards the residential district. Prosciutto's eyes were wild with fury, but his face remained as calm and collected as ever as a pair of flashing blue lights gained on them quickly. Pesci was in the back, breathless from their escape. Oops.
"We were exchanging the money and we would've had the job without a hitch, and then you fucking page. You knew when to page, you little-"
Maria cuts the lights before he could finish his sentance and takes a sharp turn into the mouth of an alley. Prosciutto is thrown from the window into her lap. Within a few meters, however, she sees even more blue lights.
"I thought we paid these guys off!" Maria snapped as she continued driving with no lights and picking up speed, hoping to lose them in the dark.
"We weren't even supposed to be running! This was supposed to be a quiet in and-" Prosciutto snapped as a gunshot blew through the back window and just short of his head. Grateful Dead had caught the bullet just in time. Anyone else might have screamed, or shook, but Prosciutto is unfazed. Pesci slaps a hand over his own mouth and Maria nearly forgets she's driving for a moment, nearly sending them into a guardrail as she speeds down into a parking garage.
Speeding into the garage Maria peels through it into the connecting street, trying to hide among the traffic. It grants them little distance, but within the moment the traffic clears, they're pursued again.
"Drive." Prosciutto orders, turning in the seat and aiming just around Pesci's head. He's in the perfect position to get his head blown off, but Prosciutto barely gives it a second thought. Cold. Calculated. Their pursuer's front tire is blown out with one shot, and the next goes straight into the driver's head through the windshield. They swerve into a neighboring car and lose control. Prosciutto takes a third shot, sending the license plate flying off into the gutter and down the drain.
As they take advantage of the shooting to peel off into a side street, Prosciutto's eyes are on the passenger mirror and Maria's on the road in front of them, eyes searching for any more police cars. After at least 5 miles or so, the air in the car releases back to frustrated tension as Prosciutto starts to report back to Melone the job they'd taken and how things had gone flying south.
She'd done it again.
And just when she had started to think this assassin gig was easy....