mafiosa - Page 31

I knew Luca was against my role in the family’s violence, but he knew, too, that when the time came to face the Marino family in earnest, he wouldn’t be able to keep me away. I still had to prove myself. It was the only thing I cared about, the only thing I spent my nights thinking about. I was not going to be afraid. I was not going to hesitate. I was not going to fail again.

I spent the weeks getting myself ready mentally, honing my shot, preparing to face my uncle and Donata again, and hoping against hope that my father would be caught and hauled back to prison before then. At school I was a different Sophie – upbeat, engaged, innocent. The mask slipped on so easily, sometimes it was hard to take it off again.

A couple of days before Halloween, I was loitering in the Falcone foyer reluctantly waiting to be chaperoned to school, when Nic barged through the front door, a half-eaten breakfast burrito in one hand.

‘Hey,’ he said, lighting up. ‘How are you?’

‘Fine,’ I said, shaking my head as he held out the burrito in offering.

‘You sure?’ he pressed. ‘It’s delicious.’

‘I’m sure you need the energy more than me.’ You’re killing people; I’m studying poems and doing calculus.

‘I don’t mind sharing with my girl.’

He had taken to doing that a lot – referring to me as ‘his’, despite my repeated protestations to the contrary. Sometimes I wondered if he was just doing it to wind me up. ‘I’m not your girl,’ I reminded him. ‘As we’ve been over several thousand times.’

Nic rolled his eyes. ‘Right, right. I’m still in the friend-zone, but that doesn’t mean I can’t hop the fence.’

‘Actually, that’s exactly what it means.’

‘For the record, I disagree,’ he said, taking another bite of his burrito and laughing at my grimace.

‘What’s got you so giddy so early anyway, platonic male friend? Where were you last night?’

I was really asking who did you kill? But I had quickly learnt that at the Falcone mansion, it is terribly uncouth to come right out and address the elephant in the room. They didn’t speak so openly of their murders. They were implicit things that happened beneath the fabric of their family.

‘You’re damn right I’m giddy,’ he said, shoving the rest of the burrito in his mouth and swallowing it in one giant gulp. ‘You’re not going to believe what I’ve got in the car with me.’ He bounded back outside. ‘Wait there!’

Dom came thudding down the stairs, and I scooted to the side before he shoved me out of the way. ‘Are they back?’ he asked. ‘Do they have the stuff?’

‘The stuff?’

He wrenched the double doors open so Gino and Nic could drag three black duffel bags into the foyer and deposit them on the marble crest. Gino was just as excitable as Nic, and Dom was rubbing his hands together as he stared at the duffel bags.

‘Who wants to do the honours?’ Nic asked, his gaze resting on me. ‘Wait until you see these, Soph. You’ll love them.’

‘Should we wait for Valentino?’ Gino asked.

‘He’s coming,’ said Dom, bending down and unzipping the bags. ‘I texted him. Come on, dig in. I want to pick my one first.’

Like little boys on Christmas morning, the three of them got on their knees and started rifling through the bags, pulling out guns bigger than my arms and legs. The kind of guns you see in war movies. The kinds of guns that spell instant, irrefutable death.

‘Whoa,’ I said, drifting towards the treasure trove of weapons. I knelt down next to Nic. ‘These are huge.’

‘Yeah,’ he said, smirking at me. ‘Eighteen automatics plus ammunition. Let’s see your uncle survive an assault from one of these.’

Before, a comment like that would have shocked me – scared me, even – but it barely registered now. The idea was as commonplace as the guns themselves.

He picked up a gun and hefted it into the crook of his arm, moving his shoulders around to get comfortable. Beside him, Dom and Gino were doing the same. ‘It’ll be heavier when loaded,’ said Dom, aiming his gun at me. ‘You think you can handle that, Sophie?’

Nic grabbed another gun from the bag and handed it to me, nodding at me to take it. I picked it up – it was heavy, even without the ammunition.

‘Relax your shoulders and grip it,’ said Nic, still watching me intently. ‘Here, like this. Look.’

He held the gun lower, at his chest, one hand on the front handle that jutted out almost parallel to the back handle, which he tucked into his ribcage, his elbow pulled back to make it fit. He directed it at Gino.

‘Say hello to my little friend!’ he said, before making a thud-thud-thud sound at him. Gino pretended to clutch at his heart and fall over. I had seen Gino like that before – only with real blood gushing down his shirt, his face as white as snow. Now, he was giggling in that high-pitched voice of his and writhing around on the floor, and I couldn’t help but find it strange how much he had distanced himself from the time he almost died. And yet, I was here, too, holding a machine gun to my chest and practising my aim in a puddle of assassins on a hundred-year-old marble crest that stood for blood and honour. And I don’t really know why, but I was laughing too.

Nic stopped faux-shooting and turned back to me, his smile as wide as I had ever seen it. There was something infectious about his excitement. I wanted to feel like that. I wanted to smile like that.