A LITTLE CITY CALLED POZZA
Online Only. Contains bad words and sex-y scenarios. Mature (18+) audiences.
Read Episode 9 here.
Mo glanced across at Giorgio to see if he looked even a little worried, but his head was down. They’d exchanged the van for an SUV, and she felt guilty that the rest of the team had to get involved in their family matter, but she would have done the same for them.
His elbows were bent on his thighs and his hair hung forward. It had gotten longer. He usually didn’t like for it to get longer than it was when they met. Over the years, she’d learned that because of his impoverished and destitute childhood, he liked to indulge himself in certain luxuries. An expensive haircut was one of those luxuries. It helped to negate the nights he’d spent itching from the lice sucking on his scalp, the days he’d had to escape just to dunk his head in a creek because his hair was so matted, and the weeks he would go with his hair falling out in soft clumps due to malnourishment.
They’d gone back to where Tayler had been hiding out with the boys. Larke, Dez’s wife, had joined her. Julien and Ari were still overseas. Huang was still in the area, lying in wait as usual, and Joel . . . no one knew where Joel was. They all just hoped he was okay.
They’d rehabbed their injuries and spent some time with their son. Giorgio, despite agreeing that she could go with him to meet this old woman, had tried to get her to stay behind. And, she’d considered it. She was a mother now. From what she understood, some things were deemed no longer acceptable once a woman said “yes” to motherhood. The problem was, she’d never been one for the normal, the conventional, or the “supposed to.” The woman had sanctioned the abduction of her son. It wasn’t something she could take lightly, lying down, or back home hoping Giorgio could handle it all and come home to them.
“I hear the words in your head,” he said, head still down.
Smiling, she leaned back against the interior of the SUV. “You ‘hear’ my thoughts?”
“You worry.” He lifted his head and flipped his hair back out of his eyes. “‘When it will end’ is what you ask to yourself. It is what I ask.”
It was the first time she’d ever heard him contemplate them both taking a step back from their chaotic lifestyles. “I am starting to crave a life, even for a short while, where we don’t have to face madmen stalkers or piranha-infested waters. I mean, Aleksi’s a baby now so he doesn’t really care too much about what’s going on. One day, he’s going to get older. He’s going to start asking questions.”
Giorgio turned his attention to the window. “Ya znayu. I know this.”
“So what do we do?”
“I do not have these answers, Bez.”
She nodded. “I know. Neither do I.”
They continued the ride in silence, her falling asleep sometime in between. When she woke up, her head was on Giorgio’s lap. His thumb was stroking the fine hairs behind her ear and down the column of her neck. She pretended to still be asleep a few moments longer, taking the time to enjoy the gentle caresses before they walked, face first, back into carnage.
The doors opened. Giorgio’s thumb moved to the side of her face.
“We are here, my Bez.”
Helmine Wagner and who Julien had identified as Sophia Bayeux had hightailed it back to Germany after receiving word the California complex had been infiltrated. A federal investigation had been opened, and Julien uncovered that there were several additional “breeding” communes in the US and the UK. He was still working with officials in other countries to help ID the rest.
They stepped out of the SUV and were transported to a private plane. They boarded and, almost immediately, Mo fell back into another deep sleep in the jet’s single bedroom. This time, as if finally feeling they were safe enough to allow sleep, Giorgio pulled her into his body and drifted off.
* * * * *
The Wagner estate was located just outside Berlin. According to the articles Mo scrolled through as they rode from the airport, it had been around since the earlier part of the twentieth century. Otto’s father, who’d garnered his wealth by dabbling in oil and munitions, had started the construction. After the war, everything ceased. It sat empty, with the exception of vermin and squatters for decades thereafter and didn’t see any improvements or renovations until after the fall of the Berlin Wall. To Mo, it looked a lot like Buckingham Palace. Otto had probably modeled it after a castle having seen himself as royalty over the decades. She would have preferred his life cut short after being sentenced to death after a trial in Nuremberg.
Helmine knew they were coming and, had it not been for a single sentence, they would have never agreed to this formal meetup: “If you let me live, Giorgio, I will tell you about your mother.”
“You okay?” Mo asked, glancing over at Giorgio. He was way too big, even for the large Mercedes wagon that picked them up at the airport.
He sent her a look.
“I’m allowed to ask that question, even to you,” she defended.
Giorgio never talked about his mother. Granted, he’d never met her or had a clue who she was, but he never talked about wanting to know or find out. He didn’t seem to hold any malice or contempt, whether ill-placed or not, toward the woman. Instead, he seemed content with how he’d come into the world as if, after years, he’d finally made peace with it. Therefore, it had come as a surprise that he’d agreed to Helmine’s offer.
He returned his attention to the window. She took his hand and slipped her fingers between his. He didn’t look at her, but he squeezed.
They passed lakes, long stretches of green, and stone structures. Mo found herself wandering what the trees had seen over the course of their lifetimes out there in the hidden landscape, away from prying eyes that could wield judgment.
The driver slowed at the entrance gate to the estate. An armed guard peered inside the vehicle before motioning them through.
“I will say this,” Giorgio spoke up, in Maōri. “To see that this is where Vater would rest his head at night after where he kept boys he claimed to love, it gives me a different kind of hate.”
The car stopped in front of the opulent structure. The driver started around for the door, but Mo pushed it open and stepped out. It was frigid on this side of the world, so she’d gone for fleece-lined leggings, a skirt, fitted sweater and leather jacket, and boots—things she could stretch in should the need arise. Giorgio looked the most casual she’d ever seen him in all black—sweater, pants, boots—with a gray coat thrown over the outfit. It was a pairing so sexy with his dark hair and features, she was starting to consider leaving California for the sake of seeing him in winter clothes more often.
They were escorted inside. A man in uniform attempted to take their coats, but the look Giorgio shot him let him know they weren’t there as overnight guests. That avenue shut down, he escorted them down a long hallway to a room where Helmine sat behind a desk, the Sophia woman standing behind Helmine’s left shoulder.
“Please, have a seat.” Helmine gestured to a pair of chairs on the other side of the desk.
Mo and Giorgio remained standing.
“You need to talk to him,” Mo said, pointing to Giorgio. “That’s one part of the agreement. If I recall well enough,” her gaze landed on Sophia, “there was another part.”
Sophia’s mouth pulled up into a smile. “You know, when I started all of this, my only goal was to kill the Auserwahlte,” she said. “But, if you insist, I can add you to that list.”
The uniformed man returned. He reached, as if to take Mo by the elbow, but Giorgio grabbed his hand and squeezed until the man’s face turned crimson and his knees bowed.
“Do not touch,” Giorgio warned.
The man nodded.
“Miss Bayeux, Mrs. Pozza, if you’ll follow me,” the man said, motioning.
Mo pulled Giorgio in for a quick hug. “I know, I know . . . I’m the wife of a beast,” she said.
Giorgio smiled. “And more, Bez.”
She pressed a quick kiss against the side of his face and followed the uniformed man. Sophia walked beside her.
He took them to the other side of the mansion to a sweltering, empty room. Mo went to one corner, shrugging out of her jacket and pulling her shirt off over her head, while Sophia took the other, doing the same.
“As you understand, this is the Übergangsritus, a rite of passage challenge,” the man said. “Miss Bayeux, you have challenged Mrs. Pozza—”
“Call me Mo,” Mo insisted.
The man nodded, continued. “Yes, of course. Miss Bayeux, you have challenged Mo to a fight to the death. Mo, you have accepted. This will be hand-to-hand combat only. No weapons.”
“I don’t need any,” Sophia boasted.
Mo shook her head. Sophia flicked her hand in the man’s direction.
“Okay, then.” The man’s audible gulp echoed around the empty room. “Do your best.”
* * * * *
Helmine’s bony fingers came together on the desktop, her gaze like a laser in Giorgio’s direction. “Your mother was the youngest daughter of the woman my husband swore, one day, he would kill. She was from a little city in Italy called Pozza . . . ”
The back of Mo’s head felt like a stretching rubber band. “Thought the rules said no weapons?” she asked, looking up at Sophia.
Sophia shrugged. “I grew up rich. I have never not had what I wanted, so I do what I want. Rules do not apply to me.”
A smile pulled at Mo’s cheek. Steel poked her in the sternum.
Due to the current crisis and quarantines across the globe, I’ll be extending this series. I hope to see you all along for the ride. Let’s all work together to stay safe and healthy <3.
Mo and Giorgio are from the book, “Angels and Assassins: The Dark Knight.”