Online Only. Contains bad words and sex-y scenarios. Mature (18+) audiences.
Read Episode 10 here.
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. Have you ever heard of it?”
Giorgio didn’t respond.
“Most haven’t. It’s really not much of a city. It’s more of a remote village, really. I can’t for the life of me remember when it was founded or by who, though.” A nervous titter fluttered between her lips. “Has something like less than five-hundred permanent residents.”
Giorgio took a seat in one of the chairs across from Helmine’s desk.
She nodded. “You’re right. You didn’t come here for a history lesson.”
He felt the presence of two men in the doorway behind him, but he didn’t turn. Both him and the old woman knew the men would do nothing to unsettle him. When it was all said and done, he and Bez would leave after doing exactly what they’d come to do.
Seconds ticked by. A wooden clock on the wall behind her emphasized the count, each click coinciding with the pulsing vein along the side of her head. Her throat moved, swallowing more saliva than she was likely capable of producing. The way her hands swept over each other, squeezing and caressing and releasing, told him they’d gone damp.
“I never learned her name,” Helmine said, switching to German. “Your mother, not your grandmother. Your grandmother was named Francesca. She carried the surname Pozza, like yours. She was part of the Italian Resistance in the early part of the twentieth century. She was part spy, part rebel. A major grassroots organizer. Traveled for weeks from her hometown to Northern Italy.”
“And you know this, how?” Giorgio asked, in the German language he despised all because of one man.
A smile tugged at Helmine’s wrinkled mouth, her red lipstick staining the creases. “She was captured by Italian fascists in the 40s and deported to a German concentration camp, where she later escaped. Some say she walked right out. Others say she hid among the trash for days without food or water. Otto, as you know, was a scientist—”
She bristled. “I’m afraid I don’t know any Russian.”
Giorgio eased forward, elbows on his thighs.
“Well, she was one of his, um, well, you know . . . subjects,” Helmine went on. “Otto was just a child back then. I mean, intellectually, he was a prodigy but he was still a child. His mind was warped.”
Giorgio brandished a knife and set it on the top of the desk. Movement sounded behind him, but he paid no attention to it. “You want me to slit your throat.” He cocked his head to the side. “Correct?”
She shook her head. “I don’t.”
“Then do not fuck with me.”
“Right.” Her tongue smoothed her top lip. Sweat dampened the space beneath her nose. “Well, Francesca was one of the first solo interrogations Otto had to perform and, when she escaped, his superiors were not happy about it. He was seen as inferior. He was ridiculed. I see now how that is of minor consequence compared to his deeds, but I’m not here to defend his behavior. It’s simply information . . . ”
Giorgio’s thoughts went, briefly, to how his Bez was holding up. When he was finished here, he would go to her. She hated when he helped, said it made her feel like dama v bede. She’d used Russian, but it didn’t make much sense to him that way. It had to mean something different in English.
His brow quirked. “Translate dama v bede.”
Helmine paused, mid-story. Her gaze darted to the door and then back to him. “That’s Russian and I don’t—”
“Damsel in distress.”
He went back to his thoughts.
His Bez hated when he helped because she said it made her feel like a “damsel in distress.” He sort of understood—damsels were considered to be unmarried women and she certainly was not unmarried. If consummation of marriage had still been a requirement, then she would have been a hundred times over married to him. As for the distress part, she was always distressed about something, but she practiced refusing his help like an instrument.
She didn’t understand. No matter how much she complained, it would never change that he felt responsible for his family’s protection. Any man worth his salt, even in modern times, still felt that twinge of primitive instinct when he started a family. What sense did it make to bring his Bez and their Aleksi into his life and not do everything to make sure they remained there until he was dead and obsolete? The purpose of having children was to carry on a legacy and—
“Auserwahlte?” Helmine called.
Giorgio’s gaze flicked to hers.
“I’m sorry but I can’t help but call you that,” she said. “You are simply magnificent. Scars and tattoos and all, you are incredible.” She placed her palms flat on the desktop and pushed onto her feet. “Can’t you feel it? You have an aura about you, a kind of divine confidence. I have never feared you in name but here, across from you, I tremble even in my blood.”
“Because I am here to kill you,” he reminded.
“I suppose that’s part of it.” Her head and shoulders lowered as though suddenly too heavy for her body to support. “But you were such a beautiful child. I was supposed to be there, when you were born. You were to be my son. I got to hold you when you were six months. I demanded that Otto let me see you and he did. I still remember . . . ” She made a cradle with her arms. “Your hair wasn’t as dark, of course, but you still had a full head of it. You had these eyes that were wise beyond your years. I never wanted you to become what he wanted you to become.”
Giorgio ran his fingers through his hair, pushing the strands out of his face. They fell back into place the minute he lowered his hands. “You tried to take my son.”
“Because he belongs with us,” Helmine defended. “You both do.”
“This is not a decision you get to make.”
“Scientists are breeding and crossbreeding plants to make perfect foods for human beings. This kind of genetic engineering could even help address world hunger. Why can’t the same apply to people? The sick, the disabled, and the elderly are draining our countries’ resources. They are a burden on healthcare systems. Wild animals naturally cull, and we are not that far removed from our insentient counterparts. It’s not savage. It’s Darwinian.”
He tipped his chin in her direction. “I agree.”
“Yes. We will start with you.”
She toppled back into her seat as if shoved. “That’s not what I meant.”
“You are sick.” Giorgio motioned to her frame. “You are elderly.”
Helmine dragged her fingers across her chest. “But I’m not a drain on any country’s resources. Matter of fact, I’m an asset.”
More footsteps, several this time, rumbled behind him. Knuckles sounded on wood. Helmine looked up, brows drawn down.
“Ma’am, there’s been a problem,” a man’s voice quivered. “Everything’s gone.”
Helmine pushed back onto her feet. “What are you talking about?”
“Every asset, every dime . . . it’s all gone.”
Giorgio lifted from the chair and started toward the door. Helmine’s footsteps dragged along the marble floor, following him.
“What did you do?” she hissed.
He stopped, turned to face her, and switched back to English. “I apologize, but I do not understand German.”
She punched his arm. The man from before, middle-aged with graying hair, small eyes, and a pinch of a nose, closed his eyes and drew his elbows into his ribcage. Like he was waiting for a major impact.
“You son of a bitch.” Spittle formed at the corners of her mouth. “What did you do?”
Giorgio bent, placing their faces inches apart. “I have killed you.”
She thrust another weak fist at him, into his chest. “Where’s my money you bastard?”
“You try to take my son, my rybka, that I love more than my life. I take your money, which you love more than yours.”
She extended a long finger in his direction. “One of you idiots just standing around, do something!”
There were three men inside the room, including the one who looked like the Wagner family’s accountant. All three looked at each other and then back at Helmine.
“What?” Her voice grew small. “What’s the problem?”
“We’re no longer on your payroll,” a second man, taller with broad shoulders and a scar crossing from one side of his face to the other, said. “You have nothing. Why should we obey you?”
Helmine shuffled across the floor, over to him. “Because I own you.”
“You own nothing,” the man snapped. “You took me away from my family, my Mama, promising a better life for them. She died waiting for me to return home. When I did get back home, nothing had changed. It was worse, because I could not be there to provide for them. You should be grateful to leave with your life, and that’s if I do not change my mind.”
Giorgio left the room and headed for the main entrance. The man in uniform who’d escorted Bez and the other woman away stood in the middle of the massive foyer, waiting.
“Take me to my wife,” Giorgio requested.
The man nodded. “Yes, sir. Right this way.”
* * * * *
Mo ducked a roundhouse kick that came flying at her head. Little Sophia Bayeux was a lot more talented than she’d given the woman credit for. She barely had time to recover as she dropped into a low squat, fell onto her back, rolled out of the way, and popped back up onto her feet. The pain in her ribs likely meant one of them was cracked. Blood streaked the side of Sophia’s face from a blow she’d landed that had knocked out one of the woman’s teeth. Her forearms and shins were screaming.
“You move quick for someone with that body,” Sophia said, motioning to Mo’s bare midsection.
Mo grinned and swiped a hand down her sweat-covered abs. “You mean Fatima?” She gestured to the virtually unnoticeable soft lump left behind from Aleksi’s journey into the world. “It’s what I call my pooch. What do you call yours?”
Sophia rolled her eyes. One of them was starting to swell.
“You started it,” Mo said, stretching the muscles in her shoulders.
“You really think you’re worthy of him?”
“You mean, Gio?” Realizing she was in for a conversation, Mo sat on the floor and crossed her legs in front of her. “He’s barely worthy of me.”
Sophia sputtered a laugh. “You’d do yourself well not to believe that.”
“Is that why you’re so mad at the world? You were never good enough for Otto and, in your mind, it didn’t matter as long as his precious Giorgio never lived up to standard. Now that you’ve met Giorgio, what do you think? My baby’s sexy, ain’t he?”
“He is my brother,” Sophia spat.
“Shouldn’t stop you from seeing how gorgeous he is . . . even if, once upon a time, he was essentially a high functioning sociopath still being manipulated under your precious Vater’s thumb.” Mo scratched the back of her head. “God, what is wrong with me that I fell in love with him? Jesus.”
Sophia let out a cry and charged in Mo’s direction. Mo rolled out of the way and, in a half squat, released her foot into Sophia’s lower back. At the same time, something long and black was released from Sophia’s hand and went sailing into the back of Mo’s head.
Pain swelled. The back of Mo’s head felt like a rubber band stretching and wrapping itself a dozen times around the apex of her skull. The feeling made her want to throw up.
“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. She pushed onto her feet and, after stumbling slightly, righted herself.
“You think I care about whatever ‘grand plan’ Helmine has for my brother?” Sophia asked.
The door to the room opened. Giorgio stepped inside followed by the man in uniform who’d brought them to the room. Mo held up a hand to let him know if he tried to intervene, she’d take him down too. This was her fight. Yes, Aleksi was their son but, as his mother, she felt more responsible for putting him in harm’s way. He’d been inside her body, growing and changing her in ways she would have never anticipated.
Sophia charged, baton extended. Mo detached the blade from the band of her sports bra and met Sophia halfway. She took three blows—side, thigh, and forearm, so she could get close enough to lodge the blade into Sophia’s shoulder. Before Sophia had a chance to cry out, Mo retrieved the blade and sunk it into its next position—Sophia’s lower left flank.
They broke several feet apart. Mo felt beat up but Sophia looked it.
“You brought a bat to a knife fight,” Mo said, trying for a laugh but the pain in her rib wasn’t having it.
“Is baton,” Giorgio called out. “Is not—”
“Not now, Gio!”
Sophia covered the wound in her side with her hand. “Giorgio taught you to do that because Otto taught him. You missed, though, if you were looking for an artery.”
Mo started after Sophia. “I wasn’t.”
They met each strike blow for blow, Mo’s blade hitting the steel of the baton. She didn’t have much left in her. Inhaling felt like hell, her limbs were burning, and she was pretty sure she didn’t have it in her to kill this woman. She already felt past the point where she’d be able to pick up her son and not envision all the blood she’d shed and caused on his onesie.
Sophia swung the baton at Mo’s head. Mo angled so that it brushed off her cheekbone. She then grabbed the baton, pulled it away from Sophia, and tossed it in Giorgio’s direction should Sophia feel the need to retrieve it.
Mo dropped the knife, grabbed Sophia around the throat, and pushed her backward until her head smacked against a wall. Sophia tried to strike out but Mo dodged the blow, formed a fist with her free hand, and rocked it against the side of Sophia’s face. With each blow, she saw her innocent little boy and the life she’d willingly brought him into. Every ounce of frustration she’d felt over the last couple years culminated in that moment.
“I want this to be over!” She pulled Sophia off the wall only to ram her back against it, Sophia’s head bouncing off the concrete. “I’m sick of this shit. I didn’t ask for it! Leave my fucking family alone!”
When she released, Sophia slumped to the floor. Then, Mo realized she hadn’t exactly released. Giorgio was behind her, her wrist in his grasp.
“Fuck!” Screaming, she dragged away from his hold and crouched, folding over. “I can’t do this anymore, Gio. I can’t. Not to my baby. Not to my family.”
“This is finished,” he reassured her, motioning to Sophia. “And Bez, I follow you in tunnel in Russia. I have done this to our family, not you.”
“But I didn’t have to let you play with my titties and then go with you to your hotel room,” she argued. “I could have just walked away.”
A sound rumbled throughout the room. When she looked up, he was laughing. He still didn’t do it often even after all this time. His smiles had become more frequent, however. He’d had little to no reason to laugh for most of his life so it made sense it was still awkward.
“Why are you laughing?” A tear tickled her cheek. “I’m serious. I could have just walked away. Not all this is your fault.”
“You did leave me, Bez.”
“But I never stopped thinking about you.”
“I know. Come, my love.” He held out a hand.
It was the first time he’d ever called her his love in English.
She grabbed his hand and pulled herself up, wincing when her body brushed against his. The humor left his face.
“Do you want her dead, Bez?”
She glanced at Sophia, swollen, bruised, and unconscious. “I don’t have it in me anymore, Gio.”
“I have, in me.” His eyes glowed in that way she was familiar with, like a lightbulb with a short, flickering between light and dark.
“There is another option,” the man in uniform, who’d remained the entire time, spoke up. “We can take care of her for you, Mr. Gio. It’s the least we can do for having the Wagner estate distributed to us, our families, and the places that need it the most.”
Giorgio toppled Mo into his arms.
“Gio did what?” she asked.
“I explain another time,” Giorgio said, turning to the man. “You handle. I have to take my wife now.”
She let her head fall into the crook of his neck as he carried her from the massive house. At some point, she fell out from exhaustion because the next thing she knew, she was waking up in the private jet’s bedroom. Her injuries had been tended to and Giorgio was sitting in a chair in the seating area at the other end of the room, watching her.
“Why aren’t you in bed with me?” she asked, grimacing as she sat up.
“That is reason.” He motioned to her with his chin. “I will hurt you.”
“I want you next to me. I want you inside,” she hissed, “me.”
Giorgio shook his head, eyes rolling, and leaned back in the chair. “Stubborn woman.”
“It’ll help me heal faster.”
He sent her a look.
“Fine.” She lay back down on the pillow. “I’m going back to sleep for a bit.”
“I want to go,” he said.
Mo craned her neck to look down at him. “Go where?”
#12 – GIORGIO’S MOTHER
“This is exactly what we needed,” Larke said, face to the sun. “A trip to the Italian countryside with our family-friends.”
Mo held Aleksi in her hands as he splashed in the pool. “Thanks for coming. This . . . is big.”
Due to the current crisis and quarantines across the globe, I have extended 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.”