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Americani. You could tell even from this distance.

He stopped for a moment and watched them. No matter what their looks, their personalities, their age, they all had a certain coltish quality that was easy to spot. Particularly for an Italian, someone forever jaded, whose ancestors had seen so much more than any americano could even imagine.

He wondered who they were. Strange that she seemed to know them, and yet he had no knowledge of these people. He moved closer, staying low behind a surrounding circle of shrubs, until he could hear their conversation but was still hidden from view.

One of them, a woman with pale skin, was questioning her, asking about family members, it sounded like.

But then she began asking about the System, talking as if she knew something about it, which was strange since most americani knew nothing of the Camorra. That used to bother the System. Now they realized that this lack of knowledge could actually help them. They could operate covertly, until the americani would look around one day and realize not only who the Camorra were, but that they were a strong force, part of the American fabric.

So, this was strange, this americana speaking to her, her words coming forth quicker.

He listened, and then he listened some more. When the questions began to get more precise, and the answers continued to stay in the affirmative, he started to frown. Possibilities formed in his mind and were discarded until it began to dawn on him exactly of whom they were speaking.

He got a feeling he didnt like at all, a feeling that he had been duped, and by one of his own. Someone hed thought of as part of himself. He clenched his fists as he listened to the rest.

Then he heard the americana say, You didnt attend the funeral because you knew it wasnt true. You knew he wasnt dead. He strained in anticipation to hear the response. At first there wasnt one, but eventually they began to talk and he heard the words, I will take you to him.

His mind seethed, a fire lit up every portion of his brain and at the same time ignited and destroyed what was left in his heart for her. Unbelievable that he had fallen for this. Unbelievable that she had known all this time. That she had lied to him. To him. He had spared her. He had pleaded her cause when others in the System wanted to destroy her. He was the reason she was living right now, that she was who she was.

Not for long

But no. He caught himself. Retribution and brute force was the old way of the System. It had worked for a long, long while, but now it was backfiring, causing uproar and strengthening the government forces that wanted to eliminate them.

He took a step toward a stone wall and put his back against it, thinking. If this came out, it could fall on his own head because he should have seen it, he should have known. Somehow he would have to handle this before anyone in the System heard about it or understood it. And then there would be retribution for her. Then he would take care of her. Then it would finally end.

When he heard her making plans to go back to the hotel, to pack her things and take the young woman to Roma, he knew he would be on that trip, only they wouldnt be aware of it.

| Red, White & Dead | c