In the still hours of the early morning, all was quiet. Devota lay in her bed, Alonzo and Adolfo curled on either side of her to guard their mistress as she slept. The men on watch had finished their last round for the night and exchanged tired glances with their replacements as they too made their way to their room, or home to their families.
Somewhere, a tanned figure ran through the night, red glistening obscenely from his clothes in a stark contrast to the cool ambiance of the night. The wind chilled his bones as he ran, angry, desperate tears falling down his cheeks as he fled to safety.
He needed to get help.
She would help him. She had to.
The man burst through the perimeter to the Barbuto villa, wide eyed and terrified, hands thrown up in supplication when the men on watch raised guns to him.
“The Madame! Get the Madame! Please! She knows who I am!”
Devota was awoken by Jonathan’s gentle hands shaking her awake. Rubbing the sleep from her eyes she noticed it was still dark outside and the sun had not yet risen. Panic bubbled in her throat as she threw herself out of bed.
“Jon? What’s wrong? Are we under attack? Are the boys okay?”
He shook his head, a stoic expression crossing his face as he held out a dressing gown for her. “No, Ma’am. But…it’s best you see this for yourself” he replied, shaking his head. He led the way out for the young blonde, concern etching deeper on her features with every passing step until they reached the entrance hall of the villa.
Devota saw his head snap up, eyes showing an emotion she knew all too well. Her mouth dropped open seeing all the blood he had covering him, looking like he too was in nothing more than his sleep clothes. Kneeling in the middle of the entryway Armando looked down at the floor, then his bloody clothes while the blonde dashed forwards and knelt in front of him, cupping his face and turning it to look at her.
“Armando what the fucks happened?” she balked, and he shirked away for a moment seeing the blood get on her hands. He opened his mouth once, twice, but no sound came out. She looked at her men, still training their guns on the blood-soaked man and barked at them to lower their weapons.
“Put those fucking guns down you idiots! Don’t you know who he is?!” she cawed, pulling on Armando’s hands gently. “Come, amici, let’s get you cleaned up…you’ve been shot”
Armando refused to move, grasping Devota’s hands tighter and looking at her with desperate eyes she had never seen on the proud man before. “Armando what happened…?”\n\nA faint, almost croaky whisper came from the man.
“A hit. They…my brothers…mama…”
He looked up at her with angry eyes, tears still rolling down them as Devota’s own hazel ones widened. “Please…You have to see if they are okay…”
Devota winced, understanding now. They were supposed to meet for negotiations later in the week – Armando had taken his family along to see the sights. She also knew that if this was organized by another member of the summit…there was no chance that they would be alive.
“Armando…dear…you know that they…I’m sorry…” Devota begun but the fury in the Spanish representative’s eyes chilled her. She paused, then nodded. Turning to one of the men she barked out her orders.
“There’s been a hit at the cottage down near the banks. Send a group of ten, check for survivors and evidence. Keep this on the down low and pay off the authorities and press if you need to. Report back when you know if anyone is left. Go”
She then turned back to Armando when she felt arms around her and a head falling to her shoulder. Devota saw Jonathan step forwards but she shook her head, not caring about the blood now staining her too. Once she heard the heavy sobbing she ordered her men out and asked Jonathan to brew coffee. She ran her fingers through his matted hair and made small soothing noises, hoping to comfort and calm the man holding onto her with a painful grip.
It broke her heart to see Armando, who was usually so carefree and happy, jovial almost to a fault, reduced to little more than a little boy clinging to her for support as he began howling in fear and sorrow. She almost felt responsible, considering it happened in her country. But knew if the summit was really behind this then it was unavoidable, despite having taken place under her watchful eye. It almost hurt her physically to see this man old enough to be her father clinging to her like his own life had demanded it.
Her thoughts returned to the blood leaking steadily from his shoulder and gently pulled him away, though kept his hands entwined with her own. “Come. Sitting her will do you no good. Let’s get you cleaned up”
She wasn’t going to tell him lies, lift his spirits with false hopes of his family still being alive to welcome him back.
He would be going back to Spain with a hole in his heart that he would find it hard to fill. And when the word came, the inevitable, cold words that Devota had been expecting from the moment she heard of the situation she prepared herself for Armando to break again.
To her shock, he did not. He simply sat on the edge of her bathtub and bored his eyes into the tiles below their feet as she sterilized his bullet wound.
It had been a clean kill, as they say. His three brothers and mother has been murdered – though according to her men they had not suffered. It had been carried out with a ruthless cold skill that solidified in her mind that someone in the summit had ordered the hit.
Anger and loss burned in Armando’s heart – he had not had to deal with this kind of loss before and had no way of dealing with it the way Devota had.
“I promise I’ll find out who did this…I have a friend, a hitman. He should be able to get down here in time to figure out what happened and who…”
His words, barely audible, caught her off guard.
“Did you do it?”
“I said, did you order one of your lackeys to kill my family, Devota!?” he growled, anger rising and tainting his words and the sound of it stung.
“…Are you serious? I didn’t fucking do it”
She knew he was just angry and hurt and looking desperately for answers.
But she couldn’t stop the hurt from welling in her throat at the accusation.