Flashes of last night appear on my memory with the sound of each gunshot. The music, the dancing, the blurred faces, the blood on my skin. I press my finger against the trigger. I follow the bullet until it digs itself onto the hanging meat. The taste of the words I repeated over and over still lingers on my lips. “Lo faro, lo faro.” They echo in between the bangs of the gunshots. Not one of them misses the target. The cuts on my palm bleed into the metal of the gun, still fresh. It stings but the pain doesn’t bother me much.
A knock on the door breaks my concentration. I strap my gun onto my leg and cover it with my dress. “Come in.” I call.
I turn around. In between the rays of sun, I can see the familiar silhouette. “Valentina.” Bettino greets, “Congratulations.”
“Everybody is congratulating me although I haven’t done anything yet.” I reply. I look down at my hand. The cross carved on my skin hasn’t stopped bleeding.
“You will soon. Are you ready?” he asks.
“Ready as I’ll ever be.” I nod. Bettino hands me a black gun loaded with a single bullet and a small envelope. I open it and read the address. It’s just a couple of blocks down the bay.
“We’ve got a little initiation present for you there. That boy, let’s just say you have a personal connection to him. You don’t know him. But you do know what he has done.” He explains. “One shot, straight in the chest or in the head if you want to. You take a souvenir and you dump the body in the Hudson River. Leave no trace.” I nod. “Take your time. It’s harder for some people. Good luck, kid.” I grasp the gun tightly.
“I’ll be fine.” I assure. I walk to the door. I’ve been waiting so long for this. I don’t understand why I feel like a weight is slowly crushing me.
“Kid,” Bettino calls, “I’ll be glad to be working with you.”
“That’s all I’ve ever wanted.” I smile as I walk into the light of the sunset.
I slip my flask out from under my skirt and take a long sip. The gin punches the roof of my mouth as it slides through. I lost count of how many times I’ve refilled it during the day. I take my time drinking as I walk down the docks. The sun disappears into the sky until it turns black.
I bring my drink down as I finally spot it, a small warehouse covered in the darkness of the night. The lamppost next to it is broken. Perfect. The darkness of the night will hide everything. My heart ties knots on my throat. I point the gun. My grip is still steady. Good. I only have one shot, but it is more than enough.
I walk into the warehouse and close the door behind me. The room is completely dark. I search through the walls for a light switch. When I find it, the room floods itself with a white glow. Bloody meat hangs from each hook. The blood drips into an endless black puddle. The stench is terrible, metallic and rotting. In the middle of the room, I spot him. He has red hair and blue eyes. His hands are bound with a rope and hanging from a meat hook. His feet barely touch the floor with their tips. A piece of cloth tied around his mouth prevents him from uttering a word. He looks young, just like me. I wonder if I look just as helpless to him.
I press my hand against the gun until blood drips from my palm and onto the floor. I take a breath and point it straight at him. He moves his arms, trying desperately to break the knot. I press my finger against the trigger and aim. The boy stops moving. It’s like he’s given up. But he hasn’t. He stares at me straight in the eyes. His eyes waver as if trying to hold back tears. He’s pleading. Without even saying a word, he’s begging for mercy.
A gunshot rings in my head. I look around but not a single one had been fired. Then, another one. They aren’t coming from outside. They’re coming from in me, from my own head. Another gunshot, and a scream, an ear-piercing scream. Pressure falls onto my chest. I can’t feel my heart. I try to breathe but something is blocking my lungs. My hands shiver. I close my eyes. Focus. I can fight this. My legs are giving in. I look up. My vision is turning red and I haven’t even fired a single shot. My fingers are shaking. I don’t remember the last time my hand shook this badly. I’ll miss the shot.
I march up to the boy and press the gun against his head. My chest burns. I can’t keep my hand still. His chest rises and lowers each time a bit faster. He keeps his eyes open, staring right at me. I can hear the screams echoing in my head. He won’t scream. I know he won’t scream. I can do it. I must do it.
But I can’t. I shriek and drop the gun. I drop to my knees and try to catch my breath. Everything burns. Every breath stings. I wait until I stop shaking.
I grab the gun once again and aim. I take a few steps back and fire. The bullet shoots straight into a piece of meat. It is much further away yet I don’t miss. The boy shivers as he stares at me. I pull out my knife and press it against his neck. I can’t believe what I’m about to do. “Make a single noise and I’ll kill you.” I hiss. He nods as best as he can.
I press my body against his and undo the knots around his hand. He falls on to the ground with a thud. He repressed a moan. I can hear it. I grab his collar and pull him onto his feet. I spot a silver cross around his neck. I pull on it until it snaps off. “You’re gonna be silent and you’re gonna stay silent until you are completely sure you are alone. Then you leave the city and never come back. Understood?” He nods.
What the hell am I doing? I don’t know if I’m making the right choice. I’m not sure if it was a choice at all. If anyone finds out, I’m dead. It is just one simple movement. One pull of the trigger. Why couldn’t I bring myself to do it? I should have just closed my eyes and done it. I don’t know why I didn’t do that. I walk over to the boy and spit in his face, “Anyone finds out what went on in here, I’ll find you and I’ll kill you. Screw up and you’re dead.” Why do I feel like I’m talking to myself instead of to him? I walk him over to a pile of boxes and hide him in between there. “Don’t you dare move.” I threatened. He nods, his face pale like death.
I turn off the lights. I can’t believe what I’m doing. I can’t believe I’m just going to let him go just like that. But my head and my heart are echoing each other. It is only my fear that is begging me to kill him. What’s done is done. There is nothing I can do about it anymore. I push open the door and step out.
The harbor is completely dark. Not even the moon shows her face behind the dark clouds. I walk down the edge between the river and the land.
I catch glimpse of Bettino in the distance, looking at the dark sea. He spots me and walks to me. I hope that he can’t see how pale my skin is under the darkness. I lift the silver cross for him to see. “It is done.” I mutter. Sometimes not even I can tell when I’m lying.
Bettino lets out a soft laugh, “Well done, kid.” He pats me in the back, “Tell your father I sent him my best.”
I nod as I make my way to my car, just next to the dock where I left it. “Congratulations.” He yells as watches me leave. He shouldn’t congratulate me. I haven’t done a thing. I climb onto the car and press the pedal hard. I need to get out of here, get away, I need to forget everything. I need to feel as if this never happened.
But it did happen. And I am not sure why.