By the time Agostino finished unloading the goods from his truck, the tingling sense at the back of this throat was getting too strong to ignore. He was tired, after six hours of consistent driving and he couldn’t stop thinking about his new reunited childhood friend during the whole trip, and how they said farewell at the bay, without a single word.
Agostino was not the kind of people to let their emotions easily spilt, at least not anymore. He learned to protect himself by hiding his emotions under the stone-cold face, a self-preserve mechanic he picked up during his drifting years to make himself look less vulnerable, which was all disturbed when Antonio showed up without a sign.
He had done what his heart told him to do, but hell that was almost all of his saving gone in a blink. And that’s fine, Agostino told himself, he’s still alive and things were to work out in the end one way or another, just like his optimistic friend would say. He could worry about it tomorrow, but he had to take a good rest tonight and maybe call Anna to see if there’s a job for him around here. Right now, he needed something more spicy than beer and cigarette. He was in Naples, some strange place he had never spent much time of his whole life in and his supply was running low, maybe too low, so he had to find a way to get some more “stuff” to keep him going.
He could try to find a local dealer, maybe, a bit risky but he was already on edge, which meant he needed a way to ease up the tension and weary inside his body.
So he did, trying to sneak into a small drug nest and buy some bianco using his cash left in the pocket, successfully ignored the Neapolitan he couldn’t understand and walked back to his truck. Everything worked out fine, until he saw a few shadows approaching from behind right at the street corner when he walked away from the dealer.
Shit, it wasn’t a good sign. Agostino considered for half a second if he should flee, but the men catching up from behind did not give him any chance. A forceful hand pat on his shoulder to call him stop, he hesitated for a moment, the man calling him was already stepped up to his front to make him stop. It was a rather young man with mustache and dark street outfit as he imagined, he also noticed a few other men standing around him a few steps away, blocking his ways to escape.
This was really fucked up, he thought dropping his head low, well at least there’s not much left in his bank account after sending a shit load of money to Antonio, which suddenly seemed to be a better idea than ever.
“What the hell? I told you to stop walking!” The man in the lead barked at him, make him drop back half a step. He tried to hide his face under his black hoodie but the man came closer to have a better look at him, he seemed to be more interested in his face than his wallet.
“…Fuck!” The man reached out a hand to pull his hood down, exposed his face under the orange street light. He rumbled something in Neapolitan and Agostino kept silence. “Hold your head up and let me see your face!”
That was a rather weird move, if they were to rub him.
It’s not like he had much of a choice, so he did what he was told to, holding his head up and looking at the man’s face, only to find a pair of astonished eyes staring back at him in disbelief.
“What, the fuck?” The man looked like he just saw a ghost, and it was just too scared for him to talk properly, “Wh-how is this pos-what…Ciro?”
Agostino didn’t want any trouble but he was obviously not in charge of the situation right now, at least he knew they were mistaken him for a guy named Ciro. Good news, he was not this guy; bad news, that guy might be some family feud owning them a million euros and they might not believe his words.
“Who? I’m sorry but you got the wrong person.” Agostino tried to keep his tone polite, didn’t want to provoke any kind of fight.
“The fuck?” The man looked even more shock after hearing his response, “You kidding me right now?”
He kept mumbling things Agostino couldn’t understand, so he spoke up trying to keep his calm: “I don’t speak Neapolitan.”
“Stop bullshiting!” The man shouted at him, “How did you survive that and what are you doing here now?”
Shit, so this Ciro might indeed be a feud and should be dead already. “I’m telling the truth, you mistaken me for this Ciro, whoever that is. I’m not him and I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“And you’re talking so mighty now? Honestly, how and why did you come back here? Does Genny know about this?”
“Look, brother, I came down to get some blanco and I didn’t mean any trouble, but I have zero idea what and who are you talking about. I’m sorry but it must be a mistake.” He tried not to frown too much to upset the man, but this was getting more and more ridicules.
“Fucking Christ! The true immortal you are…” The man studied him for a second, then he seemed to realize Agostino was not joking, so his expression and tone shifted subtly, “Ok, if you insist, I guess. My name is Nicola, what’s yours?”
“I’m sorry but I was just walking pass…I’m leaving now and won’t cause any trouble, I pro—”
Nicola cut him off with an exclaim: “I’m asking your name!”
“Agostino.” He decided to tell the truth, seeing how on edge the man in front of him was already.
“So, Agostino, you’re not from here, are you?” Nicola rose an eyebrow, threw a deep gaze towards other men surrounding him. For a second he thought they were finally about to make their moves, but then those men stepped back without a word, leaving him some more space to speak with the leader.
“No, I was just driving pass the town and wanted some bianco, I’ll be gone by tomorrow.”
“Say, you’ve got a place for tonight? How about I buy you a drink, or a nice hotel room to rest a bit?”
Ok, this is really weird now, what the fuck is this local gang head suggesting?
“Eh, I’m sorry, I don’t think…”
“You see, I don’t think you understand the situation now, Agostino or whoever you are,” Nicola held his arms across and made sure he knew that his answer was not satisfying enough, “I supervise the dealers around here and my boss owns the whole Secondigliano, you don’t get to say no to what I’m offering. Now you can come with me and I’ll get you some more bianco you like, as a gift, or I knocked you out right now and take you to the hotel. What do you say?”
Fuck, are they doing some human trafficking shit stuff I don’t know about? And why does he insist I have to go to this suspicious hotel?
Agostino had so many doubts in head but no choice to make, so he had to nod: “Alright, I’ll go.”
“That’s what I like to hear, now come and get in the car.” Nicola pointed to a small metal grey car at the end of the street, suggesting him to wait for him inside the car.
Agostino had no other option but do what the man said, after all, there were still a few tough-ass looking street rats seizing him from behind and it would be a losing bet to try to fight his way out without a proper weapon. He walked to the car in silence, feeling burning gazes followed him all the way to the car. When he sat down at the passenger seat, he saw Nicola making phone call in the back mirror. Agostino could not hear what he had said to the phone but he looked dead serious and excited, which just concerned him more.
He had no idea what the fuck was waiting for him in that hotel he mentioned, but he knew that if they were indeed to slice him up and sell his organs, he would not go down without a proper fight.
“O’Ge’! This is serious! You have to get down from Rome right the fuck now!”
Genny was in a bad mood when he received Nicola’s phone call in the middle of the night, and even more annoyed when he started talking about crazy shit. Well, he’d been in a bad mood all the time recently, struggling with the new life as a father and the loss of a friend, a brother, a love.
The only man he had loved and trusted and cherished and longing for, was gone, under the gun inside his own hand, just two weeks ago.
He was still struggling to accept this fact that he had been the one killing his love, and the pure rage every time he thought about that fucking piece of shit Sangue Blu.
A peaceful compromise he had agreed to, knowing it was what Ciro would want, yet he was not giving up the vengeance, no, never. Azzurra told him to stay calm, just for now, to recover from the grief and set things properly again, before he decided how to sheared that asshole Enzo and his snake little pal to pieces. He had to think about his family, and everything Ciro left behind. So he went back to Rome to Azzurra, leaving Secondigliano in the hands of Patricia and Nicola, living a rather peaceful life for a moment.
Well you know what they said, it’s always calm and silent before the storm.
Therefore, he was not up for Nicola’s bullshit and his senseless request tonight.
“The fuck do you mean you saw Ciro’s ghost?” He shouted back to the phone, grinding his teeth.
“I mean I saw Ciro’s ghost! And he’s fucking blonde now, believe it or not! He’s right here in Secondigliano and you have to come down!”
“Shut your shit! I don’t want to hear any of your jokes regarding to Ciro ever again, I’m warning you…”
“I’m not joking! He’s fucking alive! He’s fucking immortal! You won’t know how shocking it was when I saw this man’s face. He was buying drugs from our dealer and claiming himself as, Agostino, real name or not. But the face was real, he looked exactly the same as Ciro Di Marzio, hair aside!”
“…Nico’, what the hell are you high on?”
“I’ve never been this sober my entire life! Shit, I’m not kidding, man, a few guys saw it as well, it was him! He refused to admit though, you really have to come down here as soon as possible. It’s either his ghost, or the long lost brother!”
Genny just wanted to slam the phone into the wall right now, but Azzurra and little Pietro was already sleeping, and Nicola sounded…not high on drugs or drunk, to be honest. He might be telling the truth now, he had seen a man look the same as Ciro, and…
God, would it be possible? Could Ciro still be alive?
Yes, it would. They never found his body under the water, he never buried him with his own hands. And if there’s even a tiny slice of chance to see Ciro again, Genny would go for it without a doubt.
“Ok,” Genny heard himself sighed, “I’m coming down right now. And it’s better not a prank or you’ll be dead, I’m a man of my words.”
This better be worth it, or he’d kick Nicola’s ass to death, he’s surely in the mood of chopping heads now. Well, Nicola wouldn’t dare to prank him like this, knowing everything happened recently, and he surely hoped taking three-hour drive down in the middle of the night would not be a waste of time.
Nicola sent him some more info when he started driving, saying he had “the ghost of Ciro” trapped inside a hotel room with some beers and drugs. He had refused to anything more than he was just driving pass the town and had no intention of staying. Probably a dead hard concussion occurred to him and had him lost all the previous memory, which Genny did not believe a single dime, because he did not shot that smart-ass head of Ciro with the nine and surviving the water won’t make him grow hair, and definitely not blonde hair. This is serious, Nicola added in the end, even if he’s truly an irrelevant stranger as he claimed, all of them would be in real trouble if anyone else in the system, or that mother-fucking Enzo, see his face.
Now this was more of a realistic situation, comparing to Ciro himself coming back from the dead, if Nicola’s eyes were still working and seeing things the way they actually were.
Still, Genny believed it was no more than Nicola’s exaggeration, some kind of a bluff to get him back on business, or even an attempt of comforting his lost. Until he finally reached the destination hotel room and knocked on that door, which swung open in less than five seconds, and the man standing in front of him shouted at his face: “What on earth do you want from me?!”
That mustache was kind of decent, that hair less so, and that face, almost exactly like the one in his dream, haunting him day and night and night and day, something he could never forget. Someone he could never forget.
“…Ciro?” His jaw dropped, but somehow managed to find his shaking voice.
“I told you all already, I’m not that fucking Ciro!” The blonde shouted angrily, unsteady breathes and slightly blown pupils suggested he was on drugs, Nicola’d been telling the truth about how he found this man.
Genny showed him no mercy when he pushed his shoulders and dragged himself inside the hotel room. The room was nice decorated though not top-class, definitely bigger and more cozy than Ciro’s shitty hotel where they had spent quite some time to…And this man, Agostino as he had been told, was wearing a washed blue jeans and print white t-shirt, and he did not shiver in coldness at all, credited to the bianco.
“Who the fuck are you? The boss?” Agostino barked at him with frustration, “Get me out of here! I’m not the guy you’re looking for or seeking to kill, or something, you’ve got the wrong person!”
Genny almost thought his eyes were tricking him again, if it wasn’t Nicola telling him about the situation earlier, he would not be able to control himself from squeezing this man into his arms without a word. He look too much like Ciro, even that green-infused chestnut color eyes shining under bedside lamps, and it made Genny’s heartbeat drop in silence.
“How the-Who are you?” Genny bit down on his lower lip, refrained from smashing that face when seeing the rejection written there, or kissing him.
“I told your man already, Nicola, did he not brief to his boss?” The man shot him a weary and irritated glare, “My name’s not Ciro, it’s Agostino. I’m not that guy and don’t know who he is. I speak no Neapolitan and I just drove pass Naples for a job, now I’m done and ready to leave any moment. I won’t cause you any trouble, I promise, just tell your guards out there to let me leave!”
He was speaking quite logically despite the drugs in his system, probably more experienced than he looked, concluded Genny. Still, how was this possible? If he’s not Ciro, it must had been the long lost brother…
“I don’t believe you,” Genny simply stated, “Strip and let me see you don’t have Ciro’s tattoos.”
Well, it’s not really a good way to check, but he knew that body better than he could admit.
“Fucking hell!” Agostino exclaimed with a shake of head, “Why can’t you just leave me alone?! What have this Ciro done to you? Did he kill your family or steal your heart?”
How about both?
“Take off your clothes and let me see, or you can live the rest of your life here if you like.” Genny did not want to raise his hand to that face again, but this man was challenging his patient, just like how Ciro used to…
Agostino seemed to finally understand he had no choice other than satisfying Genny’s request, so with a sharp inhale, he took off his white t-shirt in just a few seconds, leaving bare torso in display. Even his skin tone looked so similar to Ciro, Genny just realized that, but he probably weighted more than the one he knew, which also meant that he would had stronger punches if he’s pissed. Still, he had to check it for himself to be sure, so he pushed Agostino’s shoulder to turned him around with rather harshly force. Agostino stumbled and felt on his knees on the hotel sofa, his hands grabbed into the backseat of the sofa to balance himself while cursing out again.
Nothing, the places where should be inks were all clean and smooth without a scar. His biceps and right side of the small back just above the waistband, even under the left shoulder blade where should be a small scar, those places Genny used to trace tenderly with his fingers looked more foreign than ever. His fingers pressed against the back of his waistline, slightly shaking, startled the man to a violent shiver but he kept silent.
It’s not him, long lost brother or not, this man’s not Ciro, and Genny couldn’t tell if he felt relieved or disappointed more.
Of course it’s not gonna be him, don’t be stupid, you know exactly the only place you could find him and it’s you who put him there.
“Are you done? Can I at least put my fucking shirt back on?”
Genny took a step back, allowed Agostino to get up from the sofa and put on his t-shirt. After a long pause of silence, he managed to found his voice: “I believe you now, but you have to tell me who are you and why are you here, in detail.”
“I fucking told you just a minute ago! I’m…” Agostino crossed his arms and shot back a suspicious glare, “You haven’t told me anything about you yet, so, who are you and why are you here?”
Maybe they shouldn’t had given this guy so much free drugs, ‘cos not that attitude was annoying Genny a lot. Well, he also missed that kind of shit from Ciro, if he would be honest, back in the days they were still rivals and all of that. Besides, he was just feeling generous today so he decided to give him some information he deserved to know, or maybe for the sake of that face.
“Gennaro Savastano,” He tried not to grind his teeth too much, “Businessman in charge of Secondigliano and around Naples, including selling the stuff you just bought from Nicola’s men.”
“So, eh, local mafia head?” Agostino replied with a raise of an eyebrow.
“Whatever you want to put it, but you’re lucky that you have that face or else I may have smashed it to bits already.”
“Well what am I suppose to think when your men just kidnapped me here and wouldn’t let me leave!” Agostino sat down on the sofa, apparently shouting at him all this time tired him out, “But, whoever this Ciro is, he must be very important to you, no?”
You have no idea.
“He was…a brother of mine, until fate teared us apart.” Genny actually had no reason to say any of these to the stranger, but something was just messing around with his head tonight and he just couldn’t help himself, “He was the only one in this world really understood me, and now there is no one.”
“I’m sorry,” His tone became much softer and lighter now, “I don’t know what could’ve made you feel better, maybe there is no such thing at all, but…I know the feeling of, eh, losing someone important, and the pain never goes away.”
He’s god damn right, Genny started to feel his eyes burning once agin. They all said that it’s ok, it’s gonna get better when time does its job, but he knew too well that it’s never gonna be ok, especially when he’s the one pulling the trigger. He hated all of that, pretending it was not a big deal and time would heal everything.
But no, the pain never goes away, just like this man said.
“You’re right, I was just being silly, thinking you could’ve been Ciro and I drove all the way down from Rome for this…” Shut the fuck up, me, you’re losing it again in front of a dubious stranger.
Agostino didn’t say a word, his vaguely fatigued cat-eyes studied Genny’s face carefully, then let out a silent sigh before he continued: “You love him, don’t you?”
“You,” Genny heard his voice shaking, “have no idea what you’re talking about…!”
“Am I wrong, though?” Agostino replied with certain calm and confidence written on his face, making him even more identical to Ciro, “I know the look of deep in love with someone…and I just saw that in your eyes.”
Genny had no words, not to deny his feeling nor to lose his temper at this man, just because he saw the truth on his face in an instant. He and Ciro were playing this denying game for so long, too long, and now he regretted every second of it. They were hurting each other playing that game, and it still hurt just to think about the chances of being together they missed all these years. He was not going to deny it once more, and this outsider in front of him was probably the only one left in the world ever detected his relationship with Ciro.
“Who on earth are you? If you’re not Ciro, are you sure you don’t have any lost sibling?”
“I’m pretty sure I don’t have any sibling…at least not that I’m aware of. I’m from…the south, it doesn’t matter. I’m a truck driver in Antwerp, just finish one carriage job here in Naples before your man got to me.”
Genny narrowed his eyes when he heard “the south” but well, if the man insisted then there’s nothing else he could do. “And what kind of goods do you transport?”
“Eh, I don’t know, canned food, pineapple cans or something…I’m just a driver, I’m not suppose to ask or see too much.”
Fucking cute little bitch he was, Genny almost laughed, he did knew a special kind of people transporting pineapple cans from Antwerp to all around Europe, and he somehow had a funny feeling that this Agostino worked for them but had no idea what he’s really doing. “Do you work for the Hofmans by any chance?”
He saw Agostino’s eyes widen in surprise: “How…the hell do you know?”
“My father worked with them for quite a long time till a few years back,” He formed an almost involuntarily smile, something he couldn’t remember the last time he had done so, “I didn’t want to break it to you, but the pineapple cans you carried were probable not what you think they were. Don’t worry too much, though, it’s only gonna be a small amount or they wouldn’t use truck to transport.”
“Shit!” Agostino hold up a hand to grab his blonde hair in frustration, and Genny just began to wonder if those golden strips would feel the same as Ciro’s dark curls from ages ago under his fingers, “Are you serious right now? Fuck, I knew something fishy was going on but they never told me…Shit, well, I guess I’m just being a good driver then.”
“Too good of a driver you are…Say, would you be interested in a job offer in Rome? It’s probably not much safer than your current one, but at least a good paid is assured.”
Genny had no idea why was he doing this right now. He could’d easily turn around and walk away, since he’s not the one he wanted to see and he wouldn’t care if the stranger walk out the door and get murdered by Sangue Blu…Second thought, he would actually care about that and he would be wiping Enzo’s blue blood off his hands if he was to do vice against that beautiful face again. Now he should probably admit, it’s all because of that face. He reminded him of the only man he loved too much, and Genny just couldn’t resist to make that offer. He wanted to see the confident smile back on that face again ever since Ciro came back from Bulgaria, to cherish their memories again, to redeem himself from the most ghastly sin again, even if it’s never gonna be the same.
He surely was not Ciro but there’s something about this man that made Genny’s heart wrenched, that pair of eyes maybe, equally beautiful and sharp but much less sophisticated than Ciro’s.
Plus, he urgently needed an excuse to make him sleep well at night again.
“A job offer from a mafia boss, sounds actually pretty appealing…” Agostino made a low laugh, his plum lips curved up and a sight of shining white teeth was showing under the dim hotel light. The newcomer stood up from the sofa and found two bottles of beer in the minibar, handing one to Genny when he looked back into his dark eyes: “And I start to think that we might already know each other, Genny, maybe in another life.”
Maybe they did, Genny took the beer from his hand, fingers brushing through Agostino’s slightly sweaty palm, or else how could this man go straight to the heart from just a few glances of him? In another life, they would be some kind of friends, he would not know but was privily curious about it, and it’s probably still not too late to find out.