Queen Dairy
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  • 18

    Antonioni's lupara – an artisanal masterwork in execution – it hangs on the shelf of the limousine. The dim lighting gleams over the woodward stock, especially the silver braiding which decorates the spot above the trigger. His hands twitch, imagining the two-tiered sensation of pulling both triggers - one click which follows the other.

    "Would you hand me two rounds of buckshot di radicalmente invasive?"

    He half-expects his assistant, pulling out the ammo cabinet between his legs, to reply with a disappointing 'no.' But as luck has it, his assistant glees, passing him the remaining gold-plated shells.

    "It's the last two, signor."

    "Aah, very good."

    He would have settled on using the knife, but as the years have worn on, he's grown a revulsion towards the delayed cruelty of butchering people like an uncivilized hunter. Perhaps it's the frailty of old age which has softened his nerves.

    So the only question now.. who to take first? Justice is guaranteed to be an instantaneous affair when it's delivered by this gun. Should it be Lil? Let Vincenzo relish his last moments in anguish, allowing the one he loves to be ripped away.. or the other way around? The one who's left should be whoever deserves the real punishment. Seeing how Vincenzo has failed him twice – he'd given Vincenzo a chance to redeem himself – Antonioni pauses with this train of thought.

    They have a child, Pino. Surveillence has let him know about how they'd started a family. Odds are, they've tried leaving behind the past.. especially their involvement with him.

    A part of him feels for their young daughter. He doesn't have the heart to ruin her with the pain of losing both parents. But they must pay for the damage done; not only must his own family suffer the humiliation of losing at rigged poker, but on top of that, Bonanno has retaliated with war over the failed attempt at his life. It's a losing game.. the least he must do is this justice.

    It can go like this: since it is Vincenzo who had primarily instigated this chain of events, he'll bear the full responsibility. He lifts the lapura from the stand, carefully.

    The driver pulls up the coordinates of the Jaeguar.

    It's by the sea.


    Lil is preparing the dinner table – the meatballs still sizzle on the spaghetti plates (she'd tipped the delivery guy a good deal extra). She pulls the lighter to the candles, and it takes her a couple flicks from the quiver in her hands.

    "It's so yummy..!" Pino is about to nab the first bite, but Lil swipes her hand off the fork.

    Everything has to be perfect. Why? A good mood ensures the best chance that Vincent would hear her out.

    The door pops open.

    There's still soot under Vincent's eyes, but his usual routine of slugging his coat atop the couch is interrupted when he sees the beautiful set-up.


    "You've been working hard, for all of our sakes. I figured we could treat ourselves out – it's Wester Friday."

    It warms Lil's heart to see Vincent wolf down the spaghetti. If only she could learn cooking.. he tells her about how everyone at work was dancing, letting off some steam about being made to work overtime.

    "What was the ceremony like?" he asks.

    "Oh, it's a lot of dancing and singing-"

    "We blew a huge bubble!" Pino goes. "It popped in everyone's faces!"

    The dinner plates are all empty, and Lil puts them in the dishwasher. She looks at Vincent, who is tuned into the TV with Pino. When would be the time to tell him.. I can't keep what's happened after at the church a secret. I'll call him over in private.

    "Vincent?" she goes. "There's.. something I need to let you know."

    She calls him over, while Pino is absorbed by the animation.

    "What is it Lil?" Vincent sees the bout of sadness in her eyes. "What's wrong?"

    "I've.. had the church pastor come up to me. It'll sound like the most ridiculous thing to say.. he told me that Pino's the reincarnation of their holy saviour."


    "He wants us to take Pino in with the church, to be raised as their messiah."

    "That's just nonsense!" Vincent is fuming. "Pino's just an ordinary girl."

    "Vince.. I also had this guy in white. He looked kind of familiar, for some reason. Right after the pastor spoke with me, he came over to Pino and scared her. I wasn't able to hear what he told her exactly, but it sounded like he was saying she's in some kind of danger. I took Pino into the car, and drove off – it was.. I felt overwhelmed."

    "You did the right thing, Lil," he goes. "That's quite random, though. Why'd you say he looked familiar?"

    "I think we've.. met before."

    Vincent looks into her eyes, and as his thoughts froth, he has the recollection of hearing two deafening cracks upon that stage, with Lil (as Odeile) being shot by.. who was that kid? Could it be Nowe? No, it couldn't be. It's just a random creep who went over to Pino, that's all.

    "Vincent, I'm starting to not like it here," Lil says, interrupting his reverie. "Maybe let's move somewhere else.."

    "Nothing's perfect in this town," Vincent goes. "But let's keep some perspective: we've had it good since we moved here. People have been nice to us for the most part, compared with that other town. If it makes things better, let me go up to the church first thing tomorrow, and give Julius a piece of my mind. And that guy in white-"

    Vincent smacks his hands together, as if kung-fu punching a wooden block into half. "Hi-yaaa!"

    "Oh, Vincent.." Lil swoons. She falls into embracing him, into a feeling of reassurance as deep as those lavender fields she'd dreamed about. "Sometimes, I do let my emotions get the better of me.."


    In her room, wearing her bunny one-piece, Pino puts the stranger's photo out on the little easel, with her desk lamp shining a spotlight over it. Her panda, Belle, wearing a top hat and cane from her doll outfit collection, is posed by the spooky image..

    "We have gangsters on the loose!" Sergent Belle squeaks. "They're possessed and looking to frighten away our townspeople! Quick, I'm calling on you Rick to investigate!"

    "Right away, aye-aye!"

    Pino gets her Ricky doll to tap-dance towards the dollhouse.

    "Excuse me, missus," Ricky goes, holding up the oversized picture to the lovely matron, Eggy. "I don't suppose you've seen these suspects around?"

    "They're just terrible!" Eggy rests her hand upon her face, panicing in that melodramatic manner of those detective serials. "They've munched on all my pasteries, and now they're wreaking havoc by Betsy's saloon!"

    "Come with me – this may be too big for me alone to handle; I could use a hand!"

    Pino has the two hop on stuffed horses, and like Lil, they ride heroically across the carpet to the crime-in-progress.

    The little saloon is a cardboard box, which Pino had painted daisies on and had Lil's help cutting out the windows. Now, Pino shakes the box to simulate the saloon in distress, and she tosses Ricky and Eggy inside the holes – she shakes the box harder, and some of its contents spill out, including plastic figurines, spoons, and a Victoria Saint plushie.


    "Gotcha!" Ricky goes, hauling out the dastardly villains responsible for the mess – the two muskrat ninjas.

    "Aw shucks! You caught us!" they go, with the nasally timbre of a Brooklyn accent. "We was only trying to have fun!"

    "It's off to jail with youse!" Ricky has the two of them in tow, as he lugs them back to the police station – zippity-zip!

    "Richard!" Eggy blushes, kissing Ricky all over his face- "You'll always be my hero!"

    "I couldn't have done it without you, Eggy.."

    Vincent inches the bedroom door open. Through the crack, he watches her play, adoring the way she brings everything around her surroundings to life – the power of a child's imagination. He imagines her growing up into an accomplished artist; how proud he'd be of her! Then he nudges forth into her playspace.

    "Pino," he says, "what sort of trouble did you put Richard into?"

    She perks her head up - the bunny ears droop over her back.

    "He's been looking for these two dastardly muskrats," Pino goes, as she lays her Ricky on the ground. "They made such a huge mess in the saloon, look!" She points at the box, whose contents have spilled out onto the floor.

    "Wow -" Vincent acts on his urge to help Pino clean up the assortment of lain toys and trinkets, however amazing the scene may look to her mind's eye. "They sure had their fill. Let's try to clean this up, alright? I don't want you tripping over poor ol' Betsy when it's lights out."


    Pino scrambles, putting back the Victoria Saint plushie. Soon, the toys are tucked away in the saloon's rooms, and Vincent gives her a gentle pat on her head, before hugging her with all of his heart.

    "It's almost bedtime," he goes, before his eyes fall upon the easel, with the photo lying in wait. "Wait- what's this.."

    Even before he turns the lamp on, he feels the back of his scalp tingle – as if knowing what the photo has in store already. When he's able to make out the black and white silhouettes of the mobsters, recognizing Antonioni among them – he feels his gut lurch, as now he picks the photo and scrutinizes its details with the alertness granted by a mounting panic.

    The table which has their current address on it.. the way the caporegimes are stern, as if having ordered a death sentance.

    "Pino.. where did you find this picture?"

    "A strange man showed it to me outside of church today. He said he knew my mom.. and that his name was Nowe.."

    Nowe. The innocent boy who wanted to free his family from Bonanno's clutches. He's alive and well after all..

    "What else did he say!?"

    "He said that we're in danger. Mama told me he's a loony.."

    Vincent picks Pino up, as he looks out the window – the moonless sea roaring with a receding tide. "We have to move, Pino- Lil!"

    As he carries Pino out to the hall, he calls out for Lil, with each cry more desperate than the last.

    "Lil! Where are you?"

    He hears the flushing of a toilet – Lil staggers out of the washroom to meet him. "Did something happen with Pino?"

    "It's Antonioni.. I think he's coming to get us."

    "Antoni- that old geezer? Impossible! Where's this coming from?"

    Then Vincent procures the photo. "It was Nowe, Lil. From Bonanno's party. He tried to warn us earlier.."

    Lil takes the photo, and without really looking at it, realises how it spells an ill-omen, and how everything clicks together from an abstract anxiety into a concrete doom.

    "No, I – that's why I had such a weird feeling!" Lil exclaims. "Vince, I'm so sorry.. I didn't realise it earlier."

    "It's alright.. is the Jaeguar parked outside?"

    The doorbell rings.

    Vincent hands Pino over to Lil, and tells them to stay in the shadows, as he finds a nearby weapon – a metallic water bottle that's left on the counter. He approaches the front door, wreathed in the night's shadows, his heart beating rapidly, a fear whelming his nerves, treating the door like an entryway to uncertain hell.

    Upon the second ring, he hears a familiar soft-toned voice:

    "Vince, Lil – if you can hear me, please open up!"

    Vincent hurriedly swipes the door open, and hauls the fellow in by the collar. Nowe – he's still dressed in the same white suit as earlier. He brushes his chest off, as if negating the insult of being hauled in so abruptly, while he turns the lights on like a courtesy.

    "Nowe! How did you find us here?" Vincent goes, while Lil and Pino inch out from the corner.

    "It's the car you've stolen from Bonanno. It's equipped with a homing device.. listen, I'm real sorry about scaring you so earlier. But now, you only have precious few minutes left. Antonioni's in town already.. he's on his way here. He'll stop at nothing if it means your heads."

    Lil has Pino huddled in her arms, rocking her to and fro – as if hoping to calm both their spirits down.

    "You.. you shot me!" she goes. "Vincent, I still don't trust him. This could be a ruse to bait us into trouble."

    "I won't blame you for that sentiment." Nowe spits those words out of his core. "Ever since that one night, I've asked myself whether it was the right thing to have raised the gun towards you – I knew I was going to lose.. even though I wanted so badly the chance to be with you. Even now, I still feel my heart coveting you. You are out of this world, Lil. It was Vincent who won the duel, because after all, your heart was already tied to him.."

    Lil winces, his penetrating grasp of her affinity with Vincent. "Why are you really here?"

    A tear escapes out Nowe's eye.

    ".. I want to save you."