Chapter 7: Angelo

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Chapter Seven: Angelo





Florence, Italy
June 17, 2018

The red blood droplet is bright against her olive-toned skin. Angelo touches a soft, white wipe against her skin, his stubby, strong hands catching the blood before it reaches the bottom fold of her kneecap.

"See, it's all gone." Angelo hides the bloodied wipe behind his back, his free hand palm up, pointing towards the six-year-old girl's now scraped but bloodless knee.

"What should we do now?" The girl's voice still weak from her playground fall.

"Now?!" Angelo smiles. He takes his six-year-old niece's hand. "Now, we go over to that slide and show 'em who's boss." He kneels down to face her. "But first," Angelo opens his arms wide and Toni leans in towards him, "first, I give you a big, hug. Come 'ere."

Angelo feels Toni's small, skinny arms try to reciprocate his strong bear hug. His chest swells with warmth combined with an energy sparked by love and satisfaction.

"And, just so that slide doesn't get any ideas," Angelo says as he pulls away and leads Toni towards the playground, "I will go first, okay?"

Toni smiles and nods. Angelo feels her small hand holding his as they walk together. "Ya see, Toni," Angelo stops to face her. "Nothing in life is going to beat you. So we'll show this slide who's boss."

Angelo looks passed Toni to see his sister, Maria, headed towards the playground. "And look who's here to watch us go down the slide." As Toni waits for her mom to approach, Angelo glances at his watch. In a few minutes, he needs to leave to go meet with his friend and co-worker, Johnny, to find out if he has another job to take care of.

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As soon as Angelo reaches the two-hundred block of east Via Masaccio, where Johnny and his mother's flat is located, he begins the usual search-and-seizure mission, hunting for a parking place. Unlike most Italian buildings, Johnny's actually has a parking lot. The only drawback is that it is a tiny lot, which holds only twelve cars. Johnny and his mother were assigned one slot. The remaining eleven spots went to the building's other tenants, so visitors were forced to ferret their parking where they could.

Today Angelo noses his way into a short length of curb between two commercial driveways, a spot he could have sworn was almost legal. Later he'll discover that he'd been wrong.

He climbs the requisite four flights of stairs, and lets himself into the flat through an unmarked side door. He hears the muffled sound of a popular television show coming from what he knows is the living room. Angelo quietly crosses the narrow hallway leading from the interior foyer to the kitchen. From his vantage point, Angelo can see Johnny sitting at the kitchen table. His back to Angelo, Johnny is engrossed in peeling an orange. As he has done since childhood days visiting with Johnny, Angelo avoids stepping onto the loose wooden plank in the floor. His footwork is slow and determined. With a swift movement, Angelo puts a hold around Johnny's arms, making him defenseless.

"Hey, paesano, Why don't you lock your doors."

"Angelo," Johnny relaxes, then when Angelo releases, he springs up from his chair, turns to Angelo smiles, and pushes his open palms against Angelo's chest, pats him on each shoulder and then hugs him. "How're you doing?" He looks him over calmly, and that look tells Angelo of someone infinitely wiser than he lets on to be.

Johnny is a small man with black, curly hair and soft eyes above pronounced cheekbones. Not handsome by any conventional standard. He wears a collarless, light cotton shirt, denim pants, and socks.

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