A retelling of the classic Grimm's tale "The Hare and The Hedgehog."
When Angelo Maretti's twin sister is killed by 'family rivals,' the retribution backfires in the form of a mobster who wants to kill Angelo as well. His foe is the last of the culprits left alive, and he will die, God willing...but not by way of a gun. To avoid a war, all of the guilty have to die without a sign of interference by the Marettis.
CONTENT ADVISORY: This is a re-release title.
"You can run, Maretti, but you can't run far or fast enough."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah," Angelo muttered, tossing the still-damp clothes in the duffel and then waving a five-minute warning to Marissa.
She waved a three back, and he nodded, zipping up the duffel. He switched the motel phone from his left ear to his right, allowing him the extra reach on the left side to grab the money-stuffed pouch.
"I have a long reach, Maretti."
"Yeah, and I've got short legs." He'd heard that one before. "But, I ran the hundred in high school, fucker. Catch me, if you can."
Angelo hung up and hoisted their bags onto his shoulder, heading toward the door at a trot.
Marissa stepped in behind him, shut the door tight, then sprinted to the late-model Hyundai they'd be ditching a few dozen miles away. "You just have to push it," she muttered. "You just have to piss him off. Don't you?"
He tossed the bags in the back and slipped behind the wheel, dropping the money pouch in Marissa's lap. "It's a guy thing." He started the car and put it in motion. The more distance they put between the Larkspur Motel and themselves in the next five minutes, the better.
Her voice was all dry sarcasm, though she managed a weak smile to accompany it. "I'll make sure to carve that on your tombstone."
"Well, Uncle Vince did promise me a hero's funeral, win or lose."
Marissa punched his shoulder then shook out her hand, a pained expression on her all-too familiar face.
It was hard to see that face, between the oversized sunglasses pushed high on her nose and the hooded sweatshirt she wore anytime they ventured outside, but Angelo knew that face as well as he knew his own. He should. The face was his own.
Angelo shook off that depressing thought and went back to scanning the road.
"Where's the next one?" Marissa asked.
"East. In Elms Bend." It was a quiet little community, even more so than Larkspur had been. It was the type of place the Marettis and the Ortegas of the world weren't, which meant it was the perfect switchback.
Marissa sighed. "Uncle Vince is slipping."
Angelo smiled. "You think? I wouldn't suggest that to him or the boys. They're covering our asses pretty well, out here."
"Oh, I don't mean that," she drawled.
"Then what?" He took a calming breath, as they hit the interstate and relative safety.
Oh, man! Yet another lousy pun.
At least the sun was setting. It would provide more cover while they ran.
Her nose wrinkled in distaste, and Angelo felt his heart skip a beat. It was so Marissa; anything that distinguished her was good in his book, a reminder of all the things he loved about her.
Angelo forced his mind back to the conversation. "Yeah, well, if everything they left for us was a Caddy or GMC, we'd be a hell of a lot easier to spot."
"I guess so."
It didn't take long to reach the garage where the next car was stashed, and they were headed north shortly after that, this time in a late 70s Camaro whose body had seen better days. The purr from under the hood made it clear that the kitten was ready to bolt, much as Angelo and Marissa were.
Marissa slipped into a deep sleep sometime after ten, and Angelo was left with the same thoughts and questions that had plagued him for almost a year. Where would the instructions in the trunk send them next? How long would it be until Enrique Ortega found them this time? How long would they have to run, until the end came...one way or the other?
Would the call from Ortega or one of Vince's ever come too late? If it did, he knew Marissa would rather die than end up like Lena had, and just the thought of that hurt...of Marissa suffering either fate. How could he conscience putting the woman he loved in danger this way?
You should get Marissa out of this. One of the others can do it.
But, Marissa wouldn't leave him now, even if he begged Vince and Michael to keep her away and keep her safe. And none of the others are as close a match.
* * * *
"My two angels," Mama crowed, gathering the three-year-old Angelo and Angelena into her arms.
Uncle Vince snorted. "Only a Rizzulo would name twin babies Angelo and Angelena." But, it was said fondly, poking fun at his nephew's wife, the daughter of what had once been his greatest rival.
Mama deposited them in the matching wooden highchairs and set bowls of homemade ravioli before them. "You Marettis could use some angels in the bunch," she countered patiently. "It just took a Rizzulo to provide them."
Vince didn't laugh as he usually would at such a joke. The lines on his face were suddenly deeper, his eyes tired. Angelo stopped eating and stared, trying to understand what pained him.
Mama ruffled his dark curls. "You eat, Angel-heart." She motioned to the bowl then waited for Angelo to spoon up another mouthful before turning away.
Vince's answer was so soft that Angelo almost didn't hear it, at all. "Compared to those Ortegas, we are all angels, Francesca. All of us."
Mama suddenly seemed strained. Her hand fisted on the dish towel tucked in her jeans, her fingers white knuckling. Angelo fumbled the ravioli and set his spoon down, opting for his fingers and getting two fat dumplings into his mouth.
"Are they as bad as Antony and Andros say?" She offered Angelena a smile then clucked her tongue at Angelo, a wordless reminder to use his spoon.
He picked it up sheepishly, sighing that it would take twice as long to eat this way.
"Worse. They have no respect for family, no honor in their dealings with...competitors." There was something hard and hateful in that last word, as if the Ortega's decisions made them something to be loathed.
Mama hesitated then settled sippy cups of grape juice on the highchairs. "But, I thought they understood family."
Angelena grabbed her cup in one pristine hand, while Angelo fumbled his between two covered in red sauce.
"They respect their own families, Francesca. If you harm one of theirs, they take revenge, but they have no respect for the children of others, their wives or mothers. They kill innocents without remorse, and they do it coldly to make their rivals suffer."
Mama shuddered, but she didn't reply. She didn't ask any more of Uncle Vince, though Angelo was certain her curiosity wasn't satisfied. He fumbled his cup to the tray before him, swinging his feet against the footboard.
Angelena tapped Angelo with long, delicate fingers, offering her spoon, laden with a fat ravioli he wouldn't have to work for. He smiled and leaned across to take it, sliding a glance at Mama to make sure she was too preoccupied to chide them.
Carmine stormed through the door, fury written on every inch of his five foot eleven, wiry frame. The smack of wood against drywall and the crunch of the latter sent Angelo stiffening as if he'd been caught untying his father's shoes in church.
The ravioli plopped to the tray of Angelena's highchair, marring the white wood. His sister pouted at the turn of events. He grabbed his cup, raising it to his mouth in an effort to hide his part in the unusual event.
Angelo stopped drinking to stare, the grape juice spilling down the front of his shirt in his inattention. Mama didn't remind him to pay attention. No one looked in his direction, even Angelena.
Who in his right mind would shove Cousin Carmine in a vat of sauce...and where would they find a vat that big?