La Familia
Part Thirty Six
by sarAdora

~~~~~~~~~~

He expected to die. He had been prepared for a bullet in his chest, perhaps in the center of his forehead. He thought they would shoot him, dismember his body and cremate him. The bones that didn't disintegrate into ash would be crushed and ground to dust and strewn in the ocean. Dominick Marchetti, the consiglieri himself... he would spit on his ashes before dropping them into the sea.

His father had been a gun-for-hire, working with any of the Familia that would hire him. He had no loyalty, did not owe allegiance within la casa nostra and worked for the highest bidder - taking payment for wet work from an employer he might be hired to shoot the following week.

The man who attacked Madre Batali and Francesca had loved his father... and suffered the loss as only a small Sicilian boy suffers life without a man to guide him within la familia circles. His mother's health had deteriorated when her husband was killed and she never rose above her depression. They lived day by day through the charity of the church. It was only right that Giancarlo Ruggiero Batali suffer an equal loss, one that would haunt him and make him suffer all his days.

It was the price of vendetta revenge.  He had sworn e giuramentodi anima a blood oath.  Don Batali's father had killed his father in a dispute between the Familia; it had been kill or be killed... and in Mafia Familia, the sins of the father...

Confident they would soon catch him, he walked into the forest knowing the other bodyguards were slowly moving toward the Godfather's wife and mother. He had walked in advance of them, hiding in the lush landscape and had the element of surprise when he struck. Now he would be caught and probably shot before he could escape. His mission was accomplished; he had been successful.

He welcomed death.

~~~

Mama Batali opened her eyes and wondered why she was on her back. Had she had a stroke? With great difficulty, she lifted her head and softly moaned, the pain in her face registering in her brain and overwhelming her. Her voice was weak as she called out to Francesca, her hand snaking across the ground to reach her daughter-in-law. When she felt a stickiness on her fingers and palm, her hand halted its movements. And then her brain registered a smell... the coppery scent of blood immediately assailed her. Had she cut herself? "Madre del Dio! Mother of God!"  she murmured. "What has happened?"

"Francesca," she whimpered. "Mia figlia, My daughter  where are you?"

Francesca had always been attentive to her mother-in-law, loving her as deeply as she loved her adopted mother, Angelina. When there was no answer forthcoming, the older woman forced herself to sit up and then she screamed...

And screamed...

And screamed...

The bodyguards came running with guns drawn, their sharp shouts quickly changing to a mixture of terror and grief as they saw la moglie dolce i madre della il Padre del Dio the Godfather's sweet wife and mother  on the ground, blood everywhere.

Mama Batali didn't hear them approach; her mind was unable to believe what her eyes had seen and it rebelled. She escaped the nightmare before her, fading back into black and blessed oblivion.

~~~

Within minutes, Giancarlo was there, his breath lost as his heart pumped wildly in his haste to see why the guards had shouted... and then his heart paused mid-beat... "Christo! Gesú! Madre del Dio! Mother of God!" he murmured when he saw what had taken place within his own compound.

The two people he loved most in this world...

Falling to his knees in her blood, he rushed to feel a pulse... It was there... faint... "Grazie, Dio! Thank God!" he breathed a shaky breath as he felt Francesca's heart. The pulse was barely discernible but it was there, shallow... but a slow and steady beat.

"Find him," he ordered softly and with deadly calm as he gathered Francesca to his chest. "Find him and keep him alive. I want this serpente snake  to die by my hand and my hand only."

"Si, sporgenza boss,"  they nodded, their hearts heavy as they spread out in search of the man who did this. If the would-be assassin was a plant from another familia, there would be war, horrible war. If he was one of their own... uno chi denuncia... a traitor...  his death would be even more tortuous. He had betrayed the oath of la casa nostra... he was a Judas... vermin. More than one bodyguard crossed himself, thankful he was not the one on whom the Godfather would take an eye for an eye... and more.

"See to my mother, ora now , and call the doctor. Gently," he admonished the man who picked his mother up. "Be gentle."

He didn't have to look twice to know that the babe was lost... there was too much blood... his heart shattered and his eyes filled as he hurriedly made his way to the house with Francesca clutched tightly in his arms. His wife... his love... his treasure... broken and bruised... and barely alive.

"Vivo! Live!"  he yelled. "Vivrete! You *will* live!"  he ordered her... In the voice of il Padre del Dio, he commanded her to breathe... He demanded that she listen to him and heed his words. And then the grief stricken husband he was... begged her to live. "Dovete vivere You *must* live,"  he intoned as if a solemn prayer. "Dovete vivere... you must live!"

~~~

When they caught him, he didn't fight them. Each bodyguard knew him, each bewildered why a supposedly loyal man had turned on the Godfather, each appalled that he had chosen to strike defenseless women and not just any women. To attack the wife of the Godfather... unthinkable. To attack the mother of the Godfather... they shook their heads. Il Diavolo The Devil  himself would be horrified. Even Hell would not take this man's soul.

"Shoot me, now," he said quietly. "I am prepared to die for what I did."

They shook their heads; clearly, the assassin had underestimated what would happen to him when he was caught. With more gentleness than he had any right to expect, they brought him to the house and led him to the bowels of the mansion... escorted him through that special tunnel and locked him in "that room" - the one bare of furniture, light or a means of escape. He would stay there until il Padre del Dio would deliver a fate worse than death... one they would never know the details of... a fate the Godfather would administer himself... one he would never mention to anyone. And when death finally came to the man who would kill the Godfather's wife and child... no one would grieve.

The bodyguards crossed themselves, their deep voices automatically whispering the well-rehearsed prayers of a lifetime as they made their way back to their lives and their bond with la casa nostra and the Batali Familia.

~~~

Giancarlo remained calm on the outside, his rage hot and hard simmering beneath a civil surface. His clothes and hands were drenched in Francesca's blood, his grief and despair etched clearly on his face. He couldn't let her out of his arms... if he just held her tightly... she would live. He would breathe his life's blood into her... will her to live...

"Dovete vivere... you must live!"  he demanded, over and over again, his voice soft and pleading. "Dovete vivere... you must live!"

When the doctor arrived, Dominick Marchetti had to physically pull Giancarlo off of Francesca's body. Little Petey Petrale, distraught that he had not been there to prevent the attack, wept without shame as he tried to pry the Godfather's hands from her waist. Neither man had the strength to pull him away and Dominick was forced to deliver a severe chop to the back of Giancarlo's head.

He was stunned by the blow and by the time he could focus again, the paramedics were loading Francesca and his mother into waiting ambulances.

"Dottor? Doctor?" he whispered, afraid to speak too loud. "I don't know, Signori Batali. Only time will tell. For now, she is in God's hands. If you pray, pray now."

The sirens clearing a path for the ambulances penetrated his brain and gave him back his faculties. In a part of his mind, Giancarlo Batali assessed what had happened and knew it to be true. He rode in the ambulance with her, knowing this vicious act had happened but hoping it didn't happen - it couldn't have happened.

The mind does that. It tries to find a way out. It makes deals with God. It makes promises. It tries to convince itself that maybe there is a reprieve, that this could all be a dream, the most vicious of nightmares, and that somehow you will wake up and you find your way back.

But he knew it was true. The babe was lost and Francesca was near death.

"The power of prayer will always sustain you, mio bambino," he remembered his mother's words, her voice shattered when she told him of his father's death. "Dio will hear you. He may not answer... but He will hear and so will His Mother."

"Will Dio make it right again?" the young boy he had been had asked with skepticism and his first real taste of grief.

"Prayer is another word for hope, mio figlio my son.  While we have breath, we have hope."

His eyes filled as he watched his wife take short shallow breaths. She lived. There was hope. "Ave Maria, dolce Maria," he prayed. Elemosino di voi I beg of you.  Lascila essere viva. Let her live."

~ End Part Thirty Six ~

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