Submitted into Contest #55 in response to: Write a story about a meeting of a secret society.... view prompt



Moral’s captains appraised her in cold silence as she leaned into her velvet armchair. Her bodyguard, a curly-haired ghoul with skin the color of spoiled milk, let out a low growl when a captain a presumed to sit next to her. Raising her bony hands in mock surrender, the caporegime of the Lasera family walked to the end of the meeting table. She collapsed into a revolving chair, spinning herself lazily.

Moral’s mascara-ringed eye - a shiny lock of black hair hid the other- flicked to the caporegime. 

“We’ll begin whenever you’re ready, Captain Savina,” she said. Even to herself, she sounded tired. 

“Moral,” interjected a scruffy, dark-haired captain in a purple suit. Pinned to his chest was a tiny black demon mask, the symbol of the Dell’Oscuro family. 

“I’m the Doña now, Uncle Rio.”

Rio’s eyebrows knit together. “You’re so mature now. You’ve grown so big…”

Moral fought the urge to put her face in her hands. Lord have mercy. “Not now, Uncle.”

“Right.” He sighed. “I was going to ask… Aren’t you a teensy bit worried about the VANir being able to hear everything we’re saying?”

Moral folded her hands and tucked them under her chin. “Show them.”

The ghoul lifted the box next to her chair and slammed it sideways onto the table. The three captains and their bodyguard flinched back as crushed cameras and mangled wires skittered across the stained wood.

“Trust me,” Moral said with a wry smile, “I haven’t been sitting pretty while government dogs bug every inch of our territory. Teddy!” 

The ghoul growled, turning his pallid face to the Doña.

“Are there any more cameras?”

The ghoul’s sunken, bloodshot eyes swiveled to the dark-skinned bodyguard standing beside Vicente, the caporegime of the Cavicchi family. Grit flew from his clunky leather boots as he pounced onto the table in front of the bodyguard. She yelped, clawing at his clammy grey hand as he grabbed her neck and lifted her into the air.

Captain Vicente leaped from his seat, drawing a pistol and pointing it at Teddy. “What’s the meaning of this?”

Rio rose to his feet. “She’s a mole.”

“Who, Reyna?”

“Don’t look so shocked.” Moral sighed. “Your acting’s as bad as your taste in men.”

Vicente’s ears flushed crimson. “Doña Cavicchi, I never told her anything of-”

“I know. You kept her around for the same reason I did.”

“ … To feed her false information to take back to the VANir?”

That’s why you kept her? I just liked her personality.”

“If you liked me,” wheezed the mole, trying to pry Teddy’s fingers off her windpipe, “you’re gonna love my friends.”

“Don’t play with me.” Moral lifted a tattoed hand to the stiff collar of her military jacket. The other hand went inside the jacket, brushing the grip of a silver revolver. “I play rough, and I always win.”

The mole choked out a laugh.

“Wow. That’s rude.” Moral nodded at Teddy, and the ghoul slammed the woman onto the table. “Break her nose.”

The smile froze. Teddy clamped a hand over the mole’s nose.

“No-no-no wait, I’ll talk, I’ll-!”

Cartilage snapped beneath Teddy’s dead fingers. The mole roared with pain, thrashing her head from side to side.

“I said I’ll talk, damn you!” she screamed. “Y’all’re going to Hell!”

“You are all going to Hell,” Captain Savina corrected.

The captains stared at her. Moral’s eyebrows raised.

The caporegime raised her hands in mock surrender. “What?”

Moral turned back to the mole. “What friends?”

The mole opened her mouth, but a voice that wasn’t her own came out of her jacket. 


Uncle Rio frowned. “Let’s not do that.”

“Agreed,” said Moral.


Teddy latched his jaws on the front of the mole’s jacket. The mole screamed, kicking his stomach as he tore away a chunk of fabric. Wires dangled between his teeth. He crunched down on the microphone, which sparked once before fizzling out, dead and smoking. He spat it onto the table with a contemptuous snarl.

“Nice.” Moral crossed her legs, bouncing her foot. “Vicente, Savina, I need you to get everyone down to the crypts. Uncle, I need your squad to distract -”

“Moral!” Rio jumped at her, knocking her chair down.

A dark blur crashed into the hanging mirror where her head had been. Shards of glass crinkled onto the red carpet, sprinkling Rio’s back.

Moral’s eyebrows knit together. “Your new suit…” 

Rio dragged her out of her chair, yanking her to her feet. When she turned, she met the hollow eyes of a gaping, hovering phantom. Jerking back, she released a small half-shriek, like a cat that had been stepped on.

Once upon a time, it was a man. Its head was caved in, its lank hair dark and slick with blood. Tattered fatigues hung from its bearish frame, and gauze-covered stumps protruded from where its arms should be.

Teddy lifted his head and growled, raising the mole over his head and throwing it at the phantom. It moved swiftly to the side without breaking its stare.

Moral had to banish it. The other two captains were giving her expectant looks. She lifted a trembling finger, trying to focus on the Roman numeral I inked onto it. 

“Ex…” she squeaked and winced at the sound of her own voice. Her heart pounded, so loud she couldn’t hear her own voice. A bead of sweat trickled down her brow. “Ex… Ex… ”

Captain Savina frowned. “What’s with her?”

“Exili… Exil…” Her breath started to heave. “Ex - hic! - Exili-hic!

Rio gathered Moral into his arms. “Will someone please get banish that thing? Vicente, you’re the necromancer here.”

“So is she!”

“You’ll excuse the Doña for having a panic attack while you sit on your ass. Get rid of it!”

Frowning, Vicente pointed two fingers at the phantom. “Exilium.”

The dead soldier began to fade away. Rio stared pointedly at the captains. “Why aren’t you moving? Didn’t the Doña tell you to lead everyone into the crypts?”

“With all due respect,” said Savina, “the Doña is a necromancer that is afraid of ghosts.”

Moral swiped the back of her hand over her eyes, streaking mascara across her face. She hung her head and took a deep, shuddering breath. 

“I wasn’t honest with you,” she said quietly. “I let you down. I- I’m sorry for bringing shame to the Families.”

“It’s not so bad as that,” said Savina. “You only shamed the Cavicchi family, if anything.”

The other two captains and Teddy glared at Savina. Moral put her face in her hands, on the verge of tears.


Shaking his head, Vicente walked out of the meeting room. Teddy bared his teeth at Savina. He jerked his head toward the door, snarling.

The caporegime raised her hands in mock surrender. “I’m going, I’m going.” 

Rio tugged Moral to the door. “Come. The VANir aren’t going to wait much longer.”

Moral averted her gaze. “Go lead the attack team. I’ll just… stay here.”

Rio brushed back the lock of hair that covered her teary right eye. “And what makes you think they’ll listen to your crazy uncle?”

You’re not afraid of ghosts.”

“Not really,” admitted Rio, “but that ghoul of yours terrifies me.”

Moral glanced at her ghoul, who raised two grey fingers V for victory. “Teddy?”

“He also scares the other captains. Some of our squad leaders, too.”

“I never noticed.”

“See? Dead things are scary. I’m so glad you agree.” Rio gave Moral’s arm another tug. “Why don’t we get outside before government dogs swarm the building, eh?”

Moral let her uncle lead her for a few steps, then halted. “They’ll have more ghosts with them.”

Rio squeezed her hand. “I’ll be right here.”

Moral stared at him vacantly for a moment, then broke into a grin. 

“Alright,” she said.

The portraits of the Dons and Doñas before her followed them with their eyes as they passed, squinting against the bright sunlight when the door swung open. Moral squared her shoulders, squeezed her uncle’s hand, and thrust out her palm.


August 21, 2020 16:08

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RBE | Illustration — We made a writing app for you | 2023-02

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