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Servants bustled around, placing large glass tables all over the backyard. The screeching sound of table legs being dragged over the stone deck made Anna wince with discomfort. Anna’s younger brother, Charlie, was turning six, and she was very, very happy. Ever since Charlie was just a baby, Anna loved him with all her heart. She wanted him to grow up to be a kind, smart boy who always did the right thing. And he was all those things, at least as much as a child can be. As Charlie’s 15-year old sister, Anna felt it was her responsibility to make sure he was the best kid possible, since her mother was always busy being the “lady of the house”. Anna never really liked that concept- she thought it was outdated. Women can do things other than look after the household and order servants around. She didn’t like having servants, either. It’s nice to do things for oneself. 


However, looking at the yard now, she was thankful to have a lot of people in her family’s employment. She could imagine herself struggling to lug the heavy tables across the entire deck, being out of breath in less than a minute. Anna smiled at the thought. She turned and walked back inside to find her mother. “Mom, are you in here?” Anna called as she ducked her head into the den. The TV blared at the highest volume, playing Spongebob Squarepants. Charlie sat on the floor in front of the TV, even when there was an infinite amount of couch space. “Hey, Charlie,” Anna snuck up to him and went in for a hug. As soon as Charlie saw her, his face lit up. “Anna! Anna!” he yelled excitedly. “Anna! Guess what?” 


“What is it, Charlie?”


“I’m six!” 


“I know, Charlie! Isn’t that great?” Anna laughed at his cheeriness. She remembered when she turned six such a long time ago. On her birthday, Mom and Dad hired a party planner, who turned out to be really, really bad at her job. The party was a disaster. Mom let the rest of the family know not to hire her, ever. Anna patted down her red satin dress and sat down next to Charlie, crossing her legs, just like he had. Spongebob was still on the TV at maximum volume, but Charlie was no longer paying attention. He ran towards the window, which faced the huge driveway. A red Mercedes E-class was parked neatly in the driveway, and the doors flew open. Two little boys jumped out of the car and began running to the front door at full speed. “ANNA! MARCO AND ALESSANDRO ARE HERE!” Charlie bellowed before taking off through the house to get to the door and open it for the twin boys. 


Marco and Alessandro were born in the same hospital on almost the same day as Charlie, and the boys’ mom, Sofia, was their own mother’s best friend. Their dad, Robert, was in the same line of business as Joseph, Anna and Charlie’s dad. They were also good friends. Charlie, Marco and Alessandro grew up together, and they were the best of friends. It was not long before Anna could hear the screaming and yelling and increasingly loud stomping of feet that indicated Charlie had invited them in to watch Spongebob before the rest of the party guests arrived. 


Soon, everyone else started to arrive. At 6 pm, the New Jersey sky was still very bright and clear, the sun shining down on the large lawn. Anna watched from her seat at one of the tables as Charlie ran around the fountain, playing tag with the twins. She took a long sip from her lemonade, homemade by her most cherished chef, Giovanni. Giovanni made the best fruity desserts, Anna’s favorite. She looked over to her mother, who was standing by the gifts table, receiving Charlie’s presents, congratulations, and compliments. Anna stood up and walked over to her mother, nearly tripping over a few toy cars. “Oh, Anna! Hello, darling,” Valentina smiled brightly at her daughter. Her mom was currently accepting a present from Frank and his wife, Laura. Frank was Joseph’s second cousin, slightly younger. He was one of Anna’s preferred people out of everyone. 


“Really great spread here, Val,” Frank’s voice thundered. “The clown over there is a hoot!” He pointed to the clown on the far side of the yard, who was entertaining a large group of kids with his balloon animal-making skills. Her mother smiled and said something in response. But Anna was a little distracted- she didn’t remember the party crew arriving, or even announcing their presence. The crew was a small one, but seemingly, a very good one at that. Anna had checked out their website before hiring them. “The Fun Times Party Crew”, they were called. Tito the Clown, Stella the Fairy, and Albert the Magician were the big attractions. They also brought along a mini petting zoo, with their handler, Bill. It was turning out to be a great party, either way. Anna turned her attention back to the conversation. 


“Tina is really having fun at Stella the Fairy’s station. All the girls are!” Stella was having a show that involved sparkles and a lot of glitter. Ugh. Glitter. I hate glitter. Anna pictured the tons of glitter piling up after each show Stella did. Fun. 


“Joseph in his study, Val? I wanted to say hello to him when we came.” 


“Yes, he is. You can go on up. He asked me to make sure the study was off-limits to all the kids. Don’t want any of those critters running around in there, right?” Valentina laughed delicately. Frank joined in, thanked her, and turned to go to Joseph’s study. Anna grabbed her drink and headed back inside the house- she was starting to get bothered by the mosquitoes. As she strolled past the window facing the driveway, she noticed just how many cars there were, standing all fancy. 


She suddenly remembered all those times Charlie asked her about them. Anna, why does Daddy have so many friends? I wanna have a lot of friends, too, he had said in a slightly whiny voice. Anna calmly responded each time he asked with Not friends, Charlie. Work people. Some are friends, some are work people. We don’t talk to the work people, okay? Charlie giggled and nodded, gently hugging Anna. You’re the best, Anna! Anna smiled sadly. Eventually, Charlie would start to become more interested in Dad’s work stuff, and Anna didn’t want that path for him. Unfortunately, it was nearly unavoidable. 


Anna walked slowly around her house like she did a million times before, her high-heel shoes clacking loudly as she made her way into the gallery. Hundreds of portraits of her family, generation after generation, were hung in an orderly manner to the very ceiling of the room. When Anna was only a child, she would strain her neck attempting to get a better look at the higher portraits, those of family members who had already passed away. She grew up since then, and was no longer fascinated with her family’s history. In fact, she was kind of repulsed by it. 


Anna sat down on the stone bench in the middle of the expansive room, feeling the cold on her legs, and placed her drink down on the floor next to the bench. She had decided previously that she was going to take a nap in the farthest corner of the house, where hordes of screaming children were likely not to wander into. The gallery was that place. It was serene and still, the only slightly disturbing aspects were the dead people paintings hanging from the walls. Anna shook off the thought. She lay down on the flat stone bench, imagining all the female children invited to the party destroying her bedroom at that very moment. Before closing her eyes, she glanced at the painting in the center of the wall in front of her: A portrait of her and her family, faces serious and bland. Her mother’s pearl necklace sitting delicately on her collarbone, her father’s silver ring shining brightly. 


Anna woke, startled by a child she didn’t recognize tearing into the gallery whilst yodeling at the top of his lungs, several others in tow. She scolded herself for falling into a deep sleep. There were no windows in the gallery, so she couldn’t see the night sky, if there was one. “Hey, guys, can you calm it down a bit?” Anna struggled to sit up, her eyes barely opening because of the bright lights inside. The kids laughed loudly in reply, accompanied by foot stomping and one idiotic kid even smacked Anna in the face. Her cheek started stinging immediately. Now wide awake, Anna gasped, holding her face. “How dare you, you spoiled brat?” Anna stood up abruptly. “Would you like me to go and tell your mother what you did?” To be perfectly honest, there were so many kids and parents at the party, she had no idea who the hell this one belonged to. The kid shook his head profusely and ran out of the room. His friends followed. Anna sighed. The stinging subsided, and she made up her mind to leave the room. The gallery was no longer uncharted territory. 


There was a lot of commotion in the yard. Music was blaring through the giant speakers and people were starting to dance. Her family had a lot of parties, and this was always her favorite part. Anna opened the doors to the backyard and walked out onto the deck, feeling the fresh, summer breeze play through her hair. She saw Charlie dancing around with a few of his friends, Frank dancing with his wife, and many other couples who were having fun. One of her dad’s friends, Stefan, had a 16-year old son named Angelo who usually asked her to dance. They secretly liked each other, and it was pretty obvious to the rest of the family that the two would eventually start dating. Anna searched the crowd, but Angelo didn’t seem to be there. She saw Stefan and his wife Christina talking next to the hors d’oeuvres table. She shyly floundered over to them and asked if he was here today. “No, Angelo had some part-time job interviews. But he asked us to tell you he would call you later.” Christina said. Anna’s cheeks flushed pink. Christina and Stefan noticed and laughed. 


“Ah, young love,” Stefan sighed theatrically. Anna giggled internally and thanked them. The party crew was still there, but they were packing up. Since there was nothing to do outside, she went back in. Anna noticed her mother striding into the house and rushing to get to the stairs. 


“Mom! What are you doing?” Anna called after her. Valentina spun around on her heels. 


“Oh! Anna,” Valentina exclaimed. “I was just going to your father’s study to ask him about the rest of the payment for the party crew. They’re leaving, and they are very impatient.” She rolled her eyes at the last part. 


“I’ll come with you,” Anna’s mom smiled and nodded. “Since I have nothing better to do,” she added, muttering under her breath. The two walked up the grand staircase that led to the second floor study. “Did you enjoy the party, Mom?” Anna looked at her mother. Valentina gazed at her husband’s door. 


“It was pretty nice, I liked it.” She sighed and added, “I just wish your father could have come down to enjoy it as well.” Anna nodded. She missed her father sometimes. She and Charlie really wanted him to come to the party, but as per usual, he was locked up in his study, doing work that never seemed to end. Valentina and Anna approached the door. Valentina knocked on the door. “Joseph? I need the second part of the payment for the clowns and stuff.” There was no answer, so she tried the handle. It opened, surprisingly. Valentina pushed the door wide open.


And uttered a scream that would make a banshee’s blood boil. Anna’s breath was lodged in her throat, as she looked at the horrifying image right in front of her. It was her father, dead in his armchair, a bullet in the center of his forehead. Blood was dripping from his arm and his chest. His eyes, glassy and lifeless, staring at nothing. Valentina rushed forward and started to wail uncontrollably. Anna’s own eyes were tearing up quickly and she came closer to the desk. There was a deathly silence, broken only by her mother’s cries. Her father was dead already. There was nothing they could do. As if it was scripted, the phone on her father’s desk rang loudly and startled both of them. Anna looked at her mother’s mascara stained face and shakily, reached for the phone. She put it on speaker.


A rough voice spoke, obviously modified. 


“Hello, Valentina and Anna. I assume you have just seen your father’s dead body, and are still recovering from the shock. That’s alright, we will give you some time,” Anna listened, quietly choking back tears. Her mother screamed and dropped onto the floor, sobbing loudly. “But for now, allow me to explain, for your own sake. The party crew you hired was not the party crew that arrived. Surely, Anna figured it out by now. You noticed something off, didn’t you?” Anna squeezed her eyes shut. Was it possible? 


“The party crew that actually came to your house and entertained your large group of guests was really a highly trained team of, you guessed it, killers. The first one of the four to get to your father’s study won the special game. Joseph was killed very quickly, for your peace of mind.” Valentina groaned devastatingly, her shoulders shaking with agony, the pain too much to bear. “There is no point in trying to catch the killers or calling 911. They are long gone by now, probably having devised an intricate escape plan. I’ll have you know that this… situation, an interesting one at that, was brought on by Joseph himself.” Anna knew what was coming next. 


“You see, it’s just business, Anna Gambino. Just good, old Mafia family business.” 


She knew who did this. 



August 08, 2019 01:40

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