Upside Down – who is Giuseppe

At the other end of town, a middle-aged man was pacing the length of his office. Every once in a while, he looked across the room at two burly men who didn’t dare to look at him. They tried to be as small as they could, given their sizes and the confining space of the leather chairs they sat in. Giuseppe’s rage made a large vein on his forehead appear. It looked intimidating and as if it would pop every moment now.
“One thing. Just one thing,” Giuseppe seethed, pointing a meaty finger at his minions. “That stupid little…, how could you lose her?” The boss was not amused, and the look of his lackeys did nothing to soothe him. “I want my money, and I want the girl. Bring me both. If not, your future is sealed. Now get out of my sight. And don’t come back without Mildred.” Giuseppe rubbed the bridge of his nose to fend off an impending headache he felt.
“Yes Sir,” Tonio and Richard answered in unison and left Giuseppe’s office.
Exhausted, Giuseppe dropped down into his chair, massaging his temples. He looked left and right, making sure that no prying eyes were watching him, and then, out of a folder, he pulled a picture. On it, a younger version of Giuseppe was leaning against a tree. Next to him, another man stood with a little girl on his shoulder. Looking closely, one could see the men holding hands. Lovingly, he traced the other man’s face with one finger, wishing he would be able to touch more than just a fading picture. He remembered the day the photo was taken vividly.
Giuseppe and Connor had taken their daughter on a picnic in the park. They had played ball and fed the ducks; they had played catch and eaten fresh sandwiches Connor had prepared for them. And later in the afternoon, when the girl had been tired, the little family had found this large tree that offered shade for them all. A timer had helped to take this family picture, and minutes later, little Milly had fallen asleep in Giuseppe’s arms.
That time was long gone. Twenty years later, all Giuseppe wanted was revenge. Milly had stolen from him. Not only had she stolen Connor’s heart, but she had taken money that wasn’t hers.
Giuseppe slipped the picture in the folder, hiding it again. He had sought revenge for such a long time; he didn’t know how to stop anymore. If he let Milly go, he would appear soft to the other mobsters around, and his reputation would be damaged beyond repair. Silently and secretly, Giuseppe only wanted peace of mind. He wanted his family back, and he wanted to spend the remaining years of his life in the presence of his little girl and the love of his life. Neither was at his side for now, and as long as he was chasing Milly, she would not be back without a fight. Giuseppe sighed and cursed. Life was complicated. He just hoped Tonio and Richard would not kill Milly when they found her. “Where are you, you silly girl?” Giuseppe asked into the empty room. The question echoed off the walls without a reply.

Upside down 5

Milly woke up and didn’t know where she was. The first thing she noticed was that she wasn’t in pain. The second thing she noticed was that she wasn’t in a car, but she lay on a bed. Fresh white linen in a room that was decorated in a modern way. She glanced at the window and saw trees. Lots of trees. And she gathered that she was on the second floor somewhere. Maybe a hotel? She saw two doors. One was closed, and one was ajar. Milly moved her arms and her legs and then, she let her hand wander to her injury, assessing her state of being. A large bandage covered her lower right side. He wound had been dressed. Another look around the room. She was sure that she wasn’t at a hospital. Somewhere close she heard a man humming, and the smell of food and coffee reminded her of how hungry she was. For a moment she forgot to worry about her situation. She sat up and winced. There was still some pain in her body after all. Milly heard footsteps, and she didn’t know what to do. Too many questions were unanswered. Her gun was not close by, she didn’t see it, and she was too weak to fight anyone in a fist fight. In a panic, she did the only thing she could think of and pretended to be asleep.

Josh opened the door of the master bedroom with his foot, balancing a tray with food for Milly in his hands. She had lost conscience in the car, and he had done the only thing he could think of, he drove them to his parents’ lake house. He knew that no one would be there at this time of the year. Josh, he carried Milly into the house and laid her on a bed. There, he saw her gunshot wound for the first time. He had tried to wake her up but concerned that she would come up with a fever and an infection, he had dressed the wound as best as he could. He saw two holes, which was good. It indicated that the bullet wasn’t inside her body anymore. He cleaned both wounds meticulously and put a bandage on them. He hoped that his basic aid was enough for now, if not they would have to find a hospital soon. Milly had been out cold, and Josh began busying himself by cleaning and making dinner. Time had flown by, and he decided that it was time to check in on his kidnapper/patient. He put the tray on the table in the corner of the room and noticed that her breathing had changed. She was awake, even if her eyes were closed.

“I brought you some food and painkillers,” Josh announced stepping closer to the bed. “You should be okay. There is no bullet in your body. The only concern is internal damage and the fear of an infection due to fibres of your shirt in the wound. I did the best I could, but if the pain persists or if something is off or if you have a fever, we should go to a hospital. There is not much I can do from here.” Josh bit into a cookie and sat on the bed. Milly opened her eyes, unimpressed by Josh’s proximity.

“Thank you,” she said meekly, looking anywhere but at Josh. “Where are we? How long have I been out? Where’s my gun? Why? Why didn’t you just drop me off somewhere?” Milly bombarded Josh with questions, he merely smiled and got up again. Bringing the tray closer, Milly sat up still, wincing and clutching her side. She moaned, trying to find a sitting position.

“We are someplace safe. Your gun is over there,” Josh pointed at Milly’s backpack and her jacket, “You were asleep for six hours, and you needed help.” He offered her the painkillers and a glass of water.

“Just something for the pain. I promise.” Milly looked Josh straight in the eyes, as if she was defying him, and swallowed the pills. “Do you think you can stomach dinner? I am starving.” Milly nodded and was ready to get out of bed, but Josh forbade it, bringing her a plate of food.

“You need to rest,” Josh announced.

“I need to get the money to Giuseppe. The money I don’t even have because I am not in charge here anymore, am I?” Josh grinned.

“How much money do you need?” he asked. Even though he wasn’t in his father’s good graces, he had some money in his accounts.”

“Why are you doing this?”

“How much?” Josh insisted.

“Two hundred thousand.” Josh gulped. If he gave Milly the money, his savings would be used up. He whistled through his teeth and Milly looked away in shame. No one would be able to save her.

Upside Down 4

Milly scratched her chin with the gun in her hand. She had to come up with a way to get in touch with Giuseppe. And she had to get a nice little ransom for Josh. But how? Milly wasn’t a seasoned kidnapper. She didn’t have a criminal mind, no criminal energy. She had slid in with the wrong crowd, and now she was in a right mess. And her side hurt. She didn’t want to let on that a bullet had hit her, but she felt the blood flowing out of the wound. It was soaking her shirt.

“We need to stop for supplies,” Milly announced. She put her gun in her bag and winced again.

“You okay?” Josh asked. His kidnapper grew paler by the minute. It would have been easy to stop and get rid of her. But he was concerned about Milly. And intrigued as well. He wanted to hear her story. She seemed kind enough, even while she was pointing a gun at him. And so he decided to stay and help her as best as he could.

“Pull over there,” Milly ordered Josh to pull up to a parking lot of a grocery store. “We need some food and other things.”

Josh parked and got around to open Milly’s door. She blinked, ready for an attack, but it didn’t come. Josh held out his hand, and Milly blinked again.

“We should split? I am sure Henry called the cops. Or a neighbor did. After all, there was a shot.” Josh took Milly’s bag. She didn’t say anything, just held her side with one hand. She didn’t dare to look down. She didn’t want to see how bad it was. “Or we go together, and you tell me what to get?” That option was more to Milly’s liking, and she nodded.

“Let’s do that,” she croaked. “And after that, we will find us a motel or something.” She wanted to sound in charge, but her injury made it hard to think about anything else than the hole in her.

“You could also wait here? I promise to be back,” Josh offered, but Milly shook her head. “I am okay, let’s go.” At the store, they stocked up on convenience food and snacks. Josh sneaked medical supplies into the cart, and he insisted they buy a set of clothes to change into for them both. Milly agreed, and she didn’t bicker when Josh stood in the beauty aisle and chose deo and shampoo. Their shopping trip only took them twenty minutes, powering from isle to isle, always checking if no one was looking at them funnily. People were watching them, of course. They were an odd couple, and even a blind person could have seen that Milly was not well.

At the checkout, Josh put an arm around her. She tried to shake him off, but he didn’t let go. “Are you okay, Miss?” the cashier asked. Milly merely nodded. “Cramps,” she replied with a tortured smile. “Nothing a hot bath and lots of chocolate can’t cure.” The cashier smiled emphatically while Josh paid her. Milly had not reacted to the things he had added to their shopping. He took the bags and guided Milly back to the car.

“You’ve been shot,” he finally said.

“I am okay,” she replied through clenched teeth, getting into the car.

“Let me take a look!” Josh didn’t wait for her affirmation, and already he was pulling at her shirt. Milly didn’t like it at all, and with a mighty punch, she let Josh know it too. “Let’s get this straight, don’t you ever touch me again,” she threatened.

“I don’t need to be here. I could have run a while ago and left you.” Josh shot back.

“Why didn’t you?” Milly groaned and hid her face behind her hands. “I am the world’s worst kidnapper.”

“I don’t know. Maybe I want to get back at my father too.” Josh finally admitted. He pulled out of the parking lot, and both stayed silent for a long time. The silence was comforting, as was the sound of the car. Before long, pain and exhaustion got the best of Milly, and she fell asleep.

Working title: upside down

A bullet whistled past her ear as she ran for shelter. Milly dug her head in, exhaling a deep breath. This one had been too close for comfort. And she kept running. She heard bullets missing their target, missing her. In the distance she heard heavy footsteps following her, but she stood her ground. More and more distance was appearing between her and the men who hunted her. Her lungs were burning and her legs were heavy but she had to keep going. There was no other option. Milly had to ditch the two gorillas soon. She ran left, she ran right. She turned right into a small alley and knew she had to act quickly. Assessing her possibilities, she jumped on the trash container, climbed up the ladder, and she had a half second to spare to hide on the fire escape of an apartment. A large flower pot hid her from view. She saw the men stopping almost directly under her. She willed her breath to even out, all she could hear was the rush of blood in her ears. She prayed that these dumbasses didn’t hear it too. They looked around and cursed. They were both panting and holding their guns tightly but they didn’t shoot. There was nothing to shoot at, because she was hiding above them, and no one looked up. A moment later they admitted defeat and left with their heads hanging in shame and bickering about whose fault it was that the girl got away. She didn’t want to trade places with them. Giuseppe was not a nice guy and he didn’t tolerate failure. Failure. She hadn’t failed. She just hadn’t succeeded. She knocked on the window behind her twice and a young man opened. Bleary eyed he look at the sweaty woman. Without a word, she climbed inside the apartment, closed the window behind her and plopped down on the bed that stood in the middle of the room. The man observed her every move, his arms were crossed over his naked chest as if he was waiting for an explanation. But it never came. She undid the laces of her boots, shrugged out of her jacket and found a comfortable position on the preheated bed. The adrenalin was leaving her body, and she felt exhausted. If anyone had watched the scene, the pair would have looked like a couple. They weren’t. In fact, the man found a way out of his stupor asking: “I’m sorry, but who are you?” The woman was already almost asleep and slurred: “just for one night, please. I’ll be gone tomorrow.” Josh looked at the sleeping beauty. He was perplexed. He should have done something, but he didn’t know what. And he was tired too. He pulled a spare set of blankets from the cupboard in the hall but immediately returned to his bedroom. He had no intention of letting a stranger, albeit beautiful, alone in his home. That night Josh slept on the floor. That night Milly fell asleep in a soft bed engulfed by a very comforting manly scent, never releasing the tight grip on her gun.