Chapter 27: Notte Stellata

I walked into the downtown region and started to feel like my head was a water baloon wobbling around on my neck. I credited that to the four tubs of ice cream. Vlad pulled up beside me as I walked along.

"Hey, get in," he said.

I did and he furrowed his brow at my appearance.

"Are you going in that?" he asked.

"Yeah, why?" I looked down at my sticky, ice cream covered clothes.

"Notte Stellata is one of those very fancy restaurants. They might not even let you in like that. You need to change and get cleaned up."

"Cleaned up?" I swept a hand across my face and found my cheeks sticky too. "Oh."

Vlad sighed. "I'll bring you to my place and you can use my bathroom then we'll have to find you a dress or something."

"Then won't I be late?" I asked.

"You have an hour."

"Oh." I put a hand to my head as another pounding of unsteadiness coursed through it for a moment.

"You okay?" he asked.

"Yeah. Just ate a lot of sugar."

"Are you sure you ate as much as you think you did?" he asked, looking at my clothes.

"I get messy when I'm stressed and yes, I'm sure I ate at least two full tubs of ice cream, even if I did get the entire third one all over me... then there was half the fourth."

"Jeez. What got your panties in a twist?"

"Some stupidass being stupid and saying something stupid."

He nodded and then pulled up in front of an apartment complex. He led me through a narrow hall and up some stairs, to the right, down another hallway and finally stopped outside a door. The entire place seemed a little... well-lived in.

"the bathrooms in the back. Help yourself but don't take too long," he said, making a loose gesture to another door.

I looked around his small bathroom. I could put both my arms out and touch a wall with one hand and the shower curtain with the other. He didn't even have a bathtub.

I stripped down and stepped underneath a torrent of water, scrubbing the sticky splotches, some chocolate, some caramel, others peanutbutter and even a handful of birthday cake flavored blue ones.

After about five minutes I'd gotten most of it off my skin and got to work on my hair which had dried into hard spikes of wasted sugar and cream. It took a lot more scrubbing, rubbing, twisting, occasionally chewing to use even my saliva to get the damn sugar to disperse. That took ten minutes and I was more and more conscious of the time ticking by. Turning the water off, I shook my hair out, splattering the walls and mirror with water like blood would if I stabbed a kidney... morbid thoughts there.

I scrubbed it down to the scalp and found it dry again and looked at my ice cream soaked clothes. Carefully, I pulled them on after pulling my hair up into a bun so it didn't get any of the sticky sugar in it again and walked back out into the main room of his apartment where he was sitting around.

"Okay..." He paused to think. "Do you have any money?"

"I have like fifty bucks and that's it." I dug into my pocket and found three twenties. "Sixty," I shrugged.

"I thought you said you were broke."

"I pickpocketed someone in the hallway."

He blinked at me. "I never noticed."

"People don't usually." I pocketed the cash again.

"So we need to find you somewhere you can buy a dress."

"Macy's. They have a dress department."

"Will they have the right kind of dress for you?"

"Cocktail dress, no? I think they'll have something. I'm no expert but I'm sure I can pull something off."

"Alright. Macy's then. There's one just a couple streets down."

He led me out to his car again and I slide in soundlessly and become conscious of my hair that annoyingly put a hard lump between me and the head rest.

When we got to the big department store, Vlad waited in the car and I went in all by myself. Not something a typical twelve year old would do, not in a big city like Ransford.

The junior dress department was a bit skimpy with my taste. I preferred red or something black or gray. Red because it just stood out so much people tried to look away and black and gray because they lacked standing out so much that people tended not to notice you as much. It had nothing to do with evil, goth or otherwise stereotyping things. It just worked better with my personality... which was pretty dark and pessimistic most of the time but... you know. Having everything you ever cared about put through a blender and turned into a cake of death wasn't exactly something that fed optimism. Anyways, the only dress they had that would go along with my personality was a red one that fwuffed out around the edges and only reached my mid thigh. The upper part was skin tight and went from a bright scarlet into a dark warm maroonish color. My flatter, premature chest looked much more mature in it thanks to some padding and it made me feel weird looking at myself. Like... dirty kind of weird.

I didn't have much of a choice though. Wherever Macy's got their dresses didn't go to fashion school. The other dresses were puke green with barf brown sequence stuck on and then another that was frilly pink and then one more looking like it came out of a nuclear reactor. Damn neon yellow...

Anyways, I bought that one and ended up having to squirm out of my grimy clothes in the back of Vlad's car, which to you may seem a little... you know but the mob could be very insensitive in checking for bugs and stuff so it wouldn't be the first time Vlad'd seen me almost naked. Luckily he had a sense of modesty and didn't look at me.

Once I managed to worm into the dress and slide a single knife under the ruffly part covering my thighs which really weren't covered well, he pulled into some drive that led to a valet parking lot. Vlad dropped me off their while I pulled my hair out from it's twisted knot. The woman at the front gave me a strange look since I was wearing converse with a freakin' cocktail dress. Yeah... Sixty dollars couldn't buy you a perfect outfit but I supposed my feet would be under the table for the most part. I explained I was supposed to be "dining" with Mr. Azarov and she nodded and led me into some big, spacy room that had maybe ten tables set up in it's entirety.

And so I waited. Maybe ten minutes later he showed up with some other guy, no doubt a body guard of some sort, and he was on time. Seven o'clock sharp. Typical for a business man.

"Have you been waiting long, Samantha?" he asked.

"No. Just a few minutes." I unconsciously scratched my ankle with the toe of my sneaker.

"Ah. Well, I apologize for that small amount of time anyways. Now, on to business..."

I found myself answering a barrage of questions concerning my personal thoughts.

"Why don't you like this kind of thing?" was one of the many questions he asked me.

"You can't control who's involved so if someone completely innocent or who just doesn't deserve it happens to cash a check, they could end up completely screwed over for the rest of their life," I explained and poked at an elegantly arranged plate of food amounting to less than my fist, which was pretty small considering I was twelve.

"And that bothers you why?" he asked.

I looked up at him. "Because... it's just not right to destroy someone's life just for a couple thousand dollars, at most. You could only get away with a couple hundred or worse, have it marked and then traced to who it's in posession of and then have them arrested or you could end up having things go sour and have some casualties or even end up in prison yourself."

"I've known you for a while Sam. I know you're not a huge fan of the love business but, I mean, you're known to kill anybody that crosses your path in the wrong place. How does a hostage situation bother you so much?"

I really tried to bite back the retort that came out of me but as usual, I failed miserably, partially because my mind had started to get cloudy on top of the unsteadiness I'd been feeling and I'd figured out why. (Issue of bloodloss). "Why does it matter so much to you?" I snorted.

I could almost see his jaw dropping but he kept his composure and instead cleared his throat before treading carefully forward. "I care about my professionals and I don't want you to see my business as some devil's duty."

"I see parts of it as the devil's duty. Not all of it."

"By parts of it, you mean anything that involves innocent people getting involved without their choice."

"Basically."

He sighed. "No one is truly innocent. I bet a handful of the people you end up killing did something in their love life that a lot of people do anyways but most of the time, the victims can move on and forget it."

"Oh, whatever."

He continued on with his prodding into my moral values but I kept my steel wall up between me and innocent hostages among other things.

Finally, after about three hours of evading the admitance that what I did wasn't better than what he did, I got to leave and Vlad drove me back to where he had picked me up.

"I really wonder where you've been hanging out," he said right before I shut the door.

I exhaled carefully and started to walk back to Harris's with my grimy clothes tucked under one arm.

When I passed through his door I could immediately tell someone else was there because an extra pair of shoes were sitting there. I pulled my sweatshirt on and pulled the hood up over my head, my excuse being the forty degree weather outside. I walked in to where his living area was and found it was just Ethan. I let my hood drop and acted like it was no big deal. He still made me uncomfortable. I didn't want to be arrested again.

"Well, look who decided to show up," he muttered.

"What the hell are you wearing?" Harris asked, more comfortable with me than Ethan was.

"Apparently Notte Stellata is a very fancy restaurant so I ended up in a dress." I sighed and settled in on his couch, watching the TV. Some hockey game was on and I yawned, bored.

"So... wanna tell me where he's planning his hit?"

"I can't say."

"You can't say?" Ethan asked.

"Yup." I stood up and pulled out a map of Ransford and pointing to a street.

Harris nodded.