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Blood & Bourbon

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Cletus IIS:, Chapter I

Family Reunion

“Your presence betters this humble gathering, and may now permit it to begin in earnest!”
Antoine Savoy

Saturday night, 19 March 2016, PM

For private event

So reads the sign over the Evergreen Plantation’s front doors in stylish gold writing. The club’s regulars have long grown to accept that the Evergreen simply does not open its doors to the public on Saturday nights.

Some patrons take offense that the Quarter’s premier club is closed to them, for all their wealth and connections and means. Some patrons do not take no for an answer. They are not accustomed to being told ‘no.’ Some of these disgruntled patrons take their concerns directly to Leon Gressau. He always seems to have an answer for why the club is closed on Saturdays, and for why the ‘private event’ really isn’t their scene. He’d let them in if it was, of course.

Most such patrons walk away with their feathers smoothed and their pride assuaged. Mr. Gressau always knows just what to say.

But there have been a few would-be attendees of the Saturday ‘private events’ who were just so curious, so persistent, so entitled, that they could not accept ‘no’ for an answer. There have been even more would-be attendees who simply were not important enough to warrant Mr. Gressau’s time and personal assurances. These individuals often make themselves obnoxious to the Evergreen’s staff.

Mr. Gresseau only smiles and instructs his employees to allow these individuals entrance to the private event. Let them have what they wish.

Too late, they learn to be careful what one wishes for.

The Evergreen’s interior tonight is a place out of time. The Art Deco style of the early 20th century reigns supreme. Luxurious fabrics, sharp lines, mixed metallics, and rich color palettes give the décor an air simultaneously glamorous and eclectic. The floor is a black and white checker pattern. Several enormous white and gold vintage chandeliers composed of cut glass hang from the ceiling (each one still lit electrically). Drapes use shiny gold metallic fabric. Modernist art hangs along the walls. Brass combines everywhere with glass. Huge wall-to-wall television screens, currently set to mirror mode, make the space seem bigger than it is. Louis Armstrong jazz, always popular at the Evergreen, feels all the more period-appropriate as it plays from antique bronze phonographs (and perhaps more discretely located modern speakers).

It may be 2016 outside, but within the Evergreen’s walls, the 1920s are back.

Antoine Savoy’s court is more comfortable than Vidal’s. Spacious and comfortable seating is located throughout the room. Anachronistically garbed attendees lounge about on the sharp-angled Art Deco furniture. Pinstripes, coattails, bobbed hair, cloche hats, short dresses, and huge kohl-outlined eyes predominate.

Heroin chic pallid faces, though, remain timeless.

For all that Antoine Savoy might profess to do things differently than his archrival, attendees highest in favor (or greatest in presumption) sit closest to the center of power, like they do anywhere. The Lord of the French Quarter occupies a throne-like seat on an elevated dais at the center of the room, grinning as the attendees file in in their anachronistic garb.

The Toreador himself wears a midnight-blue worsted swallow-tailed coat trimmed with satin, and a pair of matching trousers, trimmed down the sides with satin ribbon. A white bow tie, unworn black silk top hat, white gloves, patent leather Oxford shoes, a white silk handkerchief, and white flower boutonnière complete the outfit. A signet ring bearing the Bourbon coat of arms remains in place on his right hand.

Preston quietly converses with her master. She’s one of the comparatively few female attendees not dressed like a flapper. She still wears a conservative dark skirtsuit, only by the era’s standards instead of the present. Its hem reaches all the way down to the knee.

Blood dolls make their rounds throughout the room, showing attendees to changing rooms or simply lounging alongside them and engaging in conversational foreplay before the inevitable occurs. Those who have previously made nuisances of themselves to the Evergreen’s staff speak the least and wear the most vacant smiles. Their fates are preordained. For now, though, no drinking is allowed.

Pleasure comes after business, even in the French Quarter.

Even when it is so intermingled.

Cletus: True to the themed decade’s sobriquet, Don Cletus Lee Boggs literally roars into the party, chauffeured in a ’28 Duesenberg J. As the antique luxury car slows down before Savoy’s establishment, the automobile’s sleek lines and chrome accents gleam and purr like a supine Art Deco goddess draped in naught but diamonds and moonlight. A liveried footman opens a rear door to that opulent vessel, allowing the Inviato of Clan Giovannini to slide out and wade into the soiree with all the predatory grace of Bayou Bonfouca’s infamous albino alligator.

Tonight, the Sindaco of Slidell is, much like his transportation, an anachronistic if well-heeled sight. Rather than thrift-store overalls stained with blood, barbecue sauce, and cannibalistic lard, the Dunsirn-descended ancilla presently wears a seersucker suit worthy of its Persian name of ‘milk and sugar’. The bespoke suit’s two-toned stripes keenly mirror the vampire’s ivory skin and blowtorch-blue eyes. Accenting the emblematically southern suit is a pair of scallop-buttoned gloves and boot-shod sprats the shade of fresh-frenzied blood, monogrammed cufflinks and a collar-pin made of opal and gold, and a green-and red pocket-square whose tartan cloth matches his bowtie and the ribbon around the straw boater jauntily crowning Cletus’ head.

Notwithstanding such high class, if century-old, accoutrements, only fools miss the monster lurking under tonight’s sartorial masquerade. Inhuman and inhumane, here is a monster of hard, rangy lines of taut muscles, coiled puissance, and barely simmering savagery. Unblinking eyes burning bright and hungry as acetylene. Sepulchral flesh slick with the night’s humidity and the palpable scent of libido and heat lightning. A mesmerically feral, fanged smile that teases supple lips and promises pleasure, pain, perdition. The strange melange of peckerwood perversion, Southern aristocracy, and undying sociopathy.

Surveying the scene, the monster flashes a moonshine smile.

“Well kiss my go-to-hell if this party rightchere hain’t busier than a one-legged cat in a sandbox!”

The Capo of St. Tammany Parish stalks through the crowd, flashing fanged smiles and giving hearty backslaps that would better pass for a full-throttle jackhammer rather than a greeting, at least if he were amidst mere mortals.

Regardless, the monster carves his way to the inner circle, where he takes off his boater mid-gentlemanly bow to the party’s host.

“Lord Savoy, forgive a feller fer ahootin’ and ahollerin’, but I must say: yer party and yerself are lookin’ finer than froghair done split four ways!”

GM: Cletus’ entrance elicits stares and looks of a different variety than the Hepcats’. He’s dressed well, but not so well for his garb to be the talk of the hour. Instead, the lick himself is. Cletus Lee Boggs, prince of Slidell. A lick with you do not fuck.

The Giovannini receives his warmest welcome, as the necromancers always do, from clan and kin. Don Vico, his childe Lucy, and Catfish Freddy are sequestered in their own corner of the room, simultaneously among yet distinctly apart from the mass of Camarilla licks.

Vico and Freddy return the backslaps with sapling-felling clouts of their own, and Lucy offers a more ladylike extended hand, but none of the three’s greetings take overly long or distract Cletus from his approach of the evening’s host.

“Inviato Boggs!” exclaims the white-garbed French Quarter lord, breaking off from his silent conversation with Preston and Lebeaux to greet the evening’s guest with a broad smile.

“Forgiveness requires that a sin be committed, and what sin is there in so warm a greeting and such kindly offered words? Far from requiring forgiveness, your presence betters this humble gathering, and may now permit it to begin in earnest!”

“I dare say our chosen color becomes us both, too,” he chuckles, his gaze passing between the two Kindred’s distinctly cut but identically colored suits. “In fact, I think I recall you also wearing that suit for… ah, yes… the great party of last ’44?”

The half-milllennial anniversary of Clan Giovannini’s overthrow of the Cappadocians.

Boston’s worth might have eclipsed New Orleans’ in Genoa’s eyes. Then as now.

But no one doubted which branch of the clan threw the better party.

“That was a party to remember,” grins the French Quarter lord. “Here is to many more such memories formed tonight!”

Cletus: Cletus beams back at Savoy. If lips could ruefully wag, the Boggs’ patriarch might, as if playfully conceding Savoy’s better turn of phrase—and praise.

“To such memories, and mo’, ma ever-gracious friend! May we be happier tonite and tomorrow den ol’ Yeller layin’ on the porch chewin’ on a big ol’ bucket of catfish heads. And with yerself as our host, hain’t been any other way!”

With that de facto toast, he bows again to Savoy, before playfully leaning in as if to kiss Preston in greeting. Only the vigilant notice the Giovannini uses the act to whisper something to the Bourbon’s innermost circle, and only the most vigilant can make out that whisper:

“Day I say the only right proper way to repay yerself fer dis party is to be done hostin’ one meself. Been lookin into a venue in Concordia. Perhaps later y’all might wanna shuck some corn and whittle out an invite list?”

Pulling back, Cletus smooths his straw boater back on his head. He doesn’t wait for a reply—not now or here—but rather carves his way back to his clan’s corner.

GM: Cletus’ seeming-almost-kiss, for all those caveats, still draws its shared of amused looks. The inviato even hears, “…thing for him,” from someone, though the Malkavian’s face remains all-business.

Savoy grins widely at Cletus’ idea and makes a flourishing motion in the direction of the latter’s clan in seeming agreement—they’ll discuss this later.

“Hear that, Nat? We’d better let Mr. Gui know to get started on some names!” exclaims the Toreador as Cletus withdraws.

“Very well, sir.”

Saturday night, 19 March 2016, PM

Cletus: Prior to the official commencement of Savoy’s court, the Giovannini Inviato hunts down his seat amongst his French Quarter-dwelling clan. He so arrives in their midst, arms outstretched and flashing a lightning-white smile.

“La Mia Famiglia!” he shouts fondly, his fierce familial pride and passion making up for the way his Southern-drawl bruises his Italian pronunciation, “Buonanotte!”

The social predator then makes his rounds with his non-Camarilla cousins, greeting each individually with a bacio sulla guancia and personal salutation.

“Don Vico!” he says first to the eldest among them (excluding himself), “Yer rite hittin a lick at the snake tonite! What kind o’ canvas is lil ol’ Sistine paintin’ on these nights?”

“Freddy!” he says to the next, “Lookin’ mighty fine yerself too—tis clear yer old lady is keepin’ her old man well-fed.”

“And speak o’ the ol’ devil—oh, Tuccy, I didn’t see you there!” he quips good-naturedly, “How’s that there spin-bike doohickey workin’ out fer her? Hell if I’d been knowin’ why anyone’d be wantin’ a bike dat don’t go nowhere, but hell if I’mma gonna be the sonnuvabitch that done didn’t get what ya asked fer on the anniversary of yer bacio per procura.”

“Lucia, why I’mma two-legged, flea-scratchin’ possum or is dat skullcap really made o’ skull-bone? Anybody I been knowin’?” His wicked smile suggests he hopes the answer is a ‘yes’.

“Teddy, ya ol’ bear, how’s it hangin’ dese days, ya need another stick—or ten or hundred—to be keepin’ away all of lil’ Lucy’s suitors? One call, and I can get a feller up in Bogalusa to fire up the ol’ saw-mill fer y’all.”

GM: Don Vico is a tall and pale-skinned man with a receding black hairline. His features have the haughtiness and arrogance of the Giovannini, but there is also a certain lowness them, a gangster-like crudity that belies his low-born (or at least low-raised) origins. He’s dressed in a double-breasted white suit much like the ones he normally wears and a matching trilby hat.

“_Buonanotte, cugino,_” he greets with a smile.

“Eddie’s working on ghosts, these nights." As if to address that physical impossibility, he adds, "Isabelica was real helpful there. They didn’t speak too much before, but I think they appreciate each other more now.”

If Don Vico has a vague sense of thuggishness, though, it’s nothing against Catfish Freddy. The Putanesca scion is shorter but stockier, with a large face, squash-like nose, and whitening hair. Hooded dark eyes peer out from a lined and pockmarked face. His wide and thick-fingered hands look made for beatings. Next to him, Vico looks downright patrician—and is no doubt one of the reasons the don enjoys keeping him nearby. It’s also Freddy who truly wears the period tonight. He’s dressed in classic dark pinstripes and a fedora, looking every bit the Prohibition mobster he only narrowly missed being.

“_Buonanotte, cugino,_” he echoes, then grins. “Tuccy’s doin’ great on that thing. Keeps her busy. Good for her heart. She can listen to shit while she’s on it. Can’t do that with a real bike, right?”

Freddy’s sister-wife, Tuceia Giovannini-Putanesca, shares her brother-husband-domitor’s prominent nose but has narrower and more refined features befitting the Giovannini half of her blood, with slanted eyebrows and a thick mane of curly dark hair. Next to the two vampires, her skin retains a healthy olive color. She wears a dark evening dress with a Grecian inspired draping, elaborate hemline, and a brooch pin and pearl necklace.

Tuccy maintains enough of a polite smile not to look rude but doesn’t respond. Here are these two Kindred talking about her exercise habits. Exercise they no longer require. For all that she might feel deserving of the Embrace, she has not received it. But she does not complain, for all the envy that might lurk in her dark eyes.

The ghoul remembers her place.

Lucia, meanwhile, actually embraces Cletus. Vico’s childe would represent a comely face to mortals, with her straight features, full lips, slender neck, and equally slender figure. Most mortals react less than favorably to her cancer patient baldness, but that’s why she usually wears the wig. Tonight she’s dressed in a sheer black mesh flapper gown with silky fringe, a sweetheart bodice, sultry V back, and dazzling array of black sequins that cascade down to a tiered fringe scalloped hemline. It’s a classic enough choice, until one looks closer to observe that the sequins are interspersed with fingernail-sized pieces of glitter-coated white bone that rustle and clink as she walks. Her necklace is made of bone bits instead of pearls. Her white skullcap has a black headband with several matching feathers.

“Hi, Uncle Clete,” she smiles, then giggles at his question.

“Maybe in your stomach. Pervis gave it to me as a present. He said it was from that baby you ate. The bone is so smooth. You can feel it, if you like.” She tilts her head for him to do so.

Cletus remembers “that baby he ate”. Bobbi Jo brought home all of the corpses from Jacob Grunewald’s haven after she slaughtered the now-deceased Tremere’s herd—an action that wound up being to Clan Giovannini’s net benefit, in the end, so no one was too mad. Marjorie made sure the children’s bodies didn’t go to waste.

One was a baby’s.

The Boggs were puzzled why Grunewald kept a baby among his herd—lots of effort to care for so little blood—but it was some of the most tender, succulent meat Cletus ever tasted. Marjorie was disgruntled that it could have tasted even better. Slaughtering long pig is like slaughtering any other livestock—if they die struggling and frightened, with adrenaline spiking their systems, they taste worse.

Jacob’s children died very, very frightened.

Marjorie wished the infant had died of SIDS. The presentation would have looked better, too. There’d have been fewer missing fewer pieces. But the Boggs chef did her best, and didn’t disappoint.

Teddy, meanwhile, is a figure cut in the same mold as Freddy. He’s a big, broad man in his early middle years, with looming shoulders, thick arms, and a stubble-lined face. Bluntly, he looks like a gorilla. The ghoul’s face looks like it’s rarely accustomed to doing anything but squinting, grunting, and glowering. He’s gone with a basic costumed for the party. Pinstriped suit and fedora. It works, though it doesn’t particularly stand out.

“It’s goin’ good,” the mobster answers Cletus, his tone somewhat slow. As though uncertain whether the Giovannini is making fun at his expense—and knowing he’s powerless to do anything about it either way. “Haven’t had to bash in any heads for a while.”

Lucia giggles. “Oh, Teddy, you’re such a goombah.”

“Worse things to be,” says Catfish Freddy with a faint smirk.

Teddy just gives a grunt with that same vaguely uncertain look.

Last of all among the necromancers’ entourage is Lucia’s newest cancer-ridden favorite. Cletus literally overlooked him. He’s a bald kid around nine or ten years old who only stands four feet tall. He doesn’t wear a shirt and looks as pale as any century-dead vampire. A nasogastric tube hangs from his nose, though for what purpose outside of a hospital, Cletus cannot say. Most Giovannini are equally unable to say for what purpose Lucia keeps these children, and don’t even bother learning their names—they just call each of the kids “Cancro,” literally, “Cancer”. The boy gives Cletus a vague smile that seems to stare halfway through him.

“Dylan’s gotten very good, you know,” says Lucia, as if the kid just said hello. She lowers her voice. “You know he can actually-”

“Not in public, Luchy. Lotta snoops here,” cuts in Vico.

Lucia hmphs.

Cletus: The Dunsirn-descended ex-grayback receives each of their replies in stride, weaving and responding as if returning a salvo back at a platoon of bluebellies.

“Well souiee!” he exclaims to the fellow don. “Haint be denyin’ dat jus’ dills ma pickle to be hearin’ bout ma Sugarbelle helpin’ Eddie’s paintin’.”

“And speakin’ o’ lil’ ol Miss Sugarbelle,” he adds, turning to Freddy and Tuccy, “I reckon it weren’t but a nite ago dat she and me’s was shootin’ the breeze bout yer bicycle doohicky, bout how fer yer anniversary, we’re fixin’ to give it a rite tune-up, so the resistance won’t be a’comin from yer flywheel, but a rite proper ghostie.”

“As da Rebs’ head coach like to be sayin’ whene’er he makes our boys take der laps, ‘No pain, no gain’. But who says it’s gotta be yer pain, rite?”

His fierce smile all but reflects the hunger, if not heat of his butane gaze.

After attending to the dead and half-dead couple’s response, Cletus’ gaze then settles to the youngest Giovannini. With her embrace, the taller man—or monster that loosely wears such trappings—accepts Lucia’s offer by tracing a single finger along the smooth fragments of baby skull. He then holds those fingers to his lips, his nostrils flaring slowly as he inhales, sucking in the scent of the devoured infant’s bones.

A perverse light glows in the monster’s eyes, perhaps indicating the savoring of a dark cannibalistic remembrance.

“Glad Pervis’ present rightchere came o’ somethin plumb peachy. Sometime dat boy makes me wanna slap ma mamma, and sometime he’s slicker than pig-snot on a radiator. But dat’s there them joys o’ parentin’.”

His blowtorch eyes flicker meaningfully between both Vico and Lucita before settling on ‘Cancro’ like a man inspecting a neighbor’s new car.

As part of that ‘inspection’, he halts just short of ‘kicking the tires’ before eventually looking the boy in the eyes. “Yerself ever done shot an assault rifle, kid, or drove a monster truck?”

GM: “Pain gotta come from somewhere, but who say it gotta come from you?” grins Catfish Freddy in agreement.

“Pervis gives the best presents,” declares Lucia.

“I don’t think it’s time yet,” says Cancro. His out-of-focus eyes don’t meet Cletus’, but remain level with Cletus’ torso. “It isn’t time yet. They wanted it to be time, but it wasn’t. I think they’re going to be left out but maybe they’re not. It’s bright. It’s so bright. Don’t go towards the light. Don’t go towards the light. It’ll come to you and that’s what they want.”

“He says stuff like that all the time,” says Lucia in seeming apology.

“No, I haven’t,” the kid tranquilly answers.

Cletus: At the semi-sensical portent and Lucia’s half-apology, Cletus just smiles.

“Kids these days done say the darndest things. Why, I recall lil’ Otis-Lyle was jibberin’ something fierce jus’ the other nite down at da Big Chief, all bout this itty bitty game on a NikNak phone he snatched from a trucker. Talkin’ bout Deep Dive this, EmEmOs dat, shrinkin’ respawn rates, and a bunch of stuff I reckon I’d be lyin’ if I done said I half understood.”

“His mawmaw, Thelma-Lou, done said the game was rite more addictive than Rhonda-Lynn’s heroine, so she wus wantin’ her ol’ man Clyde to take da boy to a monster truck rally and ‘git some fresh air’. But on account o’ me havin’ Clyde git the Blitzer Boys back in da saddle, I said I could take ’im to one real soon.”

Looking up at both Lucita and Vico, he then adds, “Maybe Dylan here might wanna come. Chaperones and all. After the rally, we’ll be havin’ a lil’ party at da Big House, with Franz, Callum, and Elizabeth too. I’ve got some napalm that Dylan, Otis-Lyle, lil’ Abner, and the other boys could play with. Also reckon we could be callin’ up some zombies, dress ‘em in Axis and Allies’ uniforms, and make ‘em play ’tag’ with vintage submachine guns. StG 44s, Schmeissers, Thompsons, STENs, and Models 38s. If y’all name ‘em, we’ve got ‘em. I reckon lil’ Lizzie would be happier than a tatter-chewin’ possum to share the Berettas and see some Genoan and Sicilian faces.”

GM: Cancro looks no comprehensive of the video game talk than any of the gathered Giovannini.

“Kids,” says Vico, shaking his head. “You don’t let the Cancros play those games, do you, Luchy?”

“No,” she says, “they’re addictive.”

Lucia gives a delighted giggle at Cletus’ description.

“Oh Clete, you come up with the best parties. We’ll be there! I bet Franz is gonna love that, stiffs in Nazi uniforms. Are there gonna be Italian soldiers too? I hope they win. Do you hope they win, Daddy?”

“Don’t bite the hand that feeds you, darling,” smiles Vico. “No, I’m gonna root for the Americans. Il Duce was no friend to ours. And even less of a friend to Freddy.”

“Fuck Mussolini,” concurs Catfish Freddy. “That bald bastard was the worst thing to ever happen to us back home.”

“Lucky Luciano helped out big with Operation Husky. We don’t bite the hand that feeds us either.”

Cletus: Clete’s smile grows even wider. “Yessiree, could’ve given Benito two nickels fer a dime, and he’d had thought he wus rich.”

“But speakin’ o’ coins,” Clete says, fishing in his pocket and producing a rusty nickel. “Freddy, I reckon dis is yers.”

Half-flashing, half-extending the coin, he relates:

“On the way down here, I git this call from Dewey-Bob. See, Dewey-Bob, he haint got nough sense to saddle a junebug, but he’s might sweet on his sister-cousin, Girlie-Ray. But Girlie-Ray won’t smoke his bone fer free, so he’s o’ da mind to find hisself some rite treasure in the swamp, lookin’ fer De Soto’s conquistador gold er somethin’ big nough to make Girlie-Ray his ferever. So he’s out in da bayou, combin’ it with his homemade metal detector, and he done gits all excited when it starts buzzin’, sparklin’, and fussin’ like one o’ Girlie-Ray’s vibrators. Diggin’ in the muck, though, all he turns up is a gnawed-on chunk of concrete. But his doohicky is still havin’ a hissy fit over it, so he sledges it open. Crack! Out pops some foot bones, shoe scraps, and dis nickel rightchere.”

Holding the coin a bit closer to catch the light, he continues, “So Dewey-Bob figured da Big House mighta had somethin’ to do with it, so after some fixin’s, I check dis coin here, and sure nough, it reckon I rite know dis nickel. Date was the first tip-off. ‘44, but the real giveaway came next. ’Member that Rothstein ghoul that caused a ruckus in ’62? Hersh Rothstein. Thought he was a real wiseguy, but he didn’t have the sense God done gave a rock. So as we were’s fittin’ him fer a new pair o’ concrete shoes, and he’s cryin’ and beggin’, Freddy righthere goes and takes out a nickel from his pocket. Dated ‘44. Minted four’ hunerd years from da Bite. Not too shabby. So Freddy makes a show of that, and says, ‘Okay, Rothstein, yer family’s into gamblin’, so let’s make a wager: I flip dis coin, and if you gets heads, you keep yours—but if not…‘. So this Hersh feller is all hoppin’. Fifty-fifty odds haint too bad, he reckons.”

“And y’all should have seen Hersh’s face when it done came up tails!”

Clete continues with a vicious smile, “But Freddy here, he says, ‘oh no, let’s go best out o’ three’, see, cus he’s a generous soul. And jus’ when the Rothstein stopped cryin’ to start hopin’ gain, Freddy flips the coin—and tails again!”

The Boggs patriarch holds up a gloved hand, “Wait, wait, and then, jus’ as the concrete starts to pour, Freddy shows him the coin real up close and all, front and back.”

A motion which Clete now replicates, slowly displaying both sides of the coin.

“No heads!”

“Trick coin, it wus, with Freddy jus’ reelin’ and watchin’ ‘im squirm and wriggle like a wee catfish thinkin’ he’s gonna escape.”

“And as Hersh slowly realizes what done happened—which took a mighty bit as he didn’t have too many lights on upstairs—Freddy puts the nickel right in Hersh’s loafer, saying, ‘Call me from the other side, you’s and yer mortacci tua!

“Ma boys reckon ol’ Hersch’s remains were done gobbled up by dem fishes and gators and like, wit his ‘boots’ washin’ up durin’ Katrina or Rita.”

Clete then flicks the coin to Freddy with a congenial if wicked smile.

“So, unless Hersh is gonna call collect, Freddy, I guess yer gittin’ to keep the change.”

GM: GM: Peals of laughter from all of the Giovannini answer Cletus’ story.

Catfish Freddy, grinning ear-to-ear, catches the coin in mid-air. “Heh heh heh. Best two of three. Heh. I was generous, wasn’t I, Tuccy?”

His sister-wife gives a cruel smile. “As generous as he deserved.”

Vico has a good laugh. “Idiota. Any Vegas man should’ve known they fix the odds.”

Teddy laughs harder. The ghoul doesn’t say anything witty. Just laughs. No doubt he’s glad to see someone else be the butt of a joke.

Lucia giggles from behind a raised hand.

“Oh Clete! You’re so funny.” She looks at her brother-in-blood. “Why’d you kill him, anyway?”

“’Cause he was a dumb fucking kike,” says Freddy.

“Got on too many people’s nerves,” Vico expounds. “Thought he was a mobster. He wasn’t.”

“His name isn’t Italian,” says Lucia.

“Yeah,” says Catfish Freddy. “Lotta kikes who are in with Cosa Nostra as associates.”

“Figured he’d be the next Meyer Lansky,” chuckles Vico. “Family mighta been trying to offload him onto us.”

“Time-honored way to dispose of idiots,” agrees Catfish Freddy.

“Did he leave a spirito?” Tuccy asks thoughtfully.

“Ooh,” smiles Lucia. “I bet the coin’s his fetter.”

Catfish Freddy gives the coin an equally thoughtful-seeming flip.

“Never gave me a call if he did.”

“Maybe he will now,” says Lucia. “I wonder if he’s wearing cement shoes? I’d love to see a spirito in cement shoes.”

Catfish Freddy grins and gives the double-sided coin another flip.

“We’ll owe it to Cletus if we get to. I’ll give Sugarbelle a call if Hersh shows, yeah?”

“Uncle Clete, too!” beams Lucia.

“Cletus too,” Vico smiles appreciatively, clearly pleased to see his childe happy.

Indeed, all of the present Giovannini look pleased.

Cletus has always been a family man.


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