Manhattan, New York
“Why do you suck?” Tino held his hand up to the silhouette at the firing range. “You didn’t hit it once! That should be physically impossible! We’ve been doing this for a month!” Tino turned to Carlo behind him. “Look at this! You thought I was exaggerating. Do you see this? She emptied the entire clip and this figlio di puttana is still alive.”
Carlo tilted his head, studying the target again. There were several bullet holes outside bullseye, but without a doubt this silhouette was going to live to be shot at for another day. “It’s sorta awe-inspiring.”
“I know I’m not that bad of a teacher.” Tino gestured to Brianna as evidence, and then he did a double take at her target. “Wow, good job, baby.”
“Thanks.” Brianna pulled the target off and held it up. “I think I’m keeping this one.”
Carlo raised his eyebrows as he admired Brianna’s target. “You do it better than most of the cretini working for the old man.”
“So what the fuck is wrong with you?” Tino turned back to his sister, who had folded her arms and was giving him a silent, murderous glare. “You’re a Siciliana. It should not be this hard for you.”
“It’s the gun.” Carina gestured at the .38 lying on the shelf. “I don’t like that one.”
“It’s not the gun.” Tino clenched his hands in annoyance. It had become a personal quest to make sure the girls could defend themselves. He was currently failing miserably, something he obviously didn’t deal well with. “You say that about all of them.”
“You’re being a strunzu,” Carlo chastised him. “She doesn’t like the .38. So, get her a new gun, like the 9mm.”
“We’ve tried a 9mm. That’s what she carries. The old man gave it to her two years ago.”
“Then that’s the one she should be practicing with. Go get it,” Carlo growled at Tino. “Let me help her. You yelling in her face isn’t going to magically correct her aim. Go work with your girl.”
“Bri doesn’t need my help!” Tino gestured to Brianna’s old target. “This motherfucker’s dead.”
Carlo grabbed Tino’s arm and yanked him around the corner before he asked in sharp Italian, “Why are you doing this?”
“’Cause she can’t protect herself.” Tino took a sharp breath. He felt like all the air was being crushed out of his chest. The problem had been getting steadily worse since he discovered his sister was easily the worst shot on the planet. “We just handed her a gun thinking she could shoot it, like knowing how to handle one was genetic or something. She’ll shoot herself first. We need to take the gun away from her.”
“Maybe it’s her eyes,” Carlo suggested reasonably. “Did you get them checked?”
“You think I didn’t have her look at a fucking eye chart after the first time?” Tino barked at him. “She passed it for her driver’s license. She can see, she just can’t fucking shoot. What if I’m not there? What if you’re not there? We don’t know who we can really trust in this family. Anyone could grab her and put her in a basement—”
Carlo slapped him.
Tino sucked in a startled gasp and looked at his uncle in shock. “Did you just bitch slap me?”
“You’re acting like you needed it,” Carlo said without apology. “Just give your girl a gun and a high-quality holster. Teach her how to conceal it. Have her get used to wearing it when she’s out. They’re together all the time anyway. Hell, they live together. If for some reason Carina doesn’t have protection, your girl’s got her back.”
“That’s your solution? My girl sells her soul ‘cause of the borgata’s bullshit? Carina was supposed to be the one to do it. That’s why I brought both of them. I thought it was going to be reverse. Carina was supposed to be my insurance, now she’s my fucking liability!”
“You’re the one who wanted to do this,” Carlo reminded him. “We’ll get it done, but your breakdown is stressing her out. She needs a change of pace. Let me try. Not everyone picks it up in a few weeks.”
“I did. Brianna did. Nova learned in ten minutes,” Tino argued.
“Nova probably mathematically calculates the wind speed and knows the distance between him and the target and divides it by the velocity of the bullet or some shit.”
“He is a really good shot without practicing,” Tino had to agree. “That’s very unfair. I just assumed Carina would be the same.”
Carlo gave him a look of disbelief.
“Okay, that was stupid. I admit that was stupid.” Tino shrugged, and then gestured around the corner where the girls still were. “But, come on. That is fucking epic.”
“I’ll teach her.” Carlo reached out and grabbed Tino’s shoulder. “I got your back. No one’s sticking her in a basement.”
Tino tried to take another calming breath. Carlo was easily the most effective firearms instructor Tino knew. Ice cold and confident, if Carlo couldn’t teach Carina, no one could.
They spent the rest of the day at the range. It was one of those front businesses Nova had set up to funnel all the illegal borgata money through. Nova liked businesses without inventory, where there was no way to prove how many people were actually walking through the door as paying customers. Car repair shops. Restaurants. Motels. Bars. Tattoo parlors. Coffee shops. Anything where a lot of cash flowed through without a lot of ways for the government to track exactly how many customers were forking over the cash.
The range likely reported about ten times more business than they actually did in this place and Nova used all that fictional income to clean the illegal money.
Nova was also practical, so he bought places they could use.
This gun range.
The dojo Romeo trained at.
The list was endless and Tino suspected the poor kid Nova once was got a little thrill out of knowing he could use these places to funnel money and save the forty bucks a month on a gym membership. There was a time when they were young that a forty-dollar gym membership or a free cup of coffee would’ve meant everything.
Tino and Romeo forgot the survival mode they’d been in when they lived on the bad side of East Harlem. They took things for granted nowadays—but Nova didn’t.
He never forgot.
“We should start working on moving targets,” Tino mused as he pushed the button to bring Brianna’s silhouette back. “Open air, moving targets, not in a controlled environment.”
Brianna snorted and looked back to him. “Where are we going to do that?”
“We’d have to get out of Manhattan. I practiced at the don’s Bensonhurst place.”
“We’ll take the boat.” Carlo suggested from his spot behind Carina as he pushed the button to bring her silhouette forward. He stared at it with his hand over his mouth for a moment and then mumbled, “Definitely the boat.”
Tino understood that Carlo didn’t want the don to know how bad of a shot Carina was. It’d make all their lives miserable—especially Carina’s. She’d been carrying a gun she clearly couldn’t shoot since she was eighteen. Their nonno would freak if he knew about this and double her security.
Carina let out a sob of frustration, which was completely out of character for her. “Fuck this!” She picked up the gun and threw it past the silhouette.
Carlo and Tino instinctively ducked. Tino pulled Brianna down with him, but it didn’t fire. Then he jumped to his feet and shouted at his sister, “You just fucking throw it with the safety off? It only takes one bullet to kill someone! I’m taking that 9mm away from you! It’s my job to protect you and you scare the fuck outta me with that weapon in your purse.”
“Might as well. I can’t hit anything with it!” Carina gestured to the target. “Take the fucking gun! I’m too stupid to use it anyway!”
“Oh sweetheart, that’s not true.” Brianna glared at Tino, and then ran after Carina when she stomped off.
Brianna didn’t look back at him, so it was obvious he was in deep shit with both of them.
“It has to be her eyes.” Carlo took the target off the silhouette and studied it. He turned to Tino, looking dazed. “This isn’t just being a bad shot. It’s something else.”
“I made her go to the eye doctor. You think I’m bullshitting about that?”
“We need a second opinion.” Carlo kept staring at the target. “We need someone we can talk to specifically about this issue.”
“Oh, yeah, we’ll just go to the eye doctor and say, ‘Hey, doc, you think you could fix her bad aim so the other families don’t stick her in a basement.’”
Carlo lifted his head and looked at Tino. “I wasn’t talking about a doctor.”
“No.” Tino shook his head in understanding. “No way.”
Carlo completely ignored him and finished his suggestion, “Let’s just ask Nova.”
“No, they just started kinda getting along. He signed over the Mills Basin place to her last month and they’re on good terms,” Tino argued with near manic desperation. “You don’t know them like I do. The second one of them shows a weakness, the other homes in on it like a fucking snake. He’s going to make her feel stupid and she’s going to lash back and make him feel inferior in the borgata and to nonno like he’s a fucking employee instead of family and it’ll all go to hell.”
“The only motherfucker making her feel inferior and stupid” — Carlo gave Tino a harsh glare — “is you.”
Tino shifted and looked to where the girls ran away, then he folded his arms like Carina had earlier and suddenly didn’t feel like talking.
“I understand you’re scared. I know where the fear is coming from and it’s justified. I think we should talk to Nova.”