Il Tradimento by Michelle Walshe
‘Dai, Vincenzo, come on,’ Edo screams over his shoulder as he hurtles down the steps, taking them two at a time, skidding on damp patches never exposed to the blazing, Neapolitan sun.
Edo stumbles, foot over ankle, grabs the railing to steady himself, taking gulps of hot, clammy air, so hot it burns his throat when he inhales. His skin is slippery, slick with sweat. A sweet, cloying smell of rotting fruit and decaying rubbish fills his nose and throat. He splutters as he straightens up, tasting the detritus of the city on his tongue. He presses his scrawny, adolescent body against the graffitied wall, trying desperately to melt into the shadows. He fears they can hear his jagged breathing and tries to slow it down.
He turns back to look at his best friend, Vincenzo. He cuts a solitary figure, standing alone, erect, dignified. Nausea rises in Edo’s mouth. He looks away.
A frantic, panting dash across the city led them to this fetid place. They raced across the stradone, the main thoroughfare, before swerving into the blackness of the labyrinthine lanes, hoping to lose their pursuers in the darkness. But they were men who would not be outrun. They climbed over low walls, scaled high walls, clambered up iron gates, rushed up and down steps, shiny revolvers glinting in white-knuckled grips. They knocked over chairs outside a café, scattering diners like frightened pigeons, serving up their private drama, like a meal, to a local, captive audience.
There is no noise now. Silence crowds the narrow alleyway. Edo’s ragged breaths ricochet off the damp, dingy walls, bounce high into the air, evaporating into emptiness. When he looks back again, Vincenzo still hasn’t moved. His arms hang limp by his side, like the wilted flag that droops from an upper window in the alleyway in support of a local football team that hasn’t won a match for years.
Edo stares at his feet. His big toe juts through the stained, torn canvas of his sneaker. They told him he could have new shoes if he completed this job. Not only shoes, clothes too. A prospectus for a prestigious university dropped through the letterbox last week. He glances quickly at Vincenzo again, then squeezes his eyes shut.
Fear scuds through his insides, liquefying them. He opens one eye slowly, then the other. Vincenzo remains in the same position, standing, staring upwards. Edo wonders does he know? Has he worked out who betrayed him?
Edo squeezes his hands over his ears. His stomach contracts. He feels a hot, sticky liquid run down his inner thigh. It is a familiar sensation to him from when he wet the bed as a child.
He bends to touch his leg. The liquid is viscous, warm, and red. He stares at his fingertips in astonishment as he falls forward onto the cold, cobbled stone steps.
He feels warm breath on his ear as Vincenzo’s voice whispers, ‘Edo, questa volta, vinco io,’ this time I win.