A Chilly Reunion

Cast: Contessa Isabella Bevilacqua, Leo Messina
Premise: Leo finds an unexpected visitor at work… and it's an old friend who is no longer very friendly.

rating: 0+x

The Contessa waits no time at all — even though she just arrived this morning, through her agents' careful arrangements, she is already getting a tour of the N&SeT facilities with some corporate personnel. It could be because of her aristocratic background, or perhaps it's because of her status as a potential investor — either way, she is surveying the foundry with a couple of N&SeT tour guides, with a small entourage of men trailing them. Despite the rather unattractive environment of the facilities, the Contessa carefully maintains an air of aloof indifference, scanning the place and the sweaty workers with vague interest.

The N&SeT Oil Foundry is a large sprawl of industrial piping and labor, with a constant smell of crude oil pervasive in the air around it. An endless horde of workers are operating every component of the distillation operation, with workers making sure that raw crude oil is going into the huge distillation tanks without any interruption, ensuring that the hot furnaces are running correctly, and the end products are properly shipped via pipes and barrels, the latter being loaded up on trucks destined for huge tankers at the port.

A Mr. Santiago is the local representative in charge of showing the facility to the latest potential investor of the corporation. With the rise of Halo-X as a primary commodity for the corporation, the oil distillate side of the corporation have been seeking to get more investment and reclaim its primacy in the corporation as the primary breadwinner. Followed by the Contessa and personnel, he waves a hand idly as he explains in a heavily Spanish-inflected Italian, "As you can see, m'lady, the oil foundry in Maracaibo is one of the most advanced of its kind. With high efficiency and logistics unmatched outside of North African British and Italian oil interests, the Negro and Sobre el Terreno Oil and Distillate Subsidiary is prime for rapid growth and economic expansion."

Amongst the regimented hordes of men near the tour group, working to load the heavy barrels of fuel oil into large trucks is Leo, irreverently chomping on a cigar at a highly flammable location and shouting in broken Spanish orders to get the barrels into the trucks as quickly as possible.

For all her demonstrated disinterest, the Contessa quirks a brow when Santiago brings up Halo-X. She turns to the man and nods vaguely at his words, every step she takes unhurried and practiced. "This is most impressive, Mr. Santiago." She accedes, stopping midway along the ramp the group is walking on, so that she can survey the row of distillation tanks nearby. "Not only am I quite interested in investing in Negro and Sobre el Terreno Oil, I am also exploring potential investment opportunities for a number of my associates." How does the woman do it? She is as composed as ever despite the ghastly heat coming from the furnaces. This is when the Contessa notices the group of loaders nearby; initially they get a disdainful look, until she sees a familiar face. Can it be? "Who is…." She points to Leo quizzically, before she realizes she shouldn't be saying it out loud.

Leo pauses in mid-sentence as the Contessa and her group pass by, a sharp sniff of the air audible despite the din and clamor of the foundry. Nothing superhuman - the dreadful smell of oil and burning fuels tend to become desensitized to the workers, with even the hint of a pleasant smell or any pleasant stimuli, really, sharply hitting the senses. He tilts his head but does not look towards the Contessa and her group as he shakes it off and tries to go back to the loading, "C'mon, c'mon! We need to load up these trucks so the port team can get them into the Seong-Do freighter or we pay late fees out of our pay!" Leo shouts in English, the same slow drawl as many years ago as he briefly takes a puff of his cigar.

Mr. Santiago looks up and says, "Halo-X, yes. The Oil and Distillate Subsidiary maintains a 20 percent voting block with N&SeT Lift, the Halo-X and lighter than air concern." He pauses as he turns to the Contessa and asks, "Is everything all right, m'Lady? If it is the smell, we can relocate to our corporate headquarters. The N&SeT Lift Board of Directors are still in their meeting, but we have refreshments available, of course."

As if lost in thought momentarily, the Contessa had to shake herself out of it. "Yes, I am quite fine, thank you." Despite her assurance, the woman's eyes are still following the muscular worker. "Mr. Santiago," Addressing the company representative, she turns her gaze reluctantly to the man. "May I have ten minutes alone?" She hasn't even waited for the man to agree, when she lifts a finger and gestures to her entourage. One of the men-in-suits steps up immediately, to whom the Contessa whispers. He proceeds to march up to Leo where is yelling at his co-workers, standing there for a moment before clearing his throat to be noticed. "Excuse me, sir." He announces then. "The Contessa Bevilacqua would like to speak to you for a moment."

Mr. Santiago looks confused as he bows out and has his personnel step away for a moment, invariably talking amongst themselves about how to better sell the company. Leo, who had most of his back to the small party for most of the conversation looks back as his attention is being diverted by one of the Contessa's men. He briefly glances over to the Contessa and back to the man as he says, "I, we…" He lets out a sigh as he starts to undo the heavy leather apron and casts the heavy gloves off to some crates, snuffing what's left of the cigar with his boot. "I know better than to piss her off, aye?" He says to the man as he tries his best to dust himself off, taking a dingy rag and wiping the beads of sweat off his brow. He bows to the Contessa, "Isa…" He stops himself, his Italian much more dignified than his drawled out English, "Your Excellency. How may I be of service?"

The Contessa is just as Leo would've remembered her - but with a level of aloofness that was never there before. Despite the difference in height, the Contessa holds her head high disdainfully at Messina, her otherwise icy expression unreadable. She nonetheless gives him a once over, and in that instant, her countenance breaks just a little - there's just the faintest hint of something in her eyes. It disappears though as her gaze lifts to meet Leo's again, however. "I like to know what precisely your function is here." She states flatly. Behind the woman, her men watch Leo closely, looking like a pack of wolves ready to pounce at a moment's notice.

Leo takes a breath as he continues to have his head slumped in a half bow now, eyes hesitatingly meeting the Contessa's. "Your Excellency, I am a day laborer here. I am occasionally hired by the N&SeT and other factories in town to help haul goods to be transported to the docks," he says calmly, eyes flickering to glance at the Contessa's men, although he doesn't seem at all intimidated by them. In contrast, the ice cold Italian Contessa already seems to have the large laborer and brawler on a leash by merely looking at him.

Though the Contessa's gaze doesn't falter on Leo, the Italian woman doesn't respond to the brawny man's works right away. Her arms crossing over her chest, the Contessa tilts her head slightly in a haughty manner. "You waste your strength hauling barrels?" She wrinkles her nose in disgust, gesturing with wiggling fingers at the workers in the distance. "I want to hire you." The noblewoman turns her attention back to Leo, staring him straight in the eyes, unflinching. "Whatever N&SeT is paying you, I will pay you four times the wage."

There's a certain bristling as the Contessa remarks about his 'job' and her offer on Leo's part as he replies, this time with a little bit more backbone to his words, "Your Excellency, it is not about pay. I like working. I still fight on the weekends as I used to." He pauses, looking down to the ground before he asks, "How may I be of service to you now?" There's a glint of something that the Contessa had seen in Leo's eyes of a certain irreverent disdain for her position and her privileges and rights as part of the North Italian nobility mixed in with a certain raw, feral force that is carefully kept in check. His question's tone is not that of a man seeking employment or even showing respect, but of a man somehow obligated by the past to hear out the Contessa's words.

Uncrossing her arms, the Contessa's hands drop to rest on her hips. "You will be working." She states. "You are a fighter; I want to hire you as a bodyguard, for myself and my sister." She must notice the defiance in his eyes, but hers match his - there is hidden anger, and perhaps more, in there. The Contessa starts to pace, slowly circling Leo. "Or do you no longer have enough personal loyalty to anyone to accept? That you would prefer to take any mercenary job that comes your way?"

"Both you and your sister? Did Senator Bargnesi and his Mussolini goons finally kick House Bevilacqua out of Verona?" Leo suddenly drops, his head idly rolling left and right to stretch out his neck. But that is met with a certain calm and an attempt to regain his composure, "Your Excellency, I… I don't do the mercenary jobs anymore," another pause. "I promised you I would serve you faithfully until the day that I died. You of all people should know that I am good as my word," Leo states firmly. He also swore he would never step foot on the palatial grounds of the Bevilacqua estate all those years ago.

The laborer's biting remarks bring a hard glare from the Contessa as she stops back in front of him, her red lips pursing into a thin line in subdued anger. But as he continues to speak, her gaze softens…. so much so that a hint of vulnerability actually slips through her steely countenance. Too bad, because the noblewoman has trained herself throughout the years to hide her emotions, so any crack in her armor is quickly hidden. "I used to know. Now? You will have to prove it to me again." With visible effort, the Contessa turns on her heels and marches away, but not before gesturing back towards Leo.
At the wave, the man who originally approached Leo steps up to the brawler again. "Get yourself cleaned up, then come with me." He states. "We will get you properly dressed and up to speed on what you need to know."

Leo takes a deep breath as he offers a firm nod, his eyes disagreeing with the Contessa's assessment of who ought to be proving themselves to whom, but he knows that rarely do these things come to his favor between a dirty, literally unwashed commoner and a relatively high up noble of Piedmont-Sardinia. While Mr. Santiago comes back to continue the tour, Leo hastily finishes up the last of the loading job and gets cleaned up enough by the time the Contessa and her party depart the premises.

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