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Cebra

A Serpent in Naples

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Cebra

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----

PRESTIGE AND OPIUM.

 

TWO MEN FORSAKE PRINCIPLE IN PURSUIT OF THE ALMIGHTY

LEST ANYONE STAND IN THEIR WAY.

 

FROM THE ASHES OF DECLINE:

THE BEST OF AMERICA'S WORST CITY.

----

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Edited by Cebra

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slimeball supreme

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“Your father meant so much to me. To all of us.”

 

His father was laying out in his casket gussied up with make-up and formaldehyde. Lips in a permanent fish-pout, eyes shut and the liver spots painted over. Rose in his suit pocket. Rosary crucifix around the hands.

 

Charming.

 

Sal had his wife jawing off while the priest was talking and he'd promptly told her to shut her mouth, Gioia told him it was rich coming from the same sleazeball’d never shut his f*cking mouth when-- blah blah f*cking blah. Sal tuned it out, walked off mid-sentence and let her keep jawing at the frost and the fog. Screw it.

 

Bad day. Chilled you to your bones and needed gloves, needed coats - would rightly need humility. Sal never cared for humility. Had the camel coat on clashing fierce with the monochrome of everyone else, kept himself to the corner of the funeral procession with the other guys from Atlantic Quays.

 

The other guys.

 

Sal Leone was average - used to work out, hadn’t in a long time and kept to good food that evened things out. Just average. Painted tie and graying hair with the ‘line receding down to the crown, this mad widows peak poking out, a mustache. Stood side by side with good friends; hulking Tony Cipriani, 6’5, barrel chested guy needed a tailor, if not that, the big-and-tall store. Dark-rose jacket and brown shirt and jowls.

 

With Eggy Goterelli. These crazy aviators and this gold around the fingers and the wings in his hair and the cigar in his mouth his wife’d told him not to smoke while the priest was going but like he gave a f*ck what the skank said, he’d been to more wakes than he could think of and he was just killing time before the pasta platter at Momma’s.

 

With Toto Cilli. Not Toto, Sesto, but he thought Toto was funny and the whole thing stuck. Flared collar spread out a quarter-inch, double breasted royal blue jacket, bug eyes and half a monobrow, this knife cut up on the nostril still loose he kept touching.

 

These guys - blue, cream, red, gold.

 

Everyone else - black. White.

 

Four of ‘em and a few others stood out half a distance from the rest where the seats where with their backs near the gravestones and a good view of the whole thing. Good view of Beppe, Beppe Leone, father Beppe, Don Beppe, being lowered deep in the dirt where the worms’d like him nice and warm.

 

Sal and Toto and Tony and all the goddamn others’ kids doing god knows what a little while away. Sal’s brother scowled back.

 

Carmine Leone was younger, but what did it matter? Curled out hair and thin brows and square jaw and this weird bunched chin because he’d keep doing Beppe’s pout. Had his guy Red Meo with the pork pie hat and old Al Zizzo and old Uncle with the spectacles on his sides looking at the casket, but what’d it matter? What did it matter?

 

Carmine woulda thought it wasn’t respectful.

 

Sal thought respect was in surplus.

 

“My father,” Sal said. “Giuseppe was…”

 

He was talking to one of his guys, little guy named Mike with stubble and a bad shirt, usually kept quiet but decided he’d go off now for good measure.

 

“Yeah?”

 

“He preferred boot lickin’ to bank notes. Not much more to say.”

 

“That’s not fair.”

 

Toto shrugged and pulled smoke - “This f*ckin’ business is all about this whole bullsh*t f*ckin’ dicklickin’ thing. That’s it. This,” he gestured out, “is prime f*ckin’ dicklickin’.”

 

Mike shrugged. Tony pat him on the back, nearly knocked the wind out despite himself, but just gave him this look and knew.

 

Tony Cipriani, gentle giant.

 

“This thing a’ ours.”

 

Tomata’ sauce.”

 

In a couple hours, after all this ended, Carmine Leone was gonna get in his car with Al and Uncle and Red, and he was gonna drive outta Staunton Island to the old gentleman’s club in Saint Mark’s. He was gonna speak a lot of Italian, sign a contract that didn’t exist - and alongside consigliere Zizzo and bodyguard Meo and old Uncle Leone from Sicily, he was gonna go from underboss to boss - from Vice President to CEO - of the Leone-Palermo Produce Company.

 

And Sal still a middle manager.

 

Motherf*cking f*cking f*ck it.

 

They’d put Beppe in the dirt and everyone had gone to their cars and Sal was lagging around because Gioia wouldn’t shut her goddamn gob and whenever he tried to wring it out she’d go back on him and tell him he was hardly at the funeral at all and he’d try turning the radio up and she’d throw the dial right back to zero.

 

Joey was in the back seat of the Washington with his feet on the windows and dress pants and a black shirt and black sneakers - or the best in his wardrobe - and after hearing the two go at it for god knows how long on the way to the ferry he just kinda blurted out “We’re goin’ to Momma’s, right?

 

“Momma’s ours or Momma’s Cipriani’s?”

 

“Cipriani’s, no sh*t.”

 

Oh!

 

“Excuse me!”

 

“You don’t talk to your mother like that!”

 

“What, you say that kinda sh*t to--”

 

You don’t f*ckin’ talk like that.

 

“Well look who he’s learned from, Sal. Doting father.”

 

“Go f*ck yourself you f*ckin’ skank.”

 

“There it is! Sicillian f*ckin’ parenting and--”

 

Just kind of went on from there.

 

Through Staunton gridlock and the most inefficient cross-river transit in the country and broken Portland windows and red-and-green banners up Saint Mark’s. Brownstones and backstreets and inclines with the car put-put-putting ‘til they hit the right inclines and the right backstreets and the right brownstones.

 

There were cars outside Momma Cipriani’s.

 

A lot of cars.

 

About a dozen from the old procession stuck around in the already-cramped lot and bleeding out into the street. Almost exclusively imports.

 

Sal turned. “Behave.”

 

Joey rolled eyes.

 

That’s not f*ckin’ behaving.

 

“Okay, okay!”

 

Okay up the concrete-stone-whatever stairs with his wife primping herself up with a pocket mirror and his son half clawing through the pants he was made to wear, okay at the door with Sal breathing in by the banners and the umbrella-clad outdoor tables. A little sign by the door, “Closed for the Wake of Giuseppe Leone”.

 

Could already smell the cholesterol.

 

Door swung open and the place blasted heat and the noise was fickle chatter and the stereo playing classical music. Opera. Sal didn't know and didn't care, f*cking hated that sh*t.

 

Salvatore!

 

“Great pick wit’ the Double Clef, Tony,” Sal beamed. “Love it.”

 

Tony Cipriani with an ill-fitting chef jacket draped atop the suit’s padded shoulders: the man couldn’t look comfortable in human clothes if he tried. “Ah, you know, you know. Was the traffic good?”

 

“F*ckin’ tedious.”

 

“Eh, that's Staunton.”

 

Carmine wanted the wake elsewhere, but those complaints were made a long time ago when he wasn't gonna be boss and he didn't get everything he wanted. Beppe overruled on his deathbed, said the food was better than whatever piss poor Italian joint in Fort Staunton you’d get otherwise - real authentic family sh*t versus some Well Stacked slices. Funny how his priorities were while the tumors grew in his throat.

 

But real authentic Italian sh*t it was - Sal watched over Tony’s shoulder as the porter crew flew out the kitchen, headed to the buffet line with steaming bowls of fettuccine and linguine in white sauces, calamari platters and chicken parmesan and eggplant in various stages of presentation; the works thrust into warming tray after warming tray as the guests stood by impatient. 

 

The mourners had brought appetites.

 

“There’s a f*ckin’ buffet line?”

 

Tony looked back, back and around again and paid the question a lot more mind than it deserved. “Uh, yeah. Yeah I think uh, I think Sandra told you that would be, y’know, the most efficient way of goin’ about it. Lets the kids run around a bit and--”

 

“It’s undignified.”

 

Tony stared.

 

Gioia put her hand on her husband’s neck, probably asked a bit more terse than she wanted, “You want me to fix you a plate?”

 

“Yeah, whatever.”

 

Big smile on her face, she turned to Tony - pocket mirror missed the lipstick on her front teeth. “You got any a’ those zucchini flowers he likes so much?”

 

“Nah, uh, those’re outta season.”

 

She left anyway, grabbed a hot plate by the line and something sparkly in a tall glass offered by a waiter.

 

“How you feelin’, Sal?”

 

“Never better. Can we siddown somewhere? This draft’s making my balls ache.”

 

“I’m always sayin’ that.” 

 

Pair started walking through, away from the door that kept opening and flooding with new arrivals, letting the frigid air sift into grease-laden humidity and the chemical smell of two dozen suits that just got dry-cleaned yesterday. Sal took off his gloves.

 

He really got an eyeful. 

 

Dozens of packed tables in diagonals, white tablecloth and candles not yet lit and centerpieces - more white, chrysanthemums in an inch of water wavering in the slipstream of mourners running to their tables with overflowing plates of pasta. Full blown murmur and laughter over the cello playing on speakers, pairs and groups alike already wine-drunk and one in particular - not a table but a green felt booth in the corner, Carmine Leone holding crony court; Al Zizzo and a hatless Red Meo with three bottles of red on the wood. They’d been here what, a half hour?


Carmine never could help himself from a Valpolicella. His boys could never turn it down one glass at a time.

 

Sal looked, looked away. He and Tony were at a booth too, opposite corners of the room under an oil painting, some horses and carts and dirt roads and cypress trees thing that fell off a truck fifteen or twenty years back.

 

They sat opposite each other, waiter brought them house red before Sal put his gloves down. Tony kept to the edge, eyes to the kitchen through the round windows.

 

Sal stretched, scratched an eyebrow. “Didn’t mean that about the dignity of this thing, what do I give a sh*t? Your wife’s a great cook, Anthony. And you’re not so bad yourself.”

 

“Ah, don’t worry about it.”

 

“You got a good woman there, dutiful wife, mother. Meanwhile it’s f*ckin’ Joy, I’m tellin’ you, the woman’s got me cursed. Can’t get rid of this bad energy whenever she’s within fifty feet of me.”

 

“You married a Siciliana, Salvatore, breaking balls gotta come with the territory, huh?”

 

Siciliana my ass, the spoiled brat’s never left the goddamn state. I dunno if she’s even left the city, sure as hell ain’t been with me,” raised his tone enough for her to maybe-hear, “I’d pitch the f*ckin’ car off a cliff five minutes into a road trip with her, God help me.”

 

Tony’s eyes were wandering. “Hey, where’s Joey?”

 

“Ah, sh*t.”

 

Forgot Joey. 

 

Scanned the room. Probably would’ve broken off from his parents anyway, Gioia now mingling with the other fake-nailed hairspray-clouded leopard print wives, but he’d found himself in the company of Toni and some other kid away from the adults, they’d found themselves in the company of one of those cassette music player f*cking things.

 

Fine.

 

Sal leaned back in the seat. “Real handsome kid you got, Anthony. Good boy, too, never seen him give lip.” Saw the smartwear: Toni in a tailored tux, slim fit against Joey’s God just put some clean f*cking clothes on Jesus Christ dress shirt, Zip pants. “Knows how to dress, knows how to act. You done good.”

 

“Takes after his ma.”

 

“He’ll be a fine man.”

 

“I hope so.”

 

Fine man.”

 

Blunt silence a moment with the wine, Sal’s eyes on the teens. Halfway to manhood but boys all the same, was Gioia's coddling. She was too easy on him, or that's what Sal thought. Let him off for troublemaking, wouldn't give him a goddamn smack like she should. Toni all sullen and Joey jittery, couldn't sit still. Sighed, sipped, still felt sober. Looked back at Tony edging half off the seat pitter-pattering the table.

 

“Hell are we doin’, Tone?”

 

Eyes snapped back, “What?”

 

“It's this… all this f*ckin’ thing. Laurel wreath bullsh*t. That f*cking roach.”

 

Blink. “What?”

 

“You know what my brother’s doin’ over there?”

 

“I didn’t see him.”

 

“He’s got Al and that f*cking lughead f*cking prick--”

 

“Russo?”

 

“--I don’t f*cking know, porkpie f*cking idiot, and they’re acting like it’s supreme court a’ some sh*t. Jesters, the lot a’ them.”

 

“What?”

 

“I’m runnin’ wit’ the medieval thing.”

 

“Supreme Court ain’t medieval.”

 

More like f*ckin’ clowns, eh?” Neck on a swivel, sharp turn behind them. Eggy Goterelli with his coat off showing off the middle-age-gut and the suspenders, threw a plate down with assorted Italian and let the pasta and the glasses wobble on rickety table. “Great f*ckin’ food, Anthony.”

 

“Watch the f*ck out, you nearly got wine all ova’ the tablecloth.”

 

Tony all coy, “Thank you, Egidio.”

 

“This gravy, madon’. How she make this sh*t?”

 

“Believe me, thank Sandra, and she--”

 

“Youse was talkin’ about Carmine, right?”

 

“Yeah, Eggy, say it a little louder,” Sal hissed. “Let him hear it.”

 

“Sal, I gotta-” Tony got up, dusted himself off. “I’m sorry, but- y’know, Sandra, she’s--”

 

“You need’a go, you need’a go.”

 

“Yeah,” Eggy went. “You need to go, you need to go. You know.”

 

Gave a bewildered look at Eggy before just turning tail and leaving. Just him and Sal now, Tony’s glass still standing half drank. Egg shifted, took a sip out of his glass, “Carmine, then.”

 

“You know where Toto is?”

 

“Somewheres.”

 

“I f*ckin’ figured.”

 

“I said my blessings to ‘im.”

 

“To Toto?”

 

“No. Carmine.”

 

Sal snarled, “Don’t say a f*ckin’ word to him.”

 

“He’s boss in two hours tops. I’m payin’ respects. I don’t like the guy and he don’t like none a’ us, but it’s tradition. These is the rules.”

 

None a’ us: the boys from Atlantic Quays were blue collar as blue collar came. Carmine weren’t. Carmine worked white-collar union rackets and milked construction, dined with politicians and squared things straight. Put the right bills in the right pockets. Didn’t matter if Sal was the one who did the upkeep, made sure the right people didn’t say what, if he was the one who moved the shipments and sold the ‘tomatoes’ on the street.

 

“F*ck the rules.”

 

“That’s what this is.”

 

“This ain’t that. This is--”

 

Clink clink clink.

 

Halfway across the room.

 

Carmine stood up. Doing that fishlip-Mussolini face and holding up champagne. Close to a smirk as he could get. Meo adjusted in his seat, pulled his jacket back, pulled his suspenders back, this close to standing up with him but relenting last second.

 

“I’d like a word,” Carmine said.

 

You got da’ floor!” some schmuck shouted somewhere, scattered a few laughs.

 

Carmine did this polite half-chuckle like he was hiding a cough, refixed his position. “We laugh tonight. We do, and laughter is part a’ the grieving process. We gotta remember the good times, you know, especially now. Especially through all this turmoil and this struggle.”

 

Mister f*ckin’ orator. Carmine must’ve caught Sal’s glare. Paused. Looked back with empty eyes like he didn’t give a f*ck.

 

Sure.

 

A crowd of these guys from Saint Mark’s, the guys Carmine hung tight to, they were gathering up and around and heading the room, chests puffed and chins held high and glasses the same in memoriam. “My father, Giuseppe, was a great man,” Carmine said. “He came to this country penniless. He did. We was nothing, we had nothing. He…” trailed off. This theatric sigh, cleared his throat.

 

Sal swore he grinned at him behind the hand.

 

“He was a hard worker. He was forward thinking. He was an inspiration. Many of us might think of tonight as a time for mourning-”

 

Sal felt a pat on the back, craned neck. Toto grinning. “Questa stronzata, huh?

 

Got a chuckle back. “Siddown, Ses’.

 

“-celebration of his life, of what he wanted for all of us. For unity,” Carmine shot a glance at Sal. “For peace. Ending bickering and ending bullying and fighting and just… family. Famiglia.

 

Famiglia.

 

Carmine raised his glass. “A toast,” he said. “To Beppe Leone.”

 

Salut!

 

Salut.

 

“Salut.”

 

The room was split in half. These guys, all these guys in black and white to the north; around Carmine and around Zizzo, the lackeys. 

 

They stood. 

 

Sal sat. Some of his men didn’t. Harwood, Atlantic Quays, Trenton - they were colorful men who all wore it. Toto and Eggy and Salvatore. They didn’t sit.

 

Sal smiled a toothless smile. He raised his glass.

 

Salut,” he said.

Edited by slimeball supreme

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Cebra

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“I'm entrusting you with a responsibility like no other, son.”

 

“Yes, pa.”

 

“I believe you capable, my boy. Others might not.”

 

“Others don’t know me.”

 

Cesare laughed. “I think so.”

 

Marco and Giorgio were holding one of the guys down by the arms while he was kicking his legs and spitting and snapping his jaw. Well, not his legs - one leg. The free leg, the one that Mikey didn’t have under his boot on the verge of snapping.

 

The fellas were dressed in leathers or casuals; Marco in a green-and-yellow pattern sweater, Giorgio or Georgie or Jojo or whatever he wanted to be called in this leather jacket too big for his arms with the cuffs drooping, Fat Mikey in a seam-splitting tucked tight cardigan.

 

Sonny Forelli had unbuttoned his cream double breasted jacket and let it hang loose. Sonny Forelli had this ornate crimson silk shirt with this flared out collar and these pretty patterns dotting down, top to bottom. Sonny Forelli had these white loafers on that made him step extra delicate so they didn’t get dirty.

 

Sonny Forelli brought the flat end of the crowbar straight into the poor guy’s knee.

 

The poor guy screamed.

 

“Ay, woah! I think we’re drawin’ blood here, Sonny!”

 

“Ey, motherf*cker! Motherf*cker, ey!”

 

Guy kept screaming.

 

Giorgio, “Shut the f*ck up!”

 

“Shut the f*ck up, eggplant.”

 

Guy on the floor grit his teeth, kept breathing through them deep-like. “F*ck you f*cking wop f*cking f*ck f*ck f*cking guido--”

 

“Buddy, buddy!” Sonny knelt down. “What’s got you down, huh? We’re just talkin’! We’re just f*ckin’ gentlemen!”

 

They’d emptied out one of the private rooms at Ristorante Ecoli and lit up the table with a candle and dimmed the lights for a reason Sonny couldn’t discern. The place, the restaurant, was sacred. Men got made here. Sonny got made here a year ago. This arcane place which stood at the tip of Staunton Island like a castle.

 

Cesare Forelli had sunken cheeks. Brown pleated jacket. Wispy hair and black around thin eyes and bushy brows. Underboss was present; Cheem Basto with wax face and sweat beads like he was always f*cking hot.

 

Coincidence: it was very hot.

 

“Do you understand,” Cesare said, “the weight of the responsibility bestowed on you?”

 

“Of course.”

 

“The rules of which you must abide?”

 

“Of course.”

 

“No drugs? Respect? No undue violence or attention or none a’ that? That kinda bullsh*t?”

 

“Pa,” Sonny clasped Cesare’s hands on the table, held tight. “Believe me. You won’t regret this.”

 

“These monkeys is cute, Sonny.”

 

“Y’hear that?” Sonny slapped hostage. “Mikey thinks youse is funny.”

 

“I said cute, not funny.”

 

“See, you fellas is cute because you won’t listen to simple instructions. We tell you to sit still and you don’t.”

 

“F*ck you…”

 

“And youse is funny,” Sonny went on, “because you think you can deal on patches you’ve been told you don’t run.”

 

“F*ck you, wop.”

 

“Precious.”

 

This wasn’t the only drug dealer they’d strung up. In the alley, right up in Aspatria, there were two other goons. All three were black guys, all three were early, mid-twenties at the biggest stretch. All jumpy young kids in their own leathers, with scruffy facial hair and frizzy ‘fros and heroin.

 

Too much heroin. Here, any heroin was too much heroin.

 

The one Mike had a foot on was called Domino. Their ‘pet moolie’ in Hepburn Heights, as Franco called him, said his real name was Cornelius.

 

Speaking of Franco, he’d put a foot and the crowbar in one of the other guy’s faces a long time ago. Him and Tommy were holding down the third on the trunk of their Oceanic.

 

“What did Levin tell you?”

 

“Levin don’t mean sh*t. That’s why he’s talking to-- auugugh!”

 

Mike kept twisting the boot into the open wound. “You ni**ers ain’t f*ckin’ polite, is you.”

 

Sonny kept it slow, “No dealin’ on Levin’s, on our, f*ckin’ patch.”

 

“F*ck you!”

 

Sonny reeled back, braced, and punted Domino in the chin. Bloodspit saliva flew. “Take care of moolie here,” turned tail and f*cked off to the car.

 

Domino wasn’t the leader but he was the biggest. Biggest boy was named Dicky, Benedict. Biggest boy purely symbolic - he had spectacles Tommy had crunched under bootheel a long time ago. Scrawny arms and a garish button-down.

 

Sonny approached.

 

Smacked Dicky in the head.

 

“Tommy,” Sonny said.

 

“Yeah?”

 

“How’s he holding?”

 

“I’m about ready to cut this prick loose.”

 

Sonny did his best imitation of someone with charm - “You must’a really ticked pretty-boy off.”

 

Eyes locked. Cesare warmed. “You are young, Santino.”

 

Cheem cut, “We got a dozen f*ckin’ capable men. Fi’ty.”

 

“I’m better than all of them,” Sonny said.

 

“You ain’t no rule breaker?”

 

“Never, Cosimo.”

 

“You think being capo is a f*ckin’ joke, Sonny?”

 

“You need…” Cesare struggled for words. “Benevolence. You cannot seek war, you must seek peace. This duty, captain… and you were made--”

 

“I don’t deal. I don’t kill ‘less they ask for it, ‘less I get your permission. I’m respectful. I’m loyal. I earn good. I don’t know what to tell you. Dad, pa, I f*ckin’ got this.”

 

Cesare nodded. “Brash way of putting it.”

 

“This thing of ours,” Sonny said, “is about family. It’s responsibility. Responsibility I can bear! You make me capo now, I’ll do a better job running any crew than Nelly ever did. Believe me.”

 

Tommy Vercetti was tall, guinea handsome. Dark hair and dark tan t-shirt with blue jeans, gold crucifix chain. Franco Forelli was a greasy f*cker with a huge schnozz and nowhere hairline he still kept to combing.

 

“We killin’ this f*ckin’ prick?”

 

“Is eggplant over there dead?”

 

Quick glance. The guy who got brained was still leaking on the floor.

 

“I dunno.”

 

“Like the papers is gonna get mad over a couple a’ dead ni**ers.”

 

“Levin will,” Sonny said.

 

This conversation was going down on top of the relaxing, harmonious wails of a captive struggling under the grip of two guineas. “Let me go let me go let me motherf*cking go let me go!”

 

Franco ignored, “This is getting--,” grunt, guy moved, “--getting f*cking irritating. The coons should be doin’ this sh*t, not us.”

 

Tommy took initiative, “You stayin’ outta Hepburn?”

 

“I go down there to f*ck your mother greaseball f*cking--” Franco clipped him on the head with an elbow.

 

“Be nice, spooky.”

 

Tommy just sighed.

 

Sonny thought a moment. Thought hard. Looked back at Mike putting a boot into Domino’s knee again. Gears turned in his head.

 

“Tommy.”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“Him,” pointed back, “or him?”

 

Nelly was in prison. Nelly ran one of the gruntwork blue collar crews, ran books, ran card games. Beat people. Killed people. He was capo. He was Cesare’s brother in law. And he was a f*cking idiot. They’d pulled strings, got the guy 5 instead of 25, but it wasn’t a sure thing if he was getting out at all.

 

Sonny was now acting capo.

 

He got hugged. Got a hug from Cheem, got a hug and a pat on the back from his pops, got a couple congratulations from some of the wiseguys in the front. Some didn’t. Some thought it was nepotism or a bad choice or blah blah blah, waste of time.

 

Cesare got the champagne.

 

There was a moment of celebration where all the guys gathered around and had their saluts and pat Sonny on the back, but Cesare wanted privacy.

 

What Ceez wants, Ceez gets.

 

An empty booth near the back of the restaurant with the champagne to themselves. Father and son.

 

“My boy,” Cesare said. Ruffled Sonny’s hair, laughed. “Oh, my boy.”

 

“Thank you, pa.”

 

“Family is more important than anything else, Sonny. Remember that. You’re my boy.”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“I would’ve made one of my sons capo, no matter what. You know that, Sonny. But you… it does not matter if you’re not the eldest. You’re the most capable. Marco… he is a good boy. But a leader, no. Franco, no. You of all your brothers…”

 

“Thank you, pa.”

 

“Family, my son. Family is all that counts. Nelly was not family, and look what happened.”

 

The feeling sank in. That knowledge you’re worth less than your blood. “Yes, pa.”

 

“Family.”

 

“It’s all that counts,” Sonny said. “All you can trust.”


“The f*ckin’ ferry, man.”

 

Sonny peeled off the main trio - Marky, Frankie, Tommy. Piled into the Oceanic, pulled outta’ Staunton and let Giorgio and Mike dodder back to Little Italy. Guys all in the midst of recovery, cracking knuckles and taking breaths and rubbing sweat. The Forelli Brothers Three, sans their fourth and their cousin.

 

“Think I scuffed my shoes,” Sonny groaned.

 

“Scuffin’ shoe on jigaboo,” Franco sang.

 

He was driving.

 

“We just messed some guys and your mind’s on the shoes?”

 

“They're expensive f*ckin’ shoes, Tommy.”

 

“Tommy,” Marky added, “they're Italian suede.”

 

“You brought Italian suede to rough up some guys. Come on.”

 

“He's got a point,” Frankie said. “You shouldn't a’ wasted good shoes on some uptown moolies.”

 

“That's not what I meant--”

 

“Then what'd you mean Tommy?”

 

Blink. “I--”

 

“You ain't tellin’ me you like ‘em?”

 

“They ain't half bad.”

 

“They're f*ckin’ animals,” Franco went. “I'd put ‘em in chairs I could.”

 

“C’mon.”

 

“They f*ck like rabbits,” Frank sighed. “Lotta’ them is rapist-birthin’ machines, all they do is f*ck f*ck f*ck. I ain't losin’ sleep over no dead ni**ers. You give them a f*ckin’ hand, they bite--.”

 

“Frank.”

 

“--you give ‘em food they'll sell it for a quick buck! Human f*ckin’ garbage.”

 

“You're a scumbag, Frank.”

 

“Like youse is so much better, Tom. Catholic goddamn guilt over here.”

 

“Screw you.”

 

“Can't say f*ck, Tommy boy?”

 

Marco chimed in, “No-swear-Tommy don't f*ckin’ cuss none.”

 

“Your daddy gonna hit you you don't say you wanna suck moolie cock? You wanna suck moolie cock, Tommy?”

 

Tommy didn't say anything. Sonny looked, saw him seething, red faced.

 

Franco didn't stop. “And then you got these ni**ers in black leather, these f*ckin’ commies, and what, they ain't terrorists? Technicalities and f*cking laws and all this bullsh*t. They got it great. Get handouts from the government so they can rob ya’ and kill ya’. You wanna go help ni**ers, be my guest, but I say put them and their f*cking kids--”

 

Sonny put his hand on Franco’s shoulder. “Frank.”

 

“What?”

 

“Stop.”

 

“You sidin’ with him now?”

 

“I'm sidin’ with the one that ain’t gonna blow this deal. Or get our necks cut.”

 

“I can take ‘em.”

 

“I ain't. Don't screw this. We go in there you start pulling this sh*t, you think Levin's buying?”

 

Frank just snorted.

 

“If there's one thing the mulignans know best,” Marco said, “it's movin’ weight.”

 

“I get it, I get it. Madon’. None a’ them in the car now, is there?”

 

There weren't, but they weren't too far.

 

Hepburn Heights had been, at one point, been mostly Jewish. That was a long time ago, 1920’s long time ago, then the jobs cleared out along with the white people and the factories, the housing projects dwindled and redlining set in. It was largely minority now, mostly Latino and black. No home loans and no healthcare coverage and no nothing. Thugs on the streets always giving whitey bad looks.

 

Under Rothwell Station there were a couple stores. Bodegas, take-out joints, barbers.

 

One barber stood out.

 

Car drove into the alley behind the stores, rolled up nearby the rear exits and made sure to check the address number above the doors.

 

Sonny, “Stop.”

 

Franco, “We here?”

 

Marco, “We here.”

 

It wasn’t Levin’s headquarters but he ran stuff out the shop - a little small time bookies, betting on football and boxing and whatnot. Clean Cuts, name nothing fancy but it didn’t have to be.

 

Oceanic stopped. Sonny got out, put up two fingers as a signal, approached the door.

 

Knock, knock, knock. Pause. Knock.

 

Door-slat flipped open - eyes on Sonny. A nod. Slat shut.

 

Sonny turned, the guys already out the car. “You guys behave,” got nods and groans from the fellas who crossed arms and tried to look tough. Got Sonny toe-tapping, waiting.

 

Door opened.

 

Levin was tall, moustache and mutton-chops and half-rough afro. Chinchilla jacket over a white turtleneck, black slacks. In his stead, some big f*cker in a mustard sweater with the pectorals peaking out, no hair aside from the eyebrows. Levin paused, lips curled, looked Sonny down. “Nice get-up, ‘sides the red.”

 

“Think that means we did what we needed to do.”

 

“Blood could entail a lotta’ things, my man. Got kids ‘round the block would rough theyselves up, say they did the job, get paid, and the guys’d still be on my patches. Scratchless.”

 

“‘S’what you get when you dealin’ with children.”

 

“Weren’t much older than you.”

 

Sonny snorted, smoothed his hair, “We got proof.”

 

“You said that. Blood.”

 

“Somethin’ a little less… euh, fakeable. You know.”

 

“Oh, to take the word of a brother such as myself. It is duly appreciated, Sonny. My ‘pinion, a lot can or cannot be fabricated; but I’d like to see you try.”

 

“Yeah, whatever.”

 

Levin snickered. “That was me askin’ you to show me.”

 

Paused. “Right. Yea’. Come on.”

 

They turned, went down the alley, past the guys leaning on the car. Markie and Frankie giving these looks, these pissed off looks. Frankie by the rear of the car with his hand on the hood like he didn’t want to lose it.

 

“Tommy, you take care a’ the package?”

 

“Hey, as much as I could. Heavy as hell.”

 

Levin smiled. “I have a feeling I know what this’ll be.”

 

Three were at the back now, Frankie on the whip still leaning. Looked at Sonny, blew out the nose, got off.

 

“Moses, check the trunk.”

 

Baldy nodded, moved for it. Was reaching when Frankie put his hands up, too close for comfort, “Watch it, tough guy.”

 

“Watch him, tough guy,” Levin went, wry as he could.

 

Moses chuckled. Franco fumed.

 

Trunk sprang open.

 

Sonny had always said that you gotta keep some rugs in the back just in case. Today was just in case. Dicky rolled up in what looked like burlap with about a dozen bruises and cuts and all kinds of red leaking out. Luckily, none of that was gonna was gonna ruin the interior. Just needed to replace the burlap.

 

“The other two?”

 

“Both went bye-bye, Levin.”

 

“Charmin’ as ever. Not what I wanted, but you got it done. He dead?”

 

“Nope. You can wake him if you want.”

 

Levin snickered again, “Sure. Moses.”

 

Moses nodded. Clapped the kid’s ears ‘til he jolted - “Huh?! Huh?!?! What?! Huh?!”

 

“Brother, brother.”

 

“Guinea f*cks! Guinea wop f*cks!”

 

“Settle down, settle down. It’s your good friend Levin.”

 

“My f*ckin’ arms, man, my f*ckin’ arms!”

 

“Shhh…” Put his finger right up to the lips. “Quiet.”

 

Dicky had these bugged out eyes, didn’t help he needed glasses. Blind. Was shaking - shaking outta pain, or something else.

 

“Told you you’d get along,” Sonny said.

 

“That’s sweet. You enjoy yourself with my associates?”

 

“Uncle Tom. Uncle Tom.”

 

Levin turned to Sonny. “He has no idea how much that hurts.”

 

Got Moses laughing again.

 

“Train’s due now, ain’t it, Sonny?”

 

“I don’t take the train.”

 

“I know what time the train comes. You can hear it on the rails a mile away. City’s gotta fix the cars.”

 

“City can’t fix a broken pipe. City can’t build a tunnel. You think they can fix a train?”

 

Levin smiled. “I have faith.”

 

This uncomfortable pause. Levin reached for his pockets, dipped his hand into the jacket.

 

Pulled out a .357. Sonny whistled, “That is a piece.”

 

“You hear that?”

 

He did. He heard train grinding on the elevated tracks. Getting nearer.

 

Nearer.

 

“Goodnight, Dicky.”

 

Nearer.

 

Near.

 

Bang.

 

Train slowed. It was like the shot never happened. Smoke rose. Train went quiet.

 

The gun was back in the jacket. A hole was in Dicky’s head.

 

“Moses, would you mind disposing of our friend?”

 

Moses nodded, went for the door, but got stopped: hand on his shoulder. “Gorilla don’t touch my f*ckin’ whip.”

 

“Excuse me?”

 

“It’s okay, Moses,” Levin said. “Franco, I’m sure you and my friend here are open to doing the job.”

 

Frank shot a look at Sonny. Sonny shrugged.

 

“Sure,” Frank said. “Okay.”

 

Franco clopped off, went to the car-door with these shadows under the eyes and his hands to himself, brushed past Tommy on the way giving him a look. Sonny just stared, the staring interrupted.

 

Levin pat him on the shoulder. “I got someone you might wanna meet.”

 

Back room of the barber was fitted out with a couple TVs, all off. A lot of papers and a lot of notebooks and clipboards, big table in the middle. A bunch of Levin’s goons, would be taking score. But no games on means no games are on. Levin lead him and Marco and Tommy inside, got the other two comfortable. Offered refreshments - “We got waters, soda, that kinda sh*t.” Tommy said sure, Marco said no.

 

Among the black guys, there were two more whites. A little older than Sonny, but not by much - this one guy in a half decent suit with a chain around the neck. A mustache, slicked back hair. Other guy had stubble, oily hair, leather jacket.

 

“You’re Neapolitan, right, Sonny?”

 

“Yeah. Naples, Genoa, whateva’. That’s us Forellis.”

 

“Right. These two are Sicillian.”

 

Sonny looked ‘em up, looked ‘em down. “Familiar.”

 

“Should be,” went mustache.

 

Levin kept smiling that same old smile, “He,” he said, pointing to clean shaven, “is Ennio. Earl.”

 

Earl nodded, “Eitha’, or.” Offered a hand, Sonny shook.

 

“And he,” Levin moved onto mustache, “is Salvatore. Leones.”

 

Sonny looked. Weary. Salvatore did the same, sized him up.

 

Offered his hand.

 

Sonny paused.

 

He shook.

 

“Giuseppe’s son?”

 

“Hell ta’ Giuseppe.” Salvatore grinned. “That bullsh*t… it don’t come here.”

 

Sonny grinned back.

Edited by Cebra

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