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Vinny's head exploded like a blood filled melon and the laughter was everywhere, bouncing of the wall like drum beats, the off key accompaniment to some Sinatra song playing back of the store.. No...Vinny he's been sealed in a concrete thing downtown since what? -Five years anyway. Wait...that was Angelo. That rat bastard had it coming, for real. So now he got himself a concrete tomb at the back end of Shea Stadium.You gotta honor the vig. Bein' greedy will always get you iced. Palo knew how to honor the system, it wasn't in him to step out or think he was more than he was and he knew who he was. He made a good living, wore nice suits, good shoes. Good shoes was the thing that mattered, nothing less than Florshiems, that's what a good made man wears, not those fruity 'girlguy' jobs they look like slippers. Who would respect him if he wore fruity shoes. And a good watch, not the cheap knockoffs going around - the real thing. The blood of Sicily made a man know what was what - what was solid and worthy. It's an honor thing and being someone was a constant thing - a thing you worked at, nonstop, all your life. There ain't no days off, 'cause people never take a day off, being assholes. If they did it would be nice, like the Priests talk about, God bless 'em. A man has to have God. It's no good walking around like you are here because your fuckin' brain is big and evolved from some ape. Christ what an idea. God made us and we fucked it up. He made us all the way we are and we have to act out what is dealt us - that's all. Vinnie's head did explode like a fuckin' melon. It surprised me, not ever having that happen before, but he had been workin' out - down at the gym. He even lost a little weight, his Momma said he was getting too fat. Yep, a neat slim 250 - fighting weight, that is. The Vinnie thing did kinda made me sick - Sweet Jesus what a mess.
Palo's came out of the dreamy thoughts slowly and ponderously, which is the way he did everything. His fat muscle clogged mind matched his muscle bound body, made for brute force and intimidation, not some uptown finesse. He sneezed and spit before he opened his eyes, that's when he felt the ropes. 'Christ I'm trussed up like a suino in a slaughter house pig. He chuckled to himself his Momma always said 'Ju abbuffarsi.' The room was dark, but he could hear someone breathing to his right, and the smell of cheap wine soaked cigar smoke to his left. This was not a good spot, but it was far from hopeless. He knew that the guys who had him were amateurs, or he'd already be dead. So, they wanted something he had, find that out and things could change for the better, or get worse, depending on how he played it.
"Okay! You must of drugged me, 'cause I ain't bruised. So you got feelings. That's good. I do wish you would put out that piece of shit cigar. I'm liable to choke to death and then what good am I to ya!"
The slap was expected. Palo learned what he needed to know. They had some kind of night goggles on, so they had resources. He thought, maybe mid-level guys that got mucked up somehow by some of his wet work - maybe missing drugs or cash. They didn't know him - he wouldn't pilfer - that was for donolla, men without honor. The hand was smallish and soft. The grunt showed him that it hurt the poor guy, probably rubbing it right now. If this was a pro job the hired guy should have done the dirty work. The guy who hit him is in this for personal reasons and the silent guy is an investor, or some clean and tidy citizen looking to gain something he lost. Either way they were kitty cats with a tied up lion.
"Damn, I don't think that was necessary."
"Shut up - you Bastard!" The man sprayed spit in his face. There was something familiar about it.
"Way too involved." Palo thought. The man was too emotional.
"I ought to kill you for what you did!"
"This isn't helpful!" The second man spoke low and calm. The man had the kind of well trained voice one would expect from an actor or game show host.
'The game is getting clearer and isn't life just a game. The little guy is really wound pretty tight. Nothing worse than getting spun up when you should be cool.' Palo thought. He pondered the other guy. He didn't smell any cologne, so the guy is smart enough to know not to give much away - been in tough situations before.
"My colleague has good reason to hate you."
Palo played a card. "You are going to have to kill me. Since I know that the little guy has lost someone he was fond of - if I get away I'll find out who he is and I'll cut his ball sack off for smacking me."
"I think you may have misunderstood what this meeting is for. Please forgive my friend for his outburst. We are men of business - so we can put aside petty annoyances for the sake of a good deal - can we not?"
Palo did a test on the chair back. The slight give gave him the information that he needed.
"Well, you have me at a disadvantage. I'm tied up and you two are in the dark. It's a little hard to do business in this situation." He already had an idea what was coming. Simple really. These two knew what I do for work and wanted to give him a contract, one he couldn't refuse. They think they have some leverage on him, so that he will do it for whatever they offer. The ropes and the dark was to assure that he would not negotiate or refuse.
"No, in fact it will be quite easy."
"And you better listen real close asshole!" The little man squeaked.
"You are beginning to get on my nerves - mio amico aristocratico tell your Pomeranian to settle down." Palo growled for the effect.
"Do you know a man named Vincent Armanes?" The man responded ignoring the comment and the theatrics.
The name bounced around in Palo's skull like a basketball.
"There was a hit on him that was a mistake." the man continued. "Someone blasted his head off with a baseball bat. The man was a Fed working to bring done some of the more creative, shall we say, businesses here in town - truth is he was working both sides. It worked for everyone."
Palo held back a grin and kept his face still. These two were looking for a reaction.
"Do you know the man?" The little guy almost chocked getting the words out.
"No! Not personally. I heard he was a nice fella - too bad. Hell of a way to go."
He got the reaction he wanted. The little man groaned and farted from the stress of the situation.
"We have word that the contract was let out by a Gene Fennelli, an under boss, down in Cicero. Hei s a nice guy and it's a shame it has come to this."
"You guys think that I would hit Fennelli? What are you nuts? That would start a war for Christ sake." A light went on in Palo's jelly brain. The rum soaks! He knew who the little guy was and then he got who the smooth talker was, as well. He thought it was just talk - he heard the rumors, but here it is. "Son of a bitch."
"Yes it would. A war is exactly what is required here. There are too many factions splitting up the spoils - to hard to control."
"So, if I do this - what's my take?"
"500,000 and a one way ticket to Prague, new name, new life."
"Not enough. I'll be a dead man walking. I'll need enough to stay invisible and besides I don't like the deal. You're not gonna ice me - so you have something over on me. What is it?"
"I was hoping it wouldn't come to this - indelicate! We have your Mother! Let's not dwell on that. I can see that you will need more. Okay, a million. With what you have stashed in lockers and safe deposit boxes that should take care of you for the rest of your life."
"That it would. Okay - you have a deal. How will this work?"
"Simple really. We'll leave you to wrestle out of your bounds. You have checked - so you know the chair will break. I had a pistol aimed at you this whole time - and I would have killed you if you got lose. We will wire the money and documents - contacting you tomorrow morning. See the trust here - I know you will do the job, so I'm not concerned - I trust you."
Palo smiled and flexed. The chair exploded into pieces. Pulling off the ropes he stretched took out a comb, and ran it through his hair. It had come down to this. He had accepted the contract and he would do the job. He left feeling pretty good and craving his Mother's cannoli.
He went to his Mom's place and unlocked the door.
"Is that you Sweetheart?"
"Yeah Ma! Any trouble here?"
He walked into the living room and leaned down to kiss his mother's head. He sat down and looked at the TV. "Whatta ya watching - your soaps?"
"Yeah, this one here is a bad one. She's too old to be sniffin' after his cock. She is mignotta - mordosa!" She spat in disgust and smiled at her boy. "You look bad - have you been eating right. Maybe you spend to much time at this gymnasium. Go in and get a cannoli and a cup of coffee.
Palo stood and smiled. He walked to the kitchen and poured himself a cup. "You have any trouble?"
"What trouble. Some suit broke in here last night. I did what you told me - I waited till he got a phone call - then I used your father's pistol - the one with the silencer. I had to drag him into the garage - put him on a sheet of plastic. He didn't bleed too much. Clean shot in the noggin. Here let me get you a cannoli."
"Call the cleaner and lets tidy up. It's time Ma! We talked about it. Go back to Sicily tomorrow. I'll tidy things up and join you in a week or so. I'm gonna start a war."
"Oh, It happens -always seems to fall on our family." She shrugged and reached up and touched her son's face. Every thirty or forty years a shake up starts. I'm packed already - I knew it was coming when - you know?" She made an offhanded gesture toward the garage door. "It's the life we choose."
Palo drank his coffee and ate a cannoli. He waited till the Cleaner came for the body. When all was tidy he paid the man, kissed his mother, and left her to finish packing,.
Finding Benny was pretty easy. He remembered meeting a pain in the ass retired jockey out in San Diego last year. He smoked those foul smelling cigars and spit on you when he talked. The back slider was open. Benny and his new lover were in bed sleeping. One 22 shot in each head and the business was done. He had his suspicions that Vinnie was gay - must have broke Benny's heart - although it didn't take the little shit time to find another round bottomed beach boy to keep him entertained - probably grief drove him to it. Too bad!.
The money was transferred, just as the fancy man said, and Palo went to see Fennelli. The man loved to fish, so Palo invited him out to San Diego for some sport fishing. The man couldn't swim. He took the boat to Oceanside and left it.
The Senator took some planning. It took a couple of days to get his itinerary. Some calls to Las Vegas and the favorite hooker was located. Palo was generous and she let him in the hotel room. She left and Palo woke the Senator.
"Hi Bill! You know when you watch all the movies there is always a Senator on the take - he starts off being a hard and then with a little leverage applied things work again. Thing is, it's kind of a fairy tale - huh? Yet here you are playing hard ass with me - and now we have us a leverage situation that will not end up well for you. Here is the thing. I knew you and your committees were looking to cause some problems. What happened - the boys and you couldn't come to a money agreement?" The Senator started to speak. Palo put up his hands. "No, don't talk - no need. You made a deal with me that I honored and I appreciate your honesty. Thank you! You are wondering then why I'm here?"
The Senator sat up and tried to look composed. "I am. You can't kill me. The weight of the government will come down upon you. I swear - you are a dead man."
"That's not true - not today, or even tomorrow. A lot of people think I'm as stupid as a rock. I may be, but I'm smart enough. I obtained some documents that cast a bad light on you. I sent them to the Attorney General. She won't do anything, upon hearing about your tragic death. You see Senator - Fennelli put a contract out on you. He gave me the documents before he drowned - the man loved to fish - he caught a two hundred pound Big Eye once - I saw it. I honor my contracts. It's business, and your word is your word - I keep my word."
"Are you going to shot me?"
"No, the girl poisoned you - you not wanting to make her legit. She won't talk. Your wife and kids will not find out - and the Attorney General will bury the file. You will have just had a heart attack from all your tireless work for justice and for the good citizens of this great country. Probably give you a medal and grand funeral. All in all, it turned out to be pretty tidy,except for the war you started amongst the families - what a mess that will be. That will eventually settle - a new boss will emerge and the money will start flowing again. And Bill - I forgive you for your rough handling of me and threatening my Mom.
The Senator gasped, clutched his chest, and slumped over. Palo checked the man's pulse. He left the Hotel and drove to the airport. Last year he had met a wonderful girl, in Palermo. He would retire, get married, let his Mom be a grandmother, and maybe start a little bakery, if his Mom will share her cannoli recipe. She can be a tough old bird.
Why is doing what you love the hardest thing to do? Is it because failing what you thought defined you would be too devastating a thing from which to recover? If so, we stay where mere accident has left us.