The room was pitch black except for the bright light directed at the terrified man, who was tied tightly to the chair. A wide piece of tape covered his mouth, making it impossible for the unfortunate fool to talk. All that came from him were muffled cries, pleading sobs, and pathetic weepings.
On the other side of the blinding lamp, three men dressed in expensive suits sat in the same folding chairs the fool sat in, only they weren’t held against their will. The man in the middle sat with his right ankle resting on his left thigh, a big cigar between his lips, and a wicked smile in his eyes.
His name was Mr. Bello, which is Italian for ‘pretty.’ Most of his close-family called him Pretty, and he didn’t mind it much. But if a stranger called him Pretty…? Well. That stranger would come to regret it.
To Mr. Bello’s right sat a skinny man with a long, pointy nose. He sat stiff and straight, holding the silver handgun in one hand and an old-fashioned in the other. He raised the crystal glass to his mouth and took a sip, feeling the burning whiskey run down his throat. He licked the sweet orange taste on his lips and took another sip.
They called him Chuck. His real name was Henry Enzo, though. No one knows where the nickname came from, and nobody questioned it.
On Mr. Bello’s left sat a younger man with a fair face. He gripped his handgun as he stared at the fool in front of him. His knee bounced up and down, and he could feel a drop of sweat roll down his neck. He wasn’t as relaxed as the other men were. In fact, he felt as if he was the one tied up.
His name was Vincent Baldassario. He was still relatively new to the job.
The three men had their differences, but they shared a few things in common: Olive skin, thick eyebrows, dark eyes, black hair, and the love for their family.
Vincent Baldassario was the nephew of Mr. Bello, and Chuck was their cousin. The rest of the family was at home, getting ready for the big Thanksgiving dinner.
“You do know why you’re here, right?” spoke Mr. Bello in his thick Italian accent.
The man squealed, trying to wiggle out of the ropes.
Mr. Bello turned to Chuck and nodded his head over to the man. Chuck slipped his gun into the holster under his arm and covered it with his jacket, very causally. He held his cocktail in one hand and slowly stood. As he walked over to the man tied up, Mr. Bello went on,
“We’ll take the tape off so you can talk. But if you say just one single word without being told to, we’re going blow your stupido head off. You understand what I’m sayin?”
Chuck walked in the light and took a gulp of his drink, and ripped the ducktape from the man’s mouth.
The man grunted and pressed his lips together in a firm line.
Once Chuck sat back down, Mr. Bello began again.
He took a drag and held the fat cigar between his fingers, pointing it at the man— even though the man could not see him. “Tell me, why did you steal our goods?”
The fool started to cry, and Mr. Bello laughed to himself.
“I… I didn’t know—”
“Lying won’t help you. Talk,”
“I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I—”
Chuck took another sip before saying, “Ammazziamolo,”
Mr. Bello looked at Chuck and shook his head. “Non ancora,”
“Può sbrigarsi e farla finita?” Mumbled Vincent, impatiently. He didn’t want to be there anymore. He wanted to be at his home, helping prepare dinner with the rest of his family. The smell of whiskey and cigar smoke made him feel uneasy. Vincent could even smell the lingering fear radiating off of the thief like soundwaves.
The whole situation was sickening.
His uncle leaned over to him and whispered. “You okay, Vinny?”
“I’m fine,” he clenched his jaw. “I just don’t like seeing this. It makes me sick to watch a man die right before I have supper with my family,”
“Well, you can look away, okay? But this man isn’t an innocent citizen that we’ve kidnapped for fun. This is a thief who stole from us. Who stole from our family,”
Vincent looked at his uncle and sighed. “Normally people just take thieves to the police,”
“And what are we supposed to tell the police, huh? That this man stole our precious drugs?” He chuckled and smacked Vincent’s shoulder playfully. “You crack me up,”
“I’ll get your money back, I promise!” cried the man.
Without hesitation, Chuck whipped out his gun and shot a bullet in the man’s leg. He raised his glass to his lips and took another sip.
Mr. Bello looked at the man, who was now in severe pain and frowned. “What did I tell you about talking? You were lucky that my cousin was the one to act. If that were my bullet, you’d be dead,”
Vincent checked the time on his watch. Only an hour until dinner was ready.
“Now,” Mr. Bello took another drag and exhaled the smoke out of his nose, reminding Vincent of a dragon. “You have fifteen seconds to tell me exactly what happened. That means everything. From the moment you woke up, to the moment you stole our stuff, and to who you sold it to. Ready?”
The man nodded quickly, letting out a small whimper.
“I woke up late that morning and decided to get some breakfast at the cafe down the street, and that’s where I saw your car. I looked in the window and saw a gold watch on the dash, and I thought the car looked classy, so I hijacked it and took it to my close buddy, who pays me for bringing him nice vehicles. That’s when I saw the bags in the back. I sold the watch and the bags to that Russian guy who works at that diner down on 64th street and--”
Chuck raised his gun. “Times up,”
Mr. Bello held his hand up. “Wait,” He put the cigar in his mouth and nodded his head. “Go on,”
“I sold it for five hundred dollars,”
Mr. Bello gasped, his face turning red. “Five hundred?!”
“Yes, and I’m sorry—”
“What diner does he work at?”
The man thought about it. “Danny’s Burgers and Shakes! It has the big red sign—”
The man dropped his head.
Vincent closed his eyes and held back his breath.
Mr. Bello stood up and shoved his gun back in its holster. “Now, let’s go find that man,”
Vincent shot up from his chair and faced Mr. Bello. He was a head taller than his uncle, but that did not make him less afraid. His voice was shaky and cracky. “That man was innocent! He didn’t know what he was doing!”
Mr. Bello grabbed Vincent’s collar and pulled him down to his face. “When I kill someone, it is for a good reason. You can trust me on that,” He released his nephew and straightened out his suit. “Don’t you raise your voice at me like that again,”
“You had no right to take that man’s life,” said Vincent, this time in a calmer tone. “He was innocent,”
Vincent and Mr. Bello locked eyes crazily. Neither of them dared to look away.
Chuck stepped forward, towering over both of them. “C’mon, piccolo cugino. Don’t smart-mouth your uncle. We’ve got business to do,”
“Screw your business!”
“Our business, Vinny. Our business. If you are part of the family, it is your business too,”
Mr. Bello took the cigar from his mouth and waved it at Vincent. “Listen. We don’t have time for this. In an hour, we will be sitting around a big table with the rest of our family, eating a delicious feast,”
“Less than an hour,” grunted Vincent.
“Well, then we better go now,” Chuck said, consuming the last drop of his drink. He looked down at his glass and then back up at his cousins. “And, I’m gonna need another cocktail,”
After getting Chuck another old-fashioned, the three men made their way out of the private underground speakeasy and onto the busy nighttime streets of New York City. They got in their black car parked on the street; Vincent in the back row, Mr. Bello in the passenger, and Chuck in the driver.
Chuck held his drink under the steering wheel in one hand and steered the car with the other.
Vincent thought letting Chuck drive was a bad decision. He was going to offer to drive, but he was too mad to care. He wanted to be home. Not out on the streets doing family business.
“Turn here,” said Mr. Bello.
The car turned onto 64th street. They all could see the big red sign standing in front of the small diner, glaring down at them. Chuck pulled into the parking lot and shut off the engine. The three men got out of the car without hesitation. Chuck and Mr. Bello pulled out their guns and counted their bullets.
Vincent shook his head as he looked down at their guns. “No, I’m done. I’m not doing this,”
Mr. Bello looked up at Vinny and frowned. “You’re done?”
“Yeah, I’m over it. I’m not gonna witness another man die. Not tonight,” Vincent shrugged and rubbed his neck. “You guys can do this without me,” He turned away.
“Vincent Baldassario, don’t you walk away from us,”
Vincent sighed and took a small step. “I’m done,”
Chuck set his cocktail on the hood of the car. “Vincent, don’t do this,”
“I’m going to help Mamma cook dinner,”
“If you leave us,” Mr. Bello started. “You won’t have a mamma. You will be disowned,”
“Please understand, Uncle. I just can’t do this anymore,”
Behind the men, the man who bought all of their ‘goods'-as Mr. Bello had said- walked out of the diner and headed to his car. He only had one thing on his mind; dinner. His whole family would be there. He couldn’t wait to tell them about his newest treasures. The man’s father would be proud. Once he sold it, his family would be wealthy. And his family’s business would continue to thrive.
As he was digging in his pocket for his keys, he noticed the three Italians by the black car. He knew right away who they were.
They were the Guerra Mobsters. Everyone knew about them. Alonzo Guerra was the most feared gangster there ever was in New York. And his family was completely ruthless. They hated the Russian man’s family. He always thought that that was because the Italians were jealous of how rich they were. Thankfully, the two families only crossed ways once. It was not a pretty sight, either. The bossy short man almost shot his brother because his brother called him Pretty. Apparently, he didn’t like that name.
The man dropped his car keys on the pavement, sounding a small clink. The tall Italian looked straight at the man with recognition.
‘The Russian,’ Chuck thought to himself.
Quickly, the man picked up his keys and unlocked his car. He jumped in and ripped open the middle console. He pulled out the gun and cocked it. With one last deep breath, the man put the car in drive and headed out of the parking lot.
The Italian watched the blue vehicle make its way to the street.
They made eye-contact again, and this time the man knew it meant trouble. He held his gun by his leg as he drove by.
And then, the tall one called out, “There he is!”
Without thinking it over, the Russian aimed his gun out of the window and fired. He was hoping to take out the man in the middle, but instead, he shot the one farthest away. He stomped on the gas, not daring to look back.
Vincent fell to the ground, letting out a painful cry.
Mr. Bello ran to his side, kneeling next to him. “Vincent! Where were you shot?” He tore open Vincent’s jacket to find a pool of blood, seeping through his white button-up.
“It hurts,” moaned Vincent.
“I should have shot the cagacazzo. I- I don’t know what came over me,” Chuck gasped.
Vincent grabbed the bloody spot on his stomach. “This isn’t good,”
“No. No, it isn’t,” agreed Mr. Bello, shocked.
Mr. Bello and Chuck stared down at poor Vincent Baldassario, unaware of what should happen next.
The sunset behind the tall buildings, casting a dark shadow on the three men. Dinner would be on the table, and one seat would be empty.
Staring down at the dying young man, Mr. Bello thought about how he would have to tell his sister what happened to her son. And he felt it was his fault. He felt guilty and mournful. His poor nephew wanted to go home, and he didn’t let him.
Chuck, on the other hand, was thinking about hunting down that ‘cagacazzo’ and murdering him with his bare hands. He was filled with so much rage and anger that he almost forgot about his dead cousin. He was too upset that the gang-member had harmed his family. Chuck was ready to find that man and avenge his beloved little cousin.
“We must say a prayer,” Mr. Bello had said.
It was as if Chuck hadn’t heard him. “We must find the man who did this, Pretty,”
Mr. Bello looked at his cousin and nodded thoughtfully. “We will,”
They said a short prayer in Italian and then carried Vinny’s body to the back of the car. After they laid him on the back row, Chuck looked over at Mr. Bello.
“Should we drop him off at home and then finish the job?”
Mr. Bello pulled out a fresh cigar and a square lighter from his chest pocket. He lit the cigar and stuck it between his lips, slipping the lighter back in his pocket. Inhaling deeply, Mr. Bello shook his head. “Nah,” He said. “Nah, we’re going to finish this right now. For Vinny,”
The two men got in the car and drove off into the night, determined to finish the job for their long-standing ‘famiglia affari.’