Donnie reclined gloomily in the plastic booth, absentmindedly toying with the froth in the coffee, now cold, that sat on the table.
“Been in this dump too many times,” he mused, glancing up at the flickering neon sign proclaiming
HAPPY HARBOR DINER - UNLIMITED COFFEE WITH EVERY MEAL!
Shifting his weight restlessly, Donnie reflected that the coffee really wasn’t good enough that a person would want more than one cup anyway, unless they were really desperate. Of course, a large amount of the diner’s clientele were definitely desperate, so who was he to argue?
Donnie checked his watch. Damn that Rico, late as usual, hell that guy would be late to his own funeral. He chuckled, feeling the reassuring weight of his Colt 911 under his jacket. “I’m a damn comedian,” he muttered to himself.
It wasn’t really funny though, was it, having to take out the one person he really counted as a friend. Rico, the guy who had mentored him and opened up the door into the organization for better or worse.
He recalled his meeting with Signor Vetelli the previous evening, the elderly man’s liver-spotted hands shaking with barely leashed rage.
“Rico has been skimming off the top for the last 12 months! Right under my nose, the lousy bastard.” Vetelli pounded his fist on the hardwood desk that occupied the centre of his office lined with shelves filled with books of literary note.
He doubted that Vitelli had ever read any. They were just there to impress his customers, to think they weren’t just dealing with a lowlife thug. Which, of course, is what he was, but a thug with a lot of power and influence.
“He needs to be liquidated. You don’t steal from the Vetelli family and live! I don’t care that he has been a loyal member of this organization for the last 9 years. This will not be tolerated!” The old man paused to gulp from a tumbler on the desk by his hand.
“You know how things are done. I chose you because Rico trusts you like a brother. Arrange a meeting with him and take him for a walk down the pier”
Vitelli sat back in his leather armchair, “Now go” waving his hand in dismissal.
Donnie glanced out the window at the parking lot, looking for the distinctive mustard yellow mustang that Rico drove. A charcoal sky loomed over the bay, the windswept ocean empty other than a few hardy fishing boats. Nothing.
He was contemplating actually drinking his coffee when the diner door opened with a rusty creak and in walked the man himself, slicked back greasy hair, tight jeans and a leather jacket with a Romones t-shirt underneath.
Hell, thought Donnie, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him wear anything else except that one time at a long ago wedding. He briefly wondered what the inside of Rico’s wardrobe looked like.
Rico slid his lean frame into the seat opposite. “Hey my man, apologies for my lateness,” Rico grinned, “The ol mustang wouldn’t start, so I had to get a taxi.”
“No problem, if you’d been on time that’s when I would start to worry,” Donnie replied lightheartedly even as his bowels clenched at what was to come.
Rico leant forward, “So what’s this about Donnie? Vitelli got some new operation for us? You know, after that last one, I’ve decided to lay low for a while, not stick my head out of the gutter, so to speak.”
Donnie waved his hand, “No nothing like that, I just got something I want you to see, I think you will enjoy it.” He motioned to the waitress for the check.
“Let’s go for a walk.”
Rico, eyes narrowed as he looked intently across at the other man. “You know Donnie, if it was anyone else but you I would be outta that door before you could say ‘Hail Mary’, but you and me go way back, we got history.”
Rico looked out the window at the darkening sky.
“Ok, let’s go and see what you got to show me, eh?”
The two men walked from the diner to the beach across from the parking lot.
“You know I been thinking Donnie,” Rico said, the sand crunching under his boots. “I don’t think I wanna do this anymore.”
Donnie glanced over as they walked along. “Do what? Meet at this shitty diner and drink their shitty coffee.”
Rico laughed, “Well, I guess that’s a part of it, but I mean the whole shebang, the organization. I got things I wanna take care of nowadays.”
Donnie shook his head, “You know it ain’t that easy. Vitelli has a long reach.”
“Yeh but I made some plans. Maybe with a bit of luck they might come to, what do they say?” Rico scratched his chin, “Fruition, yeh, that’s the word.”
Donnie remained silent as they trudged up toward the dilapidated pier that was once used for mooring fishing boats, but now just a sign remained. “DANGER DO NOT WALK ROTTING WOOD”.
Clearing his throat, Donnie motioned to the pier. “Well, here’s what I want to show you.”
He drew the colt revolver from his jacket holster. “Vitelli knows about your skimming the cream. This is where it ends.”
Rico’s shoulders slumped, and he turned toward Donnie with an anguished look. “I knew that this was what its about Donnie, but before you pull the trigger, listen!”
Rico turned and looked out across the bay.
“You know, I ain’t never been married or anything, but remember years back when we was running that protection racket down in the Lower east side, and there was that little delicatessen, you know it? Had the best pastrami on rye in the whole county.”
Donnie nodded. “Yeh, I remember. Was damn good, the rye was so light and fluffy.”
“I know, right? Anyway, that girl who owned it, I was sweet on her. I used to cover her protection money out of my own pocket.”
“Really?” Donnie blinked in surprise. “You must have really had a thing cos that ain’t the Rico I know.”
Rico smiled bleakly. “Yeh well, we had a kind of an affair and about a year ago, I found out I had a daughter. For the first time in my life I feel alive.”
Donnie lowered his gun. “So that why you been stealing from the boss?”
“Yeh, finding out I have a family, a young daughter, I wanna take care of em, so I’ve been stashing away the cash, bought myself a new identity enough to start a new life away from all this.” Rico gestured at the ocean.
Rico was silent for a moment, then looked Donnie in the eye. “I knew it would come down to this. You can let me go, jump off the pier and swim away, and you will never see me again.” Rico looked down at the colt. “Or you can…you know.”
Conflicted, Donnie looked at the weapon in his hand. “You realize that Vitelli will find out and I’m the one who will be going for a walk next, right?”
“Maybe, maybe not,” Rico said with a pained expression. “I’m just hoping that all we had between us means something.”
Donnie placed his gun back in its holster. “Well go dammit! Before I change my mind and don’t let me ever see you again!” He ran his hands through his hair. “And good luck, my friend.”
Rico gave a piercing stare, nodded and ran onto the pier and dove into the water.
A chill breeze swept across the bay as Donnie turned away from the ocean and walked back to the diner, its neon lights a beacon in the grey evening.