“The life of Mafiosi is a life of service to others.” Carlo peeled a tangelo as he spoke. I had never before seen such an orange orange. With a nipple on one end. The peel just zipped off to reveal a plump juicy naval flesh. He handed me a section. I popped it into my mouth. Slightly chilled juice exploded with a sweet yet tangy sensation. “Clears the palate after a good meal.” He said. The sweet orange juice complimented the dark rich flavor of the Espresso.
“I need your help, Ben. Your cousin, Annette”, he said, “ lives in mortal fear of her husband. Frank is my accountant and a mean drunk. They do not live on the mountain here with our Mafiosi family.”
The confused expression I wore prompted him to explain. “Annette is the only daughter of my late brother,
Eduardo, with whom I started out in life and in business. She is like a daughter to me. I love her and would do anything to help her get away from that sadistic, sick animal.”
I thought about Annette. I knew she was my cousin but she was several years older. I remembered she even lived with us for a while when she was a teen and I was young. But I never knew why. Guess I was too young. So, Annette became more like an older sister to me than just a cousin. I had not heard about her or seen her since her wedding to this older guy, a few years ago.
Carlo lit a Cohiba cigar and offered me one of the mild cubans from its wooden case. “It’s not only Annette, but their three year old child, Little Carlo. Frank gets drunk every Saturday night. Last week he punched Annette in the face and bruised her ribs. The animal sprained Little Carlo’s wrist. Annette lives in fear for their lives.”
The thought of a grown man assaulting a defenseless young woman and baby caused that familiar red haze to cloud my vision in a rush of emotion and adrenaline. The same rush I felt in heavyweight wrestling matches and football games surged through my veins.
It was obvious to The Don the effect his story had on me as my fists involuntarily clenched.
“ And, this will happen on Saturday night?,” I said. “What day is today?”
“It is Monday,” Carlo said.
“Why wait?” I said.
“Frank stays at our corporate suite in The Biltmore Hotel in Manhattan on the weekdays. It is close to our offices. The Biltmore has always been known for two things: An all men’s hotel and the women who sell themselves to the wealthy patrons. So, while Frank remains sober during the week, he remains unfaithful to his young bride, using working long hours as an excuse to stay in The City all week. But for the past few weekends when he does go home, he falls off the wagon, and arrives home on Saturday very mean and very drunk.”
“I will do what I can,” I said, “but I’m not sure exactly what you want me to do in this situation?”
“ My Son, you are very perceptive. I don’t want you to kill him, if that’s your worry. I can see your violent physical reactions are very strong to that end.”
I realized I was breathing a little heavy and my chest heaved. My face must have been red.
“No, Son, we are not murderers. We believe in Retributive Justice.”
The Boys, Kong and Zilla, were stationed on both sides of the only entrance to the ‘private dining room on sentry detail. They were motionless monoliths, gargantuan gargoyles. Between the two not a muscle moved.
They must have been there protecting their master during all the courses of the feast we just finished. But I only just noticed their presence when Carlo strolled to that end of the generous sized room.
As he passed between them my minds eye took a snapshot of that picture frame: the smaller man flanked by the dynamic duo. Deja Vu flooded my senses. I was instantly transported, in my minds’ eye, to the lectern where I gave my Valedictorian speech at the gym at St. Benedict’s. At the rear of the cavernous assemblage I saw the same snapshot: Carlo flanked by The Boys.
They were there! Those same snapshot frames came rushing back from my recessed memories of my football games and wrestling matches. They formed an H, as they looked right now, in that split second image, as before me right now. Carlo And his Twin Bodyguards had been there to see all my great accomplishments. I never realized that until this moment. This man really is my father and he has always been there for me!
Carlo continued his pensive pace and turned past Pietro and Leonardo, heading back towards his seat at the head of the table. He sat, turned to face me, and continued,
“We believe that justice must be administered in proportion to the infraction. The victim should be satisfied with the punishment meted out against their transgressors.”
“So, Annette knows this will happen?”, I asked.
“Not specifically how or when,” Carlo said, “but she expressed her wishes that Frank be punished in kind for what he has done to them.”
“But she doesn’t know me or our plan to do this?” I said.
“No one but you and me and your Mom and Anthony know who you really are. We planned it that way. It took 19 years to build your cover. We will utilize it to keep you safe while you secretly serve The Mafiosi community. “
I felt like James Bond with my double identity. If I was James Bond that meant Carlo was M. Now I know what the M stands for.