“My name is Carlo Benedetto Peruzzi. You are Benedetto Carlo Peruzzi. You are my son”.
“Is this some kind of a joke? I know who I am. I’m Ben Baron. My Dad is…”
“Tony Baron, he said, and your mother was my wife first. Before I arranged her marriage to Anthony Baron, Rose and I were married first. You were born to me and Philomena Rose Fortunato on March 8, 1946.”
I knew that was my Mom’s maiden name. “ I am your real father, Benedetto. I named you after my father.”
Before I could fire off one of the million questions that were spinning around in my head, he spoke very calmly and in a reassuring manner, as he gestured for me to join him at the bar.
“Please have a cup of coffee and sit with me here, and we will talk this out slowly, Son. This is all true and real. You are now old enough to understand the truth and take your rightful place in our family business: To accept your true calling and take the responsibilities that have always been your destiny.”
Whoa! Didn’t sound like a joke. I better listen and learn.
I remained quiet, sipping the strong but not bitter roast from a gold rimmed cup. I looked around the huge den. Wow! This is quite the place even if I was now a Mafia.
The Don or my Dad, or whoever he was, said, “We are not Mafia, Ben.” It was as if he could read my thoughts. “But, we’ll get to that soon enough. It’s nearly 4:30 now. Dinner is served promptly at 5:00.”
He must have heard my stomach growling.
“So do we, I said. “I’d better get home, then.”
“You are home, Ben.”
One of the twin giant bodyguards came from behind the bar. Carlo spoke again. “Leonardo will show you to your room for a shower and you can choose appropriate dinner attire. We dress for dinner in this home.”
In my second floor suite of rooms I quickly discarded my sweaty guinea tee shirt and cargo shorts. The shower felt wonderful as did the silk shirt and an Italian suit and leather loafers: Gucci, I think. And there was a whole closet full of suits and trousers and belts and shirts and shoes on racks. I still wasn’t sure who the hell I really was but at the moment all I cared to know was what was for dinner.
My teenage metabolism pounded its message of hunger into my brain. I hoped I wouldn’t whine deep down in my throat like Shep did when I spooned Alpo into his bowl at home. One of the bodyguards and Carlo awaited my entrance at the bottom of the marble stairs. Carlo said,
“Pietro, we will eat in my private dining room tonight.”
Pietro and Leonardo. They have names!
Thank The Lord dinner was served right on time. After the first three courses were dispatched quickly my mental faculties returned and we spoke at a leisurely pace while consuming about a pound of Osso Bucco each as the main course. Tenderest meat I ever ate. Platters of side dishes barely survived as we two big men ate veraciously. As we appeased the beast of hunger, I listened intently to Carlo’s edification.
“Baron Construction was our first company: a wildly successful venture long before your mother and I were blessed with you. We had fallen madly in love and eloped to be married immediately. At first we kept our marriage a secret until Rose could no longer withhold from her parents that they would soon have a grandson. Unfortunately, they did not take the news well. Her father rushed to judgment, condemning me as Mafia, when they didn’t even know me.”
I remembered the Bible, cross and his whole demeanor that pointed to the exact opposite of Mafia. Again, my father, Don Carlo, seemed to read my mind or maybe we shared a similar thought process.
“We here on this mountain…we are Mafiosi, the exact opposite of Mafia. They kill. We protect.
They exploit. We serve.”
“Granted, there are certain similarities. We both govern. But Mafiosi leaders are loved by their people where Mafia are feared. We united our planned community to be strong enough to govern ourselves so Mafia cannot get a foothold here as they did in Sicily.”
He looked away as if he were remembering the past. “Rose and I never had a chance. Her parents tortured Rose to leave me and they wanted to give you up for adoption.”
I said, “But weren’t you and Mom married?”
“Yes, both legally and, more importantly, in the eyes of God. But it didn’t matter to them. If we didn’t do what we had to, your mother, my lovely young wife, would have gone insane. She loved us but also loved her parents. Back then, a good daughter obeyed the wishes of her parents. Especially Italians.”
“Rather than break up your life and your mother’s sanity, my brother, Eduardo, and I stepped in to solve this situation. We provided a good husband for her and a good father for you.
The man you have called Dad these 19 plus years, Anthony, is a good man. One of my closest and dearest friends. Over a period of time, to protect Rose’s sanity and to protect your future, Anthony took my place so she could recover from the emotional scars inflicted by your maternal grandparents.
She needed to settle down and be happy and raise you. Anthony runs Baron Construction. We legally changed his name to Baron.”
“Ahhh”, I said. “Ben Baron!”
“Why didn’t you just take me, then?” I asked Carlo.
“It would have destroyed Rose. She needed you more than I did. And you needed a mother. She is a good mother to you? And, Anthony is a good father to you, were they not?”
I nodded that they were.
The uniformed chef cleared off the dinner plates. Black coffee was served in demitasse cups. We added a lump of sugar. Trays of fresh fruit were placed on the elegant mahogany wood table.
“Now that you know who and how, we go to why!” Carlo said. “Why have I brought you here at this particular time and place?”