Thoughts pounded, rushed forward and surged in Harry’s mind as the Bee Gee’s screamed out of the speakers of the car stereo:
- Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive.
Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin’ alive.
As if the cassette tape wasn’t playing, as if the Capo was right there in the car, Harry could hear each and every word, with the sounds echoing in his skull.
“You think? Whud’s this, you think? You ain’t supposed to be doing no thinkin’! You is supposed to be doin’ what I tell you to do! GOT THAT! When I tells you that you is ready to be thinkin’, THEN you can start thinkin’…UNNERSTAN’ THAT!”
And this was in the open office of the gas station — in earshot of the snickering mechanics changing oil and the idiot grinning pump jockey coming in to break a twenty dollar bill.
From then on, Harry kept right on thinking. But now he kept what he was thinking to himself.
Early in the week, Harry went to use the phone in the gas station office. There on the desk, staring out at him from amidst the overflowing ash tray, old coffee containers, and dirty business cards, was a note scribbled on the back of a credit card receipt — “Bronx Pigeon Store, Sunday 3.” The pigeon store in the Bronx was one of the places where the Bosses held meetings.
Harry had it all figured out. Originally, to revenge the insult that he felt gnawing away at him, Harry had plotted and planned to murder the Capo. But the Boss would have had him killed, probably the very same day. Hitting the Capo and the Boss both wouldn’t be no good either, for the rest of the Bosses would wipe him out like some beer spilled on a bar. Little by little the idea took shape and took hold: he’d just have to off them all. All five of the Bosses and their bodyguards. Then, like a flash, the idea seized Harry: he would rule the New York Mafia. The Five Families’d be like the Civil War, just some old timey thing that nobody hardly remembers even ever was. Harry would be THE Boss. Harry began to feel that, like a force of nature; through him the five fingers were to join into a single fist. Nobody would dare laugh at him ever again. Even the President of the United States would need to be on Harry’s good side, and would have to give but good to get there.
Harry needed to catch all the Bosses together. Harry needed to be patient.
– – – –
Five very old men sat around a rather ornate table curiously out of place in what was basically a feed store. Pigeons cooed and fluttered in a number of small cages off to one side. The elderly men all were very short with large heads and stony faces – not even a flicker of expression in the bunch. Next to each of the old men sat a taller, middle-aged man. A few extremely large younger men slouched off to the side.
One of the old men at the table stood up and began to talk.
“Fourteenth Street is mine. It was always mine. It was my father’s. It was my grand-father’s.”
Salvatore listened closely. He was supposed to get Fourteenth Street. He remembered Giuseppe’s father taking over Fourteenth Street many years ago. Was Giuseppe lying about his grandfather owning it? If Salvatore could catch Giuseppe in a falsehood, that would be a winning hand. But, if Giuseppe could prove that his grandfather did at one point control Fourteenth Street, and Giuseppe’s father regained a lost fief, that only would strengthen the claim of ownership.
Salvatore wished that he had paid more attention as a young man to what was going on around him. His father always encouraged Salvatore to mind the swirling currents of events. His father was a great man. Even though he knew that could never hope to equal his father, every day Salvatore vowed to honor his memory.
His father always was right. Salvatore remembered asking his father’s blessing on Salvatore’s choice of a wife. The old man extolled her many virtues, saying that she reminded him of the wives of the Sicilian aristocrats. Then he added, she really isn’t one of us and will bear a son just like herself. Which was exactly what happened. His son was a great businessman and well thought of by the outsiders, but he never wanted to assist with Salvatore’s responsibilities. Thank God for his daughter. She had married a good man. A professional man, a dentist, he gave up everything to work for his father-in-law. For a moment, Salvatore allowed himself the luxury of glancing over at the trim man with the furrowed brow sitting next to him.
– – –
Harry parked in a driveway of the warehouse just around the corner from the entrance. After getting out of the car, he opened the trunk of the car and took out a long, strangely-shaped object wrapped and draped in garbage bags. Harry closed the trunk and walked quickly up the block and turned the corner. Two men were inside watching a baseball game on a small TV on a desk.
Harry tapped on the window and smiled. One of the guys inside glanced up from the television, recognized Harry, and automatically buzzed the door.
As he opened the door to the outlet’s office, Harry pulled off the black plastic bags, exposing an assault rifle. Harry ran in pointing the gun right at the faces of the two men.
“Get your hands in the air! Stand up! Now, turn around and walk slow-like to the back.”
The two men proceeded to the warehouse with Harry behind them, keeping the rifle level with their backs. Hearing the sound of their approach, one of the bulky, younger guys standing by the table spotted them and began to reach into his jacket for a gun.
“GET YOUR HANDS UP!!! DON’T MAKE ANY FAST MOVES OR YOU ALL WILL DIE!!! TURN AROUND!!! KEEP YOUR HANDS OVER YOUR HEADS!!! LINE UP AGAINST THE WALL!!! NOW!!! NOW!!! MOVE IT!!!”
The whole group raised their hands and began to move towards the wall. Salvatore remained calm and alert. He had always been curious about the transition between life and death. If he was going to die now, if at all possible, he wasn’t going to miss any of the details.
One of the old men was mumbling in Sicilian, “Lord forgive me. I was weak. I could not resist temptation.”
Another sobbed, “Mama! Mama! Mama!”
One cried and moaned, praying to the patron saint of his hometown. One of the big guys began to shake uncontrollably, so much so that his full length leather jacket began to make a flapping noise like a flag in a heavy wind. Someone lost control of their bowels and a foul stench filled the air.
Salvatore noticed the cool gritty feel of the concrete wall against his palms. He heard the click of the trigger being pulled and thought briefly that strangely he had not even heard the sound of the shot. Immediately, he spun around and ran towards Harry.
Harry was looking down at the gun and manipulating various buttons and tabs, desperately trying to figure out why the weapon did not work.
Despite his advanced age, Salvatore reached Harry in a second and, without hesitation, kicked him squarely in the balls. As Harry staggered backwards, Salvatore wrenched the rifle from Harry’s hands and in a reverse motion clubbed him against the side of the head with the rifle butt, releasing a spray of blood.
Now Salvatore’s son-in-law was grabbing Harry’s arms from behind.
As if released from a spell, the other four Bosses, with shrill, high-pitched demonic screams, turned and ran at Harry. They knocked down both Harry and Salvatore’s son-in-law. The gnarled gnomes wildly kicked and punched at both men indiscriminately. The heavy duty guys, finally realizing what was happening, ran in and pulled Salvatore’s son-in-law back to his feet protecting him from the insane fury of the tiny old men.
One of the guards drew a revolver from a holster under his jacket and aimed it at Harry’s head.
Salvatore pushed them all aside,” NO! Not here! Not now! Al, you Mike and Joe tie him up in a sack and get him in a van. Steve, you know what his car looks like? See, if it’s parked around here.”
– – –
To find out who Harry was working for, friendly detectives of the New York City Police sifted through every item in Harry’s apartment. They slashed the upholstery of the furniture and emptied out the stuffing, opened the walls and ceilings, and pulled up the floors. Harry’s car was ripped apart, too. They found nothing.
For three days, Harry was tortured to force him to reveal the names of his accomplices. Despite all sorts of crazy babble and incriminations, the Bosses became fairly certain that Harry had acted alone in the scheme.
Salvatore thought that Harry should be eliminated like a mad animal. The other Bosses felt that since Harry tried to kill them, they should execute him. As Salvatore was the most attentive one, it was he who deserved to pull trigger.
Salvatore raised the shot gun. Suddenly, even though they were in a basement, Salvatore felt the warmth of the sun on his face. He was a young boy in Sicily. His father was teaching him how to shoot. Some of the other men were watching.
“Look at me. Place your feet wide apart. You need to be steady; you don’t want to fall. Now raise the gun and turn your head and aim. You will feel a little sting. Whatever happens, don’t cry out. That would not be good.”