I hold my breath instinctively as my prey ignorantly walks by my temporary hideout, a dark abandoned cleaning closet with no door and a single gray mop—its only occupant besides me. I follow him, weaving in and out of pedestrians and buildings. He has no clue. My patience for the perfect place is infinite. I hold up at an alley, and I spy a circle of boys picking on a smaller boy with a vast intelligence in his eyes—the color of a darkening sky. Instantly, my mind is seized with the essence of the day, the day it all began.
The sun had shown through my window at its usual angle, with its usual intensity, highlighting a usually dark corner of our room—the corner with the package in it. My sister huddled in the other corner playing with her only doll. Every day I would wait for my father to leave, for the familiar slam of the apartment door. The one that rattled the window, the only window, my window to view the world. I cherished my view that morning, seeing the sandwiched apartment buildings up and down the block, forming a deep ravine with a narrow street at the bottom. My neighbors walked the street as if...without a care in the world.
“I’m really sorry, Jordan.”
My whole body ached, the bruises spotted me like a leopard. Mother stood at the doorway with even more caring in her green eyes than usual.
“Last night was rough,” she said.
I would not answer her. Not for a while. Not to punish her, but part of me could not speak. Just like Sally.
Deadness filled the air—a pause I could never forget.
“There is no excuse for this,” said mother as she motioned at her own bruises. “Still Jordan, you should not do anything to anger him. You should be home on time. Go to the café, but do not let him know. Go.”
I looked at her with eyes wide. “But he said I could not go out today. - - He said if…”
“Don’t worry. He won’t find out. I won’t let him.”
As she kissed Sally on the forehead gently and went to do the dishes, I looked back out the window. Victor stood there looking up at me, his neck craned for the fifth floor. He beckoned for me, the way I could never resist. I smiled for the first time that day, and hurriedly dressed, putting on my green shirt that fit so well; the one my mother had bought with such sacrifice. With a kiss to Sally’s forehead, ignoring her bruises and the look of longing in her pure blue eyes, I ran out of the apartment heading for the stairwell.
“Where are you going, Jordan Vincenzo?”
I was surrounded by Billy Marca and his gang of the neighborhood Italian boys with fathers who make a decent living. Nowhere to go. They began to push me around to each other like a wicked game of pinball. They had no idea the amount of pain they were putting me through. Each time they hit a bruise, I relived my nightmare.
I did not say a word as was usual. With my eyes closed, focusing on not crying out from the pain, I did not notice Victor standing there after the whirl of motion had stopped.
“If you really hurt one of them,” Victor said, stooping down to pick me up, “they would stop, and never bother you again.”
My concentration was on not grunting from the pain that the grip of his hands was causing, but I heard his words and loved the concern in his eyes. “Why do they do it?”
He let go of me and stood back. His gaze wavered for a moment. “Everyone has their problems. Everyone acts out in their own ways. They are only kids, Jordan.” And then his eyes got real serious. “You are not a kid though, are you Jordan?”
Without a word, we walked to the corner, to our café. He put his hand on my shoulder. The silence between us spoke more than any words aloud could.
Vinny stood outside waiting for Victor as usual and tossed my hair as he always did. “Hey Jordan, how ya doin’ today? What happened to your shirt? Isn’t that ‘the shirt’?”
“- - I’m okay,” I said as I looked down to see a quarter sized tear in my shirt. “Nothing happened, Vinny.” I studied the sidewalk, my fists clenched with my knuckles turning white.
“I’ve got something for you, Victor,” Vinny said all serious.
“I know,” was Victor’s reply.
When we reached the back, I turned on the steel coffee brewer. Victor sat down at the far table with Vinny in tow. I turned back around after getting the mugs, and Vinny was gone. Victor drooped over an old chess game as I brought him his coffee, just the way he liked it. Vinny’s mug in my small hand, I hesitated in putting it down.
“He’ll be back. Just put it down.” Victor motioned for me to sit next to him. “When you were younger Jordan, did you ever dream of a peaceful life? Did you ever want something real bad, so bad you would do just about anything for it?”
He had confused me, but I answered the best I thought I could. “Peace, I always want peace.”
“Even for the boy who did that?” Victor said, pointing to ‘the shirt’.
I could say nothing, and was saved by Vinny as he walked in from the back entrance with a burlap sack in his hand. Without a word, he turned the sack over and dumped it. Small slips of pink paper enveloped the table, suffocating a knight, a rook, a few pawns, and a couple kings. Victor silently examined a few of the slips. Something at the edge of my mind tried to explain the situation.
“Danny’s loft?” I had never seen Victor so humbled, almost depressed.
Vinny shifted his weight. “Ya, Danny’s loft.” He stood over the table as if planning an invasion, not knowing where to start. “What are you going to do?”
“What I must.” Victor stooped down beside me and spoke softly. “Is the package safe?” I nodded yes. “I must go take care of some business. You stay here and play with ‘the boys’ when they get here. Don’t let anybody beat you, and keep Vinny to five cups. I’ll see you later.” With that, he simply walked out the back door.
I could not take the silent tension anymore. “Do you want another cup?” Vinny handed me his mug with a distant stare leveled into nowhere. At this point I was tempted to just ask what was going on. I did not have to.
Fondling a few slips with his fingers, Vinny spoke in a sad, but harsh voice. “They look so real. So damn real. Why did Da…,” he remembered I was there.
It was enough, enough for me to put the pieces together. The local numbers game had been compromised.
The mood lightened as the afternoon drew on. ‘The boys’ arrived. We drank good coffee. We played chess. No one beat me. No word was spoken of Victor, and Victor never returned. I had to leave just in case my father got home early.
I walked down the street and fingered the hole in ‘the shirt,’ as I saw Billy sitting alone eating an ice cream. Vanilla, I believe. As I drew close, I saw him in his vulnerable state. That he did not notice me when I was so close thrilled me, gave me a charge. At the last moment, I turned aside, my anger subsiding, the rush energizing me.
I never felt better in my whole life as I opened our apartment door. No one was around. Just before I opened my bedroom door, I thought I heard something from my parents’ room. I hoped my mother was not crying again.
“Hello, Sally. How was your day?” I played with the hole for one more moment before I took off ‘the shirt’—my anger mixed sweetly with the ebbing rush. I felt two arms wrap around me. The pain was okay. I turned around and looked into her timid blue eyes. I slowly and gently hugged her. I could feel her body shaking against mine. The time was near.
“We’ll be alright. You’ll see,” I said as I dressed into my pajamas—the holes matching my bruises. “Something will happen. He’ll forget about us tonight.”
I saw the package in the corner. It was behind the door, so that if someone came in it would be hidden. “Did you and mom have fun today?” I picked up the package. “Did you play some games?” I took it over to our bed. “What do you think’s inside?” I opened it. Sally made a loud gasp for breath. The noise startled me. I liked to hear it. I smiled at her. She smiled back. “It’s a revolver, Sally. A nice one too.” I picked it up, Sally grabbing hold of my arm. “Don’t worry, I know what I’m doing.” The weight felt at home in my small hand. I barely heard the apartment door open. Quickly, but gently, I put the revolver into the felt lined case. I walked to my door, listened first, and opened it a crack. I saw my father walk in without shutting the door. He was not yelling. He walked toward the murmur coming from the other room—the murmur I had just then noticed. Pausing slightly, he opened the door with one swift motion. The murmur became louder, turning into a sound of panting and moaning. The kind I had heard years ago when my mom and dad had still been in love. An enraged look, forehead crunched and teeth bared, fell over my father’s face. A startled scream echoed to my ears. My father retreated with intent about him. I heard excited voices muffled by the wall. The other voice sounded familiar. I looked back from the room as my father walked directly with his twelve gauge double-barreled shotgun, lazily held in his right hand. The look on his face was that of no emotion, and possibly peace.
“Stay here.” Sally was already huddled into her corner, her dress and both hands pressed into her crotch, her skinny legs held shut—trembling.
I grabbed the revolver, ignoring the renewed sensation. My head felt heavy, as I* walked out my door to see my father walk through his. The whole world vibrated inside of me. The sound of the shotgun going off once shook me. The sound of it going off the second time made my heart drop. There was no more sound.
The view of the room was blurred by something in my eye. There he was standing with the same look, but even more peace. As my head turned, my heart sank gradually further until I saw my mother lying on my father’s side of the bed, blood covering her stomach, touching her exposed breasts, and spotting her face.
I blinked away the blurriness in my eyes, which seemed against me. Without any more heart, seeing Victor there, lying next to my once mother—his blood just as red—I absorbed it and let it settle within me. Victor had blue eyes.
Our heads turned at the same time. The look in his brown eyes not changing, not even when he saw the revolver pointing at his chest. I did not remember lifting it. The hammer was cocked as well. He looked at me, in my eyes, ignoring the revolver. I looked back. My father’s lips edged up into a mock smile slowly, first one side and then the other. His pupils widened, his eyeballs glazing over. It was a look I thought of at the time as strange. He looked to me as if he was filled with immense pain and euphoric peace. A resignation of his fate. I pulled the steel trigger with my young finger. An explosion I barely heard rocked my arms. When my eyes stopped blinking, he was no longer there. All I saw was the smoke from the revolver. My father’s body was on the floor, his arms at his side. He looked as if he were asleep—peaceful. I thought for a second that he was not dead, until blood pooled out from underneath him. Dark blood. Lots of blood. I just stood there and watched, and watched, and watched.
I look down to see my hands trembling. Not a good sign. Not now. The images of my reminiscing are too fresh in my mind. I almost miss Damian Cabriatti coming out of the coffee shop. I tail him, trying to focus, through the back streets and into an old building. My insides begin to surge. We go up a few flight of stairs, and down a long hallway. I make no sound until we are near the end. He hears me and turns around. A look of horror invades his face; he knows who I am.
“This is a message from the Scarsozi Family,” and I pull the trigger of the revolver. My blue eyes are blurry.