“Coming with alright?” Vito would be anxious, yet aloof. Two guys now stood behind him, ready to follow instructions.
In the next minute, we’d be outside in the twenty-degree night.
“Tommy here’s coming with me. Make your stops. Meet at our guy’s.”
“Got it, V,” Ralph said. He had extremely dark intense eyes, an angular face centered on a tight, rather small mouth.
I’d slide into the cold leather seat of Vito’s black El Dorado, which felt too comfortable.
“Where 're we going?”
“What -- catching a flight out tonight? Relax.”
We’d swing down St. Charles Road and about half a mile down, he’d make a hard right, five houses down on the left, swooping into the driveway of a large yellow brick home having two cars in the driveway and every light in the house on.
“Guy’s name's Stan. Tell him need a meeting. Now, okay?” Vito yanked the something from his coat pocket slapping the Beretta into my unready hand.
“Wha - why do I have to go get him?”
I’d feel his anxiety roar. “Need to go – now, okay?”
I pulled myself together, got out of the car, then gently closed the huge door, made for a small castle.
The driveway was lined with a crust of old and new snow. The Beretta swung loose, uncomfortable in my left coat pocket.
I respectfully, rapped on the door of the guy named Stan. The bounding sound of children playing inside greeted me the way a joyous Christmas may. The yelps and contentious threats of play halted. Then, I’d knock once more; the door’s metal locks slid, clicked with military precision. And then a golden light from the spacious living room poured toward me into the cold night air.
“What you need, sir?” He stood behind the glass storm door, the sleeves of his white shirt neatly rolled up.
“Need to talk a bit, alright?”
“May I ask who you are?”
In the background, I heard a woman’s voice calling, “Who is it?”
“Need to talk. Be a minute.”
He now looked disgruntled. “Just me? What’s?...” He’d avert his eyes from me to look over my shoulder. “What ’re you here for?”
“Talk with us, we’ll be done.”
“Stan? Am I right?” Vito now stood right behind me.
I turned toward Vito.
“Who 're you two anyway?”
“Stan, work for a living just like you do with your parts business. My boss needs his money – into us for, what? About seventy-eight, eighty? Need 'a understand how we’re getting paid. See? Simple. Now, because I’m more reasonable than the man I work for, need to work out payment.”
“Well, told him I’d pay. Need a week, two – tops?” Panic, raw fear seized him, as he ran off inside of himself; he’d realize he had to come with us. I had absolutely no understanding of where Vito would take us; in an awfully strange way, I felt responsible for Stan.
“Get your coat on, come with. Come on, getting cold out here.” Vito now pulled his black leather jacket back, uncovering his piece, there in his belt.
“Right with you.” Stan shut the door to the silence now steeped inside.
We’d wait in the car. I’d listen to Vito tell me how they made allowances, charged even heavier vig to encourage payment. But you cannot run, hide from a machine hungry for the fuel it runs on.
We’d arrive about ten minutes later in front of the house of one of Vito’s associates, in Brookhaven.
I saw Ralph quickly come up to Vito’s car, his short clipped steps spoke of an anxious anticipation irritating Vito. The driver’s side window hummed about halfway down: “Ready or what?”
Ralph’s peeved, yet subservient face now peeled away any doubt. “Yeah, we’re ready. Can pull around back.”
The window oozed back up. Vito’s breath could be seen: he’d say nothing, but seemed intent, determined, as I’d ever seen anyone. I’d taste raw fear that bit right into my bones, my mouth assaulted by an acrid taste – brassy, salty.
There were about nine or ten guys gathered behind the garage, its overhead door open, some without gloves, blowing on their hands. d.
“Okay, let’s get inside, colder ’n a bitch out here,” Vito said, his coat open, his ample gut and piece visible.
“Get the door,” Vito ordered a guy I’d never seen before.
A man with a suit on and a nice black overcoat inquired,“May I ask how long' ll this take?”
“Hey, right to the point, gentlemen, here for a simple reason we – meaning, my people, good business people – have not been paid.” He’d look around the garage, taking in their expressions of fear on each face.
“With all due respect, sir --” Stan began, pleading his situation, arm extended.
“Enough, already. One of the worst, into us for – how long now? Most of the god damn football season! When’s the last time you paid? Tell me that!” Vito’s rage grew.
“Sir, give you my word, have your money by close of business on Friday. Alright?”
“Just shut up. Don’t want to hear any more. Understand me?” Vito nodded over to Ralph. “Get him a chair.”
Ralph opened a lawn chair he’d find above the bench, next to the window, which was painted black.
“You sit, now. Sit your ass down.”
Ralph then shoved Stan as he’d sit down, followed by a backhand slap to his face for emphasis.
“Hey, don’t need … that.”
“Shut up, listen good. Not waiting any longer for any of ya ’s. That understood?” Vito backed up, glancing over to Ralph and another associate, nodding toward the workbench.
Ralph now turned around, picked up some duct tape, which he’d hand to the guy next to him. “Here, take care of this. Do what I need to.”
Stan’s eyes filled with terror, raw anxiety of the brittle unknown.
“Oh, please – I...,” he tried speaking further but his mouth was slapped with fresh duct tape.
The sound of the quarter inch drill being turned on by Ralph grabbed us.
Ralph now stood before Stan with the drill purring away. “Hear what the man says about late payment, how we want our money?”
He frantically shook his head, his sounds, uneasy breathing forcing congestion through his nose.
“Need more breathing room, huh?”
Ralph's guy, with the tightly closed gray jacket picked up the quarter inch drill with an almost delicate touch, without saying a word, glanced over to Vito, there on my right. I hear Vito breathing unevenly. I sensed the deft nod leave his heavy body, drawing this pleading in Stan’s eyes. Then, I felt myself weave into some vital cocoon, protecting me from what was there: now Vito felt as if he
were a block away – no one felt close to me, lost in some widening dimension, allowing me to be away – yet there, at the very same instant. My strong will ceasing, fell fast.
The nagging whirr of the drill worked on Stan’s left knee, his head, shoulders and upper body rolling from side to side, the muffled sounds of rank pain and fear; his nose now bubbled out mucous.
Vito spoke in halting terms on how it had to be, “See, Stan, all this could be avoided if you went with our terms, and not yours.” Stan conveyed huge appreciation, profusely nodding, his eyes now badges of agreeable will. I wanted to pull on Vito’s arm, somehow plead for Stan to be spared anymore. In my confinement, this suspended place that drew me in through some membrane of ease, as it were, I became dumb, tone deaf, to this reality.
The smell of burning bone, torn cartilage, worked tight behind my eyes. The odd thought rose, maybe I can help the guy, without anyone finding out? I knew I'd be only lying to myself.
The meeting was not over. Another guy arrived late. Apparently, he’d been late paying, too. The man was also well dressed – a cashmere coat and cuff links that were austere, .24-carat love knots, spoke of a gift from a good and loyal wife; his burgundy tie, its exquisite Windsor knot. It wouldn’t matter to them. His speech patterns, made me think he might be a lawyer, possibly a company executive.
“Have another one here who’s missed,” Vito pronounced, “time and time again – no one gets a call. Know what – that’s not just bad business, Arthur,” – he’d begin an assessing smile – “No, this 's disrespect! And you will not do that to us...”
The man called Arthur began, “Sir, please, I mean no disrespect to you or any...”
“Enough. Get ready.” Vito nodded to his guys at the bench, which was full of tools and pieces of metal; on the farthest end would be red and black battery cables, used to jump-start your car on a winter day.
The man could not keep quiet, furthering Vito’s rage, he’d natter on as though speaking in a consultative, even avuncular tone. He’d even criticize himself saying, “... about as sharp as a beach ball, guys. Really. So, please – in my business, get caught up, lose time itself. Truly, I am sorry.”
For a sweet moment, I’d feel, somehow hoping, Vito might soften. My head yet off somewhere.
“Okay, Arthur, understand. Now you need to understand,” Vito said, waving for Donny to get him ready.
“Need your coat off,” the guy with Donny said. “Then drop the drawers, understand me?”
Arthur protested while unbuttoning his heavy coat, which was now tossed on the workbench. The man could not stop himself from rattling on. Yet soon, Arthur got taped at the mouth, stood up with his hands tied behind his back. Donny and the other guy then connected one of the clamps to his left foot, then the other one to his scrotum, with about equal delicacy. Vito made the wave in the kingly fashion which was possibly repeated hundreds of times through the ages.
Then, they’d turn on the current, sending Arthur reeling: he’d make these staccato blasts exhaling, much as if he’d have a piece of glass or nasty fish bone caught in the back of his throat, violently shaking.
“Y ' payment plan hasn’t worked.” Vito then let this work on him. “Think you could accept our simple terms?”
Arthur now cried, coughed out between attempted screams. I had hoped he’d not throw up, have his lungs fill, die of pneumonia. He had no control over much of his body. And again, I’d want to reach over to Vito, tap him on the arm, beg that they stop. I’d become something else, horrified taking in Arthur’s screaming eyes. My iron will became as weak, as pliable, as paper. I now fell down this hole without a foreseeable bottom. I felt some dull pang behind, maybe below my heart.
The faces around the garage each said the same thing, unconditional resignation, leaving no doubt what they had to do. The other people there had been behind only a while; they knew they could well be there, just like Stan and Arthur, in a very short time.
“Had an accident at your workbench. Right?” He’d slap Stan on the head. “All you tell them. Got it?”
Stan nodded appreciatively. “Yes, sir. Completely understand, yes.” He kept nodding as though he had some kind of neural problem, the act of nodding forcing himself to stay conscious, on his feet.
On my way home that night I’d be out of any rhythm with what would be a normal night. A light snow falling made the wipers necessary as I pulled onto Mannheim Road, heading home without even the radio on. I hadn’t realized this until reaching my street.
I have written several spec screenplays and teleplays. Contribute regularly at the Huffington Post, Salon, The Daily Kos, writing on challenging issues.
I wrote a treatment, “THE LAST GOODFELLA”, based on the real life of Henry Hill, from which the movie, “GOODFELLAS” is based.
I work as a consultant, mentoring, instructing technical professionals.
Earned a BA in English. Studied Film and Theater Arts at UCLA and independent film schools in LA.
Presently I am working on my Crime / Suspense novel.
Thank you for your generous time and consideration.