Lessons LearnedMature

           Bruno and his petty little “gang” learned an important lesson that night; mob bosses are not to be fucked with, lest your wish is to end up on the receiving end of a lead pipe.

            It was surprisingly quiet that night in the streets of New York City. No police sirens blaring, no car horns honking, no shuffling of feet as people go about their daily routines. Just the ambient sounds of the occasional car passing by or a raccoon rummaging through a garbage can.

            All was even quieter in the alleyway as I walked along the cracked cement, taking in the sight of red brick walls dotted with the odd poster; cinema, Broadway, military recruitment, all the usual bullshit.

            Waiting for me at the end of the alleyway was Mickey, a short man wearing the typical 1940s garb; suit, tie, hat and coat. As he puffed away at a cigarette, he kept his eyes fixed on me, watching me intently as I approached him.

            “Frank,” he said, greeting me warmly. “Good to see you pulled through.”

            “I got what the boss wanted,” I said, holding up to him the briefcase I had been carrying. Mickey casually took the briefcase and opened it up, examining the bundle of cash inside.

            “This all of it?” he said, gesturing towards the briefcase. Rather than being neatly stacked in an even pattern, there were voids where it looked like bills should have been.

            “That’s all that was in it, I’m afraid,” I said. “Not sure if one of Bruno’s boys pocketed some for himself or what, but that’s most of it.” Mickey shrugged.

            “It’ll do,” he said, closing the briefcase. “I take it you gave Bruno’s boys what for, eh?”

            “Oh, I did,” I said. “Took them out one by one with a lead pipe, and once I got to Bruno, I broke his knees, warned him not to fuck with us again.” Mickey laughed lightly.

            “Ah, a classic, that one,” he said. “Yeah, the boss will be real happy with you, Frank.”

            “Always gotta keep the boss happy,” I said.

            “Hey, the wife first, eh?” he said, chuckling. I laughed with him and agreed. “See you around.”

            “So long,” I said, and Mickey turned around to leave the alley and walk home. I did the same, going in the opposite direction. Nervously, my left hand fumbled around in my pocket, gripping tightly when it found the two stacks of bills I had taken from the briefcase. Some of the cash was missing already, but I figured Mickey wouldn’t notice.

           No harm in it, I thought, trying to convince myself, though unable to crush the light sense of anxiety I unwillingly held onto. Trying not to think about it, I continued walking home, hoping to get a good night’s rest.

                                                            *

              New York City was back to its usual hustle and bustle the next day. It was noon, and I sat at a corner booth in a local diner, flipping through the newspaper. I noticed the waitress approach in the corner of my vision.

            “Fresh coffee, Mr. Nitti?” she asked.

            “Please,” I said. She complied, re-filling my cup with the steaming hot black liquid. “Thank you, Betty.” She turned away and went back to work, tossing a quick smile at me as she did so.

            The bell at the front rang as a customer walked in. I quickly glanced upward, then went back to my paper, but looked up again when I noticed it was Mickey. Scanning the diner, he quickly noticed me, then walked over and sat opposite me in the booth.

            “Frank,” he said. “How goes it today?”

            “Ah, not too bad,” I said.

            “Anything interesting in the news today?”

            “Let’s see…” I said, scanning the headlines. “Meh, just the regular bullshit. Speech by Truman, Uncle Joe is plotting, three minutes to midnight, blah blah blah.”

            “Hehe, doesn’t amuse you, does it Frank? You ain’t paranoid like everyone else?”

            “Not in the slightest,” I responded with a blank look on my face.

            “You’re not even concerned it might lead to war? That’s what everyone’s worried about. And the last thing we need is another world war.”

            “Look, if the reds do attack us, which they won’t, I’ll be waiting for them,” I said.

            “I thought I heard that Churchill said something about attacking the reds?”

            “Yeah, he wanted to invade the USSR using re-armed German troops. Dumbass.” Mickey had a look of surprised amusement on his face.

            “Oh, yeah,” he said. “’Cause that wouldn’t go over like a fuckin’ lead balloon.” I ignored the cliché.

            “Especially after the Germans got their asses handed to them by the reds the first time.

            “Damn, you really know what’s goin’ on out there, Frank,” he said, looking impressed.

            “That I do,” I said, folding up the newspaper and putting it down on the table. “Anyhow, is there something you wanted to talk about?” I asked as I lit a cigarette.

            “There is, actually,” he said, shifting in his seat. “Come with me, we’ll talk about it on the way.” I nodded in acknowledgement, motioning Betty over and asking her for the bill. After paying, I put on my coat, and Mickey and I walked outside into the bright, sunny day.

             A car parked on the side of the street was waiting for us.

            “Get in the back,” said Mickey. I complied, opening up the back door of the car and stepping inside. Two other men were already in the car, one in the front passenger seat, one in the back. Mickey sat down in the driver’s seat and started the car, easing into the street and cruising along with the rest of the traffic.

              For a few minutes, I sat looking out the window, casually observing the common sights of the city; people, cars, buildings, streetlights. Suddenly it occurred to me that Mickey had been silent since we entered the car. Before I could finish the thought and ask him about it, however, the man sitting next to me tapped me on my shoulder. When I turned to face him, I saw his fist coming toward me, and it connected with my face. Disoriented from the blow, there was little I could do to resist as he grabbed my wrists, and I felt a rag being pressed against my face. I panicked when I recognized the sweet scent of ether, trying not to breathe it in, but then slowly and unwillingly calmed down as the chemical inhibited my senses. My vision faded, my hearing went hollow, and soon enough, everything went dark.

                                                           *

              “Wake up, Frankie,” a hollow voice said to me, as if miles away. Slowly, I regained my senses, to the point where I could recognize that I was sitting in a chair, hands cuffed behind my back. Mickey was standing in front of me, looking more menacing than I had ever remembered him.

             “Wake up, Frank,” he repeated as he threw a punch at my face. I was again alert, and looked around to see that we were in a dark room lit by a single light bulb, possibly in a basement.

            “We know what you’ve been doing, Frank,” he said to me, bringing his face down until it was inches away from mine.

            “Doing what?” I asked, trying to play dumb. It was a bad move.

            “Don’t gimme that shit!” he said, throwing another punch, this time at my gut. “We know you’ve been takin’ cuts for yourself on the side.”

            “I don’t….” I began, but Mickey cut me off.

            “Don’t deny it,” he said in an angry tone. “We know you’ve been doing it, and you’re gonna stop, you got it?” I didn’t respond.

            “Got it?!” he asked, grabbing me by the hair. I winced in pain.

            “Alright alright!” I said. “Yeah, I got it, it won’t happen again!”

            “You’re also gonna pay us a grand in compensation.Got it?”

            “Yes.”

            “Good,” he said, letting go of me. “Glad to see we could come to an understanding.” Mickey nodded, and I heard footsteps approaching from behind. The clicking of a key turning in a lock could be heard as the handcuffs were taken off my wrists. I immediately brought my hands forward.

            “Now let’s go,” said Mickey, patting me on the shoulder. Reluctantly, I stood up, following him out of the basement. After walking out of the building and onto the street, Mickey turned to me.

            “I hated to do that, Frank,” he said. “But it was the boss’s orders, and you know the rules.” I nodded in understanding. “I’ll see you around.” He turned away and walked off. I hailed a taxi and went home, collapsing onto my couch when I got there, glad the ordeal was over, swearing I would never break the rules like that again.

The End

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