A story documenting the integration of a Sicilian man into the American Mafia.
‘There is no such thing as honor among thieves. These men take oaths of loyalty, but to their bosses these pledges are simply means to sanction murder and justify reprisals’
* * * * *
“Carmine Vittorio Spatafore, for your crimes against the city of Newark and the state of New Jersey, for using your country’s resources when we need them the most, and for taking the lives of hundreds of people, on this day of January 14, 1942, I sentence you to fifty years in a federal penitentiary.”
It all started in the summer of 1937, when Carmine Spatafore stepped from the huge Great Western train into North Gate station. He had arrived from Sicily, after serving in the great Civil War for a mere two years, but had picked up a gold cross for outstanding bravery, and had been given an honorable discharge after news that his mother had been taken ill. He stood about six foot, with medium-length brown hair which flopped in the breeze, and his eyes were a piercing green. He pushed one hand through his soft hair, and looked into the distance.
“Joe!”, he called.
“Carm! Get over here!”, a voice replied through the steam from the train.
Carmine put a hand to his suitcase and walked slowly towards the origin of the voice. He saw a large black limousine through the steam, and then what looked like two figures standing beside it. He squinted through the acrid sunlight and made out two men in long coats, looking in his direction. One of them started to walk towards him, his shoes clicking against the asphalt. He recognized Joe Amendola, who flung out his arms and quickened his pace. The two men flung themselves into each other’s arms and embraced.
“Atta, boy, eh? How you been?”, Joe greeted in his heavy Brooklyn accent. Joe had been born in Brooklyn and had moved to New Jersey after his father was convicted of selling firearms to mobsters. His mother was killed in a plane crash when Joe was 16, leaving him to his drunk father, who died in prison.
“Oh, good to see you, Joe! My God, it’s been a while, hasn’t it!”, Carmine responded and gave Joe a friendly kiss on each cheek, as part of Sicilian custom.
“Follow me. There’s someone I want you to meet.”, Joe told him, and walked towards the large limousine. Carmine followed. Joe opened the back door and motioned him to get in.
Inside the car, sat a large man in his early fifties. He had a full head of hair, if not a little prematurely gray, and a face that reeked of the Old Country. He wore a beige tailored suit and a cream raincoat. Beside him, lay a large briefcase. It was one of the older style, black and cream in color with codes for locks. It looked reinforced. Joe got in behind him, and closed the door. The driver pulled away.
“Carm, this is Eddie Pappalardo. He wants to set out a little proposition for you”, Joe said with a smile.
“Pleased to meet you, Mr Pappalardo”, Carmine greeted.
“Please, please, my friends call me Eddie”, he replied. Carmine sat at ease. “You see, we’re in hard times right now. Money’s been a problem, we haven’t got many ideas, all that. So, we’re looking for someone to, er, help us, if you see what I mean. I’ve heard a lot about you from Joe, here, and I’m wondering if you’re interested in working with us for a while, and seeing where it goes from there.” He patted the briefcase. “This should secure you for a while, but I gotta get going. Joe’ll fill you in on the rest.” He tapped the glass and the car pulled to the side of the road. Eddie opened the door, but paused before got out. “I hope you make the right choice.”, he said with a wink, and got out of the car. The driver pulled away.
Joe moved to the seat opposite Carmine and stared at him intently.
“So, come on... What d’ya think?” Joe asked.
“I don’t know, Joe.” Carmine responded. “I’ve just come back from war. To be honest, I don’t know if I want to get back into all that again, you know? I always said I wanted to have a wife, to have children - a, a family. And I don’t know if that’s gonna be possible if I do this.” He searched himself, as if expecting to find an answer.
“C’mon, it’ll be fun! You don’t wanna spend your whole life as an outsider, do you?” Joe responded as the limo pulled to a stop. “Besides, look what old Joe hooked up for you!” He opened the door and got out of the car. Carmine followed. They had arrived at an apartment block in the suburbs. It was fairly modern with a large landscaped garden in front and hedgerows as far as the eyes could see. The street lamps were curved and modern, and there was a pathway from the road to the front door. The roads were busy at this time of the day, and cars rushed past in all directions, some of them beeping at the two to get out of the way as they dodged their way through. They made it to the other side and Joe walked him around the building.
“See, look, you’ve got your garage around the corner with an elevator to your apartment. Ooh, look, before you go any further, follow me.” Joe said excitedly, and led Carmine to a garage door. He gave Carmine the keys. “Go on! Open it!” Joe told him, and sniggered. He inserted the key and flung open the large door.
Inside was a gleaming, brand new black Cadillac 16. The bodywork was curved and beautiful and the interior was the color of a camel’s hair.
“Wow, Joe, I-I-I don’t know what to say..!” Carmine stuttered.
“How about ‘let’s get the hell in it and drive around’!”, Joe almost shouted with excitement.
The weeks and months passed and the two of them had a great time. Orders were passed down from above, people dealt with and problems taken care of. Sure, there were a couple of visits to the hospital here and there, but that was par for the course. Finally, Carmine was accepted into the family.
He was lead in to a huge, ornate room in the most expensive hotel in New Jersey, where a table lay and around it sat twenty of the most powerful men in the Caldone family. They rose as he walked in, and waited.
Leo Caldone spoke.
“Carmine, know that this family of ours is a secret. You are entering the society of the Chosen. A society which doesn’t exist to the rest of the world. Our family now must mean more to you from now on than your own family, or God, or country. If I ask you to kill your brother, you must do it. Show me, which finger would pull the trigger?”
Carmine offered his left index finger, and Eddie made a cut. A picture of Mother Mary was placed on the table in front of him, and his finger bled on to it. The picture was set fire to, using a candle on the table and placed into his hand. Leo spoke again.
“Repeat after me, Carmine. If I were to betray the secret of our way of life...”
“...may my soul burn in Hell, just like this saint.”
Carmine repeated again.
“Amico nostra. Gentlemen, I give you our new friend, Carmine Spatafore.”
The gavel landed.