There it was: in the middle of Frankie's forehead was a bullet wound, the size of a dime. The wound was sealed by the burnt brain matter, cauterized by the gunpowder. Frankie stared at it from the mirror inside the bathroom. The lights were off, but it was already bright. The moon was in full radiance. He wanted to turn on the lights, but something told him that it was a bad idea.
The bullet must have been a dud. Frankie reckoned that it had a scant amount of gunpowder: it had enough force to pierce through his skull without breaking it, but not enough to create a fatal exit wound on the back of his skull. His brain was very well intact. The bullet swam between his left hemisphere and right hemisphere.
He turned the "C" knob on the sink which spewed ice-cold rusting water. He reached out and cupped his hands but didn't feel the chilling sensation he expected. He didn't feel anything. His lips were drooping on one side, and he didn't feel the spit which hung from his lip. Nevertheless, he splashed water on his face which disappointed him – he didn't feel the jolt he had hoped for.
He couldn't remember who pulled the trigger, he couldn't recall what he ate that evening, he didn't know how he got to his office – only thing he remembered was a shot in the dark. The idea of revenge swam inside his skull. He suspected his rival, Tony Marzigliano. There were territory issues in the past and some needless killings between the families. But a truce was in effect. Cops were everywhere like rats, looking for anything, anything that they could chew with their rotten teeth. The city needed money, and the crime families had most of it. If the two families were at war, the city would benefit, the rats would have their feast, the politicians would have their dicks polished, and they -- the crime families -- would be disposed.
It couldn't be Tony. It had to be someone else, someone close. Their face swam inside Frankie's skull.
Frankie shuffled out of the bathroom and in to his office. The room blurred then focused back to normal. His brain was messing with him. He felt like a tower, standing 5-foot-5. He looked down at the carpeted floor and felt his stomach churn and grumble. His legs began to shake, ready to give in. The floor beneath him stretched in and stretched out. His lunch (three glasses of whiskey) was ready to jump out. Frankie fell on his knees and started to crawl. He worked his way towards his desk which looked like a 20-story building shaped like a hospital. He needed to go there now, but not right now.
Frankie reached for his chair and pulled himself up. He fell on the back-rest with his head dangling from the edge. He turned himself around slowly to face his desk. His vision started to play with him again: the room expanded to a coliseum, then back to a 300-square-foot office.
Frankie reached for the phone. Normal people would dial 9-1-1. Frankie wasn't normal – not because of the bullet in his head. He pressed some numbers starting with "1". They were clear except for the letters below them; they looked like squiggles and children's hand-writing. The phone rang on the other line.
"Boss?" said the hoarse voice on the other line.
"Drew," said Frankie, drool was dripping from his lip, "get your ass here now."
"Right away boss." And he hung up. No questions asked. The ideal thug.
Frankie dialed his second suspect.
"Kevin," said Frankie, "get your ass here."
"Why?" asked Kevin, "what's wrong pops?"
That was one thing Frankie disliked about his son: too many questions. He considered giving the seat to his son, but Frankie discovered time and time again that Kevin wasn't an ideal candidate. But he was his only son bearing the Plazzo name.
Frankie was hard on him all his life -- poor thing. When Kevin was five, Frankie threw him in the backyard swimming pool. Kevin kicked, struggled, screamed, yelled, cried while Frankie stood there with his arms crossed. If Kevin wanted to make it in this world, he had better work for it hard and fight for it. Frankie had to administer CPR afterwards.
"Don't be askin' any questions son."
"Sure," said Kevin, "on my way pops."
"Don't be askin' any questions son."
"Sure," said Kevin, "on my way pops."
Kevin did show some tough in him. As a kid, he was small and thin -- an easy prey for the bigger kids. One day Kevin came with a bruise on his arm. Frankie asked what had happened. Kevin told him that someone called him names, so Kevin beat the crap out of the kid. It was so intense that the kid did shit his pants. The bruise on Kevin's arm didn't come from the other kid; it came from the nun who broke up the fight. Frankie disciplined his son, but he was proud of him.
But he had too many questions.
But he had too many questions.
The desk was barren except for the phone. Frankie usually had his bottle of whiskey and rum on the right-side edge of his desk. A cup of pens, a name plate, some picture frames and some paperwork were usually situated by the middle. Those were all gone now, littered on the other side of the desk. Frankie didn't know how they got there. They must have been knocked off from an altercation which he tried to remember but couldn't. He reached over to his desk drawer and pulled out his spare bottle of whiskey. It was half-empty. There were no glasses available, so he took a swig from the bottle.
Minutes have passed, and Frankie was nearly done with the whiskey. Five, maybe six, gulps would do it. It eased his vertigo and brought warmth to his insides. The alcohol swam inside his skull, along with the bullet, along with the hunger for revenge. Frankie was weaving a plan, and it was near completion. The plan excited him yet made him sick. He took another hit of the bottle, leaving four gulps.
The silence was disturbed: two taps on the door went like thunders to Frankie.
Frankie struggled to respond while the echoes inside his skull rumbled.
Drew stepped in; he was tall and lean. His skin was opalescent – reminiscent of the dead bodies he melts with acid. He was pale as the moon which served as their light. And he blended in nicely. They called him Drew; they never called him anything fancy like "death", "grim reaper", or "executioner". But his name did strike fear among his foes – as well as his peers.
Frankie looked at him, studied him. Drew's face remained the same – dead. Frankie knew this man, which he considers his brother the day they started their empire. Frankie was the brains; Drew, the knuckles. He was also the gun, the arson, the face, the hands. It had been 23 years since they've known each other; not once did Frankie see Drew smile, frown, fume or sulk. It always remained the same.
"Whaddya need boss?" said Drew with a chilling voice.
"Come close Drew," said Frankie, "I wanna show ya something."
Drew walked towards Frankie's desk, kicking the stuff littered on the floor. Drew still didn't see it. Frankie gestured him to come closer. Drew leaned forward three inches away from Frankie's face.
"Jeez boss," said Drew, "who did this to ya?"
Drew stared at the wound; the wound, back at Drew.
"I don't know brother. Did you?"
Drew didn't notice the gun pointed at him until it made a click. Frankie waved the gun at him, suggesting that he had done something wrong, something sinful. Drew took a step backwards and pulled his hands up. His face didn't move.
"Wasn't me boss.”
Frankie's face skewed as if he was frowning – but he was far from frowning. The bullet inside had scraped part of his brain that controlled his facial muscles. The left part of his face began to sag and droop even more. Drool was dripping from his lip, forming a pool on his desk. He was mad and was fuming inside.
"I know you Drew. I was there when you offed my bitch of a wife," Frankie began, "She was family. I loved her, but she had it coming.”
Frankie reached over to his bottle and took a drink.
"And I saw your eyes when you pulled that trigger. There was nothing, nothing in there," continued Frankie, "You have nothing to lose brother. You don't have anything. You don't have a soul."
No reaction from Drew. He stood there motionless like a mannequin with the latest monochrome fashion on display.
"So," said Frankie, "for twenty years as my hand, you finally want out. And the only way to get out is me being dead. Isn't that the plan?"
Frankie stared at his eyes, waiting for something. He waited for a glimmer of his soul. Drew's eyes thinned, then shook his head. Frankie wasn't sure what that meant. It was hard to read a killer as cold as December nights in New York.
"Remember boss," said Drew, "this business, this thing we started is our child."
Frankie remembered. Down by the harbor after the birth of Kevin, Frankie assured Drew that business came first. It was their family – their real family.
"Family first," said Frankie with a smile; Drew saw nothing but a lopsided lip.
Frankie offered the gun he was holding to Drew. Drew slowly dropped his hands and reached for it. It was a rare 9mm Llama, circa 1950, which was a gift from Frankie's son. While Drew studied the craftsmanship of the gun, Frankie studied Drew for any change, any clue, any information. Nothing. Under Frankie's desk was another gun: cocked and ready to go.
"Family first," said Drew.
Without notice, Kevin stepped inside the room. Drew hid the gun inside his breast-pocket; Kevin didn't see. It was dark, so Kevin flicked the switch beside him.
Frankie yelled. The light burned his eyes and fried his brains.
"Close the damn lights!"
"What's wrong pops?" Kevin turned the lights off.
"What's he doin' here pops?" Kevin was referring to Drew.
Too many questions.
"Sit down son," said Frankie.
Kevin and Drew locked eyes. There was no ill-will between the two, only animosity. Kevin learned from the best -- the best which was Drew. During the course of Kevin's training, Drew concluded that Kevin wasn't fit for the family business, wasn't fit for what they had called their “son.” Kevin would easily get riled up and get pumped. He had volatile emotions which could mean the end of their “son.” Drew told him to never get too emotional. Kevin ignored it.
Kevin was a run-and-gun-bullets-blazing kind of thug. Those cartoons, movies and TV shows he had watched while growing up must have influenced him. And with a mob boss for a father, Kevin had a false sense of invulnerability. He was the prince, the heir. No one can touch him – except Drew. Frankie gave him his blessings, and Drew wasn't afraid to hit the kid.
Kevin sat on the chair in front of the desk. He kicked the stuff on the floor away from his feet. He slowly turned his gaze away from Drew to his pops.
"Did you do this to me?" asked Frankie.
“Do what?” said Kevin.
Frankie leaned forward. The bullet-hole stepped into the spotlight. Kevin didn't see it. And he was certain that his pops didn't have a gigantic wart on his forehead.
"Look closer stupid," said Frankie.
He did. Kevin leaned forward and squinted his eyes for a better focus. The wart turned out to be a wound with blood crusting around the edges. Liquid puss eked out. Kevin realized what it was. He jumped back to his seat.
"Christ pops! What? What happened?"
Kevin froze. He then unhinged himself and dug his hand inside his pocket. He fumbled through his keys and his cigarettes, struggling to pull out his phone.
"We gotta call Doctor Grieves."
"Drew," said Frankie. He looked at him and raised his eye brows; Drew knew exactly what it meant.
Kevin pulled out the phone. Before he could unlock his keypad, his sight fell to the floor along with the phone. He felt his cheek and gums swell – and it started to burn. His jaw popped out from the impact. It was quick; Kevin didn't notice it until his lips started to bleed. Kevin looked up to Drew who was crackling his fingers and shaking his fist.
Kevin yelled and cursed him out. He cursed him out some more while he relocated his jaw. That was one thing Kevin was good at: cursing. He was really creative in that department. One of his good ones was "shit-eating cum-dumpster." That was what he called his ex-girlfriend before he killed her for being a cum-dumpster. And when Drew found out what he had done, Drew knocked some sense in the kid.
"What the f*&$ Drew, what the #$ck's goin' on?"
"Kevin," said Frankie. The yelling and cursing sounded like bombs going off inside his skull.
"Why the &$@!* are we in this *#$)!$* place-"
"Kevin." Questions upon questions pounded Frankie's brain like stale, hard meat.
"Kevin!" He stopped and turned to his pops.
"Did you do this to me son?" asked Frankie.
Kevin felt it – Drew's eyes were closing in on him. He could feel the cold stare, chilling his spine and rendering his legs to jelly. He felt his father's eyes sear through him, burning him inside; he started to sweat. Kevin recalled the time he killed his ex-girlfriend for being a cum-dumpster. His pops was pissed angry at him. It was Frankie's turn to beat him up into a pulp; Kevin didn't retaliate. The boy was trouble -- Frankie didn't need another thug, he needed an heir.
"DID YOU DO THIS TO ME!?" Frankie's body shook. The anger which erupted from inside made his skin tingle, made his eyes bulge out, and made his left ear ooze out blood.
Kevin was being examined. His father knew how to read people. Kevin knew this well: every lie he had said was immediately caught. Kevin developed this ability too, but not as quick and refined as his dad's. With Frankie's face melting on one side, it was hard for Kevin to make out what Frankie was thinking. But Kevin felt it: he was going to be executed.
"Christ," said Kevin, "I'm ya' son pops."
Frankie drew out the gun under his desk. His vision started to play with him, zooming in and zooming out. He steadied his hand and pulled the trigger as soon as he zoomed in on Kevin. The bullet hit its mark, right on Kevin's right shoulder.
Kevin yelled and cursed from the pain -- he was crying. He stopped the blood from oozing out with his left hand. The blood spread out, creating a patch of red on his shirt. He had received about four bullets in his career as a thug, all of them coming from their rivals. This one was his fifth, and it came from his father which made it hurt more.
"It wasn't me pops!" Kevin squealed, "It wasn't me! Please!"
Kevin had pissed his pants.
Frankie studied Kevin's face. He was looking for it – a change, a clue, some information. He had seen his son's anger; Kevin would show it when Frankie would catch his lies. Frankie expected that on his face. A subtle hint would spell it out. What Frankie saw, however, was fear – and it was real. Frankie crossed out his son -- he was clean. It was now Drew's turn.
"Drew," said Frankie, "do it."
The cold and corspe-like Drew flashed a grin. It came in less than a second. Frankie caught it. Drew pulled out the gun from his breast-pocket and pressed it against Kevin's left temple. Kevin closed his eyes and clenched his teeth. He anticipated the pain from a bullet through his head. Fact: A bullet through the brain is painless.
Kevin's brains were still in tact. Drew pulled the trigger again. Nothing. Drew took out the magazine from the gun and discovered it empty. Bewildered, Drew stared at Frankie. Three bullets raced across the desk, ripping Drew's right lung, windpipe and biceps. Frankie was aiming for his chest; at least one made it. He fell on his knees and coughed out blood. He attempted to say something, but was denied by the blood which swamped his windpipe. Drew slumped over and succumbed on the floor.
Frankie would expect anger from a dying traitor – but all he saw was despair. Frankie failed, and he still didn't know who tried to kill him. Pissed, Frankie needed a drink. The spare bottle on his desk was empty.
"Kevin," said Frankie, "can you grab that bottle of whiskey on the floor?"
Kevin, still shaken and confused, looked down. The bottle of whiskey touched Drew's blood which was pooling on the floor. Kevin pulled it up along with a note that stuck to it thanks to Drew's blood. Kevin handed the bottle to his pops and kept the note for himself. It was dark, but there was ample light from outside for him to read it. The note had his father's hand-writing. It said this:
“Kevin – it wasnt my intention to bring you into this world as a killer. I failed as a father. You are free now. Its up to you if you want to continue down my road or not. Ive wired money in your account.”
"Drew – Im tired and I cant go any longer. The business that we have fathered together is yours. Take care of our son, and take care of my son. You were a brother, a father and a friend. Im sorry."
"Goodbye. Good Luck. Frankie."