Angelo's Death (PG-13)
Heaven's Mafia (not rated)
We used to wait for him by the steps of... of... I forget its name. Funny, we were there so long that it didn't matter where 'there' was. We just stayed by the steps as long as the light held out, then... to the alleys, behind the broken crates. It was where we were. It was who we were. We didn't mind it much.
And he'd come by. We never knew what he was doing; we didn't especially care. He just kinda came and left. Sometimes he skipped the third step 'cause it had a funny-looking stain on it. Sometimes he was in a hurry and forgot. He was usually carrying something. We smelled marsh mud on him a lot.
We would sort of line up against the railing whenever he came. If his hands weren't too full, he sometimes tossed us something. That really wasn't why we did it, though. He always smiled at us, even if he was really tired. We were always afraid we'd miss his smile. We were terrified that he'd forget.
Then, on one of those freakish sunny days when your eyes are burning and your toes are froze—probably mid-March—he ran out of the building like his heels were on fire. We called out to him, but he didn't look up. He just ran like the devil around the corner and down the alley. His footsteps pounded out rhythms of pure fear—no regrets. He was running for his life.
Then some of the others who did business the building ran out after him. One of us, one of the bigger kids, made a grab at a man's heel, and got his face kicked in. All of us, even the kid with the broken nose gushing blood onto everything, followed them like dirty black shadows. That's all we were, really.
And at the end of many alleys, we skidded to a stop. Someone shouted. He answered.
They shot him.
Someone shouted some more. Someone picked up his body and lifted it like a sack of potatoes. Someone made us leave.
We went back to the steps and sat down. We couldn't believe the sun was still shining—but there it was, straight in our eyes like every afternoon since forever.
It was awful empty without his smile.
There was a long time during which I felt nothing. Nothing at all. Well, maybe pain, but that doesn't count.
Death. I was dealing in death then. We all were. It was how we lived. It was who we were. Who they were—the dead didn't matter. They lost their humanity when they were blacklisted. They were reduced to names and addresses on meaningless pieces of paper or empty words ringing hollow in the air.
I remember a child—a very young child in the arms of his mother. We were after the father—never mind why—but it was the wife and kid we found; the guy was gone—he'd flown the country. When we saw he'd gone, we interrogated the woman, but she wouldn't tell us anything, so we shot her. The other two—we liked working in threes—went through the house and got some important papers; I stuck around to make sure the woman didn't get up again.
Well, she died, but her kid sort of wriggled out from under her. It somehow hadn't been touched by our bullets. It was a little boy, probably less than two years old. He was drenched in his mother's blood, and he just looked at her and wailed for her to get up.
It must've been my guardian angel or something, because it was nothing short of miraculous—the others didn't even hear the little brat, but I kept thinking how brave that crazy woman was to die defending her husband. So I picked up the kid and sort of stifled him inside my coat, then crept out into the street.
Some lady with a kid about six was just hurrying through a doorway. I really had no idea how to do this sort of thing, so I basically gave her the kid at gunpoint. Must've looked real stupid, but, hey, I wasn't exactly a family man.
When I got back, the other two wanted to know where I'd been. I blustered through some tale about hearing a noise outside, and for a while it was pretty much okay.
Then someone remembered the kid, so we had to go looking for him. I just nosed around in the alley by the lady's place and wondered what had come over me.
That's when I figured I had to have out. I knew I was pretty screwed if I tried to leave, but I was screwed anyway if I went around saving kids. And I couldn't—well, you give an inch... I couldn't go back. So I made some plans, got my act together, and ran like the devil.
They caught me, of course.
I remember hearing three things from three different people before it was all over. Frank said, "Nice try, Angelo." Someone told someone else—might've been Frank again, come to think of it—that "the poor devil" was a goner. Then a stentorian voice, probably Max, bellowed, "Clear off, all of you!" Then there was black and red... then I came home.
Ah, well, I'd asked for it. 'They who live by the sword' and all that; Mafiosi generally get shot.
It's odd, isn't it? My penance for killing people is... killing kids. Saving kids killed me, now killing them is saving me. The Boss has an unbeatable flair for the ironic.
But enough talk. The dead can speak for themselves.