Episode 1: The Life
Reading Time: 24 minutes
Follow the footsteps of Carmine Contello, a handsome Sicilian teenage boy, as he is slowly indoctrinated into the secretive world of “The Syndicate,” Detroit’s little-known faction of La Cosa Nostra. Carmine, a brilliant straight-A student and star athlete, has decided college and the life of a “straight shooter” is not the life for him. Instead, he wants to be like his Uncle Salvatore, who is his idol and one of the Syndicate’s most powerful Bosses. A college diploma and sports prestige mean nothing to him. No, what he wants is what his uncle has–power and respect! And he’s willing to do whatever it takes to get it.
Even though it was early April, a light snow was falling, covering the streets of downtown Detroit in a pristine white blanket. It gave the illusion that the city was actually clean, but within hours the snow would melt and reveal the filthy abandoned buildings in all their squalid splendor. Being that it was a Sunday morning, the downtown area was almost completely deserted. An occasional car here, a bum there, were the only things moving. Eerie clouds of steam wafted from manhole covers in the streets. The cold, foreboding ambiance seemed perfect for what was about to happen.
Tony, “The Baker” Antonelli turned the Lincoln down an alley that led to his boss’s warehouse. The squeak and crunch of the fresh snow under the tires seemed ear-shatteringly loud in the deserted alley. The buildings on both sides of the alley were just tall enough to block out most of the morning light, but there was enough to see a fresh set of car tracks leading down the alley. This was good. It meant that the boys were already there and waiting. Glancing in the rearview mirror to make sure they hadn’t been followed, Tony caught a glimpse of Carmine, his boss’s nephew, in the backseat. The kid don’t look shook, he thought, surprised that a seventeen-year-old kid could be so calm at a time like this. He then glanced at his boss, Salvatore “Buddy” Contello, in the passenger seat. Sal had a blank look on his face, as if he were in deep thought. Tony had a feeling Sal didn’t want this to happen, but he also sensed he knew it had to. This is just how things went. Life throws curveballs. Not everyone turns out the way you want them.
Tony took another glance back at Carmine. The kid was one handsome devil, that’s for sure. And smart, from what he had been told. A superstar athlete too. Even had a football scholarship. But he had Sicilian Contello blood running through him. And that blood came from a long line of Mafiosi, a line that dated back a thousand years, to the early days of Sicilian feudal overlords, known simply as Omniosi. Tony felt a brief pang of sadness, knowing that after today there would be no going back for the kid. After today, there was only one road for him. And that road often led to horrible things. In fact, one of those things was about to happen.
Carmine was indeed smart. But not just because he was a straight-A student. He was also street smart. He knew how things worked, and suspected he knew what was happening, but nobody would tell him anything. His uncle had called and told him to meet him at the Coney Island on Gratiot.
“Don’t tell your mother you’re meeting me,” his uncle had said.
Carmine immediately knew it had to be something serious, because his uncle usually went to mass at St. Ambrose every Sunday morning. But not this morning. This morning, he had met Carmine in the restaurant, and without adding another word had said,
“Get in the car and don’t say nothin’.”
As they drove towards downtown on Gratiot Avenue, neither his uncle nor his uncle’s bodyguard, The Baker, said a word. He noticed his uncle looked very stoic, and Carmine couldn’t tell if he was angry, mad, or something else. Usually he could tell what his uncle was thinking. But not today. For some reason, his uncle seemed completely detached. And this secretly made Carmine nervous. Part of him wondered if he had done something wrong. After all, he had been doing a lot of things that his uncle probably wouldn’t approve of. His uncle had lectured him dozens of times over the last year, always saying things like,
“Listen, kiddo, you think this life is what you want, but I’m telling you, it ain’t the movies. You’re a good kid. Smart. You got good grades and a football scholarship. Forget this street bullshit. Go to school. Be a doctor or lawyer or somethin’. Make your mother proud. Knock the bullshit off, capisce?”
But Carmine never listened. He didn’t want to go to college. He didn’t want to be a doctor or lawyer. He wanted to be like his uncle. He wanted money and power. But even more than that, he wanted respect! He even decided to keep his mother’s family name, so people would treat him the way people treated his uncle. The streets called out to him. He loved the rush of making fast money. He loved living a secret double life, interacting with shadowy figures. Dangerous figures. He had become addicted to it, and had known for years that his destiny was not to be some college boy or working stiff. His destiny was with the Family. La Famiglia.
The Syndicate: Promo Video
As they came to an intersection of two alleys, Tony turned and parked in front of a small recessed loading dock between two buildings that were adjacent to Sal’s warehouse. A white van with no windows and the name of some electrical company on its side was already parked there. Carmine saw right away that two of his uncle’s guys, Frankie and a guy they called Cazzo, were sitting inside. They seemed relieved to see it was them and not someone else.
Tony turned the engine off and Sal looked back at his nephew. “Listen…” he began, but then shook his head and simply motioned him out of the car. There was nothing else to say. This had to be done. He had once been here. And on that day, nobody could have convinced him that this wasn’t what he wanted. He knew it was, and that was that. Some people were just meant to be who they were meant to be. You don’t always get a choice.
Sal led Carmine and Tony up to the back of the van, and Cazzo and Frankie stepped out to join them. Everyone seemed nervous and antsy. Everyone but Carmine.
“We good, boys?” Sal asked, glancing up and down the deserted alley. The only things moving were a few rats rummaging through the garbage behind the slaughterhouse.
“Yeah, we’re good, Boss,” Cazzo answered in Italian, glancing at Carmine, thinking the kid looked way too young for this.
“How’s he doin’? You sure he’s up for this?”
Sal, knowing Carmine was perfectly fluent in Italian, looked at his nephew. “Yeah, he’s fine,” he answered curtly, and then glanced at the van’s back doors. “He in there?”
“Yeah, we caught the fuckin’ pervert coming out of Needle’s place. Piss drunk, too. He was in there trying to pick up on all the teenage girls. Goddamn Needle serving booze to kids till the wee hours of the night. I might have to tax him. Fucker is running a teenage blind pig over there.”
Sal, still looking detached, motioned Frankie to open the van doors. Inside the van was a large, heavyset guy in his thirties, bound and gagged, with both his ankles and wrists zip-tied together. The look in his eyes was that of pure terror.
“So, this the fucker who has been beating on your paisan’s mom?” Sal asked Carmine.
Carmine’s eyes filled with hatred and disgust.
“Yeah, and the sick fucker tried to rape Mikey’s kid sister when he got shitfaced one night. He’s a scumbag on the lowest level.”
Sal motioned for Cazzo and Frankie to drag the guy out of van, over to a spot in the alley behind a trash dumpster.
“Over there. Out of the way so nobody will find him till garbage pickup.”
The guy began screaming and thrashing, mumbling through his gagged mouth, “Nnnnnuuuuu… pleeeeee…. NUUUUUU!”
Sal walked Carmine behind the dumpster, where the guy was rolling around, looking like a giant human inchworm.
“Carmine, you’re my nephew, and I love you. I won’t lose respect for you if you don’t want to do this. You don’t have to. You know I’ve never wanted this life for you. I’ve always wanted you to go to school and be something better than this. But if you truly want to be a part of this Family, La Famiglia, then I need to know what you’re made of. In this life, there’s no room for weakness. I need to know I can always count on you when you’re called to duty. Are you ready to commit your life to me and this thing of ours?”
Carmine looked him deadpan in the eye.
“You know I am, Uncle.”
Sal met his gaze.
“So, you have no problem with this?”
Carmine turned and looked at the woman-beating rapist thrashing behind the dumpster. “No,” he answered coldly, an almost maniacal glint in his eyes.
Sal held his hand out to Tony, who reached in the small of his back and came up with a compact 9mm Beretta. Sal took the pistol, racked a round into its chamber, and held it out to Carmine.
“Then show me you will kill for this Family, for what you believe in.”
Carmine took the gun into his hand. He had held guns before. He had even gone target shooting with his uncle. But for some reason this gun felt cold and heavy in his hand. This was it, the moment of truth. His uncle was watching. The eyes of his uncle’s men were boring into him, gauging whether or not he had the balls to do this. They knew who he was, but they didn’t know him. They had no idea what he was capable of, or what his plans were. Today was only the beginning, a small stepping stone to someday becoming a boss. And not just any boss, but the Boss of the Family, Boss of the whole Detroit Syndicate!
Without hesitation, he raised the pistol, aimed it at the guy’s pleading eyes, and pulled the trigger—CRACK! The single gunshot sounded like a bomb going off in the quiet alley. A flock of roosting pigeons burst from the ledge of a building above them. The report echoed for a moment, and then there was silence. Carmine considered firing a second round, just to prove his mettle, but he saw there was no need. The back of the guy’s head and brains were splattered onto the snow. Blood poured like a sieve from the exit wound. His eyes glazed over and his feet twitched for a moment. But he was dead as dead could be.
Detroit Police officers Derick Miller and Tommy Milazzo were cruising down Russell Street when they heard what sounded like a gunshot come from the alley just up in front of them. Reacting on their training, they unholstered their side arms and cautiously pulled into the alley. But they immediately slammed on the brakes when they saw the source of the gunshot.
“Maaaa—therrrrr—fucker,” Officer Miller said to his partner.
“Is that Sal Contello and Tony Antonelli right there?”
Sal, Tony, Cazzo, Frankie, and Carmine just stood frozen with shock and consternation. The cops had suddenly appeared out of nowhere! Carmine still had the pistol in his hand and a dead body at his feet. He immediately felt a wave of trepidation wash over him. He was going down for murder. Life in prison. There was no way out of it. They had him red-handed. What fuckin’ luck! he thought to himself, as he fought the urge to drop the gun and run. It was like the cops had been parked around the corner, waiting for him to pull the trigger.
Officer Milazzo turned and looked at his partner with dread in his eyes.
“Fuck, man, this is bad. I don’t want no part of this. Not Sal Contello and his guys. They pay us a shitload of money. Imagine the paperwork. I say fuck this!”
His partner stared down the alley.
“Yeah, I got kids, man. I don’t want no contract on my head. Back the fuck out of here. I ain’t seen nothin’.”
As suddenly as the cops appeared, they backed out of the alley and disappeared. That’s when a slight grin played across Sal’s face. “They must be ours,” he said, looking at Carmine, and then at the corpse.
“Welcome to the Family, kiddo.”
Eight Months Earlier
Sal snapped awake when he heard his phone trilling on the hotel nightstand. He was almost grateful to have been awakened, as he had been having a bad dream. Or rather a nightmare, a flashback to his time in prison. It was one of those recurring nightmares that he had at least once a month. Though it was almost a decade ago, the haunting memory of it was still fresh in his mind. The blood and sheer brutality of it. He had been working out in the “weight pit,” as he had done nearly every day of his ten-year bid. He was on one of the rusty old leg presses.
Everything seemed normal, as far as prison goes. Guys were lifting weights and breaking each other’s balls, the way guys do in prison. Everyone has to project strength, because any sign of weakness would be exploited. His workout partner and bodyguard, Nicky Fratelli, a Colombo crime family soldier now serving life for racketeering and double murder, was standing next to him, verbally spotting him, when he made a barely perceptible nod to their left, indicating a small group of black gangbangers who had just entered the pit. Right away, Sal knew something wasn’t right. The gangbangers were not regulars in the pit. He had never seen them there before. And they were wearing coats, another red flag, as coats were used to conceal weapons and protect bodies from shanks. Something was about to go down, though he had no idea who the target was. Their presence made him nervous, as they were postured in a tight group less than ten feet away. Halfway through his set, the gangbangers suddenly attacked! The victim was a black gangbanger from a rival gang. All at once, the group lunged at the guy and began stabbing him savagely. The weight pit instantly got quiet, as inmates stopped and watched the carnage. The victim just folded into a standing fetal position and surrendered his life. Sal screamed out to him in his mind,
“Fight, you stupid fuck! Fight or run!! Don’t just stand there and let them kill you!”
But Darwinism ran its course. The guy was weak, a coward. He was a tough guy when his gang was around to protect him, but alone he was weak as a baby. There were no guns to hide behind in prison. To survive, you had to fight with your hands and primitive weapons, like a Roman gladiator. This guy was no gladiator. He simply surrendered his life like a coward. After stabbing him for maybe ten seconds, the group of gangbangers seemed to vanish into thin air, as they blended into the hundreds of other inmates milling about the yard. The victim stumbled for about thirty yards, collapsed, and died. The irony was that there were two officers sitting in a guard shack not twenty yards away. They were too busy catching up on last night’s fantasy football stats to notice the murder take place. Typical.
“Coward,” Sal mumbled under his breath, glancing at his phone.
“What, baby?” Gina asked huskily.
Sal grinned as he looked down at her, all wrapped up in the sheets. Even in her late thirties she was still beautiful. He enjoyed these secret rendezvous with her, though they were becoming less and less frequent, as he sensed that his wife was beginning to suspect he had a “goomar” on the side. His wife was a smart woman, and she knew he had a history of not being able to control his carnal desires for other women. But he was a master at hiding things from her. As a caporegime of a crime family, keeping secrets was part of his job. And really, he loved his wife dearly. He’d just never been able to shake his thirst for other women. It was almost something he couldn’t control. But he hoped that someday this need would leave him, for the guilt he felt when he looked at his wife was tormenting.
“Nothing,” he answered, frowning at his phone, slipping out of bed.
“What’s wrong?” Gina asked, knowing him well enough to know the look on his face meant something wasn’t right.
“It’s my sister,” he answered, sliding on his slacks. “She keeps texting. Wants me to call her. Says it’s an emergency.”
“Call her,” Gina said, leaning up in bed, clutching a sheet over her naked body.
Worried about what the emergency might be, he quickly dialed up his sister. She answered on the first ring.
“Carmine’s in jail!” she blurted before Sal could say a word.
“For what?” he asked, both surprised and relieved. “What’d he do?”
“He beat some guy up with a crowbar!”
Sal pictured his young nephew, Carmine. Seventeen years old, tall, dark and handsome, he was a straight-A student and superstar football player. But he had a bad attitude, a result of growing up with a father who was serving twenty years in prison. Sal had tried to be a father to him, to be a mentor to him, but because he had four kids of his own he couldn’t be there the way Carmine needed. The kid lacked discipline, a result of having no authority figure in his life. His mother was a pushover who let him do anything he wanted. And she spoiled him. Sal had seen this day coming for years. He knew his handsome young nephew was headed for trouble. And apparently today he finally found it.
Sal felt both anger and frustration. This was all he needed, another problem, another headache. In his line of work, there was always something. Somebody had an emergency. Someone needed money, a lawyer, a fix, a whatever. It never stopped. Plus, there were his own children. His twin daughters, Angelina and Patricia, were now in their twenties and doing well for themselves, but they used him like a bank, constantly asking him for money. Of course, he was powerless to them and always gave them what they wanted. His twenty-three year-old son, Michael, was in his second year of law school and a good kid who never gave him any trouble. But his youngest son, Joey, who was sixteen, had him worried. Over the last year or two, Joey had been hanging around a group of young troublemakers. Twice he had been suspended from school. The first time for getting caught smoking pot in the school parking lot. The second time for groping some fifteen year-old girl inappropriately. Sal couldn’t help but blame himself for his young son’s behavior. Ever since getting promoted to caporegime, he had barely been present in Joey’s life. He stopped going to his baseball games. They hadn’t gone fishing together in in years. They barely even spoke. And when they did, Joey would give him attitude. A couple of times, Sal had to give the kid a good whack across the mouth for talking to him disrespectfully. He was still unsure how he was going to get his son back on the right track.
“Where is he?” Sal asked his distraught sister.
“Detroit. The 9th Precinct. They say he has to see a judge before he can post bail.”
Sal sighed. “Listen, I’ll take care of it. Just settle down. I have friends over there.”
“Please get him out of there, Sal,” she sobbed. “He doesn’t belong in there with those animals. He’s a good boy.”
“Yes, I know, Patty. Just settle down. I’ll head up there now.”
He then hung up the phone and looked at Gina. “Listen, I have to go. My nephew got arrested. I’ll give you a call tomorrow from the market.”
As he donned his shirt, she stood and slid her hands around his waist. “I love you, baby,” she cooed, gripping his flaccid penis. “I’ll be waiting. I’ll wait forever if I have to.”
He offered her a smile, kissed her on the cheek, and quickly made his way out of the plush hotel suite.
Thirty minutes later, he walked into the lobby of Detroit Police’s 9th Precinct. The Family lawyer and bail bondsman were already there waiting. “What’s up?” he said, looking at them. “Is Jackson here?”
“He is,” the lawyer nodded. “I told him you were on your way.”
Sal walked straight over to the reception counter and looked at the young woman officer sitting behind it.
“Can you tell Captain Jackson that Sal Contello is here to see him?”
She seemed to study him for a moment, as if she recognized the name. “One moment,” she said, and then placed a call to her shift commander, Captain Seymore Jackson.
A moment later, a tall, muscularly-built middle-aged black man appeared from a hallway. Without saying a word, he made a hand gesture to beckon Sal back to his office. A moment later, in the office, Jackson shut the door behind them and motioned for Sal to sit.
“I’m sorry about this Sal,” said Jackson. “I had no idea he was one of yours. When my guys brought him in, he was really giving us a hard time. Normally I wouldn’t have given a shit about some loudmouth white boy poppin’ off at the mouth.” He gave him a maniacal grin. “We know how to handle these things. But when I saw his name, I asked him if he was related to you. When he told me that he was your nephew, I told my guys to throw him in a separate bullpen and hold off on writing up the report. I wanted to get you in here before we did any paperwork.”
Sal gave him a look, knowing where this was going. “So, what exactly did he do?” he asked.
“Well, he was at a pool hall up on Gratiot. Walked in there with a couple of his buddies. Witnesses said they pulled out guns and held everyone back as he tuned-up some punk with a crowbar. Busted the fucker up real bad, too. He’s at St. John’s right now getting stitched up. I saw pictures. Kid is going to have a headache for a few days, and a few sexy scars to brag about for the rest of his life.”
“Any idea who the kid was?” Sal asked.
Jackson shrugged. “Just some gangster wannabe. Pants sagging and a mouth full of gold teeth.”
Sal nodded. “So, what now?” he asked, looking him in the eye.
“He a good kid?” Jackson asked.
“Yeah, he is,” Sal answered.
“This isn’t like him. He’s gonna have some explaining to do.”
Jackson leaned back in his creaky office chair and rubbed his chin pensively. “Sal, you know I’ve always been fair with you, because your people have always been fair with me. Your uncle Joe saved my life when I was a kid. Your uncle Nicky used to let my mom run a tab at his grocery store. These things happen. I don’t want your nephew to have this on his record. I’ll make sure there are no charges.”
Sal knew a shakedown when he saw one. Nodding with mild annoyance, he dug in his pocket and came up with a knot of cash. Just over $4,000. All he had on him. Standing, he held out the wad of cash to Jackson, who in one swift motion slipped it into his pocket and shook Sal’s hand.
“You know I’ll always do what I can to help you and your people,” said the corrupt officer. We are like family.”
Sal gave him a forced smile.
“Yeah, sure… family.”
A few minutes later, back in the lobby with the lawyer and bail bondsman, Sal waited as his nephew was given his property and released from custody. No charges were filed. His attack on the victim in the pool hall was deemed self-defense.
“Uncle Sal!” Carmine exclaimed. “Thanks for coming. This place is fuckin’ disgusting!”
After giving him a quick hug and kiss on the cheek, Sal smacked him on the back of the head. “Well, you better get used to it unless you change your ways. What the hell were you thinking?”
“It wasn’t my fau—“ Carmine began but Sal cut him off.
“Shut up. Tell me in the car. And it better be good.”
After thanking the bondsman and lawyer for showing up on such short notice, he shook their hands and then led his nephew out to his parked Escalade. Once in the tinted SUV, he gave Carmine an annoyed look.
“Do realize how upset your mother is right now? What the fuck is wrong with you? I don’t need this bullshit, Carmine. I got enough problems of my own.”
Carmine gave him a look of remorse. He loved his Uncle Bud more than any other man on the planet. His uncle was his hero, his idol. And knowing that he had disappointed him really hurt his heart. It wasn’t until this moment that he realized how bad he had screwed up. He could deal with his mother being upset with him. He could deal with spending the night is some filthy Detroit drunk tank. But knowing he had upset his uncle really hit hard.
“I’m sorry, Uncle Bud,” he said, calling him what he had called him as a child. “It was just one of those things.”
Sal started the car and began pulling out of the parking lot. “One of those things?” he parroted. “What the hell is that supposed to mean? You walk into a pool hall with your boys, pull a gun and beat some melanzzani half to death with a crowbar? What’s wrong with you, nipotino? You ain’t Scarface, kid! You ain’t in a rap video. You could have gotten yourself killed! Then what? You’d break your mother’s heart. And worst of all, you did it with a room full of witnesses. Come on now, you’re supposed to be smarter than that!”
Carmine fought back the slightest grin. His uncle wasn’t mad at him for beating a guy half to death. His uncle was mad it him for going about it wrong.
“The guy gave us no choice,” Carmine said, looking straight ahead, his mind flashing back to the previous night. “It had to be done.”
“No choice?” Sal said, shooting him a look. “That’s bullshit. You always have a choice. You could have gotten yourself killed. The melazzani don’t give a fuck about you. They’ll kill you in a second. I don’t know what the guy did, but what you did was a stupid move…” His countenance seemed to soften. “So, what did the guy do, anyway?”
Carmine looked at him apprehensively. “He…” he began, but clammed up.
“He what, boy?” Sal prompted. “Spit it out. What the fuck made you beat a guy’s head in with a crow bar?”
Carmine shrugged and looked away. “He boosted a load of our pot.”
Sal turned and looked at him with shock.
“Pot? So, you’re selling pot now?”
“A little,” Carmine shrugged. “Why not? I need money. My mom don’t have any. I want a better car than that piece of shit old Lincoln Uncle Pete gave me. I’ve heard you say it a million times, ‘Everyone needs to make money.’ Well, Tino has a plug on some good pot. I’ve been fronting some to Billy and Joe. I don’t even go near the stuff. I just collect about $700 a week from them. It’s not like I’m selling crack or anything.”
Sal shot him another annoyed look. The kid was smart. If you were going to sell drugs, pot was the way to go. Because if you got busted with it, it carried little to no prison time. And if you did it the way his nephew was doing, it was really hard to get busted. Plus, there were major profits to be made, since there was always a large market for premium pot. In fact, pot had been one of his most lucrative rackets all his life.
“You know, your mother would kill you if she found out,” Sal said, trying to sound like a father.
“But she’s not going to, right?” Carmine asked, looking him in the eye.
“Not from me,” Sal answered.
“But my advice is to tighten up your operation. How the hell did some melanzanni end up getting his hands on your stuff?”
“Joey keeps the stuff at his house for me. But he’s got this black chick he’s banging. A few days ago, she’s over his house and he starts bragging about what we’re doing. Shows her the ten pounds I got stashed there. A couple days later his house gets broken into when we’re at school.”
“Okay, I’m following you,” Sal said.
“So, who was the guy you tuned up in the pool hall? How’d you know he was the guy who broke into Joe’s house?”
“It’s the girl’s brother. A few days later he shows up at our school with his boys. Fucker was posted up right in our parking lot, slinging our shit. It was obvious it was ours. So, we followed the asshole to the pool hall and…” He shrugged and looked out the window. “Guy is lucky I didn’t finish him off.”
Sal, who was now pulling into the parking lot of a fish market, glanced at him, surprised by all this. Until now, he had always seen his nephew as a straight-shooter. A good kid going places. He had a football scholarship to Michigan State University, and he was an honor society student. He had always been one of those kids who seemed to have his shit together. But clearly somewhere along the way he had gone astray.
Sal parked the car and sighed.
“Listen, nipotino, you know I love you like you’re one of my own. But this type of shit don’t fly. You’re a good kid. You have a bright future ahead of you. Forget the pot business. If you need money, come work for me on the weekends. My concrete guys are always looking for a strong back. I’ll pay you well enough to keep some money in your pocket. If it’s a new car you want, I’ll talk to Tony Corazzo and see what I can do. He owns a car lot. I’ll take you up there this weekend. I’m sure we can work something out. But for your mother’s sake, stop with this stupid shit.”
He gestured towards the market. “Now come on, I have to grab me some fresh salmon.”
A half hour later, Sal pulled up in front of his sister’s home in the middle-class suburb of St. Clair Shores, a few miles north of his Grosse Pointe home. “Go inside and tell your mom no charges were filed. Tell her it was all a misunderstanding that you and your buddies got in a fight and that’s it.”
“So, you’re not going to tell her about the pot?” Carmine asked nervously.
Sal shook his head. “No, that would only upset her even more. But you need to knock that shit off. That ain’t the life you want. You take that scholarship and get an education. Be the first man in our family that never serves a day in prison.”
Carmine looked at him lovingly. “Don’t be ashamed of that, Uncle Bud. Look at the life you have provided for Aunt Pat and your kids. You should be proud of yourself.”
Sal offered him a smile and patted him on the knee. “Pride comes before the fall, kiddo. Now go on, get going. Your mom is in there worried sick. Probably thinks you got raped last night.”
“That would never happen, Uncle,” Carmine laughed, and then stepped from the car and disappeared into the house.
Ten minutes later, when Sal pulled up in his own driveway, he glanced at his watch. It was two in the afternoon. Damnit! he thought. He’d already missed the one o’clock NFL kickoff. Which meant he had missed out on booking thousands in bets. Hopefully, his bookies were able to pick the bets he missed out on. Because, even though he was involved in dozens of rackets and illicit activities, sports betting was his bread and butter. On any given NFL Sunday, he could easily clear $10,000.
After unloading his fishing gear, he carried a large Igloo cooler into the house and set it on the granite island in the middle of his kitchen. His wife, Angela, was sitting at dining room table, using her MacBook to do some online shopping, which Sal joked was her one true talent—shopping.
“So, you caught some?” she asked, the slightest hint of suspicion in her voice as she stepped over to give him a kiss.
“Yup,” he said, proudly looking down at the cooler, playfully smacking her on the ass. “The bite was slow but we stayed out all night and got a few. Tony caught a real nice one.”
What he didn’t see was her discreetly sniffing, looking for the slight hint of perfume she sometimes smelled on him after he spent the whole night out fishing with his buddies. She was good at playing stupid, but she was not naïve. At least today there were no faint smells of perfume. And when she flipped open the cooler, there were two beautiful silver king salmon on ice.
“Very nice,” she said, smiling, picturing how she was going to cook them. “So how’s Patty doing? Is everything okay with Carmine?”
He nodded and stepped over to the refrigerator to grab a beer. “She’s probably still hysterical but he’s fine. He’s a tough kid.”
“So what happened?” she asked.
“Nothing,” he answered, twisting off the cap and taking a long swig from the bottle.
“Him and his buddies just got in a fight at some pool hall on Gratiot. No big deal. Charges were dropped.”
“On Gratiot, in the city?” she asked, turning to him with surprise. “What the hell were they doing in a pool hall in the ghetto?”
“Being boys,” Sal said, and then headed from his bedroom. “I need to shower. I smell like fish.”
When he was out of earshot, she mumbled under her breath, “Yeah, I bet you do.”
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