Chapter Thirty, Part 2
The real estate agent on the intersection of 22nd and 5th had just finished a very long, hard day. To top it off, he’d been trying in vain for 20 minutes to hail a cab. He was seconds from giving up when a black Lincoln Town Car pulled up along the curb, coming to a careful stop several feet down.
“Oh, thank God,” the man exhaled. He was normally wary of gypsy cabs, but he was getting desperate. Pulling the back door open, he slid into the backseat.
“73rd and Nathan, pl-“
He was unable to finish his request, interrupted by the sound of a gun cocking. His eyes were locked on the barrel of pistol that was aimed directly between his eyes.
“Get the fuck out of my car.”
“B-but I th-“
“This is not a fucking cab!”
The conversation ended there. The man tripped over himself as he threw the door open, staggering back onto the street. He clutched his briefcase to his chest as he stepped backwards, then ran off. Well, at least this would make a great story to tell someday. He would be sure to leave out the part where he shit himself.
Inside the Lincoln, Victor heaved a sigh as he put away his gun. This wasn’t the first time someone on the street had mistaken his vehicle for a gypsy cab. He couldn’t even pick his nephew up from school without something ruining his afternoon. It wasn’t enough to make him consider a vehicle change, though -- he loved his car. He also loved his gold watch, which he glanced at impatiently. Where the hell were those kids, anyway?
A few minutes later, the back door opened again as two teens rushed into the backseat.
“Sorry we’re late, Uncle Vic. Sister Katherine kept me after class,” Demos explained. He still had chalk on his fingers from cleaning the erasers.
“Want me to have her taken care of?” Victor offered, ashing his cigarette out of the cracked car window.
Demos laughed, shaking his head. Sometimes, though, it was hard to tell when his uncle was joking.
“So where are we going?” Ferris asked, leaning forward to watch Victor’s face.
“Charlie’s rent is due, thought I’d take you kids up for some sundaes or something.”
Charles Martin owned an ice cream parlour uptown called ‘Sweet Nothings.’ Ferris quickly assumed what ‘rent’ was, and then followed that up with the guess that the sundaes would be free. He also figured that Victor wanted to show his nephew the ropes, so to speak. The two boys pounded each other's knuckles in satisfaction of this plan.
The glass doors of the shop opened smoothly, triggering a charming little bell. Charlie looked up from behind the counter, immediately recognizing Victor. He pulled the small white hat from his balding head, giving his guest a nervous smile. The Italian leaned his arm up against the glass display, lowering his glasses to look at the various flavors.
“Hello, Mr. Giorgetti. These… these your kids?”
Victor turned to look at Demos and Ferris, both of whom were eyeing the menu on the wall.
“Er, sort of. The nerd’s a friend of the family.”
“Hey,” Ferris protested.
“I’m Demos, it’s nice to meet you.”
“They’re uh, they’re real nice,” Charlie said with a faint smile. “You two want a cone?”
“Amaretto,” Demos said instantly.
“Chocolate,” Ferris followed, almost interrupting his friend. They’d known exactly what they wanted for a while. Charlie dipped the silver scoop in warm water, creating a sweet, heaping stack in two separate waffle cones.
“Thank you,” they said simultaneously, taking the offered cones from the man eagerly.
“You look well, Mr. Giorgetti,” Charlie said anxiously, fiddling with the scoop before quickly setting it down in realization.
“Please, Charlie. It’s ‘Victor.’ What’s the matter with you, anyhow? Usually you’re so happy to see me.”
“Oh, I’m fine. Everything’s fine,” Charlie said, looking sideways to see if any customers were in earshot. “Uh, why don’t we step in the back, for just a little bit? To catch up.”
Victor glanced at the boys before looking back at Charlie.
“Of course.” Victor pointed at Demos. “Stay put for a minute. I’ll be quick.”
Demos nodded, sucking a bit of melting ice cream off the side of his cone. He wasn’t going anywhere. They both watched the door to the back room as it shut, wishing they could be in on the conversation.
“I wonder what’s wrong,” Ferris said quietly.
“From the looks of it, he doesn’t have the money.”
“What’s Victor going to do? He’s not going to hurt him, is he?”
“I don’t know. Charlie’s a good guy. But Uncle Vic isn’t really patient. Or compassionate.”
They exchanged uncomfortable glances before looking down at their ill-begotten desserts. Demos’ conscience was far less effective than Ferris’, and he quickly went back to eating it. Ferris hesitated, then decided he couldn’t just let it melt. It was really quite good.
The conversation in the back wasn’t going terribly, but it wasn’t going well, either.
“If you could give me just another few weeks, I could try to get enough together to-“
”Wait a second, Charles. What kind of trouble do you mean? Is the shop doing poorly? You gambled it all away?”
“No. No, Sir, it’s nothing like that. It’s just, you see, we’re just in a tough spot right now. My wife is sick.”
Victor leaned back in his chair, studying the man carefully.
“I thought you had health insurance.”
“Well, you see, we do. I thought it would cover her but… well,” Charlie struggled, running a hand over his head. “They won’t pay. Some loophole in the term -- I didn’t understand it much myself. I tried to talk to them but-“
“Stop.” Victor held up his hand, silencing the old shop owner. “I’ve heard enough.”
His eyes were narrowed in irritation. Charlie looked back at him timidly. Victor’s hand raised to reach into his suit’s inner pocket. The old man winced at the thought of what was coming, but exhaled when he saw it was only a pad of paper.
“What’s the company’s name?”
”Shebaro,” Charlie answered slowly.
“I, um,” Charlie patted his pockets for a wallet, finding it and digging through the slots. “Here, their business card.”
“Charlie, look at me,” Victor said sternly.
“You pay us protection for a reason. You sit tight, this will all be over soon.”
“Thank you, Mr. Gi-“ Charlie stopped himself, smiling. “Victor. Thank you, Victor.”
Victor only nodded, standing and straightening the cuffs of his suit.
“I’ll be back soon.”
The Italian walked back into the shop and towards the front door with purpose, quick paced in his steps.
“Come on, boys.”
Demos glanced behind as they stepped out, checking to see if Mr. Martin was all right. The old man noticed Demos and gave him a brief wave. The teen smiled in return.
As they got back into the car, Demos leaned forward curiously.
“What happened? Where are we going?”
He assumed they were on their way to some place of significance, considering the haste Victor was starting his car with.
“Disneyland,” Victor said monotonously, snapping open his lighter to start a cigarette.
Demos sat back in his seat, folding his arms across his chest. Leaning over to Ferris, he mumbled as quietly as he could.
“Every time he says that, someone gets hurt.”
Victor multi-tasked as he drove, dialing a number from his cell phone while weaving through traffic.
“Nick? Yeah, I don’t care. Look, get over to…” He glanced down at the card as he drove. “481 West 9th St. Yes, immediately. They close at 5. I don’t give a shit, Nicky. You get your ass down there, now.”
He snapped the phone shut and slid it back into his pocket, biting the end of his cigarette in aggravation.
“Demos, tuck back your hair and get out of that uniform jacket.”
“But-“ Demos objected.
“I don’t give a shit if they can see your scar. Push it back.”
“Yes, Sir,” Demos mumbled, running his hands through his hair to slide it back. He still didn’t look very intimidating.
Ferris slowly looked over at Demos. He wasn’t even sure what was going on, but assumed Victor knew what he was doing. Even if Demos did look a little more tough, he was still just a skinny teenager. Still, numbers intimidated. Who the hell were they intimidating, anyway?
The car came to an abrupt stop in the first space available. They were a block away from their destination, a downtown office building. Victor dropped a quarter in the meter as they walked up, making their way to the entrance. Nick was leaning against the wall, looking annoyed.
“This better be good, Ash.”
“I’ll make it up to you, you lazy prick.”
As Victor walked past, Nicky made a quick gesture and muttered under his voice.
Demos exchanged a smirk with Nicky as they went inside. Victor looked briefly to each side, looking for security cameras. This would be easy -- there weren’t any. Satisfied, he stopped at the receptionist’s desk, reading from the business card once more.
“Afternoon. Which floor is Mister, ahh, Gonyer located on?”
The woman at the desk looked up at the group uncertainly. The clean-cut, older man in the suit wasn’t anything unusual. The annoyed, overweight, and unshaven gentleman, however, made her nervous. The two teen boys seemed normal, though one had a strange white scar above his eye.
“The 10th, I believe. Did you have an appointment, Sir?”
“I’m an old friend,” Victor said easily, lowering his eyes.
“I’ll need some ID, Sir.”
“No problem,” Victor said, handing over a New York state driver’s license. Tucked beneath it was a fold of bills. The woman looked over the ID, feeling over the bills with her fingertips before making eye contact once again. She passed the license back. The bills went into her pocket.
“We weren’t ever here.”
“Ferris, wait here,” Victor said, pointing at one of the lobby’s sofas as the three walked over to the elevators. Ferris nodded in response and flopped down onto one of the seats. It was probably best that they weren’t involving him, anyway. For a minute he looked out the window to watch cars go by, then got bored and rummaged for a magazine on the table. He could only imagine what could possibly be happening in Mr. Gonyer’s office.
Ten floors up, that very man’s door was abruptly thrown open, slamming against the inner wall. He looked up from his desk, staring widely at the three men who had just let themselves in. The largest of them was pulling a torque wrench from his jacket sleeve. A cordless phone was tucked between Gonyer’s ear and shoulder, and he was speechless for a moment.
“…I’ll call you back,” he said slowly, setting the receiver down.
Lacing his fingers, he gave them a quick smile. His teeth were perfectly aligned under a pair of blue eyes and a light brunette cut.
“Can I help you with something?”
“I certainly hope so,” Victor said, returning the smile as he sat down in the seat facing the desk. Demos stood at his side, quietly observing.
“You see, Mr. Gonyer, a good friend of mine seems to be having trouble getting his funds from your health plan. I told him it all must have been a misunderstanding.”
“I see,” the man answered, his voice tense. “His name?”
Gonyer’s eyes went to his computer screen, entering in a few keys and reading what came up.
“Yes, I see.” He continued reading, scrolling down a few pages with his mouse. “His wife claims to have breast cancer.”
“Terrible thing to happen to such nice people. You can do something about this, can’t you?”
Demos was surprised to see the man pause, then grin.
“I’m afraid not, Sir. The treatments they are proposing for Mrs. Martin are too experimental to qualify for coverage under his plan. I’m sure you understand.”
Victor’s smile dropped, as well as his tone.
“It seems you’re the one who needs to understand, Mr. Gonyer.”
“I understand completely, Mr…? Ah, I don’t believe I got your name.”
Gonyer faltered, then regained his composure.
“Yes, Mr. Giorgetti. I’m quite familiar with scare tactics. I’m sorry to break this to you, but you’re not going to bully me, or this company, out of several thousand dollars.”
Without instruction or warning, Nicky punched him in the face. Spit flew from Gonyer’s lips as he tumbled back from his seat, choking in surprise.
“Come on, Nicky. I’m sure we can do this without violence,” Victor said smoothly, not moving from his seat. He didn’t seem sincere.
“I hate when little pricks like him get condescending,” Nicky grumbled as he played with the wrench in his other hand.
A hand slapped up onto the desk as the man made an attempt to pull himself back up. Holding the side of his face, he leaned against the desk and glared harshly at the men in his office. Demos looked back at him emotionlessly.
“You Guinea fucks,” Gonyer said, releasing a bit of blood from the corner of his mouth. He’d bitten his tongue on impact. His hand grasped the receiver of his phone, lifting it to call security. Victor leaned forward calmly, tugging the line from the back of the phone and tossing it to the floor.
“Tell me, Mr. Gonyer. Do you use this company’s insurance?”
“Y-yes,” he said, backing up towards the window. Nicky stepped closer.
“Are you covered in the event of, oh… I don’t know. Falling from great heights?”
It took the man a moment before something clicked in his head. He quickly turned to notice the open window, then looked back to Nicky. He rushed to step away from the glass, but was quickly grabbed by the collar.
“You won’t do it.”
“Is that so?” Victor asked, adjusting his glasses. Demos continued to watch intently, not interrupting.
“I don’t care what kind of deal he has with you. We’re a company, we need to make money. If some old lady loses her tit, then tough shit.”
Nicky looked over his shoulder at Victor. Victor simply nodded.
Back down on the first floor, Ferris was flipping through a Better Homes and Gardens magazine, stifling a yawn. It was either that, or Highlights. People occasionally came and went, and the receptionist had gotten a phone call or two. But for now, the lobby was silent. Ferris turned a page, eyeing an article about curtains in a hopeless attempt to find something interesting. Ah, a recipe for fish.
It was then that a large, blunt object whistled past the window. The body slammed into a small hot dog cart on the sidewalk, shattering the glass display and throwing the vendor onto his back. The umbrella had crumpled from the impact and the pavement was littered with pieces of beef and blood. Cars slammed on their brakes to avoid the debris, skidding over the tarmac clumsily. Ferris looked up from his magazine.
He snapped around to look out the window as the receptionist rushed up next to him. The sight was more than enough to make him cringe. The woman covered her mouth with both hands, holding back a sharp gasp.
“Oh my god,” she said weakly, never having seen a dead body before. Though it made him feel sick, Ferris couldn’t take his eyes off of the scene. Soon, sirens started to fill the air down the street as an ambulance and policemen made their way through the traffic. Ferris turned back around, watching the elevator. Where were they? He started to feel nervous, wishing he knew more about what was going on. The buzzing vibration of his cell phone was enough to make him jump, and he hurriedly fumbled it from his pocket and brought it to his ear.
“The car,” was all that the voice on the other side said before it hung up. It had been Demos. They must have gotten out through a back door. Ferris quickly walked past the scene, averting his eyes. Nobody really noticed him; all eyes were locked on the bloody mess on the sidewalk and loud chatter rose up amongst the crowd. He made his way down the block to where Victor’s car had been parked. Sure enough, the three were seated inside, casually smoking. Ferris got into the back seat silently. There wasn’t a thing he could think of saying.
“We’ll have to find a higher-up,” Victor said to Nicky, starting the car.
“Yeah, what if they’re all this stubborn?”
“Somehow,” Victor started, watching the ambulance lights flashing in the rear view mirror. “I doubt it.”