December 24, 1975
Alfonso Machetti was dying. He knew it because he recognized the feeling.
He felt it once before when he was in Black-Gate, when he was nearly stabbed to death. It felt like a leech on his soul or a crack in a vase allowing water to seep out until it was all gone. Alfonso was defiant, however. He set his mind to one simple, or perhaps, final fact; if he were to die, he’s taking that bitch with him.
Cold Harbor City called it ‘dead winter’. It was a time in which the temperature would plummet to thirty below zero and remain that way for weeks. It was a time in which the snot running from your nose would freeze on your lip and the tears in your eyes would turn to ice. It was a time when it hurt to even breathe. The cold dead air stabbed Alfonso’s lungs as he gasped for life; but the bullet holes in his arm and side didn’t want to give his lungs a chance.
Alfonso had taken refuge behind the old maple tree in the back yard of his childhood home. Stretching twenty feet all around him was snow. It was frozen on top and gave the appearance of slick sheets of ice instead of a powder. The snow was five feet at its deepest.
A sea of frozen snow was all that stood between him and the fence encompassing the entire yard. Luckily, it was a privacy fence which stood eight feet tall. If they try and flank Alfonso at least the fence was there to protect him; then, Alfonso heard the frozen snow crunching underfoot outside the fence.
Alfonso knew the men who were coming for him, and they knew him, of course. They were family once; before she got into their heads.
Alfonso shifted his hips to an angle in the snow, careful trying to not to give away his position. He readied himself to move fast.
“Who’s over there?” Alfonso said, calling out loudly.
“Joey? Pontiac? Is that you?”
A long pause came and then a reply. “Yeah, it’s us, Alfonso!” Pontiac replied. “Bianchi, too!”
“Hey boys!” Alfonso said. Both Pontiac and Bianchi responded with a somewhat awkward, “Hey, Alfonso!”
“Well!” Alfonso started. “I’m just gonna cut right to it because I can tell by the way you sound you don’t want to be doing this! Hell, a part of you probably suspects that what she told you was a lie, but you’re just too scared to go against her! After what she’s done…” Alfonso paused. He had to catch himself. His emotions were going to get the best of him.
“After what she’s done to me, I don’t blame you! But just in case I’m wrong, you need to know right here and now I had nothing to do with Angelo! How could I? I loved him! He was my brother!”
“You betrayed him!” Joey Ricci shouted.
Joey opened fire, shooting blindly through the fence, Pontiac and Bianchi did as well.
Hunks of wood exploded into the yard dirtying the perfectly white sheen of the snow. Chunks of frozen snow beamed through the air; from underneath the layer of the icy top, unfrozen snow puffed into tiny clouds. As bullets made a path that moved ever closer to his location, Alfonso knew he
had to move. For a split second he thought about not doing that. He thought about staying where he was and just let the bullets end him; he could be with her then. The ghostly voice of Alfonso’s deceased friend, Tommy Scaramucci, said, “It’s not your time yet.” Alfonso moved.
As bullets rained down all around him, Alfonso could feel ice smacking him in the face. The rainstorm of bullets continued like mindless bees needling themselves across an open field of flowers.
“Tell us again you had nothing to do with it, you liar!” Joey shouted. “You killed a good man! He was a father! A brother to all of us!”
“You were there, Joey!” Alfonso yelled back. “Stop lying to them and tell them the truth! Tell them what Bella really did!”
“Bullshit!” Joey screamed. “Light his ass up!”
Bullets thundered through the fence and across the yard once again. Alfonso dug into the snow finding the ground underneath and crawled as low as he could through the icy tundra to the other side. At that same time, even as the maple tree protected him from Joey and the others, a voice on the same side as Alfonso shouted, “I see him!”
From their raised position atop the back porch of Alfonso’s childhood home, the two gunmen looked down upon the back yard, pointed their guns at Alfonso and fired.
Alfonso weaved left to right, moving away from the last place a bullet smacked the snow. Without even looking because he was blinded by all the snow and ice in his eyes, he lifted his gun and fired a single shot. One of the gunmen was struck in the chest. The shooter was dead before he hit the deck. Alfonso aimed for the second gunman; after missing the first two attempts, Alfonso stood up and stalked towards the shooter. Arms shaking, his free hand clutching the bullet hole in his hip, Alfonso aimed and expended every bullet he had left to put the second shooter down.
Alfonso turned and glanced at the old maple tree. For a split second he could still see the rope and tire he once swung from in its branches materialize like a mirage. The comforting image dissipated as his eyes fell on the wounded tree. The maple had become riddled with bullets. Bark had been ripped off and sent flying. If this had been happening in the summer the tree would most certainly be bleeding sap, but thanks to Cold Harbor City’s ‘dead winter’ the sap was frozen. No bleeding, except for Alfonso.
Before Alfonso could take one more step, six more men stood atop the porch that overlooked the back yard and aimed their guns down at him.
That’s it then, Alfonso thought. He stood there, snow up to his thighs with gun in hand and tightened his jaw. He closed his eyes, gritted his teeth, and prepared himself for what was coming next.
Alfonso opened his eyes a moment later, surprised that he hadn’t been killed already. Then he saw her. Standing at the front of her men was Bella Costa, the widow of Angelo Costa, Alfonso’s vengeful half-sister, and she was holding Alfonso’s young son Domonic in her arms.