“Okay,” said Tori, “First get mafiosa out of your head. A Sicilan mafia member is called omu d’onuri. If an ordinary member has Sicilian on both sides of his family and performs an extraordinary service and makes his bones and gets a button, there is a chance he will be ‘made’. A made man cannot be hit, except in extraordinary circumstances and then only with dispensation from at least three capos.
“Generally making your bones is an assassination, but there are other ways. A button however, is an assassination. That’s where ‘button man’ came from. You’ve seen the others around Joey D. A made man is a big deal with them.
“Now, hitting a made man requires three capos. Capaletta makes one. If Russo knows, then either one or both of the others clued him, meaning they are laying a trap for Capaletta, and very politely giving you first crack. You won’t be alone when it goes down. We’ll go with them and I’ll handle the ‘observers.’ It could get very tense with two Brooklyn cops in the room.”
“And how do you know all this?”
Tori turned red at that, something that was rare for her. “My grandfather was a made man. He quit, as much as you can, but listening to him I learned all of it. You have to realize that in Sicily omu d’onuri aren’t outlaws, but patriots.”
Sunday, Jerry and Ken made their last survey of the club. They ran into Russo’s observers. Russo sent Gio’s uncles and since Ken had met them more than once, they got together when the bar was clear.
“You going to get in the way?” asked Ken.
Carlo, the older uncle nodded his head at Jerry. “He as good as the rest of you?”
“He’s a pro.”
“Then we’re just innocent bystanders.”
“Okay, Tori Carlson will come in with us. She’ll take you to a table against the far wall. You strapped?”
“We’re both carrying, yes.”
“Okay, you keep a hand on your gun. We have no idea how many there will be. When it goes down, be ready.”
Monday morning, we set up everything. We angled the Juke box against a corner with Joey behind it, you had to jump the bar to get a straight shot at him. Dennis and Mary sat at a table which was covered by the box from most places in the bar. Tori sat with Gio’s uncles, conversing in Sicilian. Jerry, Ken and I trisected the bar. Ken told the staff to leave the last of the lunch dishes on the tables, and we sat down to wait. Joey D cocked his forty-five and laid it close to his hand. We all had our hands on a gun.
The clock moved from one, to two. About two fifteen a busboy clued us. Two men in a car. Gio’s uncles were fidgeting, the rest of us kept an edge though you could see the waiting weighing on the Brooklyn cops.
Took another half an hour. Then the door burst open and the first gunman came through, ran to the bar, jumped and used a barstool to step up on the bar. Sitting next to the stool he used I kicked it and it tripped the second one who smashed into the bar, and lost his gun, which saved his life.
The one on the bar started to jump behind the bar. He started the jump, and caught Joey D’s forty-five and Ken’s forty-four Mag in the chest, along with Tori’s three-fifty-seven in his ear. He crumpled, mid-leap behind the bar.
The other one was just waking up from his crash into the bar with Jerry’s Forty-four and my forty-five in his face. If his hands hadn’t been empty both Jerry and I would have shot him.
The Brooklyn cops and the mafiosa ‘observers’ hadn’t cleared their holsters.
I yelled at the cops,” Dennis get the fuck over here with handcuffs, about yesterday.”
Joey D stepped out from behind the box.
“Carlo, Ant, you ain’t here. You’ve never been here. Get the fuck out. And next time I see you, you have alibis.”
Then he walked over to Mary and held his hands out. “If I asked you for cuffs, would it be a sexual advance?”
“First, let’s try the Ray Silvestree system,” said Joey D. “Recreate it. I’m a made man, you and Dennis suspect me, you’re under cover watching me.”
“I’m attacked, I defend myself, so do you.
“Three of us, three shots.
“Cuff me, call it in, and sweat that snook for what you need.
“Clear me, clear Gio. Solve it and be heroes, oh and a pretty heroine. “
The cops tried to digest it and Joey walked over to Tori. Hugged her, and whispered “another nightmare?”
“Only your second Joey, go with us and there may not be a third. You want Ken and me to leave our guns?”
“Would be wise.” Then he turned to the cops. “Which one of you is the better shot?” he asked.
“I am,” said Mary.
“So, you take Tori’s gun. Dennis take Ken’s. Now we are all neat and tidy. These four evaporate and you’re a credit to New York’s finest. Just one last piece of business.”
He walked over to the prisoner, thumbed off the safety on his gun and pointed it between the man’s eyes.
“Who pulled the trigger in Mario’s?” he said.
“That Angelo?” he cocked his head toward the bar.
“You realize that two cops heard that, and if you don’t repeat it on cue I’ll have a contract out on you?”
The man just nodded.
Then he walked over to Mary, thumbed his safety on and handed her his gun. Then he extended his hands. “A little bling sweetheart?” he said. “The four of you get out now. Dennis call it in.”
Tori was driving, so it was relatively safe to ask. “In the ear?”
“I guess I deserve that. Yes, I missed. I was going for the temple. It was only about twenty feet.”
“In your defense, he was moving.”
“Won’t save you when I tell Kat,” said Ken. “How many ear jokes are there?”
“I didn’t ear that.”
We were joking because none of us liked killing. It was pretty much a desperate attempt to keep it lighter than we knew it was.
The call came in Wednesday morning.
“Joey D says that you and your wife might enjoy lunch tomorrow. He just acquired a new client in the Hamptons, says you know where.”
“You’ll be there?”
Giancarlo Capaletta walked with a walker. He was a wizened old man, only his eyes still held the fire that propelled him from Sicilian peasant to mafia capo. The eyes were enough. They were sharp, clear and nearly black, still predatory in a body that couldn’t sustain the image.
John Russo and Frankie Costa joined us. Joey took an open bottle of Etna Rosso and poured for Giancarlo and himself. I recalled the vintage went for a premium and the bottle probably cost at least two hundred.
“Angelo did not get a shot off,” he said staring Capaletta down, speaking in Sicilian. “For now, I will not consider it an injury. However, if it ever reoccurs I will take it as an injury whether or not shots are fired. Are we understood Don Giancarlo?”
Cappaletta nodded his agreement.
Joey D reached down into a briefcase on the floor, Capaletta’s bodyguards reflectively moved their hands toward their guns. Joey took a folder and handed it to Capaletta.
“These three bars border your territory and resent my programming service. The boxes are yours, for the box here.
“Now, did Angelo have a family?”
“Two sons, I’m taking care of the wife,” answered Capaletta.
Once again Joey reached down, coming up with a fat envelope which he threw on Capaletta’s plate rather than hand to him.
“Match that and see she gets it,” he said and proceeded to parcel out the rest of the wine.
When everyone was served Tori put her glass out and said: “Por nostra figghie.”
We all repeated it and touched glasses.
It means, roughly, ‘for our daughters’. I was to learn that it had fallen into disuse, Tori had learned it from her grandfather. Giancarlo was the only one to catch it, and turned to Tori to ask, “Where did you learn that?”
The name obviously meant something to both Frankie and Giancarlo.
“From Catania?” said Frankie.
“Our family home, you knew him?”
“Only by reputation, Giancarlo?”
“An honorable man, and a deadly one,” said Capaletta. “I was told that you have followed in his footsteps.’
“Only in necessity, Signore,” Tori stiffened.
I was weak in Sicilian, so I did have a few questions on the ride back to Brooklyn.
“With your Italian, you’d probably say le lesione.”
“So, Sicilian changes injury to hurt?”
“In this case, the necessity was to switch genders. Mia figlio, what we do we do for our daughters, so the switch of gender is necessary. Do you catch it now?”
“Omerta. If I live I will kill you; if I die you are forgiven?”
“You’ve got it.”
“Pretty heavy threat.”
“It was meant to be, but also to make peace honorably. You notice Capaletta actually profited. Capaletta is a capo, the oldest active one. There is a certain status to that. And you will notice he offered no apology. Despite what it looked like, Joey was the junior. The threat was also an apology.”
“Capaletta stung you, it seemed badly”
“A made man is a murderer, an assassin. I’m not that. My grandfather was.”
“This going to bother you?”
“It already does, though not really the killing so much, my bullet may just have struck a corpse. Both Ken and Joey fired a bit faster. More because of how I did it. You taught me, so you know. It was reflective. From the time I saw the gun in his hand it was a reflex, not really a conscious action. It’s hard to admit to myself that I have learned to kill as a reflex.”
“That’s what builds the nightmares. The questions. Could it be avoided? Could I have shot to wound, not kill?”
“And you feel this way about every time?”
“No, it isn’t always a reflex. Remember Colonel Vo, his place in Woodside?”
“You went there, at least partially, to shoot him. If you had it wouldn’t have been a reflex.”
Bush’s coalition came together about this time. From what we could get from Pentagon sources, Schwartzkopf would be in charge and was formulating the plans. Neither Tori nor I had major military contacts. For almost a decade we had dealt with the politicians and diplomats, some of whom we had gotten to know rather well. The United Nations condemned Iraq’s actions almost as they happened, back in August. The condemnation, however, was not a license to pursue any action. The United Nations would have to take further steps to legitimize any military action. Until the UN acted we were still in a holding pattern, however the fact that the coalition was formed and apparently approved by the international community the diplomacy became central. Saddam had a very large and growing coalition army knocking on his door, as well as international pressure to retreat.
Both Tori and I knew the Iraqi foreign minister, Tariq Aziz. Almost unique in Moslem countries outside of Lebanon, he was a Christian which should have kept him out of the higher positions in government. Most diplomats avoided meeting us in public as they could confide things to us in confidence that they would not wish to have overheard. Of the Muslim countries only Aziz would agree to and accept a dinner invitation to the loft. Curiously, when we finally reached him with the invitation the first week in November, his only condition, besides privacy, was that Tori make a pot of chili con carne.