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"Over The Edge"Excerpt:  Over The Edge

Chapter Five

Franky wedged himself into the cushions in the far corner of the overstuffed sofa.  Heavy burgundy velvet drapes framed two sets of windows, the glass covered with exterior black metal security grilles. His father’s large office reminded Franky of a stage set from a gothic production of Hamlet or Antigone.

Two nights without sleep supplied a numbing anesthetic against the barrage of questions, fears, and doubts of last night’s hit.  But he couldn’t shake the smell of his own piss, steaming into his nostrils.  The nightmare image of a terrified, sweat-sheened face merged with exhaustion.  Never had he expected to participate in the family business at this level.

Franky rubbed his hands together.  He glanced at the heavy furniture surrounding Dominick Fiorini’s uncharacteristic nod to frivolous expenditures, a massive, ornate Louis XIV desk.  The broad, clean surface floated in the office, an aircraft carrier filling a fish pond.  Franky never felt comfortable in the family’s nerve center and occasional bunker. 

The lacquered door burst open to an avalanche of noise and motion.  Big brother Sal led the charge, followed by his other mutant, massive sibling, Marco. Then came Roberto, the consigliore, and the two capos, Thomas and Gino.  “Consigliore” and “capo,” the terms ridiculous imitations for the wannabe Mafia gang.  Franky gave his best imitation of invisibility.  All of them ignored him—invisible must be working. 

Sal pounded around the room.  Marco orbited the heir apparent in clumsy, tight circles, an outsized moon to Sal’s angry planet.  Roberto sat in counterpoint to the threatened chaos.  The two thugs, Thomas and Gino, also sat still.  Their tight expressions reflected nervousness, probably at the brothers’ reckless lack of control.

What a breakdown in genetic lineage between the crafty, emotionless father and his two older sons.  And Franky carried those fake mobsters on his shoulders.  His intelligence and education provided them an avenue to escape the gutter.  They in turn ridiculed their savior.  He was at the mercy of violent men who had no clue.  Goddamn animals.

“’Bout time you got your skinny ass back here,” Sal said, acknowledging Franky. 

What crap.  Franky burrowed deeper into the couch.  At first he’d wondered why Sal had demanded an early return from a well-earned, ten-day vacation in Colorado.  Quick checks revealed no operational problems in the three companies he controlled.  Maybe Sal was just flexing his new-found power.  Unfortunately, the jerk had to be obeyed, the consequences of defiance terminal.

“Finally get a job for you,” Sal continued, “and you’re a thousand miles away.”

Two thousand, you geographically ignorant ape.  But that was where the danger lay.  Sal was far from stupid.  He possessed an unpredictable intelligence hidden behind a vicious surface.  The inability to predict Sal’s reactions left Franky perpetually frightened and defensive.  Probably Sal’s intention.

The older brother swiveled and caught Franky in a malevolent glare.  Franky froze.  How much of last night’s details had Anthony shared?  Based on Sal’s continued disrespectful attitude towards Franky, Sal knew everything.

“Why the hell,” Sal’s voice boomed, “do you go to the freezing, fuckin’ Rockies in the middle of winter?  You want snow?  Go to Central Park.  If you didn’t have shit for brains, ya’d head to Florida or the Caribbean.”

Franky kept his stare neutral and passive, taking in Sal’s dense, dark eyebrows protruding like awnings over the black stones serving as eyes.  The two of them, Sal and Marco, though different heights, would always be recognized as siblings, sharing Neanderthal features and thick bodies.  Little resemblance to Franky or their old man.  Must be the mothers.  His skinny and meek, theirs loud and robust.  And ugly.  No wonder Pops screwed around back in the days he could still get it up.

“Cat got your tongue, Franky?”  Sal prodded.

Sal looked civilized in black turtleneck, gray flannel pants, and blue blazer, a respectable fashion plate.  Hell, Franky had taught him how to dress.  But the smooth veneer mocked the true man.  One step from the jungle.  Death and destruction only a comment away.  How Franky wished he could physically respond to his brother’s taunts.  Crush the asshole before it was too late. 

Franky still cringed at their failed attempt to carve out a small drug distribution territory.  Sal, this accident-waiting-to-happen, controlled and endangered Franky’s life.  And the bastard had now coerced him into murder. 

“Let’s get down to business,” Roberto said.

Sal landed on the front corner of the antique desk, conspicuously avoiding Dominick Fiorini’s empty chair, emphasizing the unsettled, uncomfortable atmosphere of the stuffy chamber.  Marco took the cue and leaned back against the wall next to the mortuary-inspired drapes.

“Sal, if I may proceed?”  Roberto nodded with respect at the wild animal perched on the edge of the Louis XIV.

“Sure,” Sal answered.

“Franky,” Roberto said, “thanks for returning so promptly.”

Unlike the brothers, Roberto openly respected Franky’s business expertise.  Sal gave him no credit for tripling cash flow in only five and a half years.  Franky appreciated the business manager for his backing, but he kept his thanks silent.  Undue attention meant destruction if Sal felt threatened.

“Come on, Roberto,” Sal fired back.  “The little college boy don’t do shit around here of any importance.  He’s got all the time in the world.” 

Why’d the guy hide his own almost three years at Florida State?  Maybe he’d really spent that time in the Florida State Penitentiary.

“There are a number of issues we need to address,” Roberto continued.  He gave another acquiescent nod to Sal.  His handsome, well-proportioned features stood in stark contrast to Sal and Marco. 

Roberto reviewed the various operational activities in subdued, precise words, covering everything from murder and mayhem to money management.  The report, perfunctorily laid out, was a prelude to more important news.  The meeting followed the familiar format of a family conference, another attempt at imitating the real deal.  The less said about last night the better.  Franky tried to block out his nightmare, dreaming of powder and pussy left behind in Aspen.  A change in Roberto’s tone regained Franky’s attention.

“Dominick’s latest appeal will be heard the first of February.  I don’t like the government’s preliminary moves that the judge allowed.  We’ve been unable to discredit the evidence illegally presented by our unknown turncoat.  Your father is not happy in Leavenworth.”

Franky, as well as Roberto, had been shocked when the government had pounced on the elder Fiorini.  Their operation was small potatoes.  Why pick on the little guy with many more obvious and prestigious targets available?

“That motherfucker’s gonna die,” Marco growled, pushing off the wall.  “We gotta find him.  Make an example.”

“Well, we may be making some progress.”  Roberto’s voice somehow remained calm, overpowering the riptide of emotion from Sal and Marco.  “The Feds have a new system to hide individuals in danger, those foolish souls who have cooperated with the government.  It’s called the Witness Protection Program.  Our friend appears to be one of their first customers.”

“How are we going to find him?”  Franky’s first contribution of the evening.  “We’ve got no grease.”

“Don’t worry, little man,” Marco threatened.  “We’re gonna find that bastard and rip him to shreds.” 

“The program’s new,” Roberto continued.  “We’ve received an offer of assistance from an interested party with far more resources than ours.  Even they are having trouble piercing the shield of secrecy.  But we’ll soon be successful.”

“Not soon enough.”  Sal pounded the thousand-dollar-desk like a cheap drum.  “That pecker-head’s makin’ us look like wimps.  I wanta cut his nuts off.” 

Sal could deliver on his promise if given the opportunity.  No one in their truncated world of crime crossed Sal and lived.  And they didn’t die well either.  But who was this interested party?  What the hell had Franky gotten himself into with his headstrong return to his roots?

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© 2005, 2006 Marc Paul Kaplan, All Rights Reserved