Chapter 9, GOOD OLD GOLDEN RULE DAYS
A blinding, early September sun announced another morning in the desert. But the two young men, weary from exploration and excitement, never noticed the vanished darkness as they continued sleeping. Cray was momentarily confused when he stirred and felt a warm body pressed closely to him. 'Oh, yeah,' he remembered. 'Henry.' He smiled at the feeling of a now familiar, firm organ parked between his buns as he scooted into a more comfortable position and drifted back to a state of semi-consciousness. Later, he awoke with a piss-hardon that flashed to his brain in glaring headlines - 'I need to be relieved' - and sat up. His bedmate lay sprawled out in a similar condition with one eye barely open. Cray scanned the body and was impressed that what he was seeing matched what he had physically explored in the dark of the night.
"Morning," Henry croaked as he opened the other eye. He looked down at his wood and shrugged with a loopy smile.
"Hey, buddy. I just woke up too and gotta pee, bad," Cray replied as he got out of bed.
"If ya don't mind, I'll join you." Henry rotated around and stood.
"Hey, you're my guest. I just don't know if our two boners will have room."
"Somehow, we'll find a way." Henry gestured for Cray to enter the bathroom. However, in the process they both made a mad dash to the door at the same time. The two teens giggled as they squeezed into the room.
And find a way, they did - albeit a little messy. Between the snickering and dueling, they finished their task and returned to the bedroom. Cray looked at the clock and noticed it was 9:00 a.m. When he suggested that they could go over to the house for some breakfast, Henry playfully tugged at Cray's hanging member and asked if they had time to "crank out another one" before they had some food.
"Do bears shit in the woods?" Cray replied with a grin. "I wouldn't mind trying that number thing again." He could feel himself rising to the occasion and noticed that Henry's dick was in the same condition.
"Hell, yeah." Henry took Cray's hand, pulled him back to the bed and flipped around so the two were in position. "69's a fun way to wake up and get the juices goin'," he added as he dove in.
The remainder of the day and evening was a mixture of fun and adventure for the two new, energetic friends. After dressing and eating some 'real' food, the guys took a bus to The Strip and checked out the casinos...as much as two teens legally could. It was more a time to get to know each other and hang out. People watching was a bonus sidebar to the tourist crawling they were doing. Cray swore he had never in his life seen so many large people, waddling and ogling along the walkways. But swarms of hot guys, visiting Las Vegas for the Labor Day weekend, more than compensated for the constant onslaught of lard asses and beer guts. Both guys would laugh and lightly hit each other when someone - man or woman - looked at them a little longer than usual. The walking tour - from The Mandalay Bay to Caesars Palace - helped define their version of the art of cruising and provided a lesson in fine-tuning their 'gaydar'.
Buffet dinner at Harrah's was the culinary highlight of the day. Although the food was a battle of quantity vs. quality, both felt the prime rib, crab legs and Chinese food were as good as they had ever eaten. Spike had given his younger brother a fifty-dollar bill to pay for dinner and suggested the buffet would more than satisfy two perpetually hungry teenagers. After eating through the lavish food spread for over an hour, Cray suggested they continue down to the Stratosphere Tower for an evening view from the top of the tall, needle-like building. Although it was tempting, he knew better than to suggest they check out one of the thrill rides located above the observation deck, after their big dinner. But he thought it would be fun to see the bold, colorful Vegas skyline at night from this 900 ft. perch and decided to treat Henry. It would be a first for both young men.
Another first - well, almost first - occurred when they returned to Cray's room shortly after 10:00 p.m. In 24 hours, the two had been transformed from shy strangers to friendly confidants. Henry admitted that Cray was the only guy he'd really ever "messed around with" and satisfied orally. He also said he'd never fucked anyone...girl or guy...and wasn't too sure about the best way to do 'it'.
They both removed their briefs while Cray admitted to himself that he was technically a virgin when it came to slipping his dick into a warm hole. He joked about the blind leading the blind, as he stood naked before his new friend. They both tossed their briefs on the carpet and moved towards each other. Cray ground his aroused cock into Henry's hardness as they held each other. The first kisses were more like 'comfort food' than anything else. As much as he wanted this to be special, Cray knew that this moment was primarily about satisfying a craving; two horny, compatible guys wanting to get their rocks off. At the same time, it was an opportunity to learn more about their sexuality without any risk of being criticized in their performances.
"Henry, would you mind if we saved, you know, screwing for another time? I...I'm not sure...if I'm ready for the next step yet." Cray looked into Henry's eyes for some signal. He was relieved when Henry warmly smiled back.
"I'm glad you said that cuz it doesn't feel like the right time for me, either. But I wouldn't mind if we...kinda played around back there with our...fingers."
"What have you got in mind?" Cray asked as his hand gently cupped Henry's balls.
"Kind of explore each other. Spike told me about the prostate that we need to know about and feel what happens when it's touched by someone other than yourself."
"Yeah," Cray replied with a long pause. He didn't want to let Henry know he'd had a similar conversation with Spike. "That sounds okay. In fact, it's brilliant. I've got some stuff - lube - to help out. Guess we won't need the rubbers," Cray replied with a snicker. He kissed Henry again - more of a reassuring peck - and nodded toward the bed. "I'll turn out the lights."
"Um, would you mind leaving the small lamp on? I'd love to take it slower tonight and be able to see what we're doing." Henry scooted over to the center of the bed and watched Cray.
"Good idea. Watching a hot dude doin' things with me would be kinda neat." The idea really turned Cray on but he wasn't prepared to say that just yet.
"My feelings exactly...dude," Henry replied with a snicker. "You're pretty hot, yourself."
"Great minds think alike." Cray turned off the overhead light and switched on the lamp. He opened the bedside stand drawer and pulled out a bottle of Astroglide he'd bought at the local grocery store.
"Before you get in bed, why not grab a couple of towels. If things get a little messy, we'll have them handy to clean up with," Henry replied.
"Good point. Jeez, what are you...some kind of queer boy scout?" Cray laughed and went to the bathroom.
"Man, when I think of all the opportunities I may have missed at camp."
"Think of this as an advanced session, camper," Cray said when he returned. He tossed two towels on the bed and joined Henry. "Taking 'be prepared' to the next step."
"Here's something we could try. Why don't we give each other back massages? And when we get down to the butt, use some lube and go up the chute. I'll rub you down first, if ya want."
"Yeah...I guess. Just let me know when you're going to...go inside. And ya gotta promise that if there's any...dirt there...we don't rag on each other. Deal?"
"Maybe we should take showers or something like that?" Henry asked.
"Buddy, we're doing okay. Just be careful and use the towel if ya need to." Cray flipped over on his stomach, adjusted his erection and slightly spread his legs.
"Let me know when something feels good. Spike said that the prostate's kind of a bump that's wired to your dick. When it's worked just right...all kinds of good things are supposed to happen."
And so it went in round two of Cray and Henry's sexual awareness education. It was a single finger evening and the anal part of the massage did produce some interesting results. Each guy found the other's 'bump' and experimented with feeling and probing the prostate. It was not enough to totally excite an orgasm but the touching did flash 'coming attractions'. When the two quasi-fuck buddies fell asleep, the towels had served their purpose on several occasions.
Next morning, by the time Spike was ready to take Henry to the airport, Cray realized that he had been successful in relating physically with another man. He wasn't sure when he would venture into the final frontier...but he knew that it would be with someone he trusted, and more than simply liked. Henry fell into the 'like' category - but nothing more. On the final goodbye hug, the two promised to call each other and rendezvous in Vegas later in the fall. They traded wistful glances as Spike backed the car out of the driveway.
After cleaning up his room very thoroughly, changing the bedding and doing a large batch of dirty laundry, Cray headed outside. He went through his workout routine, practiced Tai Chi disciplines and swam laps in the pool for the better part of two hours. Satisfied that he had honored his body 'temple' enough, Cray decided to break in his bike and take an afternoon tour of the neighborhood. He also needed to decide on the best route to get to school. 'This is a great time to check out the high school grounds and where to park the bike,' he decided as he went back to his room to change into street clothes. One last check of the city map and he was ready to travel.
The house was still quiet when he pedaled away down the street. Cray wanted to find out how long it would take to get from the house to the school. He thought maybe he'd bike over to Drew and Bob's place just to get a 'lay of the land' after checking out the school area, but before returning to Mario's house. The guys had apologized for not planning anything for Labor Day that included him; they were both working at the hotel. 'No cookouts today,' he thought as he rode through the neighborhood towards the school. The warmish afternoon had a distinct aroma of charcoal grills cooking beef and chicken, some even with the enticing aroma of mesquite, or hickory. Every so often, he'd come by a street crowded with cars parked at a particular house. Adults would be milling around, beers in hand, while younger kids played.
When he arrived at the high school campus, Cray was immediately impressed by the size and architecture...and amused that the school mascot was an alligator. 'How the heck did they choose something like a 'gator' for a school in the middle of the desert?' He stopped his bike and looked at his watch. '15 minutes,' he thought. 'Not bad, and I was moving at a leisurely pace.' He saw a parking lot and figured the bike racks were probably located somewhere nearby. At the far end of the lot, there were several cars and some bikes locked in a rack. 'Wonder why there are people here on Labor Day?' As he rounded a corner of the building, the answer became obvious: the football team was practicing.
Cray slowly rode over to the sidelines and stopped by a couple of teens who were watching the scrimmaging. One guy, standing by himself, was taking notes. Cray figured they were all about the same age. 'Maybe he's in my class?' The guy, with short brown hair, was a little shorter than Cray but seemed just as muscular. Cray dismounted the bike and walked over to him. "Hi. Would you mind me asking why the team is practicing today?" he asked of the note taker.
"Hey," the other guy said as he turned his head slightly. "Our first game is this coming weekend and coach thought the team needed extra practice before everyone goes to pig out at the barbeques. They're about to quit because of the heat. Oh, I'm Tim Woods. You go to school here? I don't recognize you."
"Cray Gamble." He put his hand out and was happy that Tim acknowledged it with a brief shake. "I just moved to Vegas from Utah. Transferring into the junior class."
"Cool. I...just a minute," Tim said as the offensive team broke huddle and ran through a play. As soon as the runner was tackled, Tim scribbled more on his notebook. "I'm a sports reporter for the school newspaper and need some updates for this week's paper. Oh, I'm a junior, too. You got a homeroom?"
"Yeah. 212 and the teacher is Blankenship."
"Then we'll get to know each other real well. That's my homeroom, too, and most of the guys and gals are pretty nice. Well, there are a couple of assholes that's best to stay clear of. You know, the whole macho bullshit bully stuff."
"Jeez. Here, too? In Provo, there were a few turds that seemed to want to make life difficult for some of the others." Cray didn't add that his Tai Chi and Kung fu prowess pre-empted difficulties at the former school.
"See that one guy over there with the two others? He's...one minute...here's the final play." Tim turned and intently watched as the quarterback faded and found a receiver down the field. "That was a beauty. Pure touchdown material," he added as he wrote.
The team huddled around the coach and paid attention to his comments. Cray could not hear what was being said but was close enough to admire a few of the guys in their uniforms. Several had already stripped off their practice jerseys and padding. He waited for Tim to close his notebook before he said, "I'm going to miss the games for a while but the team looks good. I've got a part-time job on weekends." Cray smiled at Tim and thought, 'Yeah...looking real good.'
"We've got a chance to have a good season. Oh, I was going to point out this one guy, but he and his 'goomba' wannabe buddies seem to be coming our way. Just be cool and polite. Vince, the big guy, can be bad news. The others sorta follow him."
"Goomba?" Cray asked with a puzzled expression.
"I'll tell you later." Tim turned and looked at the tall, stocky guy who was approaching with two smaller guys. "Hey, Vince. Good scrimmage...don't ya think? We should win this weekend."
"Timmy Twat. Still hanging around the jocks?" Vince said with a jeer. His two friends found this very funny. "Been sniffing any?" This comment set his friends into hysterical fits.
"Just doing my reporting job, that's all," Tim replied flatly.
"Who's your new boyfriend?" Vince turned to Cray and quickly sized him up.
"New guy in our class. He just transferred in."
"Cray Gamble," Cray said with a smile. He extended his hand and waited for a response.
"I'm not going to touch your faggot hand, asshole. In fact, you're not to touch me...period." Vince stared at Cray and added, "You understand?"
"Perfectly." Cray looked at Vince and his friends. 'Asshole is hardly the way I'd describe him,' he thought. 'But I need to follow Tim's advice...at this point.'
"Whose bike is that?" Vince asked as he pointed to Cray's black Navara.
"Um, mine. Just got it." Cray didn't like that his new bike was now part of the conversation.
"Cool. Think I'll borrow it for a while," Vince said as he lifted the bike. "Benny, put this in your truck. I'll take it back to my place."
"Whoa, man. You're ripping me off and I need that to get home." Cray clenched his fists, held his temper in check and added, "This is my only transportation." He decided that a bike wasn't worth creating a scene by getting into a fight. This would only draw unwanted attention. 'I could clean his friggin' clock if I wanted to,' he thought without revealing his emotions with any facial expression. 'Wait 'til I get all my legal stuff worked out...then, he'll be lunchmeat.'
"Maybe twatface here can give you a lift. I think I may be borrowing this bike for quite a while. You understand, buddy?" Vince glared at Cray and didn't wait for a reply. "Come on, guys. These little girls bore me. Thanks for the loan," he said with a laugh. All three walked back towards the parking lot.
"What the fuck was that all about?" Cray stood there with his mouth standing open.
"You just met Vince Ditello. He pulls shit like this all the time. It used to be worse when we were younger. He'd shake the younger kids down for lunch money. Stuff like that. Cray, I'm really sorry that you became their target and school hasn't even officially started." Tim put his hand on Cray's shoulder and squeezed it. "Let's wait a few minutes before going to the parking lot. It would be wise to be scarce."
"What's with his nickname for you and what the hell is 'goomba'?"
"Shit...that's been my nickname from him since we were in grade school. And 'goomba' is just Italian slang that means guys who are involved, or play they're involved, in the mafia...whatever that is in the 21st century."
"So, I'm just out a bike and that's it. This really pisses me off." Cray replied. He thought it was best not to share any information about his unusual 'home' life in Vegas with Mario.
"My advice is to talk with him when he's by himself - maybe you can reason with him. Vince likes to show off in front of his posse. Tell him you need the bike to get to school. You could complain to the school but then that just opens a can of worms." Tim started walking slowly and waved for Cray to follow.
"I guess. Crap, there goes my way to school," Cray replied as he walked with Tim.
"The least I can do is drive you home. And maybe tomorrow morning we could squeeze you in the car pool I'm with to get to school."
"That...that'd be helpful. Man, what Vince did is really upsetting but we were outnumbered." Cray decided it was best to play the 'humble' card.
"They travel in a pack and I think his intimidation game has had its effect on the class. Most people just avoid him whenever possible. But if something does happen, the general feeling is to cut the losses and just move on. Chances are he decided to make sure you understand you're on his turf. If he were a dog, he'd pee on you. Sick shit, isn't it?"
"Sick and illegal. The school isn't aware of his tricks?" Cray asked. "That 'dog' needs to be taught new tricks."
"Vince has been suspended and reprehended several times through the years. If I had to guess, Vince will probably turn to a life of crime when he grows up." Tim walked over to a Ford 150 and said, "Get in. It's my dad's truck and I need to get it back after I drop you off."
The two guys got in the truck and Cray gave Tim directions to Mario's house. Along the way, he found out Tim had a steady girlfriend of one year and planned on going to college at USC and the Annenberg School of Journalism. As they approached Mario's house, Cray said this was just a temporary address until his family got settled. The vagueness seemed to satisfy Tim and the remainder of the drive centered on school sports and general gossip. They confirmed that the car -a blue Jeep Wrangler - and the crew would be by at 7:45 a.m. Cray waved goodbye and sadly shuffled off to his room.
It had been such a different atmosphere only 12 hours earlier. He collapsed on his bed and had a much-needed cry. 'What the fuck happened?' Cray wondered. 'All of my dreams for a new beginning snuffed out like someone peeing on a campfire. What's that all about?' He replayed the episode at the school and tried to determine if he should have done anything differently. 'I should have kicked Ditello's ass. But I can't afford to call attention to myself.' Slowly, the tears subsided and the hunger pangs of a teenage stomach took over. Cray wiped his eyes and decided to feed his face.
Mario stood in the kitchen, poured white wine into a glass and took a sip. It was only seven in the evening but he was exhausted from the active Labor Day weekend. All of the business interests he supervised had generated major, record-breaking revenues. 'Joe will be very satisfied,' Mario thought, 'when I meet him a little later at the penthouse.' He and Joe Strollo checked out the 'totes' every Monday night on the top floor of the imposing Pompeii Towers condo just off the Strip. The briefcase sat by his legs as he took a second sip.
"Oh, 'hi', Mario," Cray said as he entered the kitchen. "Just want to fix a sandwich."
"Hi, yourself. Something wrong?" Mario looked at the young man and knew that the red, swollen eyes and dour expression reflected some kind of unhappy experience. 'Maybe he and Spike's brother had a spat at the last minute,' he considered.
"It's pretty obvious, isn't it? I...oh, shit...I'm fucked before I even start school." Cray grabbed Mario's free arm and burrowed his head into the shoulder of his mentor. "Someone stole my bike this afternoon and I'm really upset..."
"Slow down, buddy." Mario set down his wine and pulled Cray into a hug. "Let's talk about it?" He kissed Cray on the cheek and added, "You wanna grab a beer and we can go back to the pool?" Mario thought Cray would probably tell him that he'd forgotten to lock the bike and it had been taken. 'Pretty common,' he thought.
"Um, yeah...okay." Cray opened the fridge and found a can of beer. He looked at Mario, shrugged and followed him outside.
"You want to start from the beginning?" Mario asked as he sat down at the closest table by the pool. Under the table, between his legs, was the briefcase. "Go ahead and sit." He gestured and watched his young friend flop down in a chair.
"Well, after Henry left this morning and I got everything cleaned up, I decided to take a bike trip around the neighborhood and find my way to school. You know, figure out the best route."
"Sounds reasonable to me," Mario replied.
"I found Green Valley with no problems and was surprised that the football team was practicing on a holiday. Anyway, I started talking to a really nice guy who's a student sports reporter for the school newspaper when this friggin' asswipe comes up and starts putting down the guy who I was with. Then, this guy, Vince, starts talking to me in a very threatening tone. The next thing I know is he's saying he's 'borrowing' my bike cuz he likes it. When I tell him I need it to get to school, he gives me a F.U. look and asks one of his friends to take it to their truck. They fucking stole it. Well, he said he was going to 'borrow it' but wouldn't tell me when he was going to return it except that it would be a long time." Cray took a deep breath and exhaled. "I didn't fight over it because of the situation here."
"Man, what are these guys...some sort of low-lifes who are preying on our schools?" Mario asked as he sat up.
"Tim, the guy who I was talking with, said they're in our class. Vince, has apparently been a troublemaker for quite a while and is a real un-cool badass."
"Vince. Did you get a last name?" Mario was afraid that he already knew the answer.
"Ditello. Vince Ditello. Apparently this guy has been terrorizing kids for a long time. Tim called him and his friends, 'goomba wannabes'. All I know is that...the fucker stole my bike." Cray looked at Mario and trembled before another outburst of tears flew out. "I just wanted a new...beginning," he stuttered, "and make some new friends."
"Okay, I got the picture. Take a sip of brew and give me a few minutes to figure things out." Mario hoisted his glass and visually urged Cray to raise his can of beer. 'Shit, Vince, Jr., is more of a cretin than I imagined,' he thought as he watched Cray tentatively take a sip of beer. 'I wouldn't wish that juvenile delinquent on my worst enemy.' Mario felt a mixture of anger and sorrow welling inside him.
"Just tell me that you're not mad at me for losing the bike," Cray said, punctuated with a few sniffles. "That's one of the neatest presents I've received in a long time. Maybe ever."
"I'm not mad...just disappointed that this other kid and his friends are being such assholes. Cray, I promise you that by this time tomorrow you'll have the bike back. That's the very least that will happen."
"Wha...what do you mean?" Cray set down his can of beer and leaned forward.
"I know this guy's dad. He needs to be made aware of what his son is up to." Mario knew what he would do as soon as Cray settled down. 'Strollo might have to get involved with this one,' he decided.
"But...I've been told that this animal really holds grudges if he thinks someone has told on him."
"Let me worry about that. You go back to your room and get some rest. You need a ride to school tomorrow?"
"Got it covered. Tim - the kid who's the sports reporter - is in a car pool and I'm being picked up." Cray stood up and put his hands on Mario's shoulders. "Thanks for listening to me. I feel like such a wuss."
"Hardly a wuss." Mario reached up and put his hands on top of Cray's and squeezed. "Now, scoot. Uncle Mario's got a few things to do." He watched a much more relaxed young man walk away.
Dusk was settling and the landscaping lighting turned on as Mario drank the remainder of his wine. He considered this latest problem and the unsaid ramifications of Vince, Jr.'s thug-like actions. 'This kid has been in and out of trouble for years,' he thought. But he also knew that it was a case of the fruit not falling far from the tree. The dad, Vinny 'The Enforcer' Ditello, took care of deadbeats who fell behind in repaying loans or gambling debts. Mario was thankful that he didn't have to interact with The Enforcer; that they both worked for Mighty Joe Strollo was the only thing they had in common. However, he knew that it would be politically wise to call Vince first and attempt to resolve this problem between two lieutenants before bringing Joe into the picture. He picked up his cell phone, looked up Vince's number and dialed.
~~~ "Hey, Cirillo...what's up?"
"A problem that involves your son. You got a minute?"
~~~ "What's Vince supposed to have done, now?" the father asked a little abruptly.
"He, quote, 'borrowed' a guy's bike over at the high school today. The guy, who's someone I consider like a nephew, was stranded after the bike was taken. That's just wrong, Vinny."
~~~ "Hey, the kid was just having some fun...that's all. I'm sure Vince will probably get tired of the bike and give it back at some point. I'm buying him a truck for his birthday next month. So your nephew will just have to wait. Let the boys work it out."
"Vinny, you're not listening to me. The bike was a present from me to my young friend and I want it returned tomorrow...in mint condition."
~~~ "Cirillo, listen up. You may be Joe's number two, but you don't control me. Not going to happen. And certainly not where my son's concerned."
"Then we need to talk in front of Joe. I strongly suggest you show up at the penthouse tonight at 10:00 p.m. Or would you rather have Joe send you a personal invitation?" Mario raised his voice slightly to emphasize the importance of this suggestion.
~~~ "Tell you what, I'll give you a hundred bucks for the bike and leave it at that. Final offer."
"First, the bike cost me much more. And, second, I'm not going to have my 'nephew' starting school tomorrow with Vince, Jr., on his back. A big third is that your son is stirring up shit in our business." Mario knew better than to be specific about any 'business' on the telephone. "We need to talk in person. You going to be there?"
~~~ "Don't get your panties in a twist. I'll be there," were Vinny's last words.
Mario went back to the kitchen and looked into the fridge for some food. Because it was a holiday, Mr. Ed had been given the weekend off and dinner choices were fairly slim. Nothing 'rang his chimes' so he called Joe Strollo to find out if he wanted to have some dinner and talk some serious new business. Joe said that he'd call the Carnegie Deli and have the manager hold the corner booth for them at 8:00 p.m.
Over the course of a shared corned beef sandwich and Greek salad, Mario gave his boss a brief rundown of meeting Cray and what he'd done to help the young man. More thoroughly, he explained the social events of the past 10 days involving Cray and detailed the problems the teen had experienced with Vince, Jr. The boss asked a few questions but mostly absorbed what he'd been told. Joe agreed that Vinny's son needed to be straightened out and discussed a few of the options available. Over coffee and cheesecake, a plan evolved.
Back in the penthouse at the Pompeii Towers, Joe counted Mario's 'tote' and returned ten grand as Mario's take of the weekend action. The high-end escort service was only part of his responsibilities. They were sipping sambuca con mosca when reception called to announce Mr. Ditello's arrival.
"Send him up," Joe said into the phone receiver. He turned to Mario and added, "Let me do the talking. It's better this way...you're both valuable to the organization."
"I understand, boss." Mario purposely walked to the window to enjoy the spectacular view from the 40th floor and stay removed from Vinny's arrival.
"Come in, my brother," Joe said as he opened the door. After a usual ritual of a hug and kiss on the cheek, the two men walked into the living room. "I guess you knew that Mario was going to be here."
"Yeah. Hello, Mario." Vinny stood and waited for Mario to join him.
"Paisano." Mario almost choked on the words as he nodded. Mario knew that Vinny was pulling a power play by still standing but this was going to be a short-lived victory for the older, battle-wise warrior. He joined Vinny and duplicated the physical greeting.
"You want to join us for a drink?" Joe lifted the sambuca bottle on the coffee table and smiled at Vinny.
"Yeah, that's fine."
Joe pointed to the couches and poured the white, licorice-flavored liqueur into a snifter containing three coffee beans. Each man sat down and raised the glasses before silently taking a sip. "Mario said that we have a situation to resolve and I'd like to hear your end of the story," the boss said in a matter-of-fact manner.
"Look. My kid was wrong but it's just a little school squabble. I just think Mario was out of line trying to tell me how to handle discipline in my house." Vinny turned to Mario and stared with a slightly veiled, cold glare.
"Let me pose this question: what would your reaction be if somebody did that to your son?" Joe asked calmly.
"I'd crush their nuts and break a few bones...for openers," Vinny blurted out.
"So what's so unreasonable about Mario - my right hand in operations - calling you because someone he's close to was fucked over by Vince, Jr.?" Joe looked at Vinny with an incredulous expression. "What are you trying to say?" he asked in a much louder voice. "I can't hear you."
Mario felt the last response was similar to a clap of thunder. Joe's trademark was to never show anger or react abruptly. He watched as Vinny changed from an outraged brute to a tranquilized tiger. 'I would never want to be on the receiving end of that anger,' he decided. 'I'm glad we're both on the same team...in a way.'
"Boss, I guess that was a little strong. Maybe I'm being too sensitive cuz this shit just keeps on happening. He's not a bad kid...I don't think. But he's been pulling crap like this since he was little and I don't know what to do. I didn't mean to disrespect you." Vinny turned to Mario, took a deep breath and continued, "Mario, I...I'm sorry. I should have insisted he return that bike immediately. I dunno, maybe I'm not such a red-hot father? He'll have the bike back at school first thing in the morning for your nephew."
"I appreciate that." Mario reached over and shook Vinny's hand. He didn't bother correcting the nephew title. 'Best leave it the way it is.'
"Good. That's for openers." Joe stretched his neck and cracked his knuckles. "Now here's what your kid is going to do tomorrow morning. I want him, that bike, and his friends waiting for the other boy - Cray - when this car pool arrives around 7:45. And you make sure Junior has a nice apology ready. Capiche?"
"That's going to be tough for him to do. My boy isn't wired that way," Vinny replied warily.
"Fucking read my lips," Joe snapped back. "Either your kid gets this squared away or there will be very serious consequences. This isn't just about someone close to Mario - and, therefore, me - getting screwed over by a punk, bambino 'malfatorre'. You listen and listen, good." Joe stood and continued, "First, when that little shithead of yours does things like that, it only draws unwanted attention to us. You understand?"
"Yes, boss," Vinny replied with his head looking down.
"But it's much worse. This civilian - this kid your boy fucked with - is protected by our associate, Mario, and has friends in high places."
"You know him, too?" Vinny squirmed in the couch and stared at Joe. Visible fear crept over his face.
"I'm small potatoes compared to our friends in L.A - who he knows. Plus, he had dinner last week with the son of the big boss back east. Those kinds of 'high places'. Vinny, we've been friends for a long time and hopefully will be for several more years. But having this hothead kid of yours risking what we got is unacceptable. And what we got in Vegas is gold...like printing fucking money. Understand?"
"Uh, yeah, you're right."
"Therefore, I think it's time to send Vince, Jr., off to a military boarding school. At the rate he's going, there will never be room for him in our organization."
Mario watched as tears trickled out of The Enforcer's eyes. Vinny understood that the idea of exporting the kid to a military school was not a suggestion open for discussion.
TO BE CONTINUED
A special acknowledgement to Drew for encouraging me to tell a better story through his edits and suggestions. And a big thanks to Brad for his patient proofreading and editing. Finally, a shout-out to Trab for the final tweaks to get the story 'just right.'
I enjoy receiving email comments. Give me a 'shout out' at firstname.lastname@example.org. My other stories can be found in Nifty's Prolific Authors listings and at www.GayAuthors.org.