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Dinner at Russo's
The piece is a different twist on the crime/gangster genre, as well as how to tell a story as it's limited setting and odd story structure leads for what should be an exciting read.
Dinner at Russo’s
End of the Night
Tony didn’t want to hear anymore from Al. He was sick of it. His Cuban blood was boiling. He would never rat to the police. Tony was pissed enough that his half of the deal just got wasted away as the cops were there, waiting on some of their boys. Tony didn’t know what Al’s problem was. How could he be so untrustworthy. Tony would never ever betray him. He couldn’t believe it. He put on his best white suit on, the button shirt underneath the jacket open of course, allowing the world to see his gold necklace hanging. It was all for what? To hear Al scream and yell and him and Michael trying to figure out who the rat was? Where the hell did Michael even go? Tony made his way through the parking lot in the dead of night, the moonlight guiding him as he opened the door to his Porsche 944. Suddenly a flash shined brightly around him and a bang erupted through the air. Tony could recognize that sound anywhere. Before Tony could react, he felt sharp pain in his back. He fell into his car and turned, staring directly down the barrel of a gun, the smoke still rising off of it. Tony spit at the shooter in the night before being struck again and again, Tony was killed in cold blood.
Tony sat himself down at the table, smiling as he looked at Michael and Al who were already enjoying some pasta. “I see you bastards didn’t wait for me,” he chuckled as the waiter pulled his seat out for him, pushing it in once Tony was seated.
“I thought there weren’t any dogs allowed in here,” Michael spoke as he took a bite of his salad.
“Haha,” Tony faked as he pulled a cigarette from his pocket. “Got a light, anyone?” Michael rolled his eyes as he pulled a lighter from his jacket pocket and tossed it to him. “Thanks, pal.”
“You hungry, Tony?” Al spoke, his deep voice intimidating anyone near. His practically black eyes, black hair slicked back, and 6 foot 4 frame helped slightly too.
“How about some of that great spaghetti you got here?” Tony looked around, seeing all the other tables at Russo’s were empty. “There’s nobody here?”
“Wow, nothing gets by you,” Michael snickered as he took a sip from his water. Tony glared at him as he tossed his lighter back.
“Tonight is all about important business,” Al began, towering in his chair as he pulled out a cigar and match, lighting it and putting the flame out with his gigantic fingers. “I rented the whole place out. Russo ain’t even here. We have some important things to discuss, and both you boys know what it is about.” Tony and Michael slightly sunk in their chairs. They did know what it was about. Michael fixed his greasy black hair as he let out a nervous breath. “I’ll let you enjoy your meals for a little bit, but business is business.” Michael nodded as he finished his salad, gulping the rest of it down. He could feel the fork nearly slip out of his palms, they were becoming so sweaty. Al was not in the greatest of moods, and he could sense it. He could sense it the moment he walked in.
Michael got out of the cab he pulled up in. He was already mad enough that he was called here, but then he found out his ex wife Melissa took his damn car. He was meeting with Al and the last thing he wanted to do was show up in a taxi. It made him feel weak. It didn’t take much however. Al towered over everyone. His eyes pierced your soul, choking it while you nodded in agreement no matter the terms. Michael did his best to counter the balance of dominance. Al slicked his hair back, not wanting to copy, Michael slicked it to the side. The difference was necessary. Michael also wore a black button shirt, button halfway, the gold chain his mother gave him for his 21st birthday hanging, his birthdate carved in the gold. She didn’t have much, and she didn’t approve of the cartel life he was in, but she loved him through thick and thin. He would eventually get out of this life for her, but for now he of course would still pay her rent. His black pants not too tight and his black dress shoes brightly shined.
A cough from the driver who had his window down and hand open, palm facing up waiting for Michael to weigh it down knocked him out of his endless circle of thought. Michael tossed the money through the front window, the coinage bouncing from the dash to the middle counsel. After delivering a middle finger, the driver sped off. Michael cussed the driver off, but the screeching of the tires muted him.
He took a deep breath and walked towards Russo’s. There weren’t any cars in the parking lot meaning Al must have rented the place out and parked in the back. Michael shuffled his feet to the front door. His hand reached out for the handle, however because of the violent shaking he was currently suffering from he had to take a pause. “Keep it calm, Mike. It’s just Al. He knows you got nothing to do with it.” Michael had known Al for years. They had run the streets together as teenagers, back when everyone was so concerned about Watergate. Things began to change for them in the early 80’s, when Jimmy Carter was trying to improve relations with Cuba, a Cuban refugee arrived in their lives, named Tony. Michael never had a problem with Tony, what he had a problem with was Tony’s lack of respect. Tony thought he knew everything.
Michael shook his head. Sure the deal went wrong, but he couldn’t be the one to blame. He hummed his new favorite song by Lionel Richie as he pulled the door opened and walked into the lion’s den.
Tony’s Start of the Night
Tony slammed the phone down, and ripped the cord out of the wall. “What is wrong, Tony?” Tony turned at the girl he had picked up. He didn’t remember her name but who the hell did she think she was? Tony turned at her, his veins popping out of his neck and sweat running down his forehead like a waterfall. Tony stormed up to her before letting out a wave of air. He lightly chuckled, wiping the sweet from his forehead and running his hands through his jet black shaggy hair. He adjusted his gold watch and loosened his tropical button shirt, brushing his wet palms on his khaki pants.
“What’s wrong?” Tony asked, cocking his head to the side. The nameless woman nodded. “I don’t even know your f'ing name,” Tony calmly said, “why do you care?” Tony stormed out of the living room and into his bed room, slamming the door behind him. He didn’t have time for this. Al called him, and had the audacity to claim there was a rat. There was no rat and Tony was sure of it. He only wanted to look out for Al. Al had brought him in, taken him under his wing. He sided with Tony when Al, Michael and he were ready to take their business to the next level. Unfortunately, it had only been a couple of months into their new branch and hiccups were already on the scene, and big ones at that.
Al had asked him to Russo’s for a company meeting. He would have to look his best. There would be plenty of yelling and screaming between the two Italians and the Cuban about what would happen, but it was always in good fun and for the benefit of the business. Tony would smooth things over. Big deal if they lost some merchandise and some of their crew. People were begging to do business. No other person wanted to mess with them. They ran the streets. Orlando was theirs. Tony, a little more calm, looked at the clock. He prepared himself, his white suit would have to do the trick.
Michael’s Start of the Night
Michael watched as sirens blared past him as he slowly walked down the sidewalk. He checked his watch. The deal should have just ended. Tony was the one who wanted them to enter the world of drugs. Michael didn’t like that world. He had only heard horrible things, but there was nothing he could do. Al bought the pitch Tony sold him, and that was that. Michael gulped, he didn’t like the fact the cops sped past. He jumped the moment his pager went off. Michael scanned the streets, looking for a payphone. He nearly fainted when he saw the number, it was Al’s.
Michael sprinted across the street, darting into the payphone, his hands rattling as he searched for coins. He always kept some just incase something like this would happen. His fingers burnt as he pushed each button one at a time to call Al back. “Hey, Al, it’s me.”
“Michael, the deal went south,” Al spoke deeply.
“Wha-what? How could that be?” Michael shook his head back and forth. He couldn’t wrap his mind around the fact their first big deal was blown up and crash landed before it could ever really get off of the ground.
“The cops were waiting there for them. It’s a good thing we sent the lackies, but that doesn’t mean I’m gonna let this one go. Someone must have ratted us out.”
“But who would do that? No one wants to touch us?”
“Don’t know for sure. Meet me at Russo’s tonight at 7. Tony will be there too. We will figure this whole thing out,” The phone clicked before Michael could respond. Michael knew Tony a long time, and Al wasn’t like Tony, who when he was mad you could tell even if you were a couple hundred yards from him, Al was more reserved, but Michael could tell he wasn’t in the best of moods.
Michael hung up the phone and began his walk back to his house. His ex-wife had kicked him out, but after this, he didn’t care what she said, he was taking the house back. However Michael knew his strength would soon fade, because Al was going to eat him up.
The Main Course
There was silence until Tony’s spaghetti was set down in front of him. He leaned over his plate and took a deep breath, taking it all in. “Oh man, I wish my ma cooked this good,” Tony grabbed his fork and dug in. He was used to the various seafood items that now made him ill. He had eaten so much of it at the Cuban refugee camps he would be fine if he never saw it again. In fact, Al and Michael got him into food from Italy. Not that fake stuff, Tony would tell his mother over the phone, it was the real deal.
Tony was eating his spaghetti so intently he barely noticed the death stare Al was giving him. Tony sat up straight, noodles hanging from his mouth like a climber on a mountain. “Sorry,” he spoke his mouth full.
“Tony, I want you to enjoy your food, it makes me happy when you do,” a smile widen across Al’s face which allowed Tony to relax, only to watch it transform into a frown to end all frowns. “But this is important, damn it!” Al slammed his fists against the table, causing everything sitting on top of it to launch into the air like a blast off, including Michael in his chair who slightly jumped at the thundering sound of Al’s fists. “Our first big deal, and the cops are waiting on it? Am I the only one who finds something wrong with that? No one else is questioning this but me?” Michael shook his head as Tony set down his fork, swallowing the rest of the spaghetti in his mouth before wiping his hands on a napkin and leaning back, trying to lighten the mood.
“Al, I will look into it, all right? You’ve done so much it is the least I can do,” Tony went to get back to eating, hoping he had fixed the problem and ended the conversation, but Al cut him off.
“Bullshit,” Al said it calmly but he might as well have flipped the table. “I said business is business, and now we are going to talk business.”
“Well what exactly happened at the drop point?” Michael asked, hesitant at first hoping Al would bite his head off for asking.
“From what I heard from our guys on the inside, they have known about this deal for about a week, but told very few. They were hoping to catch us there. They know we have moved up into drugs, and if they catch us, they have enough for life sentences.” Al took a deep breath, putting out the rest of his cigar and resting his hands on the table. “You two are my closest pals, and no one but us has known that we were going to do this deal for that long.”
“And I damn sure doubt the Moretti’s would rat on us,” Michael spoke, his voice becoming dry. With Tony he could mess around and insult him all he wanted. He was like the older brother in that aspect. When it came to Al though, he would never even think about throwing a joke his way. It would end up being his last words if he ever said one.
“That’s what I was thinking,” Al nodded at Michael, “So that means someone at this table was trying to put us under and get out free.” Tony shook his head, his spaghetti on the plate no longer in his train of thought.
“Don’t tell me, don’t f'ing tell me you think I did this!” Tony looked back and forth from Al and Michael, trying to read their expressions, but their face didn’t change. “Oh you stupid fs! Al, you really think I would turn on the two people that made me something! Huh!” Tony again waited for Al to say something or make some gesture, but he remained as still as a statue. “It was that prick right there!” Tony leaned way out of his seat, sticking his finger in the face of Michael, who merely just glared at him. “This f'er has been jealous of me taking his spot! He’s jealous that you couldn’t give a shit about him anymore because I’m you’re number one guy!”
“Keep telling yourself that you Cuban jackass!” Michael couldn’t keep it in anymore. He and Tony always had playful bickering but it had finally reached the next level. He slapped Tony’s finger out of his face and stood up.
“Look who is a man after all,” Tony flipped the table over and grabbed Michael, dragging him down to the ground. They each tried to get punched in, but were pulled apart by two men that Al must have had standing by.
“Would you two quit it. This is just suppose to be business,” Al spoke, attempting to be the best peacekeeper he could be. Michael fixed his shirt while Tony made sure his gold chain was still on. “Now sit down and please act like mature adults instead of f'ing kids!” Tony and Michael quickly sat down, listening to every word Al spoke like a child does their parent after acting poorly. “Someone fix this table.” The two men who pulled them apart returned, placing the table upright and quickly placing new table cloths and cups on the top. “Would you like more spaghetti, Tony.”
Michael’s Alone Time
Michael walked into the main dining room of Russo’s, seeing Al already seated and smoking away on a cigar. He slowly approached him before being stopped by a man that practically came out of nowhere. The man patted him down before motioning for him to join Al at the table.
When Al felt Michael’s presence, he stood, pulling him into a tight hug. Michael did understand the hug. None of them were a real hugging type. “Please, Michael, sit.” Michael did so, attempting to get comfortable in his seat when Al moved a glass of water over to him. “You thirsty?” Michael shook his head. “Well anyway, thanks for coming. Tony should be here shortly. This is obviously a serious matter.”
“Yeah, I completely understand, I just don’t know how something like this could have happened?” Michael shook his head as he looked off. Al looked worried and nervous and he never did. Ever since they were kids on the streets, selling stolen tickets to various events he had never seen Al nervous. Even when cops talked with them or walked by, he was as cool as cool can be. But now, he looked like a wreck. Michael watched as Al finished his cigar and called a man over, asking him for a pasta, the man then running off.
Al turned and smiled at him. “I got a salad for you, I know you are trying to get away from pasta.”
“Thank you,” Michael said. Al appeared to be starting to relax. Michael figured he would eventually get back his intimidation factor and Michael would then be forced to a weaken state, but now that the odds felt even, Michael wanted to bring up a topic. “You think Tony is behind it?”
“What?” Al asked, shocked Michael spoke.
“Tony, do you still trust him? I mean he was pushing for us to...”
“Hey, I trust Tony as much as the next guy. You should too. Don’t you remember all he has done for us. We’re here to figure out what happened, not through anyone under the bus. This is a serious matter and I don’t plan on jumping the gun on anything. We will just see what he has to say, then see what you have to say, understand?” The intimidation was back. Michael sunk into his chair, only being able to pull himself up and out of it when Al turned due to the fact his pasta had arrived. Michael looked at his salad and began eating. Tony was a good guy, he trusted him, but something felt off. Michael went to take another bite when he heard the door open, and the bell above it ring. Tony had arrived.
Tempers had appeared to cool once they had sat in silence for a while. They each looked at each other, quickly exchanging looks. “I’m not saying either of you did it, “ Al spoke softly, which surprised both Tony and Michael. “But something had to have happened for word to get out, and we just need to figure out what so it doesn’t happen again.
“I’m telling you both,” Tony spoke, the frustration in his voice still present like a cold, “I didn’t do nothing to mess with this deal.”
“Neither did I, Al, I promise you. You know I would never do anything to...” Al put up his hand, silencing Michael. Al let out a sigh. Michael could feel the sweat dripping off him like a leaky sink. He rubbed his nose to find blood on his hand. Al turned and noticed the blood, handing him a napkin.
“Why don’t you run to the bathroom, we will continue this when you get back.” Michael nodded and headed off towards the bathroom.
Tony was breathing heavy. He didn’t want to fight Michael, but it seemed tensions were too high. They just lost a lot of money and the cops were even hotter on their tail. They had some close calls recently, but never busted. Whoever was attempting to catch them was pretty close. Al watched Tony was his eyes wandered around the room. “You think Michael did it, Tony?” Tony’s eyes darted to Al in shock. He was nearly at a loss for words.
“For real?” Tony glanced towards the back hall that lead to the bathroom. No Michael in sight yet.
“Of course. I want to know what you think.”
Tony shrugged and sat up a little more in his chair, feeling the pressure of this conversation. “I don’t think Mike has it in him, if I’m being honest. I only said it in the heat of the moment.”
“Did you really though,” Al didn’t even bother to look back at the bathroom door to see if Michael was returning. He only looked into the eyes of Tony, trying to read him. “Every idea must have some truth to it, right?”
“I’m not really sure. I’m no rat, Al, that is all you need to know. Maybe one of your other boys overheard something.” Tony shifted again in his chair, every position becoming too uncomfortable for him to handle as Al drove into him. He had an interview like this once when he wanted to enter the United States. The men there asked and asked and asked and he answered countless time various questions. He was tough so it didn’t bother him, but that didn’t mean he didn’t feel the pressure.
“I remember when I first bumped into you on the streets of Orlando. You said you could play ball with the pros, and you were so damn good you sold me on it without doing a thing.” Al chuckled to himself as he peered up at the ceiling. “I thought, how can someone be that good? Then I sent you off on your first test. You nailed it like it was nothing. Then another and another. And even when they turned bad, you had it in you to turn it around and deliver the money and the goods.” Tony nodded. He didn’t see where Al was going with this, but he didn’t like the tone in his voice. It was a tone he didn’t think he ever heard Al speak in before. “You were really something. It’s funny being as good as you are you didn’t want to go along for this first deal, you know?”
“What are you getting at, man?”
“Hey, it’s alright. How rude of me, we were talking about Michael. You think he did it?”
Tony shook his head, his shaggy hair flopping around his head. “No, no he didn’t.”
“Did you, Tony? Did you rat on us, on me?” Tony launched up out of his seat, ready to flip the table again but something inside held him back from doing so.
“No, I can’t believe this! F this man, and f you!” Tony fixed his white overcoat and walked towards the exit. “Enjoy this asshole, Michael!” He yelled, hoping Michael could hear him from in the bathroom. “He don’t trust no one. Take your little operation, I don’t want a part of it no more.” Tony swore under his breath as he walked out the door. “Espero que toda tu operación caiga en la tierra.”
Al sat there and dropped his head. Tears slowly formed within his eyes but he wiped them away. No one could be allowed to see them.
Michael’s Bathroom Break
Things had gotten way too heated. Michael ran the water, doing his best to wash the blood from his hands and nose. He wish he could go back and change the whole thing. Maybe even go back and stop the deal. He doubted Tony really ratted on them, it just wasn’t in his nature and his blood. He was loyal. Loyal like a dog and Michael always respected that. If he was Al he would never question Tony, but he wasn’t. Al took his business serious. Too serious at times. Michael knew what few did, and that was that Al gave up a family for this life. A wife and great children. He let them go. That was heartbreaking and that was dedication. Michael didn’t understand the decision, but again, he respected it. Michael tried to have a wife and live the life of a modern day gangster, but it didn’t work. His wife would rather go find someone more like Dustin Hoffman, or Al Pacino, maybe De Niro. He just wanted to be like those guys, but he really wasn’t. He wasn’t a character, he was real. He felt pain.
Michael looked up in the mirror, at the shell of his former self. The strong kid on the street, not the broken man who looked back. “Who the hell are you?” Michael asked the reflection, the reflection asking it back. Michael frowned and spit in the face of the man looking back. “What have you become? A failure?” Michael shook his head. “What would your mother say? Is this what she wanted?” Michael grabbed paper towel and wipped the tears streaming from his face. He gave himself a few slaps. “Get it together.”
Unknown to Michael, one of the men from early slowly creaked open a stall door, a knife tight in his hand. Michael was too busy looking at himself in the mirror. His broken self in the mirror. The man grew closer, twirling the knife in his hands. Michael shook his face, ready to get back out there, ready to face Al, look him in the eye, tell him the truth. Michael’s back was introduced to the knife.
Al sat in the large room he called the dining room. The windows allowing the bright sunshine to flood through. Al sat in a robe, just exiting the shower, the unexpected visiter across from him. “What do you want?” The man smiled widely, tapping his fingers on the table.
“What do you want?” The man was not afraid of Al, no matter the deepness of his voice or how straight he sat.
“It’s a nice strong table, you know. Was thinking about buying myself one.” The man chuckled as he noticed Al’s face growing red. He pulled the chair in closer, leaning towards Al. “I see you just want to get to business, and I understand,” Al nodded his head, finally relaxing his face muscles for the time being. “Your two boys, Tony and Michael I believe are their names?” Al nodded, the man returning it with a mutal understanding. “They need to go.”
“Al, if you want us to leave your family alone, you have to shut down the business, you have to tie up loose ends, you have to vanish. These two will want to carry it on.”
“I looked in your file down at the station. A wife and two kids. How sweet. I just can’t seem to wrap my head around the fact you let them go,” Al stiffened up, his fist clenching tightly, his nails cutting into his hands. “You could be one happy family now. I don’t mean to put you between a rock and a hard place, but there is word of a home invasion that might occure near their current residents.”
“I wouldn’t. But someone would. We can’t let that happen, can we?” Al shook his head, grinding his teeth together so hard he was afraid they might chip or plainly just snap out of his mouth. “I’ll drop two men off at Russo’s tonight after your ‘deal’ gets ‘busted.’”
“Simple. Invite your friends, do whatever you want, and my men will do the rest.”
“Do you have to kill them?”
“I doubt you can find another way to make them want to piss on the empire you’ve built.”
Al glared at the man, thinking hard and long. He trusted Tony and Michael more than anyother people in the world. He had to do something to keep them alive.
Closing Up Shop
Al heard the gunshot go off in the parking lot. He sprinted out of his chair, and out the door. A car sped out of sight and Al’s attention was turned to the lifeless Tony. Al nearly passed out. Everything he did to make sure they would live, and he was set up. They were never going to spare Tony. Al then relized what must have happened to Michael. Blindsided in the bathroom. Thunder cracked and rain began to poor down. Al dropped to his knees. Everything that remained by his side thick and thin gone within an instant. He bowed his head and sobbed. Sobbed so loud he never heard the car that sped away turn back around to close up shop.