Wiggles busted into the room nearly breathless, “We’ve got a bit of a problem, boss.”
Mario didn’t look at him as he said, “I’m busy right now. You had better have a very good reason for bothering me.”
The long pause that followed was almost more irritating than the interruption. Mario was just about to comment as much when Wiggles finally replied, “Unfortunately, I do. Your dad just pulled up.”
Mario’s stare finally broke, and his head snapped toward his breathless general, “What the fuck is Big John doing here?”
“I can only guess,” Wiggles said. His face tightened into a concerned expression as he added, “It looks like he brought some muscle too. Somebody must have told him.”
Mario slammed his right hand down on his desk, “Of course somebody fucking told him. You hired those fucking amateurs. Everybody from here to New York has probably heard about it. We’re going to talk about that when this shit is over.”
“We already have,” Wiggles shrugged. “Vinny was highly recommended. The kid was coming up, hungry.”
“Yeah, too hungry.”
Wiggles’ eyes narrowed as he took a few steps toward the desk and asked, “Are you really trying to dump this in my lap?”
Mario looked up at Wiggles, shrugged, leaned back in his chair, and replied, “Had your boy Vinny taken those kids cleanly, none of this would have happened.”
“Do you really believe that?” Wiggles’ asked, his head slowly shaking back and forth. “You don’t think any of this has to do with you underestimating that bitch?” He shifted uneasily with pursed lips. Tension visibly tightened his shoulders belying the inner debate going on in his head about whether or not he should take the conversation further. The short, internal debate ended with, “Look, I mean no disrespect, but this little cat and mouse game was your idea. You wanted this. Ever since Danny was killed, you’ve been like a father to me. That gives you a lot of rights in my eyes, but not the right to dump your mistakes on me. You should have let me unleash the German on her right off the bat. It would have been clean, and she would be gone. But now…”
Wiggles’ ballsy rant abruptly ended as the door to the room swung open in front of a well-dressed body that fell backward at his feet. Two suits followed in behind him. Both had heads poking out of them that had been hardened to stone by sixty or so years of not taking any shit. An electric wheelchair rolled in behind the two rhinos in pinstripes. The old man sitting in that chair resembled a corpse that hadn’t been told he was dead. Everything about the old shape from the expensive suit that didn’t fit so well to the scraggly hair that would no longer stay in place looked like it belonged in a casket, everything but the eyes. Those were sharp and filled with murderous intent. The electric wheelchair stopped at the feet of the well-dressed fellow that had been used to bust the door in.
One of the rhinos picked the barely conscious shape up off of the floor, tossed it back into the hallway and grunted, “Get the fuck out of here.”
Mario stood up out of his chair and opened his mouth to speak. Before a word could leave his lips, however, Big John Rosatti – the old form in the chair – said, “What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” The force behind the words didn’t match the weakness that the crumpled, old shape delivering them suggested.
A scowl spread across Mario’s face as he forced his reply out through clenched teeth “Dad, this is my fucking house. What the fuck do you think you’re doing?”
Big John ignored the question as he sat up straighter in his chair and said, “I’ve told you several times that I am not your father when we’re working, I’m your fucking boss.”
Mario sat back down in his chair, glanced over at the reflection in the window, and chuckled, “You haven’t run this family in ten years.”
“Oh no? Who do you think has been nursing all of the relationships that have made this family so strong while you’ve been doing your best to destroy them? Every bad decision you make jeopardizes what I’ve spent my life building.” His tone mellowed a bit as he continued, “And this fucking thing you’ve got going right now with the daughter of that fucking mick’s bastard, you’re acting like some rogue capo. This ain’t the fucking ‘20s, kid. You can’t leave corpses all over the street. You’ve got bodies lying all over this fucking state for Christ’s sake. Our friends aren’t happy. What the fuck…” Big John’s rant was cut short as a coughing fit doubled him over in his chair.
A grin slithered onto Mario’s face, coiling up above his chin. He shot a subtle wink at Wiggles. A moment later, both of the rhinos that had busted into the room with big John were lying on the floor with pools of blood expanding beneath their shattered skulls. Wiggles had done the one to Big John’s right and Mario had taken the one to his left after slipping out the .45 he kept holstered under his desk. Everything happened so fast that neither of the meatheads had a chance to reach for their guns.
Big John’s coughing fit continued long after the echoes of both gun shots had ceased. By the time he regained his composure, the barrel of his son’s gun was staring at him in front of a smirk soaked with too much malice to be considered simply arrogant. It was void of humor, filled with equal parts anger and hatred. A strong shot of adrenaline made the near ninety-year-old forget the pain that standing or walking caused his deteriorating limbs as he nearly leapt from his wheelchair and crossed the five feet to Mario’s desk in one stride. His fists pounded the desk as he shouted, “Have you lost your mind?” The words flew from his lips amid long strings of thick spittle. The skin on his cheeks trembled as he continued, “Are you taking me on? You want a fucking war? You pull that fucking trigger, and your life won’t be worth the spit on my fucking chin. You’ll be dead within a week.”
Mario laughed. Not the polite kind of laugh a person makes when patronizing someone who has said something intended to be funny that really isn’t, but the kind of gut twisting laugh that only something truly funny can hope to elicit. He kept his eyes trained on big John as he lowered his gun, composed himself, and said, “I’m not going to kill you, dad. I’ll tell you the same thing that you’ve been telling me since I was twenty-five. We share blood. That fact is the only thing keeping you alive right now. If you didn’t have my blood flowing through your veins, I’d be spilling it all over the fucking marble.” Mario shook his head as a more natural smile slipped onto his face, “No, dad. I wouldn’t shoot you, but I can’t have your boys getting in the way of my boys and fucking up my show either. I want you to sit down, relax, and watch me finish what you couldn’t. You want that bitch dead as much as I do. Fuck, you’d have killed Jackie if you could have found him. I mean,” he chuckled before finishing with, “look what you did to Capricia and her brother, Christopher.”
Big John’s form shrunk as his adrenaline rush wore off. He stumbled back toward his chair and flopped into it. His gaze fell to the floor as he said, “You’re right about that.” Then his eyes rose to meet Mario’s as his stony expression returned and he added, “But I would have had the shit done clean. I ain’t going to be around much longer. You’re going to destroy everything that I’ve built.”
“This will pass,” Mario shook his head. “Once it has, I’ll work on mending fences. By the time Alyssa is ready to take the helm, this thing will be stronger than it’s ever been.”
“What?” Big John’s eyes narrowed. “That bitch has that mick’s blood running through her fucking veins. You would slap me in the face like that?”
“She’s got my blood running through her veins too. You’d rather I put Sophie in that seat? You want a dyke running this family? I don’t believe that for a minute.”
“I don’t. It doesn’t matter what I want anyway. You’re finished and my line is done. You’ll probably end your days in prison anyway,” Big John slapped both of his hands down on the arms of his wheelchair and straightened from his slouch. “No, this little game of yours is our last hoorah, what a pathetic finish to a grand run. My younger brother has a grandson. He’s a good boy. They’re sending him over to clean up your mess and get this shit back in order. You’ll be taking orders from him if you don’t get pinched over this shit.”
“You’re crazy or fucking senile if you think I’m just going to roll over, old man,” Mario spit through the scowl that had returned to his face. Then he looked over at Wiggles and said, “Get him out of here, and get somebody to take this old sonofabitch downstairs. Make sure he’s safe, but make sure he can’t cause any fucking trouble. I don’t want any more of his people here.”
Wiggles nodded, “You’ve got it, boss.”
Big John looked up as Wiggles’ hands grabbed the handles of the wheelchair, “Get your fucking hands off of my chair. You’d better not forget who you take your orders from.”
“I’m sorry, Big John,” Wiggles replied quietly. “I take my orders from Mario.”
Big John turned his head back toward Mario and said, “You’re going to regret…”
The threat never came as a series of explosions lit up the sky outside of the window and shook the room hard enough to shatter the windows. The reflections of the office fled among bits of broken glass rocketing into the room and coating it and all its inhabitants in something that resembled crushed chunks of ice. Wiggles nearly lost his feet as the floor rumbled and shook in response to the house’s shaking foundation. In all, there had been a total of five explosions. Three of them had obviously been cars parked in the circle drive outside the office window. The twisted, burning remnants of them were easy to see since the glass had been blown out of it. The other two had come from the other side of the house. As a bewildered Mario brushed bits of glass out of his hair and picking up tiny nicks and cuts in the pads of his hands, he assumed them to be the guest and boat houses. Somebody was going to pay.
While the shock slowly – almost grudgingly – slipped away, he looked into the twisted, confused expression painted on Wiggles’ face and shouted, “Get him downstairs, and then figure out what the fuck just happened. I can’t believe that bitch has this kind of firepower. She has to be working with somebody.”
Mario looked into his father’s eyes as Wiggles wheeled the old man backward out of the room. Buried somewhere deep within the shock that matched what was sitting on both Wiggles’ and Mario’s faces was the essence of a smile. Mario scowled. That old sonofabitch would love watching him fail, watching him crumble, witnessing what Mario knew that bastard always believed, that Mario Rosatti would never be half of the man that Big John Rosatti had been. Fuck him. He would show that old bastard the man he was by finishing what that used up sonofabitch never could. Stiletto Rose would die, and the only memory of the darkest chapter in Big John’s life would be Alyssa, the knife that would stab into that decrepit corpse’s stomach until it finally realized that it was dead.
Once Big John was out of the room, Mario ran over to the window. As soon as his hands gripped the pane tiny bits of shattered glass dug in and embedded beneath his skin. Before his brain had a chance to register any pain from his flesh being torn up, gunfire erupted in front of the big house and grabbed all of his attention. Four of his men were shooting at targets somewhere in the darkness beyond the burning cars. Based on the small, bright flashes lighting up that darkness, there were three of them. That bitch definitely had help. He would have to let the boys play and get Alyssa the hell out of there.