“What are you going to do with the rich one?” He opened the little gun, popping the clip.
I shrugged. “She can stay around if she wants. I can handle two. What are you doing?”
I took the gun away and put it back on the counter. I knew all too well what Theresa was capable of, even with an empty gun.
“I need a favor from you,” I said. “If something happens to me, I want you to watch after Theresa.
“Why would something happen to you?” Zo was never the most fruitful tree in the orchard.
“I’m the last one. And if I don’t take this Irene girl, Bortolusi doesn’t have any real competition. Donna Maria’s going to have to handle it herself, along with Paulie and the other camorra bosses who spend more time fighting than making money.”
“Well, nothing’s gonna happen to you.”
“Well, if something does, you take care of Theresa, or I will come back from the dead and make you a very sorry man.”
“In that case…”
“I trust you, Lorenzo. I want you to know that. Next to Paulie, you were the guy I trusted most.”
“Paulie didn’t work out so good.”
“So, don’t fail me. Don’t fail me.”
I didn’t mean to be fatalistic, but it was hard not to be. There would come a time when the father I’d just hung up with, who I hadn’t known the first decade of my life and who’d always had my best interests at heart, despite everything, would write me off as dead. And the friend here, in front of me, who was building and rebuilding my life, would be unreachable.
I was making the project seem easy to Theresa, and it wasn’t. That decision was going to break her heart before it healed her.
“Something going on, Spin? Something you can tell me?”
“Yeah, and I think I need your help. I can’t do it by myself. But I need to trust you. You need to take this to the grave.”
“Okay.” He seemed unsure.
I snapped a drawer open and took out a knife.
“No, no, no. Come on man…”
I cut the web between my left thumb and forefinger, drawling blood.
“Give it here,” I said, holding my right hand out. Zo gave me his hand, and I cut it. We shook with our left hands, a mirror image of gentle society.
“On San Gianni, do you swear silence?” I asked.
“I swear it on the five stars of the river.”
I let his hand go and yanked off a paper towel.
“You cut deep,” he said. “What the fuck?”
“Forza, my friend. You’re going to need it.” I unrolled a towel for myself. I felt relieved to have his help. I couldn’t prepare the way without him, because there were two paths. Theresa and I needed out path secured, even though it wouldn’t never be tread. And I needed another path. It needed to be a separate one, yet connected at the beginning, with props and plans and a clear way for me, and me alone.
Because she wouldn’t be coming with me.
We ended up at Sheila’s most holidays. She had the children, and apparently their schedules held places in the pantheon. The Goddess Tina of the Late Naps needed a sacrifice, as did Evan, God of the Special Diet, and Kalle, Goddess of I Will Only Go Wee In My Own Pink Princess Bathroom.
It was easiest to just go to into Palos Verdes. Anyone who couldn’t make it just didn’t make it. It was impossible to herd eight siblings anyway, even if Daddy had tacitly agreed to be someplace else for a business function.
RPV, as it was called, was set deeply west and south on the map, and was practically inaccessible by more than one freeway, making it unmanageable for even the richest commuter with an actual job. A famous movie director’s wife had started her own RPV-based Montessori school in her basement just to avoid having to bring her equally famous children to the Montessori school over the hills. Sheila described it as strictly a matter of geographical convenience. The children within a two-mile radius joined in, walking to school in packs and creating a true neighborhood enclave of a type that had once been the American norm, but with more money involved than most people would see in seven lifetimes.
Sheila answered the door, her more-blonde-than-red hair disheveled, cut into a bob, flip-flops showing off a weeks-old pedicure. She didn’t even say hello when I was beset by children, their red-topped heads bobbing and swaying like the flames on birthday candles.
“Did you bring wine?” Sheila asked when I got through the door. Tina had latched onto my leg and insisted on being carried on my foot.
I handed my sister the bottle, and she snapped it from me with one hand while picking an oatmeal-crusted plastic spoon off the floor with the other.
“The turkey didn’t make it.” Her Pilates-toned ass worked the yoga pants as we walked toward the kitchen. “I’m having one brought in.” Sheila’s voice rose and fell in a childlike singsong, often ending sentences in a question. But underneath that sweet exterior rolled incredible rage. Pushed the wrong way, she reacted with blinding, illogical anger. So she didn’t let much get to her anymore, or she’d lose control.
“What happened?” I asked.
“Dog got it.” She swung her hand has if it didn’t matter. “The mess was anthemic.”
“Like an anthem. It’s the new ’epic.’ Only Jon’s here so far. Alma?” She turned to her helper, barking instructions in Spanish. The kitchen was indeed a mess, but without the usual holiday smell of good cooking. Just the food. All product, no process.
I heard men outside and saw Jonathan with David. My brother was instructing his nephew on the proper windup for some pitch, using an orange as a prop. The kid pitched it into the yard. I slid the door open.
Jon picked another orange off the tree and lobbed it to David. “You’re opening your hips too soon, so you’re getting zero power from the lower half of your body.”
“Hey,” I said. “Whatcha doing?”
“Basics. Again,” David said, winding up.
“Wait, wait. This whole thing is in the hips. That’s why you kick your leg. So don’t forget to turn them.”
David wound up and pitched into a tree about fifty feet away. The orange smacked against the trunk, bouncing off and landing in a pile of half-green oranges collecting on the grass.
“That’s in the stands. You just took out Jack Nicholson. He’s going to sue your ass.”