“Yes. And it’s a problem. A big problem, because it makes them too big, now. And Donna Maria Carloni needs to answer it or get crushed. She has a granddaughter, raised in Sicily, a good match for a nice Neapolitan boy.”
“Do not even tell me you’re short-listed.”
He smiled. “They have someone. Nice boy. Little stupido, but he’ll do for her.”
“And what’s your job in all this?”
“My job is to fuck you until the neighbors think I’m murdering you.”
I kissed his cheek, his chin, his lips. He was erect in less than a minute, and when he carried me to the bedroom, I fell into a suit of armor.
I’d gotten used to helicopters. I’d seen them in Napoli as they blasted along the coast, taking tourists along the beach or finding lost boats. But helicopters—Los Angeles style, with their low circles over a block or house—were a different experience.
The first time I’d been exposed to the loud thup-thup-thup, I’d been near LAX, having just gotten off the plane in order to do the dirty business of avenging my sister’s rape with certain death.
“It’s called a double-double,” Paulie said. I didn’t know him yet. He was just the guy who’d met me at the airport and driven me to a restaurant for a hamburger.
“It’s huge.” I held the humungous thing in one hand and a soda, which was also too big, in the other. In Napoli, we didn’t eat like that until the sun set.
We stood in the parking lot because there were no seats, and Paulie said it would be more private anyway. He leaned against the red Ferrari and bit into his burger. Sauce dripped down his chin, and he caught it with a napkin. “It’s good. Try it.”
As soon as I lifted the sandwich, the helicopter came into range. I looked up then back to Paulie.
“Don’t worry about it,” he said. “Not us.”
I looked up again. The helicopter turned in circles over the skies.
“It’s three hundred meters away,” I said.
“Is that far or near? What the fuck is that?”
“Close. And low. No one cares?”
“Would you eat the thing? Jesus. I’ll eat it if you don’t want it.”
I was hungry. I put my soda in the tray that sat on the hood of the car, and bit down.
“It’s good,” I said, trying to ignore the low-flying helicopter with the letters LAPD painted across it.
“Molto bene? Right?”
“Don’t what?” he said.
“Speak Italian. Ever again, please. It’s like gears grinding.”
“Fuck you, dago motherfucker.”
“Oink oink, asshole,” he said with a mouth full of food.
I replied, but I’ve forgotten what I said, and the sound of the helicopter drowned me out anyway. But in the past weeks, the sound of helicopters has reminded me of Paulie and of what had happened to our friendship because of a woman.
“What do you want to eat?” I asked, when the sound of traffic helicopters woke Theresa. “I’ll have Zia bring it.”
She rolled onto her stomach, tucking her hands under her thighs. “She hates me.”
“She doesn’t hate you.”
“She won’t look me in the eye.”
“She doesn’t trust Irish Catholics. It’s not personal.” I drew my hand over her ass, which was snowy and pure. She didn’t fidget in her nudity, didn’t try to cover herself or play at modesty. Not with me.
“I want to see Katrina," she said. "She’s been calling.”
The movie director, Katrina Ip, had started the trouble in the first place. Theresa was financing her movie. I supported her talking to Katrina, just not as long as Paulie was acting crazy. “Not yet,” I said. “Soon.”
She rolled over and got out of the bed. I grabbed her by the wrist. I think I had her more firmly than I’d intended, because she tried to yank away and couldn’t.
“This is not a joke,” I said. “This is not a competition for who has control over you.”
She growled. The guttural sound of it stiffened my dick. I pulled her harder. “The first time I lost a woman I loved, it was easy to get my vengeance, but it didn’t bring her back. Nothing brought her back. The second time, when my sister was hurt, they were ready for me. I did what I had to do, but now the consequence is that I can’t go home. If anything happens to you, the consequence will be my death. I’m ready to die if anyone takes you. But they won’t kill or hurt you because I was lazy or because you were proving some point about your independence.”
“You can’t sustain this, Capo.”
“I can. As long as Paulie sets himself against me, you’re a target.”
She softened, moving into me, so I didn’t have to grip her so hard. “And the next enemy? Who is it going to be? If you win with Paulie, that only sets you up for the next challenge. I can’t live like this.”
She balled her fists in frustration. I pitied her. She hadn’t been born into this. She didn’t understand it.
“Let me ask you a question,” I said. “You have a, shall we say, infamous family. You aren’t unknown.”
“I’ve worked my whole life to be normal.”
“Good job. You’ve been shopping recently?”
“Before you holed me up?” she asked.
“I went to Rodeo on—”
“To the grocery store. To buy towels. Sheets. Soap. Have you ever washed a dish?”
“Yes, I have," she said. "But I see your point. Even if it’s irrelevant.”
I pulled her onto the bed and wrapped my arms around her. “Tell me about that scar on your lip, and tell me you haven’t always been protected.”
She rested her head on my chest and didn’t say anything. I thought she’d fallen asleep. I was considering how to get out from under her, so I could do what I had to do for the day, when she spoke.
“We rented a cabin every year, up by Santa Barbara. It was a campground, but really, more of a pretend-rustic resort. And there was this kid who lived in the area. He was older than me. I think I was seven when we first met, and he was eleven or twelve. He lived in an RV with his mother, and they just had it arranged so he could go to the schools up there. But, every year I found him by this narrow little river at the edge of the campsite. I was the youngest girl of seven, and I was so sick of my family. My mom just talked to the other moms and drank wine. And my dad talked business with his friends. So boring. And this guy? He was wild. We climbed trees and went past every fence we were supposed to stay behind. I think I was the kid sister he always wanted. Or maybe not. Because…”