“You need her say-so to finish this business you got, or she’s going to get in your way. And let’s face it, you don’t know up from down. If she offers you help, you oughta take it.” He stepped in front of me. “She sent me because I’m camorrista. Like you.”
“There’s enough off-the-boot in your blood. I can see it.”
“Jesus, man.” He showed me the inside of his left wrist, where a tattoo of a volcano was drawn. The high peak was on the left. I took his wrist and pulled the skin. It wasn’t pen. It was real. I didn’t want to trust it. Anybody can get a tattoo.
“This is Vesuvio from the Pompeii side,” I said, dropping his hand. I pulled up my left sleeve and held out my wrist, where the active side was drawn on the right.
“I know, man. Dude got it from a book. What do you want me to tell you? Nobody’s actually been to fucking Naples.”
“No,” I poked his chest. “Nobody has been to Pompeii.” I walked off, heading for what looked like a taxi stand.
“What are you going to do?” he’d said, chasing me. “Walk up and down Sunset, showing a mug shot? You’re gonna get pegged for a narc by the gangs and for a dago criminal by the cops before your tourist visa’s even up.”
“I have leads.”
“Not as good as mine. Come on. I know what they did to your sister. And I know why.” He stepped in front of me and dropped his voice. “I’m going to be honest. They got a big chunk of the east side, and I want it. Give me a chance to do business and avenge a lady at the same time.”
Something about the guy’s straightforwardness appealed to me, and the fact that he’d known I’d be there intrigued me.
“I see,” I said. “My father told Donna Maria I was coming.”
“I can’t say whether or not there was a phone conversation last night. I got nothing. ’Cause, you know, on the surface, he don’t even agree with you being here. On the surface, he wants it taken care of on the Naples side, by Neapolitans. By him. Not you. You’re a consigliere, dude. You don’t get to do vendettas.”
“But you do.”
He shrugged, confirming it with the gesture.
“And a contract gets you made,” I said.
Another gesture with a bobbing head that seemed affirmative.
“If I go with you,” I said, “that doesn’t mean I’m agreeing to anything.”
He smiled. “You ever had an In-’n-Out burger?”
“Scusa?” I didn’t know if he was propositioning me, or what.
“A burger. You hungry?”
“Yes. I am.”
“Let’s go then," he said. "You’re gonna love it here.”
I never did. But I paid my debts, and the price of allowing the vendetta to take place was two years of my life in the service of a Sicilian. It was worth it.
Eventually, I did need to leave the apartment. I picked up some things from the loft—cash, valuables, toiletries, even Daniel’s engagement ring—then went shopping on Rodeo, which was a complete waste of time, even after I’d dropped a few grand. I ignored a call from Katrina and my eleventh text from Margie. I wasn’t interested in explaining myself to anyone, since I couldn’t even explain myself to myself.
Otto took me back to the Afidnes Tower. I stood there, waiting for an approved activity. Or a signal that I could move back home safely. Would Antonio allow tonight to pass without crawling between the sheets with me?
As Otto and I waited for the elevator, I texted Antonio.
—I’m back from lunch. I’m thinking of jumping out the window—
—Let me jump you first—
—I have something to show you first—
I was formulating a snappy retort, something along the lines of a grownup show-and-tell, with nudity, when Otto opened the door to the apartment. I was shoved back so hard the wind went out of me.
I never realized how big Otto was until I tried to see past him and couldn’t. His shoulders turned in, as if his arms were in front of him. The fact that I knew he was pointing a gun said a lot about what I’d been through.
“It’s all right,” said a man’s voice on the other side of Otto’s bulk. “We’re friends.”
“Like hell,” said Otto.
“Ask her,” came a woman’s voice. “Sometime before you crush her against the wall.”
“Margie!” I pushed past Otto to get to my sister.
“You know these people?” Otto asked as I hugged Margie. I didn’t know who the man was. He was mid to late thirties, maybe, or late twenties with a ton of extra experience that aged him ten years. He had dark hair and light-brown eyes, but he wasn’t Italian. And even though he wore a pinkie ring, he didn’t look mob. Not that it meant anything because mob or not, he and Otto had guns leveled at each other as if they meant to shoot first and deal with the handcuffs later.
Margie had her red hair up in a chignon, and she wore a snappy business suit as if she’d cancelled a meeting to break into my fake apartment.
I left Margie’s arms and stood between the two guns. “Guys, really?”
“Who are you?” Otto asked.
“He’s with me,” Margie said. “That’s all you need to know.”
“She’s my sister,” I said to Otto, putting my hand on his wrist. “They’re okay.” I looked him in the eye, transmitting sincerity and seriousness, until he lowered the weapon.
“Mi dispiace” he said to Margie. He shot Will a dirty look before stepping out the door. I clicked it behind him, and before I could let Margie know that Antonio would likely interrupt us in a few minutes, she reached behind me and slid the chain on the door.
“What is wrong with you?” I asked.
“You should try answering your phone.”
“I was busy.”
Will interjected as he removed files from a briefcase, “Hanging around Alberto Mongelluzo, apparently.”
“His name’s Otto.”
“No it’s not. Otto’s the Italian word for eight.” He holds up his pinkies. “You should ask him how he lost these. It wasn’t a golfing accident.”
“Who are you, again?” I asked.
Margie sat in my chair. “Mr. Santon freelances for my firm, and today, he’s doing me a favor.”