A Bullet From Dominic — Chapter 1
Home At Last
Brooklyn, New York
I crawled out of bed, reluctant to start another day. It had been six months since the incident in Texas, and I still couldn’t take five breaths without thinking about it. Or asking God why it happened to me. All my life I’d tried doing the right thing, going out of my way and putting myself through hell just to make sure I didn’t end up on the same side of the law as Uncle Dominic.
And what did I get in return?
I got “the incident.” That’s what I called it. Too afraid to speak, or even think, the word out loud.
I put the pot on the stove so I could get my daily shot of espresso. While I waited for the water to boil, I got down on the floor and did a few dozen push-ups and then stretched my legs.
Rape, Gianelli. Spit it out. That’s what it was. I cracked my knuckles, did a few back bends, then closed my eyes and worked the kinks out of my neck. Whoever was talking inside my head was right. It was rape. And my only consolation was that Tip had killed the son of a bitch on the spot—five shots to the chest.
I turned just as the water boiled, grabbed the pot and poured a cup of espresso. Somehow I had inherited the genes from Uncle Dominic to sense when a pot of espresso was ready. The odd thing was, I had gotten the genes even though he wasn’t really my uncle.
I spoiled myself with a few melon balls while I sipped the espresso and wondered what the wise psychiatrist would try to find wrong with me today. It wasn’t enough that I had damn near been killed twice in a matter of two months, and that my ribs were broken, jaw smashed, and I was raped. He seemed intent on finding some deep-seated reason for my depression. I guess what happened to me wasn’t enough. Psychiatrists always seemed to need a deep-seated reason.
As I thought about that I made up my mind. I wouldn’t be meeting with Dr. Nutbag today. Uncle Dominic probably had better advice. I cleaned the dishes, dressed and headed out. Before long I was crossing the Willis Avenue Bridge into the Bronx. Uncle Dominic’s house was minutes away.
I parked at the end of the street and went through the ritual of entering Mr. Gallo’s house and making my way through Dominic’s secret tunnel. It had been six months since I’d been on the job, and it was looking doubtful if I’d ever go back, but there was no sense in taking chances, so I kept up the ruse of non-association where Uncle Dominic was concerned. I felt sure the Feds were still watching him, and anyone who associated with him.
I came up the steps into his kitchen, the half-man, half-tiger known as Fabrizio having led the way. I didn’t want to like Fabrizio, knowing—or at least assuming—what he did, but he was so damn sexy and so…feral…that no matter how hard I tried, I found myself moving closer to him at every chance. To top it off, he was polite and charming. Oh, and a hit-man, I felt sure. Just what I needed in my life. Dr. Nutbag would have fun with that.
“Buon giorno, Zio Domenico.”
One of Dominic’s famous smiles popped onto his face. He squeezed me and patted my back. If I still had my chubby cheeks he’d have pinched them, but—thankfully—the chubby-cheek days were long gone.
“Concetta, you look fantastic. I’ll put espresso on.”
I laughed. No matter what happened—good, bad, or indifferent—in Uncle Dominic’s house it was cause to put espresso on the stove.
“Thanks, Uncle Dominic, but I just had some.”
“Then I’ll make some for me. How can we have a discussion without espresso?” He prepared the pot and started grinding the beans. After the whirr of the grinder stopped, he scooped coffee into the pot. “What brings my favorite person on earth to see me?”
I looked to the side, where Fabrizio stood. He took the hint, and walked out of the room. Dominic waited until he was gone, then asked again. “What brings you? Troubles?”
I didn’t know where to start, or how. I never was good at talking to people about my problems. When I got the nerve to speak, I avoided Uncle Dominic’s probing gaze. “It’s been six months and I still…”
“You still are ashamed,” Dominic said.
His words stung. “I’m not ashamed.”
Dominic reached for a biscotto and took a bite. “Yes you are. You don’t want to admit it, but you blame yourself for what happened.”
Uncle Dominic set the biscotto down and sipped his espresso. “Yes, it’s bullshit. I’m glad you see that. But it’s also what you’re doing to yourself, and the sooner you admit that, the sooner you’ll get better.”
I wiped a tear away before he saw it. “Why did this happen to me, Uncle Dominic? I try so hard to do the right thing…Why?”
Uncle Dominic set his cup down, and pushed it to the side. He reached across the table and pulled my hand toward him. He rubbed the rough knuckles, and toughened skin. Then he leaned close and looked me in the eyes.
“Sometimes God makes good people suffer—like you and your mother—and He lets people like me have a smooth ride. I think He is preparing you for heaven, and He tricks fools like me into thinking we got away with something.”
I thought I saw tears in his eyes, but he must have willed them to stop. “If anything, Concetta, you’re the lucky one. When something bad happens to you on earth, think of it as one less day you’ll have to spend in purgatory.”
What he said shocked me. “I didn’t know you were so religious.”
He let go of my hand and leaned back in his chair. “You didn’t know my father, Concetta. He was not a good man. He wasn’t even a nice man. But he told me one thing I remember. He said, ‘A criminal never worries about getting caught until he hears the sirens.’”
Dominic nodded his head, as if he were considering this bit of wisdom, and not for the first time. “I’m getting old, and I can hear the sirens off in the distance.”
“Then quit! Quit before they catch you.”
Dominic laughed. He reached over and pinched my cheeks, like he did when I was a little girl. “My dear sweet Concetta, I’m not talking about the police. And I don’t think I can hide from these sirens.”
He cleaned the table and rinsed the dishes in the sink. “You should go back to Texas,” he said. “You have a clean reputation and you have a good friend. There’s not much more to ask for.”
“I don’t know about that.”
“Think about it,” he said. “It would be good for you.”
I grabbed a dish towel and dried the dishes.
After a moment of silence, he hugged me and gave me a peck on the forehead. “I’ll finish. Go home and pack.”
“I haven’t said I’m going.”
“You will,” he said, and began drying one of the coffee cups. “You always make the right decisions.”
“I’ll think about it.”
Dominic turned to me. “One thing to remember, leave the drugs alone.”
“What are you saying?”
“I mean Carlos Cortes. When you get to Texas, stay away from him. Those people have no respect. They will kill a neighbor just to make a point. They will even kill children.” Dominic wagged his finger at me, like he always did. “They will do anything to frighten people into cooperating. They don’t play by the same rules.”
“I know all about El Jabato. I’ve seen firsthand what he’s capable of.”
“Good, then it’s settled. You’ll stay away from him.”
I almost got pissed, but laughed instead, and then I hugged him. “Uncle Dominic, I love you.”
He rubbed the back of my head, and said, “Ti voglio bene.”
I grabbed his espresso pot and took it to the sink.
“Leave it,” Dominic said. “I’ll be making more soon. Now do what I said. Go home and pack.”
I kissed his cheek, and grabbed my purse. “We’ll see.”
Dominic waited until he heard the door close in the basement, and then he hit the button on the intercom system. “Fabrizio.”
Fabrizio came to the kitchen a few seconds later. “Si, signore.”
“Find out who owes us favors in Texas, especially in Houston. We need someone to keep an eye on Concetta.”
“Is she going to Houston?” Fabrizio asked.
Dominic nodded. “She doesn’t realize it yet, but she will.”
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