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Murder Has Consequences – Excerpt

Introduction

Wilmington, Delaware

 

Actions have consequences. I learned that long ago.

  • I learned it when I was five years old and got caught stealing cigarettes.
  • I learned it when Mikey “The Face” Fagullo beat our asses for not giving him a cut of the smokes we stole from a boxcar.
  • I learned it when Father Tom caught us playing cards instead of attending mass.
  • Mostly I learned it when I shot Freddy Campisi. That lesson cost me ten years in prison.

Different actions yield different consequences. Do something wrong—get sent to prison. That’s one kind of consequence. But that’s the easy one. If you go to prison, you do your time and get out. It’s over. Done with.

But there is another, far worse, consequence—the one you have to live with day in and day out. The kind of consequence you beat yourself up over. The kind that won’t go away. I did my time for killing Freddy Campisi. The other things I’ve done I have to live with. Those are between me and God. They are my cross on earth.

Nicky Fusco

 

Chapter 1

Restraint

 

Wilmington, Delaware

I looked out my window toward Front Street, then lifted my head until I caught sight of the steeple of St. Elizabeth’s Church. On a good day, when my window was open, I could hear the bells ringing. All I heard today was traffic. I picked up the phone and dialed Angie; she’d be expecting me for dinner. Adapting to my new life had been tough. I had traded excitement and danger for the routine of a family and a steady job. All in all a good trade, but at times I still itched to do something. Angie answered on the fifth ring. I always counted because I hung up if no one answered after ring five.

“Hello.”

Angie had the best voice in the world. Strong and forceful, but…gentle too.

“Hey, babe, I’ve got to check a job tonight, so I’ll be a little late. You and Rosa eat without me.”

“I’ll wait for you,” she said. “Rosa’s eating with a friend.”

“Okay, if you don’t mind. I’ll see you later.”

I grabbed my briefcase, a thin black leather one Angie gave me for my birthday, put the blueprints inside and headed for the door. “Sheila, tell Joe I’m going to check that new site.”

“Which one?”

“The new condos.”

“Okay, see you tomorrow.”

I hated lying to Sheila. Hated lying to Angie even more, but this was something that had to be done. I checked my watch as I started the car—4:45. That should give me plenty of time to get there before Marty Ferris left work. He was Rosa’s scum-sucking ex-stepfather who needed to be taught a lesson. This meant I’d have to get up early to check those condos before work tomorrow, but that would be all right. I liked seeing the site, making sure there were no surprises. It wasn’t just the bricks and mortar I needed to calculate, but also how much scaffolding and how many planks and braces we’d need. All of that mattered.

I was thinking about how lucky I was to have this job when I suddenly realized Union Street was coming up. I put on the blinker, turned left, and headed south, pulling into a parking spot just north of Sixth Street by my favorite water-ice stand. After checking the time again, I got out and grabbed a drink then got back in the car. Marty Ferris would be out soon. He was going to pay for what he did to Rosa. It had been more than six months now, and I had abided by all the rules my old hit-man mentor, Johnny Muck, had taught me. No matter what I had promised Angie, it was time for Marty to learn a lesson.

***

Marty Ferris came out of the bathroom, washed his hands twice, dried them, and tossed the paper towels into the bin. It was almost time to quit, and not much made him happier than that. Another day hacking at slabs of meat with a cleaver had earned him enough for his weekly bills and a few beers at Teddy’s. Not nearly what he deserved for putting up with all the assholes who came in demanding special cuts, or trimming of fat, but it was the best he could do considering the economy. At times he felt like taking one of the knives and cutting some fat off a few of the customers, especially Mrs. Mariano. What a pain in the ass she was. That woman was never satisfied. She came into the shop every Thursday, walking as if she had a t-bone stuck up her ass.

‘Don’t forget to cut off all the fat, Marty. All of it.’ 

Her nagging voice grated on his nerves, staying with him long after she left. Stupid bitch should realize it was the fat that made the meat taste good, but he’d never tell her that.

Marty finished wrapping a few chops for the customer he was waiting on, and cleaned his knives as he waited for the day to end. The clock chimed—it was five-thirty, the first thing since lunch that put a smile on Marty’s face. He untied his apron and headed for the back room. “Time for me to go, Sal. See you tomorrow.”

“See you, Marty.”

After scrubbing his hands he exited the building, got in his car and headed south on Union Street. He wanted to go home and shower, but he hadn’t had a beer since Tuesday night, and he was itching for one. He thought about stopping at the bar, but then remembered it was Thursday, his day for subs at Casapulla’s.

***

I sat in the car a block north of where Marty worked, still sipping on my water ice to cool off. There wasn’t much better than water ice on a hot day. As I thought that, I marveled at the genius of combining sugar, ice, and lemon into a drink that is damn near addictive, tasted good, and actually quenched your thirst. Water ice was one of the things I had missed most when I lived in New York, and missed even more in prison. I hadn’t been all over the country yet, but so far I hadn’t found anyplace that had water ice like Wilmington. For such a little city it had a lot of special things, particularly when it came to food.

Someone I didn’t recognize was walking north on Union Street. I could tell he knew me by the way he stared, leaning down a little to get a better look at who sat behind the wheel. His face was familiar, but I couldn’t put a name to it for the life of me. Frankie was always the best at that. I don’t think there was anyone Frankie forgot once he met them. Even ten years later he could instantly spit out a name. I always wanted to be able to do that, but never could. I sighed as the guy headed toward me. There was no way I was coming up with his name in time.

The guy stooped over, leaned toward the car and smiled. “Hey, Nicky. Good to see you again.”

I reached my hand out and shook his, then started to fake a forgotten-name moment, but I ended up doing what I always did when faced with this situation. “I know I should remember your name, but I don’t.”

The guy laughed, probably to cover up the embarrassment that he was forgotten. If only people knew it wasn’t them, just a common thing.

“It’s Howard. Remember, ninth grade, Sister Louise?”

I thought a second, then shook my head. “I don’t, Howard. I’m sorry. I barely remember Sister Louise.”

He smiled, laughed some more. “That’s okay. Good to see you anyway. Take care.”

“Yeah, take care, Howard.”

As he walked up the street, I repeated the name in my head, hoping to remember it in case we ran into each other again. Within a few seconds I started looking for Marty again, focusing on the cars going south on Union Street. A minute later I saw his car, letting it pass before pulling out and falling in a few blocks behind him. We went past Front Street, past the park, past the street where he lived and over the bridge into Elsemere. As soon as he headed over the bridge I knew where he was going; on Thursdays Marty usually treated himself to a cheesesteak at Casapulla’s. Most people thought Philly had the best cheesesteaks, but little old Wilmington, Delaware, made the best subs and steaks, bar none, and Casapulla’s was king. Had been for more than fifty years.

Originally I’d planned on torturing Marty, but something inside of me wouldn’t let me do that, so while I waited in the car, I decided I’d just have a talk with him. If that didn’t work, I’d shoot him to get it over with. I had planned on doing it before he got his food, but despite how much I hated the guy, I couldn’t justify killing him on an empty stomach. Everyone deserved a good last meal.

Rather than risk being seen, I turned around, deciding to wait for him by his house. I went back across the bridge and was lured in by a McDonald’s sign boasting the billions they’d sold. It flashed at me on the left, so I turned into the parking lot and waited. Marty lived in Canby Park, just across the street, and from here I could see him coming. If he kept to his routine, he’d go home to shower then go out for a few beers. Perfect. I’d wait for him to leave the bar and take him then.

After half an hour, I began to worry. It shouldn’t have taken him that long to get a sandwich, not even if they were busy. I waited ten more minutes then started the car and drove to Casapulla’s. Marty’s car wasn’t there.

Shit. How did I miss him? I turned and drove back past Marty’s house. Not there, either. Maybe it wasn’t meant to be. I never thought stuff like that, so perhaps it was an omen. Angie had been after me with constant reminders not to do anything illegal, and while I promised her I wouldn’t, this was one thing I’d promised myself long before that so it didn’t count.

Maybe she was right, though. Even guys like Marty deserved a second consideration. I pulled to the curb, put the car in park, and took a quarter from the change slot under the radio.

Tails.

I flipped the coin, a toss to determine Marty’s fate.

Heads.

I nodded. All right, Marty lives. I popped the car in gear and headed home, a good feeling in my gut. Sister Mary Thomas would be proud. As I drove home I wondered what I would have done if the coin had landed on tails.

It took less than five minutes to get home. Angie and I had moved into a single-family home on Beech Street. It was only a few blocks from where we grew up, but the houses were nicer and still within the St. Elizabeth’s school district. It also put me a few blocks closer to the where the guys hung out and played cards. Doggs was still around, and still running games, and Patsy the Whale and Charlie Knuckles were there too. Mikey the Face was serving time, and Pockets had gotten killed in an armed robbery. Some of the others had just moved on.

I parked the car, threw the bag in the trunk, and headed up the sidewalk to the house, then climbed the steps to the stoop two at a time. When I reached the top, I pushed open the front door. Angie stood in the center of the room, hugging Rosa. They were crying.

I nearly ran to them. “What happened? Are you all right?”

“It’s Marty,” Angie said. “Rosa met him for subs and they got into an argument. He hit her.”

My body tensed. Fists clenched. That fuckin’ prick is gonna pay. 

Rosa broke away from her mother and grabbed me, hugging. “Dad, don’t do anything. I’m okay. Nothing’s wrong. Don’t hurt him, okay?”

I held her close. Patted her back. All I could think of was what Mamma Rosa used to say to me when things got bad. “Non ti preoccupare, Rosa.

“English!” she hollered. “Speak English.”

“All I said was don’t worry.” Inside though, things churned. Thoughts of what I’d do to Marty when I got him, and how much I’d make him suffer. I thought of nails and screws and hammers and acid…

Then I felt her pinch me. “Dad. Dad, are you listening?”

I looked down at her and rubbed the back of her head. “What?”

“Did you hear me when I said don’t hurt him? I meant it.”

Her eyes were red from crying and her cheeks were tear-stained, but her face was that of an angel. How could I refuse. “All right, Rosa. But I swear…”

“Don’t worry. It will never happen again. I’m through with seeing him for good.”

I pulled her to me. Hugged her. You’re right, Rosa. It will never happen again.

 

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