Move over Sopranos. This is the best mob story in town
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“So, who was that?” Vinny asked.
“None of your business,” she whispered, not wanting to look at that wickedly triangular face with black hair on his pointy chin.
She couldn’t believe he had followed her to the FBI Building, as it was plainly called. Located near a congested business district in Virginia Beach, it tried to blend in as if not really being there. Though massive, it was nondescript.
Only a fool would fall for that illusion, like a doomed bug that can not see a near invisible web.
She knew it had been risky to contact Manny. And watching nearby in the crowded parking lot, Vinny had seen her talking to the agent, perhaps thinking she were an informant. She had no doubt that he would kill her, just like Freddy was killed. She wondered what the bullet would feel like. She hoped it was fast and painless. Knowing Vinny, that wouldn’t happen.
Dark shades covered his sadistic eyes. He tried to act so cool, but she felt his intentions as heavy and cruel as the summer air in the humid South. He didn’t have a soul. None of them did.
“I have nothing to tell you.”
Upon her comment, he lifted his shades to show he was deadly serious. Vinny Bonfiglio’s eyes dug into her, making her think of Big Sal and his wrath. Her flesh squirmed. Being in the same car as him felt like being squeezed from within, as if his hatred already wrapped around her like a python. She labored for air, but the passenger side window was stuck. The scorching car intensified her panic attack as the road twisted fast before them. Vinny swerved close to the other lane, nearly side-swiping a truck. Tires squealed. And road rage sent him plowing through the intersection. Her nails dug into the vinyl seat, trying to steady herself. She refused to cry.
As he drove to an unknown destination, she tried not to acknowledge his gaze. To do so would have welcomed her fate, so she clung to fleeting images of street signs and passing cars. Brown ones, blue ones, endless cars flowed by as if separate from her existence. Lines of traffic stretched endlessly in front of them.
“Aren’t you curious?” he asked, gesturing to what lied ahead beneath the setting sun. She already knew too much. His 9mm H&K P2000 lay near his crotch. No, she wasn’t curious. She didn’t want to invite the horrific possibilities into her mind.
Revolted by him, she turned away. He took it as an insult and itched to use his weapon. It didn’t matter. She was ready to jump to the acceptance stage of death if necessary. Until then, she stared out the window, her fingertips trailing along the glass as her eyes grasped fleeting images of lakes, bridges, and scattered buildings. Nothing could anchor her. Her life slid along the shadows, careening near guardrails. She didn’t know how it would end. The car zoomed like a bullet, changing lanes at a dizzying pace and nearly lost control around the bend. Then they turned onto the interstate going eighty miles an hour and plowed through oncoming traffic. A green sign overhead said “To Suffolk.” Why would he take her there? I’m dead, she thought as she dug her fingers into her long wheat colored hair and shut her eyes. Having no choice in the matter angered her. The power over her was contained in a six foot tall, thin young man with callous black eyes rooted in hell.
After thirty minutes of driving in silence, Vinny took an exit to a rural part of Suffolk. Trees swayed gently in the breeze as they passed, and she was feeling car sick. It worsened as the car veered onto a back road and started to slow down as they traveled along peanut fields drying out in the heat wave. Noisy traffic stayed in the distance, and remote countryside surrounded them. Then they abruptly stopped in a clearing near a grove of trees. Her fingers burrowed into the seat and she sucked in her breath. It was a dead end.
Without looking at her, he bitterly said, “You are dealing with the FBI.”
“That doesn’t concern you.”
About to strike her, Vinny stopped to answer his cell phone. His tense posture told her he wasn’t through. She peeked outside, seeking a way out. Maybe she could run, but to where? He stroked his weapon as he talked.
“I don’t need permission to kill her,” he told the caller. “You may be higher-up, but….Yes, I know she is your wife.”
Actually, she never married Joey Santini, but Joey called her that since their stay in Italy, when the FBI and Italian police nabbed mob boss Big Sal Bonfiglio and Joey Santini. They hadn’t seen in each other in several months, not since she visited Joey in jail. She had forced herself to sit there in order to feign loyalty, because she feared for her child’s safety. But she realized she hated him when she looked at his pit bull face with his vicious nature showing through. Whatever she had seen in him turned as dismal as the bleak walls, its paint peeling in neglect. When she walked out of the jail, she promised herself that she’d ask for out of the family at their next meeting. Maybe the only way out was about to find her.
Vinny’s fearless gaze penetrated her as his mind shifted gears and then he seemed appeased, though that did not necessarily mean good news for her. He must have been told information where she would be of use to him. Maybe a scheme had been fashioned around her, a plan to utilize an agent’s feelings to back down his pursuit of the mob, if he wanted her to live. But, who was that man, Vinny wondered? He needed a name in order to get the upper hand. He closed his eyes and rubbed his temple, like he always did when formulating a move.
Spotting her opportunity, Finity flung the car door open and pounced onto the dirt road like a feral cat. In desperate motion, her sandals slipped and stumbled over the terrain, but she kept going. She didn’t look back. She tore through the neglected field, not caring that burrs wedged into her toes or that withering plants gashed her legs. She swore if she lived, she’d never wear a skirt again. Until then, she swerved through the brush, leaping over ditches while trying to avoid snakes.
Her heart pounded and her mind blurred through her twenty minute journey to nowhere. She didn’t know which way to go, so she chose a patch of woods to stay out of sight. Her feet felt like clomping sand bags. She couldn’t go on much longer at this pace. Sweat soaked through her blouse and blood streaked down her legs as the sun pounded overhead. She wanted mercy, but all she found was more dirt and more heat. She ran until pain took over and thoughts melted away. Then she came to another meadow as a loud motor sound hummed in her ears. Too exhausted, she barely lifted her head to see what it was.
Huffing and puffing, she faltered as a custom motorcycle stopped in front of her. A rough looking man in leather dug his heels into the ground while contemplating her for a moment before noisily spitting to his left. Unable to move anymore, she couldn’t determine if he was good of bad, not that it mattered. Her eyes settled onto his dusty bike covered in chrome and dripping oil. A sticker said, “Will work for body parts.” Dizzy, she went to speak, but she collapsed. He stared at the blue heap of sweat and bones before him. He hoped she wasn’t dead. He didn’t need the trouble.
Sore from a long ride, he put down the kick stand and slowly climbed off while scrutinizing the surroundings. She couldn’t be alone, not way out here. His hawk like senses scanned his property, twenty acres of wasted potential. Nothing stirred except an occasional bird. No other buildings were around for at least two miles. Considering this, he shoved a hunk of tobacco under his lip and then took out his cell phone. He had a bad feeling.
“Special Agent Kempton, this is Axeman. I have a girl out on my farm. She’s approximately twenty-five to twenty-eight years old, five foot-four, and one hundred and fifteen pounds. She’s out cold, probably in some kind of trouble. Yes, sir. Okay, I’ll do that.”
The motorcyclist hung up and bent down toward the girl. His gloved hand pushed her wavy hair away from her eyes. Her pale skin looked like it hadn’t seen sunlight in months. It had good tone and no marks, so he doubted she was a drug addict. He searched her arms, only found a few scratches. She didn’t have any I.D. on her.
“A pretty thing, aren’t you,” he said, “Well, let’s get you somewhere safe, Jane Doe.”
Axeman put a hand underneath her and lifted her limp form with ease. It had been a while since he touched such femininity, and he felt protective of her. At first he thought to proceed toward his four room house a hundred yards ahead, but his gut told him to exercise caution. His downtrodden, green bungalow had seen enough gunfire over the years. A few windows still had cracks and bullets had lodged into the paneling, but he was getting it fixed. He had shaped up since prison, where he served time on and off for burglary and assault. And since then, his survival instincts had sharpened. He had seen dark places and didn’t want to return.
Checking behind him for sounds of others, he headed two hundred yards behind the dilapidated barn toward a root cellar, half hidden by the tall weeds and old vehicles. He tugged on the heavy wooden door and then carried the girl down the damp steps. He whispered to her, telling her it will be okay.
His intuition served him well. He heard a car approaching, so he laid her at the bottom and headed up the warped steps as fast as his worn boots could carry him. He fetched some old tires and tossed them over the root cellar to block it’s a view. He only had a knife on his belt, but it would have to do.
A black Lincoln stopped near the barn, so Axeman hollered to him. He watched the black suit get out and tuck a gun in his waist. No, this wasn’t your run-of –the-mill country hoodlum. He was spoiled and slick. He knew exactly who he was, and his skin crawled.
“What’s up?” Axeman asked, feigning ignorance. “You ain’t the Law, are you? You better have a warrant.”
Vinny glared and stepped closer with his hands on his hips as if itching just to grab the gun and get it over with.
“I’m looking for a girl.”
“I don’t have your girl, man. My old lady ran out on me last week.”
Vinny stirred impatiently and then drew his gun. He pointed it at the man’s chest. Axeman didn’t move a muscle. He didn’t like seeing that side of a barrel so soon.
“Don’t be lying to me. I think you know what I am about and what I can do.”
“Hold on, brother. I’m a connected man. I get ten percent for bringing lucrative jobs to the Family. That’s called a ‘Finger’s end,’ fair and square.”
“And I’m Fingers.”
“Well, why didn’t you say so? Your dad and I go way back. He was always a fair man.”
Vinny tucked his gun into his pants, while still studying him. He sensed an ex-con who could hold his tongue. That smoothed back his serpent scales.
“Then you know the deal,” he said, retrieving a picture from his wallet. “Find this girl, and call me.”
“Sure thing,” Axeman said, accepting the torn photo. “I’ll keep a look out. Any reward?”
“I’ll be sending Joey’s right hand man out to talk to you.”
Joey Santini. Now that wasn’t a pleasant thought. The last time he saw the big lug, Joey was punching him in the stomach, claiming he cheated him on a heist. Who was his right hand man? The answer had to be someone bone-chilling.
Axeman nodded and watched Vinny slither back into his fancy car and peel out of there in a cloud of filth. His mind returned to the girl. He scratched his unshaven chin, wondering what she had done. She was as good as dead if he didn’t get her out of there. And so was he.
He dashed over to her hiding place. He found her awakening on the damp concrete, and he helped her sit up. She looked dehydrated and tired. Her eyes appeared distant.
“Are you okay, Miss?”
She focused on him, and stiffened. Frightened of the tattooed, muscular man with long brown hair, she pulled back, trying to remember. How did she get here? It was still a chaotic blur. Her eyes darted at the unfamiliar surroundings, making her feel claustrophobic. It was damp and smelling of herbs. For a moment, her mind wafted along its essence before returning to harsh reality.
“Its okay,” he said, holding his hands up, “I’m Axeman. I put you down here because I had a hunch someone was after you. And I was right.”
Finity stared down at her bruised and bloody legs, and the stranger said, “I’ll get you some band-aids. You’re safe right now. Fingers left. You know, you shouldn’t be messing with him. He’s a bad seed.”
“Yeah,” she mumbled, “I know.”
“So, what’s your name?”
“Finity. And what did you say your name was?”
“You’re not like that Chainsaw man, are you?”
Axeman smiled, but being that he was missing a few teeth, it didn’t comfort her. He had “hard life” written all over him, though he seemed to have retained a touch of humanity. Her attention went to the strung-up herbs, some probably illegal. He must have seen the other side of the law in his days.
He heard his name called, so Axeman called back. Finity cowered, but he didn’t seem nervous, so she hoped his friends were okay.
“Stay here. I’ll get some bandages and see who that is.”
While Axeman rushed to his house, Nick came into view above her, and it was the only time she had ever been happy to see him. Her tense muscles relaxed. His never did. Tall, blond, chiseled features; he was the opposite of Axeman. He seemed worried at the sight of her. And if an FBI agent looks worried, that is a bad sign.
“Can’t you stay out of trouble?” he asked, with only a hint of a smile, making her wonder if she imagined it. His face returned to appearing engraved in stone.
“No,” she told him, while twisting away when Axeman bent down to pat her wounds with a wet towel, which distressed her. She hissed and clawed at him before taking it from him to clean up her own cuts. Only one gash needed a band-aid.
“I wasn’t going to hurt you.”
Finity stared into the corner, rocking back forth slightly, and Nick mouthed the word, “autistic” to him. Axeman wasn’t quite sure what that entailed, but he backed up as far as he could in the small space. Then she returned to her usual self when not overwhelmed.
“Come on,” Nick loudly told her, “You are coming with me.”
Her eyes settled on him, but she didn’t look at him straight in the eye. She kept him in her field of view like she did with most people. To her, direct contact suggested a level of intimacy.
“Hmmm, the last person who said that planned to ‘off’ me.”
“Well, it’s not too late. He may come back. It’s your choice.”
Axeman added, “Fingers will be back, and he is sending a friend of Joey’s.”
Her expression grew troubled. She brushed straw off of her and steadied her legs. They hurt and her mouth felt like cotton.
“I’m going with you,” Finity said, slowly climbing the steps, while keeping her distance.
Knowing she rarely liked human touch, Nick reached for her arm anyway, and though she resisted, he intimidated her enough to tolerate him. She liked his strength and also feared it. She remembered when he had grabbed her in Italy and pressed her against the wall when her family was taken into custody. That was also the last time she felt Manny’s love. His warmth and gentle kiss resonated in her soul, making her pine for him. But he didn’t want her as a permanent fixture in his life. Maybe she wasn’t perfect enough, she thought. Barrett could never see her as an equal partner either. They couldn’t see the goodness that she knew she had. They couldn’t see the woman either.
Disappointed that Nick came alone, she wondered where Manny was, but she knew not to ask. She couldn’t let him know her emotions or their intensity. She locked her gaze on nothingness and tried to concentrate on feeling empty. She hoped to emulate him. It didn’t work. She wasn’t like them.
Before going any further, Finity turned back to Axeman. He was heading back over to his custom bike, but he stopped to take one last glance at the frail woman with delicate features.
Forcing herself to speak, she said, “Thanks. You saved my life.”
“Maybe you can return the favor when Fingers is about to get me.”
Finity grinned and then rough Nick jerked her by the arm because she wasn’t keeping up with his long stride. She snarled.
“I’m a lady, you know.”
“Yeah, well, get moving or you are going to be a dead lady.”
“You know what? You are starting to grow on me.”
For a woman with social ineptitudes, she had sarcasm accomplished.
He raised a blond eyebrow at her and then opened his Blazer door for her. Jerking away from him, she sat in the back, too uncomfortable to be near him. She feared how unequal he made her feel. He didn’t seem to care. Then again, special agents aren’t big on emotions.
Axeman waved to her and saw that they were off his property before he sighed with relief. Then he wiped off his sweat and walked up the dirt path to his house and fetched a cold beer. Chugging it down, he settled on a gray chair near his old TV. His living room was cluttered with motorcycle parts. He didn’t have anyone to impress or clean up for. So much for an uncomplicated year, he thought, thinking of his plans to ride across country one day. Trouble had barged into his life. And it could smash him to bits.
Meanwhile, Nick contemplated the best move. He called someone, but he talked low into his cell phone. He wouldn’t let Finity hear anything besides coded words. She hated that. She sank down in her seat and clawed the fabric, nervously wondering what next in the tug-of-war between the mob and the FBI. She wished it had been Manny who rescued her, but she was in dangerous territory. She didn’t want him getting hurt. She hugged her knees and retreated into her own world for a time. Relating to others took a lot of energy out of her.
After the long silence, which was usual, Nick glanced at Finity through the mirror, seeing the pain etched on her face. He chose to ignore it. It was best for all of them.
“So, what do we do now?” she asked.
Nick sighed with displeasure and then shrugged.
“What do you suggest?” he asked, weaving in an out of interstate traffic with an effortless fluidity.
“Maybe he can get me a restraining order against Vinny.”
“Most people don’t get restraining orders from the mob.”
“I’m not most people.”
That was for sure. Finity lay down in the back seat, and daydreamed. This world no longer held her interest. Nick watched her pull back, first with her attention and then with her conversation. She said nothing more.
Maybe she had a point, he thought. Barrett Fitzsimmons might come in handy. Her friend since childhood, he understood her and would keep her safe. Nick picked up his phone again and called Special Agent Manny Thayer. Manny headed the investigation into organized crime. Plus Manny knew the young lawyer and he would know what to do next. But there was a slight problem. Manny had a special affection for the woman. Nick even suspected that something romantic had gone on between them, but he preferred not to know.
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