© 2011 D. Paul Angel
Tony looked out from the passenger seat contemplating the clean brownstones that lined the Franklin Heights area of West Philly. Gentrification did what all the arrests couldn't. Made it to damn expensive for the thugs. As for the thugs who inhereted from their crazy Uncle...
Gervasio drove the BMW 650 straigh into the tidy garage, closing the garage door behind them. Tony let himself out and headed for the door at the back of the garage. The closet shelves slid easily aside, and the stairwell down to the abandoned bomb shelter below lit up automatically. Glad Uncle Heitor didn't even trust the neighbors, let alone the city. The bomb shelter was not only wholly hidden from the outside, was well sound proofed, and had never been registered even with the Civil Defense. Uncle Heitor never did like anybody, no sense in saving someone you don't like..
Tony always suspected his Uncle would actually approve of its current use; a killing room.
As expected the man was duct-taped to the only chair in the room. It was dead center, bolted to the concrete, and just above a drain. The concrete was stained with blood and other remnants, and the smell of foulness hung across the room. Abilio and Berengar were waiting in the corner and nodded as Tony came down the stairs. Proficient as always, they already had the man naked, bruised, and crying. With Tony inside, Gervasio closed the steel lined door behind them. Tony took off his long jacket and hung it on a simple wooden peg on the wall. Next to it he hung his white fedora, his silk Jerry Garcia tie, and rolled up his sleeves.
Tony walked to the man, stood in front of him and quietly said, "Your name."
"What?" the man said between sobs.
"Your," Tony said once more authoritatively, "name."
"I, uh..." The man trailed off. Tony took two steps back and nodded to Berengar who came over and stood behind the man. Tony regarded the man, waiting. When he didn't answer he met Beregan's eye and dipped his head ever so slightly. Beregan brought his fist down on the man's head like a hammer starting another bout of panicked shrieks. In reply Berengar slapped him hard on the side of the head, stopping the shouts dead.
"Your. Name," Tony said firmly.
"Stan. Stan Lemkowski. My name, is Stan Lemkowski."
"I asked multiple times, Stanley, because you didn't answer. Not because I needed to hear it three times." He nodded again and Berengar hit Lemkowski open handed on the other side of his head. Tony knew from experience just how much Berengar enjoyed this game. Not quite as sharp and conniving as Abilio, nor as loyal as Tony's right hand Gervasio, Berengar was simply an angry man of muscle who enjoyed nothing so much as exerting it upon his fellows. Tony gave him considerable opportunities to use this talent.
"Do you know who I am? Stanley," he asked.
"You're... you're Smooth Tony," he gritted out between breathes.
"Very good." Tony began pacing in front of Lemkowski as he spoke, "And you, Stanley, well you are not. So tell me, Stanley," he continued spitting on the name, "why did you think you could be me?"
"Because-" Lemkowski paused before finding some inner vigor, "because everyone knows you never do the work yourself. You always get everyone else to do it for you." The strength left almost as soon as it had arrived, withering under Tony's cold eyes. He trailed off lamely, "It was... going to be... to be easy."
"Excuse me?" Tony asked with the full weight of the quiet menace he had spent a lifetime mastering.
Lemkowski's reserve evaporated, leaving him to plead with Tony, "Well, everyone says that you plan and everyone else does. So I figure, If they said it... I can call and they'd do..."
"And you're gone before I find out?" Tony finished for him, "Just like that Stanley?"
"Just like, yeah. That."
"He's got a point Mr. Noland," Abilio added suddenly. "We ain't never seen you do nothing yourself."
So here it comes. It was only a matter of time with Abilio. Thinking he could sway the others and take over. He knew from the hesitant looks that the point had been festering in them all for awhile. You couldn't keep your hands clean forever. Thugs are just too damn practical. Without turning away from Lemkowski, or acknowledging Abilio with so much as a look, he said to Gervasio, "My gun."
Gervasio reached in his shoulder holster, took out a stainless steel Colt Python, and handed it to Tony handle first. "Mr. Noland," was all he said with guarded sincerity. Hmm. So even faithful Gervasio has some doubts. Time to end that now.
Tony let the gun hang straight down. The weight and heft were familiar, comfortable. The others didn't need to know just how many hours he spent at the range perfecting his shot since that too was frowned upon by the culture. Just one more thing they underestimated.
The gun felt heavier now than it ever had before. In front of him was a dumb, stupid, moron of a punk. The kid had to die of course, and he had no compunction against ordering it, but now it was clear he'd have to do it himself. It felt different though. Actually holding the gun in his hand. Balancing a man's life on the sliver of steel against his finger. It wasn't mere words this time that would direct it, it was him. The tangible finality of it weighed on him more than any order he had ever given. It was real. And necessary.
"You're wrong." In a flash he shot Abilio square in the face, exploding his against the wall. As his body collapsed in a crumpled heap Berengar and Gervasio looked at Smooth Tony with stunned awe and absolute loyalty in their eyes. "Your turn. Stanley."
This is going to be fun...