"See you guys tomorrow!"
It was becoming more as if, 'maybe I'll leave for home by tomorrow?'
If it were a Friday night, that's exactly what would happen.
For the last 5 or 6 years not only had I not saved even a dime, this all was affecting work. I was making decent money, $52,000; but with $600 bar tabs a night and a pretty face or two that always needed something it went fast.
I almost got married, again. That was 5 years ago, one year after my divorce. That was probably the reason all my 'social' life focused on a bunch of ex-cousins, ex-girlfriends and ex-lovers. They were known commodities and even an 'ex-Uncle or three' still treated me as 'family'. Once your 'family' even when your still not, you get treated well.
I think if I had ever asked, my 'family' life would have ties to 40 or 50 Italian and Sicilian towns. Not only could I not say no to whatever they asked for or wanted, 'family' would never 'rat' on one anther. Not that we 'shared' any girls but I had been to enough of their weddings to know who they were married to and this night those was not the ones they were with, they looked more like a daughter or young niece. A few might not even have been born yet when they had the wedding. I had known her 'family' like a dozen years before I married my wife.
Our bliss lasted a few days before I realized that I would never be able to support her in the manner she had been used to. A shopping trip to her was picking up a half-dozen original dresses in three different sizes each week, readying them for the next. (One that fit now, one size larger and one size smaller.) Each dress costing $700-900. Figure it out you 'whiz kids'. Six times 3 different sizes say $700 each for 52 weeks a year and Voila. She told me I needed a new job.
'Daddy' would always give 'Princess' anything and everything she wanted. By extension, he thought a business in Miami would go along well with the two hotels and the house for us.
Can you say 'Fool', very quickly three times? Instead of just keeping my big mouth shut and saying 'Thank You' I opted for the 'Adios'. I really don't want to look back but it was not the first nor the last dumb thing I ever did.
I also think I was the inventor of 'Burning Bridges'. I destroyed everything. Sherman would have loved me on his 'March to the Sea'. I also made the mistake of not taking sides. If somebody treated me well that how I treated them. But others had the clear idea they were always right and everyone else was wrong, so should be hated. Usually but as I said, I may have made a few mistakes, a few dozen, at least. They usually involved some member of the opposite sex that was not married. Usually, that was until a few just happened into my life. Red, her husband and me hung out for several years together. Eventually it became just Red and me and her return was often not until the next day or so. That relationship had been 'almost' platonic. That is some of the things that happened; Bill Clinton would say it was not necessarily sex.
Hell, I make it sound like that all I did was fall in-love. No Siree. I did not fall for a girl until I was like, mmm, 11 or so. Well, maybe at 6 but then she moved away, I still remember her name and how she looked. A tall, leggy blond with buck teeth. Anyhow girls seemed to take the place of football, real quick. They were more fun and you usually could walk after.
Telling you all this just to set the stage for that fateful day I reached 30. I had gone home to get my clubs for an early golf game with 2 of my NFL buddies. There is a little more to that but at that time it was all I knew about. The knock on the door was my damnation, maybe my salvation too though.
Dee stood in the opening door.
We were always such great conversationalists.
If this were Halloween, the way she looked would fit right in. It was June though.
"Pete, can you help us?"
As I was pulling her in, she grabbed a younger 'mirror' image by the hand.
I did not take a college degree to see this was a sister or, yes, maybe her daughter. The young girl was battered and bruised anywhere flesh showed. I hated to think what her clothing covered.
"Dee, I can and will do anything and everything that needs to be done to help you."
Dee and I were items years ago. Yes, the thought that this younger version was my daughter crossed my mind.
"Hon. Eat, sleep, shower, talk, yell, scream but if you hit me do it gently. What to I call your twin?"
"Not sure if you should call her daughter or not, but I call her Karen, when I don't scream at her."
"Okay! Kitchen, bed, shower, no questions and no lies. It is so good to see you, see you both. Make this your home, it looks like Karen should see a doctor so maybe this afternoon or Monday, you too; to get checked out. I assume you both can use a friend, huh?"
They both cried.
I had an armful of girl. "We have 2 bedrooms, a bath, a shower, laundry in the hall and if you can't find what you want in the kitchen, there are like 57 different take out and delivery menus by the phone. Money will be there too and I'll go wash your clothes while you just do your thing. Robes in the bathrooms, change then hand or toss the old clothes out."
"Hey, I am in 'Seventh Heaven' you remembered my name. I'm going to find it a bit awkward to see your cute twin though. Keep reminding me to behave?" (She laughed I was not kidding though.)
That got me a gentle punch on the arm; a smile and Karen put a hand up to her face. (That reminded me she needed a dentist too.)
I gently tapped Dee's butt and pretended to do the same to Karen but stopped, with a quizzical look on my face. I kissed her head instead.
"You are both so welcome here, you know?" It was the right thing to say.
Dee had always not looked her age. Back then, she looked older, now younger. She was always a small girl (I was like 6' 4'' and 225-325 pounds depending what I had to do).
Washed up, wearing their robes it was hard to see much difference between the two even now that is if you overlooked Karen's blackened eyes, broken nose, missing teeth and the visible bruises.
The clothes were washing in the hall. "Okay, no suitcase, no extra things and I don't remember two smiles when you walked in. Now it is question time, my questions then yours. Where do I find whoever did this to Karen and do you really care what happens to him? When your clothes are dry we'll go shopping unless both of you want to try to fit into one pair of my jeans and shirt?"
They looked at each other and grinned, not smiled just grinned. It was an old story. The boyfriend decided the daughter is his 'reward' for', for ... Dee just left it at that.
"Okay, make a list of whatever you want from your 'old' place, any papers, school records, whatever you think you need from there. For now you two will share the bigger bedroom, 'we'll' get a better place next week or go to a different city."
"Because if Karen is my daughter, I owe both of you 'big time' and if she's not, I'd like to pretend she is. I'm not getting younger, hit the big '30' yesterday. Dee, my 'associates' are mostly 'family' of my ex but there is not much we won't do for each other either. When I look at Karen, I know what I want done to him. If you never see or hear from him again will that cause either of you any problem?"
Two hugs and kisses answered my question. "Excuse me ladies, I've got to check on your clothes. I took my cell with me. I only had to make one call.
"Joey, I got a problem? "Vermin; I need an exterminator and some personal items removed. It's a 'family' thing, one of them may be my daughter, so anything you want is yours, and here is his name and the address."
"Pete, since when does 'family' have to pay for anything? You know your Cousin Gina thinks she would be a good replacement for your Ex, don't you?"
"Joey, God, she's what 16 now?" A sound.
"Confirmation or a Communion?"
Just clean and quick, Dee and Karen are the girls' names, Siragusa is the last name I think for both of them? Leave no traces of them ever being there. I'll pick up whatever you find or you can have the 'hammer' bring it here, 'Capiche'?"
"Yeah, no problem. So when should I tell Gina you'll be over?"
"Joey, God, I know I said anything, but ... what kind of a guy do you think I am? Oh, right, you know what kind of guy I am, I almost forgot. I owe you for this help 'uncle'; we need a bigger place so if you need me to move elsewhere just let me know where. I've got nothing keeping me here."
"We got problems in Vegas and Miami. Let me know if you can move to one or both, you can use places we got there already."
I went back in with an armful of mostly dry clothes.
Okay, my beautiful sirens. Food, shopping and some travel brochures are in order. Miami or Vegas beckons us. Your choice where we go. Let me know later today though. Everything else should be taken care of by tonight. Dee is your last name the same as before?"
She nodded. "Karen's?"
I wasn't sure so I used mine. Look Pete we've got no money and..."
"And aren't you lucky that I can start paying you back a few bucks then."
I handed each $800 in $50 bills.
No names, no charges; nothing except big smiles from you guys. When we know where you want to go we'll buy more things there for you. Now just get enough for a while, and remember you are not fashion models. I'd like to leave here next week so don't let any guys fall in love with you either."
I had known Dee a long time, years ago like I said. I had known her 'family' even longer. I went to school with her brother and her dad got me a $20 an hour summer job with the Union; not bad for a kid in school. I wondered what happened that he never 'took care' of things for her.
It was a subject I would soon find out the answer to.
For those men who don't know the 'joy' of shopping with a female, I can't tell you either and I had just taken two of them. Two because even at her age, she did not only look like Dee, she had to buy the same damn things. My mistake was in calling them twins. I also noticed they were talking to each other, smiling and when we stopped into the Travel Agent in the Mall; you had to wonder just who was the mother. The comment from the girl when they were looking at brochures, "She likes things 'rough' I see" raised an eyebrow or three.
Karen would never have that problem again. I had to wonder how many times this had happened to her, but did not ask.
'Chin Low's' was not the epitome of fine dining but was in the Mall and at 4:00 pm started serving a decent seafood buffet. Crab legs (Snow not King), clam strips, shrimp and three kinds of un-breaded fish were on today. Won Ton soup, egg rolls, 20,000 small un-peeled shrimp, clam strips and what tasted like Cod filled our plates; mine at least.
When Karen said that she could not finish her first egg roll, I acted and in 2.1 seconds; a new world record maybe, it vanished in my maw. "What? I'm a growing boy still." That did not get the intended response nor was mother and daughter's hands now flittering over their plates of food. Hell it was an 'All-you-can eat' buffet. Can I help I was hungry.
One more stop for gas, a lotto ticket, snacks and some personal things just in case and we were off back home.
When we unpacked, or should I say, when I unpacked, my blond bookends ran off to their room. I must have been on some kind of autopilot because I started to go to my room and change, getting ready for a night on the town. It hit me hard, that I spent half my life doing this. At my size, with a few 'family' connections and the habit of carrying a piece, as a bodyguard, bouncer or just a 'companion' (Family though, was generally off-limits, that took an 'enforcer' at least.) I could always make what I needed that way. Once I was told to 'take this bag to Miami, and don't open it. Uncle so and so was buying some land. How was I to know he was buying the entire damn island? It made no difference though, if in the bag was a buck or $100 million. I always did what I was supposed to do. I look back and that was probably one of the reasons I still was welcome around them, well some of them.
That 'contract' on me after the divorce was eventually cancelled, I think. It had to be co-incidence that at times a couple cars blew up though. Remote starters were a wonderful invention, you needed an electric fuel pump and they (The Booms, not the pump) were damn hard on the cars though.
I never really blamed my Ex for her own 'exploits' before the divorce. I had and always will have a weakness for pretty girls. I took a few too many home maybe. One was Red. Another left her panties in the back of the couch. I knew it was the blond, since Red never wore panties to forget.
Our divorce dragged on, like 6 months. All during that time life with her 'family' went on, except that one thing or two. One car I really liked. I never thought much about it until years later. It was like she or her mom and dad maybe, were waiting for me to apologize and end this foolishness. I never ever thought that was even a possibility. I saw her a few months after the divorce. No reason just that I had known her since she was a little girl before we got married.
I moved away. Never saw her again after that. Had ice crème with 'Jimmy's' bodyguard and my ex Father-in-law one day. The next day 'Jimmy' went six ways to Sunday. There were a few rules within the 'family' that no one could break. These were 'personal' and not business. Every time I went to the 'Fox and Hounds' (In Bloomfield Hills) I gave Marie (The Owner's wife) a hug and told her to set up one if Jimmy were to drop in. Of course, I knew he probably wouldn't. It was the principle of the thing maybe.
As bad as I was, I never got to the point that 'Fritz' and his girlfriend/pretend wife got up to either. (Sort of a like 'mixed' marriage kind of thing except all four lived together.) I think even her husband and his real wife were getting upset a bit with all the publicity, each couple wanted their own place now. They made a cute couple though. My point, and there is one, is that you either do what is expected when it comes to 'family' or you need to pay the price of 'non-compliance' and sometimes that was very costly.
Where was I? Oh yeah. After my 'beast of burden' duty, I had started to my room to change. Couple of things though stopped me. I heard the squeals and laughter from Dee and Karen and almost in stereo (Dolby xxxx.xxx now) the rapping on the door.
"Don't all rush out to get that, I'm expecting someone." I yelled out.
I opened the door expecting to see a 'hammer' or two with some of their things. Wrong thought.
Angela (Dee's sister) rushed in, followed by Gus Siragusa and his wife Judy. I saw Johnny, (Their brother) and Sal, Bruno and Paulie from the 'family' by the door. (These guys made me look small.)
"Where is she?" from Angela. Angela was even smaller than Dee. She gave a whole new meaning to a fiery temper and she was pure Sicilian. Meaning when she was upset you could only wish to 'Sleep with the fishes'. Long before you ever heard of a 'Columbian necktie' the Sicilians had it and Angie's version took out your eyeballs too. Word to the wise. 'Do Not, Ever, Ever, Make This Girl HATE You.'
Now let me explain, Angie was the worst of the lot. If you crossed her or her 'BFF' you were 'sleeping with the fishes' within 24 hours. I think even the 'hammers' and 'enforcers' were a might cautious of all 90 pounds of her; of course 'Daddy's' temper had something to do with that too.
I nodded toward the bedroom. I guess the sounds of those squeals and laughter coming from the room made her pause too. She turned and I would swear I saw a tear in her eye, only one tear.
"We went shopping. At least they did, I rested at the mall. I know a man's place, just pay the bill. Hello Mr. Siragusa, you too back there Johnny. Mrs. S you look lovely as ever, does this mean now I have beautiful triplets to watch over."
Gus stepped up. I rather expected something other than to be lifted up and hugged. I told you I was not a small guy but he had me by 4 or 5 inches and 100 pounds.
"Thank you Pete." (What? I must be dreaming, did he say Thank You.)
I soon had a feeling what a day at 'Grand Central Station' was like as five other guys came in carrying bags, boxes, garments on hangers and a small case.
"Your 'Uncle' called us to handle this. Johnny and Angela took care of those 'other' things personally. Johnny said you should have seen her. Oh, right, you have seen her upset before haven't you?"
I reached for my eyebrow where the blood had flowed and I still carry the scar where her bullet grazed me. "She was only a little upset then. I would hate to see her really angry." Johnny just laughed..."See, funny, as if you still could."
I got a smack on the back of my head. "I'm still upset with you?"
"Angie, that kiss was like years ago, you were, what 12?"
"Is it my fault you were so beautiful like your sister and mother even back then."
Magic word guys. 'Beautiful'. Call any female that, at any age and you buy yourself a short reprieve from all onslaughts.
Princess Dee and Princess Karen deemed to grace us with their presence about that time. Screams now abounded. I nodded towards the kitchen to Johnny and the boys outside. This was going to take a while. He took a deep breath. As he walked in, he hit me on my arm. "I'm still mad at you too?"
"Man, that's Okay as long as Angela and your dad forget about a few things. How've you been Johnny?"
"Johnny; talk to me, how much trouble am I in?"
With whom? Ang, Mom, Dad, me, Dee or Joey's Gina"
"Oh, man, I'm a dead man, aren't I?"
"Maybe before, when Pops heard from Joey you found Dee and what you were doing for her and her daughter I think you got elevated to 'Saint' status around our house. 'Saint Peter', nice huh? Even Ang had to smile at that. She went charging off and the boys and I had to follow her. You think you saw her upset before, man even the boys and I had to turn away from what she did to that guy."
"Not enough. Tell me it was enough when you see what he did to Karen."
"Yeah, Joey said it was a 'family' matter. She yours?"
"Honestly neither or us know. It doesn't matter though. She looks like Dee and I was not kidding when I said your mom makes them look like triplets. Angie is the small version that acts like your dad, 'The Bull', you only smell like one."
That got me another hit.
"Don't push it 'Saint Peter', remember a 'Saint' is usually dead and I can have Ang take care of that little detail."
"God! I really do miss you guys."
"Hey, you got a good chance now with Gina, she says she likes 'older' men."
"Let Ye without sin cast the first stone buddy, I recall a certain Nancy in someone's past."
"Okay 'Saint John'. Maybe now I can even stop asking for protection from Angie in my nighttime prayers and just stick to generic 'Evil'. Your sister is really, really bad when she gets angry."
"Yeah, she must like you though; I keep hearing her say all the time, wait until I get my hands on him!"
I think I told you there were some rules within the 'family'. One steadfast one was that you 'never heard' (if you still wanted ears) those things that were not your business. This was one of them. Seeing the three girls all not more than 5' tall together, a 'munchkin' came to mind. Mr. and Mrs. S just stood by and watched.
When Angie, with her arms around them, went up to Gus and Judy, I had the feeling it was going to be a long night. If Angie even had a heart, it might have been made of gold. Then again, remember that story about the scorpion and the frog? You got to do what comes naturally.
From the demon, Angie. "Sal, call the restaurant and have them bring us some decent food here. Knowing Pete, Tasty Treats and Pop Tarts do not a 'balanced' meal make. Bruno, get a Doc here, Stat. Paulie call a dentist to get here like yesterday." Gus raised his brow, Judy just smiled. I was just glad she didn't have anything for me to do, yet.
"Angie, this may take longer than one night. We were going to move to... ?
"Like I was saying we 'were' going to move but, we can stick around until..."
"Pop!" She yelled.
Gus put his giant hand on my shoulder none too gently and squeezed a might. "Pete, sometimes plans can change. Ang just changed yours for right now. If you feel that you would like to try to change her mind, go right ahead and try, but go to a place easy to clean up the blood, your blood. Joey has some things for you to do out of town for us, after that we will speak again." (Meaning he talks, I listen.) I saw Johnny laughing.
Remember when I said that I still might do some foolish things, foolish yes, but stupid no. "Okay, Mr. Siragusa. Should I stay for that dinner Angie asked..."
The looks I was getting answered that.
"I'll just get a few things and let Joey know I'm on my way."
Damn, we were probably going to have veal cutlets too, my favourite.