Author's Notes: This is the dark world of Vinnie Costello, a 36-year-old lawyer and entrepreneur who was born into a Mafia family. There will be other stories of Vinnie and the other inhabitants of Vinnie's World. Each story is stand alone, i.e, it's a series, not a serial, but they're best read in order. E.Z.
The Sunset's my home.
It's not like your home. There's no picket fence on a nice quiet street, no neighbor kids playing next door, and no dogs barking in the back yard. But my world isn't like your world. My family isn't like your family. If it were, I'd know your family and you'd know me.
I'm Vincent Costello. Call me Vinnie.
I grew up in an Italian neighborhood on the crowded and dirty streets of the city. Street ball. Street toughs. The parish church and school two blocks away. Neighborhood grocery store on the corner. Bookie next door to the grocery.
My mother loved and cared for me, teaching me right from wrong, giving me standards, religion, and solace when I needed it. My father loved me, too. Even when he was away, his presence was always there. He taught me right from left and how the streets worked. He gave me different standards - the ones I'd need in my world. They were good parents to my three brothers, my three sisters, and me.
My father's job wasn't like your father's job. He didn't go to a factory or office every day. His job was eliminating problems for his employers. Call him a troubleshooter because that's what he did. Shoot trouble. And trouble comes from people.
My mother's dead now. She went early from the ravages of disease. She saw me graduate from college, but she didn't see me get my law degree and she never saw my world. I like to think she would've been proud.
My father's never seen my world either, but he's heard about it. He lives inside the four gray walls of a state facility upstate built for people the state feels have earned it. Maybe he did, but he earned a lot of other things, too. He earned the respect of his peers and his kids. He earned the money to support us all, paying for our home and education.
My education began at parochial grade school in the parish church and ended at the best high school in the city, public or private. It's Our Lady Catholic High School, run by The Order of Mary Our Lady. Those nuns, devoted to education and service to the church hierarchy, demanded of me and taught me a lot. They're still in my life and the order's my favorite charity.
College was at Loyola University, another good Catholic school. I graduated magna cum laude. I attended law school at Notre Dame. I earned a scholarship, but my father made me give it up. He said some poor kid might need it and that he'd pay my way.
After law school, I started my own firm. Vincent Costello and Associates I called it.
The only associate was Lorena. She was short and stacked, with big black eyes. She's one of those women who played the fool, but I didn't learn that until she'd been with me a while. What I learned first was that she could suck the brass off a doorknob, and she liked giving head as much as she liked fucking. Lorena's still there. She runs the firm, but she's smart enough to let the partners think they do it.
Some of my father's friends recommended me to their friends and families. They recommended me to their friends and so on. The firm grew. It's Costello, Rao, Schwartz, and Moreno now. I'm still the lead partner and I go there if they need me.
I built The Sunset along a busy highway leading from the city to the suburbs on a large parcel of vacant land. I sold the land I didn't use for a shopping center and an HDFM property. That's high-density, multi-family, or apartments, as they're normally called. The profit from that sale paid for The Sunset.
The Sunset's a bar, restaurant, and motel. My living quarters were attached to the motel and my office was above the bar. Home and office. The center of my world.
There were more expensive bars in the city than The Sunset Bar. Bars where the yuppies rub elbows with the corporate executives and their expense accounts. Bars where the golden folks went to be seen.
The bar had dark, cool booths along three walls and the bar itself on the fourth. The stools were packed closely together. In the center was the dance floor. The music was live. The lighting was right to be seen or unseen.
The Sunset Bar was where the players went, where the action was. The yuppies and preppies went there, too, when they wanted to play. They came to play or to deal, to dance and have a good time, to make new acquaintances for a night or a lifetime. Often, the yuppies and preppies came to rub elbows with the elite from the shadowy other world that folks with white picket fences don't meet in their world.
The Sunset Motel adjoined it. Three stories tall and clean with prominent highway frontage, the Motel was a place a tourist and his family could stop for a good night's rest. It was a safe place for those needing a place safe from this trouble or that. And it was the place the players went to fuck.
The Sunset Restaurant was wedged between the bar and motel. The main dining room was five star, with food as good as anywhere in the city. The coffee shop, open twenty-four hours a day, was nicer than any Denny's or IHOP. In addition to the main dining room, there were large private dining rooms for wedding receptions and some small ones for a private meal or meeting.
Besides The Sunset, there are other operations in my world. Things I own. Things like Costello Construction and Harley's Mansion.
Most of the people in my world are like the people in your world. There are waiters and cooks, bartenders and cocktail waitresses, managers and maids, and the patrons. God bless the patrons. These were good people. Honest people. And there are not-nice people in my world, just like in yours.
There are some in my world you don't see in your world. Some of them work for me. More don't. The ones who work for me know Vinnie Costello and they know my word is as good as gold. They know I'm behind them and with them and for them.
Loyalty. Fidelity. The importance of friendship. That's something they all taught me. My mother, my father, and the nuns. The people who know me know I live by that. There's another side to that coin. People know if they're against my friends, they're against me, too. Those people know if they cross me, they'd better find a deep hole to hide.
Let me tell you about two of my people because they're the two closest to me - Mica and Bigun. My bodyguards and companions. My men. My friends.
In my second year of law practice, I was at the jail bailing out a client. As we walked past the holding cages, a fight broke out behind the bars. Two big ugly black guys against one little one. The little guy danced back and his fists flew. He reminded me of Sugar Ray. He was about the same size and build. He had the same quick hands and feet, the same beauty in his movements. In seconds, one big guy was holding a broken nose as his blood poured down his arm. The other was sitting on the floor groaning and holding his balls.
The little guy walked to the corner cot and sat down. He didn't strut or preen. He walked, like a workman who's done the job he needed to do, and now he's going to rest until the next job comes along. He looked at us impassively but with intelligence.
After we did the paperwork and my client hightailed it for home, I went back to the desk and asked to see the kid who'd won the fight. They gave me an interview room and brought him in.
"Vincent Costello, Attorney-at-law," I said. "Call me Vinnie."
I handed him a business card. He didn't say anything.
"I enjoyed the fight. You move well. Are you a boxer?"
He shook his head.
"What's your name?"
"Tyrone Washington," he said with a hint of pride.
"What are you in for?" He didn't answer. I said, "I'm an attorney. Anything you tell me can't be used against you in a court of law."
"Did you do it?"
"Why?" I asked.
We talked for an hour. He was eighteen and in trouble, but I liked him. I paid his bail and took him home to a slum that should have been condemned years ago. We walked up three flights to a dark and dirty hall lit by a single bulb. As we walked down it, we heard a scream.
He exploded down the hall and I was right behind him. We burst through an apartment door. A beautiful young woman, with skin the color of dark chocolate and eyes that were huge and black, was standing on a small bed screaming at a rat the size of a dachshund, which was devouring a piece of bread on the floor.
Tyrone leaped, caught the rat, and broke its neck. In your world, there probably aren't rats. Not four-legged ones anyway. But they're a real part of his world. If you'd been around rats, you'd know how quick they are. You, like I, would've been amazed at Tyrone's speed in catching it.
The young woman was Leekeysha, his wife. She was eight months pregnant and hungry. He'd done the robbery to buy food for her and the baby inside her. It was his first felony offense.
When he held and comforted her, he was gentle with her. The scene with her sitting on his lap, one of his arms supporting her, the other stroking her cheek, his soothing words bathing away her fears, was touching.
As I watched him in the harsh glare of the dangling overhead bulb, his skin, deep black and smooth as glass, was tight over his high cheekbones and the flat of his forehead. His skin glowed with a metallic sheen, like a mineral in a rock formation that attracts the eye with its hard glitter.
Like mica. That's what I called him.
.... There is more of this story ...