Act of Necessity
Chapter 7: Vendetta
I'm sure it isn't just British Columbia or Canada whose justice system is perverse. But there were times when I read the sentencing reports of Aldo Ferraro, Mario Gosby and Donatto Tagliani that I thought our prosecutors and judges must be insane. The Crown plea-bargained the three down to misdemeanor assault and fined them five hundred dollars each and a year's probation. Aldo had his driver's license revoked for a year and was fined a further five hundred dollars on the impaired charge. At no time was there any expression of remorse, nor was any restraining order issued to keep Aldo away from the Mariani family and, in particular, Francesca.
The Mariani family lawyer raised hell about the lack of any protection for Francesca. Belatedly, the Crown was badgered into requesting said restraining order and it was issued forthwith. A month later, I heard from a family friend that Aldo was seen driving his truck to and from work. When this was reported to the police, it was revealed that his lawyer had appealed the license suspension, requesting he be allowed to use his truck as a necessity for work. The request was granted. Another smack in the face to us.
The crowning touch came when I was at work one day and who should stroll into the restaurant but Aldo Ferraro. I don't know whether it was coincidence or intentional, but I was immediately on alert. I watched as he found a seat at the counter before I went about my business. He couldn't help notice me, but remained seated, seemingly ignoring my presence.
I was heading down the hallway by the restrooms toward the storage closet to get some additional paper napkins for the front when I felt a meaty hand smack down hard on my shoulder. I didn't have to guess who it was.
"What do you want, Aldo," I said, looking him straight in the eye.
"You stay away from Francesca. She's mine and she'll always be mine. For your own good health, stay away from her."
"Are you trying to get your probation revoked?" I snapped. "You can't go anywhere near her, and threatening me isn't the smartest thing you can do."
"One of these days my probation and that restraining order will be up and then I'm coming for her. Don't get in the way, asshole. You know how much pain I can give you. Stay away from her."
"Aldo, this is my restaurant. I'm the manager. You have just made yourself unwelcome here. I suggest you leave and leave now. Your meal will be on the house, but you are not to come back here again. Stay away, Aldo."
He snorted in derision. "I'll deal with you later, shithead. The next time there won't be any witnesses. The next time you won't be saved."
He turned, gave me a final sneering look and walked out of the hallway and the restaurant. I could feel myself coming down from the tension. I had no idea if Aldo would carry out his threat, but I wasn't going to take any chances. I picked up the phone and called the police station. I identified myself, reported the threat, and explained the circumstances. The constable on the desk said that since there weren't any witnesses that he'd "look into it" and gave me a file number if and when I called back. Not very satisfying to say the least.
Now I started to worry that if the police did talk to Aldo, he'd know who reported the threat and that might provoke him into coming after me even sooner. I thought afterwards that I might not have made the smartest move. The question was, what to do about protecting myself. I was beginning to think Aldo was a few bricks short of a load. He didn't seem the slightest bit concerned about getting in trouble with the law. He was obsessed with having Francesca, restraining order or not. My concern was not just with myself, but with her as well. I had to think what I could do to protect both of us.
The former manager of the restaurant had kept a baseball bat under the front counter near the till. While he wasn't about to argue with some guy with a gun, the most frequent attempted robberies were committed by drug-addled losers who usually had a knife or even scissors. The baseball bat usually sent them running just by brandishing it. Once in a long while, one of the crazies would get brave and try to force the issue. A swift crack on the wrist usually disarmed them and they were immobilized until the police arrived.
If Aldo tried to take me on at the restaurant, I would have the bat to protect me, as long as I saw him coming. I would also have all the witnesses he said there wouldn't be. If he tried to get me elsewhere, I would probably be defenceless. I was going to have to watch myself wherever I went.
I don't know if he knew my name, but it was posted on the restaurant wall along with my picture, so it wouldn't take much to find out who I was. On top of that, I was also listed in the phone book with my address, so Aldo didn't have to be very smart to find out where I lived. That made Darlene a possible target as well. Now I was beginning to get very worried. I had an old discarded sand wedge of my father's that I moved to the front hall closet. It was the only weapon I could think of to use.
I wasn't able to put the confrontation with Aldo in the back of my mind and Francesca picked up on that immediately.
"What's wrong, Dal? You seem uncomfortable ... nervous."
I decided to be straight with her.
"I had a visit from Aldo yesterday. He threatened me again and said he wasn't finished with me. I kicked him out of the restaurant and banned him, but I don't think that's going to deter him. I reported the threat to the police, but I didn't get the sense they were putting it at the top of their list. Afterward, I thought maybe if the cops do talk to him, it might just set him off and he really would try and get to me. He's still obsessed with you and that makes me feel even worse."
"Oh, Dal, I'm so sorry. I should never have dragged you into this. He's crazy. We have to find a way to deal with him. I'm going to talk to Poppa. He'll know what to do."
"Okay. I don't know what else to do. I can't fight him. He's too tough for me."
"I don't want you fighting him. You'll get hurt ... worse than the first time. Poppa will think of something. Let me talk to him."
"If this was the old country, we would know how to deal with Signore Ferraro," Eduardo said solemnly after hearing the latest events. "The Polizia would not be required. Alas, we are not in the old country and we must obey the law. I will talk to our avvocato, our lawyer. I will make him understand how serious this is. He has contacts with many other lawyers and judges. Perhaps there is something they can do."
"Thank you, Eduardo," I said. "I am grateful for any help you can give us."
"Be careful, Dallas. I do not want any harm to come to you or your family. We will make sure Francesca is safe, but we will wait to see if we can make you and your sister safe as well."
"I am grateful for your help and for your protection of Francesca. She is too precious to allow any harm to come to her." I smiled at my lady and we hugged and kissed briefly.
The meeting was over and I assumed Eduardo would inform Mama Rosina of the conversation. We did not want her overly upset and it was better to have our discussion away from her presence.
I was on edge over the next month as I wondered if I would get a visit from Aldo, but after a while I began to relax. Perhaps it was just an empty threat. Perhaps Eduardo's lawyer had been successful in warning off the man. Besides, the restraining order and the probation were still in force and would be for several more months. He would be risking a lot to make a stupid move on me.
Our passports arrived within a day of each other and we went down to the federal government office and picked them up. Darlene was excited because "Now," she said, "I can go anywhere in the world." I laughed and congratulated her. She was so much more alive and attractive now than when she arrived on my doorstep in November. She was healthy and fit, thanks to regular workouts at the community centre. She had already been promoted at the store and was starting to think about buying a car and then moving out.
"You don't have to move, Darlene. I'm happy having you here. I can understand wanting a car, but this house has three bedrooms, so it's not like you're crowding me out."
"It's more about privacy, Dal. One of these days, I'm going to find a man for myself and we're both going to want privacy. You've been so good to me that I can't thank you enough. But you and Francesca need your privacy too. I'm working toward my own place, and I hope you understand."
"Sure, I can understand that, but don't make any sudden moves. You have a place to stay and the rent is more than reasonable. You've been contributing to the upkeep and doing a lot of the cooking. I'm getting a big benefit from that. I'd hate to give that up," I smiled.
We'd had this discussion more than once and it always resulted in maintaining the status quo. I knew Darlene would find a man sooner or later. She was an attractive woman, now fully recovered from a bad marriage. She had a good job with a future and she knew she had a safe haven here if need be. For that reason, I think she knew she could take her time to find her way in the future.
It was early April when Aldo Ferraro made another appearance, this time in the company of his two friends, Mario and Donatto. They were trying to be clever, standing on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant looking menacing and pointing at me when they saw me near the windows. I tried to keep my cool, but this was intimidation and I had had about enough of it.
They were smart enough to stay out of the restaurant and off our property. I walked back to the tiny office where I would be out of their sight and once more, called the police. I explained that I had called before about threatening behaviour and gave them the file number. I hung up wondering what, if anything, the police might do. Twenty minutes later, I got my answer.
A patrol car with officers pulled up beside the three men and the two constables got out and approached Aldo and his friends. They must have asked for I.D. and afterwards, one of the officers got back in the car and radioed someone. There was some kind of very direct conversation between Aldo and the officers but I couldn't hear what it was. It must have been convincing, however, since the three left, casting angry glances at me as I stood in the window watching the scene.
Both officers came into the restaurant and I took them back to my office.
"We looked up their files and saw the restraining order and their probation order," the older officer said. "We reminded them that threatening would be a breach of probation and they could end up back in jail. I don't think they'll bother you again."
"I hope you're right. The guy I'm most worried about is Ferraro. He's made it plain that when he gets the chance, he's coming for me. I'm pretty sure there won't be any witnesses if he can help it."
"Yeah, we know this guy. He's been in a number of scrapes, but has been able to stay out of jail so far. He says he's not harassing you or threatening you. I tend to believe your story. We'll keep an eye on him. We'll notify the RCMP in Burnaby to watch for him as well. His house is out of our jurisdiction."
"Thanks," I said. "In the meantime, I'll keep looking over my shoulder. He doesn't seem to think he's vulnerable, so I'm not so sure I'm out of the woods with him."
"There's not much we can do until he does something that breaches his probation. The minute that happens, we can go after him. So," the officer shrugged, "watch yourself and stay in touch. We'll keep the file open."
I felt a little better after that conversation, but I wondered just how Aldo Ferraro would react to my calling the cops again.
This time I didn't tell Francesca about the harassment. It was pretty clear that I was now at the top of Aldo's list of people he wanted to punish.
I tried to find a can of pepper spray, but found out it was illegal. However, I was advised on the sly that Bear spray was just as effective. It was readily available, since Bears were common on the north shore and up the Fraser River. I drove out to Maple Ridge and found what I was looking for in an old sporting goods store that sold hunting and fishing equipment. The aerosol can was a bit bulky, but I got used to having it with me whenever I was away from the restaurant.
I found I was getting paranoid about Ferraro. I was losing sleep and feeling tense whenever I was away from the restaurant or away from the house. This had to stop, but I didn't know what I could do about it.
As I lay in bed one night, I began to think very dark thoughts. Perhaps the way to deal with Aldo Ferraro was to go after him first. A pre-emptive strike. But how? He'd surely know it was me. I had visions of shooting him, but knew immediately that wouldn't happen. I didn't have a gun and didn't know how to use one either. No, it had to be something different.
The baseball bat was a reminder of just how much damage could be done to someone who can't defend themselves. I'd heard about IRA knee-capping leaving men crippled for life. That wasn't a solution. I wondered if my sand wedge would be just as lethal, if not more so. A crude plan was beginning to form. I could go to Aldo's home. When he answered the door, I'd blast him with the bear spray and then beat him with the golf club. Yeah. The more I thought about it, the more that seemed like a good way to go. I'd come to the conclusion that Aldo had to go ... permanently.
Would the cops suspect me? Sure they would. So, I'd need an alibi. Or, I'd need to be sneaky enough that I wouldn't be suspected. That was going to require some thinking. I needed to get him alone to pull off the main part of my plan. I was going to have to find out what Aldo's habits were. Did he live alone? What did he do during the week as opposed to the weekend? How isolated was he from his neighbours? Did he live in an apartment or a house? Lots of info to gather first and there was no time like the present.
I looked up his name in the phone book and found three A. Ferraros listed, two of them in Burnaby. I drove to the two addresses the next night and scouted the locations. Both were single family dwellings and both were older bungalows, not unlike my home, but not in quite as nice an area. I was about to move on from the second home when I noticed a white pickup truck in the driveway behind the house. I decided to take a chance and got out of my car and walked to the area between the neighbouring house and saw the lettering on the side of the truck door. Ferraro Construction.