One positive about having a gland problem that gets me blissed out on rage is that there is no limit to the amount of adrenaline I seem to be able to produce and no limit to the endorphins that accompany that production. So as I fight, I get more and more adrenaline and I get higher and higher on the endorphins as a result. I was already high as a kite, stumbling blissfully through the bad neighborhood in which my studio apartment was located. The high was suddenly washed away on a tide of adrenaline as my brain noticed something my eyes saw but ignored in my inebriated state, namely the half dozen thugs with pipes and bats who appeared out of an alley mouth half a block in front of me. My ears let me know they had friends and when I looked behind me I saw four more guys who seemed well-equipped for a pick-up game of ball at this ungodly hour. They were strangely missing the balls and gloves, though.
My focus was suddenly sharp; my muscles flush with blood as my hands curled into fists. "Yous lost?" I asked, because these guys were definitely not from the neighborhood. Too many gold watches on their wrists, gold rings on their fingers, and too much fine Italian leather on their feet.
One of the very Italian-looking gentlemen stepped to the fore. "Our boss has decided you have meddled in things that do not concern you for the last time. Sal's reputation as a neutral party protected you before but tonight's little fiasco crossed the last line," he said with an eager smile. He was Gambino muscle who ran collections for one of their loan sharks. Looking at the rest of the faces in front of me showed more faces I recognized.
I turned so my back was to the brick façade of a run-down brownstone and saw a surprise: Genoveses. They were Genovese muscle. "What makes me so special that Genoveses and Gambinos who were nearly at war tonight at Exposé are cooperating to rub me out?"
The biggest and fattest of the Genovese bully boys took a step forward, smiling. "Just like a dumb Mick like you to think this is about you, FitzKiern. This is about respect and the rules," he said scathingly, bouncing the barrel of a Louisville Slugger in his left palm, a gleam of manic anticipation in his eyes. "Not even Sal's bouncer gets to flatten Family men and not pay the consequences."
"Even if those same Family men were about to start a war by shooting each other in what is supposed to be a neutral location?"
"Even if, you dumb fuckin' Mick," the lead Gambino musclehead replied just as eagerly, waving his guys forward. "Besides, this isn't your first offense, just the one that gets your skull caved in. You have been irritating our bosses with your shit for a while."
"Bosses don't like lieutenants getting whacked in titty bars," the Genovese added, "but they like uppity bouncers putting their guys in the hospital ward at Rikers and threatening their family even less."
"Your guys fucked up first by deciding to do the OK Corral in Sal's place. It's supposed to be neutral ground, you fucks! What the fuck do you expect me to do when you stupid guinea fucks show up pulling iron?" I growled irritably.
"We don't give a shit!" the Genovese said, leading his guys forward. The Gambinos lurched into motion, too. I was so fucked!
I dodged the Genovese's first swing, slamming his face into the bricks. An impact exploded into my left shoulder, thankfully not directly on the stitched-up bullet wound. It was the Gambino leader. He reared back for another swing with the copper pipe he carried and I grabbed the next attacking Genovese and threw him at the Gambinos, fouling up their attacks and putting him right in line to get cracked in the skull by the descending pipe. I turned just in time to get a glancing blow to the head from another club, a Genovese bat this time, quickly followed by a copper pipe to my left forearm when I jerked it up to block another bat to the head.
At that point I was pretty sure I had a concussion and blood was trickling down both arms. The bandage from earlier that night was missing and that was where some of the blood was coming from, but not all of it. I kicked one of the two remaining Genovese thugs in the chest and grabbed the bat of the other as he swung it at my ribs. I yanked him into a knee to the gut and then threw him at the Gambinos, who had finally untangled themselves. The Gambinos avoided getting fouled up again by the simple expedient of clubbing the Genovese to the cement.
Six to one odds. Better than ten to one but now I was woozy, bleeding, and I probably had at least a broken left forearm because the last throw hurt like a motherfucker. I backed up to the bricks again, making sure the Genovese was still unconscious with an absent kick and keeping my eyes on the Gambinos.
"Fucking Genovese pussies!" the Gambino leader spat, sending his own absent kick at the prone form at his feet. He stepped over the body and they formed a semi-circle around me. He gave me a grudging smile of respect. "Now I see how you managed to take out ten guys with pulled pieces. Too bad you didn't fall in with one of the Families or at least the Westies. Sal's protection don't stretch far and only as long as he's useful. This shit is way outside his bounds and useful went out the window when you made our guys look like bitches."
They all rushed me at once. I ducked a copper pipe aimed at my head and slammed an open palm into another guy's nose, crushing it and sending bone fragments into his brain. As he fell, I grabbed the Louisville Slugger he was holding and used it to block the two swings at my head. I kicked one guy in the crotch and spun into the other guy, smashing my elbow into his temple. Both of them fell to the pavement, their weapons making loud clanks on the cement.
Then I felt my head explode and my lower right leg crumple and pain blossom in my left arm. I tried to raise the bat to defend myself but it fell from nerveless fingers as the world slid sideways. As the curtains came down, my eyes saw something that made no sense. More feet appeared in my vision and suddenly the remaining thugs were collapsing to join me on the pavement. The last thing I remember seeing was the Gambino leader's head looking at me, eyes fluttering like hummingbird wings, while his body fell a few feet away.
My memories after that were mostly flashes; disjointed sounds and images that only made sense later, when it was all put together in a narrative for me.
" ... if his vitals are steady. Rico, get the clean-up cr..."
Someone was carrying me on a handheld stretcher, my neck immobilized. The cool night sky was overhead, stars mostly unable to burn through the light of the big city and the moon a nail pairing high in the sky. I felt straps over my chest and thighs and a rough wool blanket keeping me warm. " ... as soon as we get him in the van. He is concussed at the very least and I am pretty sure he is in shock. If we can't steady the vitals we are going to lose him!"
I felt a sharp jab in my arm followed by another in my hand. I was warm, at least, though the sounds of medical equipment echoed wherever we were. My eye lids were too heavy to lift and the sound kept doing that Doppler shift that made it seem at first like everything was near me and then receding rapidly. It didn't seem to matter much to me that I was sure I was not in a hospital or that I did not know who it was that saved me from the ambush. All that kept going through my head was that I was probably going to miss my meeting with Detective Reynolds.
" ... is he?" a deep, rough, masculine voice inquired near my head.
"Stable, for now," a soft and very weary feminine voice replied from farther away. "We've given him three pints of blood, set the left arm, re-stitched the left arm, set the right leg, stitched the head, and got the internal bleeding stopped. He is going to have some neurological symptoms at the very least; possibly amnesia of some duration and blurry vision for a short time. He is a big, strong, healthy man; otherwise you would have been too late. The night he had the other night would have killed most people, including most of us."
"Why do you think he is here and not at Roosevelt?" the male voice said, mild amusement in his voice. "Mr. FitzKiern and the boss need to have a little talk before he either gets himself killed or winds up in prison. He needs to be made aware that even we have rules and the penalties for breaking them are much harsher than the rest of humanity's."
The pain had been washed away on the tide of first my own natural high and then helped by whatever the people who came to my rescue pumped into me to help them keep me calm and out while I healed. My first moment of lucidity, therefore, brought the pain back with a vengeance. Moans of agony echoed through the room I found myself in, making me wish the blackness had kept its grip on me. The sounds of a heart monitor then intruded on my consciousness, providing ample proof that I was alive and kicking. I knew there were lights somewhere overhead because their stark light nearly penetrated my eyelids, the illumination was so intense.
"Give me a second and I will lower the light and you can open your eyes, Mr. FitzKiern," a familiarly unfamiliar female voice told me. I felt a hand on my wrist and then strong hands were moving my arms and feeling my legs and head. "I know you hurt in general, and I am sorry for that, but it is necessary to get you up and moving so we withdrew the medications we were giving you."
"Uhn, whu-what ha-happened?" were my brilliant first words upon waking. I was keeping my eyes tightly shut because what light I could see through my eyelids was stabbing into my brain.
.... There is more of this story ...