The paperboy heard the screams all the way from the street. It still bothered him. He knew what was going on. Everybody on Patascat Circle knew. The Deltinos were fighting again.
He’d heard them the first day he'd delivered here. His older brother, Mike, heard them when this was his route. Both boys had seen the Deltinos with swollen lips and black eyes. Mike told him not to say anything, to pretend he didn’t notice. Pretend, just like the rest of Patascat Circle.
Next door to the Deltinos, yet another family was packing up to move out. They had been on the street only six months. It wouldn’t have been six minutes if they had known that they were moving in next door to the Mob. Not the Mob of Rolex watches and Armani suits, but the Mob of dirty fingernails and broken bones.
Inside the Deltino house, it was time for Beverly Deltino to do something about her situation. It had been time for years, but it just wasn’t done, not inside the Family. But now, if she didn’t, somebody was going to die, and she was damned if it was going to be her.
A peculiar sound is made when something hard, like a ceramic table lamp, hits something else hard, like a human skull. It is a very serious sound. The sound is usually preceded and followed by someone screaming. In the Deltino house there was usually more than one person doing the screaming.
“'Make a baby...Kids? Are you crazy? Go to Hell, Dominic. I'm not going to ‘make a baby’ with you."
“Beverly, you're gonna do what I tell you. I'm your husband.” He pointed a quivering finger at her.
“Dominic, you even touch me and I'll gut you like a trout." She had her hands defiantly on her hips.
"It's way past time for us to start a family," he yelled at her. "I want kids, some sons, Goddamn it!"
"Hell, no, Dominic. Not with you. Not now, not ever, you greasy little animal, and the next time you throw a lamp at me you better make sure it kills me. Because, if it doesn’t, I’m going to pick it up and crush your empty skull. Do you understand me, you brainless snake?”
“Don’t call me names, Beverly. I’m your husband and I love you.”
She laughed out loud and flipped him the bird.
He angled in closer to her. Dominic never moved in a straight line. His predator's instincts made him seem to be always stalking, maneuvering, cornering his prey. He held his arms out as if to welcome her into a loving embrace.
Beverly smiled. She moved toward him, wary, her fists balled. When Dominic winked at her the smile disappeared.
“Bull – shit, you love me,” she said, as her left hand exploded outward in a sharp left jab that ended at Dominic’s right eye. He responded with a left of his own that caught her on the ear and sent her to the floor.
“You love me?” she screamed at him. “Does a loving husband punch his wife?”
“But you hit me first,” he yelled, his hand over his eye.
“No, Dominic, you threw the first punch, years ago.”
She struggled to her feet and kicked him hard in the shin. He stumbled back. She crouched, preparing to charge at him, with the intention of doing as much damage as possible.
“Jesus, that hurts," he said, rubbing his leg. I’ve had it with you, Beverly. You’re crazy. I'm gonna put you in the nuthouse.”
“You’ve had it? And I’m crazy?” she answered him incredulously.
She lunged at him and drove her shoulder into his stomach. They both went down to the floor in a heap, with her on top. She raised her clenched fist, ready to hit his other eye.
“Beverly, what’s wrong with us? We fight all the time.” She hesitated for just a second...a mistake.
He slapped her hard on the side of the head and knocked her off of her perch astride his stomach. Dominic got to his knees, a sneering grin on his face.
She crawled away from him to get some time to take inventory of the bells ringing in her head.
"What do you say, Beverly? Wanna stop this fighting and make a little love?"
“We've never made love, you pazzo. I wanted to when we were first together, but you just wanted a piece of ass.”
Dominic stood up and winced as he tested the damage to his right eye. It was going to be swollen shut soon. He looked at his wife of twelve years sitting on the floor.
“Beverly, you’ve ruined our marriage," he said, pointing his finger at her. "It's all your fault, all of it.”
“This was never a marriage," she hissed at him, rubbing her ear, checking for blood. "It’s never been anything but a serial rape.”
“Bev, I've always wanted us to make babies, to be one happy family.”
“What? Aren’t you listening, Dominic? I will never have your baby. Never. I’ll have an abortion first.” She got to her feet, still a bit unsteady.
“Stop that, Beverly," he said, his eyes wide. He was genuinely appalled. "It’s a sin to even talk like that.”
“Hell, I’d do it myself, with a coat hanger. The world doesn’t deserve another you slithering around," she said with a dismissive wave.
She knew how to hurt him worse than any punch she could ever throw.
“I’ve done it before, Dominic, and I’d do it again. I’ve already killed two of your babies.” She could see that she had hit a nerve.
“What?” His eyes grew even wider.
She smiled, seeing him in some real pain.
“Yeah, Dominic, and they were both boys. I had your sons scraped out of me like so much bloody jelly.” She knew that would tear him apart. It wasn’t true, but he didn’t know that.
He put his hands over his ears trying to block out her words.
“Stop it! I can’t take this anymore. I don’t care what happens. I’m gonna kill you for this, Beverly. I’m gonna kill you, you murdering bitch.”
She saw the contorted look on his face. This was different. He was really insane. She thought that, maybe this time she’d pushed the knife in a bit too deep.
"Screw you," she said. She didn’t care anymore. She had reached the end of her rope with him. She moved in for the kill shot.
“How does it feel, Dominic? Does it hurt real bad? Go ahead and grab your empty head. I hope you stroke out right here, so I can wait a week to call the paramedics.”
Dominic lunged at her. She tried to sidestep him, but he caught her with his arm and, spinning her around they landed on the bed. He leapt on top of her, his eyes wild with pure hatred. She felt his hands close around her throat. For the first time since their fights turned physical, she thought that he might actually kill her.
“Stop, stop, Dominic, please!” she managed to get out as his fingers tightened. She punched him as hard as she could. He was numb with a real hatred for his wife.
She reached out, flailing about in desperation. There was panic in her eyes. Her left hand hit the corner of the nightstand and her fingers grasped the small alarm clock embedded in a Lucite cube that he had given her for her last birthday.
With all of the strength she had left in her body she slammed the clock into his face. The pressure on her neck eased a bit. She hit him again and again. His blood ran off of the hard plastic clock and onto her hand. The fourth time she hit him, he lost consciousness and collapsed on top of her.
She pushed him off, onto the bed, slowly got up and staggered across the room. The clock was still in her hand. She looked at it and at Dominic’s bloody face ruining the pillowcase.
“Cheapass bastard, a six dollar clock.” Her throat hurt when she spoke. "Maybe now you'll learn to take 'No' for an answer."
She tossed the clock back onto the bed and walked toward the master bathroom to check out the damage to her face.
On the bloodstained bed, Dominic slowly came to. His eyes fluttered open. When the fog in his head cleared he saw the killer of his babies standing in front of the bathroom mirror.
“Beverly," he roared and sat bolt upright. “You murdered my sons.”
She stopped examining the knot above her ear and looked back at him. He was reaching for his ankle and the extra pistol that he always carried there.
“I’m gonna put you in your grave,” he screamed.
She forgot her ringing ears and ran for the bedroom door. He watched her run. There was no need to chase her.
“You can’t outrun a bullet, Beverly.”
Dominic got up from the bed, in no real hurry and walked purposefully down the hallway after his wife. He had a deadly coldness in his unsteady step. She was running toward the front door. He raised the chromed pistol and aimed at the back of her head. His finger started to squeeze the trigger.
As the hammer fell toward the brass cartridge, Beverly dove to her right, into the kitchen. The lump of lead tore into and through the wall into the kitchen. It passed two inches above her head, and dug its way into the refrigerator door.
She screamed and from the tone Dominic knew that he had missed.
Down in the basement family room, Graciella, the Latina cleaning woman, who came in three times a week, heard the shot. She had witnessed them battle before, but this was the first time she had heard gunfire. She did nothing. Those were her instructions: clean up their messes and keep your mouth shut. Don't give them any reason to fire you.
Dominic followed Beverly into the kitchen. He was really going to do it this time. He’d had enough. She had torn out his heart...killed his babies...his sons. He didn’t care anymore about the consequences.
He pulled back the hammer. The gun was ready as he turned the corner, intent on murder. She was standing there, waiting for him. He saw her and stopped cold. Every muscle in his digestive tract clenched.
“Hello, Daddy, why am I calling? Oh, no particular reason. I just wanted to hear your voice. It’s been too long.”
She held the phone in one hand and waved an extended middle finger at her husband with the other.
“What? Oh, not much. Dominic and I were just spending some quiet time at home, the usual thing.”
Dominic aimed the revolver at the pale blond hairs of her left eyebrow. Her eyes were focused on his hand. It was shaking ever so slightly. He was bluffing, she hoped. He couldn't be that stupid she thought.
Her voice dropped half an octave as she continued to chat with her father, Giani Montini, the Don - in command of the entire Roncalli crime Family in New York City. He was a cold-blooded killer who had climbed over the bodies of dozens of rivals to get where he was. His daughter was the joy of his life.
He could be a surprisingly compassionate man. He was a father who loved and protected his his only child, all that was left of his family. He allowed nothing and no one to harm her, except her husband. He knew that they fought and that, on occasion, it got rough, but she was a wife and a wife's duty was to be there for her husband - no matter how big of an idiot he was. The Don was still very "old country " in many ways.
Beverly had pleaded with her father, to no avail, to allow her to divorce Dominic. He loved his daughter but, divorce was not allowed...period...end of discussion. The most her father would do was threaten Dominic or send him out of town for a while to cool off.
“Yes, Daddy, I make sure that Dominic is happy." She kept her eyes fixed on the gun pointed at her. "After all, I am his loving wife, right?”
There was plaster dust in her hair and what felt like bees in her ears.
“Well, since you ask, I would like one thing, Daddy.” A smile crept onto her face.
She shifted her eyes from Dominic’s unsteady hand and met his gaze, hatred for hatred.
“You see, Daddy, being a woman, I sometimes get, you know, the ‘blues’ a bit. I think, maybe, some time alone would help me snap out of it. No, I don’t want to take another cruise. I was thinking more along the lines of just spending some time alone here, by myself, at home, if you know what I mean?”
Dominic was confused. What was she up to? Was she asking her father to have him killed? If she asked, it would happen. He lowered the gun. It hung limply at his side.
“Why, sure. He’s standing right here. Oh, Dominic, Honeybun, Daddy wants to talk with you.”
Beverly tossed the phone to Dominic as she walked past him. He grabbed it in mid air and watched her strut out of the kitchen. When she reached the door she looked back over her shoulder, smiled at him, and shook her rear. It was half tease and half “take a good look, you asshole, it may be the last time you ever see it.”
Still watching his wife, Dominic could hear his father-in-law calling his name on the phone. The voice finally got his attention.
“Yes, sir, good evening, fine, fine, yourself?”
The now deferential son-in-law held the phone to his ear for the next two minutes, only tossing in an occasional “Yes, sir” as Beverly’s father, and his ultimate boss, did all the talking.
Beverly kept walking and went back into the master bathroom. She looked at herself in the mirror.
“What a Goddamn mess.”
When she wasn’t trying to wash away the effects of another battle with her husband, Beverly Deltino was a very good-looking woman. Her eyes were hazel and her hair was the dark blonde you see in northern Italy. It showed the history of ancient invaders from Germany and beyond. She wore it long, reaching halfway to her waist.
Her even features gave her face a symmetry that boys, and then men, had found alluring. In high school she was considered a “looker” by the boys and also by a couple of the teachers.
Now, as a woman in her early thirties, her face exhibited a mature strength, but she could still look girlish when the moment called for it.
Beverly Deltino liked her looks. She was glad that she had the kind of face and hair that gave her the flexibility to change her overall appearance with just a different shade of Clairol and a new hairstyle. A new look and she felt like a new woman. Today she wished it would be that simple to really become someone new.
She brushed her hair in an effort to get rid of the plaster dust and washed her face. She was trying not to cry. When she lowered the soft, warm washcloth from her tender cheek she saw, reflected in the mirror, the man she both hated, and now feared, standing behind her. She forced herself not to react.
Dominic looked like he had just been sent to his room without his supper. All traces of his rage were gone. His will to fight had disappeared, but he still had the gun in his hand.
“Hon, I gotta go to Philly for a few days. Don Giani needs me to do some work for him there. I gotta leave right away. Would you pack me a bag while I grab a shower?”
Her breath stuck in her chest. She silently walked out of the room, showing him nothing of what she was thinking and feeling.
"Thank you, Daddy," she whispered to herself.
Like she had done dozens of times before, she pulled Dominic's favorite suitcase out of his walk-in closet and started to select things from the dresser drawers. She could hear him singing in the shower.
She walked back into the steamy bathroom. His naked body was visible behind the frosted glass shower door. He had dropped his bloody clothes on the floor. She shook her head as she scooped them up and tossed them into the hamper. He had laid his ankle holster on the toilet seat. She looked at the gun.
“It would be so simple, so very simple,” she said to herself.
“How long are you going to be gone?” she asked him over the roar of the Shower Massage, "So I know how much to pack,
“Shouldn’t take too long - three, four days maybe," he answered. "I should be home by Sunday, Monday at the latest. Maybe we can go out for a nice dinner when I get back. What do you think, Carvelli’s maybe? I like their veal.”
She looked at the gun again.
"Just do it now," she urged herself. Instead, she turned her attention back to Dominic. “Sure, that’ll be nice, Carvelli’s on Sunday. I’ll pack you enough for an extra day, just in case.”
As she went through the mechanical task of packing his bag, her mind was elsewhere. Someplace peaceful and painless. She packed his favorite shirts...silk and white on white.
"This is it. It's time for me to take charge. It's my life," she thought.
Within the hour he was out of the house.
Dominic drove alone down to Philadelphia. The next afternoon he killed three men, then went to Atlantic City for an early weekend of buffets, blackjack and hookers.
After Dominic's black Chrysler Town Car backed out of the driveway and disappeared down Patascat, Beverly Deltino pulled another suitcase and a smaller duffel bag from her bedroom closet. She had rehearsed this a hundred times in her mind.
In the suitcase she packed enough clothing for a week. In the duffel was a little over $600,000 in cash. She'd easily opened the safe Dominic kept in his closet behind the shoe rack. He was cursed with a poor memory for details and had scratched the combination into the cedar paneling next to the safe.
Some people deserve whatever happens to them.
“Three days is all I've got. Three days is long enough. It’ll have to be.”
She finished packing her bags, laid a hastily scrawled note for Dominic inside the now empty safe, laid her wedding ring on top of the note and closed the safe. She told Gabriella to finish up and come back on Monday. Then Beverly Deltino closed the door behind her.