On a pastel colored sun porch that would have been more at home in Boca Raton than in the New York City suburbs sat an old man who, though frail, still comfortably carried an air of command. Shrunken from time and disease he was almost lost in the oversized peacock chair. A glass of red wine nestled in his left hand. He cradled it as if it were as delicate as a swallow’s egg. His attention was focused, not on the man who was talking to him, but on the game table in front of his chair.
Four young and muscular men lounged about on the porch, getting some sun and seeing to the old man’s needs and wishes. They respected his position and feared his power.
Seated across the small round table was a very large man who exuded a sense of imminent danger, like a cocked gun. He sat there, bored to death, but never letting it show. He knew that it was his job to play games with the old man. To play games and to lose, but not obviously so. Today’s game was Yahtzee.
Standing off to one side was Dominic Deltino. He had asked for this audience with his immediate Superior, his Capo. The old man was one of the so-called “Mustache Petes” who had emigrated to the U.S. right after World War II. He came to America intent on making a quick rise in the “Thing.”
He'd been around for decades and was still alive while so many others were gone. That alone meant he was smart, powerful and a person to be reckoned with despite his obvious infirmities.
The old man kept his eyes on the dice as they bounced across the cloth napkin placed on the table to cut down the noise.
Dominic haltingly explained why he was there. The old man cut him off after two minutes.
“This is not at all acceptable.”
“No, I know that, Monsignori.”
“It is unseemly.”
“Unseemly, Sir. Unseemly.”
“So, what are you going to do, Dominic?”
“Well, Sir, that is why I’ve come to you.”
“Really? Why did you not go to your father-in-law?”
He scooped up the dice and checked the score sheet.
“I need either a two or a four to get my full house.” He tossed the dice. “Nothing but threes and sixes, Damn.”
“I've come to ask your advice," said Dominic. "Because I don’t know of something like this ever happening before. I’m not sure what to do. You are my Capo and I'm asking for your guidance.”
The old man took a sip of his wine. His eyes closed and he nodded slowly.
“This has happened before. Once, just after that Kefauver shit. Carmine Mancini. His wife, Margareta, left him for some guy - the refrigerator repairman. Ah, what’s he to expect? He marries outside. She didn’t behave like a wife should.”
“What did he do? Did he get her back?”
“He hacked her to death, the guy too. Put them both in his refrigerator and dropped it into the East River.”
“They wanted to be together.” The old man shrugged his thin shoulders. “Well, they were together.”
“Sir, I love my wife. I want her back,” Dominic lied.
“Count those again, Danny. I think it’s only 23, not 24.” He glanced up at Dominic. “Did she run off with the refrigerator repairman?”
“No, Sir, nothing like that. She… I… we, we fight a lot and I hit her sometimes.”
“What do you fight about? Do you have a little something on the side?”
“No, Sir, nothing like that either. It’s nothing special, Monsignori. The usual stuff that married couples fight about: the way she spends money, kids – I want ‘em, she don’t, her Father don’t respect me like I think he should. So, we fight. I hit her. She hits me back.”
“Ah, see, I was right, 23,” said the Capo. “You hit her?”
“Yes, Sir, I hit her,” Dominic replied, hiding his frustration with the old man's seeming lack of focus on his problem.
“When did she leave, Dominic?”
“I went to Philadelphia. On business for Don Giani, you know. I’m gone 3-4 days. I come home. She’s gone, not there. She left a note for me. Last Thursday or maybe over the weekend. She left last Thursday I think. I don’t know for sure. Like I say, I come home, she’s gone.”
“Yes, Sir. A note.”
“Dominic, I’m old. Don’t make me have to beat it out of you,” he said, holding out his hand and impatiently snapping two talon-like fingers.
“Yes, Sir. The note. Here it is." He took a crumpled scrap of paper from his coat pocket. He was fumbling like a schoolboy in the principal's office. "It says, ‘Dominic, I’m leaving you. Don’t try to find me. I’m serious, you stupid son of a bitch. I won’t let you hit me any more. If I ever see you again I’ll put an icepick in your eye.’ She signed it, ‘Beverly’.”
“Give me those dice. This is Beverly who wrote this?”
“Yes, Sir, Beverly. What should I do? I want her back. I ask your advice.”
“Dominic, it’s proper that you come to me.,” he smiled at Dominic approvingly. “Large Straight. That’s 40 points for me.”
“Yes, Sir,” stammered Dominic.
“Shut up, Dominic. I’m talking,” the smile disappearing.
“Yes, Sir,” he stammered again
“Here is what you have to do.” The old man set down the cardboard Yahtzee cup and looked sternly into Dominic's eyes. “You have to get her back. That much is obvious. She cannot be allowed to do this. If she leaves you and gets away with it, other wives may up and do it too. Very unseemly. It would set a very bad example. Marriage is sacred. This shows a severe lack of respect for God.”
Dominic nodded, keeping silent.
“But,” the old man continued. “You must never touch her in anger again. Her father, Don Giani, ever learns that you hit his daughter, you'll be a dead man and I'll have to answer to him as well. He is a good man, your father-in-law, but you don't want him as an enemy. Trust me.
“Also, if you don’t get her back – boy,” he grinned widely and glanced at his collection of bodyguard/playmates,” is everybody going to laugh at you. 'There goes Dominic. His wife left him. What a ‘baciagaloup.’ You’ll never get a good table in this whole town, ever again.” He looked around the sun porch to see everyone laughing, except Dominic.
Dominic shifted uneasily in his patio chair, cleared his throat, leaned closer to the old man and decided to take his chances with the truth, sort of.
“When she left, Sir, she also took some money I had in the house.”
“How much?” The Capo's eyes focused coldly on Dominic for a heartbeat.
“Four hundred large.”
Everybody on the porch perked up. One of the men let out a low whistle. The old man shifted in his chair and stared at Dominic for what seemed like a minute before speaking.
“That’s a lot of money, Dominic,” he said softly. “Why do you have so much in the house? Where did you get it? You have a little something going on the side I don't know about?”
“No, sir. I'm just careful with my money. I'm...thrifty.” Dominic could feel that his shirt was damp and beginning to stick to his skin.
“Cheap, you mean,” chuckled the old man. Reflexively his musclemen joined in. Dominic squirmed and tugged at his shirt collar which had suddenly become too tight.
“It's for expenses, sir. To pay my men...and I like to have some cash for emergencies and, you know, opportunities.”
The old man sniffed at his wineglass then set it down on the table. His tired eyes focused on Dominic again for just a moment as he reached for his pack of cigarettes and pulled one out and broke off the filter.
“She could run a long way on that much cash, Dominic. That was only my second roll,” he added to his opponent who had scooped up the dice. “I have one more roll coming.”
“Yes, Sir,” said Dominic. “And there’s something else.”
“More? What? Tell me already.”
Dominic took a lighter out of his pocket and reached across the table, nervously flicking the wheel, trying get it to light.
“No. Put that away, Dominic. My doctor won’t let me smoke them any more. So, I just hold them. What a world.
So tell me, what is this 'something else' you’re not telling me about?” He paused, waiting for the now openly perspiring Dominic to speak. “For Christ’s sake, Dominic, I’m waiting.”
Dominic took a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped it across his upper lip.
“Well, Sir, when I came home and found the note… and my money gone… well, it made me mad.” He twisted the handkerchief in his beefy hands.
“It made you mad? I can understand that.”
“Yes, Sir, real mad. I was tearing up the place a bit, looking for my money, and Graciella came into the bedroom….”
“Graciella?,” The old man grinned and perked up. “Who’s this Graciella? Is she another little something on the side too?”
“No, Sir, she’s a cleaning woman Beverly has come in three times a week.”
“She pretty? Sometimes those cleaning girls….”
“No, Sir, she just cleans. But she hears me yelling and comes into the bedroom and asks me what’s wrong. I ask her where Beverly is, where my money is? She tells me she don’t know. She’s lying to me I figure, so I slap her.”
“You hit her too?”
“Yes, Sir. I slap her. I ask her again about Beverly. She says she don’t know anything. I guess I hit her again and next thing I know, she’s dead. I musta hit her too hard or something.”
“Jesus H. Christ, you killed your cleaning woman?” The old man stiffened and looked Dominic hard in the eyes. Dominic felt it to the back of his skull.
“Yes, Sir. I think I hit her with a lamp a few times,” shrugged Dominic.
“A few times... with a lamp, eh?” The old man shook his head slowly and looked at the other men on the porch, all of whom were paying close attention.
The old man paused to take a long, indulgent whiff of his cigarette. Dominic looked around and saw that the others were now hanging on every word.
“What did you do with her remains?,” asked the old man.
“I left her there. I went out. I drove around, thinking... thinking about Beverly and my money, about what to do.”
“This was, what, Sunday, Monday? Is she still there, lying in your bedroom, you idiot?”
“Monday, after I got back from Atlantic City. No, Sir. I called in a cleaner and he took care of it.”
Dominic's Boss sniffed at his cigarette, then rolled the dice across the napkin.
“Well, Dominic, you messed up good on this. Ha! I got my bonus. Let me add this up. Where's my pencil?”
“Yes, Sir. I know.”
“Anybody come around looking for her yet?,” his eyes focused on the Yahtzee score sheet.
“For Beverly? No, nobody, sir.”
“No, you fool. For the cleaning woman, this Graciella? She’s your big problem, you damn... . You just don’t go around killing outsiders. You know that. They have families. Those families tend to call the police when one of their own don’t come home from work.”
“Yes, Sir, I know.”
“You used a cleaner, you say?”
“Yes, Sir, a cleaner, Tony Nouri. He got there real quick.”
The old man nodded and emptied his glass and signaled for a refill.
“Nouri is a good man, almost an artist. Let’s find her family. What was this girl’s last name?”
“Last name? I don’t know. Beverly hired her. She’s not an outsider though. She’s somebody’s niece.”
“Somebody’s niece?” Looking around the porch he said, “God, save me from fools, please.”
“Yes, Sir,” nodded Dominic, missing the direction of the old man's words.
“I wasn’t talking to you. Are you God?,” said the old man, almost yelling. He threw the unlit cigarette at Dominic. It bounced off his forehead.
“No, Sir,” said Dominic, ignoring the cigarette.
“Then shut up!,” he shouted at Dominic.
The old man was angry now. That meant he was dangerous.
Dominic just nodded, staying silent.
“Send some of your boys out to find her, your wife, Don Giani's daughter and bring her home. Do it quickly. Don't do so much as muss her hair or you'll disappear too. I will have my consigliori call you. He can help in things like this. He knows good, private people, who can find her with computers. Don’t tell Beverly’s father. Let me do that. We go back."
"Find her quickly, Dominic. She’s got a pretty good head start on you and she’s no dummy. I know this girl.”
“Yes, Monsignori, quickly.”
“One last thing, Dominic.”
“What kind of refrigerator do you have?”
“I dunno. Amana, I think.”
“Good, very reliable. Don’t need repairmen coming around. Now, go. Get out of here.”
Dominic stood up and extended his hand to the old man who ignored the gesture, choosing to wave him away. One of the young toughs rose and escorted Dominic from the house.
After Dominic was gone the old man spoke, to no one in particular, “I think its time for an audit of Dominic's responsibilities.”