Marrying the Mafia Lord, a Stori Original
The last time I was here, there was a guy tied up on a chair. Dad circled him with a baseball bat, explaining the rules of kickbacks.
“I get half of what you take in,” Dad said.
“Of course, Mr. Gallo,” the prisoner cried.
“I feel like you were trying to cheat me,” Dad replied, stopping to stand behind the man.
I was in the corner with the other thugs, watching.
“I would never cheat you!” the man claimed, desperate to save his own life.
“Lorenzo,” Dad said, pointing the bat at me. “Do it.”
I stepped forward and took the weapon from his hand.
I’m driving up to my parents’ mansion in New Jersey. I didn’t kill the guy, if you’re wondering, just messed him up a bit. Dad always says, “The dead can’t pay you.” All my life it’s been like that, with incidents of violence punctuating domestic life. We run the biggest underground enterprise in New York City. Dad’s the king, even though the people think they’ve elected governors, mayors and representatives.
I’ve been summoned home to talk to the boss himself, for what, I don’t know.
I pull up to the driveway and get out. It’s always a party, with the city’s criminal population moving in and out at all hours of the day. I go in through the side door, like all the rest of the riff-raff, and push into the kitchen. My dad’s right hand is down there, having a sandwich with my mom.
“Hello, honey.” She kisses me on the forehead.
Mom is great, but she’s not often sober. I can tell she’s already a few cups past the legal limit by the way her words run together. I find my dad in the den with his bookkeeper. Neither of them speaks, so I take a seat to wait my turn. When Dad finally closes his ledger, he waves the employee away, instructing him to close the door.
“You’re getting married,” Dad says.
At first I don’t know what to think. I’m not a child. At thirty-one, I know better than to argue, but marriage is a hard pill to swallow. I enjoy my freedom, and I love having different and exotic women to play with. I’m not interested in settling down. I have never met one person interesting enough to give up my playboy lifestyle for, and I’m certainly not going to find it with whatever heiress Dad has decided to saddle me with. Still, the fancy digs, cushy job, and fat wallet that come with being a Gallo have their price tag. I agree to everything Dad suggests, just like all his goons. If history has taught me anything, it’s that arguing with Dad results in nothing but pain.
Leaving the house, I experience an unfamiliar feeling. I am dreading the wedding, and I don’t want to meet the girl. I’m sure she is going to be some kind of bookish freak who couldn’t get her own man if her life depended on it. She is the daughter of the senator and the sister of the mayor, someone I should be familiar with, but I’m not.
Dad is constantly on me to learn the power structure in the city better. I only know my clients and their relations. Anyone who doesn’t bank with me is nobody as far as I’m concerned. The problem with that mentality is that not many above-board citizens do business with my firm. I’m technically in wealth management, and while I do have the odd customer who isn’t into anything illegal, I’m mostly a money-laundering service.
It’s two days after my dad’s pronouncement, and I’m sitting at my desk with my best friend. We’ve known each other since grade school, and I think we’re related, but I’m not sure how. Bruno was always there at family gatherings, and his mom knew my mom from way back. They didn’t live in the cushy neighborhood, and we didn’t go to the same private school, but back before Dad moved the family to the suburbs, Bruno and I were neighbors. We ran circles around the party guests whenever the family got together.
Some of my earliest forays into criminal behavior involved Bruno. In the old neighborhood in Brooklyn, we used to get into all kinds of trouble together. Then in suburbia, we continued the tradition. One time we snuck into a neighbor’s house while they were away on vacation. We picked up a couple gold chains and a fat wad of cash from a kitchen drawer. We spent it on candy, which we turned around and sold to other kids at a 50 percent markup. Saving just enough to feed ourselves, we turned $200 into $350 and split that two ways.
When I went to college, Bruno stayed in the family business, working his way up from chauffeur to bodyguard. We reconnected when I graduated, and he’s been my closest associate ever since.
We’re sitting across the desk from each other, sharing a scotch. I don’t care how early in the day it is, I’m pissed. Just because I have to follow orders doesn’t mean I like it. My dad is always throwing his weight around, making me feel like a cog in the machinery. I wonder if this is what debutants felt like years ago.
“So who’s the girl?” Bruno asks.
“Scarlett Reign,” I answer heavily. “Sister of the mayor and daughter of the senator.”
“Wow.” Bruno’s impressed. “Heavy hitters.”
“Doesn’t matter,” I say. “I’ll do what has to be done.”
“You sure you can handle it yourself?” he asks. Bruno’s gotten his hands dirty far more often than I have. I don’t like the violent aspect of my father’s work. If it was up to me, I would just bribe everyone to get along and leave it at that.
There is a plan that my dad has outlined, and it involved violence. I will wed the girl, but I won’t be expected to live with her for the rest of my life. It is up to me to stage the scene, to fool the police and the media into thinking it was an accident.
“There are a lot of ways it can go down,” Bruno continues. “Car bomb, slip and fall, that sort of thing.”
I nod, unwilling to go there. It gives me indigestion to think about harming a woman. Sure, I have broken hearts, but that’s different. Women were made for recreation, but they require a soft hand. The idea of causing harm to anyone, especially a woman, doesn’t sit well. Bruno can see it in my eyes, and he offers to help.
“She could fall down the stairs, or get sick all of a sudden,” he continues.
I wave my hand to tell him to stop. I haven’t even met Scarlett yet. Considering the fact that she is being thrust upon me against my will, I can’t imagine that she’s feeling any differently. Did her father, the senator, sit her down at breakfast and tell her she was going to be married off? Did she scream and curse, or did she take it in stride like I had?
“The Gallo family is gonna become respectable,” Dad had explained. “And the senator is going to pay for his latest transgression.”
Remembering that conversation makes my head ache, so I finish off my drink and stand up. I am being used, thrown at an available female to strengthen ties between the underworld and the city’s leaders. I don’t see why we can’t just maintain the status quo. Everyone who is anyone knows my dad is the real power behind the throne. It doesn’t seem right to set up a sham wedding only to kill off the bride. But what do I know? Dad has survived for decades at the top, which was something no other crime family leader has been able to do. I could learn something from him, as he always says.
“You’re having second thoughts.” Bruno knows me too well.
“Not second thoughts exactly,” I muse, surveying my kingdom. From my office, I can see the Manhattan skyline. I’m not in the penthouse, but my rent is approaching a quarter million a month. “I’ll do it. I just don’t like it.”
“Politicians are more crooked than thieves,” Bruno warns me. “They’ve got it coming.”
I agree that her dad and her brother probably have it coming, but that doesn’t mean a goddamned thing. It’s still her life on the line, and no matter how bookish or annoying she might be, I doubt she deserves a death sentence. It’s not my call, but it’s a lousy predicament.
“I never thought I would get married,” I say.
“Hey.” Bruno follows me, trying to smooth things over. “It’s not like it’s a real marriage. There’s still time.”
“I never saw myself as a family man,” I continue.
“You’re not,” my friend laughs. “Come on, don’t think about it too much. Just meet the girl and see what you think.”
I turn because I’m frustrated. “But that’s just the thing. It doesn’t matter what I think. So why meet her at all?”
Bruno doesn’t know what to say, and it shows. He finishes his drink in one swallow and sets the glass down on the desk without a coaster. The cleaning staff will pick it up later. I’m feeling anger deep down in my soul, and that’s dangerous.
Being angry at my father won’t lead to anything good. I have to find the strength to accept my fate, to go through with this farce and walk away after it’s all said and done. I don’t know if I’ll be able to pull the trigger, though, so I’m thankful that Bruno doesn’t seem to have such high moral standards.
“I’m gonna try to do it myself,” I tell him.
Bruno shrugs. “Either way.” You know you’ve got a good friend when someone will murder your wife for you, no questions asked.