Killing someone is not as hard as it seems. At least not anymore. I will admit in the beginning it was difficult, not the first one, but the few right after were. We are getting a little ahead though and I am being rude. My name is K and I am a killer for hire.
I know, I know. You are saying K, are you kidding me? Can you possibly be more pretentious or obnoxious? Really, it’s K. Hollywood anyway. The K is the first initial of a very long Polish last name, a last name that only a handful of people actually know. Some of the guys at the golf course where I worked in my late teens just started calling me K out of nowhere. Hollywood was added on by the same group because I wore sunglasses all the time, day or night, rain or shine. To be truthful, it was really an old timer that played every morning at dawn that asked me about the glasses. I just smiled and he replied that I looked like I belonged in Hollywood. It really is a good thing about the glasses though, this way no one could ever know they were looking into the eyes of a killer.
But I am getting a little ahead of myself here. Let’s go back to the beginning, maybe you can help me figure out where it all went wrong.
Joe Rossi was my best friend growing up. Tara Lombardo was our female best friend. The three of us were basically inseparable. Don’t get me wrong, we had plenty of friends on Stobe Avenue where we grew up, but the three of us always seemed to be together. Joe lived across the street; Tara two houses up from me.
Joe and I were punks most of the time and Tara was along for most of it. We’d get into fights and we’d get most of our other friend’s in trouble. Yes, we were that bad influence, the kids that your mother warned you about. And even though Tara had been warned over and over, she stayed with us anyway.
Things began to change when we entered freshman year of high school. Joe’s older sister had been found murdered. She had been in trouble too growing up. She dropped out of school and got into drugs and now at the age of 22, she was dead, strangled with an extension cord by her strung out boyfriend.
And even though Joe barely knew her, this event changed his life. He was still close to me, but suddenly he was into school. He changed dramatically and became the guy that parents no longer warned about, but welcomed into their homes.
He didn’t want to end up like his sister. Not that he thought I’d end up that way, but he wanted a plan and I didn’t. We still hung out and were best friends but now he was the good guy and I was the black sheep. Tara was still with us but as his girlfriend now.
Did that bother me? I guess so in the beginning. But what did I care; I was getting all the girls that wanted the guy with the bad boy image. I would go to the movies or where-ever with Tara, Joe and whatever girl was the flavor of the week.
By junior year, people couldn’t understand why we were still friends. But that was also the year where our friendship became the bond that would never end—or so I thought.
During this year, the scumbag boyfriend that killed his sister was on trial. I still don’t know how Joe managed to get through this and maintain his academic standing but I know Tara was a huge help to him. She was smart, probably the smartest in our class, so if he slipped a little, she was there to push him along.
By May the trial was winding down. We were finishing up the year and were all set to start our summer jobs at LaTourette Golf Course. The ever trusted Joe was going to be working in the Pro-Shop. The now extremely beautiful Tara was going to be in the snack bar. I was everywhere. I would be on the grill one day, driving the range tractor the next. I didn’t know what I would be doing from day to day, and I loved it.
Just as we were starting our jobs, the scumbag boyfriend’s murder charge was tossed because of some bullshit loophole. He was still going to have to serve another six months because of some unrelated charge. Joe’s family was outraged. I was too.
Joe never said a word about it to me. Tara told me more than he did. She and I were still very close. But I knew he was hurting and I swore to Tara that I would do something about it.
Joe decided right then and there that he couldn’t live with the incompetence of our legal system. He was going to college then to law school. He had his new plan and there would be no stopping him. As is always the case in these sorts of things, the more he dedicated himself to his dream, his girlfriend began to feel a little neglected and I was the shoulder she leaned on.
We had gotten a lot closer in our time at the golf course. She enjoyed hearing the other girls talk about me. I kind of worked my way through most of them that summer. I think she became curious. I won’t lie; I was definitely attracted to her. And I also must confess that we had made out with each other several times that summer behind Joe’s back.
When school started again they were still dating but Tara and I were a lot closer than a best friend and his girlfriend should be.
On a cold day in December, scumbag boyfriend was released. There was outrage and disgust, but it was done. Joe and his family were rightfully devastated. I was there with Tara that night when we saw it on the news. I could see the hurt and pain in Joe’s parents. But I could see the pain and rage in my best friend. I would take care of this. I had promised Tara and I would do this for my friend and his family.
It didn’t take long for me to find out where he was hanging out. Even though I was four months short of my eighteenth birthday, I didn’t look it. I was already around five foot eleven and weighed about a buck ninety. I had a nasty edge to go along with a quick temper and even quicker fists. It was a nice contrast to the pretty boy image people got when they looked at me. I had blond hair that went a little past my collar and blue eyes that did the talking for me. And if that wasn’t enough, I had a smile that could melt a woman and believe me I used every bit of what I had to my advantage.
I walked into the pool hall on Hylan Blvd. It was down the end of a strip mall that also had the Hylan Cinema in it along with a variety of other stores. It was dimly lit but I could see him clear enough. I watched from a distance and knew he wasn’t there to play pool, but was back dealing drugs like he had never been away.
I watched him get in someone’s face and push someone else, a real tough guy. I watched him head out a side door by himself. I grabbed a pool stick and went after him. No one even noticed me going through the door. When I got outside, he was standing next to his car.
He had on ripped jeans, a dirty t-shirt and a well worn leather bomber jacket. Scuffed black cowboy boots finished his fashion statement.
He looked up at me.
“Can I help you?”
“Do you know who I am?” I asked.
“No, and I really don’t give a fuck either.”
“You know Joe Rossi?”
“I’m his best friend.”
“You killed his sister.”
“You’re a genius.”
“You’re fucked up.”
“Among other things.”
“I’m here to take care of it.”
He laughed at me.
“Really?” he asked.
“Yeah. Really scumbag.”
“With that?” he said motioning to the pool stick.
“Maybe. Maybe not.”
He moved his jacket to the side and showed me the handle of a pistol tucked in his waist.
“You may need a little more than that,” he said with a smile that reminded me of a jack-o-lantern.
I knew at that split second that I needed to make a move very quickly. I also knew that if I missed, there was a good chance I would end up dead.
I snapped the pool stick across the side of his head before he could even move. As his knees buckled and he dropped down, I punched him in the throat. I snatched the gun from his waist and kicked him while he was down. I reached into his pocket pulling out a switchblade and his keys. I grabbed him by the jacket collar and dragged him to the back of the car. He was unconscious when I put him in the trunk of his car.
I drove up to LaTourette which was closed for the season. I drove through the parking lot and onto the course heading to the deserted back nine. It was getting dark as I drove his car into the woods behind the 17th tee.
I opened the trunk and he was cursing at me.
“You’re a dead man,” he said barely conscious. “You fucked with the wrong guy.”
“Fuck you,” I said as I punched him in the face.
Rage had now taken over and I beat him near death in the trunk. I grabbed his bloody head and yanked him out of the trunk. His body crumbled on the frozen ground. I start to kick him over and over, the vision of Joe’s dead sister driving my fury. I pulled out the switchblade and started stabbing him. Over and over I plunged the knife wherever it would go. Then I pulled out the gun. I had never even held a gun before let alone fired one. The power I felt from holding it was beyond anything I had ever felt. I fired it twice into the back of his head leaving no doubt about his fate. Not that I ever had any. I threw his body back into the trunk and lit the car on fire. I walked through the dark woods until I hit the street.
The great thing about where LaTourette is located is that it’s not a heavily populated area, especially where I came out of the woods on lighthouse hill. My clothes were covered in blood and my hand was swollen, bruised and cut. I stayed in the shadows and worked my way back to Stobe Ave.
It took a lot longer to walk the two and a half miles than it should have, but I tried to stay clear of the main streets and not draw attention to myself. I knew I couldn’t go home so I went to Tara’s house. I knocked on her bedroom window and she looked horrified when she saw me.
“What happened? Are you okay?”
“You’re covered in blood. What happened?”
“I kept my promise.”
Her eyes locked on mine and she knew exactly what I meant.
“Oh. My. God.”
Tara’s room was in what some family’s used as the den in the back of the house on the ground floor. It had sliding doors that led to the yard. She quickly opened them and let me in.
“We have to stay quiet, everyone is upstairs,” she whispered.
She looked me over.
“You’re a mess,” she said.
She took me into her bathroom and closed the door.
“Start undressing,” she demanded.
I looked at her.
“Are you gonna stay in those bloody clothes or what?”
She had a point. I quickly stripped down to my boxer’s.
“Cute,” she said looking at my boxer’s. “Look at your hand.”
She touched it and I flinched. She touched it again, and I pulled it back.
“You know I am going to have to clean that up.”
I looked up at her, our eyes locked.
“Are you going to tell me what happened?”
I looked down and we were silent.
“Give me your hand,” she said starting the water in the sink. I closed the lid on the toilet and sat down. She took my hand into hers and put it into the warm water. She gently wiped the blood, the water turning a rust color. She gently cleaned my hand; her touch was soft and amazing.
She knew I would not and could not tell her what I had done. I think in one sense it upset her, but deep down she really didn’t need to know. Either way what I had done made the bond between us was stronger then ever. And the more she gently cleaned my hands, the more aroused I was becoming. Looking at her, feeling her touch and the smell of her, I was being overwhelmed and she was beginning to notice.
When she began kissing my hand, I felt a wave of heat over my entire body. She leaned over me and locked the door. She then reached in and turned on the water for the shower and started removing her clothes. She stood before me; I couldn’t help but admire her beautiful body. She took my hands and made me stand. She pulled my boxers down and I stepped out of them.
We made love right there in the bathroom, the water running to drown out and noise we might make and also to keep any curious family members from wondering where she was. The feeling that I had with her was incredible. I had been with my share of girls, but nothing or no one compared to what I was feeling at that moment. When we finished, she stuck her head out the door to make sure no one was around. She dressed quickly while I waited in the bathroom. She returned with a pair of sweats and a big sweatshirt for me. I felt like a little kid as I watched her clean the mud and blood from my shoes. She then bagged my dirty clothes.
We didn’t say a word as I dressed and headed for the door. Before I left, we kissed at the door, not the kisses that we had shared the past summer, but a deep kiss that told us that our feelings were deeper than we would ever show.
I scampered through her dark yard and over the fence into the yard that separated our houses. My hand was killing me, and now my heart was as well. I went over another fence and into my yard and was almost to my door when I heard a noise. I turned and saw an unfamiliar car parked in front of the house. I knew that I hadn’t been seen, so I stayed in the shadows and worked my way to the front so I could get a better look.
It was a dark colored Lincoln Town Car and it was running. I could make out two guys sitting in the front like they were waiting for something. I knew they weren’t cops but now I was trying to remember if what I had done would have pissed anyone else off.
I snuck back around and decided to go through the back door. My brother, who was three years older than me and about a thousand times more miserable, was sitting on the couch eating a big bowl of Cocoa Pebbles watching TV when I came in.
“Those friends of yours out front,” he asked.
“I have no idea.’
“You must have pissed someone off.”
“You piss people off all the time and there are never any cars waiting for you.”
“I just piss off better people I guess,” he said.
“Sleeping. Where’ve you been?”
My brother and I didn’t have the greatest relationship. I mean we were brothers and all and if he got in a jam I would be right there for him. But my brother was a bit nerdy and was just finishing his associates at the Community College. He was also getting ready to enter the Police Academy. So I guess you could say we were more like night and day in that regard. He had a steady girl and seemed more content as a homebody.
My mother was a hard working single mom. My father died when we were young and she busted her ass cleaning houses to put food on our table and clothes on our back. Most of the week we didn’t see her; she worked long hard hours and went to sleep when she got home. We were basically on our own for meals except Sundays. Sundays no matter what, we had to be home for dinner. My mother would spend all day cooking a meal for us and honestly I always looked forward to Sunday. Even with my brother breaking my balls.
I made myself a bowl of cereal and sat in the recliner on the other side of the living room. We watched the end of some stupid medical drama and as the news came on, my brother was getting ready to flip the channel but the lead story was breaking news from Staten Island. For some morbid reason both my brother and I had to keep watching whenever there was a story from Staten Island, just in case it was someone we knew. And in this case, it was.
The first thing I recognized was the charred car that was still smoking. I could feel my hand throb involuntarily and a sweat breaking out on my forehead.
As the story went on they said they were at LaTourette Golf Course and who the car belonged to. They said there had been a body recovered but needed to be identified. The most important part was that there were no leads at this time.
“There is some fucking justice after all,” my brother said.
He had gone to grammar school with Joe’s sister and they were pretty close when they were younger, before she got caught up in all that shit.
I felt better that my brother felt that way, but I wondered how he would react if he knew it was me that did it.
Just then the phone rang. I knew who it would be.
“Did you see the news?” it was Tara.
“Did you do that?” she asked with concern.
I didn’t say anything.
“Please answer me.”
There was silence for a few minutes.
“Do you think Joe’s family saw?” I ask.
“I don’t think so. He was going to bed early and the house looks dark.”
“Are you looking out the window now?”
“Is there a Lincoln still parked in front of my house?”
“Yes. Who is that?”
“I don’t know.”
“I don’t think so. But I am going to find out.”
“I have to. They’ve been there since I came home.”
“So what? Maybe they are just parked there.”
“Then I have nothing to worry about.”
“Okay,” she finally said. Then: “I’ll be watching for you. If something happens I’ll call the cops.”
We hung up and I went out the back door into the shadows again. I watched the car for a minute or two. I came out of the tree line quickly and was at the passenger door before they had time to react. I knocked on the window and the guy in the passenger seat almost jumped out of his pants.
“Motherfucker,” he yelled while struggling to open his door.
The driver was out already and coming around the front of the car. I didn’t recognize him but I had a feeling I knew who sent them. This guy was big. He was around six four and easily 260 or so. He was built like a Rock ‘em Sock ‘em robot.
The other guy was older and not in as good of shape. He was big too, though. He had a barrel chest and big beefy arms, but now with a belly; he must have been something in his day, but now was reaping the rewards of the end of his soldering days. This man I recognized and a wave of fear hit me as the younger guy shoved me into the side of the car. I bounced off and hit him square in the nuts before he could react. He dropped to a knee and glared at me. I took a step towards him with my fist clenched ready to hit him again when the older guy grabbed my arm.
“Whoa, relax kid. What the fuck is your problem Tommy? What’d you push the kid for? Nice shot kid,” he said letting go of my arm.
I hoped that Tara didn’t do something stupid like call the cops.
Tommy stood back-up, a little hunched over, but up nonetheless. He said nothing but glared at me. I stared right back at him.
“Listen kid, you know who we are?”
He looked surprised at me.
“I have an idea. You look familiar,” I said. This seemed to amuse him.
“Well then you have an idea who we work for.”
“Well he wants to see you.”
“Tomorrow, lunch time. You know where?”
“Good. Tommy, get in the fucking car. Let’s go.”
Tommy took one more look at me as he got in the car. The older guy rolled down his window.
“Tomorrow. Don’t make us come get you.”
The car pulled away and I just watched it. I was about to go back to my house when I heard a noise behind me.
“What the hell was that about?” Tara asked me emerging from the shadows where I had been.
“I am not sure, but I have a feeling it’s not to eat lunch.”
She looked concerned.
“I’ll be fine.”
I walked her back through the trees and through the neighbor’s yard. We kissed again before she went in. I had always had feelings for her and I sensed the same from her in the past, but I know that we would never do anything to hurt Joe. This was bad but her leaving him for me would be devastating.
I went back in my house and my brother was still on the couch.
“Nice shot, you know how lucky you are they didn’t dump you in the trunk and bury you some where. You could have ended up like that douche bag they found at LaTourette tonight.”
I just looked at him.
“Those are bad people bro, you should stay clear of them. When I become a cop I’ll set their asses straight.”
I looked at him.
“Okay so maybe I won’t, but I want to. I hate all this wannabee shit around us.”
“I don’t think Vinny Laieta is a wannabe,” I said point blank.
He seemed to ponder this for a second.
“Maybe not and that’s why you need to stay far the fuck away from him and his goons. I am just sick of the other assholes.”
For the record Vinny Laieta is definitely not a wannabee, he is the real thing. La Cosa Nostra and all that shit. He was the right hand of Tootie Mucchiolo, the guy that ran Staten Island and was probably the most powerful of all the five family leaders. Vinny had come up through the ranks and was a big earner as a teenager. He was legendary on the street. His was as cold and vicious as they came. Word was that he had killed over fifty people on his way up. Even when he didn’t have to do it he still enjoyed torturing and killing every so often—allegedly.
And now I was a little nervous. What the hell could he want me for?
The next morning I woke up at around 10:00. I was a little surprised that I hadn’t heard from Joe yet, I figured he would have heard about the boyfriend by now.
I took a long hot shower and looked at my damaged hand. I was glad that I caught that Tommy in the nuts and not somewhere that would have really hurt my hand even more.
I was antsy waiting around my empty house so I decided to head out a little early. The walk to Lee’s Tavern, where Vinny set up shop, was about a half mile from my house. I cut through the park and across the football field and came out almost halfway there. I walked under the Dongan Hills train station and there it was.
Lee’s is a very unique place. If you didn’t know about it you would drive right by thinking it was just another hole in the wall bar. Inside it was dark, the same look that it had when it opened somewhere in the 20’s. But they had the best pizza on Staten Island and their fried calamari was second to none as well.
Tommy and my old friend were sipping espresso at the bar. Tommy still glared at me, but led me to the back anyway. Vinny was sitting at a table with a big cup of coffee looking over the paper. The page was opened to the story from last night. He looked up at me and smiled.
Vinny was not a big man but I could feel his power just looking into his cold, black eyes. His dark hair was speckled with gray and neatly combed straight back—not a hair out of place. He wore Italian loafers with socks, expensive looking slacks with black suspenders over a tee shirt. Hanging on a hanger on the coat rack next to an old fashion phone booth was a tailored shirt and the jacket that matched the pants.
“So you are the kid they call Hollywood? Take a seat.”
I was surprised that he called me by my nickname.
“I see you got my message from Tommy and Moose last night. I’m glad you came on your own without them having to come get you. I understand Tommy would have loved that chance.”
I just looked at him. I wasn’t trying to be tough or anything like that. I just didn’t want to act scared but I also knew better then to disrespect anyone here.
“Anyway I guess you are wondering why you are here.”
“Well, let’s just say you cost me some money with your little stunt last night.”
I didn’t know what to say and I wasn’t sure how much he knew.
“I don’t know what you mean?” I said finally.
He smiled. It wasn’t a pleasant smile, but one that was more like he new something I didn’t.
“My boys saw you outside the pool hall. Said it happened so fast they couldn’t even react. Said that scum bag had no chance.”
A waiter came from the kitchen with a roll and another coffee for him and set it on the table.
“Can I get you something?” he asked me.
I looked at Vinny making sure it was ok. He nodded.
“Can I get a Coke with no ice.”
Vinny chuckled. The waiter left and Vinny said nothing til he returned with my Coke. He placed it on the table and was gone.
“The guy you decided to take out last night was one of my guys.”
I sank in my seat because I knew this was not good news.
“Certainly not by my choice either. He was into me for big money. And to top it off he thought he could get it back by selling drugs in my pool hall. Moose and Tommy were going to have a chat with him when you stepped into the picture.”
“He killed my best friend’s sister,” I blurted out.
“I know. It sucks but that doesn’t concern me.”
I drank my Coke while I thought about my predicament.
“So now what?” I asked.
He didn’t seem to know what to say to me. Suddenly he stood, I instinctively stood too, not sure if I had to but ready to defend myself if needed.
“Let’s go for a walk,” he said coming around the table.
I wasn’t sure if this was a good thing or bad. I had seen plenty of Mafia movies and knew how this could turn out. The fact that I didn’t see any plastic sheets on the floor or a gun in his waist gave me little comfort.
“Moose. Tommy. Hang out here I’m going to play my numbers.”
“Boss, you want me to go?” Tommy asked.
“No Tommy. Me and my friend are gonna take a walk.”
We went out the door and started up Garretson Avenue toward the train. Across the street was Miceli Market. The owner, Tony, was a good friend of Vinny’s and been a butcher for over forty years. On Saturday’s there would be a line out the door, everyone buying everything they needed for their Sunday meal.
We were at the train trestle now heading to Dave’s Corner Store.
“I find myself at a little loss here,” he started off. “Normally I would have had those two take you for a ride and you would have disappeared.”
I swallowed hard.
“But the way they described what you did and then seeing the news last night, well I was intrigued to say the least. Then when Moose told me what you did to Tommy, well I was actually a little impressed.”
“I said a little. Don’t let it get to your head.”
We walked through the door and sat at the ancient counter. This place was once more of a coffee shop but was starting more and more to be a multi purpose store.
“You want a chocolate egg cream?” he asked and without waiting for an answer he ordered. “Dave, get me two chocolate egg creams.”
“You got it Vin,” said the older gentleman behind the counter.
“Dave makes great egg creams, just like the old neighborhood in Brooklyn.”
Dave put the egg creams on the counter and took a sheet of paper with a list of numbers on it. Vinny played around a hundred dollars worth of numbers every day. He hit pretty often but I guess when you were pulling in the cash he was, it didn’t really matter.
I drank the egg cream but didn’t taste any egg; it was good.
“So now what?” I asked.
“I asked around about you. You are almost done with school and you work at the golf course when it’s open. That’s good, I got friends that like to golf. Anyway, I know you ain’t going to college. I know your brother is gonna be a cop. I know your mother works too hard and too long. And I know you got a temper and are good with your hands.”
“I want you to come work for me.”
I almost spit out my egg cram.
“I am sorry, you want me to do what?”
“I want you to work for me.”
“I don’t think I could do that.”
“Think about it. I mean I could force you if I want or worse. Especially after last night.”
He got me there. He could just take me out or I could become accustomed to seeing Tommy and Moose every day and having to fight my way through the rest of my life. He could see me contemplating.
“Look, I don’t want you to answer right now, but let me ask you this. How did it feel to do what you did last night?”
I didn’t even have to think about it. I remembered the night before and the power I felt holding that gun. And maybe it was just the situation I was in at that particular time, but I felt no guilt whatsoever about what I had done.
“Good,” I said smiling, “It felt really good.”
I think the answer actually startled him and I don’t think he was prepared for it coming from me like that. We sat in silence for a few minutes and right after he got his numbers back, we left.
“I am in a tough spot,” he said. “I can’t just let you off the hook for last night that sends a bad message.”
“I understand. But you have to understand that I don’t think this is the life for me, maybe we could work something out.”
He smiled. “I knew you were sharp. I have just the thing for you.”
And just like that, I set myself up. He had me but I needed to figure out a way to work this to my advantage.
We sat back at the table and he signaled the waiter to get us drinks.
“Okay,” he began, “Let’s not bullshit here, you obviously know what I do, well to some extent anyway.”
“I have some ideas, yes.”