Matthew strolled down the street keeping his eyes straight ahead. Act like a New Yorker, he reminded himself, whatever that means. He recalled his final briefing with Don Giovanni.
“Matthew, I think it’s time for you to have more responsibility. You follow orders, keep the younger guys in line and show a loyalty that is unsurpassed by any other soldier I have today. It’s time for you to become Capo.”
Remembering the words of his Don made Matthew swell with pride.
“If you accept, I have a most delicate task for you as a primary test of your new position.. As you know Don Raphael was killed last week in that nasty business with the Romani. His wife Julia is beside herself with grief. I sent Paulo to offer our condolences, and she’s begging our assistance to bring her children back from her mother’s house in the United States so that they may comfort her. Paulo spoke well for me and assured her he would see to it personally. Unfortunately I need my son-in-law to stay here and act as boss while I am attending to some business in New York for the family. So, I need you to pick a soldier you trust and come to New York with me to retrieve Julia’s children for me.”
This was no easy task Don Giovanni had given Matthew. The whole thing had gone down when Matthew was younger, so he didn’t know the full back story, but there was some controversy over Mrs. Raziole’s twins and Mrs, Raziole’s mother had demanded custody and whisked the infants off to America. Matthew had heard his mother and aunts whisper about it, but never paid much attention. Don Giovanni confirmed, he was basically going to have to lure them out of the house and kidnap them.
Marco was somewhere behind him, lurking in the shadows. He just took his oath last year, and their mother was not happy about the decision, but Matthew had tried to make her see. “Mama, where else do we work? Who can give us the job security and protect us like Don Giovanni? What would you have us do?” Eventually she relented and Matthew could trust his little brother to have his back better than anyone.
Matthew came to the address he had been given and spied a bench in a small park across the street. Making his way over, he picked up a newspaper someone else had left behind and used it as a cover to settle in for some surveillance.
After only half an hour, Matthew saw what he was looking for. A town car pulled up and two children burst out from the car and up the steps to the front door. A maid opened the door and the excited voices of the children carried across the street.
“Miss May, Miss May!” “Look what I drew today!” “My team won!” “Teacher liked my show and tell!” “Look! Look!”
The maid ushered them in the house and waved toward the driver of the town car who, waving back, slid the car down the street and around the corner, presumably to some private lot.
If Matthew was lucky, it was just the children and the maid. He scanned the open windows, but didn’t seen any sign of the grandparents being home at all. As he looked, the door opened and the children crossed the street and started playing on the swing set in the park. Here we go.
Matthew approached the swing set and decided honesty would play best.
“Buon giornio, mi bambini,” he began in a cheerful voice. “You’re Tony, right? And you have to be Anita, Che Bella bambini! I’m Matthew, a friend of Julia, your mother. I know she comes to visit you whenever she can.”
“Is Mama here?” Anita asked.
“No, but she has asked me to bring you to her.”
“Why?” Tony demanded. “She always says we have to stay with Grandma, we aren’t allowed to live with her.”
“That’s all changed now and she sent me to come get you. But we have to go right away and we don’t want to upset your grandmother, so he can’t say goodbye to anyone. Is there anything you have to have?”
“My Teddy,” Anita said immediately. Matthew looked at Tony.
“Nah, I’m good.”
“OK,” Matthew smiled. “So we’ll all go to the foyer, Tony and I will wait downstairs while Anita grabs Teddy, then we’ll get on a plane and go see Mama. Sound good?”
“Yes!” The children sprung to action.
Matthew had to give it to them. They were quick and quiet. Anita came back in record time and with a hand on each child, Mathew turned them towards the door. Just then the maid stepped in the foyer and screamed. Matthew snatched up the kids and made a beline for the door but was stopped short by a someone stepping out from a front side room.
“Ho, now! What’s this?” A burly looking man emerged from a side room and Mattian hastily dropped the children to their feet. Oh crap, thought Mattian, the driver!
“Hey buddy, I was just inquiring the children here about some lost–”
“You were not!” Miss May interrupted. “You just picked those children up and were about to run out the door! Joe, did you see? He’s trying to take the children, Joe!”
“I saw May, I saw. Step back now.” With that, Joe took a step forward. “I’d suggest you let go of them children right now, you bastard.”
“I’d suggest you back down before I knock you senseless. You have no idea who you’re messing with!” Matthew threatened.
The next moment seemed like an eternity. Joe howled and raised a fist to Matthew, Matthew pushed the children towards the door and out of the way, then ducked low to avoid Joe’s swing and turned about to land a roundhouse in Joe’s stomach. A brawl ensued with Matthew and Joe matching blow for blow and Miss May screaming and throwing in the random ineffectual slap on Matthew’s back.
When Marco heard the commotion and burst onto the scene, it took him only a few seconds to properly assess what was going on.
“Marco!” Matthew shouted as he blocked another punch. “Get the children out! I’ll meet you back at the safe house!”
“Right!” Marco pounced into action ushering the children with him. “Come on mi bambini, Annie ride piggy back and Danny take my hand. We are going somewhere safe!”
Matthew watched Marco herd the children towards the door, which left him completely vulnerable and unprepared for Joe’s right hook. As Matthew stumbled around the room, desperate to regain his bearings, Marco darted out the door and across the street, unaware of the high pitch screech of tires, cacophony of angry horns and the horrifying sound of warping metal against shattering glass.
And then they heard children scream.
Both Matthew and Joe turned towards the door, unsure of what had happened, but knowing it was not good. Miss May was the one to finally break the spell and go out the door to see what was happening outside. Miss May’s subsequent wailing drew Matthew like a moth to a flame.
Putting one foot in front of the other, he walked down the stoop and began to survey the situation. The hood of a black town car looked to be permanently embedded in the driver’s side door of a green station wagon. The town car had been driving fast enough to keep pushing the station wagon down the street until they crashed into the parked cars in front of the childrens’ grandparents’ home.
But that wasn’t why Miss May was wailing. Miss May was wailing because between the parked car and the green station wagon were pinned the bodies of little Tony and Anita, as well as the body of Marco, eyes still open and staring dully at the sky above.
Matthew collapsed to the ground beside him and desperately tried to search for any trace of his life energy remaining. There was nothing. His brother was gone. Stifling a sob in his throat, he reached his hand up to Marco’s head and gently closed his eyes.
Matthew did not know how long he sat there, but eventually he heard a familiar voice talking to people behind him.
“I thank you for you service this evening, as well as for your silence.” Matthew turned to see Don Giovanni discreetly handing money to both Joe and Miss May.
“No!” Rising to his feet, Matthew shakily turned to explain. “My Don, if these people hadn’t tried to stop me this never would have happened! Julia’s children and Marco would still be alive!”
Don Giovanni quietly said something to Joe and Miss May, and they nodded their heads and quickly left.
“Matthew,” he began with a smile, “what they did was allow me to preserve the life of my new Capo, while allowing me to complete my ultimate goal.”
“Your ultimate goal? Your, you… You wanted the children dead?” Don Giovanni smiled slightly. “But why sir? I thought we were bring them home to their mother? Hasn’t she lost enough?”
“The only thing Julia Raziole has lost was the one thing that kept her from using those children as a claim to gainmore control in this family than she deserves.” Don Giovanni’s voice grew hard. “Everyone except Don Raphael knew the truth, and I expect that he at least suspected. Don Raphael was not the father of these children. Paulo is the father.”
“Paulo– Paulo your son-in-law?” Matthew’s head was swimming. “But there is no claim! Why harm the children? Your daughter–”
“My daughter does not deserve his bastard children parading around her day in and day out! My grandchildren do not need to be confused by half-siblings claiming to deserve just as much as they do! I am Don and I will not have it!”
“But Marco…” Matthew started, his heart sinking into his stomach.
“Was a soldier,” Don Giovanni finished more softly. “He took the oath and he died by the oath. I will take care of his funeral and no expense will be spared. You did good today. You have earned your new title.”
Don Giovanni embraced Matthew. “Keep this up and you could rise high in the family. I may one day consider you a son. Paulo’s days are numbered anyway… Now, it’s time to go home Matthew, but I’ll give you a few more minutes with your brother.”
As Don Giovanni began walking down the block, Matthewonce again crumbled down beside Marco and the children, tears streaming down his face.
This is my fault little brother, I didn’t know….If I had I would have– Please forgive me. I didn’t know…