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Archive for March, 2011

Copyright 2009

By William Currens Devol

 

If she hadn’t been so beautiful, none of this would have happened. Gabriela Rosalia Segesta was so beautiful I couldn’t stop looking at her.

 

I had stayed at work past seven. Most days, I don’t work that late, but the push was on to finish the manuals for the new software package even though the code wasn’t finalized. We were documenting a moving target which includes guessing about what the software should do. It required constant revision, but at least it was a colossal waste of time.

 

My laptop case got stuck that evening when I tried to push it and my wide backside through the turnstile at the same time. The lady behind the glass had to come out and unlock the turnstile so I didn’t break it. I’m sure the Regional Transit Authority paid more for that turnstile than I paid for my laptop case.

 

Gabriela went through her turnstile smoothly. She got ahead of me going out onto the eastbound platform under the Terminal Tower. That’s when her butt captured my full attention. She was wearing a very professional, black suit with faint gray pinstripes.

 

The slacks didn’t hug her butt; they weren’t too tight or anything vulgar like that. The slacks draped her butt. The slacks hinted at the shape of her butt; her slacks described her butt. My imagination was doing the rest. Her shoes had a really long, skinny heel and they were black; I don’t know shoes so well.

 

I’m 6 feet 2 inches tall, and when I slid in next to Gabriela on the platform, the top of her head came to my collar bone. I’d guess she was just over 5 feet tall. Her suit jacket was buttoned and fit her upper body like her slacks did her lower body.

 

Her hair was black, thick, and straight. She had her hair tucked behind small, perfect pink ears, and her face was sharp without being hard. Her eyes were so brown they could have been black.

 

She turned from the platform and rested her silver purse on the edge of a trash can and began looking for something deep inside the handbag. She pulled out her cell phone, and didn’t notice a shiny purple cloth bag fall out of her purse, bounce once on the rim of the trash can, a tumble inside.

 

The next thing I knew, I was saying, “Allow me” and snagging the bag out of the trash.

 

When I held the bag out to Gabriela, she smiled and thanked me. I just stared at her smiling face, her perfect small white teeth, and her eyes.

 

“Anytime,” I said. “Anytime at all.” Then I realized I hadn’t let go of the bag when she grabbed her end of it. I let go of the bag and ran behind a platform pillar to hide my embarrassment as Gabriela opened her phone and began to dial.

 

Thankfully, the Green Road rapid pulled into the station a minute later. The Tribe was out west, so only a handful of people got off the train, and only three of us got on.

 

Gabriela sat in the back-left of the train. I sat three seats ahead of her near the accordion door in the middle of the train. I was starting to creep myself out a little because I rarely got this stupid about women. I had worn a wife out about 5 years previously, and I was a complete disaster on dates.

 

My buddy Mitchell says I screw dates up because I don’t want to be happy. He says I’m punishing myself for the divorce. He doesn’t understand what’s really going on.

 

After considerable evaluation, I have come to the conclusion that either all women are crazy or I am the kind of crazy where you and other men don’t know you are crazy, but women know you are crazy just by looking at you.

 

Mrs. Ruger, my third-grade teacher wrote in my permanent record that she believed I needed counseling. I was first judged crazy by Mrs. Ruger when I was 8 years old. Here I was twenty-eight years later stalking a beautiful olive-skinned woman easily ten years my junior while riding public transportation.

 

I became ashamed of myself and turned away from staring. It was probably just loneliness. Every blue moon I’d get like that, but a weekend spent surfing the web for porn usually took care of the problem.

 

The third passenger was a guy on the other side of the aisle and the other side of the door. He caught my attention because he was thin and you could tell from his five o’clock shadow that he could grow a full beard in a week. My beard was pretty wispy even though I’d had it for 18 years. I immediately hated the other passenger because he had greater beard potential.

 

When the train slowed for the East 79th Street stop, Mr. Five O’clock Shadow got up like it was his stop. God help me, but I remember thinking, just for a second, “Wow, you don’t see many white guys get off the Rapid at East 79th Street.” That little racist thought saved Gabriela’s life and changed mine, so I have since forgiven myself.

 

When the double doors opened up, Mr. Shadow started down the steps. On the bottom step, he turned and braced his back against the open door. Then the guy pulled a cannon of a handgun out from somewhere inside his brown leather jacket and pointed it in Gabriela’s direction.

 

When I got to my feet, Mr. Shadow was distracted and turned his head toward me. I reached up and grabbed the handrails on either side of the aisle, got my ass airborne, and kicked both my legs out.

 

I caught Mr. Shadow in the shoulder and the elbow on his right side. I heard a sickening crack before Mr. Shadow dropped the cannon and flew out the door into the concrete wall at the top of the stairs at the East 79th Street stop. His skull made another sick cracking sound and he slumped against the base of the wall. As the door closed and the train pulled away, I could see there was a lot of blood.

 

I turned toward Gabriela, but she was staring at the gun lying on the train’s rubber floor mat. When she looked up at me, she was very pale, nearly white.

 

I dropped back into my seat like I fell out of a tree. I swallowed hard and stared back at Gabriela staring at me. Then we both looked at the gun. Then we looked back at each other.

 

Gabriela blinked several times and then said, “Pick up the gun and put it in your case.”

 

I said, “What?”

 

“The gun, pick it up by the barrel, point it at the floor. Before you put it in your case, however, push that red button near the trigger in until it clicks. Do this quickly because we do not want anyone to get on the train, see the gun, and call the police,” Gabriela’s color was coming back and as she spoke her voice gained authority.

 

I did what she said. The red button was the safety, of course, and when the gun was in my case, Gabriela moved to the seat behind mine.

 

“Who are you? Did my Dad have you follow me,” Gabriela said.

 

“I’m Gene, and I don’t know your Dad. I don’t know you. That guy was going to kill you,” I saw my own face in the train window. On the outside, I looked blank; on the inside, I was nearing hysteria.

 

“Yep, and probably you,” Gabriela said. When I started to stammer a reply, She held a finger to her lips and pulled the cell phone out of her purse, opened it and punched in a number, “Carmine, drop everything and bring Al in the Hummer to the Shaker Square Rapid station. Do it now. We are two stops away. There will be two of us.”

 

Gabriela listened for a few seconds, and when she answered, a touch of Little Italy had entered her voice, “Oh, nothing, just some mook tried to kill me over here.”

 

Gabriela slapped her phone shut and jammed it back in her purse.

 

“Gene, Gene, yo, Gene,” she started snapping her manicured fingers in my face. “We are getting out at Shaker Square. Two very big, very ugly men will be waiting for us with a bullet-proof Hummer.”

 

“That sounds like a great idea,” I said

 

Gabriela laughed and said, “Fuckin-A it’s a good idea.”

 

The men were big. Carmine was half a head taller than me and he was the little one. They were ugly too. Carmine and the other guy, Alvise, “Call me Al,” had noses that had been broken in opposite directions. Carmine had an angry red scar just behind his left ear that ran down into the collar of the opened throated blue work shirt he was wearing.

 

They grabbed us from the steps of the train as four other people waited to get on. I was in the back of a black Hummer behind dark windows and Al was driving us somewhere very fast before I had time to hyperventilate.

 

Carmine had a deep voice and actually talked like guys that looked like him in the movies, “Police,” he asked turning to Gabriela sitting next to me in the back seat.

 

“No police,” she said. “It was me, Gene, the shooter, and the driver. That driver had to hear something. Gene here kicked that son-of-a-bitch clear out of the train. I think he broke his fuckin’ arm. It happened at 79th Street; the guy smacked the wall with his head pretty good.”

 

Carmine pulled a cell phone from inside his Indians jacket and made a call, “Lenny, get someone down to the Green Road Rapid station. Someone tried to off Joe’s kid on the train. The driver didn’t call the police, so the driver was probably in on it.”

 

Carmine listened to the response, “No, don’t fuckin’ kill the driver. Joe will want us to have a few words with the driver to determine if the driver needs some killing. Also, get someone down to the East 79th Street stop. The shooter might still be there.”

 

The phone went back in the Indians jacket, and Carmine smiled a smile that was big and frightening, “So, Gene, is it? You broke the fucker’s arm. Not bad for a fuckin’ Mick.”

 

“It’s not Mick, it’s Gene,” was all I could say.

 

Al’s laugh was more like a rattle in his throat, “We know your name; you ain’t black, you ain’t Italian, you got a red beard and skin as pink as a baby’s ass. That’s a Mick, all right.”

 

I still didn’t understand so I looked at Gabriela for some help.

 

“Irish, he means you are Irish,” Gabriela said.

 

The three of them talked rapid fire in what I guessed was Italian for the rest of the drive. I couldn’t tell you if we went one mile or four-hundred.

 

As it turns out, we went less than four hundred.

 

The Segestas lived in a compound of four houses on about three acres hidden behind a high, thick field stone wall. You don’t need to know where the Segestas live and I’m not going to say any more about that.

 

Al drove the Hummer through a massive wrought iron gate that clanged shut behind us. The driveway wound through the property and past the front of each of the houses.

 

Each house was built of the same dark grey stone with heavily shuttered, recessed windows. Each was a story and a half with silvered cedar shingled roofs and low eves. One-hundred year old oaks and expensive landscaping sheltered each building.

 

The main house was at the back of the property and was the biggest. The other three houses were much smaller and were arranged inside the wall so they didn’t block the front of the main house.

 

As we pulled up, the thick front door of the big house opened and two men in dark suits walked down the three low steps to the driveway. The older of the two was thin and wore a spotless white shirt with a silver tie. The younger man wore a shirt just as white but with a light blue tie. Both men looked agitated.

 

As soon as the car stopped, Gabriela threw open the door and squeaked, “Daddy, Paulie.” The two men stepped forward and took turns embracing her.

 

She kissed both men on the lips, but Paulie got the sloppy kiss. Gabriela and Paulie went into the house, but Daddy turned back to the Hummer.

 

Carmine stepped out of the Hummer and bent to whisper something into Daddy’s ear. Daddy’s eyes jerked toward me in the middle of Carmine’s whisper. When Carmine finished, Daddy nodded his head and whispered something to Carmine. Then, he moved to the Hummer and offered me his hand.

 

I took his hand and he grasped mine in both of his, “My name is Joseph Segesta, and as soon as I have had a chance to speak with my daughter and take care of a few things, I will thank you properly for what you have done. Until I can see you again, I’ve told Carmine to make sure you get something to eat if you wish. Is there anything else you need?”

 

“I could sure use a bathroom,” was the only thing that came out of my mouth.

 

Joseph Segesta smiled and then laughed, “Carmine will see to that, as well. Alvise, after you park the Hummer, please join Frances at the front gate for a short while until we can better assess our situation.”

 

“How about I park the Hummer behind the gate and help Frank,” Al said.

 

“Even better, Alvise, an excellent idea,” Joseph Segesta said. He turned back to the house, went inside, and closed the door.

 

Al beamed and Carmine slapped him on the back, “That’s using your head baby brother, now haul ass.”

 

Al jumped back in the Hummer and drove to the gate house.

 

Carmine’s arm surprised me when he dropped it across my shoulders, I nearly fell.

 

“Whoa, Rambo,” Carmine said as he grabbed my shoulder in one of his huge hands and held me up. “You’ve had a big day. Come with me and let’s get you to that bathroom.”

 

Carmine took me around to the back of the main house where we entered a large, dark paneled office or study through French doors off of a cobblestone patio.

 

“The toilet is through that door,” Carmine said squaring up my shoulders and giving me a gentle push toward a padded, red leather door as he stepped behind what appeared to be a bar.

 

When I came out, Carmine handed me a cold green bottle with a blue label, “Knock that back, Irish. It’ll stop the blood rushing in your ears.”

 

I drained half the bottle in one gulp. When I stopped to take a breath, I looked at the label; it was a Birra Messina, “What’s Birra Messina,” I asked.

 

“Read the label,” Carmine said.

 

“Birra Di Sicilia…beer of Sicily…it’s Sicilian beer,” I stammered.

 

“Very good, Irish. What have you figured out, so far,” Carmine asked.

 

“Mr. Segesta is a criminal,” I blurted out before I clamped a hand over my own mouth.

 

“No, that’s OK,” Carmine said holding up a hand. “You got it. The boss is a criminal; I’m a criminal; Paulie’s a criminal; Gabriela is a criminal. We all work for a criminal enterprise, but it isn’t exactly what you’re thinking. We are lawyers.”

 

“Lawyers,” I said.

 

“Well, Al ain’t a lawyer yet, but he takes the Bar next month,” Carmine said.

 

“Lawyers? But, the guy with the gun, people don’t shoot lawyers,” I was confused.

 

“Lot’s of people would if they thought they could get away with it,” Carmine said with a laugh. “Drink your beer, Irish. We are lawyers and we are criminals. We are a criminal enterprise that specializes in representing criminal enterprises. We fix things and untangle things and arrange financing for things. It’s enough for you to know that we are criminals, but we try to be nice criminals.”

 

“Nice criminals,” I said. “What are nice criminals?”

 

“Nice criminals don’t try to shoot people’s children over business,” Carmine said. “We might need to shoot someone, now and then, but we try our best to shoot just them and not the general public or their family members.”

 

“Holy shit,” I said and downed the rest of the beer in one swallow.

 

“Killing people is impolite and sloppy,” Carmine said. “We prefer to pay people off, sue people into submission, blackmail them, or smack them around a little. You catch more flies with sugar, as they say. Any way, I am telling you this not to scare you, but to warn you that you have fallen in with thieves through no fault of your own,” Carmine stood up and paced in front of me.

 

“If you are thinking you were in the wrong place at the wrong time, I want you to stop,” continued Carmine. “For Mr. Segesta, you were in the best possible place at the best possible time for his daughter and his family. All we ask of you is silence about what happened today. After today, never, ever bring this up again with anyone. If you can keep this arrangement, Mr. Segesta will be forever grateful. What do you say, Irish?”

 

I agreed to stay quiet; what was I supposed to say, “Sorry, Carmine, I’m going to the Feds.”

 

Carmine got me another beer and excused himself because he “had to piss like a race horse.”

 

I drank the second beer in three pulls. On an empty stomach, the two beers actually made me drowsy. Despite what had happened and where I was, I nodded off in the chair.

 

“Irish, hey, Irish, wake up, the boss wants to talk to you,” Carmine said, shaking me back to the world.

 

As soon as I heard Carmine, I snapped awake to find him bending down to me in the chair.

 

“There you go, Irish,” Carmine said with a smile. He straightened, turned around and said, “He’s awake Mr. Segesta.”

 

Carmine stepped to the side and Joseph Segesta stood smiling down at me.

 

“Mr. Longford,” Joseph Segesta said. “I can never thank you enough for saving Gabby’s life.”

 

Carmine slid a wing backed chair in behind Mr. Segesta, and the distinguished looking man with a full head of silver hair and watery, blue eyes beneath full, silver eyebrows sat, crossed his legs, rested his elbows on the arms of the chair, and steepled his fingers in front of his straight nose and thin lips.

 

“I never told you my last name,” I said.

 

“That’s true. But, I’d be a truly pitiful criminal if I could find out who you are,” Mr. Segesta said. “We ran your fingerprints from inside the Hummvee through the FBI fingerprint database in Washington, D. C., and we knew who you were in a matter of minutes. It was easy.”

 

“The FBI,” I said. “Holy shit, the FBI. That’s amazing.”

 

Mr. Segesta began to chuckle behind his steepled fingers. Carmine began to laugh out loud.

 

“What,” I asked. “What’s so funny?”

 

“He’s busting your balls, Irish,” Carmine said and handed Mr. Segesta a glass full of a lot of ice and a little whiskey.

 

I looked at Mr. Segesta and he was grinning while sipping his drink. When he swallowed he put the glass down on a small round table Carmine had placed beside his chair.

 

“Carmine is right, but vulgar,” Mr. Segesta said. “I was teasing you. You left your computer bag in the Hummvee, and your wallet was in one of the inside pockets. Can I offer you another drink or something to eat?”

 

“OK, you got me,” I said. “That’s pretty funny. I’m really not terribly hungry, and those two beers went straight to my head; I’m fine.”

 

“Carmine,” Mr. Segesta said lifting one hand above his head.

 

Carmine picked a manila folder off of the bar top and put it in Mr. Segesta’s waiting hand.

 

Mr. Segesta opened the folder and balanced it in his lap. He began to read, “Eugene Gallagher Longford, born August 26, 1971. You were an only child. Your mother was Alice and your father was Henry. They are both unfortunately no longer with you. You’ve been married once, you have no children, you were a Cub Scout but never a Boy Scout, and your credit rating is just over 630. You work for a computer software company called Insight Systems, you write software and system manuals. You have a Visa and a Discover card on which you manage to pay the minimums every month. According to the divorce papers, you gave your ex-wife the house in Twinsburg in exchange for full custody of your dog, Sophie. Nothing in your life to this point can account for what you did on that train today. Why did you do that? Do you even know?”

 

“Holy shit,” I said. “I haven’t the faintest idea.”

 

“And it’s not important; what is important is that you have done this thing,” Mr. Segesta said. “You know something about yourself many people never get the chance to know. You can conquer fear.”

 

“I didn’t have time to be scared,” I explained. “The guy pulled a gun and I just stood up. He could have shot me, but he turned his head and not the gun. The next thing I knew, his arm cracked and out he went.”

 

“Rudyard Kipling put it this way,” Mr. Segesta said, “”If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you; If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, But make allowance for their doubting too; If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster And treat those two impostors just the same…Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it.”

 

“The Earth is mine,” I said, sounding not at all sure.

 

“That is up to you, Gene,” Mr. Segesta said with a giant smile. “Very soon, you are going to inherit a great deal of money from a long-forgotten relative to whom you were the only heir.”

 

“What,” I said. “How?”

 

“We’re lawyers, Irish,” Carmine laughed. “All you need to do is wait until the will is filed and everything will be as legal as we can make it look, and we can make it look absolutely legal. You just have to remember one thing.”

 

“Never, ever bring this up again,” I said.

 

“Exactly,” Mr. Segesta said. “Thank you for my daughter’s life.”

 

With that, Mr. Segesta stood, shook my hand, and left me alone with Carmine in the book-lined room.

 

“What happened with the train driver and the guy I kicked, Carmine,” I asked.

 

“You will never know. Hey, don’t fuck this up by getting nosey, Irish,” Carmine said, dropping his huge arm heavily across my shoulders again. “I’d hate to have to shoot you.”

 

“Fuck what up,” I asked, looking up into Carmine’s ugly smiling face.

 

“Exactly,” Carmine said. “Exactly.”

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