An Offer You Can’t Refuse
Guido didn’t like wearing a suit. He thought it made him look too intimidating and told his mother so.
His mother, the little dumpling that she was, shook her head. "Guido, mein Sohn, you’re supposed to look intimidating. Think about what these people are hiring you to do!"
"About that, Ma…" But she cut him off with a quick string of German that Guido couldn’t keep up with. It was usually for best to go along with her when she got like that. So, Guido found himself, in the bar at 10am.
Nothing good goes on in a bar at 10am. He had learned that very young when his father would take him to meet "family." Going to meet this uncle or that was fine until one afternoon three men with guns burst in. Within five seconds, Guido, at the ripe old age seven, saw three men die. Guido imagined his father had died in some similar manner. Mother wouldn’t tell him.
The bar was everything Guido expected. Long, wood; stools and top wiped immaculately clean. A few tables had their chairs turned seats down on their tops. They interrupted the light filtering through the frosted windows with dead-spider shadows. The back office would be cramped. Every boyhood uncle had had one, complete with an old metal teacher’s desk. Among the papers on an uncle’s desk one was likely to find a stack of non-consecutive hundred dollar bills.
Two men in jeans and flannel shirts had let Guido in. They smirked at his suit.
"Wait here," one said.
Guido nodded dumbly.
The other went behind the bar and fished a beer from a chest cooler. "What do you think you are? Mafioso?"
Guido shrugged. "No, but my mother does."
The guy behind the bar twisted off the cap of his beer and took a swig. "That’s pathetic."
Guido couldn’t disagree.
Ma insisted that Mr. Drest was an old friend of Father’s. She was always trying to find Guido work. She had ruined the last legitimate job Guido had at the comic store by telling some wise guys it would be okay to use the place as a front for a few drug deals. Guido had nearly wound up in jail. His mother’s involvement never entered the picture. Why she couldn’t leave him alone and let him go to art school? Every time he brought it up, she claimed he was ungrateful for not wanting to take care of her in her waning years. Guido kept hoping she’d get tired of trying to place him in his father’s footsteps.
The back room wasn’t like Guido imagined. It was shadowy and as cool as a late spring slush puddle. The furnishings were all made of dark wood, old wood, that didn’t let light reflect from it. The desktop was as neat as Ma’s dining room table.
It was the man behind the desk made Guido’s breath stick in the back of his throat.
He was small. The lush chair nearly swallowed him up. His large head was precariously set atop a neck smaller than a five-year-old’s forearm. He wore a purple vest over a billowy white shirt. And Guido was almost certain in this light that Mr. Drest had a pair of leathery wings on his back. He’s older than the wood desk, Guido thought.
Mr. Drest smiled. "Guido Delamisso. Carmine’s boy! Don’t you look fine in your suit?"
His voice was young, girlish.
Guido swallowed his questions. Terror was sour in his throat. The two men in jeans and flannels stood flanking him.
"Why don’t you boys ever dress up more?" Drest asked. "Lend a little class to our operation. How’s your mother, Guido?"
Guido still couldn’t find the breath to speak.
"Don’t be bashful."
"My…" Guido coughed. "My mother’s fine, sir."
"Good to hear." His voice had a thick velvety brogue. "I remember her being a very lovely woman. Everyone could understand why Carmine married her, even if she was a Protestant girl." Mr. Drest’s bloodless lips offered Guido a thin smile. Guido was staring hard at the man’s face. Anything to keep from staring at the wings. Bat’s wings, or gargoyle’s.
"Your mother loved your father a great deal," Drest was saying. "She also loved the life itself, despite your father’s unfortunate end. Which is why she contacted me about a job for you, yes?"
"Yes, I suppose so," said Guido.
He must have sounded tentative because Drest continued. "It happens sometimes, especially to wives. They get a taste for someone they love being in danger. A strange thing."
Guido nearly yelped a laugh at the small winged man calling his mother strange. Instead, he just agreed. "Yes."
"I have a proposition for you, Guido," Drest said. "Maybe I will get what I want, and you will get what you want. Wouldn’t that be nice?"
"Yes," Guido said.
"You do this one job for me, and we’ll tell your mother that you’re permanently my employee. But really, you go and do what you want. I’ll cover for you, ad infinitum."
It sounded to go too be true. Guido couldn’t stop what he said next. "Who do you want me kill?"
Mr. Drest smiled, but didn’t say anything to disavow Guido of his notion. He sat for a moment. Guido could swear the wings twitched. It occurred to him just then that maybe the wings were fake. Maybe this old man was as crazy as Guido’s mother and his way of instilling fear in his rivals was to parade around as some sort of Satan. They were so real though.
Mr. Drest opened a desk drawer. He took out a thin manila folder and slid it to Guido.
This is another piece from my scrap bin. The file is dated February 21, 2002. I don’t remember writing it. The challenge with it was cutting down from 1360 to less than 1000. I thought the writing was lean, but I manage to take a sentence here, a clause there. Final count was 952. I also didn’t have a title. I decided to go with the old cliche instead of my other front runner: Fairy Godfather.
I think I’ll plan on writing something new for next week. Or trying to finish one of the beginnings I have.