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“Stupid!” Lucky exclaimed, breaking the rain-soaked silence. “You’re so stupid! What did I do to wind up with such a stupid brother?”
“It was an innocent mistake, Lucky.” Frank shoved his hands in his pants pockets and scowled at the car that shot by, splattering his shoes with dirty water, even though he was pressed all the way back against the building, under the awning. “Anybody could’ve done it.”
“No.” Lucky flicked ash from his cigarette. “Falling for that hijacker trick was stupid. You knew your orders. Don’t stop for nothing when you’ve got a full truck.”
“I said I was sorry!”
“Sorry ain’t gonna be good enough for the Boss.” Frank could see now that Lucky’s hands were shaking, though it wasn’t that cold for April. “Not when somebody else is distributing the product we risked our necks to bring in. It almost would have been better if you’d gotten caught. They might have released you. Or it would have made a nice excuse to go to war. Now it just looks bad for me, your brother, who recommended you for the job.”
“You don’t seriously mean I should’ve died?”
Lucky sighed. “No. It’s my fault. I thought you understood what was putting food on your table your whole life. I thought you wouldn’t just abandon the truck when you got in a tight spot. You had backup three blocks away.”
“Thanks,” said Frank bitterly. He wanted to put a tough face on it, but he was more humiliated than he’d ever been in his life. He’d lost the organization serious money, a lot of booze, and a truck, looking like nothing more than a wet-behind-the-ears kid. He hoped the Irish boys had enjoyed a good laugh along with their booze, at the sight of a Masi Family soldier fleeing down the street before they’d so much as fired a shot.
The door to the apartment building opened behind them.
“Come on up,” said the sentry. He didn’t look directly at either of the two brothers.
“Okay.” Lucky pitched his cigarette into the street and slapped Frank on the back. “Let’s go, kid. Best thing to do now is own up to it and maybe you won’t find yourself waking up at the bottom of Lake Michigan tomorrow morning.”
The sentry led the way up the carpeted stairs. It was an old building, still lit by gas, and the effect made shadows dance in the stairwell as the three men made their way up. Frank had never met anyone higher ranking in the organization than Lucky, who was a Capo, only a couple steps ahead of him and the leader of their crew of soldiers. Even Lucky only reported directly to the Underboss, not the big man.
The closer they got to the top, the more he felt the urge to run again. Then, he thought of how he must have looked on Friday, tearing down the street so fast his hat flew off.
No, he’d face this, like the man he was supposed to be.
When they reached the top, Lucky knocked twice on the door. “Luca Denino.”
“Come in,” growled a voice.
Lucky opened the door, taking off his hat. Frank quickly copied him, schooling his expression into one of remorse. Maybe he ought to think of it like church.
The apartment’s front room was dark and smoke-filled. Frank recognized three of the men at the table as friends of Lucky, other Capos. Then, there was the Underboss and the Consigliere, both of whom Frank had seen briefly, visiting various hangouts of their gang. The man in the middle was the Boss, Rocco Masi. Frank had never met him, but he’d seen his photo in the papers and remembered bragging as a kid about the notorious bootlegger his brother worked for (which had earned him a rare thrashing).
Then, Frank noticed the man standing behind the Boss, the youngest of the group; he could have been Frank’s own twenty-one. His bearing was different than that of the big tough guys who made up the rest of the table. It wasn’t just his build, or the piercing gray eyes that were presently assessing Frank. There was something unusual about him that Frank couldn’t quite articulate.
He didn’t drag his gaze away until Masi himself spoke.