So I wish I could I say I actually looked at that “shopping list” that Stevie gave me, but I got so distracted with everything that was going on that it slipped my mind and apparently out of my pocket. I decided to just tell him to get whatever he felt he’d need and be done with it.
My more pressing concern was Ralphie and getting the gun parts we needed. Should I send him with money? Should we pay upon completion of the project? Would his machinist friend be able to do the job without asking questions? I could only get more and more paranoid about the inclusion of some random outsider in our business but we were on a timetable and didn’t have much choice at this point.
Over the next few days I was presented with some new complications. As I was getting ready to head into the shop the morning after we had our “big money” meeting, Mer came to me looking worried.
“What’s wrong babe?”
“We need to talk…” Oh god how I hated the conversations that started this way. The last one ended with her taking our daughter and leaving.
“Ok… I have some time before I need to leave. What’s up?”
“I know that things have been slow at the store and money’s tight but I can’t put this off any longer. We’re pregnant.” There are no words that appropriately describe the feelings I felt at this. It was a happy mix somewhere between abject terror, because I still didn’t know what the hell I was doing with the first one, let alone how to handle having two, and joy because I was having another baby with the woman I loved.
“I guess I should have told you then that we’ve been able to find a way to bring in more money. As of our next paychecks, all of us will be getting raises, so money shouldn’t be as big of an issue now if that’s the concern. Is that why you waited to tell me?” She just nodded demurely which was totally out of character for her. I hugged her tightly and as we released from the hug I put my hand on her stomach.
“How far along are we?” I remembered that the I, we, you, terminology seemed to matter like 1000% more to a pregnant woman.
“About 3 months.” Jesus, how could I have possibly missed this? I guess micro-managing an up and coming criminal organization takes its toll on one’s personal life.
“Was it just the money that you were worried about, hon?”
“Not entirely. I… we were hoping that you’d be able to be around more. We miss you and you’ve been working a lot. I know you need to in order to make the store a success, but we need you too. It’s hard when Bailee says she wants to see her daddy.”
I’d need to coordinate this with the boys, but the only way we could avoid suspicion would be if we became both better businessmen and better husbands/fathers. That would at least keep the wives from figuring things out or at least that was my hope anyway.
“Ok, since there’s going to be significantly more money coming in I’ll talk to the guys about working some sort of rotating days off for all of us. We all have families and we’ve all been working like madmen to get our shit together. I’ll have some idea of what a new work schedule looks like by the end of the week?”
“That should work. So what are you guys doing that’s making so much money?” Now I should have had something planned for this occasion, something pithy, something funny come, but instead I freaked out and said the first thing that came to mind.
“Running guns, assasination for hire and we’ve only recently gotten into bed with a pretty serious drug cartel.” I was apparently totally and completely functionally impaired.
She just laughed.
“Fine, if you are going to be an ass about it then don’t tell me. I need to finish getting ready for work anyway.” Being a sarcastic, smart ass finally had some semi-tangible payoff.
I went to work and over the next few days we set about coming up with a new schedule that would give us all another day off a week. Stevie would get another one on top of that so he could focus on the shit we needed him focused on. All throughout all of this Ralphie was either working on repairing the engine or working in the store waiting for parts to arrive before he could which was far really the only thing slowing the whole ordeal down. Everything was expected to be completed in a couple of days so they were more or less just normal days. Beyond that nothing special happened for most of the first week, but then came Thursday. It was about five or so when Ralphie poked his head into the office and interrupted me in counting the money for the 6th time on that day. I was counting it multiple times a day because I still couldn’t believe where we were and what we were doing.
“There’s some guys out front that want to see you.” Ralphie looked worried. Ralphie never looked worried.
“Ok, what do they want?”
“To ‘talk to the man in charge of operations’.” He was clearly quoting as this was more eloquent than what he could typically muster.
I got up and started to head out front. Ralphie caught my arm and stopped me.
“Take this with you, let me go first.” He handed me a gun. I immediately had, as a guy in a movie once said, a very bad feeling about this. Not that it mattered. I tucked the gun under my shirt put on my “game face” which I was wearing more and more and headed out front with Ralphie running point.
And the sight I was greeted with was so stereotypical and unoriginal as to be comical. Also, did every group of ne’er do wells send out groups of three to do their day to day work? On that point didn’t three of us just go to South America. Shit. Well, in this particular exchange I was greeted by three somewhat portly guys in dark suits and judging by their complexions I could only surmise they were Italian.
“Ralpie, clear the store please.” And he set to work with the task he’d been given.
“You da boss ‘ere?” The fattest of the three asked.
Fan-fucking-tastic! What in the shit was the mob doing here?
“Sure am. Something I can help you fellas with?” The only thought I had was that I couldn’t show these fucks any fear.
“Salvadore Barbiglia sends his regards and a request. It would seem that your endeavors are negatively impacting Mr. Barbiglia’s bottom line. He proposes three options by which this situation might be rectified.” This was not going to be good, but I needed to just let it play out.
“I’m listening. What exactly is Mr. Barbiglia suggesting?”
“Well, your first option is to let Mr. Barbiglia to become a silent partner in your activities and as a result give to him as a partner 50% of your net profits. Should that option not be to your liking, there is a second option. This one simply has you ceasing any and all of your operations. Ultimately though the choice is yours.”
“Alright, but that was only two choices.” And he just smiled a wicked grin at me as all three of the fat fucks pulled back their suit coats to show the guns they were packing.
“Option three is a permanent sort of retirement.”
I scratched at my chin. Ok, so straight to threats. I could work with that. Time to show these mob fucks what I thought of their “options”.
“Well, I think we’re all a little young yet for retirement. If you gentlemen would be so kind, I would appreciate your returning a simple message to Mr. Barbiglia for me. Tell him we’ll take option four.” I was going stream of consciousness and had no real idea where I was going with this. Sounded good though so I just went with it.
The talker looked puzzled.
“And what pre tell, is this option four?” And he started to reach for his gun, but what he hadn’t seen was that once Ralphie cleared the store, he had taken up a sentry position behind the two that weren’t speaking and he took the opportunity to put a gun to each of their heads.
“Thank you Ralphie.” I got a smile for the compliment.
“Well asshole, option four is that worthless fucksticks leave us the hell alone. You tell your boss that if he wants to talk to me about business he can do it face to fucking face and not to send random fat lackey number 4 in his stead. And I’ll use some concepts that you mobster pieces of shit should understand here. You tell your boss that accidents happen and that if I even hear about any of you thinking about crossing paths with anything associated with my business I will burn everything he has ever loved to the ground and before I’m done he will be begging me to release his spirit from this mortal coil just to be reunited with his loved ones. Now why don’t you nod your fat, fucking head one time to indicate to me you understand the words I just spoke to you, you tubby sack of shit.”
I got the single nod I was going for. His jaw was clenched up tighter than my butthole was in that moment which was maybe a good thing. Being as I was upset I am a little hazy on the exact sequence of events that happened after this. All I remember is that it started with the previously mentioned “sack of shit” reaching for his gun and ended with me sitting on his chest and hitting his dumb ass upside the head with it. I do remember snapping back to reality when Wil came out of the back.
“Jesus Christ, what the fuck is going on out here.”
I went to respond and found I was panting. Shit, did I lose time?
“Uh, just a little etiquette lesson with my new friend.” At that I smashed his nose with his own gun. “But no matter. These gentlemen were just leaving..
The bloody mess of a goombah I’m been pistol whipping gurgled some sort of reply and nodded an acknowledgement.
“Wil, since you are out here could you please relieve these gentlemen of their firearms? I would be ever so appreciative.”
He look at me like I was a fucking madman, and maybe he wasn’t far off, but he set about the task he’d been given. This allowed Ralphie to ease up a bit on the two he was covering and he offered me a hand to get back to my feet, which I was all too happy to accept.
I pointed the gun I’d been using like a hammer at the two angry and confused mobsters and Ralphie said, “Why don’t you two help your idiot friend up.”
That’s the kind of shit I myself would have said, and it made me smile a little.
“Ralphie, play nice.” And then I made sure as I said this next part to establish eye contact with each of the three in turn, “Remember what you have seen here today. Tell Mr. Barbiglia that our business is ours and unless he wants a war he’d do well to stay out of it. If I see any of the three of you anywhere near here again I will kill you. Am I clear?”
They were all so pissed but there was nothing they could do in the moment so they all just angrily nodded once. I knew there would probably be some repercussions for this later, but with how things had been handled I didn’t think it would be an all out war, which would be a nice thing to avoid if possible.
They just stood there staring at me. Right, I was in charge here. “Go! Get the fuck out of here!”
Mobsters are such huge pains in the dick.
Wil, who had been waiting for the chance to speak again finally did, “So I say again, what the fuck is going on out here?”
“Seems we’ve gotten onto the radar of a new friend. Find out everything you can about a Sal Barbiglia.”
“I don’t normally smash my friends in the face with a pistol.”
“No, no you don’t. Normally I don’t either. He wanted to fuck with our money. I didn’t want him to fuck with our money more.” And I just left it at that.
“Wait, I know that name. He came up in our search for people to do business with. He’s Chicago mob I think.”
“Ok, find me everything you can.” He walked off mumbling something to himself as he went. But he stopped in the doorway “What the hell am I supposed to do with these guns?”
“Just put them in the safe with the money for now.”
Which reminded me, “Big man, when did you start carrying?” It seemed a legitimate question since he had at least two plus the one he gave to me.
“When we get back from that meeting with the attorney. Figured better safe…” He was smarter than I gave him credit for.
“Well, I feel like I owe you one. Can you see about getting this cleaned up and getting the store opened back up?”
“Sure thing, I’m on it.”
I also put the Wills in charge of figuring out security solutions for the store. These ended up including the kinds of things they use at airports to check suitcases and people for guns and bombs and shit. Only in our case it was far more subtle so our normal clientele didn’t really notice.
And starting the day after we met those goombah fucks we all carried guns. Ralphie, well Ralphie just carried more of them.