Dr. Liu beat us there, on purpose. He wanted to be able to set up a temporary surgical theater, much to the distress and slight panic of Angela. "Please Mrs. Morelli, do not pass out. I can only handle one emergency per household per day, and your husband let me know about his first."
I shoved us into the driveway and helped get Angel out of the car. He was dizzy and light-headed, not in the condition to be walking on his own. His narrative had started out clear at least.
Vincent wanted a hostage. He wanted to receive fifty pounds of marching powder for free, so he could retire. It wasn't anything personal against me.
Twenty-two minutes in, Vincent pulled a gun on Angel. Angel dove for it, trying to pry it away from Vincent. The single shot I heard was the sound of Angel getting the gun and losing his finger at the same time.
And how were the next six minutes occupied? Angel managed to sap Vincent into unconsciousness, then use some duct tape --- my old stand-by --- to hog-tie him. "I wrapped his wrists, I wrapped his fingers. I wrapped his hands and feet. I gagged him, but good. He's not going anywhere."
"What'll happen to him?"
Angel laughed in a slightly psychotic manner. "The family will come out in a couple days and let him loose. What they do with him after that is anybody's guess. Hell, they may just leave him to die there in his house. I honestly don't know. But he has no connection to the family, only as a customer. You have no idea how much this hurts." There was blood all over his suit and the passenger seat-well.
Dr. Liu had Angel lying down on the dining room table. Angela stood to one side, crying. I want over and gave her a hug.
From the table came a slurred voice. "Hey! Are you hugging my wife, punk?"
I said, "Yes, Angel. She needed a little bit of comfort and since Bekka isn't here, I'm providing it. I'm a surrogate Bekka." Angel found this hilarious.
"Now you know why I keep that kid around, doctor. He's a damn good businessman and he is also funny as hell."
Dr. Liu put Angel into a "twilight" anesthetic state, where the patient is conscious, but barely. I was too squeamish to watch, but Dr. Liu cleaned and trimmed and sewed. Halfway through both Frankie and Vinny showed up, responding to Angela's telephonic cries for help. They both took a look at what was happening and joined Angela and me in the living room.
I gave Bekka a call and told her what had gone down. After all, she was friends with Angel, too. She asked how Angela was dealing with it. "I don't think she's stopped crying since Dr. Liu showed up."
"I'm calling the girls and having them go over. She needs some support right now, and not the kind from guys." Made sense to me.
The house was filling up, so the girls mixed a pitcher of martinis and set out the glasses. I took a pass, as I'd just as soon drink gasoline as gin. Remembering my preference, Angela brought me a Johnnie Walker on ice. Then the three of them went about the business of putting together some food.
Bekka asked, "So how is he?" as I came through the door.
"Well, he's short one finger, but he'll be okay. You know he hog-tied the guy responsible after having it shot off? I thought I worked well after being shot."
We went out to an early dinner, going to the chop house for steaks. Driving there I pointed out that for once no vehicles were damaged during all of this.
"That's because you didn't take the Acura," pointed out Bekka.
"Yeah, I swear that thing is the Flying Dutchman. I ought to trade it in and get another 1978 Honda CVCC. Something reliable."
"Don't you dare! I've had quite enough of those damn pregnant roller-skates. Besides, you love driving your Acura. I think all the bad luck with it is over, and you can just enjoy it from here on in."
We pulled into the parking lot at the chop house. "Remember when we had the dinner party for Rita? And we harassed those two old couples?" Bekka said.
"We should try to use the word 'cocksucker' as often as possible--- hey, look."
There was a familiar looking Ducati parked near the entryway. This could only mean Tawny and Dutch were having dinner, too. We skipped past the front and located them at a table near the back.
"Homeboy! Homegirl!" I cried.
"Lenny! Bekka!" they called back. "C'mon, pull up a chair."
Bekka and I looked at each other when asked what we'd been up to. "Oh.... Nothing much," I said. "How about you guys?"
"We're living together now," announced Tawny.
"You never said a word to me!" protested Bekka.
"It's a recent development. Like, this last weekend. We got a two-bedroom place in Normal Heights. Hell, we're both still moving stuff out of our old places. We rented a truck and moved all the furniture, now it's just stuff like my records and clothes," explained Dutch.
"So is this the result of convenience or romance?" I asked.
"Both, I guess," said Tawny. "It took me a long time to admit, but I'm really hung up on Dutch. It was also worth it when I introduced him to my ex. His head exploded, and it was beautiful."
Dutch said, "Yeah, the dude freaked. I was helluv polite to him and everything, but you would have thought I had a fetal pig hanging from a chain around my neck. No pleasing some people."
"Well, congratulations to the both of you," said Bekka. "We both hope it works out for the best, and you annoy the neighbors with loud and rowdy sex."
"Oh, we try!"
"Please, join us for dinner. We only got here about two minutes ago ourselves, we haven't even ordered drinks," Tawny said.
The waitress came over and we placed orders for various drinks. Then into the menu, where Bekka and I chose steaks with salads. Tawny and Dutch ordered pork ribs. After we finished eating we sat and talked for a while, Tawny and Bekka both getting a good buzz on from drink refills. Me and Dutch had to hold off, being the drivers.
On our way back home, I commented, "I'm amazed. I really am."
"Those two making a go of it. Tawny is so damn cynical about relationships that I never would have guessed she'd try another. Still, there you go."
"Well I think it's sweet. Besides, I seem to remember being pretty cynical myself when we first got together. I'd just broken up with an idiot, and I'd had my heart broken a couple times. I figured I'd be a spinster after leaving the industry."
I said, "Instead you fell in love with a punk rocker six years younger than you, and he fell in love with you. The universe doesn't follow a lot of reason."
"Mr. Schneider, I think you're wonderful. Will you fuck me loudly when we get home?"
"You can talk me into it."
Sometime in the night somebody set fire to Frankie's Ferrari.
We never figured out who did it. There were surely plenty of people who had a grudge against the family, but such a demonstrative approach was beyond the ken of our understanding. With the fire department came the police, who swore they'd get to the bottom of it, but they never did. Frankie was stuck with a very ugly lawn sculpture.
Frankie himself was nearly inconsolable: he loved that car. Hell, so did I. We took him car-shopping, but his heart wasn't in it. Not even another Ferrari had appeal.
"Who could have done it, Angel? Someone with a death wish, I guess."
"The family has plenty of enemies. Hell, if he weren't in prison I'd suspect Rick. We can only hope someone rolls over on someone else, gives us a lead or a name."
"What about those chumps in Lawndale? They sure wanted me."
"Those were thieves. That duffel bag you took from them contained our pay for the shipment. They wanted that money back. They were stupid: we sent a few people around and taught them a lesson, made sure they understood we were the wrong people to try and steal from. Imagine having three guys like Paul inside your house, and they're all mad at you. Do you get the picture?"
"Gotcha. Well, I'm drawing a blank," I told Angel.
"Don't worry about it, Lenny. Sooner or later something will come up, and we'll have all the pieces of the puzzle. Goodnight."
So in three weeks of working for the Mafia, I get guns pointed at me three times, fired on twice, incur more vehicle damage than I had in my entire life, have my first real fight with Bekka, have a friend lose his beloved Ferrari, and get hit in the face by my boss.
But I'm part of the family, and the family takes care of its own. I've got it made for life.