OCTOBER 20, 1973
Bobby Marroni sat in the front seat of a green Vega they’d picked up at the regular place. Paul made sure a car was always ready for something like this. And it was always a real piece of shit.
Bobby tried not to move around. On that cheap vinyl, he knew it would have sounded just like he was shitting in his pants. He could have used the laugh. But Vinny was already too mad at him to think anything he did was funny at that point.
“How the fuck did you forget the silencers?” Vinny said it again, like the answer was going to be different the second time.
Bobby’s hand shook a little bit as he pushed at the line of hair he combed every morning across the place where it wouldn’t grow any more, which at that point was pretty much all over the top of his head. He’d been working with Vinny for a long time, but the guy still scared the hell out of him. He scared the hell out of everyone he knew. Bobby thought Vinny liked it that way. Bobby knew Paul did.
“What was I supposed to do?” Bobby said. “The phone rang. I answered it. He said go right now. We went right now.”
“Well, you had time to grab the silencers, because he’s still in there,” Vinny said. He gestured with his chin. His nose was missing a chunk at the tip. Cancer or something. He didn’t seem to be bothered by it, unless somebody pointed it out. Bobby only ever made that mistake twice. Once while sober.
Bobby blurted out the first thing he thought of.
“Do you see him?”
“I see the car that brung him.” Vinny said each word slowly, making the point that it was a stupid question.
Bobby knew he should have just kept his mouth shut.
“Are we sure this is what we’re supposed to be doing?”
Vinny’s eyes narrowed. The bags under them looked like they were about to bust open. Nothing good ever came after he made that look.
“Don’t you think it’s a little too late for that?” Vinny said. “Besides, you took the call. Remember? It happened right before you didn’t grab the silencers. I always thought them dogs was fucking with your head. I sure hope they ain’t fucking with your ears, too.”
“Them dogs is fine.” It came out stronger than Bobby wanted it to. He dialed it back a little. “And I know what he said. I just wonder whether this is the right thing to do.”
“You had your chance to speak up. You’re the one who set the thing up that went to shit in Ohio today. You should have said something then. You didn’t.”
“I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know who to say it to.”
“You was smart then,” Vinny said. “You’re being stupid now.”
“Maybe I was stupid then and I’m being smart now.”
“How long you been in this, Bobby?”
He started to try to do the math before he realized Vinny wasn’t looking for an actual answer.
“I don’t make those decisions,” Vinny said. “You don’t make those decisions. Somebody else makes those decisions. We do what we’re told, when we’re told, how we’re told. And we don’t ask no questions.”
Bobby again should have just kept his mouth shut. But they didn’t take out one of their own very often. Even then, it had to be a pretty big deal. This didn’t seem like that big of a deal to Bobby. Which started to make him a little nervous that the bar for getting yourself whacked by your own crew had been lowered. So he kept going, without thinking about what he was saying.
“I just don’t understand this. I thought–”
“We don’t think,” Vinny said before Bobby could finish whatever his thought was going to be. “We just do. What the fuck’s gotten into you all of a sudden?”
Bobby nodded. He made himself smile, like he’d finally figured it all out. He kept himself from messing with his combover. If Bobby was aware of his own nervous habit, Vinny knew about it, too. Bobby tried to think of something to say that would show he got the point.
“Do unto others before it gets done unto you,” Bobby said. “I know how it goes.” He should have stopped there, but he couldn’t help himself. “I’m just tryin’ to figure out why–”
“Stop it.” The words came out like a snake hissing. “We don’t try to figure out why. That’s the point. It’s not even something that enters your brain. This is like ‘Simon Says.’ Remember that one? We follow every single order we get. No exceptions.”
Bobby understood it. He did. And Vinny was right. Up until that point, Bobby had gone along with the plan. But Bobby was on one hell of a roll. He decided to get technical about a game he hadn’t played since he was a kid.
“Even in ‘Simon Says,’ you don’t follow every single order you get,” Bobby said.
That one did it.
“Every single order we get starts with Simon-fucking-says!” Vinny yelled.
Bobby looked outside the car to see if anyone heard Vinny. Vinny noticed, and quieted down.
“Don’t be cute,” Vinny said. “If you want to do this thing, you do this thing. Bobby, for Christ’s sake, if I would have known you was going to pick tonight of all the possible fucking nights to start wondering why we do what we do and not just do it, I would have done it myself.”
Bobby went back to thinking about why this was happening, a move against one of their own guys. Paul had said not to get rid of this one, to leave him right there on the sidewalk. That made it even stranger. Especially after how this mess had gotten started in the first place.
Shooting their guy right in front of the house where he used to live. There’s a big difference between disappearing for good and having a family member find you there. Bobby thought of what his mother or his wife would do if something like that happened to him. He couldn’t decide which one would be the first to spit on his corpse.
Bobby’s eyes shifted toward the house as his mind continued to wander. The front door began to swing open.
“Vinny, look,” Bobby said, sticking a quivering finger that way. “There he is.”
Vinny squinted. Bobby always told him he needed glasses. Vinny was too stubborn to go get them.
“Way too much about this had already been fucked up,” Vinny said. “If you fuck this one up any more, you’ll be laying there right next to him.”
At least my mother and my wife wouldn’t be in a race to spit on my corpse, Bobby thought.