Francesco “Frankie Boy” Bonacci was thirteen and hyper-curious by nature—a constant source of worry for his family and relatives, who didn’t like him popping up with all kinds of questions no one wanted to answer. Everyone avoided speaking about business when he was around. They would clam up until he was out of earshot.
But Frankie Boy was a smart kid. He picked up on their act and eavesdropped on them every chance he got. That was how he learned that his family was no ordinary family and that his parents’ catering business was a front, and along with food, they probably catered guns and bullets.
When Frankie overheard a phone conversation between his uncle, Salve Bianchi, and a man with a strange accent, his curiosity was naturally piqued. The stranger had a loud and guttural voice, and a few words he pronounced in atrocious English caught the boy’s ear. Frankie knew the accent. He’d once heard it from his dad’s office. It was the Russian accent, and it gave him some food for thought because his dad hadn’t parted with the visitor on good terms, turning down his offer.
What did Salve have in common with the Russians, who the Bonacci family refused to do business with?
The idea that his scruffy-looking uncle would work with anyone behind his family’s back was laughable. He didn’t have the backbone. The guy was afraid of his own shadow. Nevertheless, the whole thing suggested some shady goings-on. Frankie was itching to share his suspicions with his cousin Domenico, but he decided to wait and make sure they were well-founded. If he was mistaken and there was nothing fishy, he would look childish and stupid, and being a proud kid, he didn’t want to become the butt of the family’s joke.
Tailing Salve was no big deal. They lived together. Besides, Salve was usually too absent-minded to take notice of things, especially when he was nervous, and he was clearly agitated that evening. He’d made two short phone calls before leaving the house.
Frankie quickly hid in the back seat of Salve’s brand new Black SUV and held his breath. Salve climbed into the car, unsuspecting, and started the engine. The music that blasted out made Frankie roll his eyes. His uncle sure had a shitty taste.
The vehicle covered a long distance before it stopped and parked at a remote construction site at the lakeside. Salve got out and waited. It was quite dark, and the location gave Frankie the creeps.
Sometime later, two guys arrived in silver Buick Regal. Both were blond, one taller than the other. The moment they greeted his uncle, Frankie guessed they were Russians.
“What’s that for?” Salve asked, sounding put out, and Frankie momentarily panicked at the pistol cocking sound.
“You never know,” the tall Russian replied. “He could be armed.”
So, they were waiting for someone.
“He never carries a gun, so forget it,” Salve said firmly. “Put it away.”
“Okay. Okay. Chill out, man. We are cool. No guns, see?” the man responded, and Frankie relaxed.
“Here he comes,” the short Russian said.
Peeking out of the window, Frankie saw the car’s headlights drawing closer. When a driver got out, he instantly recognized the newcomer’s athletic build and his Viking-blond hair. It was Ricci Castellano, the younger son of the Castellano family.
The Bonaccis were close to the Castellanos. There had never been any beef between them. Ricci’s cousin and Frankie had gone to school together. Ricci was a great guy, and everybody liked him. None of it looked good to Frankie, and his uneasiness grew.
“What the fuck, man?” Ricci’s tone was razor-sharp and hostile. “What are they doing here?”
“We had some unfinished business that needs closure,” the tall Russian said.
“I’m not talking to you,” Ricci snapped at him, confronting Salve. “I can’t believe it. You set me up?”
“Of course not.” Salve’s voice shook. “How could you think that? They asked me to arrange this meeting with you so that you could settle your problems.”
“And picked this shithole?” Ricci snorted.
“We didn’t want any extra ears,” the tall Russian explained.
Salve touched Ricci’s arm to appease him, but Ricci shrugged it off.
“You told me you had a problem I could help you fix. I had an anniversary dinner with my wife, and I cut it short because of you. I can’t believe you set me up. I’m leaving. Deal with your friends,” Ricci told him derisively. Turning to his car, he yanked the door open.
“Hey, we aren’t done yet,” the tall guy barked, pulling out a gun.
“Jesus put it away.” Salve jumped into his path, raising both hands. “We agreed. No guns.”
“Move.” The Russian glared at him. “It’s no longer your business.”
Shit, shit, Frankie thought, his heart drumming like crazy.
“What you gonna do, you Russian motherfucker? Shoot me?” Ricci taunted, shoving Salve out of his way and thrusting his head against the man’s face.
A cold sweat broke out on Frankie’s forehead. The situation was spiraling out of control and escalating towards violence. Salve wouldn’t be able to handle it. Maybe, his unexpected appearance would cool the tempers down. Acting on impulse, he jumped out of the car with a cry.
“Hey, don’t shoot!”
A gun fired, and Frankie jerked. His gaze fell to his chest in disbelief, and his knees buckled under him.
“Oh, my God, Frankie!” Ricci caught him before he hit the ground. “Jesus. oh, Jesus!” Holding him, he sank to his knees and frantically opened his leather jacket. He groaned horrified. “Oh, Shit! We need help!”
“Ricci, will I die?” Frankie asked in pain and fear.
“No, no, look at me, boy.” Ricci cupped his face. “You’ll be fine, all right? Just hang on. Do something, Salve,” he cried hoarsely. “Call for help!”
“I didn’t know he was in the car. I swear I didn’t. Oh, my God!” Salve’s anguished voice resounded like the echo.
The tall Russian cursed in his language. “It was an accident. How was I supposed to know that the damn kid was in the car? It’s all your fault, tvar!” His hatred-filled gaze centered on Ricci.
“Christ, Julia!” Ricci croaked, struggling to get up, as the barrel pressed against his forehead.
“No!” Salve yelled before the shot rang out.
Frankie felt the impact of the gunshot as Ricci fell over him, and he knew without a doubt that he was dead.
Dom, I should have told you everything, Frankie thought with regret. He was getting cold, so cold. Through his blurred vision, he saw the faces of his mother and father before they were blocked out by the tall Russian, peering down at him. The man checked his neck for a pulse.
“The kid won’t survive. We need to get rid of the bodies.” Frankie heard him say, and then, he heard nothing at all, as the darkness claimed him.
In the early morning, a cook discovered a teenage boy’s body at the dumpster behind the small Italian restaurant, Mama Rosa.