Natural Causes — Part III
The envelopes stopped. C made her pay for her willfulness. Vito, Carmine and Cesare ceased their visits.
Two months passed. She missed the money. She missed Joe more. Giving in to C, however, was out of the question. But things were getting tight.
On a gray February day Mary heard a faint knock over the sharp pellets of ice beating against her window. Male voices echoed in the hallway. She lowered the volume on the Magnovox, adjusted her duster, gave Judge Judy a quick glance, pushed away the afghan and slipped on her fuzzy pink slippers. Wiping her mouth against any spittle that may have dribbled as she nodded off, she squinted though the peephole.
The dark brim of a fedora cut across the man’s face. Thin mustache. Thick eyebrows.
Stepping away from the door, he knocked again with more conviction. Mary now made out the figure. Black suit. Crisp white shirt. Expensive tie. Overcoat draped over his arm.
“Yes?” She said softly.
“Mary,” C cleared his throat. The smoky voice echoed in the hallway, “It is Clemente. Buscaglia.”
The sound of his voice gripped her stomach. “May I trouble you for a moment of your time?”
She stepped away from the door clutching the powder blue duster as if it would protect her from the man who sent her Joe to die.
Again more softly. ”Mary? Just a moment.”
She stepped back to the door peering into the hole once more. There was movement in the hall.
Behind C, another man. “Who is with you?”
“I’ve brought someone for you to meet. He has come quite a distance. A good man. Like your Joe.
He is from Busacuena.”
“Sicily?” She clutched the duster, suddenly feeling chilled.
“Yes.” C was being patient. “Please.”
“A moment.” Mary wriggled the bolt sliding it from the lock. The chain rattled against the frame. She slowly pulled the old wooden door open. In the hallway was C. Next to him a short man. Thin. Bones jutting from a sunken jaw. Yellowish complexion. Like he should look healthy from being in the sun, but wasn’t. A wrinkled suit that looked as if it had been slept in. Worn but fashionable shoes. From Florenza? His thin mustache made him look cartoonish. The cigarette holder he held between his fingers unsuccessfully communicated an attempt at sophistication.
C stepped into the room. He took Mary’s hand and gently raised it to his lips. With an dramatic wave, as if introducing royalty, he turned to the stranger still in the hallway. “Mary, I give you Massimo.”
The visitor’s eyebrows arched at the sound of his name and he entered the room. He took Mary’s hand from C, then turned his head upwards exhaling blue smoke to the ceiling. With great fanfare he kissed her hand, precisely on the wedding ring she still wore.
“Buona sera Senora.” Massimo bowed still holding her hand near his lips.
Mary gazed at his awkward chivalry with contempt. She slid her hand from his grasp.
Massimo stood, eyes moving to the TV. Judy was about to offer a verdict. Mary dug into her pocket and clicked off the judge. She knew what was about to happen. It was the black man’s turn to win.
The set’s abrupt termination startled Massimo. “Que cosa?” His droopy eyes fixed with fright on the remote.
“This is a poor choice.” Mary’s eyes were tight. “He speaks no English. He doesn’t know what is happening.”
“Never.” C’s voice was short, curt. “I make no poor choices.” He tightened the grip on the hat he held in his hand.
“You should not have brought him.”
“I promised your husband.”
“You promised my Joe would be out by Christmas. Not this,” she said, pointing at Massimo. ”He died in prison. Of natural causes.” Her words spit at him.
C’s eyes turned cold.
“Please give me a moment to change my clothes,” Mary said, turning from them and walking quickly into the bedroom. She put on the black dress she had worn since Joe’s death. She consulted Joe’s photograph. “Joe, my decision.” She walked directly into the kitchen, calling over her shoulder, “He can stay for a while. Have an espresso. A biscotti.”
Awkwardness spread throughout the room. Massimo fiddled with his tie. He tapped a cigarette from its case and lodged it into his holder. C smiled and gripped his shoulder. “Rilassare. Relax.”
Mary exited the kitchen carrying a tray with three tiny cups, a silver espresso carafe, a blue Murano glass plate holding perfectly placed biscotti and a large linen napkin. Dark coffee aroma filled the room.
C turned to Massimo and gestured toward the couch. “I told you, all’s well. She is a good woman.”
C sat on the couch as Mary placed the tray on the coffee table. Lifting the napkin, she drew Joe’s revolver aiming the barrel between C’s eyes.
“The envelopes?” C asked quietly.
“This has nothing to do with money,” Mary replied, pulling the trigger, shooting him squarely in the face.
Massimo’s eyes widened.
Mary looked at him and gestured with the pistol. “Va.”
Massimo grabbed his hat and bolted for the door. He kept his back to the wall as he slinked down the stairs.
Mary placed the gun under the napkin on the tray. She turned to the lifeless C.
“You ended Joe’s life. I won’t allow it to happen to me too.”