Son of the Mob
Most kids have to worry about acne, studying, and trying to find a way to get a car -- high school isn't an easy time for anybody! But what do you do if you've not only got to worry about high school, but a father who is a mobster, as well? Trust me, complicated doesn't even begin to cover it!
Vince Luca is as straight as they come, a positive throwback in a family of mobsters. He and his dad get along great, when his father is able to keep the family business away from the family ... unfortunately, that isn't an easy thing to do! So Vince is actually sort of used to having to worry about the police and the FBI causing him minor inconveniences.
But it isn't the worry of mobsters showing up at his school, or teachers afraid to give him low marks for fear of a contract being put out on them that causes Vince the most headaches, but trying to figure out how to keep the Feds out of his lovelife, especially when the girl he wants to date is the Daughter of the FBI!
From the Book:
worst night of my life? My first -- and last -- date with Angela O’Bannon.
Here’s how it goes down:
Five o'clock. I'm already nervous by the time Alex drops by to go over the checklist. Alex is always pretty skittish around my family because of what my father does for a living. Especially since my older brother Tommy, who works for Dad, is hanging around. Tommy's on the warpath, storming through the house like a caged tiger, and ranting about how Benny the Zit is supposed to be here to pick him up for some business or other. Real pleasant.
Once I shut the door to my room, though, Alex is all calm efficiency.
"Car keys?" he barks.
That's for Bryce Beach, where, if all goes well, and with a little help from above, I'll be able to maneuver Angela at the end of the night.
"It's in the trunk," I assure him. "Everything's going to be fine."
"Don't get cocky!" he snaps at me. "This is my love life we're talking about!"
That's Alex's new thing. Since he has no love life, he wants to score vicariously through me. Except I have no love life either. Until tonight, maybe.
Alex's probing eyes fall on the neatly folded sweater on my bed. Every article of clothing in my closet has the same preppy look -- my mom’s idea of what I should appear to be. Appearances are big with her. Understandable, under the circumstances.
“Vince, you're not wearing that?”
He slaps his forehead. "It's wool! Scratchy! Vince, you're taking her to a horror movie! She's going to be all over you! We need 100% cotton, or maybe a nice linen-silk blend ..."
By the time we pick out an appropriate outfit and go over the last few of the rules of engagement -- ("Don't order the chili! All our hard work falls apart if your stomach's gurgling with swamp gas!") -- it's almost six. Alex takes off, and I run down to the basement for a quick workout on the Universal gym. Don't get me wrong. I'm no musclehead. But I kind of enjoy working on the machine when I've got something on my mind. Your brain shifts down, narrowing its function to the tiny task of lifting the weight from here to there. It's like therapy. And it wouldn't hurt to grow myself a pair of shoulders, for God's sake. The Lucas are built like trucks. How did I come out a beanpole, especially when Mom cooks from the How To Feed An Army And Still Have Leftovers recipe book? Once, I tried to get her to admit I was adopted. After all, wasn't I the only Luca male with no interest in the family business? But she assured me I was legit -- which is more than she could say for the family business. Not that she ever admits to that.
Anyway, I shower up and hit the road. Even from the driveway I can hear my windbag brother inside in the den tearing a strip off Benny the Zit, who finally showed up, I guess. What I don't know at that point is that while I was working out, Tommy got sick of waiting for Benny, borrowed my car, and went to attend to that business on his own. That's why he's yelling -- because Benny stood him up.
With Alex's advice and my brother's tantrum ringing in my ears, I go to pick up Angela. She looks awesome -- even better than at school, with a little extra makeup, and a low-cut sweater and skin-tight pants instead of the baggy shirts and jeans that have turned into almost a uniform at Jefferson High. We go to eat at the Coffee Shop, which is actually a really cool restaurant designed to look like an old-fashioned diner. I order the chili. Yeah, I know Alex warned against it, but things are going great, and my confidence is growing by the minute -- another Luca family trait; maybe I wasn't adopted after all. I mean, the food's great, Angela seems to be into me, and the conversation is really flowing. Alex spent the last day and a half surfing Internet chat rooms and prepping me with dozens of topics I could bring up if the table ever got uncomfortably quiet.
"This is my love life here," he reminded me. "I can't risk you getting dissed because she thinks you've got nothing to talk about."
"Maybe if you didn't spend all your time on the Internet, you'd have your own love life," I shot back at him.
I feel kind of bad about that later at the movie, with Angela locked on to me like a boa constrictor in spandex. I won't admit it to Alex, but I barely even notice she's there. What kind of a sick, demented screenwriter could ever dream up a story like Harvest of Death? There are seventeen main characters, and by the thirty-minute mark of the film, they're all dead, including the killer. He, as near as I can tell, is a cross between a vampire and a hay-baling machine. Just when I'm thinking there's no one left to be in the rest of the movie, along comes a troop of girl guides menaced by the vampire's evil twin -- yes, the first killer was the good guy, or the good hay-baler. Take your pick.
Well, the movie must have done the trick, because when I suggest we hit the beach, Angela's back in the car before I can finish stammering out "B-Bryce B-Beach." So much for the extensive begging, cajoling, and negotiating Alex prepared me for.
I'm a little worried by all the other traffic going our way. Bryce Beach is a popular spot for the high schools in our area. Will we be able to find any privacy?
"Park over there," Angela says decisively, pointing to a spot shielded by two outgrowths in the dunes.
I can't help but suspect that she's been here before. She's a woman with experience. We get out of the car and stand silhouetted in the moonlight as the surf pounds against the shore, and a whispering wind -- you get the picture. I'll never describe it right. I'm a Luca. Anything more than a series of grunts is considered eloquence from us. The point is, everything's perfect, like the Supreme Power has stepped in to set it all up for me.
She kisses me -- the kind of kiss you feel in the tips of your toes. The kind of kiss that conveys the promise of everything that comes along with it.
"Got a blanket or something?"
"Everything is provided for your comfort," I manage to croak. I'm not proud of that feeble attempt to be suave. But after that kiss, I'm amazed my mouth works at all.
I pop the trunk, reach in, and freeze. I almost choke on my lungs, which have leaped up the back of my throat. There's the blanket, all right -- wrapped around the unconscious body of some guy! To be honest, my first thought is that he's dead -- which isn’t such a stretch; I told you about the family business. But when I suck in air in a resounding wheeze that echoes in both directions down the beach, his thin-lipped mouth lets out a little moan.
"I'm wait-ing," Angela teases in a playful singsong voice. She holds herself lightly, chilled by the sea breeze.
"Be right there," I rasp. I know this person. James Ratelli -- Jimmy Rat. He owns a sleazy nightclub on the Lower East Side. Borrowed money from my father to get it started up.
My father. They call him Honest Abe Luca instead of Anthony because he's so straight in his business dealings, no matter how illegal they may happen to be. Never rips anybody off. Never breaks a promise. Except one: Honest Abe just can't seem to make good on his word to keep his line of work completely separate from my life. And now I'm stranded on Bryce Beach with a red-hot and revved-up Angela O'Bannon in my arms and an out-cold Jimmy Rat in my Mazda Protégé.
It looks like my brother worked him over pretty good, too. Tommy's going to pay to dry-clean that blanket, but there's no time to think about that here.
Now, this doesn't exactly put me in the mood for love, but I've got to stall for time, and I can only think of one way to do it. I clamp myself onto Angela like there's no tomorrow. I guess she misinterprets my desperation as grand passion and starts kissing me -- I mean, really going nuts at it. There's a strategy I'll bet Alex never considered for his checklist.
So here I am, getting the best action of my life. But I can't even enjoy it, because six feet away, the trunk is open and Jimmy Rat is snoring softly and bleeding all over my blanket.
At this point, I'm committed to a course of action. I try to ease Angela down to the beach, but she pulls away. "Get the blanket!"
"The beach is nice and soft -- "
"I don't want sand all over me!" Furthering my suspicion that she's an old hand at this, she realizes the pitfalls of a blanketless interlude at the beach. She dances around me, and before I can stop her, she's staring into the trunk at the blanket and its current occupant.
Well, don't even ask about the screaming. I thought Harvest of Death was bad, but this is in a whole other league. I guess being mauled by a vampire/hay baler is nothing compared to finding a body in your make-out blanket.
"He's dead! He's dead! Oh my God, Vince, he's dead!"
"He's not dead." For some reason, the only thing I can think of is that old parrot skit on Monty Python. "He's -- resting."
Angela spares me the tough questions. She just gets in the car, arms folded, face like stone. "Take me home, Vince. This minute."
What can I do? I slam down the trunk lid, climb in behind the wheel, and put the car in gear.
"I'm really sorry about this, Angela."
Her silence is even more deafening than the screaming a couple of minutes ago.
That's when I see the traffic jam. Oh, no! The cops have set up a roadblock on the causeway. They're searching cars coming off the beach, looking for booze and drugs. I haven't got any of that stuff. What I do have is Jimmy Rat in used condition.
I throw the Mazda into reverse, but by that time, there are a couple of cars in line behind me. Besides, this is the route off the beach, period. The only other escape is by submarine.
I have a giddy vision of Alex, continuing his checklist: "Snorkel mask?"
"Snorkel mask? What for?"
"For when you get caught with a body in the trunk, and you have to swim for it. Don't get cocky, Vince. This is my love life we're talking about!"
The guy three cars ahead of me gets nailed with a bottle of vodka, but he passes the breath-alyzer. They chew him out and confiscate the booze, but he doesn't get arrested.
No such hope for me. They're not likely to confiscate Jimmy Rat and send me off with a warning. Especially not after they see the name Luca on my driver’s license. My family has quite a reputation in law enforcement circles.
"Let me do all the talking," I whisper to Angela. Like there's anything to say.
She nods, petrified. At least our predicament has scared her into forgetting how mad she is.
The roadblock is two cars away. Now one. Beside me, Angela's lips are moving. I think she's praying.
The Nissan in front pulls away. It's our turn.
And then -- an act of God.
Horn honking wildly, an out-of-control Cadillac weaves down the causeway from the other direction, doing at least sixty. All at once, the driver slams on the brakes. The wheels lock, sending the big car into a spin. It sideswipes the divider in a metal-on-metal shower of sparks, and lurches to a halt. There, hanging onto the wheel for dear life, sits Benny the Zit. He's looking straight at me through the crack in his windshield.
The cops all leap the divider and run to the scene of the accident.
Hey, I'm not going to wait for an engraved invitation. I stomp on the accelerator and get out of there. About fifteen other cars peel off after me.
I get the real story later. When my dad found out that I was on a date with Jimmy Rat in the trunk of my Mazda, he gave my brother a major earache. Well, Tommy passed all that pain on to Benny. It was Benny's punishment for being late, thereby forcing Tommy to take my car to lean on Jimmy Rat. So it became Benny's job to get me out of this, no matter what the cost. The cost turned out to be one Cadillac.
In my family, this counts as justice.
Our thrilling escape does nothing to thaw Angela's icy attitude towards me. When I drop her off at her house, she says, "If you promise not to call me, not to talk to me; if we pass each other in the hall, you don't even look in my direction; then maybe -- maybe -- I'll forget what was in your trunk tonight."
I nod sadly. "I've never seen you before in my life." And I drive away.
From the trunk of the Mazda, I hear pounding. Jimmy Rat wants out. I know I'm going to catch hell for this from Tommy, but I pull over and free the guy. I notice for the first time that he isn't wearing any pants, so I let him keep the blanket. I even give him a quarter for the phone so he can call a cab.
He looks disdainfully at my Mazda. "Damn foreign cars. No trunk space at all."
I have to keep myself from telling him, hey, blame Benny the Zit. If he hadn't been late, you could have been beaten up and imprisoned in the back of a Cadillac -- the Hilton of trunks. Would that have been suitable?
So that’s the whole story, the post-mortem, you should pardon the expression. It’s the right one, though. A post-mortem is done on a dead body. And nothing is deader than the relationship between Angela O’Bannon and me.
According to Alex the next day, all this is my fault.
"Face it, Vince. You screwed up. You had a golden opportunity, and you blew it. This isn't doing my love life any good, you know."
Think what it's doing to mine.
Copyright 2001 by Gordon Korman, used by permission