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CHAPTER 4: IL CANTO DI MALAVITA
(Songs of the bad life)
Tuesday started much the same as Monday, after Colin and Aileen made themselves tear their bodies away from each other they both headed out of the apartment to their separate destinations. It wasn’t overcast today; the sky was bright blue with white fluffy clouds lazily drifting across. It was still bitterly cold though, in fact it was even colder than yesterday. All the partially melted snow and slush had frozen solid overnight and Colin had to watch where he stepped or he would end up with a broken neck.
When the Rosini brothers caught up with Colin as he crossed the street they lived on, that was when the day really began to diverge from the previous one. “Yo Asskicker!” Moe said as he and his brother caught up to Colin.
“Asskicker?” Colin queried.
“Yeah man, it’s all over the school how you and a bunch of no names kicked the shit out of the all mighty Seth and his regiment of rejects at basketball yesterday!” Moe said with glee then said “Damn! Look at your face, it’s fucked up!”
“It’s just a bruise it will be gone in a week,” Colin said.
“Yeah we heard about what Seth got in return, his ass is literally sore from the butt whipping you gave him yesterday.” Moe started laughing like it was the funniest thing in the world, Matt just stood there looking uncomfortable.
“How could it be all over school?” Colin asked. “It happened only yesterday and after school let out.”
“Ah, well, there’s this thing called the internet that allows information to be exchanged between large groups of people almost instantaneously. Maybe you’ve heard of it?” Moe said.
“Oh,” said Colin.
“‘Oh’ he says. That’s it? No tales of victory? No recount of how the beleaguered forces of Gondor managed to turn back the evil might of Mordor?” Moe said.
“I swear if you reference that movie one more time in any way, I’m gonna tape your mouth shut myself!” Matt said. Moe gave his brother a dirty look.
“It was just a scrimmage match, it didn’t mean anything,” Colin said.
“Didn’t mean anything?!!” Moe said in a huff. “Seth never loses at anything. Well, almost anything, I have seen him lose once or twice when he’s playing a game one on one with you. But when he’s got his team behind him, they’re unbeatable.”
“They lost three games last month,” Colin retorted.
“Did they?” Moe asked.
“Of course they did, it’s in the standings,” Colin said.
Moe’s voice became very hushed and he got close enough to Colin that he could smell the pancakes and syrup he must have had for breakfast on his breath. “If Seth didn’t really want to win those games do they really count as losses?”
“Moe…” Matt said.
“Why wouldn’t he want to…” Colin began saying and then Moe’s implication hit him like a slab of cement to the head. “You’re not saying Seth and his pals took dives in those games?”
“Let me ask you this: Seth has had that cherry red Mustang for what? Almost a year? Now a teenager driving a car bright enough to make fire look dim compared to it would attract a lot of attention, don’t you think?” Moe asked
Colin nodded while Matt said, “Massimo statte cito!” in a low voice. Colin picked up enough Italian hanging around the Rosinis and other Italians in the neighborhood to know that “statte cito” meant “shut up”.
Moe went on anyway. “You know how the cops are always busting teens for reckless driving or drunk driving or whatever? We do that shit, that’s who we are and that’s why insurance is so fuckin’ high for us when we do get a car of our own. But has Seth ever gotten a ticket for anything, even a warning?”
Colin thought about it for a moment and he realized Moe was right, as far as he knew Seth had never had any traffic violations that he could think of; he hadn’t had any violations of any kind regarding the law now that he thought about. “No, he never has,” he said.
“Seth must be a very responsible driver then,” Moe said sardonically.
Colin knew that Seth was hell on wheels in that car, but he was still confused. “What does all this have to do with fixing games?”
“Do you know what the odds were on those games Liberty lost last month?” Moe asked. Colin shook his head in the negative; he really hadn’t been paying attention to it back then. “Liberty was favored to win by more than ten points for each game.”
“Statte cito, Massimo! Statte cito!” Matt hissed through his teeth.
“Vaffancullo!” Moe said which meant “fuck you!”
“Ah vaffancullo!” Matt said as he brushed by them in a huff and walked ahead of them.
“Moe just because our team lost to a few teams we were heavily favored to beat doesn’t mean the games were fixed,” Colin said. “The team could have been overconfident and not played to the best of their abilities; if there is one thing Seth has it’s over confidence.”
“Colin, I know those games were fixed. Okay?” Moe said sharply.
Moe let out a long breath then said, “Let’s bahis firmaları just say the basketball games aren’t the only things Seth has been fixing.” Moe glanced meaningfully at his older brother walking ahead of them.
Matteo, the school’s star wrestler. Colin hadn’t been paying much attention to the wrestling matches just like he hadn’t been paying attention to the basketball games but he thought he recalled hearing Matt had lost a few matches here and there which was odd because it was rare for anyone to beat Matt.
“Oh Matty,” Colin said under his breath. He considered Matt an upright person; it just proved how strong Seth’s influence was if even he could be corrupted.
“Our family is having some tough times right now, we’ve been really short on money,” Moe said. “Our dad was laid off last year and he hasn’t been able to find a job that pays even close to what he had been making.”
“I still can’t believe Matt would do that.” Colin said.
“It was your fucking cousin that put him up to it and convinced him to do it!” Moe said hostilely.
“Moe, my head is spinning here, first you are talking about games being fixed and then you are mentioning how Seth never gets ticketed. What’s the connection? You’ve got to explain to me what this all means!” Colin said as he noted in the back of his mind that never in his entire life would he have thought he would be asking Moe Rosini to explain something to him.
“Colin, you’re smarter than me when it comes to tests and getting good grades and all, but it always amazes me how dumb you can be about how the neighborhood you live in works,” Moe said. “Your cousin has an in with at least one of the Bosses.”
“Oh Cee, man do I have to say it? Organized crime!”
“You mean the mafia?” Colin asked.
Moe raised his eyebrows, “Look I’m only gonna say this once because you’re my friend but if I ever hear you making assumptions about me or my family we’re through, got it?”
“Got it.” Colin said nodding his head.
“Just because my family is Italian people assume we either know somebody in the mafia or are in the mafia ourselves. It’s one of those fucking stereotypes we all got to live with. You don’t know how many fucking Sopranos cracks I have to put up with every day! The only reason I know what I know is not because I’m Italian, it’s because I live in this neighborhood and can see what’s happening with my own two eyes. It don’t take Italian blood to see it, anyone can if they look hard enough, your cousin sees it very clearly.”
“So Seth is with the mafia?!!” Colin asked.
“Not so much the mafia as organized crime, there is a difference. The mafia isn’t just Italians anymore, now you got the Russian mafia, the Black mafia, the Japanese mafia. They are constantly bumping heads with each other now and when they bump heads people notice, people like the Feds. Around our neighborhood? Yeah we got some mafia ties, but who really runs the show are the Bosses. They stay underground and try to draw as little attention to themselves as they can. They figure let the ones with the high profiles fight with the Feds and each other over who’s got the right to rule where. They don’t give a damn which mafia is the current power in the area, whoever it is, they just pay them enough money to keep them off their backs so they can rule their small territories in peace.
“Keeping a low profile is the main objective for the Bosses outside of making money and staying informed about what’s going on in their territories. The Bosses even work together sometimes if there’s enough profit or incentive in it. It’s an underground crime network. Sometimes conflicts arise between two or more Bosses, but then they just send out their foot soldiers to settle the matter, in other words the gangs, while the Bosses stay hidden in the shadows. Most of the people in the gangs don’t even realize they are working for a Boss, they just think they are part of a local crew and the leadership stops with the guy who’s giving them orders.”
“It sounds to me like there isn’t much of a difference between organized crime and the mafia, the Bosses just sound like they control smaller areas,” Colin said.
“Okay, so maybe they are both forms of mafia,” Moe said grudgingly, “but they are two different forms, there’s high profile and there’s low profile. Some people love to advertise that they are made men, but that’s fuckin’ idiotic. There’s no more immunity for made men anymore, the ones that bring the most attention to themselves also bring either a Fed to their doorstep or a bullet to their brain. That’s what being high profile costs you. The Bosses are definitely low profile.”
Colin was trying to grasp in his mind the entire meaning of what Moe was trying to explain to him when they arrived at school. “We’ll pick this up later,” Moe said.
Ricky Woods was standing outside the building talking to Matt who had gotten there a couple minutes before Colin and Moe. Colin looked over at Matt, he still kaçak iddaa found it beyond belief that he would do such a thing, but Colin supposed if their family was really hurting for money throwing a few matches wouldn’t seem like such a big deal, especially if Seth was the one who talked him into it.
“Hey Colin!” Ricky shouted, “Nice look you got there, you might wanna think about wearing a bag over your head the rest of the week!” He started laughing.
“No, I don’t think I’ll need to do that, my face is only going to be like this for a week or so, but you’ve been stuck with that ugly face all your life and you’ve never seen the need to hide it.” Colin shot back. Moe started laughing his ass off while Ricky turned red with rage. Matt found something particularly interesting about his shoes because he kept looking at them.
Once again Seth arrived to school in his car right when Colin and Moe got there. Seth and Sheryl got out of the car. Seth took a little more time getting out of the car favoring his rear end a little, Colin inwardly smiled at that, but Seth had the same arrogant look he always had, and perhaps he was looking even smugger today.
When they approached, Sheryl went over to Colin and slapped him hard in the face, hard enough to make his head turn. “Bastard!” Sheryl said. “I never want to speak to you again!” She then rejoined Seth and he put his arm around her but he also turned his head around so Colin could see the gloating smile on his face. Ricky was in a better mood now and followed Seth inside like a puppy dog, all the time laughing at Colin.
“What the fuck was that?” Moe asked. “Yesterday she was acting like a bitch in heat around you.”
Colin knew that Seth felt threatened by the private conversation he and Sheryl had yesterday and after the scrimmage match, he also felt humiliated. So now it wasn’t enough that Seth had taken Sheryl away from him, he had made her despise him as well. “You should recognize it by now Moe,” Colin answered with a sigh. “That was a direct result of the manipulation machine known as Seth.”
“Fuck me,” Moe said in a quiet voice
* * *
It was another strange morning for Colin, maybe even stranger than yesterday. People were no longer commenting to him on how much happier he looked, most likely because he didn’t look happy, but rather pensive, not to mention he had a huge purple splotch on his face. A few of the members from the basketball team came up and slapped him on the back reiterating how great he played yesterday. Some people not even on the team came up to compliment him on his performance. However, most people just stayed quiet around him but Colin noticed they all had expressions of either anger or fear on their faces. Colin couldn’t be sure, but he also thought he saw some with expressions of hope. He tried to tune out the world around him and concentrate on the thoughts running through his mind.
When he could afford to not pay attention to what was going on in class, and even sometimes when he couldn’t, Colin spent much of his time thinking about what Moe had told him. Did this network of organized crime really exist right under his nose and was Seth really a part of it? Would he go that low? Colin knew the answer to that. The truth was Seth would do anything he felt necessary to achieve his goals.
What about Sheryl? She couldn’t know about Seth’s clandestine affairs and still be going out with him. Colin couldn’t care less at this point if Sheryl hated his guts, but he still felt sorry for her. He knew what she had gone through growing up and now she was with someone like Seth. Should he try to warn her about him? Yesterday he had tried warning Sheryl that Seth wasn’t such a good guy and that was before he knew any of the things Moe told him. She easily dismissed his warnings then, there was no way she would believe him now. Colin decided to worry about Sheryl later, right now he was just trying to wrap his mind around the entire conversation he had with Moe and get the big picture.
By lunch time Colin thought he understood at least some of what was going on but he wanted to talk to Moe again so he could understand it more clearly. When Colin got to the cafeteria he saw that today’s choices were pizza, hot dog, or the mystery dish which looked suspiciously like yesterday’s hamburgers without the buns in some kind of sauce. The cafeteria workers were calling it Salisbury steak. Colin went with the pizza.
With his lunch in hand, Colin made his way to Moe’s table. There was an empty seat directly across from Moe, he asked if anyone minded if he sat there, no one at the table objected. He was even given congratulations by some of the people for “kicking Seth’s ass” in basketball yesterday. Colin couldn’t believe how a little scrimmage match could cause so much commotion.
Colin leaned in close to Moe and spoke quietly. “So,” he said, “Seth rigs the basketball games so the team loses and one or more of the Bosses makes money off of betting on a sure thing?”
“Welcome kaçak bahis through the looking glass.” Moe said.
“Huh?” Colin replied.
“God Damn! Don’t you ever go to the movies Col?”
“Oh, Alice in Wonderland, I get it,” Colin said.
“Well…aww fuck it,” Moe said with an air of resignation. “Do you at least get what I’m saying about your cousin now?”
“I think so…but it doesn’t make sense, Seth has too big of an ego to actually lose a game on purpose just to make some money,” Colin said. “Seth always has to win!”
“You still don’t get it!” Moe said in exasperation. “Seth isn’t doing this just to make a little extra dough. He’s doing it for the connections!”
“Yes, connections!” Moe said. He then looked around to make sure he hadn’t spoken too loud. “Look,” he said as his voice went down an octave, “the Bosses have at least some influence with the police, the courts, even the local politicians. Seth does favors for the Bosses, they do favors for him and he gets special treatment…from everybody.” That explained what Moe was talking about this morning when he brought up traffic tickets and Seth never receiving any. “More than that,” Moe continued, “he’s in a position to grant favors to people because of his connections which he loves to do because then he can collect on the return favors.”
“Now that does sound like Seth,” Colin said, “but still I can’t imagine him willingly let someone beat him at anything.”
“Maybe he doesn’t see those games as a team beating him; they were just teams he didn’t care to win against. At the time, Seth was strutting around like he owned the place. You had always been his greatest adversary and in one swoop he took away your girlfriend, made you quit the team, and sent you spiraling into depression. He had enough goodies from that to keep his ego well fed.”
“That’s true,” Colin agreed. “But Moe, are you sure you’re just not imagining all this?” Colin still wasn’t completely convinced, and the fact that all this was coming from Moe…not exactly a reliable source. Colin knew Seth was an evil manipulator, but to actively participate in criminal schemes? Also it was so difficult to believe that Matt would be in on something like this as well. Colin just didn’t know.
Moe sighed then said, “This isn’t the delusion of some hallucinating pothead. I know I speak out of my ass most of the time, but this time I am being dead serious.”
“But how can you be so absolutely sure about these connections Seth is supposed to have?” Colin asked.
Moe looked like he was debating with himself whether to say something, finally in a voice so low Colin had to strain his ears to hear, he said, “Hardly anyone knows exactly what happened that day he…” Moe paused for a moment then quickly spat out the next few words, “taped my mouth shut.”
“I always thought Seth did it because he was being Seth and you were…well you,” Colin said.
Moe grimaced. “No there was more to it than that,” he said. “I told you my family has been hard up for cash lately, so last year I thought I could make a few extra bucks dealing.”
“Oh no, not you too Moe!” Colin said.
“I was only selling some of the weed that I grew myself. I never once tried to sell any of the harder stuff.” Moe said in his defense.
“And that’s somehow supposed to make what you did less offensive?” Colin asked.
“In some peoples’ eyes…yes,” Moe said bitterly.
“I realize that you believe the laws against smoking weed are unjust,” Colin said. “If what you are doing isn’t hurting anyone else, then the law shouldn’t interfere. Believe me I’m on the same page with you on that one, but pushing that stuff on others is wrong.”
“I don’t want to get into an argument with you over this so I’ll admit it was a bad idea trying to sell the stuff, but you will never get me to admit that weed is just as harmful as heroin or crystal meth or any of that other junk.” Moe said.
“Fair enough,” Colin replied.
“Can I finish my story now?” Moe asked. Colin nodded his head. “I hadn’t been dealing more than two days when Seth showed up at my locker along with his pack of followers. I looked around and noticed there was no one else in the hall; it was like it had actually been arranged for me to be there on my own at that moment. Until this day I had never talked to Seth, never really seen him up close, I had only seen him from afar hanging out with you and my brother; we weren’t in the same circles.
“Seth had this expression on his face, I don’t know how he does it but it feels like he’s zapped you with a freeze ray when he looks at you, I couldn’t move. Then he broke out in this smile that would have put me at ease if his eyes hadn’t stayed so cold. ‘You’re Motor Mouth Moe, aren’t you?’ he said.
“‘I guess some people call me that, I prefer just Moe if it’s all the same to you.’ I said.
“‘Well it really isn’t all the same to me, because you are a motor mouth,’ Seth said. I just stared at him and then he went on, ‘I hear you’ve started up your own little business, I guess you are depending to get customers by word of mouth, motor mouth that is.’ Some of Seth’s lackeys laughed at that.
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