“Nothing’s free at the Meadowlands Fair, not even the bathroom, and it wasn’t surprising when an older black gentleman with a bright smile and baldhead, shiny from teeth to toe in the uniform of a high-class hotel doorman, greeted me on the way in, hand out in money-loving supplication.”
The Curse of La Cosa Nostra, or How I Became a Teenage Mobster Vampire from Nutley, NJ is my second novel, a completed work that reads as a gothic, horror, thriller, mob-story cocktail. Take one part True Blood and another The Sopranos, add a splash of A Bronx Tale, shake, stir, and serve with a garnish of technothriller.
Giuseppe De Luca is just a college student from Nutley, NJ. He never planned on becoming the IT Director for the mob, nor did he imagine that mobsters are really vampires in hiding, or that real-life vampires are far more disgusting than folklore allows, but he will learn the truth of both shortly after saving his Uncle Tony’s life in a Greenwich Village alley.
The following scene occurs towards the middle of the novel, when Guiseppe has an unfortunate incident with a mobster on a date with a prostitute at the New Jersey State Fair.
Nothing’s free at the Meadowlands Fair, not even the bathroom, and it wasn’t surprising when an older black gentleman with a bright smile and baldhead, shiny from teeth to toe in the uniform of a high-class hotel doorman, greeted me on the way in, hand out in money-loving supplication.
I forked over a crisp single, practically walking on sunshine as they say because a few minutes earlier, Candy held my hand and kissed me again, briefly but not less potently, on the Ferris Wheel. The intimate scene was almost exactly as I imagined the instant I blurted out the idea.
“Cleanest Port-a-Potty in the nation!” The attendant promised, taking my dollar and slipping it in his pocket with the practiced polish of an authentic carnie.
I smiled back at him, stepping up to what truly appeared to be the most impressive instance of a portable toilet I had yet encountered in my young life. It was more trailer than traditional plastic shanty, spotless on the outside and gleaming on the inside with real sinks and actual stalls, an impression that was probably made more positive by my being happier than hell about the whole evening in general.
If Candy’s panties weren’t yet peeled, surely it was only a matter of time.
The only stumbling block so far was the ridiculously long line that greeted us when we arrived in my father’s borrowed Chevy Malibu, but even that passed by in an enjoyable haze of wonderfully forgettable chatter and pleasant enough pauses. I can’t even say for sure what I said, or what she said, or even how long it took to purchase our tickets and make our way into the fair itself, but the specifics hardly mattered as long as Candy continued to smile at me and seemed to suitably enjoy herself.
I let her take the lead and choose the attractions according to her own delights. From helicopter rides to freshly fried and sugared funnel cake, there was no shortage of options for amusement. I was still flush with cash from the poker game and, as Tom Petty sings, the sky was the limit.
The future was wide open, and Candy proved a fine companion for a fair, moving smartly from ride to ride, game to game, in contented quiet. I didn’t have enough experience to make much of a comparison, but the evening’s prospects certainly seemed brighter than they did at the prom. In fact, Candy was more lost in thought than rude when, ruminating on less than positive memories herself, she whispered in a quite pause between rides.
“I used to love the fair.”
“Before my father died, and…my stepfather…we used to come every year.”
There was an entire story, sad and tragic, in that simple statement, but it passed me by in favor of the sultry perfection of her ample breasts, wonderfully accented by a low cut shirt with only thin shoulder straps and a sheer whiteness that couldn’t hide the patterned lace of her pink bra. What can I say? I guess I didn’t learn that much after all, just enough to pretend my desires had matured. Regardless, Candy didn’t appear to mind, and it was unlikely I could offer anything of authentic emotional value in any case.
My parents were far from perfect, but, thankfully for my sake, they were equally far from capable of producing a fifteen-year-old run-a-way turned hooker. All I had to deal with growing up is the usual shit made popular on family oriented sitcoms, but Candy was stuck living an old-school afterschool special. I considered the differences and the cold reality behind her statement while taking a piss in the spotless Port-a-Potty described earlier.
Who knows what brilliant and timeless conclusions I might’ve reached if I were allowed to finish without interruption?
At first, there was nothing out of the ordinary about the flush in the stall beside me, the opening of the door, and the shadow that passed behind while I leaned against the urinal, cock close in hand. I thought nothing of the faucet turning on, then off, just another customer in the nation’s finest mobile toilet.
Alas, I was about to learn it wasn’t just any customer.
“Giuseppe, have we offered any reason to doubt our seriousness?”
My lack of awareness a moment earlier was so complete and my shock so sincere, Ten Times might as well have appeared in a puff of black smoke. My first instinct was to fumble with my prick, try to tuck it safely out of sight, but this maneuver achieved nothing except pissing all over my jeans and catching myself in the zipper.
Ten Times glanced downward, but continued without comment as I noted the splashes of urine on the wall and floor, sallow yellow puddles against the crisp white of the plastic tiles.
“I take no pleasure in this, but my superiors suggested a demonstration of just how serious our little situation has become.”
His voice was flat and even, but a darkness deep in his eyes suggested a level of intense enjoyment contrary to his statement. With my package properly stowed—and after briefly considering how I might explain the wetness to Candy should she notice—I began to pay closer attention, observing again the strange angle of Ten Time’s long cheekbones, the odd protrusion of his forehead, the way his entire face seemed to shift into something more savage right before my eyes.
Ten Times didn’t give me long to study him, however. In a single, swift, impossibly violent motion he smashed the overhead light and cast his side of the interior into flickering shadow. Before my eyes even adjusted, he turned to the door, opened it a crack, and called out in a quiet, calm voice.
“Sir, the boy in here is having some difficulties with the toilet.”
“Difficulties?” The attendant’s voice drifted closer.
“I don’t think you can call it the cleanest in the nation any longer, unfortunately.”
Ten Times stepped back from the door as the attendant passed through, his uniform crisp and his smile a little confused.
He remained smiling up until the moment Ten Times snapped his neck with another swift strike. After an audible crack—sharp, immediate, and absolutely final—he kept hold of the attendant’s body by the throat in a single outstretched arm, the baldhead now lolling around at impossible angles. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, the smell of his emptying bowels hit me and a spattering of shit proceeded to drip out from his pant leg.
“I lied. I did enjoy that, only it was too short.”
They both smiled at me, and it was difficult to say which visage looked the most like a corpse. The attendant’s final smile still shined in the semi-darkness, but his eyes were entirely empty, peering out from features frozen over like a cheap porcelain doll. Ten Time’s smile was totally different, much more the predator’s cruel grin, and his teeth stood out in snarling relief against the blood-red of his mouth and throat. Yet his face was an equally unmoving mask, his eyes were set in hollows even more ashen, staring out at me without enough life to call it hatred or rage.
The only animosity Ten Times expressed was of the completely uncaring kind, what a spider shows a fly.
“Now, do you understand how serious this is?”
Generally speaking, there are only two reactions to such a situation: Fight or flight, which would you choose? Can you guess which I chose?
In all fairness, it wasn’t really a choice in the traditional sense of the word. I just watched while my legs started moving, fast, then faster towards the door in a sprint long before any conscious awareness interceded. There was nowhere to go except right past the attendant, uncomfortably close to his loosely attached head and the shit splatter on the floor, but Ten Times made no move to stop me.
I was outside in just a few strides, but I kept on running until I almost knocked Candy over in a tangle of frantically flailing limbs. She was waiting for me a few yards away from the Port-a-Potty entrance, not quite prepared for any sort of collision.
“Is everything OK, Joey?”
I tried to answer, but fear seemed to have impeded the power of speech. My mouth opened, my lips moved to mouth the words, but no sound came out. I stared at her as if the look in my eyes alone could provide a detailed explanation, gripping her shoulders tightly for added emphasis, and then turned to the Port-a-Potty entrance as if that would explain everything.
“Ten Times. Ten Times.”
The words spilled out in largely unintelligible gibberish. Divorced from any meaningful context, it’s not likely Candy would’ve understood me except that Ten Times himself calmly exited the Port-a-Potty right on cue. Brushing some lint from the shoulder of his dark grey suit, his business attire was out of place at the fair but otherwise his physical demeanor gave absolutely no indication he’d snapped a man’s neck a few minutes earlier.
Though Candy was unaware of that important detail, the look on her face when recognition dawned implied she was quite capable of imagining the worst. I don’t think her trips to the fair as a child included a murderous, vampiric psychopath on the loose in the toilet, and it showed. Clearly, she knew who Ten Times was and wasn’t happy about his arrival on the scene. In retrospect, I can read some small measure of guilt in her expression, or at least in my memory of it now.
Of course, none of this mattered when, after a quick survey of the surroundings, Ten Times’ gaze eventually alighted on us. He waved cheerfully as if we were just fellow fair-goers waiting on him to do his business, rather than two people practically clinging to each other in pure panic. While there was a certain thrill being this close to Candy, a pleasant chill when I felt the soft firmness of her body against my own, her arms around me in an almost embrace, I was hoping to accomplish all of that and more in a much more private setting.
I probably could’ve lived with the normal people milling about, the couples walking hand-in-hand, the parents being dragged to the next attraction by their eager children, the worker’s booming voices calling out their particular charms or games of chance. They didn’t seem all that aware of our existence in any case, the crowds just coming and going in senseless waves around us, too busy with their own quest for adventure to notice mine and Candy’s misadventure amidst all the merriment.
Ten Times, however, was like the ultimate cold shower on any potential (and admittedly cheap) thrills. There was nothing menacing in his approach, his steps were light and unhurried, his expression carefully neutral if not cheerful, but there was something about the totality of his presence, the way his unblinking eyes never strayed from their target, the way his shadow seemed to literally consume more light than it should, that simply meant trouble.
“Giuseppe, you didn’t answer my question.” His gaze swiveled between us like the turret of one of Mussolini’s tanks. “And, Candy, what a pleasant surprise to find you here. You two make quite the happy couple, I see.”
“What are you doing here, Ten Times?”
Candy found her voice before I did, and there was a surprising strength and an underlying outrage to it even though she still clung to me. But it certainly wasn’t the question I would’ve posed. Then again, I knew exactly what he was doing there, what he had done already, and I could swear I caught a whiff of the shit stink.
Maybe he stepped in it on his way out?
“I came to see Giuseppe. He’s helping us with a certain problem.”
What if someone went into the Port-a-Potty right now?
Perhaps needless to say, it happened just as soon as I thought it: A man passed us on the right and headed straight up the steps with the careless ignorance of the mindlessly entertained.
I turned back to both my wanted and unwanted companions. Candy’s eyes hadn’t stopped shooting cannon fire of their own at Ten Times, and Ten Times himself seemed to be waiting on me to confirm his statement. I appeared to be the only one of our unhappy little trio that was aware of the impending disaster: There were enough State Police at the Jersey State Fair to conquer a small African village, and a single scream would bring them down like a swarm of killer bees from the same continent.
“Isn’t that right, Joey?” Ten Times prodded me to respond, unaware or uncaring about the pending arrival of the cops.
“No.” Shit. “I mean, yes. And shit, I mean shit: Someone is about to go into the Port—”
The man’s scream—high pitched enough to sound like he just got kicked in the balls—echoed through the mobile toilet’s thin walls. His voice wasn’t overwhelmingly loud until the second one, this time delivered as he stumbled backward out the door in less control of his legs than I was at the prom, but the first was enough to cut me off.
Candy jumped in my arms at the sound, if anything grabbing me even harder to the point of some minor discomfort I’ll never admit to, but Ten Times’ gaze never faltered, offering no acknowledgement that he heard anything at all. Instead, he just continued studying me like a particularly wayward child while all hell broke loose.
The man went backward a bit too far and tumbled down the steps, his shocked screams turning to moans of pain as he lay on the ground. The people around us froze in place like God himself hit the pause button, except for the cops. They came running in from every conceivable direction, in every conceivable combination of police attire and accouterment. There were uniformed and plain clothes, go karts and horses, and anything that wasn’t there at first was soon summoned by the early arrivers on their radios.
Neither Candy nor I moved a muscle initially, petrified like all the rest, locked in place disconcertingly like the poor Port-a-Potty attendant’s smile. At least I was stuck looking into her eyes, and for a moment I lost myself in their ocean blue depths, forgetting where I was or what was happening. She was looking over at the still moaning man, but for some compelling reason I moved in to kiss her again until the shriek of a siren and the roar of an approaching ambulance, moving slowly as people parted from its path, broke the spell.
I looked up and Ten Times was gone, vanished as if he never existed. The area between the Port-a-Potty entrance and us was empty except for the fallen man and his growing circle of police attention. The teacups twirled in the background and the roller coaster climbed its little steel hill oblivious to the crime scene unfolding down below.
Although no one had officially turned their attention on us, it was unclear how long that would last. The police were already starting to fan out amongst the onlookers, beginning the long process of questioning each and everyone in the general vicinity. As usual, I had no clue what to do and I wasn’t the least bit happy with any of my options, but, for better or worse, Candy was an old pro at dodging the cops.
“Let’s get the hell out of here. I want to go back on the Ferris Wheel.”
Ultimately, I’d have to wait a little while longer for her panties to be officially peeled, but the wheels were definitely in motion.
One of these days, I will make the full novel available on Amazon Kindle. In the meantime, you can read another excerpt here or you can order my first novel, Far From Home: The City Under the Sea, on Amazon Kindle.