The Chair (Complete Story)

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Follow Jack through his life. You will find out why he turned out to be the evil person he is. But is he really as bad as one might think?

“Have a nice nap, Jackie. Mommy needs to get things done,” Jack’s mother placed him in his crib. Even though the two year-old was tired. He fought sleep. He wanted to play. She laid him on to the mattress. She leaned over and gently kissed his forehead. “Sweet dreams my little one.” She turned and pulled the curtains closed. The room became dark. He could hear her tip toe out of the room.

This was the earliest memory the Jack Summer had, and he hated it. She always left him on his own whenever she wanted to do her own thing. He can remember being in the dark throughout his early years. The only thing that changed as he grew was that she eventually started sending him to bed on his own as soon as he could walk. It became worse as he started hearing knocks on the door each night, yet each night it was a different voice.

These memories rushed through his head as the 65 year old man sat waiting. He had nothing better to do at this point, but to look back at the life that had brought him to this point.

Early on, Jack had realized that he would be responsible for what would become of him. His father was in and out of jail. His mother found men to keep her company during dear old dad’s stints. At first Jack tried hard to excel at school. Near the end of elementary school, he caught two teachers talking about him when they thought the classroom was empty. He hunkered down behind the bookcase where he had caught the class pet after it had escaped. The teachers spoke about how Jack would never amount to anything. They questioned whether the teachers should start a pool to guess when he would first end up in juvenile hall. The anger grew inside of him. He no longer thought about being studious. His hands closed into tight fists. Jack wanted to throw something, anything at those who were supposed to nurture his growth. The rage grew to a point that he could no longer hear them speaking. His breathing had become audible. The teachers came around the bookcase to find Jack standing there with bloody hands. He unknowingly broke the neck of the hamster.

The pool for the teachers never had a chance to start. They called the police that day and had them come talk to Jack about animal cruelty. While he didn’t end up being charged, it did start his relationship with the local constabulary. From that point on Jack had only to look sideways at an officer to be dragged in and questioned. Students started to learn early on that they could get away with theft, vandalism, and other petty crimes if they left something behind that pointed towards Jack. Around seventh grade, when he was arrested for breaking into the local pharmacy, his mother informed him that the only reason he would be allowed to stay in the house is because the law demanded it. She let him know that the day, no minute, he turned 18, he would be out the door. Knowing that he would have to support himself from that day on, Jack decided to start committing the crimes of which so many had already accused him. Eventually school was something he only attended when the police dropped him off. Others headed down the wrong path started to follow Jack. He made his mother happy by moving out well ahead of his 18th birthday.

Funny how people expected him to perish out on his own, yet Jack seemed to take flight and soar once out from underneath the shackles of his mother. Soar, depending on your definition of what makes someone soar. Jack had been preparing long before leaving the house of the woman who gave him birth. During what should have been his sophomore year, Jack walked the streets looking for open doors or windows of patsies that worked 9 to 5. He learned what to look for and how to tell those homes that were safe to rob. The hard part was finding how to unload the items he lifted. For months, he stored everything in the back of his garage. He learned, through a close shave that neither holding on to the goods nor storing them on his own premises was smart. His father paid the price.

This one memory is the only time that Jack could smile at a memory of his childhood home. He also learned that perhaps, just perhaps, his father cared about him. His father had been out of the joint for about three weeks during this particular time. It coincided with a period in which Jack had started to increase his risks by breaking into homes on his own street. He had forgotten the old adage about dogs not doing their business where they lay. Rumors started going about that Ronald, Jack’s father, was behind the rash of robberies.

Since Ron was out on parole, the police didn’t need a warrant. They had the freedom to check out his house whenever they felt that want or need. With the whispers getting louder, his parole office and two officers knocked on his door. They searched the house and, with his consent, went to the garage. There they found items from many homes. Ronald begged innocence, but the cuffs were soon around his wrists behind his back. Jack came down the stairs to see an all too familiar sight. This time, he knew that his father’s words of “I don’t know where those things came from” were true. Jack smirked. His father looked in time to see the smile, and he nodded to his son. Ronald knew that it had been his son. With that, he looked at the cops and softly said, “Crap. Fine. Take me away.”

Two days later another knock came on the door. Jack, having just rolled out of bed at noon, slumped down the stairs still in boxers and t-shirt. He opened the door to find two men standing blocking the entire opening. Before Jack could even ask what they wanted each had him by an arm and out the door he went. They slammed him on to the side of a car. The door handle hitting a sensitive area. Jack started to protest only to have his words shoved back in by a fist to the face. The other man threw his fist into Jack’s stomach as they moved him off the car. He dropped to his bare knees, the pebbles on the road digging into the skin. The first man delivered his fist into Jack’s kidney. Jack tried to roll into a ball. As his head started to drop, one of the men grabbed the tail of his t-shirt and pulled it up over his head. Jack still on his knees, head dropped and covered felt the men pull him back and shove him into the side of the car. He could now feel blood starting to trickle down of his crown.

Just before picking him off his knees, the man on his left delivered a foot right into his backside. He then felt lighter than air as the two men lifted him high enough to drag him around the side of the house. Once they started down the driveway to the garage, they dropped him low enough that his knees were dragging along the cement. They even bounced him a few times to drive the message home. Jack, with enough blood coming from the slice in his head to soak the shirt over his head, heard the side door open. He felt his knees and then toes be dragged over the metal bar under the door. He sighed with a bit of relief when they stopped moving him. They held him suspended in place. Jack took the time to take in a deep breath. Just he filled his lungs, he felt the fists of two or more other men use his torso as a punching bag. Once, twice, three times the fists came in high and found his face. Jack lost consciousness at one point.

He woke up on the floor. He tried to sit up, but the pain in his stomach prevented such a move. He realized his shorts were wet. He apparently had lost control during his black-out. His bloody shirt was tossed in his face as someone from behind pulled him into a sitting position. Jack realized that he sat there in just boxers. Boxers, blood, and urine.

“Wipe your face,” a voice from the corner of the garage ordered. Jack gingerly reached out to find what used to be a t-shirt and wiped off what he could. He reached with his other hand to feel his face. It was caked in dried blood. Inside he could feel the anger build. How dare somebody come to his house and do this to him. He tried to move slightly to place himself in a position to attack as soon as somebody came near. Even the slightest of moves shot daggers through his muscles.

“Watch out boys, he’s getting ready to hurt you,” the voice came. Jack could hear the sneer that was on the man’s lips. The others in the room laughed. One man approached within a step or two. Jack heard metal hitting the concrete floor. He saw the long blade of a knife near his hand.

“Here,” a voice whispered from behind. “If you’re going to fight at least have something to fight with.” Jack so wanted to reach out and grab the knife. He calculated where the man was in relation to him. He envisioned shoving the blade into the back of his calf and ripping it all the way down to the tendon in the back of the ankle. He saw it in his mind, but he knew that the moment he reached for it, he would be dead. Jack sat there in silence. He took controlled breaths to slow his pulse. He tried to inhale but could only get about a quarter of his normal capacity before his lungs cried out.

“Check it out,” the first voice took control of the room. “No tears. I think we may have the real deal here.” The man who had dropped the blade picked it up. “Put him in a chair.”

Jack could hear a chair being dragged across the floor. It was one of those ugly metal chairs that his mother would put out in the backyard in the summer. Two men picked him up. Every muscle in Jack’s body screamed. They threw him down into the chair. Being as it was February, the metal felt as if it had been kept in a freezer. He sat there the cold going right through the thin cotton of his shorts. The wetness now trapped between his skin and the chair. While normally the icy metal would have been unbearable, the cold actually felt good on his body.

“I want you to know that I had been looking forward to meeting you. Until last night,” the man continued. “My men don’t look kindly on children screwing over their parents. Your father is a friend of mine. The beating is payment for sending him back up.” The man took a few seconds to let the information sink in. “You’re damn lucky we talked to your father before we came here. It is only because of his pleading that you are still alive.” He stopped again. This time waiting for some sort of sign that Jack understood.

Jack sat there in the chair. He pressed his shoulders into the icy back of the seat. He ran the man’s comments through his head. His father saved his life.

The man that owned the voice stepped out of the dark corner. Jack turned his head to see who a face. As he squinted to focus his vision, a large hand slapped him across the back of his head knock him forward. A hiss came from behind, “You don’t look at him unless he tells you to.” The hand turned from an open palm to a claw as it grabbed what felt like half of Jack’s hair. Since it was long and curly, the fingers had plenty of which to hold. He pulled Jack’s head back to the point that he was staring up at the ceiling. Jack noticed that one of the overhead beams had a large crack in it. The man, still holding his hair at the roots, leaned in close enough that Jack could feel his breath. “Listen you little shit, you’re lucky he doesn’t let me kill you right here and now. I would keep my mouth shut and just listen.” As the last word came hissing into the ear, he slapped Jack’s head again. This time using the back of his hand. A ring on his finger sliced the back of Jack’s head. Jack let his head droop and sat still as he felt the blood trickle down his neck.

“Like I said,” the man in control started, “you are lucky to still be breathing.” The others grunted in agreement. “I promised your father two things. I wouldn’t kill you, and I would take you under my wing.” Jack started to lift his head only to have it smacked back down.

“Look at me,” the man commanded. Jack feared shifting his head in any direction. “I said…LOOK AT ME!” A hand from behind grabbed more hair and yanked his head up. “Starting tomorrow, you will be working for me. You will stop this petty crap of breaking into hard working people’s homes. You will do as I say.” He leaned in so the two were eye to eye. “I don’t trust you. I am only doing this to pay off a debt I owe your father. You slip up once and I won’t be there to stop them from killing you. Do you understand?”

Jack stared back at the man. He knew not to show any sign of fear though internally he wanted to cry like a little baby. He thought it was a good thing that he had already wet himself because he would have done it again had there been anything left. He calmed himself as best as he could before replying, “Fine.” The only word he could muster at this point.

“You will show up at the bar tomorrow. Corner of 7th and Maple. Don’t tell anyone. Get a haircut; I don’t let hippies work for me.” He turned towards the door, the others moved to leave with one jumping in front of the boss to open the door. The man turned back to Jack. “And take a shower. You smell like piss. Nobody who works for Tony smells like piss.” The men left.

Jack sat still afraid to move for a good 30 minutes. When enough time had passed, he attempted to stand. Every muscle screamed. To add insult to injury, the edge of his boxers that hung off the edge of the chair had frozen to the seat. It took a good hour for him to move from the garage to the house and up the stairs. He tried to take a shower, but while attempting to step into the tub Jack fell forward and ended up sprawled in the tub. He felt it best just to turn on the water and soak his damaged body. The whole time he soaked he kept mumbling that Tony would be sorry that he had left Jack alive.

By evening, Jack finally had gotten to the point that he could move again. It didn’t help that he fell asleep in the tub and awoke in cold water. Now that he could lift his arms enough, he took a razor and started shaving off his hair. If he could have, he would have gone for a proper haircut. Since it would have taken the rest of the day just to get there, he thought a self-cut would suffice. With each swipe of the razor, Jack planned a different end for Tony and each of his men. He didn’t know when it would happen, but Jack knew that it would.

The next day, as ordered, Jack showed up at the bar. He expected to see Tony holding court and giving out orders. Instead one of the goons was sitting waiting for him. He laughed as he saw Jack walk into the establishment. His face was bruised on both sides, his arms were moving ever so gingerly, and he had a s bit of a limp as he walked. “Glad to see you survived.” He laughed even harder as Jack tried to take a seat. This was the first time he had tried to sit in a chair since yesterday. Once he had gotten out of the tub, he spent the afternoon on the couch. He crawled up the stairs to bed before his mother came home – not that she would have noticed. He now sat in a chair in the dark bar. The man stared at the boy who tried to be a man.

“Listen little man,” the man finally broke the silence. “You will be working with me. We will travel and make pick-ups.” He paused to check that Jack was listening. The young man just stared at him. “You will do as you are told and you will keep your trap shut. Do you understand?” Jack gave the slightest of nods. The lack of response ticked off his new partner. “Listen you little shit.” He reached out and squeezed Jacks bicep. Hus thumb pushed in as deep as he could force it. “You will do everything as told. You will work when are told. You will eat, shit, and sleep when told. And you will stop dreaming about how to kill me – or I WILL kill you.” Jack maintained the stare. “Now get up. We have work to do.” As they stood, the man added, “Nice haircut.”

Jack spent the next six months being a silent partner. It took two weeks before he was allowed to call the man by name, Steve. The expectation was for Jack to stand in the background and look tough. For the most part, Steve would walk in to a business and the owner had the package ready to be picked up. On the rare occasion that the package wasn’t ready, the owner would be given a message that such things were not acceptable. Jack watched as Steve would either deliver a few reminders to the owner’s midriff or destroy merchandise worth much more than that month’s payment. Eventually Jack was given the task of the message deliverer. He learned fast, and soon became better than the teacher. Jack’s presence in the doorway soon caused business owners to tremble. He was still not considered an adult by legal standards, but he caused fear more than any man ever did.

The day Jack moved out of his mother’s sty, he took the bag that contained all of his belongings and moved above Tony’s bar. He shared the room with another “member” of Tony’s family, Peter. Peter was also a thug in training though not as great of a student. The room contained two beds, a couple of broken bar chairs, and a television. Other than a bathroom, it contained a closet and two dressers. Jack cared less about the lack of space; he didn’t own anything. As for food, all Jack had to do was walk into any one of the restaurants on his beat. He ordered whatever he wanted and walked out with the same amount of money in his pocket. In the year since meeting Tony, Jack’s life had taken a turn for the better. He no longer had to worry about anything. He had a place to live, a job that provided good money, and he had what he considered to be respect. He walked down the street and people moved out of his way. This was what he had wanted for years.

Steve turned more and more of the responsibilities over to Jack. He learned quickly that his young apprentice could handle the job. At first Steve was an awe of Jack’s ability to get people to fear him. Then Steve even started to fear what Jack would do to somebody holding back on a payment. He went to Tony about it, but Tony scoffed at him. Why should Tony stop the young man from doing his best. Payments were up and problems were down. Soon the older partner started to appreciate the work of the young man. In the end, it meant he could sit in a car all day and let Jack do all of the work. He sat around watching movies on his phone all day long. As long as Tony was happy with the way things were going, Steve knew enough to let it happen.

It took a year for Jack to truly feel as if he was trusted and accepted by Tony and his men. They even took the time to check in on Jack when his father was released once again. Tony, at Jack’s request, offered Ron a position. Jack hoped to repay his father for taking the fall for him. Ron managed to work a week for Tony before letting alcohol take control of his life. He didn’t end up back in the pen, but he couldn’t stay on with Tony. Just the same Jack went to Tony and offered his thanks. His gratitude was offered in a way of protecting Tony and his money. Jack approached Tony carefully.

“Tony?” Jack approached after the bar closed one night. The protection was checking the outside leaving Jack the opportunity to speak with Tony alone. Tony looked up from his books. “I thank you for what you did for my dad,” Jack lowered his head almost bowing to the man. Tony waved him off. “No sir,” Jack continued, “you did me a favor, and I feel I owe you.” Tony closed the books. He stopped one of his men from entering into the room.

“I can’t believe I am going to say this,” Jack tried to add some sadness to his tone. “I really like Steve. He has taught me everything.” Tony sat up straight. “I think,” he hesitated long enough for Tony to lean in. “I think he is skimming from the packets.” Jack paused letting silence go between the two men.

“I bring the packets to the car, and then I leave him while going into the next place.” Jack could see Tony’s face changing color.

“Stop!” Tony’s anger came through in his voice. “Steve has been like a son to me. He is my Godson!” Jack feared he had not thought his plan through well enough. “You better have something more than your little piss-ant thoughts.”

“Peter” Jack offered up his roommate. “He is the one I turn everything into.” He paused. “Ask him.”

Peter was summoned upstairs. Months earlier, Tony had realized that this young man did not have it in him to be mean, but he did have a way with money and numbers. He had been moved into the accountant’s pool. Two weeks earlier, Jack had dropped his “suspicions” concerning Steve one night. Peter took it upon himself to take control of Jack and Steve’s packets. He had tracked that each day money was missing. Different businesses were short each day. He had been preparing to talk with Tony only to be surprised by a summoning to the bar. Two men busted through his door and grabbed him from bed. They dragged him down the stairs to see Tony. The irony of seeing his roommate dragged into the room wearing only boxers was not lost on Jack. No beating this time.

Peter confirmed everything Jack had already mentioned. The note on the packets indicated that Jack had counted the money in front of the owner. Each day the amount turned in versus the amount collected was different. The amounts were in the thousands and climbing every day. Sensing trouble for not reporting it, Peter differed back to Jack. He told Tony that Jack asked him to hold off until he had proof.

Tony could not accept the news. His anger turned to Jack. “He has been with me for 17 years with no problems. Why should he start now?” Jack had an answer.

“I think he is in debt because of his gambling. He is always carrying around racing forms. He listens to the games and races whenever they are driving. “I think he is in deep.” Jack failed to mention that he was actually the one who turned Steve on to gambling. Even so, the most Steve would do was a few bucks here or there. Jack had to take it upon himself to, using Steve’s name, start a few large accounts.

Jack also failed to mention that he had been running a sale on his protection accounts. Knowing that the owners were more afraid of him than Tony, he used this to his advantage. Each day he handed money back to the owners saying he felt sorry for them. They could go light on a round or two. He then pulled them in close and threatened not them but their children if they ever mentioned it to anybody.

Wanting to appear willing to be wrong, Jack offered up a plan. He and Steve would do their rounds the next day. He would do everything the same as in the past. After a few stops, Tony could have a couple of people, who would be following them, ask Steve and Jack out of the car. The outsiders could see where the money was going. Tony agreed.

The next morning the rounds proceeded as planned. Not taking any chances with the shop keepers, Jack canceled his sale. Everyone paid full price. Jack counted the money and signed. As he tucked the packet away, he slipped a couple of bills out of it. As he walked out the door, he saw a homeless person with a can, the extra money made its way through the opening in the top. The packet was tossed to Steve who was busy reading the daily information. He put it in his coat along with others. Jack tried to track how much money he had removed. It had to match.

After the fifth stop, it happened. The car pulled up behind them and honked. Steve reached under his left shoulder. A sigh of relief came past his lips when he realized that it was George and Dan; his buddies. The men approached on either side of the car. Steve let go of his revolver and opened the door. The two men, unlike the night Jack first met them, seemed sad and apprehensive about what they were about to do. They quietly explained that Tony had asked them to come check on “things.” They asked the two men to step out of the car and raise their hands.

Jack did as commanded, trying to hide any hint of pleasure. Steve, looking totally confused, complied with the request. He had nothing to hide. Both men came up clean on the frisk. Dan took controls of the packets and counted. There was $600 missing. George looked at both men, neither Dan nor George had been told about the conversation the night prior. Jack looked shock; Steve still looked confused. George started looking through the car. The longer it took the more Jack became disgusted with the two of them. “How stupid can they be,” he whispered to himself. Then it dawned on him that they were trying not to find it. Just as Jack was wanting to tell them where to look, George came out from under the driver seat with the white envelope. $600. Jack had prepped it the night before; he hated losing that much money, but it would be worth it. When the Dan had honked the horn, Steve’s eyes moved to the mirror and then over his shoulder. Jack took the advantage and delivered the envelope. The same envelope he had borrowed from Steve two weeks earlier.

Tony soon had the two men standing before him. Both pleading ignorance to the envelope. The final nail came when Peter delivered the numbers from the past two days, $3000 missing. Tony just looked at them.

“Tony,” Steve had a whine in his voice, “you are my Godfather. I have never worked for anyone else. You know me.”

“I know. I know, Stevie.” Tony’s voice softened. Jack thought he saw some tears collecting in his eyes. “Don’t worry about it, my boy.” He glanced at Jack; his eyes narrowed. “Leave us,” he said to Steve.

Steve’s mood instantly changed. He went to leave the room. A skip could be seen in his step, and a whistle came from his lips. As soon as the door closed, Tony concentrated on Jack. Externally Jack was a stone; internally Jack was starting to think he screwed up.

“I want you to handle it,” Tony’s voice cracked. “I don’t want the other men to know why or when. You have been a good friend to him. He often talked about how you were the best thing to happen to him.” Tony looked at his desk. “Take him out of town and do it. I want to know only when it is done.” Jack bowed his head as an acknowledgement. He had to; he couldn’t contain his smile any longer.

Two days later, Jack picked up Steve. “Tony wants us to go to Newton to take care of some business. I guess we still have his trust.” Steve sunk into the passenger seat and cried. After letting out all of his emotions, he explained that his tears were due to the relief of still being in Tony’s good graces. Jack just grunted and drove. Steve asked Jack if he would be alright with his catching some sleep. He told Jack that he hadn’t slept well since that night. Now that he knew all was well, he felt as if he could sleep a week.

Steve woke to find that they had parked at the local dump. He looked around to find that he was alone in the car. As he stepped out of the car, he stretched and looked around for Jack. He found him sitting on the trunk. Steve walked around looking for whomever they were meeting. Jack held a revolver in his hand.

“Expecting trouble?” Steve asked.

“Nope.” Jack looked at him; his eyes narrowed. “Do you remember when we met?”

“At the bar when Tony told me to take you on,” Steve searched to make sure he had the right answer.

“Nope.”

Steve thought again but ended up shrugging his shoulders.

“You beat the crap out of me in my garage.” Steve’s face showed that the memory was returning. “I was just 17 and you and your three friends took me out of my house with hardly anything on and beat me to a pulp.”

“Oh yeah.” Steve smiled. “You’re right. I’m glad we got past that.” Jack did not return the smile. “Oh come on. Look at how well we’ve done together in the last year. No hard feelings, right?” Steve put his hand out. Jack raised his gun and shot Steve right through the left eye. His body fell backwards, twitching. Jack rolled him off the hill into the trash. He stayed to watch as three trucks came in and dumped their loads right where Steve rested for eternity.

“One down. Three idiots and one asshole to go.” Jack got back in his car and drove home.

Jack waited a day before going back to see Tony. He had sent a message and asked for a few days to come to grips with having to do in his mentor. He needed his boss to think that Steve meant something to him, so that Tony wouldn’t get suspicious. He actually took some of the cash that he had been hoarding and took a night at an upper class hotel. Slipping the concierge a Franklin, he had a date arranged for the night. Jack wasn’t into using prostitutes, but this particular evening was all about celebrating reaching one of his goals. He enjoyed himself many times that night. Each time as he reached climax, he envisioned Steve’s look of surprise just before the trigger was pulled.

Late the next day, with the saddest expression possible, Jack walked through the bar towards Tony’s office. Max, the second in command and one of those on the list, stepped aside. He nodded at Jack with a look of understanding. Jack so wanted to reach into his jacket and pull out the same weapon he had used on Steve, but he knew that he wouldn’t even make it out of the bar. Max could wait. George and Dan were next. Even they would have to wait. Jack needed to endure himself with the boss.

He walked into Tony’s office. Tony couldn’t even look Jack in the eye; he kept looking at his desk. “Did he suffer?”

“No.” Jack tried to sound somber. “I thought about it. He did take from you when all he had to do was ask. But I just couldn’t bring myself to make him suffer after all he did for me. He made me what I am.”

Tony nodded. He reached for a handkerchief to dab his eyes. Jack had made it so that no one would ever find him. There would be no funeral. No chance to say good-bye. “I will repay your loyalty and your taking care of this in such a professional manner.” Tony folded his hands and cleared his throat. “You are now in charge of all my teams. All of them will report to you.”

Jack controlled his facial muscles. This now put him in charge of his next two hits Jack half-bowed to Tony as he turned to leave. His hand reached for the doorknob. “Jack,” Tony called him back. “Know that my trust is given once and only once. Give me one reason and you will never get it back again.” Jack slowly turned. He stared Tony right in the eye.

“You,” Jack paused. “You will never have reason to doubt my loyalty to you and the family.” He turned and walked out.

Jack knew enough not to make his next move too soon. He also took pride in the fact that he now ran all of the teams. Tony had given him complete control over this part of the operation. That meant that Jack had the freedom to dole out punishments as he saw fit. If he felt that one of the guys was even thinking about skimming from the top, a beating was provided. If money did turn up missing, bones were broken. If a payee was short or late, Jack took it upon himself to be judge, juror, and executioner. He learned early that many men could take a beating, but they would cave when a family member suffered for their mistakes. He thought nothing of having a teen son suffer an accident, or a daughter getting bruised. Tony did step in once and only once when Jack took a five-year-old son as collateral. Tony made Jack return the child. In the end, just the fact that Jack was willing to stoop to this level made it around. Nobody ever tried to go against Tony or his lieutenant Jack.

He settled into his position. Six months in, Jack decided that it was time to move out of the room above the bar. Tony was giving more than enough to live wherever he wanted. He rented a three-bedroom apartment and offered Peter a room rent free. He needed Peter as his plans proceeded. After a suggestion to Tony, Peter was promoted to head accountant. He needed this bookworm to be on his side if things turned south. The two men worked together to run this part of Tony’s business. Their combined work raised Tony’s funds considerably. They worked hard to keep his trust and move closer into the circle. Tony obliged them by becoming more and more open. With the exception of Max, Jack and Peter were the only two that Tony felt safe to share some of the deepest secrets of the family. For years he had no one with whom to talk and now he had two of the loyalist souls with which to spend time. The two gentlemen learned the ins and outs, where the money was hidden, all of the books, and the locations of the bodies – so many bodies.

A few years after Steve’s move into eternity, Jack had grown to a new height in the business. While Tony still only trusted Jack and Peter to handle the monetary transactions, he also realized that Jack had so many more talents. He had a way of making people disappear quickly, quietly, and without questions. This talent was used for people within the organization, customers who broke the rules, and members of neighboring competition. At times Max would make comments about fear of being replaced, but since he was married to Tony’s eldest, he knew that would not happen. Just the same, Max started looking over his shoulder when Tony introduced Jack to his youngest, Sophia.

Jack had to be careful. He wanted Sophia more than anything else in the world, but he could not let his desire for a woman cloud his judgement. The courtship was short – 6 months. Only during the times that he was with her did he let his guard down. He feared this woman because he knew he would do almost anything for her. He decided the now that he was on the slide into his thirties, it was time to settle down and make a family. Why not have the pleasure of taking Tony’s daughter and then later watching him die?

The wedding was a large affair. Tony pulled out all the stops; nothing was too good for his baby girl. Prior to the start of the ceremony, Tony pulled Jack aside into a room – just the two of him. Jack no longer saw the head of a “family”, he saw a father ready to give away his little girl. He talked to Jack as a dad, a future father-in-law. “Jack. I couldn’t be happier that you are the one chosen by my Sophia.” He grabbed for his handkerchief. “You are more to me than any son could ever be. Do you understand?” Jack nodded his acknowledgement. “But I must tell you.” His voice hardened. “If you do anything to hurt her, there is nowhere on this planet that will be far enough for you to run. It won’t be a quick death either. I will personally cause you so much pain that you will wish you never had the fortune to meet me.” He paused for effect. “Do you understand that?” Jack nodded again. “Then let’s stop talking and get you married.”

Tony believed in old world traditions. The reception lasted days not hours. They partied until they could not party, slept, and partied some more. Jack and Sophia left on the second day. Nobody even knew they left. Within the year, Tony became a grandfather of a set of twins. The boy, Anthony Peter, and the girl, Lucia Sophia became Tony’s pride and joy. Max and his wife had yet to produce any heirs.

Five year later, Jack felt that he could make his next move. He now traveled with Tony and Max everywhere. Max was still the right hand protector for Tony. Jack started running the business. While Jack would never come out and speak to Max about the change in roles, he would do it in other ways. On more than one occasion, he would stop in the middle of a meeting with Tony and ask for a coffee. Jack would always pause and apologize stating he forgot that it was Max standing there and not some lackey. It didn’t help when Tony would look up and say, “That sounds good. Make mine black.” While the wheels were in motion, Max was not the target, just yet.

Dan and George had taken Jack’s former position in charge of the pick-up crews. They tried to be as hard and ruthless as their predecessor, but they were more of an Abbott and Costella team. The intake started dropping soon after the changing of the guard. More than one of the new recruits had been caught lining their own pockets. It got to a point that Jack pulled one young man in and while standing him in front of the entire crew, broke his leg. One might think that Jack would have seen the irony in his actions, but, according to him, there was none to be found. Jack had been beaten for no reason; this kid was stealing food from the table of his boss. It was justified. One a few occasions Jack informed the dynamic duo to shape up or he would handle it. The men did the best they could.

He decided to play on their lack of common sense to set his plan in action. He pulled the two men aside in the bar. He brought them each a drink and set them on the table. “We aren’t happy with what’s been happening.” Both men eyed the floor each ready to jump under the table at the slightest movement of Jack’s hand. “I know you are trying your best, but Tony doesn’t care.” He took a sip of his drink. “I like you two.” His hand moved and both men flinched. Inside Jack was laughing. “I have some new businesses for you to visit. We are expanding, and I am leaving it up to you. Don’t speak to anyone about this.”

Jack laid out the plan for expanding the business. What he failed to mention was that he was sending the pair into another family’s territories. Alex, Tony’s biggest rival, had as bad of a temper as Tony. Jack knew that this could erupt into a family war. He had to play his cards right. It all depended on the stupidity of these two. The first part had been set up. The two would start the new route the next day. Jack just had to wait.

Two weeks into the new route and Jack had not heard a peep from any of Alex’s men. He started to wonder if Dan and George had done as told. Then it started. Ralph came to visit Jack. The meeting took a total of five minutes. Ralph, while scared of Jack, informed him in no uncertain terms that Tony better pull his men back across the line. Jack told him that Tony hadn’t sent anyone over the line. “If anyone of our men our collecting on your side, they are doing it on their own.” Ralph took a deep breath. “Alright. Don’t get pissy. I will talk with them.” Ralph took this as an end to the issue and left. Jack went back to work with no intentions of talking with them.

Two weeks later, Ralph returned with a couple of friends. The meeting didn’t go as politely as the last. Ralph stepped so that his face was within inches of Jack’s. He started yelling about the fact that he should be able to control his men. Jack stood there ignoring the whole tirade until Ralph poked his finger into Jack’s face. Before Ralph couldn’t even think about what he did or to whom, Jack had Ralph’s finger, twisted it around, and brought his forearm down on to his knee. The cracking sound filled the room.

The thug to his left reached into his coat. Jack saw the movement out of the corner of his eye. His gun was drawn and trigger pulled before the man even had his out of the holster. He shot out his left knee. “I did that as a favor. Now get that piece of shit out of this fine establishment. Ralph nursing his arm attempted to work with the other man to lift the wounded man up and out the door. As they the exit, Jack called out. “I did all I can do with those men. If you don’t like what they are doing….you handle it.” Ralph nodded.

The next day, Jack positioned him just inside the first stop of Dan and George. He had a good view of the street without being too obvious. Like clockwork, most likely out of fear for their boss, Dan pulled up in front. The two of them were arguing about something which kept them sitting out front for a minute or two. Since the passenger window was down, he could hear them. Jack was starting to wonder how these two could ever get anything done. He almost stepped out of the store to yell at them when he saw him. Ralph, now in a cast, walked up from behind their car. He knocked on the window, startling the two men. He motioned for them to roll down the window. Dan didn’t think twice and hit the button to open the window. With the window half down, Ralph leveled a pistol and shot them both. Jack stepped out with the sound of the second shot. The man at first raised his gun, but lowered it when he saw Tony’s son-in-law.

Jack walked over to the car and stooped down on the passenger side. He reached in and touched George to see if there was any sign of life. There wasn’t. What Ralph missed was Jack’s other hand reaching behind and pulling out a revolver from his waist band. He aimed through the two open windows and shot Ralph. His first shot was level with the windows. Ralph bent over grabbing at his groin. With his head now level with the gun, Jack let go another round.

Jack placed George’s gun back into his hand. He had removed it from him earlier when he saw him at breakfast. He removed his gloves and put them in his coat pocket. Jack surveyed the area once again. This business had been selected due to the lack of cameras. Alex’s boys didn’t like to be on camera and months ago had forced the owners to remove any means of recording. Two more down. Two to go.

Jack didn’t know how Tony or Alex was going to deal with three dead bodies. He thought that his little plan of revenge might blow up into a war between the two groups. He really didn’t care if the two old men took each other out. Though he really wanted to be the one to pull the trigger on Tony. He glanced around once again to ensure that nobody witnessed all that had gone down. The owner of the store had taken a long break at Jack’s suggestion. The streets were deserted. Jack turned and walked the six blocks to where he had parked. He drove back to the bar, and waited.

It took about four hours before the knock at the door happened. Jack opened the door expecting to see one of Ralph’s men standing there. He was a little surprised to see two plain clothed officers standing there holding badges. They asked to see Tony. Jack informed them that he was out of town on business and had been for the past few days. When questioned, Jack went on to inform them that Tony was expected back late that day.

The officers held pictures of Dan and George. The lead asked Jack if he knew them. Jack smirked at the officers while asking, “What did those two assholes do now?” The detectives looked at each other. “Come on,” Jack continued, “you can tell me. Which station are they at and what is the bail?” The detectives remained quiet. “Come on. I need them back here to handle tonight’s rush.”

The detectives asked if they could come in for a minute. Jack opened the door wide and stepped aside. The two men took a seat at the nearest table and motioned for Jack to join them. While sitting, Jack remembered to let his smile fade from his face. He took on a more serious facial expression. The two men took time to fill Jack in on the scene that had been discovered about thirty minutes after Jack had reached the bar. Jack acted surprise but made sure not to overdo the role. He had some shock, some anger, a little curiosity, and finally concern for Dan’s family.

“So what’s next?” Jack asked. He thought of throwing some disbelief into his voice, but he knew that the two men knew all about their business. He was sure that any type of “why them” would send red flags. He stayed very matter-of-fact with his voice. The detectives looked at him. “Look.” Jack now took control. “I’m not going to play the game with you today. I just lost two of my best guys. What’s next with your investigation?”

The detectives accepted that the cards were on the table. “Fine. We’re not going to lie to you. The fact that three douche bags are off the streets won’t make us lose sleep.” Jack sat up a little straighter and cleared his throat. “As far as we’re concerned the investigation is over. Alex’s guy shot your two, but not before one of yours got off a couple of shots as well. Oh well. Three assholes are dead from shooting each other. We only came out here to do an official notification. Now that you mentioned a family, we get to go tell them.” The detectives stood. “Our guys will do a little more work to close out everything, but let’s just say your guys aren’t high up on our totem poles.” The three men stared at each other for a few minutes, and then the detectives turned to leave. Nobody shook hands.

When Tony returned that evening, Max was waiting for him. He met the older man at the door and ushered him into the office. He closed the door before Jack could even take a step towards him. Jack decided not to push his luck so he waited. He positioned himself to be able to see the phone behind the bar. He saw the light next to the extension in Tony’s office. Somebody was making a call. Jack figured that Max was calling Alex so Alex and Tony could discuss the day’s events. Five minutes later the light blinked off. The door opened and Jack was summoned. He went to the office.

“Not what I wanted to come home to, Jack” Tony sat behind his desk. His face showed his anger. “What the hell happened?”

“Tony,” Jack paused. He had planned this speech about a hundred times. “I screwed up. I trusted those two when I shouldn’t have. I was grooming them for better things and thought they had grown. They started thinking that they could expand their territory.” Tony shifted in his chair. Max unbuttoned his coat. Jack saw the movement. While internally he was preparing for a shoot-out, externally he stayed calm. “I will admit that I did find out what they were doing. Alex’s man, Richie,”

“Ralph”, Max corrected him.

“Ralph”, Jack nodded at Max. “Ralph came to warn me. I called the two in and read them the riot act. I told them to pull out and knock off their crap. They promised me that they would.” Jack tapped the corner of the desk. He looked down at his fingers. “Tony. Those two deserved better from me. I should have made sure that they listened. I guess they went back and Ralph was waiting for them.”

“I don’t give a shit about those two assholes dying.” Tony blurted. “Why didn’t you let me know that they were stealing from me?”

Jack pulled back a little. “I wasn’t sure that it was them.”

“Don’t give me that crap. Peter told me, and he said he told you.” Tony reached under the desk. Jack now started to worry that he had not planned everything out. Tony pulled out a stack of paper. He threw it on the desk.

“Tony?” Jack’s voice went up half an octave. “How was I to tell you that the two men who had been with you for years were stealing from you. I already had to clean up the mess from one of your faithful.”

Max shifted on his feet. Tony looked down. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that”, Jack gave a half-hearted apology. Tony shook his head and raised his hand slightly. “Tony.” Jack continued. “My father. I could not bear to tell you that two more of your most trusted looked at you like an old man losing control of his organization. I could not hurt you again.” Tony’s eyes met Jack’s as he heard the sincerity of his voice. “I already had talked to them. They were going to give you back everything. Plus.” Jack lowered his head. “I tried to protect you….. I am sorry.” Max let out a grunt in the corner. Tony bought it.

The three men spent the next hour in the office. A bottle of single malt had been requested. Half an hour later another. By the time Jack walked out, not only had he smoothed things out between Tony and him, Jack felt as if he was now closer than ever. The man told him to never protect him again, but that he understood. Max tried multiple times to be part of the conversation, but Jack would immediately go off in a direction that Max could not understand. He took every opportunity to make Max look stupid. He didn’t have to try too hard.

Jack had to let things die down. Alex was not happy that his best man had, supposedly, been taken out by two idiots. Tony paid him as retribution for the invasion of territory and the death of his man. For over a year, tensions ran high. Neither family wanted to start a turf war. If life had taught Jack nothing else, it taught him to be patient.

Over the next three years, Jack made sure that his wife invited her sister and husband over for all holidays and other occasions. He needed to make amends for how he was treating Max. He needed to get Max to let his guard down. Both families celebrated another birth each. The two men started to go out for drinks every once in a while. The time had come to start the path to remove Max.

During one of their weekly outings, Jack had arranged for a woman to be at the bar – not Tony’s bar, but one the two men went to without letting others know. She came in as planned and started working immediately. At first it was a simple just sitting nearby and listening. She laughed when Max made a joke. The conversation started. She showed up every few weeks. Eventually, she was there every week. Max started looking forward to seeing her. She gave him her attention. She made him feel wanted.

Six months after introducing Max to his new friend, Jack noticed that his brother-in-law started slipping away for long, late lunches. He came back disheveled and happy. Jack knew that his plan was moving forward. He let things progress. Eventually, Max backed out of a few nights out, but he asked Jack to not let his wife know about the cancellations. Jack would work those nights to avoid questions by his wife. Soon it was no longer just a hit and miss cancellation; the two men’s nights out stopped altogether. Max became so comfortable with his new relationship that he stopped asking Jack to cover for him.

Jack decided that it was time to let the cat out of the bag. He went home on an evening that should have been a night out. His wife was actually glad to see him home. The baby had had a rough day. Jack offered to take care of the baby. He even suggested that she go over to her sister’s and visit for a while. She didn’t think twice before grabbing the keys and leaving. Jack waited for the call.

After two hours, he started thinking about ways to call his wife and start the questioning. He reached for the phone only to be surprised by its ringing as his hand touched the receiver. ‘Hello?” Jack answered it.

“Honey,” his wife’s voice had the tone of something was not right.

“What’s wrong?”

“Why aren’t you with Max tonight?”

Jack didn’t respond. He was too busy counting to twenty.

“Jack?”

“I didn’t want to cause problems,” Jack lowered his voice.

His wife hung up the phone. Jack, knowing his wife well, sat down to watch a show. He knew the call would come, but it would take some time. An hour and a half later, his wife called back. This time she put him on speaker and demanded that he tell both women everything. The talked for a while, Jack many times having to assure his wife that he was not doing the same. He helped them plot a way to trap Max in action. His wife finally hung up and drove home. That night they made love like they had never done in the past. She thanked him for being faithful.

Jack stayed out of the plan. He let the women plot out the way to go after Max. He did have a closed door meeting with Tony. He knew that if he didn’t warn Tony that all would pay. Tony allowed the girls to do what they wanted to do. The day finally came. Max took off for a “lunch.” The girls came to the bar where Jack drove Tony and the girls to the hotel. Max’s wife stated that she was happy that it was not some seedy dump. It took Tony a few minutes with the manager before he was handed a key. He passed the key card to his daughters and they left for the elevators. Jack and Tony went for a drink. They allowed nature to play out.

Tony finished his scotch. He looked at Jack. “Today is a sad day for me.” Jack stayed quiet. “You are the only person who I can trust.” Tony called for another round. Both men took a swallow. They sat there in silence. After a while, Jack’s wife returned.

“Where is she?” Tony asked.

“She went home to get the kids.” Both men nodded. “She told Max that he could return in an hour and get his stuff. She was going to get the kids and leave for a while.”

“Jack”, Tony called out to the only man he could trust. “I want you at that house. Let him take only his clothes. He gets nothing else.” Jack nodded. “Tell him never to come near my daughter or my family ever again.” Tony finished his drink. “Not if he wants to live.” He got up to leave. “Let him know that it is only due to his many years of service to me that he is still alive.”

Tony and Jack’s wife turned to leave. Jack drove them back to the bar, and then he went to meet Max. He sat there until Max drove up. He watched a broken man get out of his car. He approached Jack; sobbing. Jack passed on Tony’s messages. The two men then spent an hour getting his clothes together. Jack informed him that he had arranged for Max to stay at the same hotel for the next week. After that he was on his own. The two men shook hands preparing to depart. Jack turned to walk away.

“Jack?” Max called out to him. He turned to the man who once beat him down. “Thank you. I didn’t know if I could trust you. But now you are my only friend.”

Jack nodded. “Go back to the hotel, Max. You need to figure out how to live without your family and the family.’ Max nodded and left.

The next morning Jack turned on the morning news to hear that a suicide had occurred in the hotel late the night before. Max was gone.

Jack now had one man left to go. Night after night he played back the morning in his mother’s garage. He remembered being that 17 year-old in soiled shorts as five grown man stood around. He remembered the promise he made himself. He smiled every time he thought of how close he was now to completing his dream.

Jack decided to take advantage of the stress playing out with the family. He suggested that a family weekend at Tony’s lake house would be the best thing for all. During the first night, he mentioned his concern about the stress and how it would affect Tony. It didn’t hurt that Jack kept Tony’s glass half-filled all evening. He had to almost carry the old man up to his room that night.

After a heavy night of drinking, and a few more suggestions, the girls started looking at their father in a different way. They swore that he looked ten years older. They worried about the bags under his eyes. The noticed every time he went outside to have a cigarette. They worried about their father.

That evening, after dinner, Jack kept, quietly, filling Tony’s glass with single malt. Nobody noticed that the glass never emptied. Come midnight, Jack once again had to carry his father-in-law upstairs to his room. The man was so tired and drunk that he could barely even move.

Jack laid the man down on his bed. Tony passed in and out of consciousness. Jack moved over to the nightstand and pulled out a syringe. He gently rolled up the sleeve of Tony’s left arm. Jack pulled the plunger back placed the needle against the main vein in the arm and gently pushed the needle in. He then pushed the plunger all the way in injecting Tony with nothing but air. He pulled the needle out and watched the old man suffer as the air bubbles moved through the blood stream and did their damage. It didn’t take long, but it looked painful. Soon the old man lay still, eyes staring, unblinking. Jack took the syringe into his room and tucked it in his bag. He slept peacefully for the first time in years.

The next day, Jack’s wife found her father. All assumed that a heart attack brought on by stress did him in. The police were called along with an ambulance and a few key players from the business. Peter, now Jack’s right hand man, came as beckoned. He took care of everything for Jack. He made sure that no autopsy was to be performed. He even helped pack up the entire family and Tony’s belongings so that all could return with the patriarch of the family.

Shortly after the funeral, Jack now in charge of the family, a surprise came for Jack. The two detectives who had delivered the news of George and Dan showed up once again at the front door of the bar. Jack was being arrested on a number of charges. These included but were not limited to fraud, extortion, and murder. Jack was being charged with the murder of Tony, Ralph, and others.

During the trial, Jack found out that Peter had been a plant in the family business. He was an undercover agent who had been working to bring Tony down since the first day he started working with him. Shortly after his assignment began, the FBI decided that the better prize would be Jack. Peter altered his plans and worked to gain Jack’s confidence. He helped out in the business wherever he could. All the while, he had been gathering evidence against his friend.

The morning Tony’s body had been discovered, Peter jumped into action. His offer to pack up the family gave him unblocked access to everything in the house. It had been a long, almost unsuccessful search. Jack actually handed him the blood stained needle. Peter had placed Jack’s bag on the bed. Jack, in tossing his wife’s suitcase on the bed, knocked the first bag over. Jack asked Peter to pick it up along with the belongings not remembering about the syringe. Peter spotted it and shortly after placed it in an evidence bag.

The trial was long, but the appeal process was longer. Jack, spending most of the family money, tried everything to get out of prison. Soon his wife divorced him from both her and the money. Jack lost each and every appeal.

Now he sits waiting for the end. The guards come for him. Jack chuckles when he sees that the one guard is the one he calls mom. Jack swears it looks like his mom as a man. The three march down to the room containing the electric chair. No priest is there since Jack laughed at this idea.

He is placed in the chair. The mom looking guard straps his wrists. As he leans in to grab another strap, Jack could swear that he is wearing perfume – not just any perfume but the same one his mom used to wear. “It’s okay, Jackie.” The guard whispers. Jack tried to pull away. The guard laughs at him. He leans in again and kisses Jack on the forehead. “You silly little boy.” Being strapped in the chair, Jack is forced to sit there as the guard runs his fingers through Jack’s hair.

The guard turns and walks towards a set of curtains. Jack knew that there would be a window for visitors. The guard pulled the curtains open. He was blinded. Instead of a group of people sitting there, bright sunshine filled the room.

Jack saw the shadowy figure of the guard walking back towards him with the sun glaring behind. His figure changes to that of a woman. He/she reaches out for Jack.

“Okay, little man. Time to wake up.” Jack realized that the guard no longer had a deep voice, but the voice of his mother. He shuts his eyes tight. “Come on, Jackie. Open the eyes. Mommy needs you to wake up now. I have a date tonight, and I want you to go to bed early.” She lifted the almost two-year-old Jack out of his bed. Jack opens his eyes. He is no longer an old man, but the two-year-old child who had been put down for a nap only two hours earlier.

His mother stripped him down and changed his diaper. Jack looked all around his room. His mother picked him up, and placed him in a playpen in the living room. The doorbell rang. A man came in and kissed his mother. Jack watched them for a minute and then reached out for his favorite Teddy Bear. He spent the rest of the afternoon alone.

 

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