In the chair sat Vinny.
Vinny was always straight up, letter-fucking-perfect. He never wore a hair out of place and always dressed up in a suit with a tie. Nice suits too, not the shit I got for funerals at J.C. Penny’s for twenty bucks. Even out on a job at night, even in leather or jeans, Vinny never settled for Levi’s and Wranglers, only designer. My style was old, greasy motorcycle jackets like vintage Brando in The Wild One. Vinny’s style was a grand or more of handcrafted, Italian leather out of some store up on Fifth Avenue.
The only time I ever went to Fifth Avenue was to steal shit.
Vinny had jet black hair that looked slicked back but was never oily. Not that he’d let me touch it, but I just knew. We all knew. He got it styled at some salon along with his fingernails. They were always manicured and clean. Mine were stained with blood or with grease from my Mustang, but not Vinny’s. His face never had a stubble either. I swear he was one of those guys who shaved twice a day. Me, I was lucky for twice a week, unless I had plans to put my face between some young girl’s legs. Eating pussy – that might be the only reason to shave more than twice a week.
Vinny didn’t acknowledge I had walked in the room. I sat down on the couch, folded my hands, and stared at my shoes. Vinny didn't make a sound. Waiting there, waiting on Juan the silence, it was deafening.
Where the fuck was Juan?
Five minutes later, the door opened. In walked Juan and a guy I knew from those streets as Eddie or "Big Eddie G." They joined me on the couch. When we were all settled, Vinny began to speak.
“Gentlemen,” he said. He pointed at Juan, then Eddie, then back at Juan. "Who the fuck is this guy?"
“Eddie. He’s cool,” said Juan.
Vinny stared at Juan for half a second and then he was off the chair, across the room, and an inch from Juan’s nose. "Cool is when some bastard's gun is pointed at your skull, and you don't shit your pants. You plan that motherfucker’s death. Cool is when, after a beating, you keep your fucking mouth shut when the cops are all over your shit. Is your friend here that cool, or some bullshit, cool?"
Juan looked at Eddie and then at me. I sighed.
"I can't answer for Eddie,” I said. I glanced at him. “Maybe you better wait outside."
Eddie didn't even flinch. He got up, nodded at Vinny, and closed the door behind him. Vinny looked at Juan and said, "That was your first fuck up. One more and I'll kill you myself."
Then it was back to business. That's how it was with Vinny. He got the shit out of the way, laid it out in no uncertain terms, and moved on to the next order of business. As I got to know Vinny, this part of him amazed me. He could look you in the eye and say, "I just fucked your wife, shot your father and, oh, I fucked your sister too. Now, the reason I asked you all to meet me here was..."
No bullshit, no pulled punches. That was how business was done with Vinny.
There was a poetry about him that I admired. Juan pointed out that Vinny was the brains, while we did the dirty work, cleaned up the blood. I didn’t care. Vinny played his role so perfectly. He was a cliché, a character, and yet I always got the sense that there was nothing about this guy that wasn’t genuine.
He wore jewelry, all gold, all the time. Gold watches and cufflinks, chains around his neck. The first time I saw him I said to myself, "Is this guy a hoodlum or a fucking pharaoh? For Christ's sake."
He wore a gold and diamond earring in his left ear. It was, in his words, "A declaration of my love of pussy, and a warning to not go wagging your dick in my business. I'm the cock here, don't confront me."
On Vinny's neck, there was a long, wide scar. I asked him about it one time. He smiled and said, "I hate tattoos, they are for little bitches and punks. This scar, I earned it. I fucking bled and nearly died for it. You need to go and get some of your own scars. Anybody can lay down a few bucks and get a tattoo to tell the world he's a tough guy. But get a cut like that on your fucking neck, a half inch from your jugular vein? Now, you tell me who's the real deal and who's a punk bitch. Nobody will ever challenge your scars."
That's how it was with Vinny, every day. He was as real as it gets.
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