Author of The Dean's List. Being called, "The Godfather meets The Social Network." http://www.diversionbooks.com
A decade ago, Dean’s older brother had to deal with university issues on and off campus. A Gentlemen’s Club appeared like any other—dimly lit, blaring music, thong-clad beauties seducing money-waving men.
Tyler and Teddy sat in the back where the music wasn’t as loud. Tyler, cleanly shaven, had his hair pulled back in what his frat brothers would jokingly call the devil’s bun. Across the table sat a hump-shouldered man. His tie looked like it was choking his fat neck. Having graduated six years ago, Robert Balsamo still associated with his former fraternity. It seemed he worked his way up the brokerage ladder making his importance to Regnum essential.
“This is the deal. I’m selling all of your electronic stock tomorrow. It’s bellying up in the very near future. But you’ve already been informed of that.” Balsamo took a sip of his vodka and tonic. His platinum Rolex impressed Teddy.
“What will my profit be?”
“Rounded off? I’d say two-hundred-and-thirty-thousand. Not bad, huh, Tyler?”
“Not bad at all”
“You definitely screw it to people, don’t cha, Rob?” Teddy said.
Balsamo grinned. “Yes I do. And I’m damn proud of it.”
“You have anymore of these penny stocks on the horizon?”
“I have something even better for you. Florida condos for the elderly. I invest ten percent of their money. These people are loaded. I’m talking former judges, doctors, presidents of companies. And each one of these suckers trusts me with their cash. Friggin’ morons.”
“What are they really investing in?”
“Friggin’ swampland, Tyler. We make a fortune off this scam.” Balsamo laughed.
“That’s cruel brother,” Teddy chimed in.
“Cruel makes money. Anyone who tells you otherwise, I’m betting they haven’t a pot to piss in.” Balsamo finished his drink. He glanced over at the two exotic dancers up on stage. “I need to get laid. I know a few of these strippers. We’ll bring them back to my house and party.”
“I’ll take a pass. Teddy can join you.”
“Why not, Tyler?”
“I have someone.”
“A one woman man. I can respect that.” Balsamo looked at Teddy. “What do you say, you in?”
“In like a sin.”
“You like sins, eh? Well, these girls, they love blow.” Balsamo removed a vial of cocaine from out of his coat pocket.
“Who am I to judge?” Teddy asked.
“I never leave home without it.”
Teddy smiled. “This is going to be a titillating night.”
“Seriously Tyler, remember the millions I made Regnum, when was it, early fall? We recently pulled the same scam on a bunch of retired investors. We sold them on this idea that some enormous casino resort was being built in the Arizona desert. We made over ten million dollars before we closed down shop.”
“Keep bringing in the revenue, Rob.”
“I will. No need to worry about that. If the government thinks their crackdowns have discouraged the rest of us, then they really are as arrogant and dumb as we thought.”
Tyler held his right-hand out for Balsamo to shake. “You’re doing Regnum proud.”
“I like dealing with you, Tyler. You’re much more astute than the two men before you. Doing business with them was like dealing with Jerry’s kids.”
“Who did you serve under?” Teddy asked.
“Mike Canzano. He was a moron. He passed me over for captain for fuckin’ Tony Carino of all people.”
“Leadership was our problem for a long time.”
Balsamo pointed at Tyler. “Until you came into power. They were brilliant for picking you.”
“For sure,” Teddy agreed.
Tyler sat back and soaked in the praises. His ego was as big as anyone’s. He felt untouchable. Why not? He had as much power as any person in the state, including the governor. Fortunately, for the governor, he happened to be the friend of one Tyler Perrasani and The Commission.
Daytime moved slowly. Resting in bed, Tyler remained in his bathrobe. Cuddled in his arms was his adorable girlfriend, Andrea Mastrolia. She looked like the girl next door—that’s if you lived in Italy.
With his hand beneath her shirt, Tyler caressed her back. Andrea kissed him. “Stop. I don’t want you catching my cold,” he said.
“Let me worry about that.” Andrea kissed Tyler again.
“You’re the best, Andrea.”
“I love you.”
She smacked him on his chest. “Do you love me?”
“What do you think?”
“Then say it.”
He kissed Andrea on her full lips. “I love you, Ms. Mastrolia. Or should I say the future Mrs. Perrasani?”
“If you’re lucky.”
“I love you more than anything.”
A knock on the door. Tyler’s laugh quickly died. “I made it clear that I didn’t want to be bothered. Can’t I get any peace around here,” he told Andrea. “What is it?”
The door creaked open. Vinnie stuck his blockhead in. “Tyler, I hate to bother ya.”
Tyler peered at him. “Then why are you?”
Vinnie walked into the bedroom. “Hey, Andrea.”
“Chancellor called. He wants to meet you in his office?”
“He couldn’t talk to me over the phone?”
“All he said was that it’s urgent.”
“You can leave,” Tyler spoke bluntly.
Vinnie waved goodbye to Andrea and shut the door.
“Jesus Christ, I wonder what Kaplan wants now.”
“You’re an important man, Tyler.”
“You’re damn right I’m an important man.”
“Someone’s full of themselves.”
“I have every right to be, don’t I? Say yes.” He tickled her. “Say it.”
“Knock it off!” She jumped up.
He pulled her down and kissed her. “I’m guessing the chancellor wants to talk to me about the rapist.”
“Probably. It’s a crisis around here.”
“Another girl was attacked two nights ago behind East Hall.”
“I heard. Poor girl. She’s in my Psychology class, or was in my class. I doubt she’ll be coming back to school.”
“You’re not to go anywhere by yourself.”
“If anything were to ever happen to you, I couldn’t even fathom what I’d do.”
“Aww. My precious Tyler is worried about me? How sweet.”
“There’s a sicko out there. It’s not safe for any girl. Especially pretty Italian ones.”
“Come here,” he coaxed her head on his chest and stroked her soft hair, “I’d do anything for you, Andrea. Absolutely anything.”
Chancellor Kaplan’s office was an embellished room graced in medieval artwork. The chancellor, early fifties and balding, took a seat on the leather couch next to Tyler.
“Your Bell’s palsy looks like it’s starting to heal.”
“Your left eye is still droopy.”
“I know. It’s much better than it was, however. There is nothing worse than walking around with a distorted face.”
“I’m glad you’re getting better.”
Kaplan patted him on his knee. “I know that, Tyler. The reason I asked to meet with you so urgently, in fact, there’s two reasons. First, did you hear there was another sexual assault? This one took place behind the library.”
“Last night about nine.”
“What’s up with this campus’s security?”
“I’m starting to wonder myself.”
“We need to stop this rapist immediately.”
“That’s what I needed to speak to you about. I spoke with your boss this morning.”
“He’s your boss, too.”
“I stand corrected. I spoke to our boss this morning,” Kaplan repeated. “He wants this problem solved. He told me to use every means necessary to catch this culprit. And he told me to tell you that if the press starts obsessing over this, then changes will need to be made.”
“He’s just blowing off steam.”
“It’s not good for me when he does.”
“Not good for any of us. But there isn’t much we can do. This creep is phantom-like. No one has anything on him, including his victims,” Tyler said.
“We have a dilemma on our hands. A goddamn serial rapist.”
“He’ll slip up. Eventually.”
“This is the worst thing that’s hit this university since Chancellor Miller’s disappearance.”
“Charles Miller and Jimmy Hoffa, no one knows where they are.”
“Miller vanished without a single trace. He and his car have never been found.”
“It’s become urban legend.”
“A remarkable story. A sad story.”
“It turned out to be a good thing for you,” Tyler said.
“Something that tragic is never a good thing.”
“You became the next chancellor.”
“As well I should’ve been.”
“Are you going to tell me that’s a bad thing?”
“I won’t go that far,” Kaplan said, trying to hold back his grin.
“Where’s Chancellor Miller? Can you find Chancellor Miller? Sounds like a board game, better than Monopoly.”
“It’s a shame. Anyhow, the second reason I called you here, Tyler. Our boss has a job for you.”
“He told you this?”
“Why didn’t Michael contact me? That’s the way it’s been done in the past.”
“Shhh. Please listen to what I have to tell you.”
“Our boss has been informed of some very discouraging news. It seems that our dear friend, Mr. Robert Balsamo, is currently under investigation by the Securities Exchange Commission. As well as the Attorney General. For stock fraud. And a horde of other things.”
“Get out? I thought he was being careful.”
“Obviously he’s not.”
“He was just bragging to me last week about how the government can’t touch him.”
“And you believe him? The government can touch anybody. History’s proven that… Lucky for us, they’re not too deep into their investigation.”
“Let me guess. Robert Balsamo needs to be history?”
“They want it carried out. As soon as possible.”
“What a shame. He’s been making me a killing in the market. I’ll hate to see him go.”
“Robert is one of the reasons my family has a vacation home in South Carolina. But he’s going to hurt us. This is why we must hurt him first.”
Tyler rubbed his face and sighed. “Damn. I wish I could hide him out or something.”
“Out of the question. He’s in and once that happens, he’s finished. There will be somebody else to take his place. There always is.”
“I take no joy in doing this to people I like.”
“Better him than you.”
Tyler nodded. “You couldn’t be more right, Chancellor.”
Clouds rolled in signaling that the snowstorm predicted on this final day of January might be correct. It was Saturday afternoon in the affluent neighborhood of Teaneck, located thirty minutes east of Chicago. A white delivery van parked in front of a one-floor house. A spacious lawn, dead grass and wilted flowers, surrounded the bachelor pad. Parked on the driveway was a cherry-red Ferrari.
A young man stepped out of the van cloaked in a UPS jacket, slacks, and a solid brown hat. Julian carried a package up the driveway and placed it down on the doormat. He banged the solid brass doorknocker twice before strolling back to the street. Once he retook his spot in the passenger’s sear, the engine restarted. The van slowly drove away.
The storm door opened. Wearing his reading glasses and a bathrobe, Balsamo picked up the cardboard box. He spent several seconds searching for a name and address. He then brought the package into his home. The storm door slammed shut.
Nearly the entire front of his house was blown to shreds. Glass and wood shattered into the air and landed on the lawn. A fire ignited inside polluting the vicinity with smoke. Flustered neighbors rushed out of their houses wanting to know what the hell happened. Robert Balsamo, known for living the fast life, just went out even faster. Thanks to his onetime friend.
EXT. BURNING BUILDING – MORNING
Early July. TENANTS, many carrying any possession they could get their hands on, hurry across the trampled grass.
THE TOP FLOOR TO A SIX-STORY BUILDING IS ABLAZE. An EXPLOSION shatters a sixth floor apartment window. Glass rains down.
Two fire rigs are parked nearby. ALL THE FIREFIGHTERS ARE IN THEIR PROTECTIVE CLOTHING (BUNKER GEAR).
A FIREFIGHTER stands on a truck ladder hosing down the flames shooting out another top floor window. THREE FIREFIGHTERS rush out the remaining tenants, one of them is an old lady, MS. BLUM. She holds onto a thick photo album containing her entire life of memories.
A firefighter runs toward the building, his SCBA mask is pulled down to his neck exposing his face. Early 40’s, rugged in a handsome way, one of the bravest firefighters around. RICHIE MORASCO, flathead ax in hand, enters the burning building without thinking twice about it.
INT. BURNING BUILDING - CONTINUOUS
The staircase is filling with smoke. FIREFIGHTER LARRY BECKER, onetime Semipro lineman, hurries a FAMILY OF THREE down the stairs. Richie runs up the same stairs and pass Larry.
I’m heading to the top!
(pulls off mask, looks back)
Don’t, Richie! It’s an inferno up there!
Richie doesn’t even throw a glance back.
Twelve-year-old girl is unaccounted for! She could
still be in her apartment!
He continues on up the staircase without any hesitation.
INT. HALLWAY – CONTINUOUS
The door whips open. The hallway is engulfed by fire. Thickening smoke makes it difficult to see three feet in front of you let alone down the hall. Richie wears the SCBA mask. He hurries through the smoke and flames until he reaches an open door.
INT. APARTMENT – CONTINUOUS
The walls are burning like paper in a fireplace. The bedroom entrance is spitting out flames. Richie hurries to middle of the living room. An unconscious man lays on his stomach. Richie drops his ax and crouches down. He grabs the man by his shoulder and gently pulls him over onto his back.
Richie flinches. His eyes widen.
CLOSE: the man’s face is burned beyond recognition. The skin is practically melted off his face.
Richie, realizing he has a job to do, fights through the initial shock. He quickly removes his SCBA mask and helmet. He feels the man’s pulse. He notices his scorched hand, it’s like a burnt piece of meat.
(utters in disbelief)
Richie turns anxious, places the SCBA mask with the utmost gentleness over the burned man’s face. He removes the air tank off his back.
I’m carrying you outta here, fella.
With the tank rested on the man’s stomach, Richie cradles the man like a baby and lifts him up.
Damn, you’re heavy.
Richie struggles to carry the man out of the room. The ceiling begins to COLLAPSE.
INT. HALLWAY – CONTINUOUS
Richie hurries down hallway full of smoke. Fire rages behind him as if it was on the chase. Richie approaches the staircase.
LITTLE GIRL (O.C.)
Mommy! Help me, Mommy!
Richie stops by the stairway entrance. He looks back then carefully placing the unconscious man down on his back.
Just hang in there buddy. I’ll be right back.
He runs back into the black smoke. An apartment door is closed. He puts his face to the door.
Hey! You in there!
LITTLE GIRL (O.C)
Richie feels the door for heat. He takes a step back. With his right boot, he KICKS the middle of the door and breaks it off its hinges. Flames shoot at him. He raises his arms over his face and runs deeper into danger.
INT. DIFFERENT APARTMENT – CONTINUOUS
Fire occupies the apartment. A LITTLE GIRL, CRYING, is trapped in the corner. Fire burns right in front. It’s guarding her from help.
You’re safe! I’m gonna take you to your mom! Just follow
what I say!
The girl COUGHS. The increasing smoke is in fatal mode. Richie shows nervousness. He knows they don’t have much time. He picks up a nearby couch and drops it down over the fire, creating a bridge to the girl. He runs across the couch.
(holds his hand out)
Grab my hand!
The girl holds out her hand. Richie picks her up by the arm and carries her across the couch. He rushes out of the room, the girl in his clutches. The couch is swallowed by the angry flames.
INT. HALLWAY – CONTINUOUS
Richie, girl in his arms, stops where the burned man was laying. But he has vanished.
Where did he go?
Richie glances back. Sweat drenches his hair and is pouring down his face. The smoke is too thick. The fire is too ferocious.
He couldn’t have.
Where did you go! Damn it!
Richie turns and KICKS open the door to the staircase. He leaves just as the fire reaches the end of the hall. The roof to the hallway starts to COLLAPSE.
EXT. BURNING BUILDING – CONTINUOUS
Richie hurries out the entrance doors with the girl in his arms.
The MOTHER, hysterical, hurries over to Richie. So does a FIREFIGHTER with oxygen for the little girl. The mother cries in relief. Richie hands her over her daughter.
My baby is safe!
As the mother hugs her daughter she looks up at Richie.
You’re a hero. How can I ever thank you enough? God bless
CAMERAS FLASH. NEWS REPORTERS rush Richie like crazed paparazzi. So do some of the tenants. They all want to thank Richie.
I’m just doing my job.
You’re a hero, dude!
Thanks. But I get paid to do this.
A LOUD EXPLOSION on the top floor. It startles everyone. People run further away from the building. Richie checks on those nearest to him.
People are okay. No one is hurt from the flying debris. Richie hurries over to the first ambulance and looks in the back.
CLOSE: a man rests on his back, a FEMALE PARAMEDIC by his side. His face is normal.
Did they already take that other man to the hospital?
What other man?
Richie hurries away from the ambulance. He sees a MALE PARAMEDIC by the second ambulance’s back door.
(whistles with fingers)
The paramedic hops into the ambulance. Richie hurries over and looks in the back.
CLOSE: Male paramedic kneels by the side of a WOMAN, oxygen mask worn over her smoke dirtied face.
Richie’s about to say something but doesn’t. WOMAN PARAMEDIC brushes past him.
Make way please! Thank you!
She hops into the back of the ambulance and SLAMS the doors closed. The ambulance SPEEDS away. AMBULANCE SIREN turned on.
Richie stands in a cloud of dirt. He is confused. He turns around and stares at the burning building. Havoc still occurs around him.
Nearly twenty-five years ago began a dynasty. A much different place than today’s world—professional baseball players could hit tape measure homeruns without having the stigma of anabolic steroids hovering over their heads. Back then, Filmore University acted like any other university across our great land. A reputable place to receive an education. They had no idea such a devastating tumor was forming.
Born in Italy, Angelo Criscitello moved to America when he turned thirteen. His dad, a locksmith in New York City, died when Angelo was fourteen, a family friend left to be his legal guardian. Angelo received his high school diploma despite his poor attendance and thuggish behavior. The leader of a malicious gang, they robbed and threatened the people in their own neighborhood. It was these nefarious actions that caught the scavenging eye of a newly formed Commission. They recruited Angelo and appointed him the very first Don of Phi Beta Regnum.
The fraternity house stood alone on Cindy Street, not the imposing house it would become in the next decade. Inside, David Lee Roth’s Van Halen blasted on the record player. Regnum threw another bash, a twice a week event. College students hobnobbed with hoodlums off the streets, members of Angelo’s gang. Spaced-out girls danced with horny guys in the cramped living room. Booze and LSD appeared endlessly.
A crowd of fraternity brothers partied downstairs in the basement. It would be a few years before it acquired its ill-famed nickname, The Dungeon. It was a convention of Guineas, everyone of Italian descent. Angelo and his brothers guzzled down a couple of bottles of Scotch whisky while they played a game of darts—with a unique twist. Four naked freshmen were leaned up against the rigged cement wall, dartboards chained around their necks, their hands bound behind their backs. Four Regnum brothers, each holding three darts, stood in a horizontal line six-feet away from the trembling freshmen. This was part of their initiation into Phi Beta Regnum, a practice that would be abolished years later under Tyler Perrasani.
Angelo grabbed the darts out of one brother’s hand, trading him the bottle of Scotch to hold. Standing at the far right of the line, Angelo aimed his left-hand in the direction of the dartboard. Everyone in the basement watched, silently hoping he would put a dart right between the freshman’s eyes.
Angelo whipped each dart consecutively. “Two bull’s-eyes. How ‘bout that, you bunch of Finocchios!” Two of his darts hit the bull’s-eye. The last dart missed by an inch. He grabbed the liquor bottle out of his brother’s hand and walked to the back where he approached his two closest friends. Arthur Denuto’s large pupils brought him plenty of ribbing. Steve Guzzo was a good four inches shorter but his olive skin made him look more Italian than Arthur and as far as the rest of the fraternity was concerned, anything Italian beat out taller every day of the week and twice on Sunday.
“Good throws, boss,” Steve said.
“I wanted to see you put one in his eyeball.” Arthur stared down at the much shorter Angelo. Even so, Angelo was not intimidated. He felt like he could beat the living crap out of anybody. He suffered from a Napoleon complex.
“Why would you want that?”
“I was just—“
“They’re gunna be your brothers,” Angelo told Arthur. “I should put a dart inta one of your bug eyes for saying such a thing.”
“Boss, now that I got your ear, there’s some news I gotta tell you,” Steve said.
Angelo finished chugging the bottle of Scotch whisky. “Che cosa?”
“My meeting with Chancellor Miller didn’t go like we wanted.”
“Yeah Angelo, he was being a real testa di cazzo.”
“He’s gunna bust balls? He’s tough?”
“Io suppongo di sì,” Steve said.
“Mi è indifferente. I love tough guys.” A scream swung Angelo around. One of the freshmen had a dart sticking into his face. A fellow brother removed the dart. The freshman started to cry. “Hey pussy. There’s no crybabies allowed in Regnum,” Angelo shouted. “Either stop crying or get the farg out.” The freshman fought back his tears and forced a scowl.
“You realize, boss,” Steve said, regaining Angelo’s attention. “Without the chancellor on our side, this won’t work.”
“Siamo messe male,” Arthur uttered.
“Stai zitto… This’ll work. Trust me. I’ll speak to this stronzo myself.”
“Quando?” Arthur asked.
“This Miller is a problem,” Arthur said. “He thinks he’s above us.”
“Above me?” Angelo’s eyes took on a rage. “Nobody’s above me, nobody!” He gunned the empty bottle into the darkness. It shattered off the cinderblocks. Startled from the smash, each brother stared over at their Don. “He wants to get down and dirty? I’ll show him down and dirty. The Camora way…” His breathing picked up. He began to pace. It was this out-of-control temper that made him so feared.
Dozens of students sat around the grassy area. With briefcase in hand, Chancellor Miller walked up the pathway leading to his building. Graying hair and wrinkles spoke of middle age.
Disguised in a hooded sweat jacket, Angelo snuck up on him. “Good morning, Chancellor?”
He glanced back. “Good morning to you.”
Angelo pulled down his hood. “You don’t know me, do ya?”
“I can’t say that I do,” Miller said without breaking stride.
Angelo grabbed his arm and stopped him dead in his tracks. “Mi Scusi. You stop and look at me when I address ya.”
“Who do you think you are?” Chancellor Miller asked, standing twenty yards away from the building’s entrance.
Angelo stuck his finger in his chest. “I’m your worst nightmare. If you want it like that.”
“Wait one minute. You must be the infamous Angelo.”
“In the flesh.”
“Two of your associates, and I’m being kind even uttering the word ‘associates,’ they recently paid me a visit. And I must say, I came away from our conversation unimpressed.”
“I guarantee you’ll be impressed after I speak to ya.”
“If impressing me is what you’re striving for, then I’d say you’re off to a rather poor start.”
“I don’t worry about starts. That’s ‘cause I always end with a bang.”
“Is there a reason behind this madness of yours?”
“Wake the farg up. We have business that needs taken care of.”
“You do realize I’m chancellor of this university?”
“I don’t give a shit. What you don’t realize is that I’m running the show on this campus now. Not you.”
“I was willing to forget about the threats your minions made. However, this is too much. I’m left with no other choice than to notify the authorities.”
“I own the authorities.”
“Expect a visit from the police in the imminent future.”
“La polizia?” Angelo laughed. “Those flatfoots are on the payroll.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I’m the Don of Phi Beta Regnum.”
“Esatto. That’s right. Don. I got plenty of juice. I push buttons and things go down. Gente. People go down.”
“What you need, is to step back into reality. It seems to me you’ve watched way too many of those Mafia films. You’ve wasted enough of my time. As I said, expect a visit from the police.”
Chancellor Miller tried to walk away. Angelo grabbed his arm again. “You don’t get it. This thing is bigger than you. It’s bigger than me. It’s even bigger than that mothafarg of a governatore.”
“What is it you want from me?”
“Partner up with us. You can make things easier.”
“Precisely what is it you need me to do?”
“We need you, Chancellor, to do what we ask. We tell you to hire someone, ya hire him. We tell you to change our grade, ya change it. We tell you to hold a fundraiser ya hold a fargin’ fundraiser.”
“What could you possibly gain out of a fundraiser?”
“Denaro. You be raising denaro for my associazione.”
“Are you extorting me?”
“Alla larga. I wouldn’t do such a thing.”
“I believe you would.”
“C’mon, Chancellor. What do you think I am, some sort of teppista?”
Miller shook his head. “You truly are the bottom of the barrel, aren’t you, Angelo?”
“Are you insulting me?” He got right in the chancellor’s face, though he had to look up.
“My answer to you is the same it was to your cronies.”
“That’s correct. Absolutely no.”
“Vediamo. You don’t havta gimme your answer here. Sleep on it.” Angelo held his hands up and grinned. “Stai attento, Chancellor.”
Chancellor Miller watched Angelo mosey off. He shook his head. “What riffraff.”
Nighttime was in control at this ten o’clock hour. Swinging his briefcase, happy that he could finally call it a day, Chancellor Miller walked across the road to get to the parking lot where only his tan Ford remained.
A white Corvette slowly drove down the road. Its headlights flashed on and off. Once across the road, Chancellor Miller glanced back at the nearing car. The passenger’s side door swung open. Angelo Criscitello jumped out.
“Buonasera, Chancellor,” he grabbed a hold of Miller’s right arm, “Ya don’t mind if I have a word with ya?”
“What do you think you’re doing? Get your hands off of me.”
With the help of Steve Guzzo, Angelo dragged the chancellor into the backseat. The Corvette sped off before the passenger’s door shut.
Five hours passed. The white Corvette pulled into the same parking lot. It stopped next to Miller’s tan Ford. Steve Guzzo hurried out. He sat in the car, started the engine, and flipped on the headlights. In seconds, he backed the car out of its spot and drove to the end of the parking lot. Cutting a right, the Ford raced down the road. The Corvette tailed behind.
Chancellor Charles Miller, a devoted husband and loving father of three, would never be seen again. He and his Ford vanished into thin air—so it seemed. His car would be taken to the junkyard over on Odom Road where it would be demolished. As for the chancellor himself, he was beaten, strangled, and dismembered. His remains buried in a hole out in the woodlands.
This case would never be solved. There would be no suspects. Chancellor Miller’s complaints to the police had never been reported. In two weeks, Dr. Bernard Kaplan would be named Filmore University’s newest chancellor.
Phi Beta Regnum was now on their way. Angelo Criscitello would be known as an innovator. His harsh tactics idolized. His turbulent lifestyle admired, the same lifestyle that would claim his life a few years later due to a drug overdose.
Angelo Criscitello lacked the social graces and knowledge for business. But his ability to induce fear was unequaled. He was the one who began it all. Tyler would receive all the credit for Regnum’s financial boom. Angelo never got to reap any of the future rewards, even though he helped construct the foundation. He made it easier for the future presidents. He made it simpler for his successors; young men like Tyler, Bryce and Dean. He helped pave their way to the top of the Regnum food chain.
“Instead of Michael Jordan or Derek Jeter, there’s kids who’d rather hang a poster of Tony Montana or Tyler Perrasani up on their bedroom wall. What has become of our children? What has become of our society? Violence and evil are not things we should adore. My brother should not be an idol. He should be a tragedy. I am a tragedy.” ~Dean Perrasani
The line to the concession stand was five deep. Dean thought he saw the man with the evil eye waiting in front. Looking over his shoulder, he cut the corner. His walk was abruptly halted.
“Whoa. Watch where you’re walking,” a teenager said. He and his girlfriend sidestepped out of Dean’s way.
“Sorry.” Dean continued on down what was now a quiet corridor. The further he walked, the more alone he seemed to be.
Then heavy footsteps, like someone was walking behind him. The footsteps picked up, like someone was beginning to run. Dean glanced back. Nothing. But the corridor was curving, preventing him from seeing straight down.
As Dean picked up his pace, he glanced back again. He saw the shadow of somebody. It had to be that same man. Even his shadow was intimidating.
Dean pushed through the exit doors. He was sure he knew where Kendra parked. Confused, he went down the wrong row. He looked around frantically. He spotted the white Taurus two rows over.
With the notion of an assailant behind him, and the taste of metallic in his dry mouth mingling with the odor of diesel fumes, Dean hopped over the guardrail. He hesitated for a moment. The exit doors slammed open as if a bull crashed through them. The man he feared stared at him. His eyes screamed of bad intentions.
Dean’s heart thumped. Sweat soaked through his long sleeve T-shirt. He realized what he had walked himself into. A dark and deserted parking garage. The perfect place to get beat down or much worse. Disappear. After all, he had a powerful enemy. One who could make that very thing happen. As he rushed to open the driver’s side door, he glanced over the hood. The man stood still on the other side of the white Taurus. His face became more recognizable. It looked like his nose was beaten repeatedly with a meat hammer.
“Dean Perrasani?” a deep voice spoke from behind.
Dean jumped around.
Michael Maresi, fifteen years Dean’s elder, stepped out from behind the support column. Clean shaven, not a single hair out of place, dressed in a black Armani suit, Michael looked like he should be attending a meeting with Donald Trump. Not some football game between two lousy squads. He hand gestured to his thug to leave them alone. The thug did just that.
“Who are you?”
“A friend of yours.”
Dean didn’t answer. He didn’t know if he should run or fight. Or beg for mercy.
“You look nervous. Did you think that mean looking son-of-a-bitch was sent here by Bongiovani…? He’s my bodyguard.”
“That’s why I hired him.” Michael took another step closer to Dean. “Do you know who I am?”
“I can’t say that I do.”
“I’m with them. The reason you are where you are.”
“Them…? You mean Filmore University?”
Michael smiled. “Your academic credentials are impressive, Dean. They have been since middle school. The same could be said about your leadership skills. Named captain in almost everything you’ve ever been involved with.”
“Are you with Filmore? Or are with you Regnum?”
“Filmore and Regnum are one in the same. Are they not?”
“I know who you’re with… Why did you come here to see me?”
“There’s an opportunity presented that you must now seize.”
“And what would I have to do for this opportunity?”
Dead silence. Two males mirrored off each other’s eyeballs, the teen slightly backing down.
“I don’t believe I need to answer your question out loud.”
“You’re a legacy, Dean. Thus a threat.”
“A threat to who?”
“I get the act. Ask me questions you already know the answers to. You’re a clever kid. Another reason we want you taking over the reins.”
Dean’s eyes widen. “You want me to be President of Regnum?”
Michael chuckled. “A couple more of these and I don’t envision myself laughing any longer.”
“President of Regnum is what the outsiders say. You refer to him as your Don.”
“Only within our fraternity.”
“You follow the rules with precision.”
“Let me be quite frank with you here, Dean. You are the man, one of very few, that they have handpicked. Your current Don is out. It’s final. He blew his chance big-time.”
“He has made many mistakes.”
“Learn from his mistakes, my friend.”
They stared at one another for the most awkward three seconds in Dean’s life.
“When he’s gone, the rest will follow along. That won’t even be an issue.”
“Men are moved by two levers. Fear and self interest.”
“Napoleon quote. Nice touch.”
“Thanks.” A car door shutting startled Dean. He noticed a Cadillac ten spots down turn on its headlights and start its engine.
“It’s this simple, Dean. Run the family right—”
“You mean fraternity.”
“Please never correct me. I always mean exactly what I say.”
“It is a family. And you will be its Don. You run it right. Like your brother did. And those after him, with the exception of a few. And you, Dean Perrasani, will gain everyone’s respect. Most importantly, the respect of the Commission.”
Dean was shocked by the utter mention of the Commission.
“That’s right. I said it. Your brother ever say it?”
“Not to me. No. Never.”
“Your brother was a great leader. The best we ever seen. I’ll be keeping in touch.” Michael held out his right hand. Dean wasted no time shaking it. Michael’s hand wasn’t sweaty. Dean’s was.
“Is that it? You came out here just to meet me?”
“I feel I’ve gotten my point across.”
“There’s more we should talk about then. Shouldn’t we?”
The Cadillac pulled up. The bodyguard stepped out of the backseat. “Your brother and I had a good relationship. We helped each other out quite a bit. I hope the two of us have that very same relationship.”
“So do I.”
“Enjoy the rest of the game.” Michael sat down in the car. The bodyguard sat next to him. The door shut. The Cadillac drove away.
Dean gazed at the taillights. But his mind was in disarray
“Tackle by Thomas,” the public addresser’s voice echoed over sparse cheers. The Filmore defense ran off the field celebrating as Norwalk’s punt team replaced their offense.
“Wooo hooo. Go Foxes!” Kendra cheered, her arms crossed and her blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail. A true Midwesterner, Kendra Calhoun could’ve been a working model if she only was a little taller and ate a little less.
“I think we might win our first game,” Linda said, sitting to the right of her roommate. She was more voluptuous than Kendra, and much more sexually active.
“Who cares? As long as the spread gets covered.” Brett Marcello was every girl’s desire and he knew it. His raven hair and olive skin made him look more Italian than Dean even though he wasn’t full-blooded and Dean was.
“Such school spirit, Brett,” Linda said.
“I just said I was rooting for them, didn’t I?”
Linda and Kendra looked at each other and giggled.
“There he is. It’s about time. I was about to come look for you.”
Dean returned to his seat holding a wool coat. He handed it to Kendra.
“Thank you so much, my darling.”
Kendra quickly threw on her coat. Dean retook his seat to her right. He stared down at the field, blocking out everything else around him.
From the outside Dean Perrasani looked like a normal nineteen-year-old: handsome, dark hair, slender build, innocent face. But inside was a wounded soul. A tragic past he felt was better left untold. His mother, father, and older brother had died at different times in his childhood. His overly religious grandmother left to care for him. The fact he made it to where he was now spoke volumes of not just the job his grandmother did after his father’s death, but of his own determination and resolve.
“This is beat,” Brett said. “Let’s ditch this taco stand.”
“And go where, honey?” Linda asked.
“To the frat house.”
“No thank you.”
“Why not, Linda?”
“That psychopath, Mickey Connell, will be there.”
“Yeah. He scares me. He flips out.”
“Don’t worry about him, Kendra. He smokes so much dope it’s shrinking his already miniscule brain. Anyway, if he does bother you, Dean’ll kick his ass. Don’t let those cute dimples and blue eyes fool you either. Dean may look he belongs on the cover of Seventeen. But deep down inside, he’s a stone cold killah.”
Kendra and Linda giggled at Brett’s silly assertion. Dean didn’t acknowledge what he said.
“Dean? Hey Dean?”
Dean finally looked at him.
“What was the spread?” Brett asked.
Dean shrugged his shoulders.
Brett and Dean were best friends since the second grade. Dean, always the kid who kept quiet and made getting As seem cool, took a liking to Brett the first time they met and vice versa. Brett was in awe of Dean. Almost worship. He’d do anything for him.
“We’re getting ten and a half,” Kendra blurted out. Dean looked at her. She smiled. “I heard somebody else say it on campus today. What? I don’t gamble.”
“My intuition tells me Mahoney throws a pick,” Brett said.
Booing became more constant after a handoff totaled a negative two yards. Despite the small crowd, there was plenty of passion in Kaplan Stadium. Named after Bernard Kaplan, a former chancellor at Filmore University. He was the man responsible for spearheading the funding for a new stadium. With the help of a surreptitious organization known as the Commission.
“The sky looks so beautiful tonight,” Kendra said, staring up at a sky one would see in a planetarium.
Dean looked up at those very stars.
Another chorus of boos.
“Intercepted by Paprota. Norwalk’s ball on the Filmore’s forty-three yard line,” the public addresser voiced.
“Good call Brett,” Linda said.
Dean looked to his right. Brett smiled at him. They both knew the spread was rigged. Even though Filmore sucked as a team, they were winning for some. Particularly in their pockets.
Dean stared back down at the field. But his mind was running all over the place. He wondered if he was experiencing exactly what his older brother, Tyler, experienced. It was his footsteps he wanted to follow in. Was he following in them? Questions since he was a kid were finally being answered. First Tyler. Now him.
Ten years ago, Dean was still an innocent boy with dreams of being like his father. His older brother, Tyler, well, he had his own dreams. It revolved around running the most powerful organization any university could ever imagine. The problem being nobody could imagine. It was inconceivable to the average person. Unless that person was foolish enough to cross their destructive path.
A rerun of MASH played. Next to the 25-inch TV an open window revealed the beautiful fall day. Tyler Perrasani rested back on the sofa enjoying his alone time. At six-foot, Tyler’s presence towered over everyone else in Phi Beta Regnum. That’s because he was the main man in charge. President of Regnum. The Don. He had a more mature look than Dean; a stubbly beard, chiseled jaw line, slicked back hair. Clumping footsteps across the wooden floor told him somebody was approaching. Vinnie Durkan walked into the living room, proving his premonition correct.
“Hey Tyler.” He sat to his Don’s right. “I can’t find McCreedy anywhere.”
Tyler’s eyes remained glued on the TV. “He’s out running errands for me.”
“I have a question regarding this construction we’re overseeing.”
Tyler peered at Vinnie. “You know better than to talk business here. Save it for the privacy of my office.”
“I’m sorry. Stupid me.” Vinnie threw back his Frankenstein head and flopped his arms in the air. “I should know better.”
“Is it okay if I ask a favor here?”
Tyler gazed back at the TV. “Speak.”
“I have a friend, this dude in my History class. He helps me with homework. Nice guy. A nerd. But a nice guy—”
“Get to the favor. You’re boring me already.”
“His name is Kenny Lipson. He was beat up at a party last week.”
“You’re kidding me with this?”
“These shysters over at Alpha PI Delta are extorting him. Forcing him to pay for a car accident he had nothing to do with,” Vinnie said, his emotions unmasked through his fist clinching.
“What’s this Lipson willing to pay you for your help?”
“It’s not about that, Tyler. These guys who slapped Todd around, they call themselves the Ridgewood Mafia.”
The name Ridgewood Mafia snagged Tyler’s attention. He looked at Vinnie. “I never heard of ‘em.”
“They’re just punks who go to Filmore.”
“Are these characters from Ridgewood, Connecticut?”
“How did you know?”
“Rich kids who are bored. That’s what it sounds like to me.”
A fellow brother walked into the room. “What you two watching?” Teddy Gibriano had a pencil-thin mustache and gold loop earrings dangled from his lobes. He was Tyler’s right-hand man and best friend since the seventh grade. “What’s this? MASH?”
“You ever hear of the Ridgewood Mafia?” Vinnie asked.
Teddy plopped down on the recliner. “I can’t say that I have. Who are they?”
Tyler gazed at him. “They need to be spoken to. ASAP.”
“Then I’m on it. ASAP. And you’re on it with me, Vin.”
“I knew I was.” Vinnie stood, his fists still clenched.
“Calm down, Vin. You’re too wired. This is no reason to wanna go pound somebody. You barely know this Lipson kid.”
“I understand, Tyler.”
“Then understand, this is your favor.”
“And I appreciate that. Really.”
“Also, your friend, Ken Lipson? I’ll expect him to repay us one of these days. I’m not running a charity here.“
“He’ a bright dude. We can use him to write papers. Students are willing to shell out a lot of loot for that shit.”
Tyler nodded. “Not a bad idea. I’m impressed.”
Vinnie smiled. Impressing Tyler was on top of each brother’s to-do list.
“When you go speak with this Ridgefield Mafia, have Julian tag along.”
Teddy’s smile stretched out. The name Julian gave off delight. He jumped up off the recliner. “I’ll keep you updated, Ty.”
Teddy and Vinnie left the room. Tyler went back to enjoying another episode of MASH. The Frank Burns years.
The earsplitting music of Metallica’s “Exit Sandman” stopped. “Everyone get out. Party’s over,” Garrett Spilner screamed. He was both handsome and well-dressed, a recipe for his arrogance.
The dwindling crowd filed out the front door. A drunken teenager held up his hand for Garrett to high-five. “Awesome party, dude. The best I’ve been to this year.”
“That means oodles coming from your poor ass.”
“When’s the next one?”
“Never. Now beat it before I buy you and your dad and sell the both of you off on eBay.”
Garrett slammed the front door shut. His fraternity brother, Chubby Charlie, approached him. “Denise is creaming me. I know it. You see the way she was hugging all over me tonight?”
Garrett slapped Charlie in the belly. Another brother hurried into the room. Colin was dressed in a cashmere sweater and tailored slacks like everyone else in this fraternity full of preppies. “Garrett, Todd Haft is still down in the basement. All by his lonesome.”
“You befriend him like I asked, twig?”
Colin nodded. “Worked him the same as Lipson. He thinks we’re boys.”
“Let’s do this thing like we always do. Ridgewood Mafia style,” Garrett said. They made their way to the basement. A few brothers followed anticipating a worthwhile event.
Garrett, Charlie and Colin made up a small faction they called the Ridgewood Mafia. Several other brothers were also a part of this make-believe gangster world. No one at Filmore even realized that Ridgewood was an affluent area of Connecticut. Each neighbor wealthier than the other. The Ridgewood Mafia was nothing more than a bunch of spoiled bullies who wanted everyone to bow to them when they entered a room.
The dim basement smelled of fresh paint. Folding chairs and old sofas were scattered around. Five brothers sat around a keg drinking piss-warm beer out of plastic blue cups.
“How’s the party down here?” Garrett asked.
Everyone stood, including Todd Haft. Thick frame glasses and his untrained hair emitted nothing intimidating.
Garrett and his two cronies approached him. “Mr. Haft, you having fun?”
“Yes. Thank you for inviting me,” Todd stammered, not used to attending parties.
“Don’t be foolish. I thank you for coming.”
“Todd drank a lot of our beer tonight,” Colin said.
“He’s been hogging the keg, Garrett,” one of the brothers lied.
“They’re joking. This is only my third cup.”
Garrett and Todd locked eyes. Todd’s eyes were the definition of scared, the opposite of Garrett’s. His eyes weren’t blinking and his lips formed a straight line. Todd began to sweat and his legs tremble. He could feel the fear. Something bad was about to happen.
“Liar,” Garrett yelled, followed by a stinging slap across Todd’s face. As Todd’s glasses flew across the room, he fell flat on his ass. Laughter broke out. Garrett leaned down and grabbed the weakling by his collared shirt.
“I didn’t do anything to you,” Todd said, his eyes tearing.
“Yes you did, you little turd!” Garrett slapped him across the face for a second time. Then again, turning Todd’s face beat red.
“You owe us money dickhead,” Charlie yelled, and kicked Todd on his right side.
“I want two-thousand dollars by Wednesday. If I don’t get it from you by then, you die,” Garrett said.
“Why would I give you two-thousand dollars?” Todd cried.
“Because you can’t drive. That’s why,” Colin chimed in.
“Know who we are? We’re the Ridgewood Mafia. You don’t mess with us. I can have you whacked. You got that, dork?” Garrett clutched onto Todd’s shirt and pulled him up on his feet.
“What do you want from me?”
“You hit my friend’s car. Now we want you to pay for the damages.”
“I wasn’t in any car accident—”
“Stop your nonsense!” Garrett smacked Todd across the face. The slap echoed off the walls. “If you don’t pay, then we’ll pay a visit to your younger sister. And we’ll collect from her.”
Charlie nodded. “I see a ton of blowjobs in my future. I’m loving that.”
“Stay away from her. I’ll pay you your money. Just stay away from my sister. Please,” Todd muttered, crying louder. He truly believed these guys were that powerful. That callous. He had no idea what they were talking about. That’s because they were lying. No car accident took place. They were just punks looking to extort a much weaker person.
A vacant complex was once the home to batting cages. On one side, a net draped down from the ceiling to the floor. On the other side, a backstop net hung behind home plate. Ceiling lights kept the dust-ridden place lit.
“Damn it!” Julian shouted. Short and powerful like a wolverine, Julian was an ex Marine, an explosive disposal specialist, now turned Regnum enforcer. He banged the barrel of the aluminum bat off the Astroturf floor. Teddy and Vinnie laughed. “What’s so funny, Vin? Why don’t you hit next, pussy?”
“Why embarrass myself? I know I suck.” Vinnie Durkan was all brawn, little brains. Back when he was fourteen, he spent six months in juvee for nearly beating another teen to death. Despite being a D student throughout high school, Vinnie received a full scholarship to Filmore University. Go figure.
Handcuffed to the net, bandanna gagged, were three pleading preppies. Garrett Spilner. Charlie Milford. Colin Pratt. “What would they say back home about the bad asses known as the Ridgewood Mafia?” Teddy asked, stepping toward them. The smell of men’s cologne was strong. But the smell of fear was overwhelming.
Vinnie placed a dimpled ball in the pitching machine behind the net. Julian again got into his righty-batting stance. “Keep your eye on the ball and stop pulling your head out,” Teddy said. He clapped in encouragement.
The three-wannabe gangsters from Alpha PI Delta looked every morsel of terrified one could look. The ball shot out of the pitcher’s machine and startled them. Julian swung. He could only muster a foul ball into the backstop.
“Goddamn me!” He flung the bat across the room.
Garrett grunted. Teddy yanked down the bandanna. “We didn’t do anything to you. Please let us go. I’ll pay you. I’ll pay you a lot of money.”
“No deal,” Teddy answered.
Hollow footsteps were heard above Garrett’s cries. Teddy’s eyes gleamed at the arrival of their Don.
“This is what I’m talking about. You want to see a man who can hit. Here he is. Mad skills. He was the best player on the baseball team back in high school.”
“The best is stretching it a bit. I’ll take pretty good though.” Tyler shook Teddy’s hand. “So this is the Ridgewood Mafia?”
“That they are.”
Tyler stopped within a foot of Garrett. “I don’t know you and I don’t care to know you. The Ridgewood Mafia is over. I’m never to hear those words uttered in my presence again.”
“Never again. It’s over,” Garrett said. His two buddies nodded. Tyler didn’t even look at them. It was as if they meant nothing, not even worthy enough for a glance.
“If the Ridgewood Mafia resurfaces, then you and your associates will end up under the surface. I can make that happen. Do you think I’m lying to you?”
“I’m done. I mean we’re done. It was all a misunderstanding. A joke. That’s it. That’s all we are,” Garrett said.
“You didn’t havta tell me that,” Vinnie uttered.
“I want you to pay Kenneth Lipson one thousand dollars out of your own pocket. And you’re to do so by week’s end,” Tyler said.
“Who? Why would I pay him?”
“You’ve extorted so many students you can’t even keep track of their names can you? Pathetic. Just consider it a favor to me. Lastly, you’ll be paying me three thousand dollars for occupying my time. And my time is much more valuable than three thousand dollars.”
“Best consider yourselves lucky,” Teddy chimed in.
“Lucky that you’re not gonna end up in body casts,” Vinnie said.
Tyler peered at Vinnie to shut his mouth. Vinnie looked down at the floor.
“Oh my lordy. Did you just shit yourself?” Teddy asked Garrett. The other guys smelled the foul air.
“Someone get this boy some Huggies,” Julian said, and laughed.
“This is amateur hour. I have better things to do than be here. You drive them back to their fraternity,” Tyler ordered Vinnie.
“But he crapped his pants.”
“Do as you’re told…” Teddy pointed at Julian. “You ride with.”
“There’s to be no shenanigans either. Drive them straight home,” Tyler said. He walked away.
“Get a move on it,” Teddy barked, scowling back at the moping Vinnie.
“This skeazebag better not filth up my new seats.”
Julian patted Vinnie on the back. “Don’t sweat it. We’ll just cover the back with a blanket. Ride with the windows down.”
Breathing through their mouths, trying not to be nauseated, the two brothers began to free the gang formerly known as the Ridgewood Mafia.
Tyler read the newspaper in bed. He remained in his bathrobe, regardless of the looming afternoon hour. The sunshine gave much needed light. The second-floor room was nothing spectacular. One bed sat in the middle. The most noticeable decoration, a painting of Jesus Christ with the Virgin Mary. A knock on the closed door before it inched open.
“Good morning, Tyler.
“What do you want, Vin?”
“I have some news for ya,” Vinnie said.
“Good news I hope?”
“Isn’t it always good when I speak to you?”
“You’re wasting my time already,” Tyler uttered, still reading.
Vinnie removed an envelope from out of his denim coat. “Thirty-five hundred dollars. All for you. I’ll put it up here.” He placed the envelope down on the dresser near a wallet and a bottle of hair gel.
Tyler looked Vinnie’s way. The paper now rested on his chest. “Did you give your friend the rest?”
“What’s the word on our boys at Alpha PI Delta?”
“Those three pussies left school. Ran back home to Connecticut. When the rest of PI Delta heard what happened, they quit the fraternity.”
“Regnum was mentioned. Scared the entire fraternity. Brothers wanna separate themselves as far as possible from Spilner and the Ridgewood Mafia.”
“Smart. It’s good to see that college paid off for some of them.”
“Alpha PI Delta is off the map. All because their president had to go slap a nerd around,” Vinnie said, a teeth-filled smile showed how proud he felt. “I guess the Ridgewood Mafia found out who the big dogs really are.”
“Cool down, Frankenstein. We’re not the big dogs. We only work for the big dogs.” Tyler went back to reading his newspaper. Vinnie closed the door.
Why did Tyler even bother with the Ridgewood Mafia? He knew that they were nothing but wannabe tough guys. Why even make the effort? The thirty-five hundred dollars? No way. He was involved in business that exceeded well over six figures. Was it about the power? The respect? Exactly. He wanted to show those rich boys what real power was all about. And he did. He was the boss around here and no one better step on his toes because if they did, they just might get their feet cut off. Tyler turned the page of the newspaper. At the same time, he turned the page to his life. Written on that next page were the words—Power and Respect. He breathed both. He felt both. And he had no problem embracing both.
Dominic Perrasani enjoyed a hot cup of coffee with his newspaper. Dean sat across from him at the kitchen table. Using a spoon too big for his mouth, he gobbled down a bowl filled with Lucky Charms. His chewing resembled that of a pet canine, or so his father would often tease. “How many times I have to tell you, Dean, chew with your mouth closed.”
“Sorry Dad,” he mumbled with a mouth stuffed with cereal.
Tyler walked into the kitchen. At eighteen, he was maturing into quite the handsome young man. He placed his duffel bag down on the chair. “Good morning, Pop.”
“You off to the gym?”
“Can’t miss another day. Teddy’s picking me up in a few.” He grabbed a glass out of the cabinet. “After the gym, we’re probably heading down to the shore.”
“Just stay out of trouble.”
“When do I ever get in trouble, Pop?” Tyler asked, pouring himself a glass of orange juice.
His dad smiled. He knew the answer to that was never.
“I thought we had a cow living with us.”
“I’m trying to tell him to eat with his mouth closed.”
“I am eating with my mouth closed, Dad.”
“The problem is that spoon. Look how big it is.” A car beeped in front of the house. Tyler guzzled down his OJ. “Teddy’s here early. I’ll call you if I stay out tonight, alright, Pop?”
He grabbed his duffel bag off the chair and gave his dad a kiss on the cheek. “Bye.”
“Later, little brother.” He gave Dean a kiss on top of his head.
“So long Tyler,” he watched him leave, “Dad?”
“Yes,” he said, turning the page to his newspaper.
“I’m gonna miss Tyler when he leaves.”
“So will I.”
“Why does he have to go?”
“He has a great opportunity. Filmore’s an excellent college. And he gets to go for free.”
“Why does he have to go so far away?”
“When you get to be a senior in high school, you’ll understand. Actually, when you start noticing girls, you’ll understand.”
“Believe me, in a few years, that eww will be changing to wow, isn’t she cute.” Dominic stared at his son. “I love you. You know that?”
Dean smiled. His father was his idol.
“I love you, too, Dad.”
“Your mom would be so proud of you and your brother.”
The thought of his deceased mother overtook Dean’s face with anguish. He missed her terribly. His father did also. He stared at his son, but all he saw was the beautiful face of his wife. The memories that used to be cherished were now just torture. Her death took more than just her body. It took a large piece of their family…
“Rise and shine, buddy.” Brett poked Dean in the chest. “Dean, rise and shine.”
“What time is it?”
Brett and their other roommate, Perry Manolla, dressed in a rush. Wire-frame glasses did little to style Perry’s hooknose face. But whatever Perry lacked in size and looks, he made up with his brain. One of the smarter brothers, he made scoring a 4.0 look simple.
“Emergency meeting called for eight-thirty,” Brett said.
Dean rubbed his face. “What happened?”
“Wait until you hear this, Dean,” Perry said from his bed.
“Bryce and Mickey were in an accident last night. They’re dead,” Perry said with little sadness.
“Messed up, isn’t it, buddy?”
“Bryce had his Mercedes parked on the train tracks. His stunts were bound to catch up with him sooner than later,” Perry said.
“I can’t believe this,” Dean uttered.
“They think it may have been drugs. That would explain why they were parked on the tracks without even knowing it,” Brett said.
“Drugs lead to nothing but death,” Perry uttered.
“Well said,” Brett said.
“What a tragedy,” Dean uttered. It was a tragedy. Dean didn’t want this to happen, but it wasn’t his call. If he refused, he would be Bryce now.
Twenty-one members assembled down in the basement dubbed The Dungeon. The cellar depicted gloom; cracked cinderblock walls, a roaring furnace, and an unpleasant mildew odor. Used for more than beatings, the Dungeon became the place where the fraternity held their weekly meetings.
Keith Mann stood behind the podium up on a makeshift stage. Seated in front of him, in three rows of seven, were his brothers. Bobby, Head, Brett, and Dean sat in the second row. There was no sight of the unpredictable Patsy, signified by the one unoccupied folding chair.
“It’s a tragedy what happened to Bryce and Mickey. But we, as a fraternity, must move forward. I ask for all of you to take the Thanksgiving recess. Go home or on vacation. Wherever. But I urge each and every one of you to leave and remain off this campus.”
From his seat in the front row, Markus Chimera raised his hand. Keith pointed down at him. “What’s the final word? Was it an accident?” he asked, his personality just as obnoxious as his pork chop sideburns.
“Without doubt. Bryce and Mickey screwed up. Let’s learn from their mistakes. You are not here to grow to be dope fiends, drunks, or both. If that’s the case, then Regnum doesn’t welcome you. We are way above that. Go be an addict on the street if that’s what you desire.”
“Be forthright with us, Keith. We’re all smart guys in this room. We know what this is about.”
“Are we absolutely sure that Bryce and Mickey’s passing was the result of an unfortunate accident?” Markus asked.
“Do you know something that the rest of us imbeciles do not, freshman?” Keith snapped back, his coffee-colored birthmark on the left side of his face the only skin not flushed.
“Of course not. But—”
“Then do us a favor and stop wasting our time. The police have ruled it an accident, exclamation point. That’s good enough for me. And that’s definitely good enough for you, dick-for-brains, exclamation point.”
Bobby smacked Markus in the back of his head.
“Go pay your respects to Bryce and Mickey. Then go home. Have a happy holiday. Until we hear otherwise, business is a shutdown.” After rubbing his face, Keith looked up and noticed nobody leaving. “This meeting is adjourned!” He pounded the gavel down on the podium.
Dean walked down the leftfield line. The inside of the aboveground dugout was not visible. But that didn’t deter him from entering.
“You’re late.” Michael Maresi was already seated at the end of the bench, dressed in a gray Armani suit.
“I thought you were sitting in the car parked at the top of the hill. Your driver told me to come down here.” Dean sat to Michael’s left. “Why did you pick a little league field?”
“I like the seclusion.”
A tense pause. Dean was nervous. “This weather’s crazy. Here it is December. And it feels like spring.”
“Is that the reason behind the sweat jacket and jeans,” Michael said.
“I wasn’t told I had to wear a suit.”
“A man who wants to be taken seriously does so without being told.”
“I understand. Next time I’ll try to dress more like a stockbroker.”
“Is that what I look like to you, a stockbroker?”
Dean’s smile vanished. “No I was just kidding. Stockbrokers are too arrogant and smug for their own good. You look much more like a man who means business. No time for play. No time for nonsense.”
“I despise nonsense.” Michael turned his attention to the vulgar graffiti inside the dugout. “The kids today. Scary.”
“Watch what you say, Michael. That’s the future of Phi Beta Regnum you’re
Michael allowed himself a smile. “You a fan of baseball?”
“Sure. Yankee fan.”
“There’s no better game, the precise balance amid individuality and team.”
Dean noticed behind the outfield fence existed nothing but woods. “It is secluded here.”
“I held meetings at this very field for years with young men in the same position you’re in now.”
“Was one of those men my brother?”
Michel smiled. “You kidding? Not your brother. It was either a restaurant or gentlemen’s club when it came to him.”
Dean looked down at the cracking foundation.
“I’m pleased you chose to come alone. I recall my first meeting with Bongiovani. He had one of his associates,” Michael pointed toward right field, “hiding out there in the bushes. The dimwit was crawling on his stomach. It was blatantly obvious.”
“What did you do?”
“I pretended I didn’t even notice him. I’m in no danger. Bongiovani was paranoid. He didn’t know what to expect.”
“What should I expect? What’s next for me?”
“Business is back on. The Commission is ready to begin a new era.”
“I won’t be another Bryce. I’m no thug, Michael.”
“What’s so funny?”
“You can’t be this naive, Perrasani? What did you think you were joining? Did you think this was going to be like summer camp? Everybody best friends? No one gets hurt? You need to wake the fuck up, kid.”
“I know, but there’s a better way of accomplishing the things that I need to
accomplish. Bryce is proof the thug way doesn’t work.”
“His way was the idiot way. The thug way works. Though I get what you’re saying.”
Dean stared straight ahead. He didn’t know what else to say.
“This is dead serious what you’re involved in and you need to be stronger than everyone else around you. Most of all, mentally. That was a huge part of Bongiovani’s downfall.”
“Is everyone satisfied with the way that situation was handled?”
“We required no negative attention be brought to Filmore. It only made page twelve of the Middlesex Tribune. The lack of major publicity was vital. The attention you receive from a drug overdose, a car accident, even a suicide, it’s far less scrutinized. Tragic? Yes. Front-page material? No. You did a good job with that.”
“Can I ask from you one thing, Michael?”
“That you be straight up with me?”
“The main people are throwing a party at the end of the month, and they wish to meet the newest kid on the block.” Michael removed a plane ticket from his coat. He handed it to Dean. “First-class to Colorado. There will be a driver waiting for you at the airport.”
“Is that it?”
“You should feel honored they asked to meet you this quick. Bongiovani never met with anyone except me. Most of Regnum’s Don’s never met the Commission or even had a hint to who they were. Your brother and a few others were the only ones. The rest dealt strictly with me. Nobody else.”
“Believe me, I am honored.”
“And to answer your question, I will be straight with you, Perrasani. I was always straight with your brother. But it’s a two-way street. You need to be straight with me. Or you’ll just end up like Bongiovani.”
“This smell of paint is bothering my sinuses. Let’s step out.”
Dean followed Michael out of the dugout onto the wet dirt.
“What time is your meeting with Harper?”
“How did you know about that?”
“It’s at eleven.”
“Harper’s a friend of ours. You two will work well together.”
“Oh, one final thing, I want you to keep this Colorado trip quiet. You’re not to tell any of your underlings. Capische? The Commission doesn’t exist. It’s like Bigfoot. You only hear the stories. No one really believes them.”
A knock on the door interrupted Chancellor Harper’s nap. “Enter.” He fixed his coat and tie. The door opened and Dean entered his office. “Mr. Perrasani, how are you?”
“I’m fine. Thank you for asking.” He closed the door. Chancellor Harper walked out from behind his desk to shake his hand.
“I appreciate you coming down to my office on such short notice.”
“To be honest, sir, I was set on making this visit. There’re a few things I wanted to discuss with you.”
Chancellor Harper sat back down in his chair. He removed a stack of folders off his desk, his view of Dean now clear. “I’ve been updated on your ascension up the ranks. I must say, I am delighted with the decision. I, like many others, had grown tired of Mr. Bongiovani’s methods. I’m not unhappy to see him go. Not that you had anything to do with that,” he said, a grin unmasking his unbalanced mannerisms.
Dean sat with his legs crossed. “I wanted to tell you in person that I intend on making many changes, Chancellor. For one, you will start noticing more Regnum members around campus.”
“Good to hear. Some on the faculty were beginning to wonder.”
“Not attending class is part of Bryce’s legacy. My brothers are to be in the classroom where they can strengthen their minds.”
“Many of them will hate hearing that.”
“They’ll be grateful down the road when they’re not in jail or dead.” Harper placed several folders down on the desk for Dean to take. “Thank you.”
“So speak to me, what’s to be done with regards to business on this campus, Mr. Perrasani?”
“I’ll say this much, the days of our favorite drug-dealer soliciting clients across grounds has come to an end.”
Harper sloped back in his chair. “Good. That Mr. Buser irks me like no other. What about the brothel?”
“You’ll be happy to hear that I plan on moving it to the other side of town. Away from the dorms and away from this campus, sir.”
“I am happy to hear that. It doesn’t shine well for this university when prostitutes are spotted marauding in and out of the dormitories and fraternity houses, particularly in the daytime.”
“It was wrong, Chancellor. This is supposed to be a secret organization.”
“I agree. But what can you do? There are those ahead of us. You can only go with it. That’s what I do.”
“It takes a smart man to do what I do. And it takes a smart man to do what you do.”
“Thanks,” Dean said.
“You’re welcome. And as far as the brothel is concerned, I envision no trouble off campus. Many of your best customers are on the police force.”
“Not to mention mayors and councilmen.”
The chancellor tilted forward in his chair. “What I would love to know, Mr.
Perrasani, is how you plan on increasing our school’s funds? And when I say increase, I mean considerably?”
“I have a plan.”
“I would love to hear it.”
“You will in due time.”
“It would make things run much smoother if you filled me in now.”
“Still need to iron out small details. Don’t worry, Chancellor Harper. After we’re through here, they’ll be naming a building after you. That’s how respected your name will become.”
“You will leave that kind of mark, sir. If not a building, then let’s say a center?”
“Hmmm. I like the idea. Or, maybe, it’s only a thought, but just maybe they’ll put up a statue of myself in front of the library. How’s that sound, Dean?”
“You never know, sir. Anything is possible.”
Dean would strive to make Filmore more honorable. The whorehouse relocated. The drug peddling forbidden on school grounds. A more covert society reestablished. But he acted no different than Bryce or anyone else before him. His job called on deception, fierceness, traitorous. Regardless of whether he wanted to admit it or not.
Dean reached over the chancellor’s desk and shook his hand. “Thank you sir,” he said, and snatched the folders off his desk.
“I’m extremely optimistic now that you’re at the helm, Dean. I think you just may develop into the best yet.”
“I’ll try my best. That I can promise you.”
“I wasn’t here when your brother ran things. I heard the stories. What a leader.”
“I intend on keeping my brother’s legacy alive.”
“It’s going to be an honor working with you, Chancellor. Have a wonderful day.”
“I look forward to working with you, too, Dean.”
Dean closed the door on his way out of the office.
Chancellor Harper remained sitting in his chair, gratified. Dean’s elevation meant prominent things for him. He was already a wealthy man because of his association with the Commission. He acted as head of Filmore University, but his real passion, his real interest, that happened to be his position in the Commission. That role took on responsibilities such as an overseer, a caretaker, and an authority figure. He didn’t give a damn about any of those students outside Phi Beta Regnum. And the ones in Regnum, well, he didn’t care much for them either. All he cared about was the cash. The large amounts of easy cash that led to a radical change in his character. The self-centeredness. The unfeeling. The arrogance. Because of that he was divorced, alienated from his children, engaged in endless affairs, fixated on gambling and alcohol, and despised by onetime friends. Nonetheless, Chancellor Harper felt as though he was living a blessed life. It’s about the power. See, to him, everything else in his life became secondary. It’s the power that reigned supreme.
“Hi Poet,” uttered the spider. “How ya doing, my ugly friend?” the poet replied. Spider said, “Just had myself a housefly. I owe you for my meal.” “Hey Spider, let me ask ya something. How do my poems make you feel?”
Spider crawled across the bedroom ceiling. “Poet, your poems are about your feelings, but you need to open up more. When I read each poem I notice your heart is afar.” “What are you saying, Spider? I put full effort into my poetry.”
“I agree,” Spider said. “But you need to hold nothing back. Let yourself free, but keep the creativity intact.”
Poet thought over what Spider had said. He watched Spider play in its web. It was obvious that Spider had come as a friend with advice to lend. “So Spider, what should I do? What should I choose?” “It isn’t about choice. If it is… you will lose. You must hear your own voice. Realize that you have wrote it… then you will become a poet.”
“Tell me, Spider, reading my poems, you choose? Right? I know I am not wrong. Spider, weave me your favorite song… but just don’t make it so long.” “Be who you wanna be,” Spider replied. “Deny yourself what you want and you won’t see.” Spider was wise. However, Spider was in for a fall. Poet couldn’t believe what he now saw!
His mom entered the room waving a can of bug spray. “Mom, no!!! Spider shall live for another day!” Poet’s mom left the room a bit annoyed. Spider was thankful to the poet that it wasn’t destroyed. “You are a man of your word,” it said. “I believe, Spider, I can learn much more from you than from anything I have ever read.”
Spider wanted to get eye level. It crawled down the wall a few feet. Poet walked over to Spider who would repeat, ”What I’m about to say is a real treat. Don’t be scared to write your true feelings down on the paper. Think of the pen as your one and only best friend.” “Spider, you sure are one brilliant insect. Let me just tell you, the topics of my writings I select.”
Spider agreed, “I am tired. It is time for me to rest… and time is for you to invest.” Spider made way for the crawl space, which led into the attic. It was up there where Spider became the poet’s own personal fanatic. As the creature crept into the dark it remarked, “I will see you in the inevitable future. Sometimes it’s not good to always be alone. Remember… put your soul down on the paper, and then as a poet you will have grown.”
Spider disappeared into the attic.
The poet wrote down its great words.