I opened my eyes. I must have overslept. Seems like the older you get, the harder it is to stay awake. Well, that’s how it seemed in my family. My father Antonio Sorreno was 79 years old when he died mysteriously in his sleep. But to be honest it seem like he died a long time before then. By the time he was 60, all he did was sleep. I was 13 at the time. My brother was 31 and had just gotten a girl pregnant in Utah. But did dad care? No, he was too busy sleeping. The last 19 years of his life were mostly spent with his friends or at home sleeping.
Dad never paid any attention to me growing up. I suppose because I wasn’t planned. My brother Jonny was planned. I was what he used to call a “useless surprise”. I once passed an important final exam and all he did was ask me for my teacher’s number. The next day I found her and him messing around, in my bedroom no less. My mother, Rosa Sorreno who was now 81, understood the kind of man she married. The kind that killed during the day, and fucked a whore during the night, and on occasion came home…
See, besides being “father of the year”, Antonio Sorreno was also the godfather of New Jersey. There was a problem, Antonio could fix it. If it couldn’t be fixed, Antonio would “fix” it. Had a debt to pay, Antonio would collect. Someone had to go, Antonio would make that someone disappear. His gang was respected. So respected was my father’s gang that eventually the families opened the books for them and made the Sorreno family an official member.
This made my father an enemy of Lombardi. Sonny Lombardi was a capo for the Sorreno family. But it was he who had started the gangs of New Jersey. When my father came into the picture, Sonny was pushed aside. Sonny was an old man. But he was a stubborn old man. And that is where it all began. Everyone knew it, but no one said it. Sonny and my brother Jonny killed my father. For appearance, Jonny was said to be the official boss of the Sorreno family. But in reality, it was Sonny Lombardi. After just 5 years, Sonny formed his own gang within the Sorreno family and separated himself entirely from them. I was just an enforcer at the time. But when Sonny left, I was promoted to Capo. Being Jonny’s kid brother, Jonny made me his underboss. Things moved quickly. There was no time to look back. No time to think about where the path was leading.
I rose from my bed, king sized mattress, fit for the future king of New Jersey. The room was one of April’s most prized accomplishments. She had decorated the room in such a way to suggest that we had once lived in Europe. Though the closest I got to Europe was the art museum. While I weighed myself just to see if I was still as heavy as I was yesterday, I looked out the window of my bathroom and saw my neighbor in my yard trying to get his filthy mutt off my grass. I hated people. My phone rang.
“Dad,” my daughter called out, with that teenage tone in her voice. Was I just as terrible at that age? “It’s uncle Paulie!”
“I got it!” I yelled back, rushing to the phone on the nightstand by my bed. “Shouldn’t you be at school?”
“It’s Saturday!” She yelled back. “God, you’re so urghh!!!”
I rolled my eyes and picked up the phone. “Hang up, Tamara.”
There was a click and the voice on the other end spoke.
“Hey Michael, our friend called, says boss wants to have a meeting. Says wear a nice suit.”
“You’re kidding!?” I exclaimed. “Tell the little prick, I’ll wear a nice suit when he gets a nice face.”
“Ha!” Paulie laughed. “I’m serious Mikie. Jonny says he wants to make an announcement before his sentencing. Remember, he’s out on bail.”
“Yeah Yeah, I know.” I replied. “The police got nothing better than to send a gentleman to prison, for what? Not paying his taxes? Who wants to pay taxes these days anyway? Fuck ‘em!”
“Yeah, they ain’t nothing.” Paulie said. “Well Michael, I got to go. I’ll see you.”
I hung up the phone and went downstairs for some breakfast. Nearly tripped on a toy from the night before when April’s sister and nephew had come to visit.
And there she was in the kitchen. The woman I somehow managed to marry was in the kitchen making sausage and eggs and boiling water to make some coffee.
“April Sorreno, don’t you look ravishing?” I joked as I opened the fridge and pulled out a gallon of juice.
“Michael, don’t you start with me?” She replied hastily. “After what you said to my sister Carrie, you think I’m just going to smile and pretend it was all ok?”
“I thought she knew Frankie cheated on her?” I replied sarcastically.
“I was going to tell her after the cake!” She shouted. “God, Michael, sometimes I wonder what you’re thinking about when I’m talking to you!”
“Usually I’m thinking about that one model from that dove commercial where she swims in the pool...” I joked, as I took a drink from the gallon of juice.
“Michael!” She exclaimed, pulling the juice away from me. “Use a glass. And stop joking, this isn’t funny.”
“I’m sorry, I just didn’t like sitting there knowing we had bad news! Personally I think she’s better off knowing right away, what a dick Frankie is.”
Suddenly, Tamara came running down with her cell phone in her hand.
“Dad!!! Turn on the TV!!!” She ran into the living room as we followed behind.
“What’s going on?” I asked her. “Tammy calm down!”
The TV was on now. She was flipping through the channels till she came across a news station.
“Jonny Sorreno, son of infamous Antonio Sorreno who was once the boss of New Jersey’s Sorreno Crime family, was gunned down outside early yesterday morning after two federal officers mistook him for a suspect attempting to break into Sorreno’s home of 23 years. Jonny Sorreno was acting boss of New Jersey. It was later found that he had woken up early to start his day and was simply carrying his mail back to the house. The federal officers have since been suspended and may be facing charges on negligence and reckless endangerment. Jonny Sorreno was 60 years old. His death also brings confusion as to who will be the new boss of the criminal organization. Some are speculating that it is indeed, and has always been Sonny Lombardi who was the very first boss of the family when it was formed nearly 68 years ago.”
In the weeks to come, cars were coming in and out of the house. The phone continued ringing.
Jersey City had all gathered on a Friday afternoon to discuss the future of the family. Paulie Santina, my brother’s son Vincent, Vito Ganza, Paulie Franco, Charlie Romano, Giuvanni Valentino, Lorenzo Santo, Jackie Bones, and the Lombardi gang, including Sonny himself…
I did not really cry for my brother. There was no time. We had to first resolve the power change. Sonny would not mind taking official control of the family. But since it was under the Sorreno name, Carlo, Sonny’s man, and myself were probably more entitled to the throne than anyone else there.
So while April and the other wives spoke in the living room, the family gathered in the basement to discuss who would take control of what.
“We have no problem, gentleman.” Sonny spoke. “Jonny was never really boss. You all know this. I am the boss.”
“Sonny, no one says you aren’t.” Vito Ganza spoke up. “But if you want to be the boss, then be the boss of the Lombardi family and leave Jersey to the Sorrenos.”
“You don’t tell me what to do, Ganza.” Sonny replied.
“What’s the matter with you Sonny?” I asked sarcastically. “You left the family in my brother’s hands. And now that he’s dead, you want to take it back. I’m sorry but that’s not the way Jersey works.”
“Oh yeah boy,” He laughed, “teach us all how Jersey works then. I suppose you want to be boss, is that it?”
“Let me tell you how things are done in my city, you keep what yours and you lose what isn’t. You lost the throne to my brother. And now my brother is dead and since I am the underboss of this family, I can and will step up and hold this family together as boss.”
“That’s right.” Vincent said. “Family is family, and we keep it in the family in this city!”
I looked at Vincent angrily and turned back to Sonny who had rage in his eyes as he tried to stare me down. In the end he shrugged his shoulders and gave a small laugh.
“I guess if you won’t give me what’s mind, I’ll have to take it.” Sonny said and turned away.
Sonny and his gang headed back up the stairs. His last words were clear. He meant war.
For the next couple hours, the rest of us discussed who would get what.
Vincent Marsada was now the official boss of the family, when in reality he was the underboss. Vito Ganza was a simple bookie for my brother but was now promoted to consigliere. Valentino would be bumped to capo. Paulie Santina had also been promoted to capo.
Paulie Franco and Charlie Romano would now be working for Santina. As for Lorenzo Santo and Jackie Bones, they would be working for Valentino from now on. And that was that. This was ‘our thing’. All that was left was to show some respect for my brother Jonny. We went back upstairs and shared with the woman the tragedy. To be honest, I could not find myself to cry. Many of the women were crying. Even April, who hated my brother almost as much as I did, could work up tears. But I, his brother could not cry for him. I was angry sure. But not because he was dead, I was mad because the two idiots who killed Jonny had made it so public that everyone had to see.
“We need to do something about the Lombardi situation.” Vito whispered in my ear. Vincent and Paulie stood beside us quietly, both staring around the room for any unwelcomed listeners.
“Then ‘fix’ it.” I said to him. Vincent and Paulie turned to look at me. The three nodded. “It’d better be ‘fixed’ by the end of the week.”
“What about the two officers?” Valentino said quietly as he approached the group.
“Have Lorenzo pay them a visit tomorrow…” I walked into the kitchen where April sat talking to a friend of Carlo, my cousin.
“Ay, Carlo! Stai cercando di rubare la mia moglie lontano da me? ”
He turned and smiled at me as I said this and replied “Suppongo che lei ha bisogno di un vero uomo...”
I had basically asked him if he was trying to take April away from me. And his response was the same one as ever, she needed a real man. It was a joke among cousins.
“Let me talk to you for a moment.” I said to him in english. “April, where’s Tammy?”
April frowned, “Where do you think? At Donnie’s place.”
Donnie Lombardi, 28 years old, was a good kid. An enforcer and nephew to Sonny, Donnie was now an enemy. I never liked him, especially since he took such an interest in my 16 year old daughter. Knowing that she was with him made me want to kill someone. I turned to Paulie who had been walking beside me. I told him to go and find her and bring her back to the house. And I told him to bring Donnie too. Then I turned back to Carlo and grinned.
“Sorry about that, being Jonny is not easy.”
“It’s alright Michael,” Carlo replied, “How you holdin’ up?”
“Its a shock to all of us... I’ve not really spoken with him in several months since he got pinched for tax evasion. He was a good boss. Like my father, alot of people respected him.”
“Alot of people respect you too, Michael.” Carlo said quickly.
“That’s alright Carlo, I know people don’t like me. They think I’m just outcast of the family. But not anymore, I’m the boss and if you got a problem, I’ll ‘fix’ it for ya.”
“So our friends,” Carlo said, “before they left, they said they want me to tell you stay out of New York.”
“New York!?” I exclaimed.
“Yeah, see Lombardi is friends with our friends from New York. They gave Lombardi a piece of Laight street and Hudson street already. Michael, it was Sonny who ordered the hit on your brother.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Sonny paid the two officers using New York’s money to kill Jonny. I’m a part of his crew Michael, so you know I’m not lying.”
“You’re telling me you knew! You knew and didn’t tell me?”
“Michael, the new york family and Sonny made a deal to push Jonny out the way. New York wanted to take control of Jersey City but now that you’re in charge. New York is pushing against the Lombardi gang. So they have enemies on both sides.”
“Why are you telling me all this?” I asked, angry to have found out so late.
“I’m sorry Mikie. It was Sonny’s plan. New York just gave him the money. It was business Michael, just business.”
I walked away from Carlo who stood there with a drink in his hand. Carlo was naive to have told me all this. That or he was stupid. April had heard what we had been talking about. She followed me into my study. It was a room facing the west side of our house. I went there to think and to drink.
“They killed your brother...” I heard her say to me as she closed the door. I was already sitting facing out the window. It was nearly 6pm now. The day had gone by so fast.
“Michael, I never asked you what you do or where you go or who you’re with,” she kept talking, “but I trust you and I know you’re a good man, however lost you might be. And I’ve learned to live with alittle sin.”
“So, I think you should do right by your brother and fix things.” She said. April had a way of telling me what to do. I grinned and wondered who was the real boss of this family. Me or her?
“You know what you’re asking of me?” I replied. “You’re asking me to go to war with New York.”
“I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that... Michael Anthony Sorreno, I am telling you to do what you think is right. This is your family. Do what is right by them. Do what is right by us. I will still love you...”
“I never wanted to be this kind of man...” I said to her. “I wanted to be different...”
“Mikie, I didn’t marry you because I thought I could change you. I married you because there was nothing about you that I’d ever change.” With those words, I heard the door open, April stepping out the door, and the door closing once more. Just as the door closed I could hear laughing outside the hall.
And the faint voice of my daughter who had obviously arrived with Paulie and Donnie Lombardi.
This was my family... I had to do right by it. If a war began I would put my girls in danger. And that I did not want. As Vincent and Vito walked into the room, I was already devising a plan.
“Mikie,” Vincent said, “Donnie’s in the living room. What do you wanna do?”
“You and Paulie Franco take him to the coffee shop. I’ll be there later tonight. Make sure he doesn’t leave.”
“I got an idea for the Lombardi situation.” Vito said.
“We got a bigger problem,” I said to him, “New York wants the Sorreno Family out. They made an unsanctioned attack on us, using Sonny Lombardi. They wanted to send us a message. Apparently New York thinks we don’t belong anymore seeing as my father and his old gang have passed on or in jail.”
“We have to send them a message back then!” Vincent yelled. “We gotta kill them all!”
“Shut up Vincent,” I looked at him coldly, “Go get Paulie Franco and the two of you go to the coffee shop now! Go!”
“Okay... Sorry, I’m goin’...” He walked to the door and stepped out. Vincent was not the best choice for underboss. But he was my brother’s son and I felt I should be fair to him. After all he had been capo for a long time. Still, there was something about him that I never trusted. I turned to Vito.
“The Lilionis are slippin’. They got Lombardi doing their dirty work. And now that Lombardi screwed up, they don’t want anything to do with Lombardi. Stupid Carlo told me everything.”
“What do you want to do?” Vito asked.
I stood up from my chair and I faced him. He had a lonely look on his face, but that was him. He always seemed sad even when he was happy. I put my hand on his shoulder and walked with him to the window.
“Carlo, Sonny, Donnie, The Lilionis...” I said pausing after each name, “They all have to go. I’m going to put my name on the streets. Michael Anthony Sorreno, the new boss of Jersey City...”
“We make our friends disappear and we could have some problems with our friends in Hoboken and New Hampshire.”
“You know as well as I do that our friends in New Hampshire don’t care what happens in New York. Infact, once we get rid of Brooklyn, they’ll be happy to take their place and we’ll have an ally against The Caltabianos in Queens. So don’t worry too much about it.”
For what seemed like hours, we discussed our strategy. Once we had made up our minds, Valentino, Paulie, Charlie, Santo, and Bones were brought in to be enlightened by the plan. Everyone knew their job. Vito made a call to Vincent’s cell phone.
“Boss says ‘fix’ the problem now.” He told him. He hung up the phone. “Done.”
“Paulie,” I said, now sitting at my desk and eating a turkey sandwich, “I want.. you and charlie to go to the boss of the Aurellios, Julius Lombardi, in Hoboken and light a candle...”
“Whatever you say Michael.” Paulie replied and stepped out the room. Charlie began to follow him but I stopped him before he could leave.
“Charlie.. call your friend in Brooklyn, The Roman.. tell him to go and visit Jack Aurellio, Salvatore Mancini, and Jon Vitoli... I want this done tonight.”
“He’ll want a cake...” Charlie said.
“Tell him he’s got three cakes with his name on them.”
Charlie left the room with a grin on his face.
“Valentino,” I said, nearly choking on my sandwich, “you... you and your associates take care of the Lombardi situation... Valentino, I already told you what.. I want to do about the two officers.”
“Yes, Santo knows his job. Bones and me we’ll pay the Lombardi gangsters a visit.”
“Leave Sonny to me... Tonight we change things.”
“Vito,” I stood up from the desk, “Let’s go get Carlo and take him for a ride.”
We all left the room. Paulie and Charlie had left already. Santo left to do what he did best. And Valentino and Bones were doing their thing. All that was really left was Carlo. He had been sitting on the couch, almost completely wasted. I took my 9mm from behind the couch and placed it in my pocket. Vito and I left the family gathering, taking Carlo with us.
April and Tamara looked at me confusedly when I told them I had to go out but I let them know I’d only be out for a few hours. They would be safe with the people there.
We got into his Jeep and drove for two hours until we reached an old dumping ground where we dumped all our garbage. We pulled him out. He soon realized what was happening and started begging for his life. I don’t really remember what he was saying. My mind was clouded by anger and frustration and fear all mixed together. I took out my gun and waited for Vito to finishing kicking the poor bastard. He pulled out his gun from a strap on his right ankle.
“He sounds like a bird singing... I hate birds...” I said to Vito and we listened to Carlo’s continuous pleading. We looked at eachother and gave eachother a shrug. “Sorry Carlo, but you should have just kept your mouth shut!”
We shot him several times in the chest. And then I gave him a bullet to the head for good measure.
“I guess its true what my father use to say to me before...” I said as we pushed his body into the dump. “Dead birds don’t sing... little prick...”
Suddenly my cell phone was ringing.
“What!?” I yelled into my phone.
“The Lombardi situation is ‘fixed’...” It was Valentino. “We got Sonny Lombardi and we’re bringing him to the coffee shop.”
“Okay...” I hung up the phone and turned to Vito. “Come on, they’re waiting for us at the coffee shop.”
My phone rang once again.
“Yes?” I answered.
“Michael, where are you?” April’s voice was heard on the other line. “Your mother is here. She’s worried sick about you. You know this situation is adding stress to her throat cancer,”
“Tell ma I’ll be there in a few hours.” I replied hastily and hung up. “Women...”
Vito and I took Carlo’s Jeep and travelled back to the coffee shop. Aurellio Coffee was located on a little corner on Griffith street, in Hoboken. The coffee shop had been opened 92 years ago by my grandfather Vincenzo. It was run by Nicola Aurellio. Now the man was an old grumpy guy, but he was also a legend. He was the godfather of the five families. And he was my father’s best friend and mentor. 98 years old and still on his own two feet...
“Vito,” I said as we reached the coffe shop, “when we’re done with Sonny, get rid of the body.”
“Forget’about it.” He replied. “It’ll be taken care of.”
“Good,” I said to him as we left the car and walked towards the rusty metal back door of the old building, “ ‘cause I don’t need any more problems.”
He opened the door for me and I walked in. Everyone was there. Sonny was tied up and mouth was taped shut. I approached him and leaned into his ear to whisper. “I am the boss...”
Nicola Aurellio sat in the far left corner of the coffee shop playing chess with his associate Mr. Mills. Nicola never talked much. Mr. Mills never talked. The two enjoyed silence. But together they were deadly. If you needed someone gone and wanted the best for the job, Mr. Mills was the one for you. And the only way to get Mills to do a job for you was to talk to Don Nicola Aurellio.
Vincent, Paulie Santina, Paulie Franco, Charlie, and Vito stood around the room. The others stood outside to make sure there were no witnesses. Sonny was mumbling something underneath the tape. I did not bother to take it off.
“You see Sonny, I don’t wait a week or a month to make a move. I make a plan and I do it. I don’t make threats, I make results. You threatened my family with war. See what I did, Sonny? In one day?”
I looked at Vincent and nodded.
“Your nephew,” Vincent said, pulling out a piece of clothing in his pocket stained with blood, “He won’t ever see again. In this life or the next... ‘Cause we tore out his fuckin’ eyeballs.”
Sonny got angry and was kicking and screaming through the tape that kept his mouth shut. He was kicking the chair trying to get lose. Instead he tipped himself over and lay on the rusty wood floor now. Paulie F. and Charlie were laughing at him.
“Pathetic...” Paulie S. shouted as he kicked him. “Is this really Sonny Lombardi? Seems like a little pussy to me!”
“Let’s get this over with, boss.” Vito said to me.
I crouched down so that Sonny could see my face. “You still with us, old man?”
His muffled scream was as pathetic as his struggling.
“I want you to know something before you die, friend. The Lombardi gang is done. We’ve killed everyone who stood against us. Your brother Julius is gone. Aurellio was kind enough to give the ‘okay’. See when there’s a problem, Aurellio and I both agree the best way is to fix it quickly before it spreads.”
Sonny continued to scream as I pulled out my 9mm. “We both agreed that the Lombardi gang and your brother were a threat to the way things are done in Jersey. We’ve done things quick and simple. And we keep what is ours, and we lose what isn’t... That’s the Jersey way...”
I stood back up and pointed my gun at his head. “And Jersey is ours.”
The bullet hit his head and splattered his brain across the floor, finally silencing the annoying muffled screams. And then it was silent for what seemed like minutes. It may have been only seconds.
“Vito,” I turned to him, “Take Paulie F. and Charlie with you and make sure he disappears.”
I looked at my watch. It was 5am. I walked outside, followed by Paulie S. The sun was coming up as I entered Paulie's mustang. He would drive me home. It was a new day...