by Tony Noland
"Good question... how about if I stab you right in the fucking eye so we can find out?"
Although the diners throughout the restaurant noticed the way Jimmy "Nine Fingers" Rosario stiffened and his mouth dropped open, nobody beyond the corner table heard the kid's response. The nearby tables were, of course, empty, as they always were when the boss had a meeting with the boys at Del Pietro's. The clear field of view from the corner went both ways - the boys could keep an eye on all the doors, but that also meant that everyone in the place could see them without obstruction. Around the dining room, the rest of the patrons might have paused for a moment, sensing that something had just happened, but the good citizens were all far too sensible to do anything other than carry on with their meals and pretend they didn't see the men in the corner.
Jimmy Nine closed his mouth and grinned. He turned away from the kid to address one of the other men at the table."Hey, Denny, your boy is a real fuckin' comedian, you know that? He's funny! A funny guy. So do me a favor and tell your funny guy he's gonna funny himself into a fuckin' body bag if he don't show some respect."
Arthur "Denny" D'Laurio wore a pained expression. "Thomas," he said, addressing the kid, "answer Mr. Rosario's question in a respectful manner."
The kid, Thomas Shoemaker, looked at the table for a moment, then looked up and spoke again, in the same measured tone he'd used before. "No, Mr. Rosario, I don't think that I'm too young to have the balls necessary for this job. On the contrary, I think you'll find that, were you to hire me, you would be fully satisfied with my abilities and commitment."
"I think you got balls for brains, kid." Jimmy Nine flicked his cigarette across the table, missing Thomas' face by a good foot to the left. Thomas flinched only slightly. "I think you're a fuckin' moron who should maybe get his legs broke for being a smart ass. Huh? How about that, tough guy? You got a smart ass comment for me, or what?"
After a moment, Thomas averted his eyes from Jimmy Nine's and looked down at the floor. Moving slowly, he leaned over and picked up Jimmy Nine's still burning cigarette and stubbed it out in the ashtray. "I don't smoke, Mr. Rosario," he said, "or I'd offer you a replacement."
"What the fuck does that mean?"
"It means that I've taken up enough of your time, gentlemen. Mr. D'Laurio, thank you for the introduction. Mr. Rosario, Mr. Antony, Mr. Capella, it was pleasure to meet you." Thomas turned to the large man at the head of the table, who had been silent throughout the post-meal discussion of the kind of person they were looking for. "Mr. Vincelli, thank you for allowing me to share the table with you, and for allowing me to present my qualifications. I'd like to reiterate that I am quite interested in the position, and would welcome the chance to work with you." Thomas stood.
Aderesto "the Acrobat" Vincelli said, "Sit down."
Thomas sat back down.
In the silence that followed, the Acrobat drew a long pull on his cigar and exhaled toward the ceiling. He tapped an inch of ash from the end of the tight-rolled Dominican, and drew on it again, and again. Finally, he set the stub in the ashtray and stood up. Around the table, everyone else stood also.
"He's in," said the Acrobat. "Denny, come with me. Jimmy Nine, fill him in on what he's gonna do."
Without looking back, the big man left, trailed by Denny.
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