Greg F. Gifune Excerpt: Dangerous Boys

Part coming-of-age tale, part dark crime thriller, Dangerous Boys by Greg F. Gifune is the story of a group of young punks with nothing left to lose, fighting to find themselves, their futures, and a way out of the madness and darkness before it’s too late (available March 5, 2018).

All they had was each other—and nothing to lose…

Summer, 1984. For Richie Lionetti and his gang of friends, their years as teenagers are coming to an end. At a crossroad in their lives as petty criminals and thugs on the mean streets of New Bedford, Massachusetts, they’ve got one final summer, one last chance to fall in love, brawl for their turf, rob and pillage, and one last chance to make a move and pull a job that could change their lives forever.

As a series of brutal heatwaves hit southeastern Massachusetts, the city boils, and everyone is on edge. In the hopes of finding something better, Richie desperately searches for meaning in all the violence, sex and degradation that is his daily life. But at what price?

Part coming-of-age tale, part dark crime thriller, Dangerous Boys is the story of a group of young punks with nothing left to lose, fighting to find themselves, their futures, and a way out of the madness and darkness before it’s too late.

CHAPTER ONE

We rolled through the city, stealth and confident, predators in a sea of night. Always loved the dark. Made me feel alive and powerful, like a restless spirit set free once the sun went down. Always liked the heat, too, but that summer of ’84 was hot. Really hot. A series of heatwaves slammed Massachusetts one right after the next, like ducks in a row. Ducks straight out of Hell’s furnace. And no one in the commonwealth was spared, not even those of us on the southeast coast, an area known for cool ocean breezes during even the worst summer months.

Dusk had settled quickly, and the night was getting stronger. Once darkness took hold, the city turned even more dangerous than in daylight hours, but the neighborhood we found ourselves in was quiet and seemingly deserted. On a lonely side street, less than a full block from the waterfront, a breeze rolled in off the nearby Atlantic Ocean, but it was hot and thick and did nothing but move the stagnant air around a little and fill it with the smell of saltwater and the pungent aroma of dead fish from the nearby seafood plants. From a dive bar halfway up the block, a lone figure emerged, stopping at the curb long enough to light a cigarette. The guy cupped the flame, drew a deep drag, then exhaled through his nose as the dark sedan we’d stolen slowly rounded the corner at the top of the block and pulled into a space across the street. In the car, four guys—me among them—watched as the man stepped off the curb and started down the street, his long, dirty-blond hair dancing in the hot breeze.

That’s him?” Aldo asked, scratching at his nose with a gloved hand while resting the other over the steering wheel. “This fuckin’ guy?”

“Yeah,” Petie said, clearing his throat awkwardly and fidgeting about in the backseat like a kid with bedbugs. “That’s him.”

“You’re sure.”

“Yeah.”

“You got to be sure, Petie.”

“I’m sure. That’s the guy.”

“Then everybody get on the clock.” He turned to Petie and Fritz in the backseat. “Here we go.”

We stepped from the car in unison, moving like separate parts of a single organism. Aldo and I headed straight for the guy while Fritz and Petie crossed the street so they could close on him from the opposite direction. Dressed in black, we blended into the growing darkness, as was our intention, there then gone then back again, hallucinations in a bad trip.

The man stopped. His cigarette glowed bright orange then died as it fell to pavement and was crushed beneath the toe of his sandal. If he’d noticed us, he gave no indication. I could hear the blood in my veins pulsing in my ears and the beat of my heart in my chest. He looked maybe four or five years older than us, but we already knew he wouldn’t be any trouble. Focusing on the task at hand, I cracked my knuckles and shook my hands a little, loosening them up for what was about to come.

By the time the man saw Aldo and me walking toward him, it was too late to run. And he knew it. Instead, he stopped and nervously looked around. When he realized Fritz and Petie were coming up behind him, he held his hands in the air like the victim of a robbery, which he likely figured he was at that point.

“Hey, man, what—okay, what—what’s this all about? Can I help you guys, I—what’s up, dude, hi, I—what’s up?”

Aldo hit him first. He kept the bat down by his leg until the last moment then swung it viciously and without warning. Following through with a fluid motion, the bat slammed into the man’s side with a horrible thud and buckled him immediately. With an incredulous look, the man cried out, stumbled off the curb and into the street, clutching his shattered ribs and gasping for breath. He tried to run, but we all knew he’d never make it. He wasn’t going anywhere.

Fritz and Petie followed him into the street.

The guy screamed for help but didn’t have the wind to make much noise with his ribs in that condition. “What are you guys doing, I—who are you, what do you want, man? Ain’t got much bread on me but you can have what I—”

Fritz hit him with a solid combination to the kidneys. The blows dropped the guy to his knees.

As he knelt there, coughing and gasping and babbling through tears, I stepped forward and kicked him in the side with everything I had.

Grunting, the man flopped over onto his back. Chest heaving, he coughed again, spraying spittle as he held his side.

I grabbed him by his Grateful Dead T-shirt, lifted him off the pavement enough so that his head wouldn’t bounce against it, then punched him twice in the face. The man cried out as his nose exploded blood and snot, sending ribbons of both into the steamy night air. I dropped him back to the street and moved away, shaking my hand. It stung. Fucker had a face like granite.

Aldo looked up the street, then down. “Still clear,” he said flatly.

Petie moved in. “Look at me,” he said. “You know who I am? You recognize me now?”

It took a few seconds, but through the blood and tears and darkness, the guy gave a slow nod.

“Good. I got something for you.” Petie unzipped his fly, pulled his cock free and urinated on the guy, spattering his face, neck, and chest with a strong and steady stream. “Drink up, asshole.”

The man tried to squirm away but couldn’t. Finally resigned to what was taking place, he shielded himself as best he could with his hands.

Aldo, stunned by what was happening, let a quick burst of what-the-fuck laughter slip free. “Holy shit, Petie, that’s fucked up, bro.”

“Fuck this guy,” he said, shaking out the last drops. “He’s lucky I ain’t got to shit or I’d be droppin’ a steamer on his head, too.”

Guess we’d all gotten lucky on that count.

Once finished, Petie put himself away, zipped up, then reared back and kicked the guy in the crotch. As he prepared to deliver another, Fritz grabbed him and hurried him back to the car.

Aldo and I stayed behind.

Gagging and weeping, the man curled into a ball.

Using the tip of my boot, I rolled him over onto his back and pinned him there, flat on the pavement. “Stay.”

He did.

“Good boy.”

Aldo crouched next to the man, careful to avoid the puddle of urine. “This is what happens when you put your dirty little hippie prick into pussies where it don’t belong. Like Tammy’s. You see what I’m sayin’ to you?”

The man gagged, then vomited onto the pavement.

“Christ.” I waved at the air. “Like this fuck didn’t smell bad enough already.”

Unfazed, Aldo wagged a finger at him like a parent reprimanding a child. “Don’t you ever do nothin’ to make us come lookin’ for you again, you piece of shit. You do, we’ll finish the job, understand?”

“I—I’m sorry, man, I—she said she and her boyfriend broke up, I’m sorry!”

“I don’t give a shit if you’re sorry.”

The man looked at him helplessly, crippled with pain and terror.

“Tell me you understand,” Aldo said.

“I understand. I do, I—I understand, please—”

“What?” Aldo held the bat close to his ear, as if it were speaking to him. “Uh-oh.”

“What? What’s wrong?”

“I don’t believe you.”

“Why, I—”

“My bat. He thinks you’re lying, too.”

“Your bat? Hell you talking about, man?”

“I get very upset when I think someone’s lying to me.”

“No, I—I swear, man, I—I’m not, I—please, no more, all right? Please.” The guy put his hands up in front of him and winced. “This shit hurts so bad, and—and that dude, he—he fucking pissed on me, man!”

“Did you just raise your fuckin’ voice to me?”

“No. No, I did not.”

Aldo looked at me. “Did he just raise his voice to me?”

“Little bit, maybe. Kind of sounded like he did.”

“I’m sorry,” the guy gasped. He began to weep. A grown man lying in the street covered in another man’s piss. “I get your message loud and clear, okay? I got it. No more. Please, I—I’m a pacifist, man.”

“You’re a what?”

“A pacifist.”

“Fuck’s that?”

“Huh?”

“You’re a what?”

“P-Pacifist, man, a pacifist.”

Aldo looked at me. “Hell’s he talkin’ about?”

“Means he don’t fight. Doesn’t believe in violence.”

He turned back to the man. “Well, whatever you call someone who does believe in violence, that’s what I am, what we are, so don’t make us come back.”

“I won’t. I promise. I won’t.”

Aldo casually laid the bat over this shoulder and strolled back to the car. I followed, hesitating near the passenger side door. I could hear the man sobbing and muttering, but I didn’t look back. With a heavy sigh, I slipped into the car.

The sky to the north was black as coal, streaked with strange smears of orange clouds peppered with what looked like ash. Like the whole world was burning. Maybe it was. Wouldn’t have mattered to us either way.

Night kept falling, bringing everything deeper and deeper into darkness, but nothing could hide what we’d done.

None of us cared.

We weren’t in the hiding business.

No one said anything for a while. Except for the sound of our breath, everything was eerily quiet, so I watched the city lights and the night sky glide past the windows and pushed the memory of that poor, bloody, piss-drenched bastard as far from my mind as I could.

I’d just turned twenty, and the city, the suburbs—all of it—were mine. All I had to do was step up and take it. Problem was, I didn’t want any of it. All I wanted was out. Not a lot scared me, especially in those days, but the unknown always seemed to get it done. Like the man said, the devil you know. Back then, everything was still out in front of me, waiting just up ahead. Only I didn’t know it. Didn’t believe it anyway. Not then. All I knew for sure was I didn’t want to end up like everyone else around me. I wanted better. But who the hell was I?

We eventually stopped at an abandoned old factory down by the projects in the south end and gave the car to a guy Aldo knew who ran a chop shop just over the state line in East Providence. Once we’d unloaded the sled and Aldo got paid, Dino Abruzzo picked us up, and we all piled into his brand new metallic blue Z-28 IROC. Aldo took the passenger seat, which meant I had to jam myself into the small backseat with Fritz and Petie.

“What’s up, pussies?” Dino screamed over the Ozzy tune blaring from his car stereo. “You take care of that problem?”

“Yeah.” Aldo grinned like a shark. “Won’t be seein’ him no more.”

“Cool. Anybody else hungry? I’m fuckin’ starving. Let’s get some eats.”

Dino Abruzzo. We called him Ma, which was a nickname that stood for Mental Abruzzo. He’d acquired it in sixth grade, long before being expelled from high school junior year. At six-five and two hundred and sixty pounds of muscle and bad attitude, Dino was that kid in junior high who looked thirty, a monster by the time he was thirteen, and the toughest guy I’d ever known. He had a heavy rep he backed up whenever he got the chance, and much as we all loved him, we knew how crazy and dangerous he was, so unless it was absolutely necessary, we usually left him out of the kinds of things we’d handled earlier because we didn’t want them to get out of hand. Unlike the rest of us, Dino had little to no control over his violent tendencies, and once his hair-trigger temper was tripped, there was no stopping it or him. This was a guy who’d gotten out of his car on the way to his junior prom and pulled a man out of his truck at a red light, just so he could beat his ass nearly to death because he’d cut him off. Then he showed up to prom a few minutes later with his horrified date on his arm and blood all over his tuxedo and fancy ruffle shirt. Dino thought it was hilarious, even later, when the police showed up and took him out in cuffs. Took seven cops to hold him down and get those cuffs on, but when it was all said and done, three of them wound up in the hospital and he went to lockup. Since he was only seventeen at the time, he did a year in juvie. He’d been in and out since the age of nine, so for Dino it wasn’t exactly a big deal. Not much was, really. I’d known him since elementary school and had always been a little afraid of him. In high school, we’d once had a dispute over a girl, and before I knew what was happening he’d knocked me out with a single punch. Felt like someone had hit me with a fucking sledgehammer. He apologized for days, following me around like a guilt-ridden little kid, helping me out and doing whatever I needed to make up for it, all the while promising he’d never do anything like that again. And he never did. But still, when it came to Dino, it was like hanging out with a tiger. All fine and good until the tiger went tiger on your ass. Couldn’t blame the tiger, it was just being a tiger. Only one left to blame was yourself. Just the same, tough as Aldo and the other guys were, there was nobody better in a pinch than Dino. You felt invincible with him by your side. And most of the time, you were.

“Wanna get a slice over at the Greek’s?” Petie suggested.

“Fuck that Greek cocksucker,” Dino growled.

“Aw, he’s all right, Ma. He’s a nice old dude, and the food there’s good.”

“You want pizza we’ll go to Dominic’s and get it made right, by an Italian. Greek assholes, fuck they know about pizza? Cheap imitation Italians is all they is. Butt-fuckers.”

“I could go for a slice,” I said. I hadn’t eaten since that morning, when I’d wolfed down a bowl of Fruit Loops on my way out the door to meet the guys.

“What about that new place over by the mall?” Aldo said.

“The Italian place?” Dino asked. “It just opened.”

“So?”

“So when a new place opens, you should wait a while until they work all the bullshit out. If they don’t, they close. If they do and people are still going after a few weeks, you know it’s probably good.”

“I don’t know if I got the cash for that kinda place anyways,” Petie said.

“Broke-ass motherfucker.” Fritz sighed quietly. He rarely spoke, but when he did, it was usually memorable.

“Oh, and you’re rolling in the dough, Rockefeller?”

“Fuck it, we can go try it,” Dino said. “Just get somethin’ cheap, Petie.”

“Think they got pizza, though?”

“It’s an Italian place, ain’t it?”

“Yeah, but not all them sit-down joints got pizza, Ma.”

“So get somethin’ else.”

“It ain’t that fancy or nothing, just a family place,” Aldo said. “I don’t know nobody that went yet, but maybe it’s good. I could go for a decent meal.”

I kept quiet and watched the night. I didn’t give a shit where we went, long as they had food there.

“Maybe you should just drop me off,” Petie said. “I should probably go smooth shit out with Tammy, you know?”

“Yeah, you wouldn’t want her to be mad at you for kickin’ the Christ out of the guy she was cheatin’ on you with.” Aldo turned and threw him a look. “You need to wrap shit up with that bitch, Petie. Ain’t you had enough of this crap?”

Petie laughed a little, but it was mostly nerves and embarrassment. “Hey, you know how it is, man.”

“No, I don’t. I don’t know how it is. Here’s what I know. Tammy’s a no good cheatin’ twat. What’s this, four or five times now?”

I came up with six right off the top of my head but didn’t say anything. Last time had been about two months before. We’d left Ma out of it and Fritz had something else going on and couldn’t make it, so Aldo and I had been the ones to pull her and some guy out of the backseat of a car on The Avenue, the bustling, main, several-mile drag in the city where everyone cruised and congregated once the sun went down and the streetlights kicked in. Petie hustled her away while we threw the guy a beating and scared him enough to never go near her again. Not even two years out of high school, and Tammy, who worked the counter at Dairy Queen and wasn’t exactly destined for greatness anyway, had already become something of a legendary skank. But Petie had a thing for her since sophomore year, and he’d been taking her shit like some love-starved puppy for almost five years. Every time she cheated she’d apologize, throw him some lame excuses, cry, and then fuck the shit out of him. And he forgave her. Every time. I didn’t care who Petie was with—none of us did—but I knew where Aldo was coming from. None of us minded violence when it was necessary, a few of us even liked it, but we were all getting tired of having to go knock guys around because his slut girlfriend couldn’t keep her legs closed for ten minutes.

“When you gonna learn?” Aldo pressed. “She’s no good.”

“Take it easy. Come on, man, you’re talkin’ about the woman I love.”

“She cheats on you all the time, you fuckin’ retarded bastard.”

“Hey, not for nothin’, Ally, but you cheat on Candy all the time, too.”

Aldo peeled his leather gloves off and threw them at him. “That’s different. I’m a guy. It’s not the same thing when a guy does it. Especially one as sexy as me. What can I do? I don’t wanna cheat, but they just keep throwin’ all that fine pussy at me. Who am I to say no? It’s a public service I’m performin’ over here.”

“Christ on the cross, Ally,” Dino moaned, “you got more bullshit than a fertilizer franchise.”

“Yeah,” Petie laughed, throwing the gloves back at him. “What Ma said.”

“Whatever.” Aldo rolled his eyes and faced front. “Don’t matter how you slice it. Tammy’s a punchboard. And you’re a moron.”

“Aw, give him a break,” Dino laughed. “Petie’s just so happy he found a chick that’ll fuck his ugly ass he don’t want to lose her. Dude with a thimble dick like his can’t be all choosy and shit, right, Petie?”

“Do me a favor, Ma. Don’t help me out on this one, okay?”

Ohhh Petie-pie!” he said in a cartoonish falsetto. “I love your teeny weeny peeny!

“Well,” Fritz said evenly, “I was hungry.”

“Seriously, though, thanks for helping me out, you guys,” Petie said with his usual awkwardness, squirming around uncomfortably between Fritz and me. “I appreciate it, fellas.”

Aldo reached back, palm open. Petie slapped it.

Nothing more needed to be said.

“Wait a minute, wait a minute.” Dino held everyone up at the curb, just outside the restaurant. “You pissed on him?”

“All over the prick.”

“Goddamn, Petie, that’s fuckin’ sick as shit. Good job.”

Petie puffed his chest up, proud of himself and loving the acceptance Ma was showing him. “Drank water all day. Tons of it. Had to go like a racehorse, too, but I held it. Saved it up for the bastard. Didn’t want to whip it out and have nothin’ but my dick in my hand, you know?”

“Yeah,” Fritz said, slinking by and heading for the door. “Nothin’ worse than comin’ up dry when you’ve been waitin’ all day to piss on a guy.”

Everyone laughed then hesitated at the door. Aldo looked up at the lighted sign, which featured a fat cartoon caricature of an Italian chef with a bushy mustache holding a plate of spaghetti and meatballs. Behind him were the flags of Italy and America, the words Family Restaurant beneath them. “Uncle Tony’s,” he mumbled. “Original.”

“Hey, you’re the one wanted to come here,” Dino reminded him.

“Come on,” I said, slapping him on the back. “It’s an Italian restaurant in a fuckin’ strip mall. Probably sucks, but I’m starvin’.”

Inside, we found a sea of tables beneath bright fluorescent lights. From the tacky stock photographs of Italy in cheap frames to the paper red-checkered tablecloths, it looked like someone had converted a convenience store into a restaurant when no one was looking.

But for an older couple in the far corner, we were the only people there.

A young waitress about our age who looked vaguely familiar hurried past with a tray holding a couple salads. “Welcome to Uncle Tony’s. Feel free to sit wherever you’d like, guys.”

“How about in another restaurant?” Dino chuckled.

“Nobody here,” I said. “That can’t be a good sign.”

“Just means we’ll get our food faster, that’s all.” Petie led the way and we all followed him to a large table in the center of the dining area. The chairs were black metal jobs with cheap padding.

We sat there a few minutes, taking the place in.

I lit a cigarette. Fritz bummed one, and the other guys, none of whom were smokers, just sat there, waiting on what appeared to be the only waitress working to get to us.

She arrived a few minutes later, looking harried but with a smile on her otherwise pretty face. A skinny but athletic-looking brunette with big blue eyes and hair piled high on her head, her makeup was heavy, especially around her eyes, and her perfume showed up a good ten to fifteen seconds before she did. “Hi, I’m Ashley,” she said pleasantly. “I’ll be your waitress tonight.”

“Your last name Witherspoon?” Dino asked.

“Yeah.”

“You got a brother Todd?”

“Yeah, I do, actually.”

“Little older than you, right? Cock-eyed motherfucker, wears big thick glasses. Real good at math. Huge fuckin’ nerd.”

She blushed and nodded.

“I know that guy,” Dino said. “Used to do my Algebra homework for me.”

Fritz cleared his throat. “Voluntarily I bet.”

Ashley feigned laughter. “Anyway, can I get you guys something?”

“Menus would be nice,” Aldo said.

“Oh my God!” She hurried away and came back quickly with a stack of enormous laminated menus. “Here you go. Sorry about that.”

Nobody said anything so I told her it was all right and to give us a minute. When she moved away, I flipped through the menu, which seemed to have an endless number of pages. “Quite the selection, huh?”

“Cheap enough,” Petie grunted. “No pizza, though. Figures.”

“I’ll tell you what,” Dino said, “that lasagna don’t look half bad.”

“Don’t go by the pictures,” I told him.

“Motherfucker can’t read,” Aldo said with a straight face, “how you expect him to pick something out if he don’t go by the pictures?”

Everyone laughed, Dino harder than anyone, and Ashley returned with glasses of water for everyone. Once she’d put them down she pulled a pen and pad from the apron of her uniform.

“I’m gonna get that lasagna,” Dino told her. “And a Coke.”

“Okay.” She scribbled on the pad then turned to Petie. “And you?”

“Wait a minute,” Dino said. “That’s it?”

She cocked her head. “I’m sorry?”

“Nothing comes with it? No soup or salad or nothin’?”

“No, just the lasagna. We have soup and salad, but it’s extra.”

Dino made a face and looked away.

“Don’t worry about him,” Petie said with a smile. “I’m having the cheese ravioli, and let me get some iced tea with it.”

“Manicotti and a Dr Pepper,” Fritz said evenly.

I ordered spaghetti carbonara and a Coke.

“Okay, thanks, guys. It’ll be out in a few minutes.”

“Hey,” I said, stopping her, “could we get some bread, too?”

“Bread?”

“Yeah, some bread, maybe a little butter.”

Ashley seemed thoroughly confused. “You mean like garlic sticks?”

“What the hell’s a garlic stick?”

“It’s a breadstick with garlic on it.”

“No thanks, just some bread’s good.”

“I don’t think we have bread.”

“You don’t have bread?”

“I don’t think so.”

“What the hell kind of Italian restaurant don’t have bread?”

She shrugged.

“Well, could you go find out for me?”

“Yeah but…like…what do you want exactly?”

I looked to the others, all of whom looked as perplexed as I was. “Bread.”

“No, I know you want bread, but like, you mean a slice of it?”

“A slice?”

“Is that what you want? Like a slice of bread with butter on it?”

“Are you serious?”

“Sorry, I’m trying my best, I—I’m new, we just opened.”

I sipped my water. “Okay, no problem. I’m just asking if we could get some bread for the table. It’s what happens in Italian restaurants, they give you bread. On the table. Sometimes it’s even hot.”

“Hot?”

Fritz puffed his cigarette, a huge smile on his face. “This is the best conversation of all fuckin’ time right here.”

“Richie, I don’t think they do bread,” Aldo said.

“What are you talkin’ about? All Italian restaurants do bread.”

“From the sounds, this one don’t.”

“We’re Italians. In an Italian restaurant. Bread’s part of the meal.”

“Yeah, you and me know that, I’m just sayin’, she obviously don’t know what the hell you’re talkin’ about, so they probably don’t have it.”

“What kind of Italian restaurant don’t have bread, though?”

“It sound to you like they got bread, Richie?”

I turned back to Ashley. “Just, if we could get a loaf a bread, that’d be good, okay?”

“You want a whole loaf of bread?”

I stared at her, dumbfounded.

“I’m going to have to go ask, okay? I’ll be right back.”

As Ashley hurried away, I took a hard drag on what was left of my cigarette and crushed it in the plastic ashtray in the center of the table. “You believe this shit? She looked at me like I asked for cotton candy or somethin’.”

“When she comes back,” Fritz said, “if you ask her for cotton candy, I’ll buy you dinner.”

“Hilarious. Bread’s not that important to you, wiseass.”

“No, Richie, it’s not.” Fritz butted his cigarette, leaned his head back, and exhaled a stream of smoke at the ceiling. Dressed entirely in black like the rest of us, he wore black wayfarer sunglasses all the time, too. Indoors, outdoors, sunny, when it rained, night and day. The only blond in our group, he wore his hair in a buzzed flattop and sported inverted dangle cross earrings in both ears because he knew it got a rise out of people.

“He’s a kraut,” Aldo said, giving him a playful push. “What do you expect? You got to talk to him about sauerkraut and bratwursts and shit or he don’t care.”

We were still hassling each other when a thirtysomething guy showed up at our table. In slacks and a silky shirt that looked inspired by something a cavalry officer might’ve worn in one of those old westerns the cable channels showed in the middle of the night, he looked like some yuppie real estate salesman from Connecticut. “Hiya, fellas!” he said with a blindingly white smile. “I’m Randy, the owner and general manager here at Uncle Tony’s. Ashley said you had some questions about the menu, so I thought I’d stop by and see if I can be of some assistance, help answer any questions or concerns you might have.”

“I just wanted some bread,” I told him. “That’s all.”

“Okay, well we do have garlic sticks and—”

“Jesus Christ,” I said, my patience gone at this point. “I don’t want fuckin’ breadsticks.”

Aldo held a hand up. “Richie, let it go, huh?”

“I want to help make your dining experience here as pleasant as possible,” Randy said, “but I really need you to do me a favor and watch your language. Think you can you do that for me?”

“Do you know what Italian bread is?” I asked him.

“Of course.”

“Do you have any?”

“We have a two-slice garlic bread option that’s available with entrees, but there is an additional cost. It’s listed on the menu under Extras.”

“Okay, well I want a loaf of the bread you make the garlic bread with. On the table. With some butter. Think you can do that for me?”

“We don’t offer free bread. I’m sorry.”

“Fine. I’ll pay for it. I just want some bread with my meal. Not garlic bread, not garlic sticks, just a plain sliced loaf of Italian bread and some butter.”

“I’m afraid we don’t offer that option.”

“In an Italian restaurant.”

Randy smiled, but it was as forced as his customer service.

“Is your chef Italian?” Dino asked suddenly. “What’s his name?”

“I really don’t see how that’s relevant.”

“Reason I ask is, the only Italians I see in here are me and my friends.”

“Don’t forget the fat fuck on the sign,” Petie said.

“Look, fellas, I don’t want any trouble here, okay? Why don’t we all—”

Dino stood up. Hard and fast, nearly knocking the table over as he did so. “I asked you a question. You fuckin’ deaf?”

“Dino,” I said, “it’s cool, forget about it. It’s just some bread.”

“Nah, fuck this guy, Richie. Answer the question, pussy.”

“All right, you all need to leave. Right now. Or I’ll call the cops, got it?”

“You won’t make it to the phone.”

“Look what you done now, with your bread bullshit,” Aldo said, shooting me an annoyed look as he gently took hold of Dino’s arm. “Ma, it’s cool. Sit down.”

“No. I asked this piece of shit a question and he’s gonna answer it or I’ll beat it out of his ass.”

Randy’s cheeks flushed and his hands began to shake. “What is it,” he said, clearing his throat nervously. “What is it you’d like to know?”

“What’s your chef’s name?”

“Albert.”

“What’s his last name?”

“Costa.”

Dino shook his head and let out a small laugh, but there wasn’t anything funny about it. “So let me get this straight, Randy, you got a Portagee cookin’ in an Italian restaurant owned by a…a…”

“If he calls this guy white bread,” Fritz said softly, “I swear to God I’ll be on the floor laughin’.”

“…a whatever the hell you are.”

Randy stared at him, saying nothing.

“No wonder they don’t got any bread.” Dino motioned to me. “You want me to smash this snooty fuck, Richie?”

“I want you punks out of here,” Randy snapped, his voice shaking worse than his hands. “I’m warning you, you need to leave right now!”

“You’re warnin’ me?” Dino started around the table.

“No, he’s not, that’s not what he meant.” Aldo caught his arm. “We’re leavin’, let’s go.”

“Get out!”

“Hey!” Aldo said, slamming a hand down on the table so hard two glasses of water fell to the floor. “Shut your mouth. Go in the back and play with your napkins or whatever the hell you do, all right? Before he gets so mad I can’t stop him from doin’ all kinds of fucked up shit to you. We’re leavin’, all right? Just fuck off, before you get hurt.”

Randy backed away but remained in the dining room, trembling while glaring at us from behind a nearby empty table.

Aldo and Petie got Ma out of the place and back into the night, leaving Fritz and me behind. I stared down Randy a minute, pissed at him, pissed at myself, pissed at Dino for taking it to places it didn’t need to go.

What else was new?

As I turned and walked out, I heard Fritz say, “On second thought, Randy, looks like we’re gonna need that loaf of Italian bread to go.”

Excerpted from DANGEROUS BOYS Copyright © 2018 by Greg F. Gifune. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

 

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Greg F. Gifune is a bestselling, internationally-published author of several acclaimed novels, novellas and two short story collections. Working predominantly in the crime and horror genres, Greg has been called “The best writer of horror and thrillers at work today” by New York Times bestselling author Christopher Rice, “One of the best writers of his generation” by both The Roswell Literary Review and horror grandmaster Brian Keene, and “Among the finest dark suspense writers of our time” by legendary bestselling author Ed Gorman. Greg’s work has been translated into several languages, received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Kirkus and others, is consistently praised by readers and critics alike, and has garnered attention from Hollywood. Greg resides in Massachusetts with his wife Carol, a few cats and two dogs, Dozer and Bella.

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