Surprisingly, Corey’s first day at Ichino’s went quite well. Once they opened their doors for business customers flooded the front open to close, and Corey had little time to worry himself then. By the end of the evening he felt far more optimistic about his fate, and by closing time he was breathing easy. With a pat on the back from Mr. Ichino, Corey pushed the door open and stepped out of the thick restaurant atmosphere into the cool fresh fragrance of city air.
“Corey, hey,” a voice called.
Corey turned around. He knew Vanna’s voice pretty well after hearing it all night, but he was surprised by her silent approach and jumped a little.
“What’s up?” he asked.
“You did a great job. I think you’re gonna do well here.”
Until now, Vanna had not communicated with him often. She and Dom barked at each other now and then, and she talked to the customers, but largely, she ignored Corey. She seemed a typical twentyish girl with a shade of shallow, and this professional, complimentary approach to his performance, coming from her mouth, felt as natural as American cheese.
“Thank you, ma’am. I sure hope so.”
She smiled, then shifted her eyes just to the right.
Corey took a sharp intake of breath. “Excuse me?”
“My katonyak,” came the voice.
Vanna walked past Corey to embrace a young man, older than Corey, but a young man nonetheless. They hugged and kissed, and Corey, realizing the man had a concealed weapon temporarily revealed by the Vanna osculation and massage experience, decided the conversation with Vanna was over. He ducked past them to his vehicle, opened the door, and tossed his rolled up apron into the backseat. Breathing in the cool night air, he closed his eyes for only a moment before seating himself and putting the key in the ignition. He turned the key and nothing happened. He turned it again, and still nothing happened.
Thoughts. Terrible thoughts came to him, but he couldn’t entertain them. After taking a deep breath and blowing it out, Corey stepped out of the vehicle and wordlessly came around front to lift the hood. Just as he whipped out his phone to google for a solution, a voice with an accent that could only belong to someone named Faddey called out.
“Something the matter?” Faddey asked, his arm slung around Vanna.
Corey licked his lips and choked on his dry throat.
“C-c-,” he stammered, licked his lips again and sucked the cotton ball feeling down. “Car won’t start,” he said.
“Faddey can give you a ride home,” Vanna offered. “Call a mechanic tomorrow. I’m sure Dom will pick you up for work, too.”
Why not Mr. Ichino? He could call a friend, call a cab, call anything, call, call, call, say no! Get out, Corey, what are you doing, Corey? You don’t deserve to live, Corey! Grow a spine, Cor—
“Sure. Okay. Thanks.”
Faddey squeezed Vanna. “I’ll be back for you,” he said.
“You know,” Corey began, “on second thought—”
Hand in one pocket, without turning around, Faddey tossed a hand into the air as he strode over to his own car. “You heard Vanna. Let’s go.”
“It’s okay,” Vanna insisted, patting Corey’s arm.
Corey didn’t quite heave a sigh, but his mouth hung open and leaked a little air with the sound of a dog whistle stabbing through it. Nevertheless, he closed his mouth, closed the hood, closed his door, and closed his mind. He may have been at ease by the end of his shift, but that didn’t mean he should be. No use offending the boss’ daughter over a concealed weapon. Lot’s of people carry concealed weapons, after all.
“Night,” he said, passing Vanna and following Faddey, who leaned on his vehicle, resting on his elbow.
“Ready?” asked Faddey.
“Yeah. Yeah, I’m ready,” Corey muttered.
Faddey didn’t smile, but nodded. “Good, good. Get in.”
Corey opened the door of Faddey’s 2 door Pontiac and seated himself through an invisible billow of spicy perfume and cigarette smoke. Death metal blasted the silence as the engine rattled to life. Faddey reached out to turn the music down, giving Corey a quick view of a hand full of tattooed rings. He tried not to stare, deliberately turning away.
“Which way?” Faddey asked.
Corey gave him step by step instructions as they went, after five minutes, nothing seemed amiss except for Corey’s gut. Faddey pulled up to the apartment building, and Corey thanked him, reaching for the door handle, but Faddey reached out and grasped Corey’s clammy left hand.
“Hey, uh, Corey,” he began, then chuckled slightly.
Faddey’s grip, though strong, did not hurt. Still, Corey knew he was going to die tonight. Somehow.
Faddey continued, “I have a favor to ask of you.”
Corey swallowed hard once, then twice.
“What?” he squeaked.
With his left hand, Faddey reached under his seat and pulled out a paper bag.
“I want you to take what is in this, find nonna’s cassatas tomorrow night, and put what is in this bag into the center of the cassatas. No one can know. No one should be able to see.”
Arguing seemed like a stupid thing to do. Accept, stay alive, then consider all factors, and make a more intelligent decision in the safety of home.
Corey said, “Okay.”
Faddey released his hand and Corey took the bag.
“Remember, nobody but you and me, yes?” He stared intently at Corey, driving his hard eyes into Corey’s.
“Yes,” Corey whispered.
“Good. Bye bye.” Faddey dismissed Corey with a flutter of his fingers.
Corey opened the door and left the vehicle slowly. Too much haste would raise suspicions. He closed the car door with care. He couldn’t be sure, but he felt he ought to check his pants when he got in.
Inside, Corey locked the door of his apartment. Walked away. Turned around, unlocked and locked the door again, and repeated this a few times before crashing on his couch with the paper bag. Reluctantly, he opened it and found what he expected: several bags of cocaine.
The police. He should call the police.
He hesitated with phone upraised. Faddey knew where he lived now.
Finger tattoos. He’d look up finger tattoos. Maybe they’d give him a hint about who he might be dealing with.
“Finger ring tattoos,” he said aloud, then he stared at the screen in silence, blinking, sweating, panting.
“Vory v zakone. Thieves in Law.”
After a glance at a few stories about the vory, Corey decided he had but one choice. He typed in his next search and murmured, “How to say ‘please, don’t kill me’ in Russian.”
What would be the best thing for Corey to do? I have ideas, but one of the main things here is that I want to take cues from you, so please give me yours!