Frank Piscatelli stood in front of his microphone trying to listen to its steady hum over the constant jabbering of his on-air love interest. God bless Grace Kennedy, but if she did not transform into the milder mannered character, Annette, she played on this radio show soon, Frank was going to make her eat the script all at once. The sound guys would most likely applaud or ask him what took so long.
As much as Frank hated to admit it, he loved Grace enough off air to let her spend the weekends at his apartment just south of classy but north of shady in New York City. Hell, Frank loved Grace enough to keep his mother’s wedding ring in his pocket, waiting for the right moment to make an honest woman out of her. The couple had never discussed marriage but Frank had said the words, “honest woman” to Grace enough times to make them rich. The blonde haired, blue-eyed woman of his dreams refused to acknowledge his hints until he learned to speak his mind. Frank never told Grace this, but he was used to being told what to do instead of taking any initiative of his own. In order to let this romance flourish, Frank would have to trust Grace not to provoke the rage he had seen so many times in the only example he’d ever known for a relationship.
While growing up in Brooklyn wasn’t horrible, it wasn’t the American Dream either. Frank was born into the traditional Irish-Italian family, where it wasn’t Wednesday until his father threw his mother’s entire untouched, undercooked eggplant parmesan onto the kitchen floor. Now, Frank wondered if it would’ve killed his mother to open a cookbook once in a while. Wednesday evenings were traditionally a race between Frank and his younger brother as to who could gobble up the corn fastest and dash to the room they shared to crank up the radio. The boys didn’t care what was playing as long as it drowned out the sound of the rest of the dishes hitting the floor. Perhaps it was this feeling of solace in sound that lead Frank to take the sound engineer assistant job at the radio station.
Two years of college didn’t light any light bulbs above Frank’s head. The army recruiter Frank’s father sent to his door didn’t light any fires under his ass either. Months of loitering outside the radio station just to see glimpses of the musicians who would come to be interviewed landed Frank the sound engineer job. Another two years of turning knobs and imploring the musicians to sit a little further back from the microphone placed Frank in front of the microphone himself. He was only goofing around, imitating New York City’s mayor, when the manager had him start reading scripts. The only trait Frank could thank his father for was the ability to recognize and portray the rage of the main character, Victor, he played on the radio show “The Dark Avenger.”
As soon as the red broadcasting light snapped on, Frank jumped into character as if he were the hero himself.
“The Dark Avenger does not let anything harm this city. I will protect you as valiantly as the Empire State building stands,” declared Victor.
“I could never forgive myself if someone died just because you were busy escorting me home in the rain at night,” protested Annette.
The Dark Avenger shook his head, tapping the microphone to indicate his walking with Annette, “As long as The Dark Avenger lives, EVERY REBEL SHALL BE UNMASKED!”
A half hour later, the red light turned off and everyone’s shoulders relaxed to tthe producer yelling congratulations of a job well done through the soundproof glass. Every time Frank shouted The Dark Avenger’s catchphrase, he felt as ridiculous as it sounded.
Frank’s self-deprecating internal monologue was cut off by the voice of his Grace, “Frankie, will you be home tonight?”
“Not tonight, doll, it’s only Wednesday and you know I have business during the week,” Frank replied.
Grace always gave him that look that said she wished he wouldn’t do “business” with these types of people. The fact of the matter was while “The Dark Avenger” was popular it didn’t exactly pay well. Maybe if the show was syndicated nationally one day Frank could think about not organizing the transportation of illegal liquors for the Mafia. He had met Joseph Devino by chance one night at a speakeasy downtown when Devino kept shouting over the conversation Frank was trying to have with his friends. Frank finally grabbed Devino by the hair to take it outside when he heard the “click-click” of 4 pistols aimed at his forehead. They did take the conversation outside, but Frank came away from the confrontation as Devino’s new liquor transporter. Prohibition didn’t stop throats from getting thirsty. That night, it almost felt as though he could be the masked hero clad in black. Frank drunkenly wandered back to his apartment wondering if he could ever gain the integrity The Dark Avenger possessed. Man, that catchphrase sure was stupid, but The Dark Avenger wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty. Stopping in front of store windows, Frank stared at his reflection. With dark brown hair, dark suit, dark circles underneath bloodshot eyes, Frank could only pass for a moderately good-looking drunk person.
Now, it was a year later and Frank had gotten his hands dirty too. The men Frank had to take out when he caught them trying to steal his trucks were somewhere on the bottom of the bay, along with Frank’s conscience. He had enough money to quit the radio show, but Grace would have been heartbroken if he quit on what they had built together.
Four hours after leaving the radio station, Frank walked the quick three blocks from his apartment to the alleyway behind a liquor store where the transport truck was always ready. He opened the door of the truck, took a step back, and saw the blood first. Every side of the inside of the truck was smeared with blood. The gin was gone. The whiskey was gone. All of it was gone and replaced with Grace’s blood. Her body was laid out flat in the back of the truck, a terrified, confused stare frozen on the same face that used to smile when Frank called her an honest woman. The giant “D” crudely carved into Grace’s chest told Frank the liquor had been stolen and Devino had beaten him to the truck. That son of a bitch didn’t even give Frank a chance to explain.
His heart sank further into his gut as the armpits of his shirt darkened with sweat. Sitting down on the floor of the truck amongst Grace’s blood, Frank knew the message was clear. He was as good as dead unless he could magically stumble upon a small lake of gin and whiskey to replace what was stolen. If the Mafia had gotten to Grace, then they knew where he lived, and that meant they were waiting. The alleyway began to spin with panic when Frank heard his own voice in his head, “The Dark Avenger does not let anything harm this city. I will protect you as valiantly as the Empire State building stands.”
This was his only chance. It was time to bring the hero to life. Frank turned to face the streets of the city that never sleeps and vowed, “As long as The Dark Avenger lives, EVERY REBEL SHALL BE UNMASKED!”
Frank went back to the radio station where he kept his pair of Colt .45s. Grace had demanded Frank keep them out of the apartment, but now Frank wished he had been a little more like his father and done what he wanted. Maybe then Grace would have had a chance. After unlocking the bottom drawer to his desk, Frank pulled out the wooden box specially made to hold his Colt .45s. These guns had been used to take down too many useless lives. Tonight, their glinting barrels would be used to avenge a life that should have been protected. Frank loaded the magazines and headed out, with only one last stop to make.
The rain bounced off the smooth service of the plastic, black masquerade mask Frank obtained from a costume store near Central Park while his black slacks and turtleneck clung to him like the revenge burning in his eyes. He was standing in front of Cacciatore’s Italian restaurant, staring at the only man who could have made the order to end Grace’s life. Joseph Devino sat at a table with only two guards, waving his hands as he probably explained another tactic in dumping bodies. His Titanic of a belly made the table inch further and further across the floor every time he leaned forward to clap a guard on the shoulder in laughter. The only time Devino stopped hitting his guards was when the fork and knife were in his porky little hands.
Frank waited until Devino put the fork in his first piece of food before pulling the two shining Colt .45s from the waistband against his back and rushing through the doors of the restaurant. He fired off a quick three shots, missing the first guard’s ear, grazing the second guard’s arm, and knocking Devino’s hat off his head. Frank ducked behind the bar while the Mafia boss scrambled under the table clutching his plate in surprise. Tentatively, Frank peered around the corner and steadied his breathing to survey the area.
Devino was crawling from table to table, trying to get behind Frank. The voluptuous mafia boss couldn’t move any slower if he was ushering an 80-year-old woman along with him. Surprisingly, the bullet that whizzed past Frank’s left temple let him know not only could Devino still aim from the ground, but he wasn’t going to go as easily as a pig to slaughter. A flash of gunmetal catching the light of the candles placed on each table revealed the guards position, causing a chuckle to escape from behind Frank’s mask.
The guards had moved behind the table farthest from him to discuss what to do but neglected to turn it over for protection. Just as they moved to flank Frank’s position, he jumped up and fired one shot from either gun, giving one guard a third eye and the other guard a fatal hickey. Frank slowly turned his head, looking for any sign of Devino. Sweat was beginning to make the mask slide down his face despite the elastic cord but Frank didn’t need it for much longer.
The crack of another shot fired caught Frank off guard. Pain seared down his right arm as blood began to run from the wound. Only a grazing, but enough to piss Frank off. He walked out from behind the bar, raising his arms out wide, daring Devino to take another shot. Another shot came, but missed wide right. Frank looked towards the back wall, noticing a shadow big enough to suggest a bear had taken refuge behind a flipped table during the gunfight. Walking towards the table, reaiming both guns, Frank fired one shot straight through the wood. No scream, no blood.
Placing one Colt .45 back in his waistband, Frank flipped the table to see Devino laying on his belly, aiming his own gun right at Frank’s mask. Even though Devino couldn’t see yet, Frank was smiling. He knelt down and went face to face with Devino.
“Get up here,” Frank growled.
Placing his free hand on Devino’s throat, Frank pushed him against the wall as the last bits of Devino’s eggplant parmesan dinner fell off his shirt and onto the floor. Frank took off the mask, letting it hang around his own neck. The surprise and hatred in Devino’s eyes battled for dominance. Devino tried to take a step forward but Frank’s arm shot out, his hand clasping back onto Devino’s throat. Frank strong armed the mafia boss back against the wall.
“Go ahead, shoot me. It’s all you were ever good at anyway, you piece of shit,” rasped Devino.
“You’ve already taken away the only person who could talk me out of this,”
Frank raised his gun, placing the barrel square between Devino’s eyes. The bullet made Devino’s blood splash onto Frank’s face, mixing with sweat.
He stood there for a while, replaying memories of his time with Grace in his mind. Devino’s death wouldn’t bring Grace back, but it would let Frank live to honor her memory.
The drip, drip, dripping of Devino’s blood against Frank’s shoe reminded Frank to let Devino’s throat go. As the thud of Devino’s body coalesced with the police sirens outside, Frank began to smile.
Finally. Retribution on a Wednesday.
Lauren Mack: Co-founder of The Well Written Woman is an aspiring writer, blogger, and overall enthusiast of brainstorms. She is currently attending Flagler College as an English major with no intentions to teach. Lauren spends a lot of time reading novels and hoping she can one day finish her own. She often wonders how they made blue cheese so delicious. Really, she is just imposing her elitist attitude on everyone. You can find her pennings at her blogand follow her on Twitter.