Tricks of the TradebyVanessaCarolyn©
No matter how late she was running, there was always time to make love to the mirror. It was the only way to keep doing her job and save just a smidgen of self-confidence. Gina Divine stood before the mirror in the bathroom preening for work. Hunter kohl eyeliner was applied in a single unwavering stroke to emphasize her emerald eyes. She brandished the wand to her mascara like a pro. Puckering her lips, she applied the final coat of shellac and pouted seductively. Gina wiggled into her slinky, black, velvet dress, which she tugged over her buttocks. She pulled her stockings over her calves and then smoothed them over her fleshy, bronze thighs. She flicked her wrist and waved the aerosol can over her highly coifed tresses like a magic wand.
"Maria, watch your sista. I'll be workin' late. If you need anything, Mrs. Carbone's right around the corna. I mean it this time, stay offa the phone. And before you ask me, no, you may not have any friends ova. Maybe next week."
Maria whined letting her shoulders slouch like a rag doll. "But Momma, every Friday you say 'Maybe next week.' Every Friday is next week and you say the same thing."
"Look at me. Maria, baby, I know ya want to go out with ya little friends. But you know that Momma's work is kinda hard to explain to people. And I don't want nobody treating my Angels any differently 'cause of what their Momma does. Do I look like I enjoy bein' the bad guy here? We'll be outta this soon. Then you can have all the sleep-ovas you want." Gina took her daughter's chin in her hand and tilted her face to look into eyes that she swore were her own. Kissing the sweet, little freckled nose, she called out to her youngest daughter.
"Francesca! Momma's leavin' baby. Come here." She kissed each daughter on the forehead.
"You look like a movie stah Momma." Francesca said in her soft, Betty Boop-ish voice.
"I love you both. Now you be good."
She lifted her breasts to enhance her cleavage, dusting the honey-colored mounds with a bit of bronze powder. She shuffled around the four-room apartment in her fuzzy, baby blue slippers so that she wouldn't snag her hose on the torn linoleum that seemed to be invading every corner of the kitchen and bathroom by now. Taking a final glance in the mirror by the door, she grabbed her keys, stilettos, and handbag.
Avoiding Maria's pleading eyes, Gina kissed her daughters once more and trotted to her car. The sound of a door slamming assured Gina that Maria was on the road to one of her I-hate-my-mother moods. Francesca leaned over the back of the couch and pressed her forehead to the cold, waved glass of the window. A small wobbly triangle formed where her youngest daughter's perfect little nose pressed to the glass. Her smaller-than-actual-size hand waved delicately and made the pang in Gina's twist tighter as if this was the first time Francesca had waved her mother off to work. Reaching her tri-colored Datsun, she opened the door and tossed her handbag onto the floor on the passenger side.
She turned back towards the house to see the soft auburn tresses bouncing away from the window to become seated in front of the television. Then to stand up, slap the top of the set three times in a manner so much older than one would think her six years would allow, and plop back onto her cushion on the floor. Gina slammed the car door behind her and jogged back to the house, holding herself firmly in the hopes of not losing her dress.
Sliding the key in the dead bolt, as the door opened she called out to Maria.
"Maria. It's Next Friday. Call up Angie and see if her Daddy will bring her ova. I'll have Uncle Armande come over to bring her home around eleven."
The bedroom door slammed open and was followed by a bouncy fourteen-year-old that suddenly thought her mother was better than the Disney World she had never visited. Maria slammed into her mother, causing Gina to stumble four steps back, drop her shoes, and crash into the gas stove. The Rubbermaid pitcher resting precariously atop the back ledge on the stove clattered noisily to the floor, spilling its cache of nicked wooden spoons and stained rubber spatulas.
"But rememba," Gina pulled Maria, who clutched at her waist tighter than a pit bull on a chew toy, away and looked sternly but lovingly into the eyes of her daughter. "You can say that your Momma is going to a cocktail party. Just a cocktail party. And don't talk about my work. At all. Any questions, you don't know, your Momma said she was going to a cocktail party. Now, please pick up the utensils and make sure you keep an eye on your sista. I love you."
She picked up her keys and shoes and as she closed and locked the door, she heard the joyful shrieks filling the apartment.
"Frannie! Momma said Angie can come ova!" She jogged back to her car with her heart wrapped in smiles.
Gina Divine tossed her stilettos them onto the seat next to her. She never drove in her stilettos. She learned her lesson on that quickly. Just once she'd like to drive for more than 30 seconds before the Charlie-horse set in. Since she couldn't she drove in her fuzzy, baby blue slippers instead.
She was already twenty minutes late, but no amount of time would ever be too late to say goodbye to her kids. Gina never knew which party was going to be her last. Especially when something didn't turn out as Vinnie had planned. Every time it happened, however infrequent, the outcome was worse. It made him look bad. He didn't like to look bad. Probably the only thing that would make him look good would be getting hit by a train. His bulbous nose was always pressed to a mirror. It might even make Ted Kennedy point and whisper, Gina thought. Vinnie couldn't go one day without doing a line, or five. His paunch rested over the tortured waistband of his jogging suit and hung from beneath the hem of his always-a-size-too-small T-shirt. Until recently he actually made an effort to hide it, to look somewhat kept. It depended on how much coke he had.
If she were late again, Vinnie would keep her cut for starters. If she were late again, she knew the Family would make things ugly for Vinnie. Vinnie would make things very ugly for her. Depending on his frame of mind when she arrived, she would either be beaten or taken by force. She was out of work for a week after the last time; he had beaten her so badly. She also knew that Vinnie couldn't afford to lose her. The only problem was that she was afraid that he'd try to raise the penalty. He'd kept the drugs away from her after she'd begged him, for the sake of her children. He may have been a lousy pimp but he had a heart when it came to kids. All she wanted was to not end up with a dirty nose like him and Ronnie.
She knew he paid tribute weekly and the price was rising. She couldn't even count the times she had asked if he could book her a little later. Even a half-hour would help. She hated dashing to pick up Maria and Francesca at school and then carting them all over the city while she ran errands. It seemed that no matter how she tried to make herself worthy of a break from Vinnie, he always found something to put her down for. There was always something to remind her of how he saved her when the IRS came knocking. Four years of back taxes and penalties... Who knew Mario thought he'd just stop giving Uncle Sam his due? Who knew she'd be responsible for it all after he left for good?
"You ain't the only one with problems." Vinnie would start off, pushing a thumb under one nostril and sniffing loudly. "You said you wanted outta the city. I gave Ronnie the boot so you could do the outfit parties. You remember your vow? You swore to me and to them. I'm bending ova, Gina. And I don't bend ova for nobody without payback. I'm warning you, if you don't start paying back, you'll be sorry."
If she had a dollar for every time he reminded her of how much she owed him, she wouldn't owe him anything. "Soon I won't need you or your dirty money, Vinnie. Soon, I won't need you at all."
She turned onto the gravel road that brought her to the outskirts of town. Her tires argued noisily about being taken on that god-forsaken road. She flicked the volume knob on her stereo and music flooded her tiny, beat up Datsun but didn't dilute the worry that colored her mind like thick, black paint.
When winter came, she'd tell Vinnie that he'd need to give her a driver to take her to Delgato's. That was it. She wanted a driver or she was going to give it back to Ronnie. Then she'd have to go back to doing the city. At least the city has streetlights, she thought.
"My mother, God rest her soul. She told me to go to school. She told me to get a real job. Instead I met Mario and got knocked up. Thirty large in debt and two kids later, the bastard leaves me for that trailer park whore. At least I ain't the one who gave him crabs."
Gina vented as she normally did when driving to a call while her perfectly pedicured foot nailed the accelerator. She could hear the gravel spraying her under-carriage and drove on. She glanced at the clock on the dash. It read eight twenty-two. She was so late. Antonio was probably already on the phone with Vinnie trying to find out where she was.
"Just once I want to tell Maria... Yes, you can have your little friends ova for a slumba party. Just once I wanna be home on a Friday night eatin' popcorn and watchin' one ah those family movies. I wanna be done with this before my Francesca grows up and figures it out like her sista."
Nudging the poor, tired Datsun up to forty-five miles an hour, she plowed along the helpless road, scarcely missing a fox that had darted across her path and over the shoulder.
All of a sudden, the car shook fiercely as it jerked to the right. Her car sounded like it was about to vibrate to pieces. Whipping the steering wheel to the left, she barely managed to stay on the road. Finally coming to a stop, she brushed the hair from her eyes and glanced at the clock again. Eight thirty-one. She snapped the stereo off and silence rung in her ears.
"FUCK!" She bellowed.
She looked uncertainly at her cell phone. Who to call first? If she called Vinnie, he'd know she was late. If she called Antonio, he'd call Vinnie and tell him that she was late before sending a driver. If she called a wrecker maybe she could avoid telling anyone and just give a little extra to Vinnie. Maybe she didn't even need help. Maybe it was just a rock in the road. Maybe it was...
"This is wasting time."
She snuggled her feet deeper into her slippers and moved her shoes onto the seat next to her. It would probably be better that no one saw the slippers at Delgato's.
In the dark, her headlights were barely enough illumination to give her the bad news. She slammed her fist in a wax-on-wax-off-Karate-Kid motion on the right front quarter panel.
"Damn it!" she sucked a breath between her clenched teeth. In the dimness, she had to look twice to convince herself that the gash in the sidewall really was there. Crossing back to the driver's side, she leaned in through the window and retrieved her keys. As she popped the trunk and jimmied the light inside, her voice died within her throat.
There was no jack.
"Not a problem, Fix-a-Flat to the rescue."
She grabbed a can off of the backseat and went back to the front of the car. She attached the nozzle to the valve stem: nothing. She shook the can, heard its contents sloshing around, and tried it again: still nothing. Readjusting her stance, she barely noticed as the dirt and broken glass on the shoulder of the road soiled her dress and pricked her knee.
"Come on baby, third time's a charm." She attached the nozzle to the valve stem once more and still nothing.
"Piece of SHIT!" She slammed the can down on her car, where it yielded a decent dent among many, and watched it clatter across the hood and then onto the road where it finally released its' contents explosively. By the time she reached the other side of the car and reclaimed the can, it had finished its orgasm.
She threw herself back into the driver's seat. Anger heated her face and tears welled up in her eyes. Blinking them back, she picked up her cell phone.
"Hi, Mrs. Carbone? It's Gina Di-It's Gina Spinelli. Listen, Mrs. Carbone, can you do me a fay-vah?" She paused to hear the familiar delicate Italian voice of her elderly neighbor.
"We're good. We're doing good. I'd like you to call my brother Armande and ask him to head over to the house and stay with the girls. He'll know why."
"Is everything all right Gina my dear?" Mrs. Carbone asked.
"Oh, Mrs. Carbone, really everything's fine. No, really. Maria's having one of her little friends ova and I would just feel better knowing there was someone with my girls."
"Honey, I'll get my shawl and head right ova. It's been so long since we've played cards togetha." Edna Carbone was never one to leave the younguns out of check. Ten of her own, three who still wouldn't leave the nest.
"What? Oh, no. I couldn't. You and Mr. Carbone need be at the bakery so early and I'll be back much too late. Besides you know teenagers. They'll be up eatin' popcorn and talkin' 'bout boys. You already do so much for us. Could you call Armande for me? I'd call him myself but he doesn't think anyone should be ova when I'm not home." Gina felt another twinge pull at the base of her spine. She hated lying to the old woman that had been like a second mother and grandmother to her and the girls since she moved there.
"You know, Armande should just keep quiet. You've done a great job with the kids. I'd like to see him work two jobs to keep his family offa welfare and the kids in school. I'm sorry, I've said enough. I'll call him right now for you dear."
"It's alright, Mrs. Carbone, but thank you. And God Bless you."
One call down, one to go. But to whom? She decided to take her chances and call a wrecker first.
The driver that arrived was gargantuan and made Vinnie's thugs look like the gym class weaklings. He looked at her tire then at the still raised hood of the trunk and shook his head.
"Ain'tcha gotta spare?"
"I got a spare. What I don't got is time for this. Can you change the tire or not?" She was beginning to wish she had just bucked up and called Vinnie.
He looked her slender figure down and up. Drinking in her dark-featured beauty, his eyes rested hotly upon the swell of her breasts. They slowly wandered over the delicate triangle of sensuality where just the slightest bit of static electricity made her dress cling so provocatively.
"Your spare's dead too." He said some time later. "Looks like it ain't your night, Lady."
"My what?" Gina shrieked. "Jesus, Mary and Joseph." She crossed herself sloppily. "Can't you just fix it?"
"Well, I gotta donut that I think will get you where you need to go. It'll be seventy bucks, though."
"It's either that or I tow ya back to the shop. Can't get a new tire until the morning. And then-"
"Know what? I don't have time for this. Change the tire."
"It'll be se-"
"Just change the damn tire!" She shrieked at the man, her body trembling from within.
He grabbed his tire iron from behind his seat and bent to finish the task, cursing loudly once or twice at the stubborn lugs without bothering to apologize for his choice of words. He hiked the car up and swapped the tires. Spinning the lugs back on, he tightened them with a force that surely stripped the threads. He lowered her car with a jolt and began putting his tools away. He wiped his hands on a handkerchief. She tapped her foot impatiently while waiting for it to be over. She was starting to like this guy less and less. Were it not for the fact that her cell phone charger was on the kitchen table and she was down to one tick-mark left on her battery, she could have been on the phone with Antonio to let him know what happened. She could have been on the phone with Armande although he would have drained her battery for sure. She scribbled out a check and flicked her wrist towards Fatman.
"What the hell's this?" he asked.
"You said seventy bucks for this thing." She flapped it arrogantly before his chubby cheeks.
"I said seventy bucks."
"Ok then, no checks. Here." She fumbled in her purse and withdrew her plastic, thrusting it towards him impatiently. "Put it on this then."
"I said seventy bucks. Cash, Lady."
She blanched. "I don't have cash. I need to get to work. I get paid tonight. I'll have cash in a few hours."
"I said cash. Period."
"Can't we work this out? I need to get going. My boss is not a reasonable man. He won't accept being late for a flat."
"How 'bout a blow job then?" He leered at her while thrusting his hips outward to punctuate the sentence.
Her stomach dropped. Even in the open air, the driver reeked of body odor, motor oil, stale cigarette smoke, and fast food. She should have seen this coming, she should have seen that he was a pig. "Yeah, whateva. Take the check or I'm callin' the cops."
"That'll be the day."
She reached through the window and grabbed her cell phone off the dash and prayed he wouldn't try to make a move. With her stilettos tucked under one arm, she held her phone between the two of them like a weapon.
"Suit yourself." She dialed *91 on her phone, Logan's speed dial code.
Logan White was a friend of hers from the precinct. It didn't hurt that he was on the payroll either. How else could a third year cop afford a Mercedes Benz? They met while he was undercover as a john. She just made him forget that he was undercover. He made her feel like she had to pay him. Something that Vinnie was not amused with. His girls were not out there for charity work.
They kept each other's secrets hidden tightly away. He scratched her itch and she scratched his. He had to pretend to bust her occasionally, for appearances. She had to pretend that she hated cops. Although there was nothing she hated about this fine looking young man. He was always there when she was in a pinch. She could have just called him first but she didn't want Vinnie to find out about him.
"Yes, hello. I'm out on two-twelve, between Rock City and Mystic. I had a blow out so I called a tow truck. Now the driver won't take my check. You should hear the crude suggestion he made about a way for me to pay him. I'd like to have an officer sent out here, right away... Thank you."
Logan answered appropriately, just as he would if should he be dispatching an actual call. In the event Gina used this ruse on someone with a little police background he didn't want to foil her cover.
What luck, she thought. Logan was actually nearby when I called. Too bad I have to work tonight. It's been awhile since Logan and I had the chance to talk.
A mechanical whir broke her thoughts and returned her focus to her car. Fatman had hooked her car up to his wench while she was on the phone.
"What the hell do you think you're doing?"
"Sorry, sista. If y'ain't gonna pay, you're gonna need a cop to make me drop this piece a shit."
"Listen to me you fat fuck. Keep the fuckin' car, see if I care-"
He hopped back into the gaping mouth of his waiting cab and started the truck without even looking back.
"I'll be showing up with half of New York's Finest to your shop." The roar of his diesel engine drowned out the last of her attempt at a verbal assault. "Blow this you prick!"
Gina quickly checked her cell phone and dialed the number to Delgato's.
Antonio's gruff voice answered on the second ring. "Yeah."
"Antonio, honey, its Gina."
"Where the hell are you?"
"Honey, listen, my car broke down and the prick that AAA sent me wanted me to suck his dick to pay for his roadside service."
"And this changes the fact that you're not here, how?"
"Tony, I know that you're upset. Trust me, I have something special for you to make up for it. I just wanted to let you know that I'll be in the Benz tonight."