12-06-2011, 04:21 PM
For Mick Piccucci, the end came in the wee hours of the morning the next day. It wasn't a quiet death, going gentle into that good night with a serene smile on his face. No, it came with the force of a mob hit, his ticker siezing up as if someone threw a monkey wrench into the gears, then the shortness of breath like a plastic bag over his head. He flailed around in bed, fighing off the Grim Reaper with the last of his strength. "God! Help me!" he gasped, groping desperatly for the call button to summon his caregiver.
The call buzzer went off in the caregiver's room, sending her dashing into Mr. Piccucci's room. As fast as she had run, it was still too late--Mick Piccucci, the next-to-the-last survivor of The Guys of Las Vegas's golden age, lay sprawled in his king-sized bed, his mouth agape in his final efforts to breathe, still clutching his chest. The caregiver drew a deep clensing breath and picked up the phone to call the coroner, then sat down to wait. There would be no sleep for her tonight. She did, however, have enough presence of mind to note down the time of death; the cornoner would need it for the death certificate.
The county coroner handled the transfer of the body with smooth efficiency. The caregiver gave him the necessary information needed for the record, and Mick Piccucci's body was wheeled out on a gurney, covered head to toe with a heavy white sheet.
"Shall I inform the family?" the caregiver asked the cornoner.
"Did Mr. Piccucci have any next of kin?"
"Yes, a son, Michael, Jr. They...didn't talk much, though."
"We'll contact the son," the coroner said. "You've done enough for tonight. But I need your name as witness to the death."
"Casey," she said. "Casey Worth."
"All right, Ms. Worth," the coroner said. "Thank you for your co-operation. We'll take it from here. Good night."
"Good night, sir."
Casey watched as the coroner's ambulance slowly rolled out of the drive. There was nothing for her to do here anymore. Nothing but wait until morning and leave the Piccucci house for the last time. Then she would have to find another person to care for, or hope a permanant position would open at the Luxor. Either way, things were going to be tight for her and her family.
There was one thing she remembered she had promised Mr. Piccucci she would do when he passed away. He had entrusted it to her and no one else, and she felt obligated to perform it. But it would have to wait until morning. Maybe it would lead to another job. She hoped against hope.
Dawn broke over the mountains and reached deep into the valley. Casey went into the study, opened the front drawer and took out the small black address book Mr. Piccucci had kept for over fifty years. It was faded and dog-eared, its pages scribbled on and numbers scribbled out and replaced with new ones. She found the number she was looking for and dialed it on the desk telephone. After several rings, the other party finally picked up.
"If this isn't an insanely beautiful blond," the voice growled, "I'm hangin' up!"
"No, sir," Casey said nervously. "This is Mr. Piccucci's caregiver. I just called to tell you that Mr. Piccucci...well, he..."
"Mick kicked the bucket?"
"Yes, sir, he did."
"I'm sorry, sir--"
"Ah, what the hell you got to be sorry for? He wasn't long for this world, anyway. Way of all flesh and all that crapola. You call Mick, Jr., yet?"
"No, sir, I was instucted to call you only."
"Okay, okay, fine. Look, you're a good kid; you did your job and now you can go home. And, uh, sweetheart?"
"Thanks for takin' care of Mick."
"You're welcome, sir."
"Yeah. I'll be over soon. Just get that box of pictures for me, willya?"
"Good-bye, Mr. Springer."
Danny "Springs" Springer hung up. So, Mick bit the big one, he thought. And I'm the last one of The Guys--but not for long, not with this effing cancer eating into my gut. At least I'm still around to attend his funeral. Never thought I'd live so long to bury the son of a (bleep).
Springs mixed himself a glass of orange juice and vodka. He held his glass up toward the ceiling. "Well, Mick," he said aloud, "I'll be seeing you again, wherever you are. Just have a brandy waiting for me when I get there, okay? Just for old time's sake."
He drained the screwdriver and headed to his wardrobe to dress. He had to pay a courtesy call to the family, just to pay his respects to Mick--and to see who hit the jackpot in the will.
The dawn found Criss on the exercise bench in the gym, curling a heavy fifty-pound barbell to his chest, inhaling and exhaling deeply with every rise and fall of the weights. His lightly clad body shimmered with sweat. He personally disliked working out, but he was too self-disciplined to skip even one session. He had to keep his body in top physical condition; the physical requirements of his career demanded it. He had to stay healthy for the sake of his fans, and those who had invested in his shows here at the Luxor. A toned body was money in the bank for all concerned.
Nearby, a flat screened television mounted on the far wall was broadcasting the morning news: President Obama's stirring "We will recover" speech, the latest corporate bailout, and the stimulus plan still in the works. Criss half-listened to the broadcast, if he listened at all. It was basically all the same, he thought. The economy's down the toilet, and everyone's looking for a way out.
In local news, former mobster Michael "Mick" Piccucci, one of the members of The Guys of Glitter Gulch gang, died today in his home in Las Vegas. The gang had been notorious for taking bribes and kickbacks from casinos and other establishments during the heyday of the City's mob era. He was reported to be worth around six million dollars, but the Federal Reserve claims it could be more due to off-shore tax shelters and other funds not yet discovered. He is survived by a son, Michael, Jr., and his daughter by his former wife, Tina LaRue Piccucci. He was eighty-six.
Criss set down the weights and headed for the treadmill. It was time to work on his lower body now. Still dripping with sweat, he climbed onto the heavy vulcanized conveyor belt, turned on the machine and started running. The death of some former mobster did not concern him. Why should it? It had nothing to do with him. You live, you die. C'est la vie.
For those who knew Mick Piccucci, however, the death of the former mobster concerned them very much. Springs arrived at the house at nine that morning--early for him, since he rarely left the house before noon. He stepped into the spacious marble foyer of the mansion and reflexivly headed for his late friend's study. A skinny woman with dark hair stood there, bewildered. "Are you Mr. Springer?" she asked timidly.
"Yeah, I'm Mr. Springer," he replied nonchalantly.
"I'm Casey Worth," she said. "I called you on Mr. Piccucci's orders."
"You got the box?" Springs asked.
Casey handed him a vintage wooden cigar box. "Right here, sir," she said. "Mr. Piccucci told me to give this to you. I didn't open it, though, I assure you."
Springs took the box from Casey. "Wouldn't have mattered if you did," he said. "Thanks a bunch, sweetheart."
"You know," Casey spoke up hesitantly, "Now that Mr. Piccucci is...gone, I'm sorta out of a job. So if you need someone who needs a caregiver..."
"Yeah, sure, okay," Springs said absently, still looking at the cigar box. "You know where Mick kept the will?"
"That was none of my business, sir," Casey replied. "I do know that his lawyer was here just yesterday to talk about it."
Springs nodded. "Ah, it probably all went to Junior," he said with a resigned shrug, "being his only son and all, more'n likely. He'll probably blow the whole wad in a month."
"I never involved myself with the family matters here, Mr. Springer," Casey told him.
Springs smiled a little. "Good," he said to her. "Because this is one family you don't wanna get yourself involved in."
"Will there be anything else, Mr. Springer?"
Springs waved his hand dismissively. "Nah, you go on home. You did your part. And don't worry about finding work--there's still a lot of old farts around for you to take care of. I'm sure you'll get a good reference from Junior."
"Thank you, sir." Casey left in a hurry, relieved to be out of there. Five years of caring for Mr. Piccucci made her feel like an extra from The Sopranos. Mr. Piccucci himself had treated her well enough, but the knowledge that he had been a gangster from the Forties and Fifties who had not hesitated to contract killing a person was unsettling. Still, the pay had been good, good enough to support her family. She could only hope that her next client would not have ties with the Syndicate.
Meanwhile, Springs sat in Mick's office chair, going over the contents of the cigar box, still redolent of fine Havana cigars, sifting through the photographs inside it. So many memories were contained in that wooden box, of dinners at the Silver Slipper, of beautiful dames and expensive sports cars, of long afternoons spent on the track, of children's weddings and parents' funerals, of wine, women and song. His era had passed, however: the wine bottles were empty, the women got married and grew old, and the band had stopped playing the songs, packed up their instruments and gone home, but the melody lingered on.
A slam of the front door shook Springs out of his reverie. He got up from the padded leather chair and walked into the foyer to see who it was. The minuted he saw who it was, he regretted his action.
"Hello, Springs," purred Tina LaRue Piccucci. "Nice to see you again."
Last edited by Veritas; 12-07-2011 at 04:04 PM.