I didn't want to go the funeral. Only went to comfort Bea. Such a gentle soul. She couldn't help that she still loved him, any more than I could help loving Joe. Now she was free to live without fear. She would realize that in time and find peace. The room had a choking-sweet smell of roses. Old ladies with rosary beads twisted in their wrinkled hands took turns wailing as we moved through the crowd toward Bea. We sat in the front row, Joe and I on the left side of Bea, and her family on the right. I held her hand and stared at the picture sitting on top of the casket. There were no tears in my eyes. I had no fond memories. Only dark pictures developed in my head. I couldn't burn the negatives, no matter how I tried.
The entire Rochester Mob filed in before the night was over. The absence of color was the traditional attire for an Italian funeral. When Sammy G showed up with his entourage, wearing a cream-colored raincoat—he made his point. The level of murmur in the room attested to his rank as he arrogantly strutted to the widow's side.
He took Bea's hand gently in his own. "I'm sorry, Bea," Sammy said with unbelievable sincerity.
Bea snatched back her hand and stared into his eyes with a icy glare. Sam looked away, unremorseful. He nodded in my direction, ignored Joe, turned, and walked to the casket. His bodyguards followed, making a solid wall of human flesh and muscle behind him as he stood with head bent for a brief moment. When he turned to leave, I thought I'd caught a hint of a smile on his lips.
Rose Rotundi, Jimmy's live-in girlfriend, sat across from us in the row of chairs against the wall. She was visibly shaken. She had a lot to be shaken about. It was she who had answered the phone—the call that sent Jimmy busting out the door, in a rage, to his death. She knew whose voice was on the other end of the line—but she wasn't talking. Now, her body stiffened, the little color she did have drained from her face. I followed her gaze to see Gene DeFrancesco making his entrance. "Big Gene" was the name used when referring to him. I had my own name for him: "The Accountant." Not only because he could pass for one, but because he could personally account for a number of bodies found floating in the Genesee River—one mean son-of-a-bitch. He and Jimmy were tied on that score. But Big Gene knew how to keep his cool, and Jimmy couldn't. That made setting him up for the kill easy.
Rose was now holding her hands tightly in her lap, trying to keep them from shaking. Could he have been the trigger man? I watched the Accountant, and the interaction when their eyes met as he passed in front of her. That's when I knew for sure that he did it. And he knew that she knew. And she knew that he knew. Now, I knew too. Maybe others sensed it, but nobody was talking. They were pretty close. Jimmy trusted Big Gene. They say it's always the one closest to you, the one you could trust with your life.
"Bea, I'm so sorry," said the Accountant.
"Oh Gene, he's gone... he's gone," she said, a spurt of emotion escaping her.
"I know, honey, I know..." he said, tenderly hugging her.
I rolled my eyes. What a wonderful display of compassion. Something I had never seen in him before. Maybe he missed his calling—he should have been an actor.
"Jesus, Joe, can we get out of here now?" I whispered. "I think we've overstayed our show of respect, don't you? Bea has her family, she doesn't need us."
I waited alone while Joe disappeared into the packed parking lot. The silent air was brisk. I pulled my coat collar up over my neck and tucked my chin into my chest. A fine snow was falling now, the kind that accumulated fast. The ground would be covered with a soft white blanket by morning. Trudging through the snow to an open grave in the cemetery was not where I would be tomorrow. I'd had enough of this charade.
Suddenly, a chill surged through my body—and it wasn't from the cold air.
"Hi there," said a voice that sounded like a rusty car muffler.
I turned to see the Accountant hunched inside his coat. "Hello, Gene," I said coldly, but I don't think he noticed.
"I wouldn't want to die in the winter, would you?" he asked, trying to make small talk—I think.
Shoving my cold hands deeper inside my coat pocket, I answered, "Not if I had a choice, Gene, but unfortunately, I doubt I'll have that luxury. With your connections, why don't you put the word in that I prefer the fall," I said with a knowing look. That was a pretty stupid thing to say to a guy like that, but it just came out. The silence that followed made it even worse. I looked everywhere except at him while I impatiently waited. Joe finally pulled up, and Big Gene opened my door. What a gentleman.
"See ya around," he said with a curious expression as he shut the door.
Hope not too soon, I thought to myself with a shiver.