‘Meet outside.’ The message was clear and direct. Lorenzo placed the phone on the wooden bench and fixed his floppy hair. His heart raced not because he had just finished a game and he knew that the coach would scream at him for letting in three goals. At the moment this did not concern him. The only thing that concerned him was Adriana.
The phone rang and the name Gia blinked on the bright screen.
Lorenzo smiled at the sweet voice of his wife. Somehow even the crackle of the phone she reminded him of honey. ‘Ciao Gia. I am still in the stadium.’
‘What time are you coming home Enzo?’
‘I don’t know Gia, I played very bad today.’
‘You did not watch the game?’
‘If you watch Alberto then I will watch your game.’
Lorenzo laughed. It was a nervous laugh and forced. ‘I let in three goals.’
‘Three goals? Who did play against?’
‘Some team in Serie C.’
‘Even I would scream at you! You are playing in Serie A and you let in three goals from a team in Serie C?’
‘We still won the game.’
‘That doesn’t matter!’
‘You better make this up! I don’t want you to be sold off to some bad team down the line.’
‘Gia they won’t do that.’
‘You listen to me Lorenzo.’
Lorenzo shut his mouth. In just a moment Gia’s voice had turned from honey to vinegar. He knew he was in trouble and it didn’t matter what he said at this moment. He placed the phone down and continued fixing his hair. He rubbed a dollop of gel in his hands and quickly styled his hair with the tips of his fingers. He grabbed the tight white shirt in his locker, this shirt was very raggy and he hoped that no one would recognize him in it. He picked up the phone. ‘Gia…’
‘You heard everything I said?’
‘Good! Stay there as long as you want. Make sure you are playing in Serie A until you retire!’
‘Yes Gia.’ Lorenzo let out a loud sigh after Gia slammed the phone. ‘Maybe a mistress wasn’t a bad idea.’ He started thinking about the last conversation with Adrina.
‘I am pregnant Lorenzo.’
‘It is your child.’
‘No! I am married…I already have a child.’
‘Our child…I am carrying your child.’
‘No not our child!’
‘If you don’t support us then I will go to Gia!’
‘You better take responsibility.’
‘I will come at your next game…supporting you.’
Lorenzo shook his head. ‘What have I got myself into?’ He slipped on the shirt and stored his black gym bag in the locker. He took out an identical bag beside it and closed the door shut. He shook the handle and made sure that it was locked. ‘It’s time.’
‘Lorenzo!’ A man with graying hair walked into the locker. ‘I need to talk to you.’
The coach folded his arms across his suit. ‘Let’s talk in my office.’
‘Coach I am sorry but I have a pressing engagement…It’s about Gia…’
‘Gia? What did you do to my daughter?’
Lorenzo raised his hands. ‘Uhmm…Nothing coach.’
‘I told her about the game and she got angry with me…’
‘She is a smart girl.’
Lorenzo scratched his head. He did not see it then but Gia took after her father even upto the screaming and throwing of vases. Lorenzo thought of the poor vases. ‘Coach I want to go out and get something special for Gia to say I am sorry.’
The coach looked at his watch. ‘At this time? Everything is closed by now.’
‘That is why I have to hurry.’
‘Hmmm…Ok but first thing in the morning I want to talk to you.’
‘Listen Lorenzo you are not getting any younger anymore.’
‘How old are you now?’
‘Thirty nine in December.’
‘Goalkeepers hardly last until forty you understand what I am saying don’t you?’
The coach tapped his watch. ‘Don’t you have to go somewhere?’
‘Yes coach.’ Lorenzo jogged past the coach.
‘By the way Lorenzo.’
Lorenzo stopped at the doorway and turned. ‘Yes coach?’
‘I’m having lunch with you and Gia tomorrow.’
‘You remember my favorite right?’
‘Good.’ The coach closed the gap between him and Lorenzo. He squeezed Lorenzo’s shoulder. ‘It won’t hurt you to call me papa.’
‘Yes coach.’ Lorenzo turned and ran up the tunnel. He took a few turns and reached the lobby. He thought that he would not have anymore time. Between the meeting now and the meeting with the coach in the morning he wouldn’t catch Gia while she was awake. He pulled out his phone and looked at the time on the digital screen. ‘Ten fifteen.’ He decided to call the last dialed number.
Lorenzo thought that maybe the storm blew over.
‘Lorenzo what did you do now?’
He was wrong. ‘Gia I talked to the coach.’
‘You talked to papa?’
‘Yes he said that he wants to have lunch with us tomorrow and that to prepare his favorite lasagna.’
‘Papa is coming? Sure I will make some lasagna.’
‘Ok good. I think the coach will be there around one or two.’
‘Enzo you can call him papa you know. He is like a father to you.’
‘Anyways he is coming for lunch tomorrow.’ Lorenzo hung up before Gia could reply and continued his run through the lobby. He passed the shimmering displays and pushed the glass doors open. The chilling autumn air slapped Lorenzo’s contorted face.
‘You are late superstar.’ A tall black man announced his presence with his deep baritone voice.
‘I hurried here.’
‘Doesn’t matter, the boss is waiting.’
‘Massimo is not here?’
The black man lifted his cap and revealed a balloon of curly hair. ‘You should not speak his name here.’ He waved his hat in the air. ‘We have to go superstar.’
‘Where are we going? Where is Massimo?’
The black man frowned. ‘Varese.’
‘He is waiting for you.’
A black van pulled over on the curb and the passenger door slid open revealing another black man. This man’s head was shaved and he gripped on a large gun.
‘Wait! What is this?’
‘Protection.’ The black man slipped the hat back on his head and neatly tucked his hair.
‘Yours.’ The black man approached the van and tucked a gun from the empty seat in his pants. ‘Come on in superstar.’
Lorenzo looked around and walked slowly toward the van. He sat in the middle seat and placed the bag on his lap.
‘You can put that in the back.’ The bald man spoke.
‘No it is fine.’
The black man wearing the cap slid the door shut. ‘Go.’ He turned to Lorenzo. ‘You can take a nap. It is going to be a long ride.’
Lorenzo groaned. ‘No it is ok.’
‘You don’t understand.’ The bald man spoke. His voice was not like the other man. It was very squeaky and he wore pajama shirt and pants not like the loose shirt and jeans of the man with the cap. ‘If you don’t sleep then we will make you sleep.’
Lorenzo leaned back and closed his eyes. He did not fall asleep but he just thought of Adriana.
‘She’s into you.’ A scrawny man wearing a shiny shirt and red shoes bumped his elbow into Lorenzo’s back.
‘I don’t think so.’ Lorenzo turned toward the bartender. ‘Negrito.’
The bartender mixed a few alcoholic liquors into a glass to Lorenzo together with a note.
‘What is this?’
‘It is from Adriana.’
The bartender pointed to a girl in the background. She sported long black hair that fell loosely on a crystal embedded red corset.
Lorenzo unfolded the piece of paper. A string of numbers ended with the words ‘call me.’
‘If you are not going to call her then I will.’
Lorenzo grinned toward Filippo. ‘You said she was interested in me.’
‘I did didn’t I?’ Filippo raised his glass. ‘Drink up. It’s going to be a long night.’
‘Wake up superstar.’ The bald man nudged Lorenzo. ‘We are here.’
Lorenzo opened his eyes and looked out the open door.
‘This is Varese?’
‘Not exactly?’ The capped man cracked his neck.
‘We’re not in Varese?’ Lorenzo slipped out of the car and looked around. A row of two storey houses lined the road. The street lamp above him had no bulb. He looked at the street lamps down the street…they were working. Lorenzo thought that this particular streetlamp had a purpose. It was supposed to hide the people in the house. No one could look at their faces and this worked their advantage. He looked at the house where the capped man stood in front of. It had a low swinging green gate and two strapping black men smoking in a tiny garden.
‘Open up!’ The capped man screamed.
The two guards ran to the gate and pulled it open.
‘Go on through superstar.’ The capped man pulled Lorenzo’s arm into a narrow paved driveway.
Lorenzo nervously walked through the garden path. The two guards flanked him and one of them spoke.
‘I am a big fan.’
The capped man struck the back of the guard’s neck. ‘Do you want him to fuck you now?’
‘Where are we?’ Lorenzo asked the guard.
The capped man struck the guard again.
‘What did I tell you?’
‘I swear they see a celebrity and they act like little girls.’ The capped man pushed Lorenzo. ‘Go on superstar.’
Lorenzo pulled the bag to his front. He held it tightly as he walked up the driveway. The flowers had wilted beside him and were replaced by butts of cigarette, hashish and marijuana.
The door swung open and a black man with dreadlocks appeared. He spread his arms and spoke with a thick Jamaican accent. ‘Hey brother.’
‘I’m Massimo brother.’
‘You are Massimo?’
Lorenzo shook Massimo’s hand. He noticed a Rastafarian wristband of red, yellow and green.
‘Come in brother.’
Lorenzo followed Massimo into the house. He walked into a living area with a wooden counter. Two handguns were laid out.
‘Do you want one brother?’
Lorenzo shook his head. He turned to his left and saw a living area. It looked fairly normal with maroon couches covered by white knitted triangles. He took a step forward.
‘Brother.’ The man pushed his hand against the black bag. ‘Is this it?’
‘Yes…yes it is.’
Massimo pulled out the toothpick at the corner of his mouth and pointed at the floor. ‘Show me.’
Lorenzo knelt on the carpeted floor and unzipped the bag. Several stacks of money were stuffed and crumpled in the small space.
Massimo knelt beside Lorenzo and picked up a stack. He flipped notes with his thumb and smiled. ‘Very good brother…very good.’ He zipped up the bag and walked through the living area toward a stairwell. ‘Varese!’
The capped man walked through the doorway behind Lorenzo. ‘Yes boss.’
‘It’s time. Bring our guest.’
Varese pushed Lorenzo’s back. ‘Let’s go superstar.’
‘You’re Varese?’ Lorenzo looked around the room and found some bongs on the side tables and a small marijuana plant on the terrace. ‘So we are in…’
‘You are in my house.’ Varese chuckled. ‘Come on.’
Lorenzo staggered forward and followed Massimo up the steps with Varese not far behind. His legs wobbled and his heart raced. Each step grew his anxiety and when he reached the second floor he felt that his heart was about to explode.
‘Varese go fetch the girl.’ Massimo dropped the bag on the table to his left.’ He turned to Lorenzo. ‘Make yourself comfortable.’
Lorenzo sat at a nearby couch. The room had a slanted roof and skylight. The moon shone a silvery light on a solitary chair in the center. This room was not as decorated as the living area. The room only had the table, chair and couch as furnishings. The walls were fitted with a wire mesh that hung several guns, blades and blunt instruments.
‘Get your hands off me!’ A woman shrieked from across the room.
Varese pulled a dark skinned woman with long flowing hair and pushed her into the chair. ‘Boss.’
‘Here.’ Massimo threw a rolled up rope to Varese. ‘Make sure it’s tight.’
‘What are you doing?’ The girl squirmed in her seat.
‘The less you move the faster this will go.’ Varese tied the girl’s wrists behind the chair and worked on tying her ankles.
Lorenzo stood up closer to the skylight.
‘This is Adriana.’
‘Who are you bastard?’ Adriana jumped in her seat and skipped the chair an inch forward. ‘What do you want from me?’
Lorenzo walked into the path of the moonlight and revealed himself. ‘Adriana.’
‘Lo…Lorenzo?’ Adriana leaned forward. ‘They got you too.?’
‘No…not really.’ He turned to Massimo. ‘What now?’
‘Brother. That is up to you really.’
‘Lorenzo what is going on?’ Adriana inched her chair forward trying to get into a better hearing distance.
‘Adriana.’ Lorenzo spoke in a low voice. ‘About your phone call.’
‘I am carrying your baby.’ She smiled.
‘I love you.’
Lorenzo shook his head. ‘Listen…It cannot work between us.’
‘But…We love each other.’
‘I love my wife.’
‘If you loved your wife why did you sleep with me?’
Varese pulled Adriana’s chair back. ‘Women are trouble aren’t they superstar?’
‘Brother.’ Massimo lit a joint. ‘We can do whatever you want.’
Lorenzo bowed his head. ‘Adriana…are you going to tell my wife?’
Adriana bit her lip. ‘If I can’t have you no one can.’
‘You are going to ruin my life?’
‘You ruined mine.’
‘You want a drag brother?’ Massimo reached out the joint to Lorenzo.
‘You sure? It will clear your mind.’
Lorenzo shook his head.
‘Varese you want a drag?’
‘Yes boss.’ Varese took the joint and puffed rhythmically. ‘This is a good batch.’
Massimo took the joint from Varese and turned to Lorenzo.
‘I don’t want her to ruin my life.’
‘What do you want me to do brother?’
‘Just make it stop!’
Massimo smiled. This was his favorite part. He turned to Varese and gave the big man a quick nod.
Varese pulled Adriana’s hair. ‘Are you carrying superstar’s child?’ He pointed at Lorenzo.
Adriana shrieked. ‘Yes!’
‘Wrong answer.’ Varese cracked his knuckles and slapped Adriana across the cheek.
‘Wait!’ Lorenzo screamed. ‘What are you doing?’
‘Brother.’ Massimo wrapped an arm around Lorenzo’s shoulder. ‘You want this to stop?’
‘Then let Varese do his job.’ Massimo took a drag from his joint. ‘He is very good.’
Varese slapped Adriana across the cheek. ‘Where were we?’
‘Oh yes! Are you going to tell superstar’s wife about your child?’
‘Wrong answer.’ Varese balled up his fist and punched Adriana’s stomach.
‘Now let me ask you again. Maybe I should go slowly?’ Varese pulled Adriana’s hair and leaned close. He breathed heavily on her face. ‘Are you carrying superstar’s child?’
Adriana spit at Varese. ‘Yes! Yes! Yes!’
Varese wiped the saliva from his cheek and chuckled. ‘I like girls with spunk.’ He squeezed her cheeks. ‘But that is the wrong answer.’ He smashed his head into the bridge of her nose.
‘Ahhhhh!’ Adriana jumped in her seat as the blood trickled from her nose and down her yellow shirt.
‘Is this necessary?’ Lorenzo ran to Adriana and wiped the blood with his shirt. ‘Varese this is too much!’
‘Brother we can do whatever you want.’
‘Yes but you are hurting her.’
‘We can let her go and ruin your life brother.’
‘No…I don’t want Gia to know.’
‘Then move aside superstar.’
‘Lorenzo! Please help me.’
Lorenzo stepped away from the chair. He looked at the blood on his shirt and frowned.
‘You could stop this right now woman.’
Adriana looked up at Varese with tears welling up in her eyes.
‘Just say that you are not carrying superstar’s child.’
‘But I am carrying his child!’
‘Wrong answer.’ Varese pulled out the gun tucked in his pants and smacked the side of Adriana’s head. ‘You want me to continue?’
‘I’m going to ask you one more time.’ Varese pulled the gun to his left. ‘Are you carrying superstar’s child?’
Varese smiled. ‘What did you say?’
‘Awww…I was hoping to play with you a little bit longer.’
Adriana turned to Lorenzo. ‘I won’t tell Gia that I am carrying your child.’
Lorenzo smiled. ‘Thank you.’
‘But everyone is going to know what kind of coward you are!’
‘Look at my face! I am going to tell them that you beat me up!’
‘I did not beat you up!’
‘Coward! I can’t believe I loved such a pitiful excuse for a man!’
‘Brother just say the word and I can take care of this as well.’
‘What are you going to do? Beat me up! Hah! Give it to me all you want.’
Lorenzo pulled his hair. ‘No! No! No!’ He felt his life slipping away from him. His career was close to the end but he couldn’t end it like this. His name would be ruined, Gia would leave him. ‘No! you can’t do this Adriana!’
‘Yes I can and I will!’
‘Leave Gia and be with me.’
Lorenzo turned to Varese. ‘Make her stop! It ends now!’
Varese smiled. He pushed the barrel of the gun against Adriana’s temple. ‘You heard superstar. It ends now.’
‘What?!?’ Adriana squirmed in her seat. ‘No! Don’t!’
BANG! The bullet left the chamber and mashed the brains of Adriana. Her neck drooped over to her shoulder as her stiff limbs turned limp.
‘What did you do?!?’ Lorenzo screamed at Varese.
‘You told me to end it.’ Varese tucked the gun in his pants. ‘Boss you got another joint?’
Massimo pulled a joint from his ear. ‘Let’s celebrate.’ He turned to Lorenzo. ‘You should be happy brother.’
‘Yes now you are a free man brother.’
‘Free man.’ Lorenzo dropped on his knees. ‘She died because of me.’
Varese puffed on the joint. ‘No she died because of me.’ He chuckled. ‘But you know it is really funny.’
‘What is so funny?’
‘She wasn’t pregnant.’
‘No she did not have your child.’
‘What?!?’ Lorenzo jerked to his feet. ‘Then…then why did she?’
‘We told her to do it brother.’
‘Yes she worked for us superstar.’
‘Then why did you kill her.’
‘She was a loose end brother.’ Massimo puffed on the joint. ‘We don’t like loose ends.’
Lorenzo’s mind raced. He tried to recall the time in the discotheque it seemed so real. He knew it was too good to be true. But Adriana was voluptuous and he was mesmerized.
‘Are you going to be a loose end brother?’
Lorenzo looked at Massimo. ‘No…no…’
‘Right answer superstar.’
‘What now?’ Lorenzo asked.
‘Now you go back brother.’
Lorenzo nodded his head.
‘Remember superstar…this never happened.’
Lorenzo turned to walk down the steps. He pulled out his phone and checked the time on the digital screen. It was three hours past midnight. It was the witching hour…Lorenzo couldn’t believe that this actually happened. He took a deep breath and mumbled. ‘A dream…this is all a dream.’ He reached the living area. The guards sat down and lit up a bong.
‘You want a hit?’
Lorenzo shook his head. He was possessed. All he could think about was what Adriana said. ‘Coward!’ Lorenzo agreed. He was a coward. He could not stand up to his wife, not stand up to his coach and now this. He continued walking past the living area and reached the main hallway. He turned to the wooden counter and picked up the gun on the right. It looked like the same gun that Varese used. It was smooth to the touch and slightly heavy. ‘This is all a dream.’ Lorenzo mumbled. He pushed the gun down his mouth with handle facing the ceiling and pulled the trigger. BANG! In an instant Lorenzo’s body fell on the floor and rested on a puddle of his own blood never to wake up again.