1635: THE CANNON LAW – snippet 58:

They shot the bolts and opened the big double door wide in front of Frank. He stepped out, not letting himself have any time to chicken out. The street was dark, apart from where light spilled out from the couple of other buildings that were occupied around here. Frank’s first guess had been off. There were maybe a dozen guys out there. All of them at least half drunk, if not more. A couple had been stood right by the door, and having it open in front of them had clearly come as a surprise. Well, Frank thought, don’t waste it.

“What are you doing, you sons of whores?” he roared, stepping right up to the nearest drunk.. The guy looked like he’d been stunned. Certainly not about to call Frank’s bluff.

Some of the others weren’t so taken aback. “Whoremonger!”, “Pimp!” and “Pervert!” were the few Frank could pick out. His grasp of Roman idiom wasn’t good enough for more than the basics of the local swearing.

“Yeah, says who?” Giulio shouted. Bellowed, rather.

“Yeah, show yourself!” Frank shouted.

He really wasn’t happy about this. The whole stand-up-to-a-bully thing just wasn’t his scene. Back down and take elaborate comedy revenge later, that was his style, but it just wasn’t going to work here and now. Time to find out if confrontation worked.

A moment’s tense silence… Not right away, it doesn’t, Frank thought to himself. Aloud, “Come on! You got a problem with me, step right the fuck up.” He pointed at the ground in front of him. He wasn’t sure why, he just thought he’d seen it on TV one time.

More silence, a couple more shouts from the back of the crowd, calling him a pimp and a few other things. He looked around. Most of them had drifted closer, and enough windows were opening that Frank was starting to see faces instead of just pale, unshaven blobs. He didn’t recognize any of them, and a dark suspicion began to form.

Behind him, he heard Dino say, “You want we should break some heads, Frank?”

“Yeah, say the word,” Giulio added.

“I shall probably regret this,” came Piero’s voice, and the sound of something steely slipping out of a scabbard, “but I do not feel that I can let this pass without intervening.”

Something about that last bugged Frank a little, but he wasn’t going to worry about it now. “No, guys,” he said, doing his best to imitate his father-in-law doing the mafia-don act he put on for Murano’s low-life. He held up a hand. “I see how this is. You guys,” he said, waving a hand at the gang in the street, “I see how it is. You got your money, you did what you came for, go collect your pay. It’s over. And next time, you take the money, you come here and have a quiet drink, and go back and just say you did it, okay?”

There was a pause. “What about all that stuff you wrote?” came a voice from the back.

There was always one, Frank figured. “I never wrote it,” he said. “And I wouldn’t. Only guy gets to fuck my wife is me, you hear?” he shouted, grinning. “If you saw her, you’d understand why I feel real strongly about that.”

That got a few grins. Hey, it’s working. He decided he’d strike while the iron was hot. “I figure you all got someone you feel that way about too, and I ain’t going to mess with that.”

“But you wrote -“ said the heckler, and Frank noted that he was staying in back.

“I—WROTE—NO—SUCH—THING!” he roared at the top of his lungs. “The bastards are trying to get you angry at your best hope of getting what’s coming you, is all. They’ve seen what the Committee’s done in Germany and they don’t want it happening here! You think some stinking Spanish nobleman wants to see you doing well? When he’s getting fat off your hard work?”

There was a round of muttered “nos,” although Frank would have guessed that most of these guys hadn’t done a day’s work in their lives.

“Right!” he pressed on. “So maybe they want to tell you a few lies and get you mad at us over bullshit! That’s what it is. Nothing but fucking bullshit. Now, you guys going to go home, or come in for a drink, or what?”

In the end, most of them drifted off. A couple of them came in for a couple of drinks, but seemed kind of embarrassed, and the regulars didn’t exactly make them feel welcome. Frank wished he could fix that. If he could just get a few of these fellows on his side he’d have someone who could tell him what the hell was going on with all this rent-a-mob stuff. It wasn’t like it was even doing much harm, apart from the odd rock getting thrown and Frank having a hell of a repair bill. As it was, all he could get out of them was that some guy had offered them a bit of money and a skinful of drink to turn out and throw rocks at Frank’s Place, and some guy had passed around the handbills and gotten quite irate about the whole sharing-of-women thing. And that was it, apparently. Two of them had ‘worked’ for these guys before, and they were usually in one of the taverns on the via Ripetto picking up warm bodies for this kind of thing. There were some guys all but making a living at it.

Still, it was more than he’d got up to now, through Benito asking street kids. And he wondered if they’d be dumb enough to let, say, Dino or Fabrizzio join one of their hired crowds. That would get them a lot more information, assuming he could drill the Marcoli boys with the absolute necessity of keeping their yaps shut and not arguing with whatever bullshit they were asked to shout or hand around.

He decided he’d sleep on it.