[Author's Note: Okay, I'm getting people subscribing to alerts on this story or saying they'll watch for more, so I feel I have to say it in big bold letters:
THIS STORY IS COMPLETE.
This is what there is. It's a short story in four parts. It's not a novel, it's not gonna be a novel, don't wait for more, you'll be waiting until your teeth fall out. Okay? Okay. Love ya. Mwah.]
It all started with Ray 'Ratso' Rastelli being an asshole. Beats me why he decided to test me right then. I hardly knew the guy. He just walked up to me with this creepy smirk on his face and let it rip: "Hey, you Joey Marino? I hear you're a big queer. Zat true?"
"Ask your mama, she'll tell you something different," I said.
His round face went purple, and he cocked a fist back. Then he looked puzzled, because Big Nicky Galante was right there behind him and had hold of his arm. Ratso tried to shake loose, growling, and it was all I could do not to grin, because you don't shake off Big Nicky. He's the boss for a reason.
"Easy, boys," Big Nicky soothed. "You really gotta go fighting at my kid's birthday? This is supposed to be a festive occasion."
"I'm festive," I shrugged.
"Good. How about you, Ray? You festive?"
"Like fuckin' Christmas," Ray muttered. Big Nicky let go and patted Ray's shoulder. Ray grumbled an apology and stomped off.
Big Nicky shook his head and sighed. He put an arm around my shoulders. "You got a fast mouth, kid."
"Better'n quick fists, sir."
"Wise beyond your years," he laughed. "You're Sal Marino's son, aintcha? I been meaning to talk to you. Your daddy was a good man. Always on the level, never let me down. I was real sad to hear about him. It's just fucking unfair when the good die young."
"Cancer don't pick sides, sir," I said, sounding more resigned than I felt. It was strange to hear him call my dad 'young', but then, Dad and Big Nicky were about the same age. Had been. When Dad had been any age at all. "Mama's real grateful to you for giving me a job."
"You're a good boy." He thumped my back, then began to steer me through the crowded, smoke-choked room. All these made guys smoked like fucking chimneys. They figured they'd go down to something quicker than cancer. Aside from my dad, they usually did. "But it ain't charity, Joey. Tommy says you're a hard worker. What do you do for him, you drive?"
"Yeah, I drive. Load the trucks. Stuff like that."
"You a good driver?"
"Pretty good, I guess." I couldn't help sounding puzzled. This was leading somewhere, but I couldn't guess where. "Know my way around. I try to treat the vehicle nice."
"And you're the only guy in this room who's sober, aintcha?"
"Uh... I had some of that wine with dinner. Glass and a half I guess. I mean, it was good stuff, it'd be dumb not to try it..." I had no idea what he wanted to hear.
Seems that was the right thing to say. At least, it got me another approving back-thump. We came to a halt near a few guys who were trying to impress some girls too young to understand why. He said, "My boy here's pissed out more good Scotch tonight than most guys drink in a year. Ain't that right, Junior?"
The girls giggled. The oldest couldn't have been more than sixteen. The guys turned around, and I knew right away which one was Little Nicky, because he was the only one who didn't give a respectful nod.
He didn't look anything like his dad. Big Nicky was a refrigerator with thumbs. Little Nicky belonged in a garage band, and the suit someone slapped on him only made it worse. Skinny long legs, pierced eyebrow, long brown hair, lots of rings on his fingers that looked like they came out of a gumball machine. Bleached-denim blue eyes heavy with apathy. And probably pot. They were kind of bloodshot. He glanced over me like he was wondering whose ass I crawled out of, then gave his father a challenging look.
"Sure, Dad, I've had a few. Why?"
Big Nicky gave me one more thump, shoving me forward. "This is Joey Marino. Sal Marino's boy. He's gonna be your driver from now on."
Little Nicky twitched one shoulder, like he couldn't be fucked to even shrug right. "Whatever, okay." He started to turn away.
His dad grabbed his arm and yanked him around, reddening with anger. Little Nicky tried to look amused, but I could see the fear under it. The big man growled, "Don't you act like your shit don't stink. What's the man's name?"
"Your new fucking driver, Junior. What's his fucking name?"
Little Nicky's glare flicked to me again, and this time he actually saw me. His eyes widened. I wondered what he was seeing. Personally, I was embarrassed for the guy.
"Joey," he said uncertainly.
"Joey what?" Big Nicky demanded. "Whose son is he? How long's he been working for me? What does he do?"
"Dad, I'm too drunk for this shit," Little Nicky whined.
I decided it was time to do something besides get chewed from both ends like a dog toy. I gave Little Nicky a relaxed smile. "Mrs. Stefano just put on a fresh pot of coffee. How do you like it?"
"Irish," Little Nicky retorted. After a glare from his dad, though, he changed it to, "Black, two sugars."
Big Nicky walked away with me, speaking in low tones so the old women hanging around the coffee urn would know to pretend not to hear. "He's just like I was at that age. Watching him's like living through all my old mistakes over again. Least with you keeping an eye on him he won't wreck any more cars." He gave me a solemn look. "Never let him behind the wheel, understand? You just drive him anywhere he wants to go. He's real good at faking sober, so you just get his keys and hang onto them until I tell you otherwise, capisce?"
"Got it, sir," I told him, just as serious.
A broad smile dawned over his face. "I know I can count on you, Joey." Satisfied, he strode off to scare the living shit out of somebody else. I had to take a few deep breaths so my hand wouldn't shake and spill the coffee.
When I brought Junior his coffee, he didn't take it from me. Instead, he got out a flask and tipped about a shot and a half of whiskey into it. Then he reached for the cup, but I moved it out of his reach and held out my other hand, palm up.
"Keys," I said.
He sighed and dropped his keys in my palm. I let him have the coffee.
Then I went and got a chair where I could see him but not hear him. I figured I should know when he was ready to go, but not look like I was eavesdropping. Not that I needed to hear it to know what he was saying. He was charming the pants off a fifteen-year-old girl in what looked like a communion dress. And he was... how old? I glanced up at the banner over the cake table. It just said Happy Birthday Little Nicky. He looked around my age, though, twenty-five maybe. That poor girl had visions of wedding cake dancing in her eyes, and he was seeing inside-out panties on the floor.
I didn't figure I was going to like the guy very much.
But it wasn't the girl he took with him when he left the party. Instead, he invited one of his guy friends and that guy's conquest of the evening. They ignored me like I was a servant -- just went for the door and expected me to know what was going on. I was kind of cheesed off about that, and about how impatient they acted when I didn't know which car I was supposed to drive.
Then I saw what I was going to be driving, and suddenly all I could feel was peace, joy, and goodwill toward men. His daddy gave him a Jaguar XF as a replacement for something he wrecked? No wonder he was spoiled rotten. Wasn't his fault. I'd be spoiled too if somebody gave me a car that beautiful for anything less than both legs and a kidney.
Little Nicky cleared his throat. "You going to drive it, Joey, or just drool on it?"
"I think I might make love to it."
The girl snickered uncomfortably. The friend sniffed. Little Nicky laughed. "Who's got video on their phone? Anybody? I'm gonna want proof of this."
"Naw," I said, "I guess I'll wait til I get it alone." That made him laugh again.
I got behind the wheel. I drove the Jaguar. I did not have a spontaneous orgasm. It was kind of a close thing on the curves, though.
He sat up front and let the lovebirds have the back seat. He had me drive around some scenic places for a while so his friend could fully enjoy fondling underage titty, then gave me directions to the girl's house. The friend looked annoyed; the girl looked relieved. We dropped the friend off next. I waited to hear directions to Little Nicky's place, but he just said, "Drive."
I drove. We wandered around the scenery some more. It was late and I was tired, but I still didn't want it to end. The purr of the engine, the soft lights of the dash, the moon making tree shadows on the road. And my passenger was so quiet I almost felt like I was alone. I thought he'd dozed off, but after a while he said, "Your name is Joey, right?"
"Marino. How about you, you go by Little Nicky or Junior or --?"
"Just Nicky. I guess you can say Little Nicky if you're talking about my dad at the same time. Not Junior. Never Junior. Maybe you should call me sir. I'm your boss now."
"No, you're my boss's kid. He told me to drive you."
An annoyed snort. "What else did he tell you to do?"
"Just drive you. Not let you drive."
"He didn't tell you to keep me from drinking?"
"Nope. You can get as bombed as you want, long as I have the car keys."
"Some dad," Nicky sighed. He leaned his seat back and closed his eyes. "Whatever. Take me home."
"Where's that?" I asked, but he didn't answer. He was passed out.
I had to call Tommy to find out where to take him. Of course, I would've had to call Tommy anyway to tell him I wouldn't be driving his trucks anymore, but I didn't appreciate having to do it at two in the morning. Tommy was a lot more understanding than I expected. He knew about Little Nicky passing out in people's cars. It seemed everybody knew all about Little Nicky except me.
Nicky turned out to have a real nice penthouse apartment to go with his gorgeous car. The doorman helped me get him upstairs and into bed. The guy knew right where to go; I got the impression he'd done drunk-wrangling duty before. Once he was gone, I pulled Nicky's shoes off and threw a blanket over him. He mumbled something at me, but I couldn't make out a word of it. I went and crashed out on his couch.
I didn't sleep too good with his car keys in my pocket, but I figured that was just the cost of duty. No way was he going to crash that beautiful Jaguar while I was on the job.