Symphony of Pain
Fred Wilson was the only music store owner in New York City's Hell's Kitchen. While his business was not as spectacular as if his shop was in another part of the city, it was more than enough to keep him in business. The legendary jazz violinist Joe Venuti once stopped by his store to search for new strings, but aside from that, his business was unremarkable. He did offer some private lessons in music, primarily of the classical sort. His favorite pieces, which he instructed to most, were the French composer Pierre Rode and his German student Joseph Bohm. He was a hard to satisfy instructor, but a respected and effective one. While a younger man, he was not as passionate about jazz as his peers.
There was one thing that set him apart from all the other stores down the street. He refused to pay the protection money demanded by some local mobsters. The police didn't like venturing in to this part of town often, so any defense or resistance was on his own. He had purchased a revolver to scare them of, and they had not bothered him for a few months. He thought he had scared them off.
One cold winter day, however, he discovered he was wrong. It was a cloudy, overcast day with a biting wind blowing outside his door. He had left to get a newspaper from the paper boy on the street, and had to hold his hat down to cover his short brown hair. The tall, lanky music store owner leaned into the wind, his brown overcoat being the only thing shielding him from the frigid wind.
He was just outside his store when a large black car pulled up. Two large men with fedora hats and trench coats stepped out of the car, heading towards him. Wilson turned to run, but the two men grabbed the back of his hands. They violently forced him into the rear of the car, stepping in behind him. One began to tie rope around his hands, and the other drove away.
Inside of the car, he saw rich upholstery on the seats. A man whose face he could not see drove the car. Next to him sat one of the giant thugs, who now kept a pistol on him. Another thug he had not seen before sat in the back, holding a revolver to him. A face in the passenger's side of the car locked into the back seat. It was a middle aged Italian man with sharp features and a large grin. He looked like a cat who had just caught a mouse, and was about to devour it after toying with it. Wilson knew the face from wanted posters and rumors on the street: Old Rocco of the West-End Gang. He didn't last this long in organized crime by being merciful. While Hell's Kitchen was dominated by the Irish, the Italian mobster had been extending his reach into Hell's Kitchen gradually.
"So, you're the palooka whose been refusing to pay protection money?" the mob boss asked with angry voice.
Fred Wilson said nothing. What he said or did would have to be careful, or else he would get killed. "I'll pay," he said, trying to keep calm.
"That's nice to here," Old Rocco grinned. "But you ain't getting off so easy, chump."
Wilson cringed. The last thing he wanted to do was end up at the bottom of the Hudson.
"I'm gonna give you a reason why you shouldn't have blown off my boys like that," the mobster reached for something in the front seat.
"No, please!" Wilson raised his bound hands in front of his face, hoping in vain that would shield him from whatever horrid fate Old Rocco had in mind for him. Something told him that Rocco wasn't just content smashing up or burning his store. Rocco pulled out a violin case. Wilson expected to see a Tommy gun come out at any moment.
"Relax, chump," he replied. "You ain't gonna be sleepin' with the fishes or get ventilated. At least not today."
He opened the violin case, pulling out a violin. It wasn't like the finely tuned and quality instruments that he was used to dealing with. Instead, it was an old, ill maintained one. The wood was splintering and rotten. The strings were frayed and looked about ready to snap. It was as if the instrument had been found floating around in the sewer after years.
"Now, I ain't exactly a man of class," Rocco explained. "But I ain't just a thug, either. My old man showed me some violin back in the day. I learned some Pierre Rode, and that kraut Joseph Bohm. Hell, I even catch a jazz show with Joe Venuti in it now and then."
Wilson remained quiet, unsure of how to react.
"Point is, I know my music, and I know you do, too," Rocco added. "Now, I could just bash up your shop, or break your legs, but I prefer to have a more unique touch."
He snapped his fingers, and the thug with the revolver took the violin from Rocco. "But Luigi here ain't never learned to play," Rocco grinned. "He's gonna try to play some Rode, and you're gonna listen to it."
He lifted the violin to his chin, and held it in an improper way. He held the weathered bow at an improper angle to the strings, and began to play. The sounds that came out were what he'd expect from such a violin. Horrid, out of tune notes and strings that sounded worse like nails on glass. The out of tune instrument was like a torture device to the trained ears of the music instructor. The instrument sounded like the dying sounds of a cat in a meat grinder. Despite his best efforts, he could not tune it out. Years of training in music meant he was focused on it.
The car continued driving, as the music continued coming. Rocco was on the verge of laughter the whole time. If this was a student, Wilson knew he'd be correcting countless things about the condition of the instrument and lack of skill of the violinist. It was like trying to listen to a gorilla playing with broken instruments from the garbage. The agonizing cacophany made him wince and keep his eyes closed. His bound hands prevented him from covering his ears.
There was missed notes, horrid sounds, and one of his favorite composers defiled from beyond the grave. Necrophilia would be less of a travesty to the late Pierre Rode than this. A mentally ill monkey would have more musical skills than the mobster holding the violin. Wilson was starting to regret them not shooting him. As the trip wore on, Wilson regretted the fact they didn't just shoot him to begin with. After what seemed like an eternity of torture, he screamed.
"Okay, he's had enough," Rocco grinned sadistically. "Remember, chump, if you don't start paying, next time I'll bring my own orchestra. Then it'll be a real symphony of pain. Boys, toss him out here."
The car pulled to a stop, and the thugs threw him out of the car. Wilson stood up, his hands still chafing from the ropes, and saw the car speed off. Old Rocco was truly devious. He began paying the day afterwards, but his ears felt unclean for the rest of the week. He would have nightmares for life.