Chapter 2 "Snakes" 18

After a long time in the Inspector’s office, Sgt. Machado opens the door and fixes Constable Zeffretti with a cold stare. “Zeffretti,” he intones, his voice dead. “Get in here.”

The nervous constable enters Inpector Tuma-Sukai’s office. The inspector is seated behind his desk, sipping tea. The sergeant is standing beside the desk. Zeffretti remains standing, looking ill.

Looking into his tea, the inspector says softly, “When were you going to tell us about the Dukaine Family, Rocco?”

Zeffretti stutters, “I-I mean, I d-don’t –”

Machado steps forward and slaps Zeffretti across the cheek so hard he nearly knocks him down. “No more lies! To my shame, I gave you a second chance! Now I have to bear that responsibility!” He raises his hand again as Zeffretti cringes.

“Sergeant,” the inspector says. Machado steps back, still looking furious. The inspector continues, “Rocco, I understand family loyalty. But my family is the Guardia. Yours...is not. You are, let’s face it, a spy. You are using your position in the Guardia for financial gain. You are extorting local businesses for protection money, and passing along information to your family’s criminal organization. Is this not so?”

“Yes, sir,” he moans, hand pressed to the side of his face. “But sir, we was keepin’ the peace. There just wasn’t enough Guardia here in Three Rats! All I was doin’ was coordinatin’, you know? So my people could take up the slack! Things woulda been a lot worse otherwise!”

The inspector sighs. “You may be right. But your family also traffics in banned addictives, unlicensed prostitution and gambling, and all manner of other crimes. Think about how it would look, if someone up the chain found out one of my cops is involved in all that.”

“I guess...it wouldn’t look too good, would it?”

“No, Rocco. And besides...how is your family going to fare now that the Dukaines are moving in? Be honest now.”

“For once in your miserable life...” mutters Machado.

Zeffretti stews in uncomfortable silence. “Well...ta tell the truth, we ain’t gotta chance. It’s one a’them can’t-beat-’em-join-’em type a’situations.”

The inspector nods. “Well, you’ll have to do what you have to. But that means you will be part of the Dukaine organization. Even more reason we can’t have you here.”

“Am I...gonna serve time, sir?”

Tuma-Sukai smiles. “Oh, I don’t think that will be necessary, if you resign without a fuss. In fact, I’ve already drawn up your resignation.” He pushes a piece of paper across the desk toward Zeffretti. “I put down ‘family reasons.’ I thought it appropriate.” He holds out a pen.

Zeffretti moves forward to take the pen, looking both grateful and sad, but stops when the inspector says, “However, there is one thing I want you to do.”

“What...what is it, sir?”

“For years, you’ve been a spy for your family within our organization. Now the situation will be reversed. You – and whomever in your family you trust – will be spies for us within the Dukaine Organization. You, Rocco, will be our go-between, and you will report to me or to Sgt. Machado. Only we will know of this arrangement. You will gain their trust and bring us intelligence of their plans when you can. Together, we will bring down these Dukaines. And your family, rising from the wreckage, will find the Guardia grateful.” He leans forward and looks Zeffretti in the eye. “You could even be reinstated. I do believe in second chances, Rocco.”

Machado growls, “Take the deal, Rocco. It’s better than you deserve.”

Swallowing, Zeffretti nods assent and signs.

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