Omerta; the law of silence. When the boss issues the law of Omerta in the neighborhood it means bad things are going to happen. If we witness or hear the event taking place in any way it is our job to pretend it never happened. We saw no evil, heard no evil and shall speak no evil. It was as simple as that. Of course, there is always a fool that does. A fool that is asking for a short life.
I was walking home from the store late in the afternoon. Mother was making a pasta dish that required farm fresh peas, but alas we didn't have any. The smells were so rich and delightful in that kitchen I wouldn't dare disappoint her with a sub-par meal to what she had originally intended. I told her I would be back soon and dashed out of the kitchen into the warm streets. Bumping into friends along the way, but never slowing down to have a conversation. I could hear their cheery laughter behind me as I ran. One called after me to come and join them in a nightly jaunt into the forest.
I instead called back saying I had an important mission to complete for my mother. Immediately they understood. I was in essence an errand boy in the neighborhood. Working for peanuts, but everyone saved towards my future. I didn't mind spending a few on food. I was a lean boy and a fast one too. Mainly I conveyed messages and files between businesses, being preferred over formal delivery companies because I was friends with the employees. I was jocular with them, kind, considerate. It was the edge I needed to getting good work.
When I arrived at the store they were just about to leave, but the owner knew me well and soon I was walking out the store with a bag of cold peas in hand. The owner wore a grim face and muttered about life and its meaning, but I could not waste time. I dashed down a darkened street, empty now, past putrid alleys. Our neighborhood was a good one, but in some areas it definitely was not the cleanest.
One however, made me stop. I heard a grating sound of metal against rock and I paused to investigate, a foolish idea. As I did I saw a man remove a manhole and walk over to the trunk of his car which barely stood out in the dark alley. When the boot lifted I saw a twisted arm and leg which the man clutched, pulling a corpse of a young woman out into the open. The limp body hit the alley floor with terrible sound that made my stomach churn. I gasped.
The man heard me and turned around. He began to walk towards me and for all the life in me I wanted to run, but I didn't. My legs wouldn't respond and I was essence trapped. It may have been night, but I felt the sun setting on my life.
The man’s face was barely illuminated by the street lights, but I could see a crooked lip with a scar across it, a profound nose and a twinkle of black eyes.
"Do you not understand the meaning of 'Omerta', boy?" he growled.
I shook my head the same way I always did when the teacher asked a question I couldn't answer. I'm fourteen so I don't know so many words. 'Omerta' was something I had heard before.
"It means you will forget you saw anything," the man explained. He seemed calm enough, but I sense so much hostility in the shadows. "You won't tell anyone, not even your mother. Understand?"
He stared at me hard and long, reaching int o his pocked. The hand slipped underneath his jacket and into a side pocket. I felt myself drain, I felt myself freeze over, I felt my body become translucent as my jaw dropped and shook. I was a dead boy, I could feel it, a knife close to my throat, a gun barrel to my head. The great jaws of death closing in on me.
The man took out a cigarette and my heart settled before I had my first heart attack.
"Good lad, now run off."
As if those words reactivated my legs I was soon sprinting home. Not to make up time that I had wasted outside the alley, but to get as far from it as possible. I burst into the kitchen carrying the bag of peas, exhausted. My family clapped and cheered when I hand the bag to her as the meal was soon to be complete to perfection. After all this I could barely stomach eating anything, but I did anyway. My tongue was numb and every other sense distorted. As if the word 'Omerta' was a spell and I was enchanted. I never told my family or anyone else.
"But I am telling you officer," I said.
The officer nodded and told me to wait while he called his partner to take me home. I had said enough. He gave me a kind smile and told me I was a strong man. Yes, it had been nearly four years since that day, but it would never leave me until I told someone.
His partner called for and I jogged after him. I felt so much safer and happier with the story of my chest and officers informed. I climbed into the backseat and fastened my seat-belt, the cop car taking off down the street.
"You never told anyone else, huh?" the officer's partner asked.
"No, I couldn't bear to burden my family and friends," I replied.
"That's good. It saves me a lot of work."
The car pulled into a dark alley. The car stopped and I froze. I could see the man’s crooked mouth in the rear view mirror. I could see the scar. In that moment I fully understood the law of Omerta and then I was nothing.
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