Was everyone but me in some mafia outfit? How did I get left out? Driving in the Lancia with its top open to the constant rush of wind meant that it was very difficult to have a conversation all those times we were traversing around Ohio and Michigan. The noise of the motorcycle with the sidecar was just as bad so I was left to my thoughts while we traveled.
The revelation that Dimity’s family was an ‘organized crime syndicate’ made me wonder if I understood the term correctly. Her father, Mr. St. John, certainly didn’t come across like James Cagney or Lee Van Cleef. More like William Holden. And her mother was Doris Day. She canned beets and made mayhaw jelly. She did needlepoint. She made me a quilted pillowcase and a crocheted tea cozy. This family cleverly maintained an anonymous exterior of quaint blandness. But behind the facade, they were apparently black-hearted gangsters.
And frankly, I didn’t want in. Nope. No thank you. Crime and mafiosos were fine for the movies, but a small-town Ohio boy like me was simply not cut out for that. I was Presbyterian for God’s sake! Gangsters of a different sort, I suppose. Gangsters for God maybe. I don’t know.
For the first time, my attraction to Dimity experienced tremors of misgiving, and that made me sad. But unflinching, cold-blooded, quadruple assassination such as I had recently witnessed, effortless and sexy though she made it look, did not stir within me those primal instincts of love and marriage, of hearth and home.
It did occur to me that extricating myself from the relationship may prove to be a delicate matter.
On the other hand, my father was dead, my mother was mortally wounded, my siblings were lost to foster care, my uncle was also shot and magically resurrected, and the only home I’d ever known was blasted to splinters. All because of the mafia. Where else did I have to go? And, let’s be honest—even on a good day Presbyterianism is overrated.
We took a long road to Ringo’s forest estate, going back through Akron so Dimity could check in with Mommy and Daddy. While we were there, she packed a little case with toiletries and fresh clothes, including a few things for me. They chatted about the rainfall and the tomato plants, and Timmy’s little league games (That was her 11-year-old brother. Now that kid is cut out for a life of crime, organized or not. The kid’s a thug and I would bet any money that he also has confirmed kills to his name). Since it was late in the day, Mrs. St. John served us dinner: a roast she had in the oven, potatoes, peas, and carrots, with thick, brown English gravy.
Dimity updated them on everything we had seen in the past days, the car chases, the shots fired, the murders and attempted murders, my shot-off left ear, and the existence of elixirs of amazing power that Ringo and his mysterious lady friend had learned how to concoct.
“Ho ho! Well now. That won’t go unnoticed,” Mrs. St. John said.
“I should think not,” said Mr. St. John. “There’s got to be a market for that brew, or I don’t know the tastes of decadent, affluent nabobs.”
“There is already a market, in fact,” said Dimity. She nodded and gestured significantly until mom and dad both opened their eyes wide in understanding.
“Who is it? Dantelle? Messerschmitt?”
“No, it’s this greasy bugger named Lorenzo. Small timer, but he’s tied in with the big man.”
I sat quietly and tried to keep my mouth full of food so I wouldn’t be called on to say anything. Meanwhile I was wishing for the old days of dinner table talk that started with, “so how was school today, dear?”
When we started making moves to get back on the motorcycle and head to Pennsylvania to meet Ringo, Mr. St. John pulled me aside and slipped a small roll of bills in my hand.
“Here, Bo. I’m so sorry for your loss. This is just in case you need anything.”
“Oh, no I couldn’t possibly. Is this…? Oh my God. This is three hundred—”
“You never know, son. I can’t have you and Dimity running around without any pocket money.” At that time, it was enough for a down payment on a house.
“Mr. St. John, this is…” I gulped, “…very generous, but I—”
“And I also want you to take this. Just to be safe.” He put a Browning Model 1955 in my hand, a concealable six-shooter fresh from Belgium. I was speechless.
“Isn’t she a beaut? This is the gun that killed Archduke Ferdinand and started World War One. Tuck it right here in your belt, or in the small of your back. There’s no safety catch so be careful you don’t shoot something else off, right?”
As we pulled up to Ringo’s house deep in the Allegheny forest, he came out to meet us. Dimity leaned over to me and said,
“Not a word about you know what, okay?” I nodded.
“Ah! Welcome my boy, so glad you could make it. And mam’selle, a pleasure as always. I heard you two had a close call. Still healing up I see?” He was referring to the conspicuous bandage that still covered the place where my left ear used to be.
“I’m glad you’re here this time, Ringo. Last time we were here, the place really creeped us out.”
Night was falling and a gentle breeze rustled the leaves and caused the canopy overhead to sway and shimmer. Again, I heard distant wind chimes that seemed to come not from the house but from the midst of the forest.
“I assure you, there is nothing to be afraid of. Our mutual lady friend, the one we sometimes call Linda sees to it that we are safe. If we are lucky, she may deign to visit us.”
“I would like that very much,” said Dimity. It struck me for the first time that a unique bond of female friendship may have formed between them. I was deeply envious.
Ringo escorted us inside the familiar old chalet. The main entry room was well-lit and a fire roared in the hearth. A wine glass stood on the top of the piano, where Ringo had apparently been playing when we rode up. Books and papers were arrayed on a table. He seemed eager to get to work on the new brew.
“I’ve been racking my brain, Bo, but I cannot think of any other solution except to try and recreate the talisman. That was the key, you recall. You all remember I told you that it was destroyed in my lapel pocket when the Beaux Voyous fired their volley at me. That enchanted wooden spoon lay in a drawer in your mother’s kitchen for some years just waiting to be discovered. We must recreate a talisman.”
“Recreate? How do you propose to do that?”
“Do you remember how it became enchanted in the first place?”
“Yeah, my mother used it to—wait a minute…”
“She paddled you with it mercilessly when you were younger. Do you remember why?”
I became short of breath at where this was going.
“Yeah, I used to call my little siblings names. Smeghead and Wankpuffin.”
“Unusual names, wouldn’t you agree? Those words must have been a kind of incantation, combined with the violent use it was put to, the cathartic outpouring, your own hot tears.”
“Yes, yes, I have vivid memories I’d like to forget. But the spoon is gone.”
“I have an ordinary wooden spoon right here.” He produced another old wooden spoon from his back pocket. “I propose that we try the same method and recreate the destroyed talisman.”
“The same method? You mean…”
“Great success requires greater sacrifice, my boy.”