“Sure Joey, of course, how is your father?”
“He’s doing okay, plays a lot of bocci ball down at Orange Avenue Park every afternoon with his friends from the old days. Mom says it’s just an excuse to drink wine and tell dirty stories.” Ya, know, Jimmy, I don’t see how you Micks can eat this over cooked meat and spuds and call it a meal.” “Never stopped you from eating it, Joey.”
While Joey ate his stew and bitched about the 49ers, the Giants and the cost of bribing the City Building Department workers, O’Brian remembered how he met Joey and his family.
At that time, O’Brian had been out of the Navy for a few years and was working as an Investigator for a big law firm. It paid well, with lots of overtime during the week and on weekends. O’Brian wasn’t a big spender, didn’t even own a car and was able to put away a lot of money. It was the first time in his life he wasn’t poor.
After work, O’Brian liked to go to the gym and lift weights, run on the treadmill and hit the heavy bag. He had to do it to decompress, otherwise, he would have beaten the crap out of the neurotic, obsessive compulsive lawyers he worked with. Then he would take the long walk up and over North Beach to his one bedroom in Yuppieville, otherwise known as the Marina district.
On this night, he made a quick stop at the CIty Lights Bookstore and picked up one of Haruki Murakami’s novels. Then, he crossed Broadway and walked up Stockton. As he was walking up Stockton, he heard a muffled sound that sounded strange. He took a step, stopped and turned back and walked down the alley he had just passed. He stopped and listened. He heard the muffled sound again.
At the far end of the alley, where the streetlight barely illuminated the black wet pavement, O’Brian saw some shadows move up and down. He heard the muffled sound again. He slowly walked down the alley, stopping to pick up a piece of a 2 x 4 he saw on the ground. He walked on the balls of his feet, trying not to make noise. He felt something slid under his feet, it made a soft raspy sound. O’Brian stopped and listened.
He walked a few more steps and saw a mound of bodies surrounding a head of white hair. O’Brian didn’t hesitate. Swinging the 2 x 4 like a baseball bat, he hit the closest mugger on the side of the head. Screaming in pain, the man rolled onto his side. O’Brian kicked him in his face, breaking the nose, maybe the jaw. The man groaned and stopped moving.
The other two muggers looked up and saw O’Brian. Rage and fear on their faces. “You little fuck, you fucking asshole, your ass is mine,” the bigger of the two said. He rose and stepped towards O’Brian. O’Brian let him close. Then when the man was close enough, O’Brian kicked the man in the kneecap, shattering the patella. As the big man leaned forward to grab his knee, whimpering now, O’Brian gave him a full face shot with the 2 x 4. The third man ran down the alley past O’Brien towards the street. O’Brien let him go.
O’Brian grabbed the victim by the elbow and helped him stand. O’Brian thought the old man was hurt. “Are you all right, sir” O’Brian asked. “I am fine, thank you, yes said the man.” I’m fine. I can walk home. O’Brien didn’t think so. Then the man said, “I am Giancarlo Butazi.” O’Brien recognized the name and wondered where the hell were the man’s bodyguards.
“Let’s take a cab, Mr. Butazi” said O’Brian. He flagged one down and after Mr. Butazi gave the address, they sat in silence as the cab rolled up the hill through the misty rain.
The cab stopped in front of an immaculate Victorian on a side street off of Green, 2/3 thirds up Nob Hill. O’Brian helped Mr. Butazi out of the cab. He was about to say good night and head on home. He was tired and his hands ached. The front door of the house slammed open and a tall stocky man came rushing out. Right behind him were two men who could have played offensive tackle on the 49ers.
“Pop, Pop, where the hell you been the first one yelled. We’ve been worried sick. Ma said you were supposed to be home an hour ago.” Why didn’t you take Bobby and Nick with you?” Mr. Butazi said-”I’m fine and I wanted to be by myself.”
Finally, noticing O’Brian, the son of Butazzi turned and said, “who’s this guy?”
“This man saved my life tonight.”
“What!! This little guy?”
“Yes, the little man with the big heart. Now let’s go inside, I am cold.” It was said softly, but, firmly. It was a command, not a request. The father, his son and the two lineman started up the stone steps of the stoop. Again, O’Brian was about to walk away and go home when Giancarlo Butazi turned and said, “come inside, we should talk.” O’Brian said nothing, there was nothing to say anyway and followed the family into the house.