Family (excerpt)

Zalán Molnár

“The man who doesn’t spend time with his family can never be a real man,” my father always said. He was a real man. Don Carmelo Di Vito was the head of the Di Vito family, one of four families in New York. These four families controlled the city behind the curtains. They had the police, the judges, even the billionaire bank brokers in their hands. They were gangsters. Lot of people misunderstand this word. They think that being a gangster means running away from the police on the streets, aiming a gun at someone or being the loudest in the room. In reality, the loudest one in the room is always the weakest. As far back as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to be a gangster. A head of a mafia family. To me, it was better than being the president of the United States.

Carmelo Di Vito has always said that he’s not a gangster. He’s a grown man running a business. Out of the four families, the Di Vito family had the biggest influence on the city. The other families were sometimes friends, sometimes enemies. Don Carmelo Di Vito was a highly respected man; everyone knew his name. Everybody wanted to do business with him. He was born in Italy, but the family moved to the States when he was little. Here he became a navy soldier. He served America for three and a half years; then, for reasons nobody really knew, he demilitarized. Some say that he did some business with the Italians, some say that he betrayed his country. The only thing that we know for sure is that he vanished. Then, a couple of years later, people just started to hear his name over and over again. He had quickly become a criminal mastermind, a notorious crime lord who was good to everyone. If you could just meet him, you wouldn’t think that he done all the bad things he had. He married a beautiful Latin American woman, Valeriana Di Vito. She was a popular model at that time, and being a wife of a mob lord only boosted her popularity.

Now I know what you’re thinking, they only married because of their fame. But that’s not the case here; actually their story goes way back to the early 70s. They were neighbours in Brooklyn, and they often played together on the streets. They found each other again, in the late 80s, and they fell in love. Valeriana became pregnant with twins. A couple of months later, Veronica and I were born. Me, Caesar Di Vito, the son of Carmelo Di Vito. By that time, my father had expanded his empire and started to trade with the other families. When Veronica and I were teenagers, Carmelo Di Vito controlled the whole city, secretly. There wasn’t a single thing that wasn’t run through the Di Vito family. All the elections, all the district attorneys, literally everybody who had an office at that time was working for or was simply just in favor of the Di Vitos.

It was heaven. If there was peace between the families, the crime rate in the city went down to almost nothing. But when there was war—and, trust me, there was—the families only killed the men of the other families, so the civilians had nothing to worry about there. It was the 1990s, there were rules. If somebody attacked or killed one of your men, you could kill one of his. An eye for an eye. They took care of these things quickly and carefully.  Besides that rule, maybe the most important one was that it was forbidden to kill a strict member of the family. Families are sacred. Everybody knew that.

For me, family was the only thing that mattered. My sister Veronica was a very powerful girl, and she knew that about herself. She always wanted to prove that she was worthy to become the head of the Di Vitos someday. She said that if she were in charge, we would rule equally, the first twin heads in the history of the mob world. But of course, both of us knew that she would only want the throne for herself.We didn’t have that normal, siblings-next-door type of relationship. We were both bloodthirsty, and we would do anything to become the head of the Di Vitos. As far as I can remember, I always wanted to beat her. We studied hard, we exercised a lot, just because we wanted to achieve more than the other. See, it was like a motivation. Although we were rich, our parents didn’t raise us as spoiled kids. We had to work for everything. If we wanted a toy, or new clothes, we had to race for it. I had to prove that I needed it more than my sister. We couldn’t trust each other with secrets, because it was leverage. In China, only one kid is allowed. I sometimes felt like if our family were living in China, I would be the second child. They often misunderstood me; I always thought that my beloved sister had more privilege than I did. There was this anger in me that wouldn’t fade away. It was like a sign. I had to do something. There had been intense rivalry between us since childhood, but we loved each other too, sometimes.

One of those times was when my dear sister was shot in an alley. She went down for some groceries and never came back. The grocery shop wasn’t far away; you only had to leave our mansion, go down the driveway, and then go straight for a couple of blocks. But my beloved sister often liked to go in alleys, dark places where no one else walked. I guess she wanted a place where she could hear her thoughts and be alone sometimes. She chose this alley route that afternoon. The sun had a very bright light that day, but because of the construction of the houses alongside the alley, on that road it was always dark. Have you ever heard about how some twins can feel something when the other one is in trouble? Well, I can tell you from experience that it is not true.

After a couple of hours, my mother started to worry. She didn’t know why Veronica was taking so long, and she expected the worst. It was the right thing to do, when you’re the wife of a criminal mastermind. My father was in the city, finishing up some business, so he didn’t know what had happened either. I was calm and I tried to calm my mother down. I thought that Veronica had met with one of her friends or something like that. But my mother got an image inside her head. She thought that she was in trouble and we had to help her. Maybe these abilities do work, after all. In the next few hours, we found her. To be honest, I can’t talk about how we found her. Even if I could, I wouldn’t. We rushed her to the hospital. She was still breathing, but the doctors said that we shouldn’t have any high hopes. We visited the hospital a couple times, but she was unconscious the whole time. On the fourth day, she passed away.

My father is an incredibly wise man; he knows that you can’t make life-changing decisions in these times. We waited. When the grief was “over” —although a whole life wouldn’t be enough to say goodbye to my sister—my father started to make moves.There were four families in New York at that time. The Garcias had come to the States in the mid 70s from Spain. They quickly took over by selling military-grade weapons to thugs. The Rodriguez family, they came from Venezuela, and they were ruthless. The Perez family from Mexico, but the head of that family became a pacifist after his brother died. And us. My father thought that the Garcia family had done it, because they couldn’t have a child, owing to Mrs. Garcia’s barrenness. The problem was that the Garcias had admitted to everything so far, but not to this. There was one thing my father couldn’t handle, and that was when somebody lied to him. He had no toleration for that. So he called a meeting with the other family to see whether they were telling the truth.

(The story, a work in progress, continues from here.)