Through the dirty window only a sliver of sunshine pierced the dimly lit hallways of the abandoned apartment building Detective Amato was now using as a hideout. Leading Cassie through the maze of littered corridors, they came to a staircase that went up 4 stories. In the stairwell, they encountered a homeless man sitting on the steps with his dog on his lap. Looking up at her, he smiled a toothless grin which Cassie returned rather nervously. When they reached their floor, there was a young woman standing next to window babbling incoherently. This place scared Cassie but she kept her mouth shut and moved along quietly behind Amato.
In complete silence she followed him until they reached a beige steel door with the number 42 written in worn out brass. It became obvious why Amato chose this place, it was a government housing project. These places were well built to endure the abuse doled out by tenants and the neglect from building managers. If he was ever compromised, this place would give Amato the precious seconds he would need to escape an attempt on his life. The homeless who ran in and out of this place also provided the cover he needed to slip easily in and out of the neighborhood undetected.
Cassie acted as a lookout while Amato unlocked the door with a lock pick set. Recognizing it, she asked, “Hey didn’t I get you that for Christmas ‘09?”
“Yeah, it’s the best set I ever got.” he said smiling as the door swung open. Cassie couldn’t help but smile back because despite the boy in blue routine, deep down, he was still just a hood. If she didn’t hate him so much, this would’ve been a turn on. With his penlight he searched the room for intruders then going over to the tiny coffee table, he took out his lighter and lit a dinner candle left behind by the former tenants. “Home sweet dump!” Amato said laughing as his arms stretched wide open as in presentation mode. “It’s not that bad, at least you have a view of Riverside Cemetery,” she said pointing out the window to the rows of headstones lined up in perfect symmetry on the adjacent hill.
“Yeah, at least the neighbors aren’t that bad, just the dead, the damned and the destitute here.” Sighing, he threw his hat off onto the kitchen counter next to a greasy bag of fast food. Being the hospitable host, he offered her some. At first she refused, but hunger got the best of her. She hadn’t eaten since she left the hospital almost 12 hours ago. Grabbing a ball of warm waxed paper, she unwrapped the mystery sandwich to find a chicken BLT. It wasn’t Caponata or Bruschetta but it would have to do, she was famished. As she tore through the processed food like substance, Amato watched in fascination as Cassie inhaled her sandwich. Handing her a soda, he asked, “Hungry?” Nodding her head, Cassie barely looked up from her sandwich as she finished her last bite. When she was done she grabbed the soda and guzzled it down.
Bringing over the candle to the kitchen counter, Amato illuminated several cockroaches on the wall causing Cassie to jump off her chair running right smack into Amato. Hiding her face in his chest, Amato grabbed a newspaper from the counter, rolled it up and vanquished the vermin. When it was all over, Cassie embarrassed, tried to break away but Amato held on to her. “Cassie why are you here?” he asked. “I thought you might need help,” she answered.
“This isn’t your fight anymore, I got this,” he said rather softly.
That’s what her dad said to her mother when she pled with him not to go with the Cosimos that fateful night. “They all say that and they all die” Cassie said angrily.
“What? I’m not going anywhere.” He said defiantly.
“Swear it,” she demanded.
He let out a nervous laugh and said, “You’re crazy.”
“And you’re patronizing.” She responded. “I know what’s at stake, I know more than you think. I’ve been around these people all my life, they won’t stop until you’re dead.”
“Cassie just go home.” He said nearly begging.
“I don’t know, start over.” Grabbing one of her blonde curls, he said, “I hear Miami’s nice, I can call one of my…”
“To hell with you! I’m not running!” She yelled, breaking his embrace.
Pointing his finger in her face, he yelled back, “The last time you got involved, it cost you 3 months of your life and a bullet permanently lodged in your fuckin’ head!” It was harsh, but he had to do it. She was tough to scare away. He saw the effect of his words when tears welled up in her eyes, which forced him to look away. “God damn’ Cassie, whatya gonna do, hang out here with me in this hole with the bums and junkies?”
“I’m in this!” she said pointing to the bandage on her head, “Just because my brother Dom is dead doesn’t mean this is over.”
It was hard to argue with her, so he relented by offering her a chair next to his and saying, “Welcome Miss Fenetti to Chez Amato’s, where payback’s a bitch.”