I was standing at the bar when the door opened. All eyes followed the two men who entered. Everyone knew they were no ordinary men—one being so huge he had to duck to get through the doorway. I followed the stares to see Joey Tiraborelli and his bodyguard, Tommy Taylor, walking toward me. Joey Tiraborelli was Sammy G's sidekick, and also the guy who had brutally beaten Joe while I watched in horror on that long-ago night in Rochester. Tommy Taylor was one of the bodyguards who was with Sammy the night he was murdered.
“Joey!” I gasped. I couldn't imagine what he and Tommy were doing here. I'd heard from friends in Rochester that since Sammy's death, Joey had lost power and was constantly on the run. I'd also heard that he'd gotten heavily into coke and owed money to everyone in town.
With outstretched arms as he approached me, we embraced. Kiss on each cheek.
"What are you doing here?" I asked, realizing the music had stopped playing.
Curious gazes filled the room. Richard stood at the other end of the bar, his expression a cross between suspicion and fear.
"Have some champagne!" I said gaily to ease the tension in the room. I looked at the piano player and said, "Play on.” The music flowed, but the guests still looked uneasy, especially Darlene.
"I heard you were getting married, and I happened to be in town, so I thought I'd surprise you."
"Well, you did. Who told you?"
"I ran into your sister last week," Joey answered.
"You make a beautiful bride, Georgia,” Tommy said.
"Thanks, Tommy, I guess I must think so, too, since I've been the bride three times now." We all laughed.
"So, who's the lucky guy?" Joey said, as his gaze searched the room.
I motioned to Richard. He walked over apprehensively.
Tommy Taylor had a powerful presence. His thick bull-neck and bald head continued to rivet the guests' attention. Taylor lit a cigarette as he watched Richard approach. His paunchy eyes became slits as the smoke billowed over his face, giving Richard the once over. He wasn't impressed.
"Richard, this is Joey Tiraborelli and Tommy Taylor. They're old friends of mine from Rochester."
"Oh... nice to meet you," Richard said, his eyes flicking nervously round the room.
An uncomfortable silence hung in the air. Then, without a hint of a smile, Joey seized Richard's eyes with his own. Holding him hostage with a steely gaze, he said, "You better be good to this girl."
The delivery of his words sent a chill up my spine. My mind flashed back to the after-hours club on Lyell Avenue, when Joe was taught his lesson on how not to treat a lady. Richard got the message. The tension thickened. Tommy broke the ice by putting his arm around me saying, "She's a very special lady, Richard. You’re a lucky guy."
"Thank you, I know that."
"Is there a place we can talk privately, Georgia?" Joey asked, ignoring Richard.
Richard pulled me aside and whispered into my ear, "Who are these guys?"
"Isn't it like, Obvious?"
"Yeah, and it is to everyone else, too. Get rid of them."
I excused myself from Richard, leaving him to entertain our guests. I led Joey up the winding staircase to the bedroom, Tommy in tow. I sat on the bed and looked up at them.
"So what's up?"
"It's getting bad in Rochester, Georgia. Since Sammy G's been gone, there's been practically a murder a week."
"I know, I've been hearing."
"It's a real power struggle, and I'm afraid we're not winning." Tommy nodded to every word.
"It's not my world anymore, Joey."
"It'll always be your world, honey. You can take the girl outta New York, but you can't take New York outta the girl."
"You wanna bet? I've never seen you turn down a bet before, Joey—you want to lay a little down on that one?"
"George, I gotta go on the lam for a while," Joey said. "I need five grand."
"Jesus Christ, Joey, this is my wedding day."
His upper lip curled, stretching tight across his teeth. "You think because you're married to a millionaire now you can forget your old friends? I’ll bet you’ve got more than that in that box down there."
"He's a millionaire, Joey, I'm not."
"I can think of a way to make you one real fast—"
"Come on, Joey, don't kid like that."
He looked at me with stone-cold eyes and said, "I'm not."
"What is this—a fucking shakedown, Joey?" I snapped.
His face relaxed and he smiled. "Of course not, honey. We're friends. Friends helping friends. I'm desperate, George, or I wouldn't ask. If you want to see your old buddy alive five years from now, you'll help me. If you don't, you're giving me my death sentence."
"Don't lay that shit on me, Joey. I'm not giving you a death sentence. You did that yourself a long time ago."
"How many times did I save your ass from that piece of shit you were married to?"
Vivid pictures of Joey Tiraborelli making the sign of the cross on Joe's forehead with his own blood flashed through my mind.
"You didn't save my ass, Joey—Sammy did. And I never asked for the favor. Besides, you guys had your own agenda. Don't try to tell me that was all on my behalf. Now who's forgetting the girl's from New York?"
"If Sammy hadn't become the “Man”, Georgia, you might not even be here to wear that pretty white dress right now—and you goddamn well know it. Who's kidding who here?" he said, getting huffy.
"So what does that have to do with anything?"
"Everything. You owe me, honey."
"I don't owe you shit." I said, getting more agitated by the minute.
How dare he speak to me like this, and on my wedding day. Bad enough that these quite obvious wiseguys had made an uninvited public display of themselves at my wedding, but to demand that I owe them? And to make thinly veiled threats towards my new husband? Here was my old life literally and violently intruding on the new.
"George, come on, honey," Joey pleaded. "For old times' sake—give me the money. I'll pay you back."
"First of all, Joey, I heard you’re into coke pretty heavy now. This money isn’t going to take you to some far-off place for a while until things cool off. If you can manage to get past the tables on your way out, you know damn well it's going up your nose."
"Since you brought it up..." He pulled a vile from his pocket, spooned out some of the white powder, and gestured in my direction.
"No, Joey, I don't touch that shit. If you keep that up, you won't have to worry about the Mob." Tommy declined, too. "If Sammy were still alive, he'd kill you himself," I said, as I watched him snort it up his nose.
"I have to get back to my guests, Joey,” I added, standing up. “After all, this is a wedding."
"What about the money?"
The only way to get rid of him without ruining the entire wedding was to give him some money.
"Joey," I said, "gangsters walk around with five-thousand dollars in their pockets. This is the real world. I'll get you a thousand, but that's as far as I go. For your information—this is coming out of my pocket. I'll have to pay Richard back. I expect you to pay me back someday... one way or another."
We walked back downstairs, and I pulled Richard aside, telling him I needed a thousand dollars. Richard wasn't thrilled, but he didn't question it. I discreetly gave Joey the money.
"Oh, by the way," Joey said, "We heard Jimmy Lamendola's name being paged in the casino. Does Joe know you got married today?"
Darlene was within earshot. Sucking in air, she froze. Almost instantly, her face turned the color of her dress—pale green.
"No, he doesn't, I'm sure it's just a coincidence," I answered, more for Darlene's benefit than mine. "Needless to say, you haven't seen me."
They finished the champagne and left.
Fine beginning to my new life.
Shit. Jimmy was somewhere in the hotel. If it were that easy for Joey Tiraborelli to know where I was, then maybe Jimmy being around was not such a coincidence. I tried to enjoy what was left of the day, but every time the door opened my heart-rate increased.
Finally the last guest left. Richard's father, Andy, still lingered at the bar. Not wanting to be impolite, I walked behind the bar, poured myself a drink and joined him.
The open staircase curled up to a wide, railed landing that looked over the entire suite. Richard occasionally looked down, clearing his throat, a signal to his father that he had overstayed his welcome. Andy didn't take the hint. He continued to pour more vodka into his frequently empty glass.
Andy peered up at me from his clouded dark eyes. He looked like a Mafia kind of guy himself, but too short to intimidate anyone. "Well, young lady,” he said, slurring his words. “You do realize you just married a mama's boy, don't you?”
In his drunken state, he didn't realize how loudly he was speaking. Richard could hear every word. I listened without comment.
"You haven't just married my son, you married his mother, too. That ain't gonna be easy. But if you give me a grandchild I'll make it worth your while. You'll be set for life—whether you stay married to Richard or not."
What? Was this the way the rich lived out their lives? Everything done as a business—sign on the dotted line. I had already signed a prenuptial agreement, giving up my rights to everything I otherwise would have been entitled to. I really didn't care about signing those papers. What bothered me was, I felt as if I were entering a business arrangement—not a marriage. I wasn't marrying Richard for his money. I married him for the promise of the storybook kind of life I never had. I married him to give my daughter the kind of childhood that I did have. I married him because it was probably the sanest thing I had ever done—at least up to that point in my life. He was the light in the dark world to which I had become accustomed. How could this man play with peoples lives as if he were playing monopoly! Well, he can have Park Place and Boardwalk, too—but no way he was getting my soul.
"Andy, Richard and I will have children if, and when, we decide to. I'm not an instrument to bear you a grandchild. The problem with people like you is—money is your God. You think you can buy anything with it—including people. Well, I've got a surprise for you—I can't be bought."
The silence was broken by the sound of drawers slamming from the upstairs bedroom. Richard charged down the stairs looking at us both with a hateful expression in his eyes, a look I had never seen from him before.
"I don't have to listen to any more of this shit,” he barked as he stomped out the door, slamming it behind him.
I glared at my new father-in-law. It was an awkward moment. He rose from the bar stool.
"Well, I guess I stayed too long,” he said as he walked toward the door.
The door was closing behind him when he popped his head back in and said, “Think about it.”
The door closed at the same time my glass smashed against it shattering into a hundred little pieces.
Time to switch to Scotch. I poured a glass, leaving out the water, and sat for another two hours waiting for Richard to return. He never did. I carefully took off my wedding dress, thinking I might have yet another opportunity to wear it again someday. I threw on jeans and a sweater and headed for the coffee shop. As I passed the guard stationed at the front door, I recognized a hint of sympathy in his eyes and looked away. I tried paging Richard again. Still no answer.
After a while I headed back to the honeymoon suite, avoiding eye contact with the guard. When I got to the door, I realized I had forgotten to take the key. The guard must have a key. He did. We walked down the hall toward the room in silence. Our eyes did make contact as he inserted the key and opened the door.
"Not working out, huh?"
"Obviously,” I answered as I closed the door.
After staring at the ceiling for a while, I finally fell asleep. The sound of a door slamming awakened me. Getting up, I looked down from the landing into the living room below. Richard glanced up to see me watching him and began to curse me for losing his forty-thousand dollars.
“I didn't tell you to gamble. What are you blaming me for?”
“You better not side with my father against my mother!”
“Richard, what are you talking about? I didn’t say anything against your mother!”
After about fifteen minutes of senseless arguing, he went to sleep—on the couch.
I slept alone on my wedding night.