It Never Snows in Hollywood

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The snowy south side of Chicago, a city section littered with shady money and powerful people. The people were the true heart of this side of the tracks; they shined brighter than the midnight  underground casino lights. At least that was true in their narcissistic minds. They deeply cared for themselves. Any other person was simply a pawn in their plan. Money and power were number one in their ambitions, anything else was nowhere near as important. Loyalty was a common lie. There was a network of who associated themselves with who, but when it came to a man or another, he was not taking blame. I had the absolute pleasure of being engulfed into this life of luxury and glamour long ago and this is my story…

Sweet suburban life- the epitome of the upper middle class. Heavy clouds cast ominous shadows over rows of identical houses. I watched my feet as they scuffed against the concrete. The sidewalks were dark with melted ice, but people were still trying their best to stay off the roads. Lake Michigan was a mass of solid dark gray in the distance. White outlined everything. The world shone brightly bleached and the silvery sun reflected harsh light into my eyes. I squinted in trudged forward.

My driveway looked like the one next to it… and every other one on my street for that matter. I swiftly entered my home, opening and closing the door in a quiet and quick motion. Inside it was silent, just the way I liked it. I flung my backpack onto the kitchen table and drifted to the bookshelf. Skinny cases of records lined up before my eyes, packed tightly against one another. Scanning the covers quickly, I thumbed through until I found one that sparked my gaze. Al Jolson looked right back at me. The record crackled as “California, Here I Come” rang through my living room. I closed my eyes and let my feet carry me gracefully over the burgundy, patterned rug. My conscious melted as I let the music fill every space in my mind. I floated, feeling the warm California sun kiss my skin. The world behind my eyelids was painted with color, so much color. I was happy, at peace, where I belonged. 

The door shut, my eyes opened. No more California sun, only my mother. She stood in the doorway, her arms overflowing with bags of groceries. 

My heart was racing with shock, “Vincent, darling, will you help me out?” I rushed over to her and she dropped some bags into my shaking arms. She set her groceries down and unlatched the refrigerator. I held on to mine, wide eyed and waiting. “The milk’s getting warm, honey. It was a long walk home,” she scolded lovingly. I looked out the side window, the car was not in the driveway. 

Putting away my groceries, I asked, “Where’s the car?”

“Milton took it out.” I was suspicious, “He had football practice tonight.”

Yeah sure, I thought and continued on without a word. My mother had let my brother take advantage of her all our lives. He was an absolute train wreck. Needless to say, he was the life of the party. The kind of kid who never spent a night at home and his grades were lower than the pit of debt he was digging for our family. His future was as bright as the burned out lamp on the table by the front door. Milton was my father’s favorite son, the first born who looked like his clone. Copy and paste his olive Italian skin, dark hair, and those shining dark eyes. The color of glossy California redwood tree bark. The two of us looked like night and day; I take after my mother. Pasty skin, tall, skinny, thick blond hair, and blue eyes. I could lay in the snow and be completely washed out, no one would find me again. I was a grain of sugar in the perfectly peppered Cappelletti bloodline. 

“When will Milton and Father get home?” I walked into the living room where my mom sat curled up on the couch, her nose in a book. The sun had set and dinner was cleaned up.

“Soon, don’t worry.” She fixed her gaze back to the pages. The fireplace crackled and cast eerie shadows dancing across the walls. I sat at the wooden piano against the front window and closed my eyes. Softly, notes drifted through the air combining into elegant ballad that I made up as I went. The piano was my safe house, music was my escape. I no longer sat in a snowy suburban, cookie cutter home, in Chesterton, Indiana. The music took me to a manor with marble floors, where the ceilings touched the clouds, and aristocratic people glided mindlessly to the sound. I squinted my already closed eyes. Headlights were obnoxiously shining through the window ahead. They were home.

Voices rang and car doors slammed as my father and brother tumbled out of the front seats. Milton opened the back door, I focused even closer on the scene. My grandparents got out. They were ancient people, no less than one sneeze from withering away into the chilly wind. Nonetheless, they had money. My father’s side of the family always lived very comfortably and  my grandparents were no exception. Nonni and Papa were always well dressed. My Nonni wore a gray dress that brushed past her knees and a thick black coat with dark fur around the neck. Her hair was dark gray and curled upward at chin length. The red lipstick that she always wore helped to bring her wrinkled face to life, like a fire in a forest full of dull glamour. My Papa was and will forever be a gentleman, he was quiet and stern. Come to think of it, he was a lot like me. He sported a light gray wool suit and a black top hat. Pieces of his black hair stuck out from the back. Papa kept his hair greased back everyday and one could easily see his prominent silver streaks when he did not have a hat on. The most miraculous thing about him was his mustache. It sat thickly atop his upper lip, curled on each end, in all of its glory. 

I stood up from the piano bench and waited for them to walk in. They were making their way to the front door when it burst open.

“Vinnie!” My Nonni exclaimed, planting a big red kiss mark on my forehead. She shook off her coat and threw it in my arms.  I felt the weight push my body down. They all walked straight to the living room and sat down among the couch and chairs. 

My father gestured towards the piano, “Play us a song, son!” I felt my face grow warm with embarrassment, it was probably a brilliant shade of pink. Although I was uncomfortable, I did what he said and took a seat at the bench. My fingers prepared as I felt five pairs of eyes burn into the back of my neck. I began to play, fearfully but flawlessly. My family’s voices rose above the music, as time passed and they got bored. That was my time to shine; I turned my skills up to one hundred. Hitting every note perfectly, but not any louder than it needed to be. That was almost silent. No one spoke to me, they were busy listening to what Milton had to say. Probably something about a fling he had with the hottest cheerleader or how many calories he ate for lunch. Almost instantly, the mood changed; my family was quiet.

“Vincent,” My papa’s voice boomed behind me, I turned around. He looked me dead in the eyes, “There is something we have been meaning to tell you for a while now.”

“Yes sir?” I took a quick glance around at everyone in the room. They had a different expression on their face. My mother was fearful, almost as pale as the white dress she was wearing. Milton was just as confused as I was. My father’s face lit up with some mix of excitement and ambition, something I had never seen before. Nonni was blank, looking as though her mind was not a part of what was happening before her eyes.

Papa continued, “Have you heard of the mafia, boy?” I knew where this was going, of course I had heard of the mafia. Who else is headlining every article of news, wreaking havoc across the East United States? 

“Yes sir.” I answered with enough intrigue in my voice to attempt and mask my profound anxiety. The conversation was building fast and in a direction where I had little experience. Still, I let it progress because my interest was peaked. 

Lighting a cigar, papa proceeded, “Well, our family has quite the rank and we feel that you are mature enough to handle the responsibility of carrying on the great Cappelletti legacy.” His eye contact was strictly on me.

Milton chimed in from the side, “What about me?”

“Hush, you are not fit for such a life. That’s where you come in.” He focused back on me, 

“Vincent, your first line of business will probably be the hardest, but it will prove your undying loyalty.”

I was confused and my heartbeat quickened with every passing second. “What, sir?”

“You are going to have to dispose of Milton. He is a danger to our business and already knows far too much.” My mother gasped through her tears and jolted forward. My father pulled her back to the couch. My blood ran cold. “If you go through with your task, you will be given a high position and a chance to carry on the Cappelletti name with pride. Not to mention, you will receive a sum of 500 thousand dollars.”

I only heard the muffled tears of my mother sobbing into the sleeve my father’s favorite coat , but he did not seem to care. Father sat stone faced, I could see the flames in the fireplace reflecting in his deep brown eyes. Before I could even think, my brother took one last glance around the family and shot up. He ran at the door.

Papa pulled a handgun from his coat. “Get that boy!” He threw the gun at me. I did not have time to think. Without even aiming I pulled the trigger. Milton fell; he had not even reached the front door. I felt my throat close up, and turned to smash my hands into the piano keys. My brother was dead, dead at my hand. That was the first time I had ever shot a gun.

 

(A Year Later)

 

I sat before a council. The only light in  the room was a single candelabra in the center of a seemingly endless, glossy, wooden table and the spark at the end of my cigarette. My papa sat to my right and father on the left. The eyes of twenty or some mobsters stared back at me. The tension in the air was thicker than the snow falling outside. I lived in the city now, basically running all of Chicago. Chesterton, Indiana was a chapter of my past. My father says I have changed, but I feel tied to that shy schoolboy I once was. My piano skills were far from lacking and I had taken every record I owned with me when I left the family home.

“I do believe you all know why I called this meeting.” I finally spoke. Some men nodded in the crowd. “We must move. People are getting suspicious and we can’t risk losing any men.” The council understood, their families understood. “Get your things packed. We leave for California in two days.”

Back home, I packed my records into boxes. Suits piled my floors, neatly stacked in large numbers. My little gray and white kitten curled up and slept in between two stacks on my couch. A small fire danced in the white marble fireplace. I waltzed over to the record player. “California, Here I Come” sat perfectly in place, I flicked it on. My kitten’s head jolted up.

“It’s okay, Pearl.” I cooed, her eyes widened with curiosity. She stood up, poking her tiny pink nose in the air. She twisted in between my feet as I danced through the living room. The sun set and snow piled high on the windowsill.  

The silver sun of tomorrow came in the blink of an eye. I threw my bed sheets to the side and Pearl jumped out from the space beside me. Together we pranced to the kitchen. I poured some fresh water into a saucer and set it on the floor. I poured myself a glass of whiskey and downed it swiftly. A car pulled up in front of my house; I grabbed my things and left without a second thought. The plane ride was brief, but exciting.

California was beautiful. I stepped off the plane, Pearl in my arms, drinking it all in. No more snow, just rolling hills and tall buildings. How green, how splendid, how new! Ocean waves licked the distant shore; the air was dry and the sun was hot. I glanced at Papa and Father next to me. They had no expression. Before I knew it, I was being pulled into another car.

The driver dropped me at a new home, my new home. I hauled my stuff from the trunk and through the door. The whole back of my house was a window. I could watch the cars backed up on the streets below. I could feel the warm sun penetrate the glass. A mountain across from me was printed with bold, white words, “Hollywoodland.”  On a small table beside the couch my telephone rang. I picked it off the stand.

“Hello?” I listened closely to the other line.

The voice of a man spoke. It was rough and deep, he sounded as though he had been smoking since he was thirteen. “Is this Vincent Cappelletti?”

Reluctantly I answered, “Yes, this is him.”

“Perfect, you are to meet me tonight I have a housewarming gift for you. A car will be here to pick you up at 10:00 p.m.”

The phone beeped, as the other line hung up. I was confused, but unable to be afraid. Perhaps this man was a part of my group. Father had more connections than I could imagine. Suddenly, I heard a knock at the door. 

“Pearl! Vinnie!” My buddy cried. 

Eugene Bianco was a family friend. He was born and raised in Chicago. I had become very close to the boy in the last year. Eugene was like an older brother to me. I was nineteen and he was twenty, decked out in a solid black suit. His fashion was a close competitor to mine. He was blessed with dark curly hair and the most perfect teeth that I had ever seen. His eyes were as green as the endless California hills. The ladies were all over him, but he had a girlfriend. He and Scarlett were getting married in the fall. The mob called him Prince Charming.

I shook his hand. “Long time no see, Prince.” He flashed that camera smile and bent over to scoop up pearl. I lead him to my living room and we took a seat across from one another. 

Pearl fell asleep on his lap; he stroked her ears gently and glimpsed around. “It’s quite the place you’ve got. I guess it pays off to be top dog?” He was not jealous, but genuinely happy for my success. 

“Thanks man, I’m sure you have quite the house too.”

“Scarlett and I scored a big apartment downtown. It is far quieter up here, though.” He guestered out the window. 

“Well, you can’t take the city boy from the city. Can’t you?” I joked

Eugene shook his head, “Absolutely not.” another knock came from the door. I got up, Eugene followed.

“Eugene Ricco Bianco! You better get your butt out here pronto!” The two of us were peeking out the curtains by the front door. Scarlett stood in front of her shiny, red, Cadillac convertible. Her curly black hair was tied up in a white scarf; she sported a red dress with matching lipstick. 

“Sorry Vincent, duty calls.” and just like that he left. 

As much as I enjoyed his company, I loved to be alone the most. I unpacked for a good while before another knock shook my door. At this point, it was getting to be annoying.

I walked out and remembered that I had an event tonight. Life was getting overwhelming and it had not even been a day. The car ride was smooth and I could feel myself descending from the hills to the downtown city. It was not difficult to see, everything was lit up. The car dropped me off at a curb in front of a building with black windows. I do not know what I was expecting, but this was very routine. I opened the door. A big man stood at the end of a hallway, guarding a door. His bald head shone in the warm yellow light that flooded down from overhead.

“Name?” He had a deep voice, but not the one I had heard over the phone.

“Cappelletti… Vincent.” I answered as formally as I could. He nodded and opened the door. My lungs were stinging with the heavy cigar smoke lingering in the building. Men gathered at tables playing poker, speaking loudly.

I felt a tap on my shoulder “Follow me, sir.” It was the voice from the phone call. The man was older than I was, probably mid fifties. His hair was beginning to gray. From behind, I could tell he was strong. His shoulders were broad. “The Big Man would like to see you,” He spoke. I did not recognize someone with that nickname. This man was not from my mob. The man with the deep voice lead me over to a bar in the back corner of the room. The only person there was a dainty woman. She looked to be about thirty years old, but wise beyond her years. Her brown eyes looked into the distance, they were full of secrets. Her green beaded dress dazzled when it caught the light and her dark, sleek, hair brushed her chin as she turned to face me.

She set down her crystal glass, “Hello Vincent, it’s so nice to finally meet you.” I had no clue who this woman was, but she apparently was “The Big Man”.

I kissed her hand out of respect, “May I ask you what your name is?” I held myself with as much polite grace as I could.

Her lips curled into a smile, “My name is Evelyn Nicastro.” I definitely did not know this lady. “I have quite the news for you.” Now she had peaked my interest. “Please take a seat.”

I did as she said and sat down, “What’s the news, Ms. Nicastro?”

“Your grandfather, Roger Cappelletti, is dead.” She sounded cold as ice. “Your Father, Luther Cappelletti, dead as well.”

I was immensely perplexed, “Dead? I saw them this morning. There is no way.”

“The car that was taking them to their houses was in a tragic accident. There were no survivors.” She frowned at me, almost sarcastically. “But some of my men happened to know your family and retrieved their plans from their spot of safekeeping.” Evelyn reached under the bar and unrolled massive pieces of paper. Blueprints to be exact. I scanned over the blueprints.

Looking back at Evelyn I was astonished, “Commercial hotels, with casinos inside… brilliant.” I mumbled. 

She slid me a drink, “Though they may be gone, the two of us have full control over these plans.” I was intrigued. “With your crazy sum of inheritance, these plans don’t have to be plans anymore. You pay me and I find men to build these commercial casino hotels and we run them as a team, but will split the profit sixty, forty. You deserve some sympathy. It’s been a long day, Mr. Cappelletti.”

Without thinking, I took the blueprints and went on a mad dash out the door. “Not so fast young man!” I heard a voice from behind me yell, as the sound of sprinting footsteps chased me down the street. I was lifted off the ground by my coat collar and dragged back into the building.

Evelyn’s eyes glittered, as she laughed, “Darling, we are in this together or not at all. Call me before this time tomorrow when your mind’s made up, and I will take these with me.” She reached for the blueprints. I had given up my side of the fight, it was a losing battle anyway. I gave Evelyn the papers and left. A car waiting by the curb drove me home.

Upon my arrival back home, I was greeted with a green letter pasted to my front door. The front said “Cappelletti” in gorgeous cursive writing. I walked in the door while I read the letter, “Try anything else funny and you are next”, again written in that same cursive. My heart stopped at what I saw next. Pearl’s head, and only her head, sat on my living room floor. Sliced clean off, her sad blue eyes stared at me desperately. I sat down and cried, it had been so long. I forgot the feeling of hot tears rolling down my cheeks. My life was in shambles, I had to follow through with this plan. 

In complete defeat I picked up the phone. “So, you have made your choice?” Evelyn’s mocking voice rang through the other line.

“I’m doing it.” My sobs quickened with anger. I used to never let emotions get in the way of staying professional, but I am not the person that I used to be. Especially now.

From that moment on, Evelyn and I worked on the Cappelletti legacy. We grew richer by the minute and were the most powerful mobsters in the country. I trained all of Eugene’s children in the ways of the world: Phillip, Marshall, Leo, and his only daughter, Pearl. Everyone called me “King Vinnie”. Together all of us spread mafia power to the west coast, even turning Las Vegas into the gambling capital of the world. I was only forty-five by the time my work had been completely fulfilled. Evelyn was even older than I was, but her fire had yet to burn out. Despite how much I profoundly hated her, I handed over my money and power. 

The life of risks and power that I once lived had passed me by. I was not doing what I wanted, living to my full potential. I would not give the day I restarted up for the world. The day I took a little of my money and up and left. Everyone who knew me, knew that my time was over. I moved into an apartment in downtown Hollywood. Vincent Cappelletti became the cool piano teacher with the spunky cat named Prince. That is the person I am now. That is the person I plan to be for the rest of my days. I even occasionally miss the brutal winters of Chesterton and Chicago, but mostly I am happy that it never snows in Hollywood.