Awakening the Animal
A short-short crime story - it was fun to write
Rogero is as unaware of the truth as most people are. He is sensitive to any perceived hint of a slur on his sense of dignity (as is true of all Sicilians) and thinks of himself as a good, productive citizen. He is a bookkeeper. Rogero has a cousin, Stefano, but he thinks of him as a predator and evil and he tries to remain unaware of whatever crimes it is his cousin is responsible for. Just like any zoo animal, protected and cared for by his keepers, Rogero cannot see the bars of his cage, but the feral freedom of his cousin leaves him with a sense of unease whenever he meets him at family functions.
That which occurred on this fateful day, Rogero is to consider a curse and act of foolishness for the rest of his life, unless, by some miracle his spirit awakens. He was entering the local coffee shop when he saw his cousin sitting with a couple of his men at a table. He saw a young man coming up behind his cousin and from his manner and style of dressing, he recognised the man as a criminal who is stealthily approaching Stefano for the obvious purpose of murder. Instinctively he called out a warning to Stefano and his cousin took instant action and within seconds the intended murderer was lying on the floor, his soul already departed for other regions of time and space.
Stefano, being a predator by nature and training, has a strong sense of family and it overrides such petty facts as whether he likes or dislikes those who ‘belong’ to him. He knew that Rogero will be in danger from the friends of the man he had killed, so without thinking on it, while he dealt with the disposal of the body before the police can be notified, he kept his cousin by him.
Stefano was not surprised to learn his grandmother Pia already knows of the attempt and that it is his cousin who gave him warning. She asked him what he is doing to keep his cousin safe. He shrugged and replied he has one of his men keep and eye on him.
“You intend shaming us? For how long will you keep a man by his side? A week, a month, before you decide to use the man elsewhere and they kill your cousin Rogero?”
“What else can I do for him? Am I expected to make him a man so that they fear him?”
“Yes. First you show everyone he is now one of your men and then you give him a reputation so that he is left alone. You must also train him so that he can defend himself.”
Grandmama Pia knew she is asking the impossible of him, but Stefano would never dream of disobeying her, so he had his cousin taken to a farm where one of his men tried to train him. A couple of weeks later he went to see how the training is coming along.
Emilio shook his head. “There is no fire in him and he resents my efforts to teach him. Stefano, he fears and yet he cannot believe anyone cares enough about him to want to kill him.”
“We must find a way, for grandmama demands it.”
Emilio nodded his understanding and thought about it. “Perhaps we send someone to kill him…and we save him? It may awaken him to the danger he is in.”
Stefano thought about it for a while. “No, he must be armed and he must kill the man.”
He had another distant cousin who works for a movie company send him a pistol with dud bullets and a bag of ‘blood’ for the ‘victim’ to wear over his heart. He did not wish to sacrifice a man by using real bullets - mostly because he did not think Rogero deserves such a sacrifice. It amuses me to think that if I had pointed out to Stefano that no predator keeps pets, he would have seen the truth of it and his contempt for his meek cousin would have grown, but he would have acted no differently.
It was arranged it would happen in a restaurant, so that there are a number of witnesses.
Rogero felt uncomfortable at having to keep a weapon on him, but when the man sent to murder him appeared, holding a knife and looking at him with hate, panic helped him overcome his scruples and he vaguely pointed the barrel at the man and pulled the trigger. He was quickly removed from the vicinity of the bloody body and the body itself was removed so that Rogero could change shirts and leave Sicily for a year or two, to work at the San Francisco office of Stefano.
Stefano does not understand what has happened, but his grandmama does, for blood does remember family and Rogero has changed, reminding her of her youngest brother. Rogero is constantly angry that anyone would dare to want to kill him and with the fire now a raging inferno, his training has done him a lot of good. He resigned his job and informed his cousin he will now be his right-hand man.
The problem is, Stefano still does not like him, but he feels it would not be politic of him to show it.