As the weeks passed in that glorious October of ‘87, it seemed inevitable that Farran, Angie, and I would be at the Cove most Friday and Saturday nights. Admittedly, I craved the ambiance and excitement.
I was there this Saturday night with my arm in a sling—the result of having tripped on the way to the parking lot the night before.
It seemed to embarrass Farran. “You’ll be cut off by Steve, if he knew. You were drunk.”
“I wasn’t drunk,” I said.
It was true. The two or three drinks I’d usually have never caused me to stagger around, pouring my heart out, or to act impulsively. I was never loud or the life of the party. I consumed just enough to keep me on guard while making my fears and insecurities somewhat bearable.
We were at the table farthest back from the bar. Steve was leaving. Billy had taken over bartending duties, and I was glad I had my drinks already. Billy would not serve me liquor. I was certain if Tully knew Steve did it, he would have fired him. Evidently, Billy didn’t want the guy fired, nor did he want to tell him how to do his job.
“Don’t you quit, man,” I heard him telling Steve once. “Tully’s picky, and if you leave, I’ll get stuck behind that bar 24/7.”
Farran interrupted my thoughts. “You’ll get plenty of attention with that sling.”
Angie smiled, and, almost as if to the sound of trumpets, the Lynx members filed in. No one could miss the grand entrance. The Castel brothers were dapper and dashing in their long coats—Valentin flanked by Nico on the right, Tommy Catalano on the left, and Joey behind him. A brawny male of about six-foot-three walked alongside Joey. His medium brown hair was almost shoulder-length.
Billy seemed well aware of the disturbance. It was like an atmospheric wave.
I could see them all stopping in certain circles, giving out fisted handshakes along with the occasional kiss. It might have been a campaign trail.
“Who’s that really tall guy?” Angie asked.“He’s good looking, too.”
“I haven’t formally met him yet,” Farran replied, “but his name’s Giancarlo.”
“Gianni Bonafacio,” I said. “He’s Tommy’s cousin.”
Farran turned to me. “How do you know that?”
“I was at his house in Bridgeport three years ago. He lives in the South End, around Black Rock—a few blocks from where Tommy lives.”
I had liked that quaint seaside community. Joey mentioned while we were there that Pleasure Beach wasn’t far. A fanciful picture of it came to mind at the time—a lovely place I’d heard about with decades-old buildings and a dance pavilion with glass sides and bell towers, supposedly the largest ballroom in New England. People spent days at the beach and amusement park and nights dancing in the pavilion. That was back in the fifties.
In my mind now was a chillingly different picture, one I didn’t want to think about.
Farran was still talking to me. “You were at his house?”
“He just came home from Beirut and was having a bachelor party for some Marine buddy,” I said. “Joey just went there to bring him a camcorder, and I tagged along.”
“So he’s a Marine. Wow.” Moments later, she was off on a tangent with, “Valentin hates the nickname Val, you know. That’s why some people call him V. Oh, and I heard he lives in Stamford with Katharine. Nico’s living with his parents, but he’s looking for a place.” She was like this small fountain of tidbits.
“Uh, Nico and Joey are on their way over here,” Angie warned.
When the two reached our table, Joey explained about my arm before I could open my mouth.
“Sorry to hear,” Nico said. His smile astounded me.
“How long have you known Joe?” Angie asked him.
“Hush,” Joey said with a finger to his lips. “I think there’s been a comment from Angela.” He always teased her that she was quiet.
Nico glanced at her. “What’s that, doll?” The music was loud.
She raised her voice. “How long have you two known each other?”
“Not that long, but he’s become a very good friend and part of the family. You come from good stock.” He shifted his gaze to me, winked, and smiled. Someone called him then, and he excused himself.
Farran was red-faced and smiling. “Oh, fess up, Dani. If Nico wanted to, wouldn’t you? Or are you too much of a little girl for him?” She laughed. “Hey, if you don’t wanna give it to ‘im, someone else will.”
It took me a few minutes to recover from these declarations, which I found disturbing on many levels.
Farran didn’t let up. “You’d do it, wouldn’t you, Angie?”
“I have to admit, it would be really hard to resist that guy,” Angie said. “I can respect he’s with Shannon, but something happens to me whenever I see him. I don’t know, I’m getting this huge crush on him.” She giggled.
“See, Angie’s normal,” Farran teased, grinning. “We’re young. We’re not saints. It’s only natural to feel this way.”
“Thank you for defining normal.” I rolled my eyes. “These are experienced men. You have to be careful what you’re asking for.”
She held my gaze with a look of bold defiance. “Maybe I want what I am asking for.” After a moment’s pause, she added, “By the way, Giancarlo is checking you out.”
I shrugged. “Maybe he recognizes me and can’t remember why.”
“He watches you a lot, though. He was in a trance the moment he saw you.”
The arrival of Valentin at our table interrupted this uncomfortable exchange. He asked about my arm, and I downplayed it, not wanting to incur Farran’s wrath.
His eyes scanned our little trio. “How’s school?”
Perhaps Farran took offense to this question, a reminder that we were young, or that it was a polite way of conversing with minors. She appeared stumped.
The liquid courage helped, but I didn’t mind the subject of school. My English teacher had an enthusiasm for literature that matched my own. My classmates seemed to appreciate my talents and often asked me to share my poetry.
“Good,” I replied. “This year’s been great. I really love my English teacher. He rents movies for us to watch in class so we can talk about them, like Wuthering Heights, which is my favorite, and then Nicholas and Alexandra.”
He looked at me. “You like Wuthering Heights?”
I told him I loved the bizarre romance on the Yorkshire Moors, and he said it was a favorite of his. He asked what authors I liked. I rattled off quite a few, and it became apparent we liked many of the same writers. The opportunity to talk with anyone about books delighted me. Most of the people in my everyday world had little, if any, interest in reading. In grade school, my favorite thing had been ordering books. After picking out so many that I liked, it took forever to narrow it down. When the books arrived, the sight of those fresh paperbacks thrilled me. In high school, I couldn’t wait to read the classics that made the other kids groan.
Before I knew it, Valentin’s coat was over his arm, and he was standing there chatting with me about poets—Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley among them. He recommended John Keats.
There was little time to savor that and no time to continue. A song came on: “Dancing on the Ceiling” by Lionel Richie. Shannon entered from the back—perhaps the kitchen or some other part of the building, since she wasn’t wearing a coat. She began dancing and then grabbed Valentin. He had to toss someone his coat. Onlookers backed away to give them room, obviously enthralled by the performance that followed. Shannon and Valentin were good dancers and so good at being sexy with their undulating hips and perfect spins—him, especially.
To say I couldn’t take my eyes off him—well, that was the least of it. I felt this burgeoning desire from the depths of me, like dying embers set alight with a single flame’s fury and resilience. It was mindboggling to me that he triggered this response after those two men and Pleasure Beach. What had those vile creatures unleashed in me? What beast had they awakened? I think I vowed to kill the beast and bury it so deep in the abyss that it would never again rear its ugly head. Part of me did make this promise. The other part embraced an unfolding of life’s inextinguishable flames and the mind’s unspoken bondage.
Angie smiled now, shaking her head. “I wonder what Nico’s thinking.”
Valentin was closer to Shannon when the music began, but Nico was nearby, and he stood alone.
Angie called out to him. “Nico, why aren’t you dancing?”
He looked at her, his eyes glazed, and smiled warmly. “I’m beat, doll … long day.” He glanced at me, treating me to a wink and a smile. After the dance, Shannon went to him and kissed him quite passionately before they went up to the bar.
Farran turned to me. “Uh, thanks a lot for carrying on with Valentin about Wuthering Heights and every other thing.”
I tried to laugh it off. “Should I not talk to him?”
“Dani, when you get on those subjects, you come alive. You get very excited. I can understand that, but it’s like you don’t even know Angie and I are still sitting here. You’re oblivious to anything else going on around you. I mean, I’d like to talk to him, too.”
Valentin didn’t stay long after that. He never did.
We went up to the bar. Farran went to grab a hold of Tommy for some reason, and Angie trailed after her, so I stood alone in front of Billy, feeling nervous. Gianni headed toward Billy with a slow, lazy swagger, moving a step closer to me with every click of his boots.
He asked Billy for a Black Sunday then turned to me, touching my sling. “What happened?” His voice was gentle and soothing. His dimpled chin was sexy.
“It’s a ridiculous story.” I said. “You don’t want to know.”
“I love ridiculous stories.” He was soft-spoken with a velvety voice. “Tell me.”
“I tripped over a broken stop sign.”
He met my gaze fearlessly, and I noticed the color of his eyes—hazel like mine.“You tripped over a broken stop sign. Where do you find broken stop signs you could trip over?”
“Yeah, well, it was only about yea big.” I demonstrated with my hand. “Maybe a foot. And it was dark. I missed it.”
Though he wore a denim jacket adorned with patches, emblems, and embroidery, it was open to reveal a tight black shirt, one that couldn’t hide a well-defined masculine chest and broad shoulders. I imagined anyone would feel safe in his big, strong arms.
I smiled. “You don’t remember me. Or do you?”
“I came to your house in Bridgeport with my brother Joey.”
“Now that you mention it, I do. You were a kid then and now…” He paused briefly, as if studying me a moment. “You’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen.”
“Thanks. Well, do you still live in Bridgeport?”
“I remember there was a lady with you.” I recalled she was Asian and pretty. After introductions, Gianni had invited us to sit and offered sodas, but I have no memory of what we discussed.
“The young lady and I parted ways some time ago.”
Billy handed him the drink.
Gianni put money down on the counter and clasped the glass. He looked at me. “Are you even eighteen yet? Where’s your boyfriend? You must have a boyfriend.”
Billy clenched his teeth.
“I’ll be seventeen soon, and I don’t … have a boyfriend. I’m keeping out of trouble.”
Gianni shook his head and then lifted the glass to salute me.
He had a two-way radio with him, which now transmitted interference. He took it out of his jacket. “Yeah, what is it?”
A loud, muddled voice came through. “We could use you, G, but it’s an NE—your call.”
“Be right there. I do owe you one.”
Gianni put the radio back in his pocket.
“Are you a cop?” I was curious.
“He’s not a cop,” Billy answered for him.
With a nod in my direction, Gianni departed.
“He’s a bodyguard,” Billy said. “I think he wants to be a cop. Just be careful around them. I have my suspicions that Gianni and Valentin are connected to the Hells Angels, and Valentin’s been linked to the Pagans and Warlocks.”
I had to ask. “What are the Pagans and Warlocks?”
“Other motorcycle gangs,” he said. “I’m pretty sure Gianni wears a bulletproof vest at times and carries a gun.”
I don’t know why, but the idea of Gianni in a bulletproof vest, carrying a gun, was exciting to me. I did wonder how good it would feel, him holding me safe in his arms, comforting me, caressing my hair as I buried my head in his chest, holding me closer as I cried on his shoulders, and then cuddling with me in his bed.
All of them were gone within the hour, and I’m sure Billy was glad.
With and without his help, however, I learned a lot about the Lynx.
I could tell much about what was going on in the various romantic situations by the songs people played on the jukebox. Nico would play “In Too Deep” by Genesis more than any other song.
Katharine and Shannon liked to play Whitney Houston’s “You Give Good Love,” because, according to Farran, Valentin and Nico had to be the ultimate lovers. The three of us had fun speculating.
I noticed every little thing about the Lynx—like the way they all used “doll” when addressing females. And they focused on you when you spoke to them. They paid attention, and I liked that.
Tommy was an integral part of the gang—nicknamed Tommy Cat. We learned he was an Air Force paratrooper, honorably discharged. Someone said he had participated in the bombing strikes on Libya. He worked as a delivery driver for an auto parts store and now lived alone in the Bridgeport house. I had never again seen him as drunk as he’d been that first night we reconnected. In fact, he often seemed more sober and grounded than anyone else.
Valentin came across as the most genuine and approachable of the bunch. He was not around as much as the others. All the more reason for Farran to appear spellbound when he was there, and he would remain the god of gods, something of a legend, all-powerful, and then he’d just laugh like crazy because I’m sure even he knew how silly it was. Women fell in love with everything there was to love about him, including his laughter.
Gianni and Nico, on the other hand, had the air of icons who, every so often, consented to grace you with their presence. Nico, however, seemed guarded and a bit less secure than the others, but he had an endearing innocence about him.
Gianni would be in the bar only a few minutes before Farran would say, “Look, he’s staring at you.”
“Just be careful,” she told me another time. “Liz is his girlfriend.”
She pointed her out to me: a pretty, doe-eyed brunette, maybe five-foot-seven, with hair styled in a meticulous bob. I thought she could be a model, considering her boyish, athletic frame and petite bone structure. Her makeup was perfect, her style of dress modest and tasteful, with a designer bag always strapped over her shoulder. She plopped herself into Gianni’s lap whenever I came into view, some kind of animalistic marking of her territory, and she made it a point to be all over him. Farran found this behavior hilarious. Gianni would gently caress Liz as he might do with a pet that belonged to him.
“He is stunned by you,” Farran insisted. “He doesn’t look at anyone else like that, not even Liz. Damn, even when Liz is with him, he can’t take his eyes off you. She is so jealous of you. Not kidding, man, she hates you.”
I didn’t hate Liz, or even dislike her, but I couldn’t understand her perception of me as a rival. I was unable to relate to her jealousy. She was the star of this show, along with the entire Lynx gang. I was an audience member riveted by their adventures, using booze now and then as my popcorn. Getting up on that stage with them wasn’t part of my plan.
Flattered as I was, I would not pursue Gianni while he had a girlfriend, particularly one I had seen in his arms. I would not pursue him at all.
Not that I didn’t want a boyfriend. The thought of having a guy who respected my wishes seemed tangled up with fantasies about these take-charge older men who could easily overpower me. Before Phil and Sergio, I’d known what I wanted, but I now found myself in a position of needing to sort out my confusion. The crushing of one’s will didn’t cease with the conquest. Poison oozed from the wound like some fairy tale curse that corrupted your spirit, making it so vile that you couldn’t know or understand your desires.
I tried not to look at Gianni. It irked me that he had the balls to undress me with his eyes. I could only blush and look away.
Deadly Veils Book One: Shattering Truths was originally published as Deadly Veils: Book One: Provenance of Bondage copyright © October 2015 by Kyrian Lyndon. The revised edition, Deadly Veils: Book One: Shattering Truths was published in December 2016. Cover design by KH Koehler Design.