Part 3: "Real Estate, baby"
Marco, Luca and Antonio sat up all night in the living room drinking coffee and smoking hand-rolled cigarettes. Every few hours one of the brothers would become angry, violently so, and wake Adriana, who was carrying Luca's child. They would return to quietly plotting their revenge before tempers would flare and they would rouse her from bed again.
In the morning, Antonio went directly to Mr. R's office while the other two brothers began work on their current project. When he arrived, Mr. R. let him in, but had one of the large men who had beaten him the day before stay in the room.
"Well, what can I do for you?" asked Mr. R., no anger, guilt or emotion of any kind in his cool voice.
"I would like to invite you to my home. For dinner. Both of my brothers would as well. To show how grateful we are to work with you."
Mr. R. was quiet and looked down at his desk. He stood up, paced a slow circle around his office and looked out the window to the sidewalk far below. It was clear that he was not in a hurry and didn't mind making people wait. Secretly Antonio's blood boiled, but he kept calm, his hands folded neatly on his knees.
"I am sorry, I cannot. I do not mix my business with outside interests, no matter what. Please do not take this as an offense. Besides, I have business to attend to this evening." Despite his persona and posturing, his greed and contempt for anyone who stood in his way, Mr. R.'s traditional Italian values took hold of him in that moment. The large man who stood in the office had never heard Mr. R. express that he gave a damn whether someone took offense or not.
"I understand," said Antonio. "I only wanted to show that we are grateful."
Mr. R. nodded and closed his eyes briefly before opening them again and staring directly at Antonio.
"Thank you for your time. I will meet my brothers on the site. There is a lot of work to do there today. We will likely be late anyway."
"Excellent idea," said Mr. R.
Antonio left his office without a handshake, as Mr. R. did not get up from his desk.
The brothers did indeed work late at the job site, remaining there until the sun went down, working the open area of the building that could be seen from the street. Everyone on the crew saw them. Once the sun went down, they sat at a nearby tavern drinking cheap beer and watching the clock.
At 12am on the dot, the brothers made their way to Mr. R.'s home on foot. Until that afternoon when Luca had gone to visit the grocer who had set them up with the warehouse, it had been a tightly guarded secret where Mr. R. lived. Of course the grocer knew, as he delivered directly to the man.
$1,000, more than the man took home in six months, was enough to get it without having to get rough. As they approached his home, Luca and Marco stayed back, waiting around the side of the building. Just like they'd hoped, the big man from the day before, the one who seemed to enjoy beating Antonio, was stationed outside. When he saw Antonio and his bruised face, the man let down his guard and smiled.
"Oh look, it's you. The boss said he doesn't want any of your peasant food."
As he finished that sentence, Antonio pulled a cement trowel from behind his back and struck the man extremely hard in the temple. He crumbled and blood poured from his head. When the brothers came around the corner, they moved the big man's lifeless body into the courtyard, Marco dropping his coat on the sidewalk to cover the blood as they went.
Antonio fished the keys to the residence out of the man's pocket and the brothers quietly entered. To their surprise, Mr. R. was sitting there, right in the open, on the toilet less than 50-feet away, his suit pants around his ankles. He hadn't even bothered to close the door.
Though he tried to lock himself in, Luca, the biggest of the three, was able to keep him from getting the door closed. They shoved him into the living room, pants still around his ankles, and stood over his body on the floor.
Over the next twelve hours, the brothers did things they never thought they would do. Covered in burns, bloody and with a blackened face, Mr. R. agreed to sign over his properties to the boys, much the same way they'd been signed over to him by various blackmailed, bullied and beaten owners. By three o' clock the next day, the brothers owned 27 properties all over the city, though Mr. R. was technically still a 49% owner in the company according to the papers.
With no heirs though, there was nobody to claim his share when Mr. R. went missing. Had they bothered to check the bottom of the Hudson River, they might have found his body and seen signs of foul play. With his reputation in town though, not even the cops cared that he'd disappeared.
Over the next 20 years, the brothers continued to build and grow, mostly in a legitimate fashion. They threatened, bullied and paid people off, but were they any worse than other tycoons of the era? By the time Luca's son was old enough to learn about the family business, his last name was one everybody in the city knew. You could hardly go a block anywhere in the city without seeing the name Cavani on a building site or piece of real estate.
Though he was the oldest, he also had siblings with which to share the wealth and reputation his family had built. My story, as well as the story of my siblings and the current generation, is significantly different from my father's...we left the US and went back to Italy, we went back home...but with their DNA running through our veins.