The September Chosen Writer is Joseph Rubas
Please feel free to email Joseph firstname.lastname@example.org
THE RETURN OF FRANKIE MARAZANO
Bobby Leoni, boss of the Los Angeles Crime Family, couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong.
Since the former boss, Frankie Marazano, died and he took over, Bobby had been having vivid nightmares in which Marazano tried to get in through the bedroom window, his face blue and bloated, his eyes shining catlike yellow.
Just a dream.
Bobby Leoni opened his eyes and sat up, his mind muddled.
Frankie raised one hand and scratched at the pane. Bobby couldn’t see his nails clearly, but he knew that they were long, sharp.
“Open the window…”
Impossibly, Bobby felt himself standing. “No.”
Frankie was clawing at the pane with both hands now, visibly excited. Bobby fought against the invisible force compelling him across the room, but it was too strong. He tried to scream, but his vocal cords were frozen.
He reached out and unlatched the window, his arm moving of its own violation. Frankie, panting like a dog, reached in, grabbed him by the cheeks, and brought him closer.
Bobby closed his eyes.
And the world went back.
When he woke that morning, his head ached and his stomach rolled. He tried to sit up, but fell back against the pillow. He rubbed his temple and moaned softly. He rolled over and tried to fall back asleep, but couldn’t; something deep in the back of his mind niggled him. Sighing, he sat up, and the world spun around him. When the room was steady, he stood on watery legs and nearly fell; he caught himself on the nightstand, knocking his water glass onto the carpet.
What’s wrong with me?It couldn’t be; it was just a dream.
For a moment he stayed where he was, hunched beside the bed. When he was confident he had the energy to make it to the bathroom, he let go of the nightstand and crossed the room. Switching the bathroom light on, he stepped in and closed the door. He stripped, climbed into the shower, and turned the water as hot as he could stand. A half an hour later, he got out and forced himself to look in the mirror. His face was ashen, haggard. He turned right, left…then stopped.
Two pink puncture wounds marred his throat.
Something like horror swept through him.
It wasn’t a dream.
Frankie had really come back.
All that morning, Bobby sat in his study and smoked cigars, so lost in thought that several times he didn’t stop puffing until the cherry burned his fingers. At one point, one of his bodyguards came in to say that Don Dessoye, one of his captains, was on the phone. Bobby waved him off, but ten minutes later he was back.
“Tony’s gone,” Don said when Bobby finally answered. “That’s another captain lost.”
“Gone? You mean he’s dead?”
“Yeah. And guess what…his body disappeared from the morgue this morning.”
Then Bobby understood. Frankie had come back to Tony, too. “Let the cops deal with it,” he said, his lips numb. Don started to protest, but Bobby cut him off. “We’ll talk later.”
He hung up, and sat for a long time in silence.
Obviously Frankie wanted him, Bobby, personally. Didn’t vampires attack their families first?
If that was the case, he had to kill him. Only not with bullets.
He dialed a number and spoke.
An hour and a half later, Bobby Leoni pulled into the sprawling cemetery overlooking the ocean. It was a gray, dreary afternoon, and spurts of rain occasionally fell from the sky.
Parking behind a black Lincoln, he got out, pulled his coat closed at the throat, and started through the maze of headstones. Frankie’s crypt, a tall marble structure with a vaulted roof, sat in a grove of wavering trees. Approaching, Bobby saw Don Dessoye resting against a gravestone. Tommy Gotti was standing with his back to Bobby, his hands on his hips. When Don saw him coming, he stood up and said something to Tommy; Tommy turned.
“Hey, boss!” he greeted, lifting a hand.
“Did you bring what I asked you to?”
“Yeah.” He grabbed a black duffle bag. “What is this about? We hunting vampires?”
Bobby didn’t smile. Taking the bag, he slung it over his shoulder. “You don’t ask me questions, you hear me? You just do what I say.”
Don and Tommy looked at each other.
Without another word, he turned and walked over to the door leading into Frankie’s crypt. Don and Tommy jogged to catch up.
“I’m gonna take care of it,” Bobby said, opening the door, “but you guys have my back.”
He unshouldered the bag, unzipped it, and pulled out two crucifixes, handing one to Don and the other to Tommy. They exchanged another glance, and Bobby knew they thought he was crazy.
From the door, a brief set of stone steps led to an open space dominated by a massive stone sarcophagus. Murky daylight filtered through barred windows near the ceiling, lending the scene a gothic quality.
“Be ready,” Bobby said.
He went over to the sarcophagus. He tried to push the lid aside, but it was too heavy.
“Donny, come here.”
Don came over and together they pushed it over, stone scraping stone.
“Holy fuck,” Don muttered.
Frankie lay with his hands folded atop his chest. His eyes were closed and his lips parted.
They were crusted with blood. But his face, Bobby saw, was normal, not blue and rotten like it was the night before.
Bastard drank my blood, that’s why.
“You think he’s a vampire?” Tommy asked nervously.
As though he’d heard, Frankie’s eyes flew open and his head turned toward them. Don screamed and jumped back, falling on his ass. Heart racing, Bobby reached into the bag, but suddenly Frankie had his wrist, crushing it.
Tommy stood rigidly by the door, his cross clutched in both hands.
“Move!” Bobby yelled. “Get him off of me!”
Dropping his cross to the floor, Tommy turned tail and ran.
Frankie was smiling. He pulled Bobby closer and sank his fangs into his wrist. Bobby screamed, and punched him in the head.
Don was there then, shoving his crucifix against the side of Frankie’s head. The vampire wailed and fell back, releasing Bobby’s arm. Bobby fell.
Bobby held his wrist to his face. Blood gushed from the wound. He had to end this.
Getting to his feet, he staggered over to the duffle bag and grabbed it. From inside, he took a hammer and a stake; several others clattered to the floor, one spinning away.
Don was holding the cross against Frankie’s face. The vampire shrieked in agony, writhed. Was it Bobby’s imagination, or could he hear his former boss’s flesh sizzling?
“Move!” He shoved Don out of the way.
Frankie’s face was charred and red. He raised the stake and brought it down, stabbing it into the vampire’s chest. He lifted the hammer and dropped it. Frankie’s screams were unearthly now, high-pitched and gurgling. Bobby slammed the hammer into the stake again and again. He realized he was screaming. A primal cry of triumph.
Frankie was limp now, his head lolling to one side.
“Stop! He’s dead!”
That night, after dropping into a deep and dreamless sleep and rising rested and refreshed, Bobby Leoni had Tommy Gotti brought to him.
Sitting at his desk, his arms folded, Bobby listened as Tommy begged for mercy. “I’m sorry, boss, I was scared.”
“I know. So was I.”
Tommy looked subconsciously to Bobby’s bandaged wrist, and then to his own feet. “I—”
Bobby cut him off. “Things will have to be different, of course.”
Tommy looked up, his eyes hopeful, but still filled with doubt. “Like what things?”
Bobby got up and came around the desk. He wrapped his arms around Tommy’s shoulders and bit his neck.
Joseph Rubas is the author of over 200 short stories, several novels, and a number of nonfiction pieces. His work has appeared in All Due Respect; The Storyteller; Blood Moon Rising; Thuglit; Creepy Campfire Stories (For Grownups); Dark Eclipse; Schlock; Manor House, and many others. He currently resides in Florida with his fiancée and their children.