Authors: Sienna Mynx
Harmony smiled. “Sure am, it’s late. Best be getting to my side of town before the sun catches me. You understand.”
The agreement was you stay.” Romano closed the door. He sipped something dark from a glass. She thought she heard a glass shatter against a wall down below. Did he go around breaking glasses for sport? She could smell its potency from across the room. Harmony dropped her hands to her hips. She had managed to put her dress on. It remained unzipped.
You hear anything on my brother? Any news?”
Nothing new. Kid’s either lost or dead.”
Harmony’s smile dipped. She never considered for a moment that Willie could be dead. Romano’s hard edge seemed to soften over her state. “I’m only saying that he’s not easy to find. We don’t know anything yet.”
Harmony nodded. “Right. Like I said. I best be on my way.” Now that Romano thinks Willie is tied to his missing hooch he was no longer an ally. This she knew as plain as she knew the nose on her face.
Harmony grimaced, but kept her expression free of the tension building inside of her. Suddenly she wanted distance. No. She needed distance from this man and what they shared. She tried to run up her zipper and stopped. “I’d rather not. I… sun will be up soon. I need to get home.”
Romano set his glass down. “It’s a long walk back to Harlem.” He stepped to her and took her hand. “I can have a car take you home… after.”
A soft chuckle escaped her. “Sounds tempting. But how would that look? You sending me home in a chauffeured car in broad daylight. I don’t need no trouble.”
You make it hard for a man to be nice Harmony.”
She pulled her hand from his. “You have been nice.” She replied, her voice tight and firm. “You agreed to help me. I’m no fool honey. I know you didn’t do it for my singing.” She cleared her throat. “I also know that you have no intention on flaunting some colored jazz singer around your nice tidy white neighborhood. I’m saying it’s best I leave on my own terms while the leaving is good. The
will have to wait for another time.”
Romano stood silent. She turned and he stepped forward and ran her zipper up. Harmony didn’t figure him for a man to beg. Though she did consider he’d force his will. Instead he withdrew and watched her with a piercing stare. She collected her stockings and garter and wished she had kept her purse. She caught a glimpse of her tussled hair in the mirror and averted her gaze. She’d pull her hat down low on her head. Sugar Hill didn’t sleep at night, but dawn was relatively quiet.
And if I hear anything on your brother?” Romano asked? His gaze tracked her every movement.
Would he stop staring!
It made her nervous as hell, and clumsy.
You can send word to the club. Right?” Harmony headed for the door. When Romano didn’t move from the window she stopped. “Thank you for… everything. Your help, I appreciate it.”
He dismissed her and returned his attention to the window. She couldn’t catch her breath until she was halfway down the stairs. To her dismay the maid waited for her by the door. She held her purse, coat and hat out to her. Harmony accepted them both avoiding the older woman’s eyes. She barely crossed over the threshold before the door slammed behind her. She fast walked down the steps to the street. There was no way she’d catch a cab or anything in this neighborhood. She looked down the sidewalk realizing the walk ahead of her with the sun rising to her back wasn’t quite wise. She really hadn’t thought her exit through.
Mr. Romano wants me to take you back into Harlem. To The Cotton.” A man appeared out of the shadows. Harmony nearly jumped from her skin.
Was he there the entire time?
She stared up at the tall bulky figure. He blew out a long smoky stream from his wide nostrils and then flicked his cigarette to the sidewalk. He stepped on it and squashed the ambers before he headed to the car.
Who are you?”
Name’s Jimmie, ma’am.”
Intentional or not she felt crowded when he stepped from the car toward her. She took a cautious step back.
I work for Romano. This way.” The giant said, a snide smirk to his face.
He held the door open for her to enter. Harmony glanced back over her shoulder and her gaze scaled the three-story brownstone. She could see the silhouette of Romano watching her from the upstairs window. He had to have known she’d make a break for it. That’s why he stood at the window the entire time. He had a man outside waiting for her.
Guess he wanted me gone too, figures, he got what he wanted.
Though what they shared would never be spoken between them again, the effects of his touch still made her doubtful to dismiss the memory. He stepped away from the window and was gone.
She turned and met the stare of her escort.
We leaving or what?” The man asked.
Harmony straightened her back. She needed to get the hell away from these men and home quick. God help her, where was her brother?
The sun bled warmth and slanted slivers of light over his face. It was dawn. The sounds of the chapel bell reminded him of the hour. Two weeks in the cobblestone walled in cellar, sleeping on a cloth cot Father Michaels gave him had been a new form of torture. Slowly he sat up, placing his bare feet down on the cold slab of concrete. He dropped his head in his hands. Even the light from the single window above didn’t chase away enough of the grey. Shadows covered him. A cool empty feeling had settled in his hell and left him without hope. He didn’t want to die. To live he’d have to survive this nightmare. At night he had the run of the sanctuary, but in the day he had to remain quiet and wait.
The sound of the heavy door being forced open didn’t surprise him. Willie didn’t bother to look up.
I brought you breakfast.” Came the familiar grunt from his visitor. “And a bottle of hooch to pass the time.”
Willie chuckled deep in his throat. He was only a month shy of his eighteenth birthday but he’d been drinking hooch with Lewis since he was twelve. Mony didn’t know. Grams suspected but never said. Now the mere idea of drinking any of the whiskey made his chest tight with anger.
How long?” His head lifted from his palms and he narrowed his glare. “You said things would be resolved now. When is it done?”
It’s done when it’s done Will. You know how this ends. Now eat. I’ll stay awhile…”
Willie tensed at the offer. “You staying?”
His visitor smirked. “For awhile.”
The last of his favorite imported scotch dripped on his tongue. He groaned and dropped the bottle to the side table. He’d finished it off in the parlor listening to Bessie Smith. She was okay, but she wasn’t his Harmony.
Romano had avoided his bed since she left. He had Mabel change the sheets and clean out any remnants of the night, and still the soft sweet smell of her lingered. Damn, he wasn’t lying when he said she smelled like a rose. He could have forced her to stay. It was his right dammit. She came up here tempting him, seeking favors, knowing her brother was tied to his missing product. He’d been the bastard that would have, many times before. But something was different about her and him when they were together. Alone he had to admit the reasons and understand the guilt that trapped him in loneliness. Annie was enough. No dame was worth the trouble.
Everyone said you were bad. But I didn’t believe them. Teek didn’t believe them. Now look at what you’ve done.” Annie wept.
Romano dropped his head in his hands and prayed she went for the door. She’d packed and left him. He hadn’t seen her since he had to tell her and her mother Teek was dead. But his grief made him foolish enough to attend the funeral. And one look at Annie and he succumbed to the old familiar self-loathing. Nothing in life ever came to him easily. Not even the exile his father cast upon him, or the burden he carried for his dead mother and the little brother who wanted to be like him. Why should the end of them be any less tragic?
Answer me Vinnie! He loved you, he and Antonio both, they worship you and look what happened. He was my brother damn you! My only brother! What did we ever do to deserve this?”
Ann-nie. I never meant for it to happen. Never.” He lifted his head and pleaded with his weary gaze for her to just leave him to his misery.
She leveled an accusatory finger at him. Her eyes were red and swollen from a day’s worth of tears, her hair, a tangled knotty mess of curls. It hurt to look at her so he averted his gaze. “I put up with your drinking, your meanness, and the violence. Vincenzio Romano, the leader of the Black Hand has half of the Bronx terrified and the other half out for revenge. And here I am thinking I know better. I was wrong. It’s in you, the evil and meanness is who you are, and like a poison it destroys anyone around you. I put up with it. Do you know why? Because I love you, I have always loved you. Three years and you won’t be seen in public with me, I can’t even get you to marry me when you yourself said we should, and still I loved you. You said nothing would happen to him. You promised to protect us all. But it was a lie wasn’t it Vinnie? All of it a lie. I know the truth.”
He finally met her gaze.
She nodded, her face flushed and tears flowing. “You never gave a damn about his life. I know it’s your fault! You did this!!”
Shut your fucking mouth!!” Romano slammed his fist down repeatedly on the table. The small plotted centerpiece rattled then tipped over. “Vattene! Get the hell out!”
Annie looked on horrified. Romano rose bringing the table up in a flip sending it to the floor with its legs pointed north. He glared with nostrils flared and fists clenched. What did he need with the constant bitching, the constant tears. He had a war on his hands. And she didn’t know the whole story. Antonio had done this, taking the kid out on rides with him. He’d done everything possible to separate them. Hell they even joined separate gangs. The blood and violence of their lives wasn’t all his fault. He warned them both to stay off the streets during the turf wars, but they didn’t listen. Now the kid’s death and his brother’s devastation were on his soul. Couldn’t she see it? He would give his life for them all. How was he to prevent this?
My brother is dead. Dead. And so is my love for you.”
I don’t give a shit…”
She plucked her coat from the back of the chair and grabbed her purse.
Annie, wait, I’m drunk, I didn’t mean it.” He raced after her and grabbed her arm. She’d pushed him too hard, the liquor and grief had him losing control. He didn’t want to lose her too. Touching her had been a mistake. She unleashed on him instantly and struck him so hard he blinked out of awareness for a moment.
May God have pity on your black soul Vincenzio, because the devil won’t. You belong to him now. Stay away from me and Mama! I don’t ever want to see you again!” She ran for the door. Ran from him. He closed his eyes and reigned in the man who would chase after her. Fall to her knees and plead his case. She and her mother had shown him kindness when he arrived in America, destitute. Teek was a kid and followed him everywhere. When Antonio arrived only a few years older than him, they both became his shadow. She was right Teek didn’t belong in his world but he had been selfish, blind to the dangers. It was the nature of who they were. He’d avenge his death but he fucking wouldn’t apologize for it. Even though he knew he’d never be able to wash the blood from his hands.
Romano opened his eyes. He stood in the kitchen alone. He walked over to the table and turned it back over. He grabbed a broom and swept up the shards of glass from the broken pottery and cast away the flowers. He went for his hooch and last cigar. Before he finished his grief for a dead kid of barely eighteen, and a lost girlfriend would be over. Then he’d find Antonio and the rest of his men. They’d hit the streets and teach the Five Points Gang a lesson. Lucky was no friend of his, not any more. He’d make them all pay.
The liquor seared his throat after another swig, and fogged his brain. It was working already.