Lucinda: Mistress to the Mob
Official website of the in-work novel…..
It was a small, nasty room. The walls were painted an ugly yellowish-green: the finish was ancient and several years of grime had attached to that revolting color, making it look even worse. There were a few spots where the walls were damaged, exposing the framework of the plaster.
In the room was an undersized, metal-framed bed; sheets and covers rumpled. By the door was a petite wooden stand with wash basin and pitcher. Opposite the bed and the door was a small window that looked out onto the street one floor below. Visible through this window was an empty, rusty metal sign framework hanging on the front of the old two-story, flat-roofed yellow-brick building. A single, bare light bulb hung from the ceiling, offering the only electric lighting.
Though the room was old, dirty and unsightly I felt the sense that something important happened here.
In sharp contrast to the room was the dark-haired beauty sitting on the edge of the bed, facing the window. Absolutely stunning, she was out of place amidst the squalor.
The woman looked as if she stepped directly out of some time in the past --- maybe the Roaring Twenties. With perfect dark bobbed hair, stunning blue eyes, faultless facial features, beautiful spaghetti-strapped, black evening gown over a sleek, slender body. A string of pink pearls hung to the middle of her flat belly; a bevy of bracelets dangled over her wrists. She was the complete antithesis of the room.
I marveled at the absurdity of a woman who looked like she had money sitting in the middle of a scummy little room. But, for some reason, it felt like she belonged here.
When she opened her mouth a pleasant, soft yet strong voice confidently spoke.
“Who are you, and what are you doing here?” I asked.
“You will understand later,” she answered. “I came here to tell you a story.”
“You don’t belong in here. I have business to do and frankly I don’t have time for stories; especially not from some homeless bum crashing in abandoned buildings. You’ll be lucky if I let you leave without calling the cops.”
“Do you think I’ve been living in here?”
“It’s how it appears. So go ahead and get out while I’m still being nice about it.”
“Before I leave, let me ask you a question.”
“Alright,” I replied impatiently.
“If I have been living in here, how did I get in?”
“Must’ve come in a back door; I haven’t checked those yet.”
“Go check, if you like,” she answered. “You will find those padlocked from the outside just like the front doors. Besides, how would I live in here for any length of time without food or water?”
“That is a good question….. So what are you, then?”
“I will answer that question while telling you my story, Ned.”
“….How do you know my first name?”
“By the same means I got into this room. Matthew sends his love.”
“Matthew? How do you know about him?”
“He also wants you to tell Judy, Kevin, Amber and Josh.”
“Wait a minute! How do you know about them?”
“You and your wife were shocked and saddened when Matt died all those years ago. The other children know of him, but are still curious. He wants you all to know that he is well and proud of you.”
“There’s no way you could’ve known…”
“…That your firstborn died as an infant? Well, he also says that his quick exit was for yours and Judy’s growth. You have learned much because of it. He says you have kept his memory by holding onto that red outfit. He appreciates your love and memory, but says it is time to let go of the past. You should pass the outfit on to Kevin and Jessica when their baby is born.”
“Whew! That’s a lot to drop on someone out of the blue like that.”
“I just needed your attention.”
“Then let me ask a question,” I started. “Why do you wish to tell me this story?”
“I have chosen to tell you because you are ready to hear it,” she replied. “You have many questions about the purpose of life and what happens in the hereafter.”
“The hereafter? What are you, some sort of religious nut? If so, you can get the hell out of here right now. I don’t care who or what you are.”
“I am far from being a religious nut,” she chuckled. “I, at one time, asked many of the same questions you are asking now. Like, why am I here, what is the point of all of this and what happens to us when we die? Your mind is open for answers, so now is the time for you to hear.”
Realizing she knew things she shouldn’t know, I leaned against the naked window, crossed my arms, and with reservation answered, “Okay. So what’s this story?”
“Let me start by stating that I will be invoking a version of the code of Omerta. Do you understand that?”
“Not totally. Explain, please.”
“The code of Omerta is an old oath taken by the Camorra. The Camorra were mainly based in Naples, Italy and were the forerunners of what we now know as the Mafiosi. The Sicilians borrowed this code from the Camorra,” she explained. “The code of Omerta is most easily described as the Mafia code of silence. Certainly, by telling you my story I am not entirely being silent. However, I am reserving the right to change names or details, as I see fit.”
“Why would you do this?” I wondered.
“There are descendants of some people I will tell you about that may not appreciate stories of their ancestors being told this way,” she reasoned. “There are also those I will talk about who are still in body. I am protecting them, as well.”
“I’m intrigued, so I’ll give you a few minutes.”
A Young Family Arrives In America
You’re not old enough to remember the 1920s, Mr. Johnson. Let me tell you, it was one hell of a party! And I was right in the middle of it. I was one of the millions who were breaking the laws of Prohibition almost daily. Many people drank just because it was illegal: I did what I did because I enjoyed it; at least for a while.
It wasn’t just drinking that characterized my time. We had just endured the long periods known as the Victorian and Edwardian eras. Those were times of a strictly enforced code of specific moralities and restrictions on the lives of the masses.
As the Jazz Age dawned we were collectively fed up, and so began revolutions in attitudes, sexuality and even religion. We rebelled to break free of the establishment’s code.
You think time flies now? Well, things were moving at a very quick pace in that day, too! The age of the automobile was just taking off, as was flight. Radio was quite the rage, which caused news to travel much more quickly. Despite the passage of the Volstead Act, the debate raged between the Wets and the Drys; and that debate was further sparked by the gargantuan rise in organized gangland activities. Violence was more and more common as the decade roared on.
Many have called that period “a revolution in manners and morals.” They are quite correct.
Some of the more famous characters of the day --- people you are probably aware of --- include Babe Ruth, F. Scott Fitzgerald and President Calvin (Silent Cal) Coolidge.
Though I never met him, much of that decade I worked indirectly for one of the most infamous people of the day. I worked in one of the companies headed by a man we affectionately called “The Big Guy.” And you will soon learn your paperwork is correct regarding the history of this building.
Many things, and certainly the times, have changed since then; but people haven’t changed. Humans still have the same feelings, emotions, failings and successes we did: that is one reason my story has value.
Obviously, I wasn’t born as an adult party girl in 1920; I became what I was. It was a journey. If you will allow me, I will take you on this journey.
The 1890s saw a large emigration of people from Italy to America: most, simply looking for the opportunity to find a better life for themselves and their families. Mama and Papa (Antonio and Rosa) were just exactly that; a young couple seeking a better and richer life. It was never specifically discussed while I was growing up; all I knew then, was that they came.
Papa had that stereotypical Sicilian appearance. He was tall, lean and muscular with olive skin, dark eyes and thick, wavy, black hair. Mama, on the other hand, had the appearance of the northern Italians; more like a Spaniard. Mama was not so tall, very thin, with light brown (kind of sandy colored) straight hair, delicate features, milk-white skin and light blue eyes.
During the summer of 1897 that young couple boarded a big white ship and set sail for America. It was while on that voyage I came bounding into their world.
I took some of my features and traits from each of them; as we all do from our parents. I got Papa’s dark hair color and strong, lean body, and a little of his height; five-foot-five was tall for a woman in my day. From Mama I took my straight hair and ivory skin. That combination was the perfect appearance for my era; I was the embodiment of the Flapper, both in appearance and life. Forget Louise Brooks and Clara Bow: I was the real poster girl for the institution of Flapperhood.
I also got Mama’s soft and gentle voice with Papa’s gritty determination and toughness; traits that would serve me well. I got some of Papa’s hot temper, too.
Our little family followed the normal route of immigrants of our time. We got off of the ship, were processed through the normal channels and sent onto the streets of New York to find a life. But since I was only a few days or weeks old I didn’t consciously recall any of that; and it was never discussed when I got older.
The world was a much different place then from what we know today. In 1897 William McKinley was serving his first term as President. The United States was not yet a world power; that would begin with the Spanish-American War of 1898. The Panama Canal didn’t yet exist, automobiles were rare and heavier-than-air flight had not yet been achieved.
Commercial radio did not exist, television had not been invented, and most certainly neither had the internet. Newspapers were really the only means of mass communication.
We were, as I said, in what is now described as the Victorian Age. The general attitude was materialistic prudery. Women were second class citizens and generally treated as property: we had no say whatsoever. However, society was to change in some profound ways. I will speak more on that as I go.
What I do know about where my family fit is that we wound up settling into a small, two-room tenement in the Little Italy section of New York City. We were the lucky ones; many families had to live and sleep on the street. There was just not enough housing for everyone. There were a lot of other recent Italian immigrants there who helped us find housing, learn to navigate our new surroundings and also aided Papa to find work. Little Italy offered a built-in support group for Mama and Papa, which was especially important since they spoke virtually no English.
The natural support group in Little Italy was to be really important.