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10

Louis (Louie) and Joseph (Big Joe) Rizzato were born and raised in Chicago after their parents emigrated from Ischia, Italy, an island off the Gulf of Naples. The Brothers Rizzato, as they were sometimes called, became involved in criminal activity early in life, eventually became Mob enforcers and were known for their violent and often cruel tactics. Louie rose to the position of Mob boss, but roughly six months after that, both brothers disappeared on the same night.

I looked away from the computer for a moment.

I had gone home from my mothers and called Aunt Elena. No answer. I hung up without leaving a message. I wanted to get her on the phone, rather than crisscrossing with messages for weeks.

I looked then at the stack of r'esum'es by my keyboard, copies of ones Id sent out and now just waiting for me to follow up on them. When I worked at the firm of Baltimore & Brown, I specialized in entertainment law, mostly because Forester Pickett, the media mogul, had taken a shine to me and given me a large chunk of his work-negotiating contracts for radio and TV personalities, defending the company or hiring local counsel, when cases of all kinds were filed against it. The phrase trial by fire had never been more apt. I hadnt known what I was doing when I started, but I learned, and I learned fast, if only because there was no other way to stay afloat.

When Forester died and I lost all my work, Id been set adrift, and unfortunately the city didnt have much entertainment law work to go around. When actors, musicians and directors from Chicago hit it big, they usually headed for one of the coasts. And so, unless I wanted to move, I was going to have to start thinking creatively about my employment possibilities. Id already contacted most of the big law firms months ago, and after that attempt rendered nothing I could get excited about, I tried a gig as an on-air legal analyst. I even initiated an investigative report on a very wealthy but very crooked attorney, and that investigation eventually uncovered a class-action lawsuit scam. But after my bizarre run-in with the law as a murder suspect, no station was jumping at the chance to put me back in front of the camera. Hence the pile of r'esum'es Id sent out for in-house positions at different corporations.

But I was too curious about that newspaper clipping about my grandfather, and what my mom had said about my dad, to make follow-up calls. I had pushed away the stack of r'esum'es and done an Internet search for the Rizzato Brothers. And found that description of them-known for their violent and often cruel tactics.

I sat back, away from the computer, and tried to think.

My father had been working on a Mob case-that of the Rizzato Brothers-when he died. The Rizzato Brothers were Mob enforcers, one eventually a Mob boss, and they had disappeared. Meanwhile, I had been hanging out, rather innocently, with a Mob figure and was being chased by him when suddenly a vision appeared-an auditory one at least-of my dead father.

It sounded like a load of crazy.

Enough of this. I turned off the computer monitor and lined up my stack of r'esum'es, then started making job-hunting calls.

I got a lot of Sorry, nothing right now kind of responses. I got a few vague We havent decided anything yet, but well let you know kind of answers. I got a lot of anxiety as it seemed that nothing was opening up and nothing would anytime soon.

I looked at my watch. Six oclock in the evening Rome time. I picked up the phone and dialed the number for my aunt Elena.

She answered this time. Cara! she said, hearing my voice.

It had been so long, and we chatted about everything-Charlie, my employment status, Chicago. We got into that seamless conversational space that weaves around in a pleasantly aimless way. I had always loved my aunt, and the older I got, the more I enjoyed her.

But as with my mom, I couldnt just dive in and say, Is it possible your brother is alive, or do you think Im losing it? And although Id told Maggie I would contact Elena about visiting, I hadnt spoken with her in over a year. It seemed awkward to suggest a houseguest too quickly.

Instead, it was less uncomfortable to say, So, tell me about your mom and dad. I had the book my father used to read on the edge of my desk. I pulled it forward, opened it and took out the yellowed clipping. Thieves Kill Man at Shell Station.

What about them, cara? They were wonderful people. I guess you never got to meet my father.

No. And Ive been thinking about family lately. Grandma O was Italian and Grandpa Kelvin was Scottish, right?

Thats right. Their love affair was something of a scandal. No one in my mothers family had been involved with anyone who wasnt Italian. Actually, no one had ever been involved with someone who wasnt originally from Naples, if you can believe that. She met my father at a drugstore. It was in the winter, and they were both buying cough drops. My mother, Oriana, was a few years out of high school. My father was a few years older than her. It was one of those things you hear about-they saw each other, they both looked at shelves without talking, and when my father finally got up the courage to speak to her, they didnt stop. They talked for hours in that aisle.

And that was that? They were just in love and they lived happily ever after? When had I gotten so cynical?

Well, no. There was resistance to them dating. Her family wasnt happy at all, especially when they got engaged only six months later. But like I said, they were in love.

I thought of Sam. We had been in love once. There had never been a doubt about that.

Did they stay in love?

Yes, always. She sighed a little. I used to wonder if I was only seeing that love through the eyes of a child, if maybe it didnt really exist, or maybe as an adult I would realize that it was very different than what Id thought. But no, now that I am an adult She laughed. Incredibilemente, I am much more than an adult. Well, I see how pure their love was. It wasnt always easy for them, especially my dad, coming into this Italian family. His family was already scattered around the country and didnt see each other often, but my parents had this powerful connection. Everyone could see it.

I drew my finger over the news clipping. And then Grandpa Kelvin was killed.

Elena was quiet, then, Yes, he was stabbed.

At a gas station.

How did you know that?

I found a news clipping.

Ah. Well, yes, youre right. He was putting air in his tire one night at the side of a gas station, and he was killed. A pause. Did your father ever talk about that?

I got a zing through me-your father. No. He never mentioned it. I guess we were too young.

Yes, too young, she repeated. And you and I never spoke about this, either.

No. How old were you when your dad died?

Sixteen.

I felt envious for a second, thinking that she had eight more years with her father than I did with mine. And my dad was eighteen then.

Thats right.

I know he went to college. I could remember my father telling me this. And you moved to Italy to be with family, right? After Grandpa Kelvin died?

Yes. My mother was having a very hard time. She went to Phoenix to try and forget. Her family thought it would be best if I finished high school somewhere else instead of going with her. They thought it would be good for me to be away, too, somewhere new where everything wasnt about my father.

So you went to Naples?

No, I lived with a cousin in a lovely area, in Frascati, in the hills, outside of Rome.

Was it hard for you to be away from the U.S.?

Yes and no. Italy is certainly different from the United States, different from every country, in fact. But throughout my whole life my mother had been telling us about Italy. The stories about Italy were our nighttime tales. I found much of that had sunk in and made a difference when I moved here.

How often did you get to see my dad after that?

Not very often. Her voice was somber. That was one of the hardest things.

Were you not close?

It wasnt that. She said nothing else.

So what was it?

I suppose it was simply that he lived in the States, and I lived in Italy. I fell in love with the country, and I stayed.

Could he be alive? What do you know about how he died?

He died in a helicopter crash, Isabel. She said it like Ee-sabel. You know that. A pause. Did your mother not talk to you about this when you were young?

Yes, but I suppose that as an adult, I wonder about the details.

Such a tragedy. It was horrible.

Do you still think about him?

Of course. All the time.

Do you ever see him like I did? Do you ever hear him?

But before I said anything, Elena was suddenly saying she needed to go, that it was lovely to talk to me.

I had some other questions about my dad, I said.

And Id love to answer them, but right now I must go. I have a work dinner.

Where are you working?

Ill tell you next time we talk, cara.

It was obvious she wanted to get off the phone. We should stay in better touch, I said.

Yes, cara, you are right.

Do you have an e-mail address?

Of course. We e-mail, we text. Were very forward in Rome. Everyone walks around the city with their cell phones attached to their cheeks. She gave me her e-mail address. Must go. Ciao, ciao. And then she hung up.

I leaned forward and turned on the monitor again.

Although their bodies have never been found, copious amounts of blood (identified as blood from both Louie and Big Joe) were found in the basement of their parents home the day after their disappearance. No arrests have ever been made in the disappearance of the Brothers Rizzato.


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