END GAME & BEYOND

I kept quiet in the car with Leo as we rode back into Empire City. The fact that Joe had saved my life at the Observatory and that he was now getting a bullet in the head and an unmarked grave for his trouble completely, erased the relief I had felt after we wacked Falcone.

Leo made good on his promise; he took us into the "Garden of Eden", the same cathouse that Lydia worked at. I didn't know what I was going to say to her when I saw her. She had been "Joe's main girl" since I got back from the war, despite the fact she clearly was willing to offer her "services" to me, especially after I saved her from that punk in Joe's driveway.

The car pulled into the parking lot and we all made our way inside. Bobby Calvari was already there, half-crocked and a girl already going down on him at a table. Once Eddie had been wacked and the Vinci family took control, they had put Bobby in as new head of the joint. I didn't care for him much, reminded me too much of Eddie, I guess. Leo and his boys grabbed the larger table over by the dance floor. Drinks were served all around and the mood was pretty upbeat. Then, I saw Lydia approaching from the backrooms. Some lucky Marine was straightening his tie and tucking in his shirt. Her redhead and sultry look always got to me, since that first time I saw her in Freddy's bar.

"Vito," she smiled lightly, "Glad you're back." She looked around at the other half dozen guys at the table. "Where's Joe?" Leo nodded to me and I took her aside. We walked past the bar to a side table. "Listen, Lydia," I started. She held put her finger to my lips. "No," she began, "Never mind. Joe's dead, isn't he?" I nodded. She smiled slightly at me. "Always knew he would come to a bad end. But we had a helluva lot of fun for a while." I smiled slightly back. "I'm sorry, Lyd. Joe was my best friend since I was a kid. Saved my life more times than I can count." She nodded. She stood up. "Well, I better get back to work."

"Wait," I touched her arm lightly, "Let's you and me have tonight, just us." She smiled broader. "Bobby's gonna want you to cover his losses, Vito." "Fuck Bobby." She smiled even bigger.

We helped each other through that night. It was more than just the usual Friday night screwing; she actually seemed to be showing a little tenderness, even affection for me. Though I got the feeling, it was more about her trying to cheer me up about Joe, than the other way around. I knew Lydia was a whore, but she always seemed to have this "soft spot" for me. Even when I'd see her banging Joe whenever we'd party at his apartment. Always caught this sideways glance from her, looking over at me, as I was doing whatever "girlfriend" she brought over. And when me and Joe would "switch out", she always seemed much more into me. Of course, like any good hooker, she could have been faking it…but I didn't think so.

Leo had gotten me a room at the Empire Hotel. The next morning the phone rang and as I leaned over Lydia, still sleeping, I picked it up. "Morning, kid" Galante began, "Ready to get to work?" "Uh, sure, Leo," I started, "But you never told me what I would be doing?" He laughed. "You're a capo, now, Vito. I'm giving you Derek's old territory, the docks." The Docks? That was a prime bit of money-making for the Vinci Family. He continued, "Mind you, we want a legitimate face at the head of the union. With your record, the Feds would do too much investigating. You got anybody in mind to take over as the …front man?" I thought for a second. "Sure, Kasimir Wochesky, Polack guy. Helped me out."

"Helped you out…in taking out Derek?" I blanched. Hitting Derek violated the Code, but once I had learned he was the one who hit my father, I wasn't going let the fat bastard breath another breath. "Listen, Leo…" "Water under the bridge, kid," he interrupted, "I never liked the fat pig anyway. If this guy will put a friendly face on our operations at the Docks…and do what he's told….it's your call." I was slightly relieved and slightly worried. Would Kaz follow orders? "Okay, great." I said, "I'll head down there in an hour or so."

By this time, Lydia had woken up. She sat up in bed and looked at me standing by the nightstand. "Going somewhere?" she said smoothly, letting the sheet "accidentally" drop down from across those great tits of hers. "Hell," I thought, "The Docks can wait an extra hour."