The Sins of The Family; Chapter Four: The Calm Before the Storm

The Latest — By on May 29, 2014 at 1:32 am

Chapter Four
The Calm Before the Storm

Mattie and Alaric walked from the Cadillac to a large patio bursting with giant green philodendron and the unmistakable fragrance of jasmine. A small table played host to three men playing dominoes pausing only briefly to look up at them as they passed, nodding silently at Mattie.

They arrived at a monolithic set of oak doors covered in black wrought iron. Mattie pushed them open, revealing an enclosed entryway of Saltillo tile and stucco ending in two beveled glass doors. Inside a large barrel-chested figure opened the doors for them.

“Hey Mattie,” he said. “Glad to see you made it home safe, I heard you had a hell of a night,” then looking at Alaric added, “this him?”

“Good to be home safe, Bully, and yes this is him, my cousin Alaric,” said Mattie.

The man named Bully, extended his hand to shake Alaric’s.

Immediately an army of tiny little beads of sweat began their march from beneath Bully’s scalp to his forehead and brow.

“Damn, Mr. Cantu has been waiting for you kid, you have no idea, we have all been waiting. If there is anything you need, anything at all you just let me know, just ask for Bully. My name is Jimmy, but they call me Bully, on account of,” he motioned to his stout, heavy build. “All this I got going on,” he added with a nervous laugh.

Alaric shook his hand and was shocked at the power contained in that ham-fisted grip. His rotund size belied the strength underneath what to the eye, looked like fat clothed in Armani.

Bully, Alaric decided, was indeed an apt nickname for this man.

“Well Alaric, I leave you in Bully’s capable hands,” said Mattie, “I gotta get the Caddie back to Johnny and pick up a car that is a little more me.” He handed Alaric the duffel bag. “I’ll see you tomorrow if it’s meant to be huh?”

“Yeah,” answered Alaric without really considering the question’s phrasing. He took the duffel and turned to Bully, took a deep breath and prepared himself. He never before questioned the validity of what he knew of his parents’ deaths, but he had a sneaking suspicion there was more to it than he had pieced together. He had to find out, there were holes in his version of his family history, partly because of how he came to know that story in the first place.

Alaric followed Bully into the gigantic foyer of Cantu’s home office, he prepared to hear the other half of the story. The hatred and resentment he felt for the man had dulled a bit in the past years. It was this loneliness that served to mute the pain. Mattie and Cantu represented the only family he had left in the world, and he missed that aspect of his life dearly. He hoped for some closure and at the very least he wanted answers.

The thoughts racing through his mind caused him to delay a little longer than he would have liked. For a few moments Alaric stood there frozen, staring at nothing. Bully waited for Alaric’s next move, the sweat beginning to move in earnest down his face and off his nose in salty little drops.

“Hey, don’t be scared kid, this is a great day,” said Bully wiping his brow with an already soaked handkerchief.

Alaric wasn’t frozen in fear, he was frozen in thought. In his mind he went back, to when his grandmother, Cantu’s mother, was alive. After his parents died it was she that raised him.

Just like that, standing in Cantu’s foyer, he was six years old again.

Amparo Cantu, Alaric’s grandmother, lost her husband at the age of thirty-three to a night of drinking and a jealous lover on a cold winter night back in ‘58. Uneducated, unskilled and with two children to feed she carved out a life for her family through sheer will. Two boys, the youngest named Freddy, and the eldest named after his father, but she never called him by his first name, only his last.


Her husband spent his last moments on Earth with a chest full of lead, choking to death on his own blood in a dark alley down in Laredo. The last thing he saw was his mistress staring down at him from behind the trigger of a forty-five caliber Colt Commander. As his life drained from him he knew that his wife Amparo had it much worse. He made her into a widow and his children into orphans trying to straddle the line between family man and gangster.

His life ended with an argument with his mistress who wanted something more from life than being just another whore in a low-rent brothel. A woman who would ultimately become his murderess and soon after, the murderess of hundreds more, she finished that argument with a bullet. Taking his life liberated her demons, freeing them to guide her to whom she would become. An evil forever entwined with the Cantu family.

After the funeral Amparo never again uttered her late husband’s name, she couldn’t stand the taste it left on her tongue when it crossed her lips. She hated him for his selfishness and for what he did to their family.

Time passed and as a boy Cantu could feel he wasn’t loved as much as his baby brother. Even with his round little face, framed with childhood innocence, Cantu was a spitting image of his father. The reminder he became brought a feeling of revulsion to Amparo every time she saw him. She projected the anger she felt for her husband upon the boy, sometimes violently. It caused friction between mother and son prompting Cantu to act out, but he never misplaced that anger.

Cantu loved Freddy deeply and he was fiercely protective of his little brother.

Through the years the two brothers grew into the men they would become. Both found wives and soon had children of their own. Freddy married a woman named Sarah and named his boy Alaric. Cantu married a girl named Paulette and had a son two years later named Matthew, though they would call him Mattie.

For a time all too brief, the family prospered, but death followed the Cantu clan. It stalked them, paced them, never more than an arm’s length away. Alaric was six years old when he lost his parents, Mattie was four when he lost his mother.

Amparo took in her eldest grandson Alaric, and raised him. Cantu raised Mattie alone, the deaths were more than the family could handle and their world soon unraveled. Alaric would see Mattie only occasionally, but he never saw his uncle Cantu after his parents’ funerals. He knew better than to ask his grandmother about him, the soap in the mouth incident was enough to make him learn that lesson the first time.

He did ask about his parents, though the answer was always vague.

“Grandma, what happened to mommy and daddy?”

“They went up to be with Jesus, sweetheart,” she would answer. Every time it was the same thing.

They went to be with Jesus.

Alaric’s young mind wondered why they would rather be with the man depicted on all of the special candles in his house and the paintings at church, and not with him. It made him dislike Jesus, no matter how nice he looked in all those pictures.

“Let me get that for you Alaric,” offered Bully, as he reached for the black duffel bag. Alaric resisted the pull, as he snapped back into the present.

“I want to take it to him myself,” said Alaric. “I was almost killed over it, I might as well see it gets to the intended recipient.”

Jimmy released the bag and nodded in agreement.

“That man is the reason my parents are dead. I just want his side of the story before I go,” Alaric straightened, now fully returned from his reverie, “you seem like a nice guy, but this life you’ve chosen is a mistake and if you keep going along this path then you’ll end up just like they did, dead.”

Alaric pushed past the man called Bully and made his way up a beautifully curved wooden staircase. He reached a landing at the top and there he finally saw him, his uncle, a man known to all only as Cantu.

Behind a massive, ornate mahogany desk, sat his uncle. He was on the phone and looked up at Alaric surprised he hadn’t waited below for the word to come up, but he didn’t seem upset by it. He motioned for Alaric to have a seat at a small couch at the back of the room.

Seated in one of the matching chairs in front of the desk, an old man in a white suit with a crazy shock of snow-white hair sat jamming tobacco into an ivory colored pipe. The man in white read Cantu’s face and turned to see who had walked in, striking a match and puffing noisily on the freshly filled pipe he looked Alaric up and down. Unimpressed, he turned back to Cantu and continued smoking, now busily cleaning his glasses with a handkerchief he tucked neatly back into his jacket pocket.

The tension in the room and the gravity of what was being relayed on the phone to Cantu was palpable. Alaric regretted barging in and felt a hot blush rise on his face making him feel uncomfortably warm. He looked over at the small leather couch and decided he would have a seat. The business at hand would have to take precedence. He’d waited this long, he would simply have to wait a few moments more.

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