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Trust No One, Promise Nothing

                                                                                       Chapter One

                                                                                   The Vow of Omertá

                                                                                 February 12th, 1938

Large billowy white clouds filled the late afternoon sky as Ray stepped outside his motel room, wearing a suit and tie, and felt the warmth of the south Florida day embracing him.  This was no ordinary day. No, this day was a life changing one. Today he would only be addressed by his formal Italian name, Raimondo Sabatini Martinelli Luigi.


          Ray experienced a sense of anticipation when he saw Franco’s black Lincoln idling nearby, with Angelo, Franco's trusted  bodyguard, behind the wheel. Ray greeted them as he slid into the back seat next to Franco, while Angelo drove them to the finest luxury hotel in Seaport's historic of Old Town.

          Ray felt like a movie star when the three of them entered the plush interior of the hotel’s fifth floor penthouse suite at precisely five o’clock. The scent of cigarettes mingled with the boisterous greetings from burly men, dressed in pin stripped suits with holsters concealed beneath their jackets, which added a hint of danger to the atmosphere.


          Armed guards flanked the penthouse's locked door, while sounds of camaraderie and laughter echoed around the spacious room. A bustling bar on the far wall added to the lively mood. Furtive glances toward the door revealed everyone was waiting for Mafia boss, Marco Catanetti, Sr. the Don of the Catanetti Family, to arrive.

          Franco, his closest friend and mentor, directed them to the window, and adjusted his wire-rimmed glasses as he peered through the venetian blinds. At six feet, he was two inches shorter than Ray, and thirty pounds lighter. His scholarly look differed from the heavier tough men in the room. As the Don’s oldest son and Consiglieri, Franco used his finance degree to manage the Catanetti family’s wealth. 

          Across the room, Ray spotted Franco’s three brothers; Marco, Jr., the Underboss, who would take over as Don after Sr. passed, and twins, Rico, and Luca, who looked nothing alike. A year older than Ray, the twins were already seasoned Capos with a full regiment of soldiers under them.

          Franco handed Ray a piece of paper. “Memorize this before Pop arrives. He should be here any minute.”

          Ray read the single sentence, felt a mixture of curiosity and excitement, and raised his eyebrows.

          “Recite those words after you rub the ashes together,” Franco said, pointing to the slip of paper Ray held and smiled reassuringly. “Don’t worry Raimondo, you’ll know when.”

          “They’re here.” Angelo,  a muscular guy in his late twenties, who towered over both of them, pointed towards the window where five stories below, they watched four men step out of a navy-blue Cadillac sedan and head toward the hotel's entrance.

          Drinks in hand, Franco’s brothers, Rico, and Luca, strolled over to congratulate Ray on his important day. Rico, slim and lanky, invited Ray for drinks at the family's saloon after the ceremony, just as a loud knock silenced the room.

          “Show time!” Rico announced with a smirky grin and strolled away with Luca at his side.

          Armed guards standing by the suite's door had drawn their guns, while a third man peeped through the door's tiny hole, signaled a thumbs up and opened the door.

         The Don, Marco Catanetti Sr., impeccably dressed in a black silk suit with a black felt Fedora hat, strode into the crowded suite surrounded by his three personal bodyguards. The air thickened with respect as the Don formally greeted his top men — sons, Marco Jr., and Franco, with an Italian style kiss on both cheeks. Then he properly acknowledged his half dozen Capos, which included Rico and Luca.

          After making his way around the room, stopping to chat, shake hands, and give words of praise or advice, the Don then invited Ray to stand before him at his table.

          Ray’s heart raced, feeling the weight of this moment as the Don addressed the room, telling a story each of them had heard many times.

          “Hundreds of years ago, a corrupt government denied our Sicilian ancestors justice for crimes committed against them. Our people had to protect themselves in order to take their own revenge. They swore an oath of silence called Omertà to guard the identities of those who punished criminals on behalf of the victims and their families.”

          All eyes remained glued on the Don as he spoke directly to Ray. “Raimondo Sabatini Martinelli Luigi. You’ve met challenges with intelligence and bravery. You have proven you can handle your own problems without complaint. Today, I invite you to seal our relationship. Doing so will grant you our protection for the rest of your life.”

          The gravity of this ceremony carried the weight of tradition and history. Ray held on to every word, reminding himself to breathe.

          “These are the words of Omertà, so pay close attention and save this vow in your heart.” Don Marco pointed to Ray’s chest with passion and, narrowing his brows, stared so intensely it would have frightened the Pope himself.

          As Ray took a deep breath, Don Marco Sr. placed a small picture of a saint and a silver bladed knife on the table and continued the ceremony.

          “Only a fool or coward seeks help from the authorities. You must solve your own problems. It is shameful to betray even your worst enemies to the police. If wounded and live, seek your own revenge, but if you die, your assailant is forgiven, so all feuds will end."

          Ray nodded.

          The Don acknowledged and paused before he delivered the ultimate rule. “If you break your oath of silence, the punishment is death.”

          Ray returned the Don’s gaze and nodded again.

          “You must be a good, honorable, and respectful person at all hours, exhibit class, be independent, show courage, and heart. Do not whine or complain. Display bravery when faced with adversity.”

          Ray shifted his weight. His mind flitted through the many adverse situations he had already endured. He was more than prepared to meet these requirements.

          “Yes, I understand.”

          He could taste the seriousness of the vow, the consequences of breaking it, and the honor of being invited into this powerful family. He straightened his stance and maintained eye contact with the most influential, dangerous, and highly respected Mafia Don in the world.

          “Please explain in your own words what you’ve learned about our Code of Ethics.”

          Not expecting this request, Ray began nervously, his voice a little wobbly, but soon it was filled with confidence.

          “Do not steal from members of this organization. Never go to public clubs or take drugs of any kind. Do not socialize with police officers. Always respect women and elders. Never harm the families of members, look at or touch their wives, girlfriends, or daughters. Tell the truth, be available at a moment’s notice and keep every appointment.”

          He swallowed hard. He’d already broken the next rule. Briefly closing his eyes, he finished in a quiet voice.

          “Never take a life without permission.”

          Everyone in the room could hear a pin drop as the Don delivered his ultimate terms.

          “Raimondo Sabatini Martinelli Luigi, do you swear to this oath, promise to live by our code of conduct, and know the penalty for breaking our sacred vow of Omertà?”

          Ray’s chest tightened. The gravity of the vow hung heavy in the air. Once said, there was no going back. He would be bound and his life forever intertwined with this powerful mafia family.

          “I give you my word that I will live an honorable life, uphold my oath, and understand the price for violating my pledge is death.”

          Don Marco Catanetti, Sr. picked up the silver knife and the saint’s portrait from the table, took Ray's hand, pierced his thumb and squeezed his blood onto the portrait. Then he handed the portrait to Ray, struck a match and set it on fire.

          Ray collected the portrait's ashes in the palm of his hand until that's all that was left of the saint's portrait. He then rubbed the ashes together as he recited the words he'd memorized that would seal his fate. “May I burn in hell for all eternity if I betray this organization or my friends.”

          A deafening cheer filled the room as a proud Don Marco Sr. kissed Ray on both cheeks.

          “Raimondo Sabatini Martinelli Luigi — welcome to the Catanetti family.”

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