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Book Sample: Image

Trust No One, Promise Nothing

                                                                                    Chapter One

                                                                                   The Ceremony

                                                                               February 12th, 1938

It was just another sunny day in Seaport, Florida. Large billowy white clouds filled the late afternoon sky as Ray stepped outside his motel room and felt the warmth of the day embrace him. It was no ordinary day. Today wearing a suit and tie, he would be addressed by his formal Italian name, Raimondo Sabatini Martinelli Lewis. He experienced a sense of anticipation when he saw Franco’s shiny black Lincoln waiting for him 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 Old Town Luxury Hotel in Seaport’s historical district.

          Ray felt like a movie star, as 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 sharp pin stripped suits with holsters concealed beneath their jackets, adding a hint of danger to the atmosphere.


          He noticed the armed guards flanking the spacious room’s locked door, while sounds of camaraderie and laughter echoed around the room, and the bustling bar on the far wall added to the lively mood. Furtive glances toward the door revealed everyone was waiting for Marco Catanetti, Sr. the Don, to arrive.

          Franco, his close friend and mentor, walked 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 less. His scholarly look differed from the tough men in the room. As the Don’s oldest son and Consiglieri, Franco also 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.” Then Franco smiled. “Don’t worry Raimondo, you’ll know when.”

          “They’re here,” Angelo murmured. A muscular guy in his late twenties, who towered over both of them, pointed towards the window. Five stories below, four men stepped out of a navy-blue Cadillac sedan and entered the hotel.

          Drinks in hand, Franco’s brothers, Rico, and Luca, strolled over. Rico was lanky and slim like Franco, while Luca had the shorter, stocky body type of Jr. and their father, Marco Sr.

          After a few words to Franco and Angelo, they congratulated Ray on his important day. Just as they invited him for drinks at the family’s saloon after the ceremony, a loud knock silenced the room.

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

          The armed guards had drawn their guns while a third man peeped through the door’s tiny hole, signaled a thumbs up and opened the door.

          Impeccably dressed in a black silk suit with a black felt Fedora hat, the Don, Marco Catanetti Sr. 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 greeted his half dozen Capos, which included Rico and Luca.

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

          Ray’s heart raced, feeling the weight of this moment as the Don’s words resonated in everyone’s ears.

          “Hundreds of years ago, a corrupt government denied our Sicilian ancestry 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. “Raimondo Sabatini Martinelli Lewis. 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 as 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.

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

          “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, seek your own revenge, but forgive your assailant if you die, so all feuds will end.”

          Ray nodded.

          The Don acknowledged and continued with the ultimate rule. “If you break your oath of silence, the punishment is death.”

          Ray blinked, 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 flitting 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 Don in the mafia world.

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

          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 policemen. 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.”

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

          “Raimondo Sabatini Martinelli Lewis, 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, took Ray's hand, pierced his thumb and squeezed his blood on it. Then he handed the picture to Ray and set it on fire.

          The moment Ray rubbed the ashes of the burned picture together, he recited the words that would seal his fate. “May I burn in hell for all eternity if I betray the organization or my friends.”

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

          “Raimondo Sabatini Martinelli Lewis, welcome to the Catanetti family.”

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