CHAPTER 30

Lennie Tristano album cover.

Well, thought Lina, this wasn’t a piano bar, nor was it a nightclub. There would be no tinkling of the ivories or crooning of love ballads, not here, at least. ‘Here’ was a modest, 1940s-built ranch-style house with heavy lace curtains, oak laminate wall paneling, and speckled beige linoleum throughout. The Dukes of Hazzard theme song blared out from an old RCA Victor television set, setting the toes of Carlo and Livia Cazzo to tapping as they reclined on their matching Herculon La-Z-Boys. Mario Cazzo, their son, yelled into the living room to announce his arrival:

“Ma, Pop, I’m home!”

The two greying heads of his parents craned around the backs of their recliners.

“So soon?” asked his mother, Livia.

“Who’s your lady friend?” asked Carlo, eyes alight.

“This is Lina,” said Cazzo. “We’re gonna listen to some records.”

Carlo and Livia waved the couple off with a “Have fun!” and turned their attention back to the TV and the Duke boys of Hazzard County.

Mario Cazzo’s bedroom was a veritable shrine to male adolescence. A large green and white Sunnyslope High pennant hung over his headboard. Athletic trophies large and small lined the wall shelves. Framed glossy 8x10s of a teenaged Cazzo dressed in various sports attire—football, baseball, wrestling—covered an entire wall. A bookcase underneath a casement window housed an impressive collection of vinyl LPs.

Cazzo debated a bit before choosing a record. He held it up to Lina, cradling the album and its cover with his fingertips. The black-and-white cover featured the profile of a Caucasian man, his face partially obscured in shadow, and bold, white letters that read, simply, Tristano.

“Lennie Tristano. Have you heard of him?” asked Cazzo.

Lina, perched on the edge of Cazzo’s twin bed, shook her head.

“He was a genius. Started playing piano when he was two years old, but he lost his eyesight when he was just nine.”

Cazzo carefully removed the LP from its cover and lowered it onto a nearby turntable, then hit ‘play.’ From two wall-mounted speakers, the low, frenetic rumblings of a double bass emanated; strident chords from an overdubbed piano soon joined in. Cazzo cranked the speaker volume to the max before joining Lina on the edge of his bed. Without notice, he leaned in and planted a soft, slow kiss on her lips. A surprised Lina kissed him back, tentatively accepting his tongue when he slipped it in her mouth. Cazzo pulled back and smiled down on her, then shouted over the music:

“This is my favorite track on the album! Do you like it?”

 “It’s…different!” Lina shouted back.

Cazzo laughed and reached an arm around Lina’s shoulders, pulling her into him.

“It might take some getting used to, but it’s great music to fuck by.”

Lina pulled away in a panic. “What did you say?”

Cazzo pulled her back in. With his free hand, he reached to undo one of the small, pearl buttons on her blouse…

She grabbed his hand to push it away, but he resisted her.

“Relax,” he said.

“Your parents are just down the hall—in the living room!

“They can’t hear us, not with the TV on…and the music.” His fingers continued to work the buttons on her blouse.

Lina tightened her grip on his hand and yanked it from her blouse, ripping off the button he held, sending it flying to the floor.

Her rebuff angered him, prompting him to lash out. “Fucking bitch!”

The anger in his eyes frightened Lina. “I’d like to leave now,” she told him, her voice shaky but firm.

Her request only fanned the flames of his anger. He grabbed her by the back of her head and forced his tongue so deep into her mouth it struck the back of her throat. As soon as he pulled out, she broke free and bolted for the bedroom door.

But Cazzo was right behind her: He locked both arms around her waist, lifted her fully off the ground, swung around and body-slammed her onto the bed.

Lina lay still for a moment, stunned by the impact…

It was a moment of opportunity for Cazzo who was immediately on top of her, all two hundred pounds of him.

Lina came to her senses just as Cazzo was ripping open her blouse, sending more of the pearl buttons flying. She fought his hands as he unhooked the front clasp of her bra, trying in vain to push him away. Having lost all patience with her, he grabbed both her wrists in one hand and pinned her arms above her head.

“Let me go!” she cried out, screaming at the top of her lungs.

Cazzo slapped her across the face, then slapped her again, harder, just for the hell of it. “Shut the fuck up!” he hissed, the spit from his words spraying into her face. His free hand was now under her skirt, clawing and yanking on her panties as he worked to pull them down and off.

“No!” Lina screamed, and screamed again, and again, and kept on screaming until Cazzo slapped a pillow over her face to muffle her cries.

Using his knees to force apart her legs, Cazzo unzipped and plunged into her, ripping through virgin, tender flesh; Lina shrieked into the pillow with each stabbing thrust. As he continued to rape her, his body pushed down on her, compressing the pillow over her face with the full weight of his chest. Lina struggled to breathe, praying he’d finish before she suffocated to death.

In a few short, violent minutes, it was over. Cazzo pulled out and rolled off, releasing the pressure from the pillow.

Lina knocked the pillow from her face and rolled onto her side, turning her back to him. She curled herself into a tight fetal position as she gasped between wracking sobs to reclaim her breath.

Cazzo tucked in his shirt, zipped up his fly, and crossed the room to shut down the music. As he painstakingly removed the LP and slipped it back into its sleeve, Lina began to stir from the bed. Cazzo replaced the album onto the shelf, then turned and leaned back against the bookcase, arms folded across his chest. He watched as she hooked her bra and fastened the few remaining buttons of her blouse. When she finally pushed herself up and off the bed, she swayed slightly—Cazzo thought she might fall—but she caught hold of the headboard just in time. It was at that moment that he noticed the thin trail of blood on her inner thigh. A smug smile formed on his lips as he realized he was her first.

Cazzo fished his keys from his pocket and ambled to the bedroom door. Resting a hand on the doorknob, he addressed Lina before pulling the door open:

“Don’t even think about reporting this. I’m a veteran officer and you’re a peon civilian still on probation. The department would never take your word over mine. Besides, you’ve been asking for it ever since that first day I saw you in the locker room. Don’t try to deny it.”

“Just take me home,” said Lina, as she slipped her panties back on. “Please.”

Cazzo opened the door. He looked her up and down and noted, with some amusement, how unattractive she was at the moment, her hair all messed and looking like a thatch of permed straw; her face stained from the mix of tears and running mascara. “Wipe your face,” he told her, “And do something with your hair, for chrissake.”

In the living room, the Ewing family of Dallas had replaced the Duke brothers on the TV. Cazzo stopped in the foyer and called out to his parents, “I’m taking Lina home!”

Eyes to the ground and the front of her blouse fisted tightly together, Lina rushed wordlessly ahead of Cazzo. She fled out the front door, refusing to look back.

“Is she okay?” his mother asked.

“She’s fine. Don’t worry about her.”

“She’s a lot prettier than the other ones you’ve brought over. Maybe this one’s a keeper?” asked his father.

Cazzo paused and gave it some thought, then flipped his keychain around his finger and turned to leave, calling out behind him:

“Maybe!”

CHAPTER 29
CHAPTER 31

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