The Copycat Killers

By: Paula Millhouse


TIA MARINO SAT BESIDE HER TWIN BROTHER AT THEIR FATHER’S MEMORIAL SERVICE in a freezing cold wintry-grey cemetery in October in New York City.

Tia glanced at her twenty-five-year old twin, Jimmy, and shivered, but the temperature wasn’t the culprit. Rows of guests stood around for the ceremony. The family sat under the funeral home’s tent in folding chairs, a closed coffin their centerpiece.

Tia ground her teeth, and rage chewed at her insides while the robed priest said his words, the final liturgy for their father, Paulie Marino.

“Poppie…” Jimmy sobbed, shaking his head, wiping at tears. Tia looked over at him. Dark olive complexion, darker black-brown hair, a photographer’s study of the word handsome. She tolerated his outburst, because in his own way he loved their father.

She craned her head, slow and easy, long strands of stick-straight ebony hair spilling out in front of her. She narrowed her gaze at their grandmother who sat across from her, on the other side of the coffin, dabbing away endless tears with a fine silk handkerchief.

All right, Old Woman, what’s holding you back?

Miss Aida had refused to sit with her grandchildren. Instead she took a chair opposite them, a grim expression on her face, fingering her precious pearls. Tia’s upper lip flinched. Nothing but tears. No plan for the future. A public embarrassment. Typical.

Dysfunctional didn’t come close to describing Marino family dynamics.

Tia stared daggers at her grandmother. Sure, she’d paid for the event, dressed in traditional black with her pearls around her neck. But she spoke to no one, save the priest. I’d like to choke her with those goddamned pearls.

Jimmy cried like a bad actor on reality TV. Tia cursed under her breath. This is what you leave me with Poppie? A reject for a brother, a leader with no real power…

A numbing madness stung her worse than the wintry winds whipping up the cemetery hills. What was she going to do now?

When Miss Aida had phoned and told her their father died as a result of a fatal gunshot wound to the head, Tia’s perception of reality stalked off. All my dreams revoked with the Old Woman’s words. Her pet name for her grandmother cycled through her mind. Old Woman. Old Woman. Old Woman.

Tia hadn’t shed one tear because she was furious. Her covert plans to coronate her father as head of Marino Industries in Miss Aida’s stead would never be realized. And now the Old Woman refused to name a successor.

Her grief tore past mourning. A foundering rage displaced it. Defined it. Built a skyscraper of hatred in memorial to him, to Paulie, her hero.

Miss Aida’s tear-stained face infuriated her. “She’s weak. She’s got to be dealt with.”

Her brother shook his head, pleaded a whisper her way. “Tia, stop. We’ll discuss that later.”

“Fuck off, Jimmy.”

Miss Aida’s beautiful head snapped up. The priest stumbled over his words. Tia’s lips curled away from her teeth. Her head tilted. She anticipated a confrontation from the Old Woman, wanted her to speak, couldn’t wait to tangle with her grandmother. Miss Aida held silent.

The minister commended Paulie’s soul to heaven, and the graveyard workers slowly lowered his elaborate coffin into the freshly dug hole. The grating sound caught the air.

The finality of the act tore new avenues of hatred and disease through the fertile plain of Tia’s mind.

Miss Aida held the traditional funeral at church, the burial service graveside, and the wake at the Marino family house in New York City. The Marinos knew everyone, or rather, everyone knew the Marinos. She hated all the posturing.

Paulie’s loss was epic.

Anger poked at her chest and she found breathing uncomfortable. Her son’s fall from grace and subsequent death devastated her in ways she’d never discuss with anyone, save her nephew Tony Aiello, and Michael Harrison, her personal assistant. What she’d learned about Paulie’s aberrant behavior, what she’d seen him do with her own two eyes…unforgivable.

“So sorry for your loss.” The priest touched her arm, then turned away a little too fast, and left her to suffer her grief alone.

Miss Aida narrowed her eyes at his hasty retreat. Forty-some odd years I groomed Paulie to take my place as heir to Marino Industries, and he leaves me with this? Two twenty-something upstarts who have no conception of the true meaning of family…