Chapter 11 – The Business

A History of Violence


Tom Stall lives a peaceful life with his family in the Midwest…until a gangster shows up claiming Tom used to be violent criminal named Joey. The truth doesn’t seem clear to anyone, including Tom.

One paragraph:

Tom Stall lives a peaceful life with his family in the Midwest. He runs a diner in town, everyone likes him, he has a loving wife, son, daughter. A Norman Rockwell existence. When a pair of crooks turn violent in the diner, Tom kills them with surprising skill. The media turns him into a local hero. Soon… a man in black appears, a one-eyed tough guy who claims that Tom is really Joey, a violent criminal from Phillya. Tom dismisses the idea. But the man in black haunts Tom, with veiled threats, then violence. As Tom’s life unravels, he must confront the man he once was. Or still is. 


Tom Stall lives a peaceful life with his family in the Midwest. He comforts his daughter when she sees monsters. He counsels his son on handling bullies. He still flirts with his wife. He runs a diner in town, and everyone likes the heck out of him. A Norman Rockwell existence.

One night a pair of crooks try to rob the diner. They turn violent. With surprising skill, Tom manages to overcome and kill the two crooks. Tom is modest about the whole thing, but the media quickly turns him into a local hero, splashing him on TV and the newspapers. Soon after…a man in black appears at the diner, Carl Fogarty, a tough guy with an eerily dead eye. He explains that Tom is really Joey, a gangster from Philadelphia. Tom dismisses the notion. When Fogarty persists, Tom insists the man leave.

Fogarty stays in town, though, haunting Tom. He claims Tom is the one who ruined his eye. He briefly kidnaps Tom’s daughter in a mall. Then he briefly kidnaps Tom’s son. He is hinting that he’ll hurt Tom’s family if he doesn’t get his way. The peacefulness of Tom’s life turns to paranoia. What does this man want? When will he leave?

Fogarty shows up at Tom’s house, two thugs in tow. At gunpoint, he urges Tom to get in the car. Tom kills the two thugs with expert and alarming force. But Tom goes down, and Fogarty aims a gun at him, ready to end Tom’s life. Tom mutters, “I should have killed you back in Philly.” Before Fogarty can shoot, Tom’s son kills Fogarty with a shotgun.

The threat is over. Physically. For now. But Tom is not really Tom. He is indeed a gangster from Philly named Joey who gave up his former life, transforming himself into the peace-loving Tom Stall. Tom’s daughter is too young to understand the situation, but Tom’s wife and son feel they no longer know Tom. Tom maintains that Joey is dead; he is only Tom now. But he secretly wonders if he can shed his old self, ever. An argument with his wife turns violent, erupting into a lovemaking encounter that closely resembles rape. Sleeping on the sofa, Tom is awakened by a phone call. It’s Joey’s brother, Ritchie, a crime boss back in Philly. Tom knows that Joey lives as long as Ritchie is after him.

Tom drives to meet Ritchie at his old-money Philadelphia mansion. Ritchie embraces Tom, and reminisces fondly about the days with his little brother. He also bears a grudge, however, for things Joey did that made Ritchie’s rise in the crime world very difficult. At Ritchie’s signal, a henchmen tries to strangle Tom with piano wire, but Tom kills the man and all the other henchmen present. Like the practiced killer he is, Tom then kills Ritchie. He cleanses himself in a lake and heads home.

Tom joins his family for a peaceful meal. Is Joey finally gone? Perhaps.

<< Back