Pagano grabbed Veasey from behind and told Martines to shoot again. Martines shot Veasey in the chest, piercing a new $3,800 leather jacket and depositing a bullet in Veasey’s ribs. But instead of going down, Veasey grabbed Martines and shoved him against the wall. “You’re fucking dead,” Martines told him. “I ain’t dead yet,” Veasey replied. The mobsters yanked down the sleeves of Veasey’s jacket to trap his arms by his side so Martines could pistol-whip him; he was out of bullets. But Veasey wiggled his left arm free, and every time Martines hit him with the gun, Veasey slugged him in the eye.
Veasey knocked Martines to the ground, but Pagano jumped him, yanked his head back, and told Martines to “cut his fucking throat.” Martines whipped out a knife, but Veasey kicked him with both feet and slid out of Pagano’s grip. The knife landed on the floor; Veasey and Martines scrambled for it. Veasey got there first. When Martines grabbed him in a headlock, Veasey stabbed him near the eye.
Martines, bleeding heavily, pleaded with Veasey not to kill him. He said he’d unlock the door if Veasey dropped the knife. Veasey buried the knife in a couch—where the cops later found it. Martines unlocked the door, and Veasey ran down the stairs. “If you go to the cops, we’ll kill your family,” Pagano yelled after him.
Veasey ran outside into a giant ice storm. He couldn’t stay on his feet. In desperation, he jumped on the hood of a passing car. The owner stopped, hopped out, and saw blood on his car. “You fucking crackhead!” the guy yelled before driving off. Veasey staggered to the home of a neighborhood drug dealer named Tootsie, who called 911. While they waited, Tootsie kept slapping Veasey in the face, yelling, “Don’t you die on me, boy!” The cops found a raging Veasey covered in blood. He was taken to Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, where he was declared in critical but stable condition.
Billy was immediately consumed with guilt, since he’d been the one to talk John into becoming a government witness. “I’m sorry,” Billy sobbed to his now-comatose brother. “I should have left you alone. I don’t want to see you die. I love you.”
Scuderi came to see John-John in the ICU at Billy’s request. He peered through a big glass window, and what he saw reminded him of the scene in The Godfather where Vito Corleone is lying unconscious in the hospital after getting shot up.
“I thought he was in a coma. He had all these tubes running in and out of him,” Scuderi says. “Then I see his left hand moving involuntary, almost like a twitch.” When Scuderi went to John’s bedside, he saw that John’s left hand was clicking a TV remote to switch the channel from one football game to another.
When Veasey saw Scuderi, he ripped off his oxygen mask and came roaring back to life. “They shot me in the fucking head!” he yelled, as Scuderi watched his blood pressure spike on the bedside monitor. John told Scuderi about the fight and how he got away from Martines: “I stabbed him in the fucking eye.” They can’t kill this guy, Scuderi marveled to himself.
Billy was amazed that John was awake, but embarrassed to find out his younger brother had heard every word he’d said. “Did you really mean what you said about how you love me?” John asked.
“You lucky little bastard,” Billy said. “You’re a fucking asshole.”
After he got out of the hospital, John warned Billy that he might become a target once John testified at the upcoming Mob trial against Stanfa. “Why don’t you go away?” he suggested.
“I ain’t no pussy,” Billy replied. “Who do you think you are, the toughest guy in the family?”
“No,” John dutifully told his brother. “You’re the toughest guy in the family.” Billy had turned down the government’s offer to go into the witness-protection program. He wanted to stay in South Philly, and he didn’t want to miss his son’s hockey games.