What Lengths Would You Take to Learn What Happened to Tony Soprano?

Like many people, when the Sopranos ended a decade ago I wanted to ask David Chase what happened to Tony. So I did….

By Thomas Galvin

Written in 2009

TODAY

The room smelled of mildew.

Although blindfolded, he could make out a small ray of light. He heard the muffled sound of a dog barking. It sounded big. He tried to stretch his hands, but they were clasped to some sort of a cold pole, and bindings dug into his wrists. He gagged on the cloth stuffed in his mouth.

Clenching, he suppressed the urgent need to pee. A thought came to him: when they came to finish him, he’d piss himself. He wracked his brain to think how he’d offended them. It was fiction. Just a TV show. He’d heard through friends they’d enjoyed it and didn’t take it personally. He grimaced at the thought that his murder would become a punchline.

Creator of one of the biggest TV shows in history, killed in a mob hit.

He heard the creak of the door and footsteps coming down the stairs. A basement. He realized that he was in a basement. Then it hit him: He was about to die soaked in his own piss in a musty basement. “Go upstairs,” a woman ordered. A woman?

“I want to talk to him, too,” a man answered, obstinate.

The blindfolded man struggled to place the woman’s voice. Did he know her? Did he hit on the wrong person? He thought about the times he’d traded in on his fame to convince a woman to come home with him. How pathetic.

He inhaled through the smell of lint and bleach and mildew. He moved his leg, feeling an edge. It was rough. He wondered whether they’d give him time to beg for his life, then remembered that the woman wanted to talk to him. He’d get his chance.

Think! What could he say? He knew. He’d say he was sorry. Yes, he would apologize for the whole thing. He’d offer money, jobs on his next project, anything to escape this basement.

A rough hand tore off the tape that covered his mouth. It stung. The cloth removed from his mouth. He choked.

“You put it too tight! What, do you want to kill him?”

“He’s fine!” the woman barked back.

Hands lifted and moved him to a chair. He had a fleeting thought of escape. Once they removed his blindfold, he’d rush past them. They wouldn’t expect that from a man his age. He might be able to make it to the door. Or maybe they’d just stab him in the neck.

He heard the man and woman talking, almost out of earshot.

“Should …. now or … tonight?”

“… excited … sleep,” she answered.

Footsteps shuffling toward him, stubby fingers grabbed at his head, and the blindfold removed.

He stared at his captors, then uttered his first words. “What the fuck?”

A middle-aged man, balding and clad in a yellow sweatshirt stood before him. He adjusted his glasses nervously. The woman, heavyset oily skinned, wore a dumb-ass smile.

“David Chase,” she exclaimed. “What an honor to meet you!”

Once again, David Chase uttered, “What the fuck?”


TWELVE HOURS EARLIER


David Chase fidgeted outside Sue Naegle’s office, impatient for the meeting with the HBO president. His blue pinstripe suit made him look like the accountant his mother always nagged him to be. Instead, he was famous, rich, and changed the way people thought about TV.

But his fame did stop his insecurities from resurfacing in the moments prior to a pitch. Since “The Sopranos,” it had improved but only in the sense the rejections were more polite.

Inevitably, someone would ask, “What’s the plan for a Sopranos movie?”

There would be no movie. He never said that; the possibility opened doors. He was sick of the Sopranos, but not so sick he didn’t dine out on it. Like the time in St. Barts when he hinted if the manager gave him a beachfront room, he’d carve out time to discuss the show with him.

He’d never gotten around to that chat, but he sure enjoyed the view.

Chased shifted in the chair in the HBO reception area. An assistant popped his head out of the office. “Mr. Chase, Ms. Naegle will see you.” As he stood, he told the assistant, “Please call me David.” He didn’t give a rats-ass what she called him, but it was his way of telling those around him that yes, the great David Chase had been in their midst.

Ninety minutes later, in a daze he passed through the revolving glass doors that led out to Avenue of the Americas. What just happened? He’d pitched a project about growing up black in the 1930s in Boston, but Naegle listened with minimal interest. She interrupted him to ask his advice about an HBO project about a runaway in LA. He’d known her for years and considered her a friend, but still. What the hell did he look like, a focus group?

Naegle promised to get back to him on his new project idea. It was her last words that floored him. “Perhaps we can make another Sopranos together, huh, David?”

With a pat on his back, he was ushered out the door.

Sitting at a Starbucks on East 23rd, he felt useless. He’d spent the last 18 months imagining this project. He had 40 episodes blocked out. Fuck them, I’ll go to Showtime or Bravo. Hell, look what AMC did with Mad Men. He ground what was left of his teeth. He had an idea like Mad Men, but the Sopranos had gotten in the way. Sometimes, he wished he’d never done the damn show.

He tossed his cup into the trash and stepped out onto Sixth. The Gramercy Theatre was to his left; he thought back to the days of watching dollar movies with his girlfriend in the ’70s. Shit, this town had changed.

A pedestrian screamed at a taxi for turning against the light. A homeless man begged for money; Chase pretended he didn’t see him. He’d practically grown up in the city, but he never fit in. That’s why he fled to Stanford. He walked aimlessly. A nagging thought surrounded him: I don’t know what I’m doing tomorrow.

At the corner of 33rd and 6th, he realized he left his coat at HBO. The sun blinded him. Just as he stepped off the sidewalk, a black van pulled up and blocked his path. The door flew open. A sharp push from behind knocked him into the van.

“What the fuck!” he screamed, but a blanket over his head muffled his voice.

A man repeated, “Oh my god! Oh my god! Oh my god!”

He tried to move but a heavyset figure sat on his chest. When he screamed, a cloth was thrust into his mouth. He attempted to throw a punch, but his abductors held his fists together. He was a captive. Someone had to have seen this, right?

What color is the van? Fuck, he couldn’t remember. It had happened so fast. He tried to pay attention to the turns, but it was futile; he was terrible at directions and with the blindfold, he was useless. He gave up. Hours went by. Stay awake, he told himself, stay awake.


MONTHS EARLIER


“You’re crazy,” said Jason Hemmings, flinging his hands up to make his point. “Goodfellas doesn’t come close to touching either Godfather One or Two!”

“Maybe not One, but Goodfellas is a hell of a lot better than Two,” Billy Riley shot back, taking a swig of his Corona. Three guys, hanging in the backyard while the steaks burned, while their wives lingered inside with the kids. Three days until Labor Day and the depressing end of summer. Jason Hemmings poked at the steaks. He pulled out a Sam Adams and flopped down in a lawn chair.

“You’re a dumbass. Two was the best of them all.”

“Didn’t Three suck?” asked Sam Ratry.

Billy’s wife was a cousin of Sam’s wife, so he showed up at these parties. Both men shook their heads. Such an idiot to bring up Three. Jason and Billy ignored him and went back to arguing.

“You jerk-offs still arguing over mob movies? Losers,” Peter Austin tucked in his shirt and grabbed another Corona. He was funny, good-looking and had the hottest wife. “Get over it. Sopranos was the best.”

“It doesn’t count, because it was a show. But yeah, it was great, no doubt.”

“That ending pissed me off. What the fuck was that supposed to mean? Did Tony die? Or did it end? That was wrong.”

“Yeah, what was that?” Jason rushed to agree. “What was David Chase thinking?”

“How did it end?” Sam asked, desperate to get in on the conversation.

The three looked over at him. “Sorry dude, too hard to explain, go watch six seasons and then join in,” Jason said. He was being a dick, but it was Sam, so the other men didn’t care.

Sam sank back into his seat.

“Do you know what should happen to that asshole Chase?” Jason was into it now. “They should hold him over a bridge like those mobsters did on Sopranos, and force him to say whether Tony died. Then drop him, no matter what he says.”

Peter stood, bored with the conversation. “I’m heading in to watch the Sixers game.”

The other three followed him.

Two night later, blue light from the TV illuminated Sam’s living room. He kept the volume low, to not wake his wife. It didn’t work.

“What are you doing up? It’s 3am.” Melinda Ratry hovered over her husband. She was sure she’d catch her husband watching porn, but instead a mob show flashed on the screen.

“Couldn’t sleep, just watching something.” Sam ignored her, hoping his wife would go away. It didn’t work. It never did.

“But … you’re watching on the DVD player. Where did you get this?” she grilled him, standing in front of the TV to block his view.

“I just got it, OK? Can you step aside?”

If there was anything Melinda was good at, it was taking up space. She was pushing 250 pounds, and she could block out the sun on a summer day. She wasn’t the type to let something go. She adjusted her floral mumu and sat down, the couch sinking an inch under her weight and forcing Sam to adjust the pillows behind him. He inched away.

“It’s The Sopranos. It’s a show that aired on HBO. I bought two seasons to see if it’s any good. Watched a few episodes already. Go back to bed.”

She settled into the couch. They sat for hours, lulled to sleep at 7:30 A.M. by episode seven’s closing credits. The couple ate dinner in front of the TV and binged the rest of season one. By Thursday, they polished off seasons two and three. It took a few days to get through season four because they couldn’t find it in stores. Within a week, they’d wrapped up season five, which they both agreed was lame.

They finished both parts of season six over the next few days.

As they watched the closing credits on the series finale, silence enveloped the room. It was 4am on a Wednesday, and Sam’s shift started in three hours. The store was short-staffed, and it was time for monthly inventory. That’s what he got after nine years as an assistant manager at the Safeway ten minutes from where he grew up.

Inventory worked on rotation, with Sam and the other assistant manager, Larry Busby, trading off months. It took ten hours to finish, so until 5:30pm, Sam’s life would consist of counting how many cases of Campbell’s soup were on the store floor and how many were in the warehouse.

Neither Melinda nor Sam spoke as he got up off the couch, stretched and headed toward the shower. He stripped and rested his head on the shower bar, closing his eyes as the water cascaded over him. It was cold. He cursed and adjusted the temperature. It took too long to heat up. By 6:30, he was out the door, his wife dozing on the couch.

When he dragged his ass through the door twelve hours later, she was waiting for him in the kitchen with a greasy meatloaf that she loved, and he detested.

Melinda interrupted their usual dinner silence. “Was that the end?”

Sam picked at his tater tots. “I guess so.”

“Well, that sucked.” Melinda lit a cigarette with the portable lighter that looked tiny in her stubby fingers. He hated when she smoked at the table, a disgusting habit.

It was just another part of his life that he had no control over. Even during inventory, Tex skipped out, telling Sam that he had a doctor’s appointment. Same excuse as last time, and it pissed Sam off because it meant he would have to stay late. He almost said something, but before he could muster up the words Tex departed.

His co-worker Sally mumbled, “Same old bullshit,” but Sam pretended not to hear. He got home at 7:15, it was dark, and the tater tots cold.

Melinda wasn’t in the mood to let it go. “What happened? Did Tony die? Or did it end?” She was now on to her second cigarette. At that moment, Sam said a silent thank you that his wife was no longer interested in sex.

“So … is Tony dead?” she repeated.

“I don’t know, why don’t you ask David Chase?” he snapped.

She stubbed out the Newport. “That’s got to be the worst ending ever. I feel robbed. We watched like seventy hours of that bullshit for that ending?”

Sam popped open a Coors Light. He’d made it a rule to never drink before dinner because that was a sure sign of an alcoholic. Like Mr. Blasco, the store manager. Mr. Blasco was a ruddy, broken-down son of a bitch who enjoyed putting down Sam in front of employees, especially the high school girls who worked nights and on weekends. Yeah, Mr. Blasco was a big man.

Without a word, Melinda shimmied herself up and walked into the bedroom. Sam collected the dishes and placed them in the sink. Tater tots and meatloaf didn’t create much of a mess. He enjoyed the silence as water ran on the pan.

“So is Tony dead?”

“Melinda, I don’t know.” Crap, the Sopranos was supposed to be his escape, and now he was more stuck than ever. “Well, what do you think?”

“Yeah, I guess he’s dead.” Anything to get her to shut up.

“But it didn’t show the death. Maybe it was just the end.”

“I thought you said he was dead.”

Almost on cue, Melinda picked up a tomato.

“I don’t know Melinda, no one knows.” Fearing she was reading his thoughts, Sam erased Produce Girl from his mind.

“David Chase does.”

Hours later, cold, Sam reached for the blanket. He looked up at the clock. 4:16am. He had another two hours to sleep. Wait. What woke him up? He searched his memory. Something in the house? He nudged Melinda to stop her snoring. She turned to her side. No. Nothing in the house. It was a dream. What was it? He tried to remember but fell back to sleep.

David Chase does.

His eyes opened. That’s it. He’d dreamed he was having drinks with David Chase, with a beautiful woman at his side. They were friends, David and Sam, laughing and having a good time. Sam felt like a million bucks. He smiled and drifted off.

David Chase does.

He opened his eyes again. There was more. His friend David was talking about the Sopranos, about his plans. A movie? No. Wait. Did he say Tony was alive or dead? He couldn’t remember. But he remembered David smiling at him. And then David leaned in and whispered: “Now you’re the only one besides me who knows.”

Knows what? Panic gripped Sam as the dream slipped away. Was it Tony? Was Tony alive? No, dead. Fuck, fuck, fuck. For the next hour, Sam wracked his brain to remember what David Chase told him. And then he spent the next hour trying to fall back asleep, so he could replay the dream. Nothing worked. He was out of bed before his alarm went off.

Traffic was worse than usual, and Sam would be late for work. Again. He tried to remember if today was the day that Mr. Blasco would be in the office early or if he had to swing by the regional headquarters. Maybe he’d get lucky.

His thoughts went back to David Chase. Jason, Peter, and Billy would be jealous. And he wouldn’t tell them. Sorry, just between David and I, he’d say. Sam smiled. He’d be like a celebrity, knowing a secret. He could become a TV commentator or something, he thought, talking about movies. He wouldn’t have to sit in this traffic, that’s for sure.

Life would be different.

Mr. Blasco wasn’t at the store when Sam arrived at 7:55am, but Busby, the other assistant manager, tattled on him. Mr. Blasco made a point of calling him out at the shift staff meeting at 2pm, pointing out he expected his managers to lead by example. Sam just took it.

It’s hard to say when the plan to kidnap David Chase took root. Perhaps on the car ride home that day, or a week later when Sam stumbled upon a movie called “King of Comedy,” in which the Robert DeNiro character kidnaps a late-night talk show host who’s supposed to be Johnny Carson. By October, Sam had the fantasy played out. But it wasn’t a kidnapping; he’d never do that. He’d put on his best suit, make an appointment with David Chase to kick around some ideas for a new HBO show. No! A Sopranos movie. He’d give David his thoughts.

And along the way, David would tell him what happened. First, though, Sam needed some great story ideas. He couldn’t just go in empty-handed when he met with David.

A week later, Sam sidled up to Jason at a family birthday party and asked, “So, if there was a Sopranos movie, how would it go?”

“No idea. I need to go drop off this drink.” He never came back. Sam got the same answer when he asked Billy Riley, and never approached Peter.

Over the next two months, he brainstormed ideas for a Sopranos movie. He really thought one or two could work. After a long day filling in as a checkout clerk — the new girl had been busted for meth — he walked into his bedroom to find Melinda reading his notes.

“Stop! That’s not for you, it’s not done.”

She turned toward him, blocking his way. “What is this?”

“Some writing. I don’t know. Just some writing. Put it down.”

“Since when did you become a writer?” She snorted and walked away.

And that was the end of his Sopranos movie.

Until.

A month later, Melinda was in her usual spot on the couch at her usual time, a bag of Doritos and a pastel-clad Oprah Winfrey keeping her company.

“Every once in a while, you run across a story that just makes you feel good,” Oprah told a captivated audience. “A year and a half ago, Daniel and Veronica Scott were about to lose their house. They had no place to turn, no relatives and no prospects. They were weeks away from eviction when Daniel had a chance encounter with James Cameron. The famous producer’s car broke down outside Denver, Daniel stopped to help, and before long the two were talking about movies. Well, it turns out Daniel was full of ideas, and one of them piqued James’ interest.”

Oprah shifted toward the couple, putting her hand on Daniel’s shoulder. “Fast forward two years, and ‘Berlin Games’ is set for release this spring. James Cameron is the director; Daniel wrote the screenplay and Veronica is an assistant producer. Please welcome Daniel and Veronica Scott.”

Melinda sat mesmerized as Oprah, James Cameron and the couple chatted like old friends. After reaching for a Dorito, she called her husband. “Are you still writing that Sopranos movie?”

Sam and Melinda’s writing partnership was complicated. When Melinda learned her husband had abandoned his Sopranos project, she reminded him he’d never finished, or even accomplished, anything. To show her own knack for dialogue, she reminded him that “his brain was about as big, and just as useless, as his tiny mouse dick.”

Melinda, however, wouldn’t let her husband’s lack of talent impede her chance to grace Oprah’s couch. For the next three months, she hounded, cajoled and threatened Sam to write the script. Nothing helped. When she withheld sex, he wrote even less.

Somehow, Sam’s life had gotten worse. He slumped over his computer on a sunny afternoon. Papers filled his desk, and an empty Krispy Kreme box sat discarded on a shelf. The dozen creme donuts had done nothing to inspire him.

“This isn’t working,” Sam muttered under his breath, practicing telling his wife of 17 years that he wanted out of this sacred institution called marriage. “This isn’t working,” he repeated, wondering if she heard him.

Melinda agreed. “It’s not working. It’s been months, and we have no script!”

She had a way of staring at him for what seemed like hours. He could feel her Medusa-like eyes on the back of his head, not daring to turn around.

“Here’s what we need to do,” she announced. “You need to meet David Chase to get a script going. Maybe you don’t have to write it.”

The idea was sound and would pay off, of that she was sure. A quick check on the Internet revealed that David Chase lived in a Bergen County, just forty-five minutes away. If they hung out on weekends at the Starbucks, eventually they’d see him. So, they drank coffee and went to a lot of movies at the Cedar Lane Cinemas. He had to show up sometime. After a month, David still hadn’t turned up. Melinda took it personally. What was he, a big shot?

Sam rode shotgun on a late Saturday in April. There was no stopping Melinda when she decided she wanted something. When she drove up David Chase’s driveway in Teaneck, he waited in the car while she rang the doorbell.

He had long ago lost control of his David Chase project. When the door opened, a 30-ish blond man stepped out of his house to look in wonderment at the greasy woman barking at him, Sam rolled up his windows and closed his eyes. It startled him when Melinda, screaming, squeezed her frame into the Dodge Colt and barked, “That’s not even the right David Chase!”

Sam sat mute. Sure, he could remind her that it was her, not him, who'd looked up this David Chase. But what good would it do?

The ride home might as well have been the Bataan Death March.

"Find out where he lives and figure out how we can meet him.”

Sam now had his marching orders, and it didn't take long to get an answer. "He lives in California!" Sam beamed at his detective skills. No, he didn't have an address for David Chase, let alone a town, but it didn't matter much since California was 3,000 miles away, and he sure the information would kill the project.

It did, for six weeks. They were among the best of Sam's life. Melinda lost interest in him. Busby left Safeway for a management job at Walgreens, and Mr. Blasco had no choice but to be more civil. Life was looking up.

Until.

It's funny how small moments can redirect the trajectory of a life. On the second Tuesday of the month, as she always did, Melinda had contorted herself into a chair at Zizzi Salon. Give or take five minutes, she would never have heard the conversation that would give her life new meaning.

Rachel Derlucci lived a life of glamour. If you didn't already know it, she'd be sure to tell you. She was thinner, prettier, richer, than most women in town. But she had bad skin. Melinda reveled in it. Today, Melinda wasn't thinking of Rachel's pockmarks.

"You know my niece Lara, Shari's daughter? Well, she works at HBO, and she says she gets to meet Hollywood stars! She met Jerry Priven, she met Daniel Duchovney..."

She dropped a few more names Melinda didn't know. "I saw her yesterday, and she said David Chase was coming into the office on Monday to talk about a Sopranos movie."

Melinda sprang up, banged her head into the dryer which scratched across the mirror. Her stylist pulled back her scissors. "Hey!"

Melinda barely noticed. "David Chase is here?"

Rachel froze. Melinda was not her people. "Yeah, so?"

"This Monday?"

"Why do you care?"

Melinda didn't say another word. She ripped off the robe, pulled the rollers from her hair, and headed for the door, not even registering her stylist calling that she needed to pay.

Sam's six weeks of bliss came to an end. Melinda and Sam agreed on is that they would never force themselves on David Chase. Since he'd be in town, all they'd have to do was bump into him and strike up a conversation. One thing would lead to another and ... scripts, movies, Oprah.

"We can't make him think we're desperate."

Melinda nodded.

"We have to make this natural," Sam kept on.

She agreed.

"We have to wait until after his meeting, so he has free time. Invite him for a drink."

"Yup, yup."

"What bar do we think we should invite him to?" Sam asked.

Melinda stood up, calm as can be. "We're gonna push him into our van and bring him here."

Sam should have refused. Should have walked out, maybe never to return. He'd like to say all of those thoughts went through his head, but it would be a lie. Instead, he nodded.

TODAY, AGAIN

It shouldn't be this easy to kidnap someone.

Melinda waited outside Time Warner and texted Sam when Chase stepped out onto 6th Avenue. For once, Sam did his job, pulling up right on time for Melinda to put her girth to good use. Chase landed in the back of the van and Melinda closed the door. The few people who saw it had little useful information. Sam used stolen the license plates from a car at the deli downtown.

"What the fuck do you want with me?"

"We loved the Sopranos! We're your biggest fans!"

Chase eyed at the duo. And it hit him. He was in grave danger. They were idiots. He devised a strategy. "Listen, just let me go. I won't press charges and I won't even go to the police.

Melinda nodded her head. She never seemed to stop. Did she hear anything he said?

Summoning his courage, San said, "Mr. Chase, I'm sorry for the inconvenience. We didn't want to do it this way. Not sure why we did..."

Melinda kept nodding.

"We have ideas about how to continue the Sopranos..."

Nodding.

"And well, we thought if we knew how it ended, we could write something just fantastic for you. HBO would love it."

Chase stared at this little speck of a man. Was this the rest of his life? Being hounded, kidnapped by morons who can't let a stupid TV show go? He tried again. "Listen, I don't care why you did this, just that you let me go. Let me go and there will be no charges..."

"Mr. Chase, you don't understand."

"No, you don't understand. I will fucking press charges if you don't let..."

Melinda stopped nodding long enough to cover his mouth with tape and pull the blindfold over his eyes. She shoved him onto the ground, turning her ire on her husband.

"Let's go, Sam! This is your fault!"

Chase lost track of the time. His body collapsed from stress. When he woke up, dark shadows hung over the beat-up couch in the center of the room. He sensed movement in the room, guessing it was the man. Sam. But nothing. He fell back asleep.

Sam sat near Chase, forbidden from talking or removing his blindfold or tape. Strict orders. Melinda stayed upstairs watching Oprah.

When he finally stirred, Chase's body ached. They left him with his hands tied in an awkward position against the wall. A searing pain shot through his back. He turned toward whomever was in the room and make muffled sounds through the tape covering his mouth.

Sam removed it, and Chase exercised his mouth.

"Take off the blindfold," he said, his voice hoarse.

Sam pulled it off. "Do you want to hear our Sopranos idea?" he asked hopefully.

"I'm hungry, can I eat first?" Sam spoon-fed him a slab of burnt meatloaf and soggy peas.

Sam put down the spoon. "We thought you could do a movie. It turns that that Tony was an FBI informant all along..."

"'The Departed' did that."

"OK. Well, what about if Tony ... well, he sells his story to Hollywood..."

Chase sighed. "We did that with Christopher, and anyway we stole that from John Travolta in 'Get Shorty.'"

A thump, thump, thump down the stairs alerted Sam his wife was joining the conversation.

Sam thumbed through a notepad. "OK! This one's good. Tony goes to jail for a crime he didn't commit, and makes friends inside, but the warden keeps him in prison because he needs him."

"Shawshank." Was this the best quality of kidnapper he could get?

Sam avoided Melinda's glare. "Oh, well, yeah, right? OK, so Tony is like a psychopath, right? But he kills off serial killers the cops can't catch?"

"Dexter does that."

Sam was lost. Melinda of no help. "We'll talk later." On went the blindfold.

Chase cursed himself. Why hadn't he played along? They may have let their guard down long enough for him to make a move. These two were the dumbest people he'd ever met. Faced with the choice of spit-balling movie ideas or solitary confinement, well, it was a close call.

Why were people so obsessed with the Sopranos? It had been years since the show's end. Let it go. He understood what Bob Denver went through. He was fucking Gilligan.

The last thing Chase wanted to make was another Sopranos. This growing up black in the 1930s Boston project had a heart. It was fresh. And it would sell. It would work. The Sopranos was dead. How could he bring Tony back? It was over. His mother was dead, Bobby was dead, Silvio was a vegetable. There was no one to work with. What would it even be about?

He challenged himself to name a TV show that came back and succeeded. Well, Dragnet. In color. He loved watching it, because it was the only one his mom sat with him.

Three days dragged by and the blindfold never came off. Chase had Sam's lack of talent to thank for it. Sam spent sixteen hours at his desk, trying to write something and coming up empty. He attributed it to writer's block. He didn't seem to realize he'd have to be a writer to get that.

Three days. Melinda took control. She screamed if he wasn't in his seat with a pen in hand. She watched Oprah, went out for a milkshake and nodded off in front of the TV. Sam held the pen.

He reached a breaking point. "Melinda, I need to take a break."

He should've known better than to interrupt Oprah. Barely glancing his way, she sneered at him. "Break? Write. You're the writer. So, write."

It seemed like an eternity since Chase shot down his ideas, and Melinda was one part furious, one part gleeful at his misfortune. Sam surveyed the pages scattered around him. The writing was crap. He had no talent. He had a psychopath for a wife, a dead-end job at Safeway and no hope that life would get better. He closed his eyes and rubbed his temples.

Oprah was over. Melinda glowered over him.

"Write! Write! Write!" She was inches from his face, veins bulging. She reveled in making him feel useless, feeble and dominated. He was her perfect husband.

Until.

"Fuck off!" Sam bolted upright so fast Melinda stumbled back over the chair. And just like that, Sam was Tony. He grabbed a knife from the counter and jumped on top of Melinda, riding her like a horse as he repeatedly thrust the knife into her chest.

For once, she never uttered a word.

Sam didn't know how long, or how many times, he stabbed her. Empty eyes stared up at him. He got off the bloody corpse, sat down at the table and stared at the blood dripping off his hands. Never saw that on the Sopranos. But he was sure Tony was there with him.

Chase woke up at the commotion upstairs. Heard slow steps.

"How do you dispose of a body?" It was Sam, his voice quiet.

The question made Chase tremble. He was a dead man.

For once, Sam seemed on top of things. His voice was slow, calm. "Not you, David. Melinda."

"What happened?" Chase asked.

"She's dead." Sam's voice was relaxed and confident.

The hair on the back of Chase's neck was pricked. Reading his mind, Sam took the knife and raised it over his hero. He cut off the plastic handcuffs. The blindfold was next.

Sam sat down, the knife was still in his hand. "Sorry for all this, it got all fucked up."

Chase stared at the blood. Should he make a run for it? Sam was holding a knife and was clearly willing to use it. Minutes went by.

"It wasn't supposed to come to this. I don't know how I got here. It went out of control. Melinda..."

"Is she really dead?" Chase rubbed his wrists.

"Upstairs." Sam pointed toward the door.

"So, what now?"

Sam stood. "Take my car. I won't need it. I'll call the cops after you leave."

Chase stared at the murder weapon. It had been a week of absolute hell. Something made him linger. "So, you'll turn yourself in for her? And for me?" He felt inside his pockets for his wallet.

Sam's eyes closed. "I'll let you get away before I call the police. That way you don't have to be sucked into this. I'll confess to whatever you want but figured you'd rather I kept you out."

Chase took a step toward the stairs. Something stopped him.

"Why did you do this? You ruined your life."

Sam smiled. "Are you kidding? I got to do something different. If my friends, well, not really friends, knew about this, they'd look at me like I was someone and not a loser."

He pointed toward the stairs. "I'm sorry. Go."

Chase looked around the basement. A shit hole. The revelation hit him hard: This guy cared enough to kidnap him; most of his family didn't bother to call when after his gallbladder surgery. "Sam, you're going to prison. But maybe this will help."

Chase hesitated for only a moment. "Tony is dead."

Sam froze.

"I killed him in the last episode. It was a one-hour funeral. He was a SOB and a killer, and he had to die. Justice. Go back and watch it. From the moment he wakes up, when I showed him from above like he was in a casket, to the bells of the diner door. The oranges, the mural behind Tony, the 'Members Only' guy."

Chase was back in the diner, into it now. He'd always wanted to explain the finale, to show his genius. He just never imagined it like this. "Phil hired him -- he'd been following Tony for days. You can see him in a few other shots, from a distance, but never his face. Go back and watch."

The director inside of him slowed, to pace the story. "He went to the bathroom. He came out and shot Tony. Shot Carmela and Anthony. All dead. I left Meadow outside so someone would live. She's the survivor. Everyone thought the Journey song was for Carmela -- it wasn't. 'Don't Stop Believin' was for Meadow. Her family was massacred, and now she's stuck to live with the crimes of her father. She was the only one who didn't deserve to be punished."

"Call the police. Tell them your wife is dead, and you kidnapped David Chase. I'm pissed it's been a week, and no one's done shit about it. I hate people."

He put his hand on Sam's shoulder. "And when they question me, I'll tell them you're a merciless son of a bitch, meaner than I ever imagined Tony could be. That you killed your wife because she was weak. And that you forced me to tell you how the Sopranos ended. And now, you and I are the only two people in the world who know."

Sam handed Chase the knife and walked up the stairs.

Chase gathered his shoes. He should've just left. But there was something here, something real. The police would come and everyone would know David Chase was held hostage a week, and no one cared. Maybe that would jar his so-called friends into paying more attention.

The sound of a gunshot shocked him back into reality. Chase bound up the stairs, expecting to find the police had arrived and shot Sam. There were no police. What was left of Sam's head was splattered across the kitchen floor, the rest of him draped over Melinda's legs.

Chase walked out of the house alone.

TWO MONTHS LATER

David Chase took his usual chair in Sue Naegle's office, waving away the HBO team's concerns over his harrowing experience. "I want to do a Sopranos movie."

Sue's eyes lit up.

"It's not what you think. It's a prequel. It's Tony at 25, still with a chance in life, still with options. He has doubts, wants something else. And I want to show how his mother wore him down until he had no choices. I want to show how a domineering bully can break a spirit."