Friday, July 27, 2007

BIG MONEY, Chapter Two

It’s bad, bad news for my kids’ future Walter Osgood is leaving Shore. He’s our ace, earned over $900,000 in gross commissions last year. The firm is definitely teetering without Walter. And therefore so is my dream of building a college nest egg for Beth and Ryan.

After promising Walter I’ll keep my mouth shut until Monday, and hugging him goodbye, I ignore the urge to self-medicate right there at Luis’s. I drive instead to Mr. Vick’s party in Atlantic Highlands. I owe the boss at least an appearance. And with all Mr. Vick’s single cousins and nieces there drinking like fish, maybe I’ll get lucky.

Yeah, it crosses my mind I’d be helping my own business interests if I tell Vick about Walter leaving, bring in the guys on Saturday to work Walter’s accounts. But it’s only a fleeting thought. Walter’s a close friend.

I park, walk straight inside the bayside restaurant bar and bubbly flow of Bonacellis and Shore Securities’ employees. A disk jockey’s thumping disco to an overflow dance floor. Half the dancers are women bobbing and weaving with other women. I’d like my odds of taking one to bed later if it wasn’t for black storm clouds hurtling down from the north.

At the bar, I order another martini. Through long windows behind the slick wood counter, I watch lightning flashes burst over Manhattan.

Feels like the world is engineering me a tempest.

When I’ve sipped my glass of gin and vermouth down to transportable levels, I join the crowd of familiar faces. Another Shore broker, Bobby G., and I admire the size of Mr. Vick’s family and the widespread Bonacelli characteristic of large breasts. Particularly among the women.

Someone grabs my shoulder. It’s Vittorio “Mr. Vick” Bonacelli himself, sole founder of Shore Securities. Thanks to this winter’s deal that brought in me, Carmela and her new-then-ex husband Ragsdale--who can keep track of the latest ins and outs--and Walter into the fold as partners, Mr. Vick’s current ownership is down to forty-nine percent.

But Mr. Vick is our beloved leader. He’d be the boss if that number was two percent.

“We need to talk,” he says.

Mr. Vick drags me to a quiet eddy.

“I want you to look out for Carmela while I’m gone,” Vick says. “I don’t want her going back to Rags.”

One and a half see-throughs have tuned me up enough to tell Mr. Vick exactly how I feel. I have plenty to do without watching over his Butterface daughter.

“Isn’t taking care of Carmela one of Carmela’s jobs now, boss? Didn’t I just write her a big check for college graduation?”

Great figure, Carmela. In fact, everything about her is great. Everything BUT HER FACE.

“You call that a big check?” Vick says.

Hey, fifty bucks was all I could afford. And I think generous considering my current financial prospects. I mean, I was back on my feet until I forked over a down payment on my damn Shore Securities stock.

“Make sure you see Carmela every day,” Vick says. “She’s going ahead with the divorce, but she’s still nutty about him. If Rags comes back, goes ape-shit see Carmela with one puffy lip, you call my friend Tony. He knows what to do.”

Except when he’s behind the wheel of his Jaguar, the recently married-and-quickly-separated-with-a-piece-of-Shore Rags--my former sales manager--is a pussycat. Crazy, yes. But not the hand-to-hand combat type. We’ll never see him again.

“And oh, yeah,” Vick says, “I told my mother to call you she gets in any predicaments.”

Now there’s a problemo. “Mama Bones” Bonacelli, among other nefarious enterprises, runs a chain of free senior-citizen exercise clubs as a front for her betting operations. For entertainment, she practices voodoo and shamanism. With Mama Bones, a “predicament” could easily involve the FBI, peyote buttons, or flesh-eating zombies.

“No whining about Mama,” Mr. Vick says.

I must have groaned out loud.

“You owe me big time for keeping you on a personal-services contract until your A.A.S.D. suspension is over,” Mr. Vick says. “And I’m letting you finish buying shares in the business out of your end of Shore’s profits so you can finally start building something for your kids.”

I sigh and check the shine on my Florsheims. “You’re right, Vick. I’ll keep an eye on Carmela. Mama Bones, too.”

“Thanks.” Mr. Vick clasps my hand. I feel a wad of paper pressed against my palm, and like a slick maitre’d collecting his cash duke, I snag the paper from Vick’s hand in one smooth motion.

Later, when I’m alone, I see Vick’s handout is a torn sheet of yellow notebook paper. “Tony” and a phone number are penciled in block letters. The phone number has a 718 prefix, which tells me this Tony guy resides in Brooklyn.

Wonder should I read anything into that? Vick’s emergency muscle comes from big time mob country?


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