Friday, January 4, 2008

BIG MONEY, Chapter 24

I’m slowly adapting to my new environment: Black Ford Motor Company leather. Buffed silver and polished walnut trim. Riding with the King and Queen of the Brooklyn mafia’s spring prom.

Last time I saw Gina she wanted to shoot her husband with some kind of bazooka-size handgun. Now the two of them are all kissy-kissy, Tony’s knockout wife looking extra sexy in a silky black dress.

“Hungry?” Gina says.

Like she can’t tell. “I’ll let you know when my stomach grows back.”

“Did we scare you?” she says.

“Not more than Boris Karloff when I was six.”

Tony laughs. Not Gina. She hasn’t smiled at me since I climbed in behind them. I’m in the back seat of the Farascio’s Lincoln. The air tastes of leather and perfume, or maybe it’s Tony’s after-shave. On the radio, Frank Sinatra sings “Summer Wind.”

“We were having a little fun, sunshine,” Tony says to me. “Don’t worry about your car. I’ll take care of the towing...everything.”

“What the hell happened at the hotel, Tony?”

“You got forty-five minutes to work up an appetite,” he says. “Maybe longer if the tunnel’s choked up. You’re eating at the best Italian restaurant in Little Italy.”

Oh, boy. Comfort food. “Instead of dinner, how about discussing you disappearing with Bluefish’s hundred grand? Maybe a line or two about Talbot turning up dead? What the hell happened?”

The Farascios trade glances.

“Wait ‘til you taste the baked mac,” Gina says.

Hanging twine-covered wine bottles camouflage three short walls of the narrow, one-room restaurant. A single glass window faces Mulberry Street. A tiny bar and fourteen white-linen tables fill the boxcar like space. Me and the Farascios take up two, Tony needing a table all by himself.

Green bell pepper-shaped wall lamps provide the only inside light. Sinatra is playing in here. too. Some Doris Day love song from the early sixties I don’t even want to remember the name of. Truth is, I’m a bit dizzy. Can’t shake this time-warp feel. It’s either a Sinatra overload, or maybe it’s because Tony just told me to “forget about” Bluefish and the money, “not to worry ‘bout nuttin’.”

“Bluefish will back off me and Luis just because you tell him to?” I say.

“Ab-so-fucking-lutely,” Tony says. “And he’ll eat the one-hundred gees I took from him, too. The war’s over. It’s already been explained to Bluefish.”

I’m far from expert on mob organizational matters, but I suppose it’s logical that a New York mafia family would hold sway over a bookie from Branchtown, New Jersey. Maybe Tony can have Bluefish and the Creeper called off. Mr. Vick certainly gave me Tony’s number for a reason.

I hope Mr. Vick didn’t know about this mob trouble before he left for Tuscany. I’d have to kill him when he gets back.

“But what about Talbot?” I say. “Did you go to her room? Did you see her?”

“Sure,” Tony says. “She’s an old friend. I gave her a taste of Bluefish’s cash, explained about me and Vick, and now everything’s cool. No more co-mingling. She was okay when I left her.”

Gina’s fist goes for her husband’s face like a firecracker. But Tony’s quicker. He catches her wrist, Gina’s white knuckles six inches from contact.


“Not here,” he says. “Please.”

Gina screaming, “You gave her a taste, all right, didn’t you, asshole? A taste of your prick.”

Tony’s fingers turn white around Gina’s wrist. She winces from the pain. Her eyes flash submission. Her lips press together in forced silence.

Gosh I’m glad I came to dinner with the Farascios.

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