Friday, February 8, 2008

BIG MONEY, Chapter 28

Mama Bones keys the entrance. The scrub-pine forest grows within twenty feet of the roofed, plank-board porch that encircles the two-story hunting lodge we’re about to enter. Behind us, a dirt clearing offers space for three dump trucks, two school buses, and a Boeing 747 beside the white Escalade.

An owl hoots. The Jersey night air smells of dry pine needles and a distant charcoal campfire. I hope Thomas or Gianni brought marshmallows.

Inside, Mama Bones flips a light switch. Whoa. A forty-by-forty-foot hotel lobby greets my eyes--a dozen leather lounge chairs, overstuffed sofas, green felt card tables, brass lamps, and two televisions. Pine floors. Pine walls. With animal heads.

“Some joint,” I say.

“Don’t get comfortable,” Mama Bones says. “You only safe here a day or two.”

“Then what?”

She shrugs. “Is up to you. I bring you here, make you safe for a while because you with Gina. Rest of your life is up to you.”

Nice. Mama Bones would make a great stockbroker. Better yet, a bond trader. “You’re leaving me here all alone?”

Mama Bones shakes her head. “Gianni give you his bug-out bag.”

“Oh boy. Whatever the hell that is. What about Gina?”

“I take her somewhere else.”

I sigh. Mama Bones has that conversation-over tone in her voice, not to mention the upper hand. Gina’s her family. Guess I’m lucky to be alive, actually. But I’ll have to be even luckier to stay above ground. Every time I think my situation can’t get worse, it does. At least Ryan and Beth are safe.

“Bedroom upstairs,” Mama Bones says.

I glance toward the stairway. The hand-carved log railing and banister is a sculpture. Twisted tree branches, bull horns, cowboys, and horse heads grow from the wood like living images of the wild west.

“Who owns this place?”

“Bluefish,” Mama Bones says. “Me and Thomas figure it’s last place he look.”

Gina steps out of the Escalade to hug me. It’s a halfhearted embrace, the dark-haired widow dabbing back tears with a tissue.

Over my shoulder, she says, “Did you tell him everything, Mama Bones?”

“He knows plenty,” Mama Bones says.

“Mama? We discussed this,” Gina says. “Austin needs to know the story on Anne Marie. To save Shore Securities...for himself, yes, but also for your son and your granddaughter Carmela.”

Mama Bones shifts her gaze to mine. Like she’s trying to decide if she wants to turn me into a frog. Whoa. Why did I think that, for crissakes? Who put that in my mind? Think happy thoughts, Austin. Happy thoughts.

“If you don’t, I will,” Gina says.

Mama Bones grunts. “Anne Marie Talbot is notta just any accountant for the A.A.S.D.. She do favors all the time for Bluefish and others before him. This time, she is working for Bluefish. She is supposed to put squeeze on you, help Bluefish take over Shore Securities.”

The owl hoots again. A gust of night air hisses at me through pine needles. There’s more. There has to be.

“And...,” Gina says.

“And that’s why my son Vittorio go to Italy, leave you in charge of Shore,” Mama Bones says. “He knows Rags can’t pay, that Bluefish come after him because he introduce Rags, vouch for him. Plus my little Vittorio figures this A.A.S.D. investigation is rigged against him.”

My jaw drops. “Mr. Vick left me to take the heat? He was willing to risk my family’s lives, not his?”

Mama Bones shrugs.

That son-of-a-bitch. I’m going to drive a full set of Wilson irons up his spaghetti-eating ass. Plus the bag and cart.

But below the anger, another more logical jewel of thought shines to the top. “Do you know who killed Anne Marie?” I say.

Mama Bones glances at Gina. Mrs. Farascio nods permission.

“Brooklyn believe Tony did it for the hundred-thousand,” Mama Bones says. “That’s what Bluefish tell them, anyway. He say he had video recording, then lost DVD to cops. Brooklyn guys believe him, say okay to hit Tony.”

“Nunzio’s been jealous of Tony for years,” Gina says.

“Where did Bluefish get a video of Talbot’s murder?” I say.

“I don’t know,” Mama Bones says. “Is only rumor I hear.”

“But you don’t think Tony really did it?”

She looks at Gina. “No.”

Why do I feel her answer might be different if Tony’s wife wasn’t here? Wasn’t it Mama Bones who told me Tony was “abada-bada man?”


Anonymous said...

Five out of your last six posts have an image of your new cover.

Austin Carr said...

Yeah? And that's a problem because...?