Sunday was another beautiful May day, and I spent it traversing the length of Riverside Park, all the way north and then all the way south. I enjoyed the sunshine views of the Hudson River flowing south to New York Harbor, the Palisades Cliffs across the river, and a procession of glorious pre-War buildings along Riverside Drive. My left leg, the one that was injured in my first chase with Shooter Joe, felt damn close to normal. All in all, I was feeling pretty good. Physically, at least. For lunch, I ignored my better judgment and bought a hot dog with mustard from a mobile stand. It was delicious.
Everything was going my way. I debated calling Kim, to follow up on the moments of affection that had occurred last night. But . . . she had told me she missed me while not saying a thing about seeing me again. Maybe I was overanalyzing―something Maggie had informed me I was prone to―but the fact that Kim hadn't mentioned the possibility of further contact seemed awfully important to me. I was aware that I had shoved my into my pants pocket and was clutching my phone tightly in my right hand. I forced myself to relax my grip and removed my hand. No calls. Not today anyway.
It was a very good thing that I took advantage of the weather on Sunday because Monday was gray and drizzly. The dull, wet daylight suited my mood. I was hours away from confronting Dominick Junior. Since the subject of my own dishonesty was sure to come up when he and I met, our conversation was not something I happily anticipated.
But I spent the entire day prepping myself for that night. I exercised in my living room, doing multiple sets of ab crunches and push ups. A long, hot shower and a careful, close shave put me in a calm state of mind. Well, as calm as you can be when your immediate future includes a tête-à-tête with a bunch of murderous Mafiosi.
My lunch was smoked salmon and avocado on whole wheat toast. Tasty and nutritious. And relatively light. Shortly after lunch, Joanne Agar called.
“Was that you again?” she said without even a hello.
“Don't get funny with me. Were you chasing the wedding shooter again this past Saturday?”
“Why would I do something like that? That's crazy. And how would I know where the shooter was going to be?”
“You are not as cute as you think you are.”
“Yes, I am.”
“You're not going to tell me, are you?”
I hoped my silence would suffice.
“Okay,” she said, “be that way.”
“Did you call to scold me?”
“Yes. I thought it would be more fun than it turned out to be.”
“Life can be disappointing.”
“I also wondered if you needed anything?”
“Special Agent Agar, are you fishing for information by offering to help me?”
“I can't fool you, can I?”
“You weren't really trying to fool me, were you?”
“No. Do you need anything?”
I thought about it for a second. “Do you know anyone working organized crime these days?”
“Would you mind asking where Dominick Gianetti hangs out these days?”
“Would you mind telling me why you want to know?”
“Ahh, the mysterious ways of Tyrrell.”
“I'll see what I can do.”
I barely had time to clean my lunch plate and prepare a post-lunch cappuccino when Joanne called back.
“Dominick hangs out at Accogliente. It's Italian for―”
“Cozy. It means 'cozy.' I don't suppose it is a little romantic hideaway.”
“No, the name is unintentionally ironic. It's Dominick's father's old place in Red Hook, Giuseppe's Seafood, but redone with a lot of glitz and noise. Dominick and his lieutenants still hang out in one of the back rooms.”
She laughed. “Sweet. Precisely the word I was looking for. Are you planning to drop by?”
“I might. Red Hook is one happening neighborhood, you know.”
“Be careful, Jack. Just because Dominick Jr. has terrible taste in restaurant decor, doesn't mean he isn't dangerous as all get out.”
For the second time, I found myself saying, “Danger is my business.”
* * *
Uber arrived outside my apartment at 10:33 P.M. I didn't want to arrive at Accogliente until Gianetti Jr. was already there. I was wearing khakis, a button-down blue shirt and a navy blue blazer. Not exactly the uniform of the modern day wiseguy, but much better than blue jeans and a sweatshirt. Besides, my shoulder holster fit much better under a blazer than anything else.
Not that I expected to use the Ruger. I knew that one of the first things I would be required to before gaining an audience with Gianetti was to submit to a full search and hand over any and all weapons. In an effort to make this process smooth and swift, I was only going to bring one weapon. Once Dominick's men confiscated my gun, the most likely scenario was that Dominick and I would be surrounded by four or five of his guys, all of whom would be armed, and me, unarmed, in the center of the scrum.
Oh well, I thought. I can live with that. I hope.
The Uber driver went east on 76th Street, circled west to the Joe DiMaggio Highway, and headed south along the river. The DiMaggio was the same roadway as the Henry Hudson Parkway but south of West 72nd Street. I guess the city planners thought it was enough that the river was named after Henry. Besides, other than discover pieces of North American geography, what did he ever do? Did he have a 56-game hitting streak? Did he ever marry Marilyn Monroe? No. In my opinion, Henry was lucky to retain naming rights to the northern part of the parkway.
We drove all the way to the Battery on the southern end of Manhattan and into the Hugh Carey Tunnel, once known more prosaically as the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel. Almost two miles long, it emerged in Brooklyn north of the Red Hook neighborhood where I was going.
The driver wound through the streets of Red Hook and stopped in front of Accogliente at a few minutes after 11:00 P.M.
I walked through the front door of the garishly glitzy restaurant and was greeted by a young woman of abundant curves and a cascade of thick, dark hair.
“Good evening,” she said. “Do you have a reservation?”
“No, I'm not dining. I want to see Mr. Gianetti. My name is Jack Tyrrell. I used to be a Deputy Marshal.”
“Oh?” she asked, puzzled. She glanced over her shoulder, back at me, and said, “Could you wait a minute?”
She moved through the crowd to the bar, leaned over, and spoke into the ear of one of the bartenders as she jerked her thumb in my direction. He nodded, reached under the bar, brought up a telephone receiver to his ear, and spoke into it. After a minute, he hung up and waved me over. I walked past the hostess as she returned to her station at the front of the restaurant.
“You Tyrrell?” the bartender asked.
He pointed to the back of the restaurant. “See the guy in the suit.”
I did, in fact, see a tall, thin man in a black suit. Dark-gray hair, slicked back from his forehead and at the temples. Pencil mustache. Carlo Mancini. The guy who had bribed me on behalf of Dominick Senior. The guy who had threatened me when I failed to come through. The guy who had probably arranged for the hit on Maggie and me. It had never occurred to me how much hate I would have for this guy if I saw him again. How much I would want to tear him to pieces with my bare hands. Deep breaths, Tyrrell, deep breaths. Carlo is not the focus of this evening's activities. Yeah, but maybe he could be a bonus . . . ?
As I walked toward him, he smiled widely, “Former Deputy Marshal Jack Tyrrell. What a surprise. I never thought I'd see you here in a million years.” His voice was a high tenor, a little surprising in such a tall man.
“I'd like to see Mr. Gianetti.”
“That's between him and me.”
“Maybe we could settle whatever it is without bothering Mr. Gianetti.”
“Carlo, if you don't take me to see Dominick, I'm going to tear your balls off and shove them down your throat.”
He wasn't fazed. “Brave talk for a drunken bum who got his wife killed.”
I moved so fast it shocked even me. My Ruger was under his chin before he could blink; my left hand cupped his testicles none too gently.
“Would you care to rephrase?” I asked.
“Who the fu―”
“Carlo,” I smiled as I squeezed hard with my left hand. “Care to rephrase?”
He grunted and would have doubled over in pain if my gun under his jaw hadn't prevented that. The restaurant crowd didn't seem to notice us, but two very large men in dark suits with no ties were walking toward us.
“If you think those guys are going to save your nuts, you are sadly mistaken,” I whispered, punctuating my sentence with another hard squeeze of his balls.
He groaned loudly, causing some nearby patrons to look at us.
“I'd stay away from the clams,” I said and shrugged, as I pushed Carlo into the approaching duo. They grabbed him and managed to keep him from falling to the floor.
I slid my gun back into my holster. “Why don't we go see Mr. Gianetti before anyone else gets hurt?”
The big guys hesitated, but Carlo said, “Take this bastard inside. But search him first.”
I put my hands up, but only shoulder high, not over my head, and said, “Maybe this would be less disruptive in Mr. Gianetti's office?”
Carlo nodded and let out a string of curses. The big guys, one as tall as me, the other an inch taller, each grabbed an arm and paraded me into the inner sanctum of Dominick Gianetti Jr. Carlo limped in behind us.
Dominick's office was much more old-school than the restaurant. Wood paneling, plush beige carpeting, leather couches and arm chairs. Not really my taste, but it would have been fine in some WASP's law office. Dominick was also not to my taste, either. Not quite as tall or as thin as Carlo, but Dominick didn't go for the sleazy mustache or the slicked back hair or the black suit from the Goombah Catalog. He effected a nouveau Rat Pack style: well-cut, dark royal-blue sharkskin suit, a white shirt so bright it hurt my eyes, no tie, black loafers with a gold thingy (I had no idea what it was) and no socks. He stepped to a leather swivel chair behind a teak desk with a massive and clean desktop. He sat down and appeared to be posing for a catalog for powerful men.
Two other men, both older, shorted and stouter, sat on a couch to my right, Dominick's left. They looked like what they were: long-time flunkies in the Gianetti family.
Carlo waved at me, and the two guys who had so graciously escorted me into the office, dropped my arms and began to search me, patting me down with no gentleness whatsoever.
“Be real thorough,” Carlo growled. As much as a falsetto can growl.
One of the guys practically smashed my balls with the heel of his hand, which I understood to be a thorough search procedure. I was too manly to indicate the pain I felt, refusing to groan or stoop over in reaction. But I must confess that I hoped I would get a chance to return the thorough “pat” down.
The guy who didn't smash my gonads pulled my Ruger from its holster and laid it on top of Dominick's desk.
“He's clean except for the automatic.”
“Oh my,” I said, “automatic is such a big word for gun. Hope you didn't hurt yourself.”
“I'm gonna guess you didn't come here to swap insults with these guys,”Dominick said. “What do you want?”
I pointed to a chair in front of his desk and asked, “Do you mind if I sit down?”
“No, help yourself.”
As I sat, Dominick waved the big guys away. They took seats on another couch near the older, stouter flunkies.
“The first thing I want―”
“The first thing? You got more than one thing?” Carlo snorted in his high-pitched voice. “This one has brass balls.”
He was standing to my left, a smirk from ear to ear, which curled his pathetic little mustache up at the corners of his mouth.
“If you say so,” I replied to Carlo, then said to Dominick, “The first thing I want to say is that you and I have no unfinished business. What happened, happened. I'm not here to square anything with you; we're all square.”
“Really? Your wife is dead.”
Stay calm, Tyrrell. I paused, long enough to take a breath and exhale slowly. “Your father and I had a dispute. He settled things his way then . . . died. His death settled everything between him and me.” I pointed at Dominick then back at myself, “Between us, there's no ill will.”
“Okay,” he nodded. “I get it. Agreed. Nothing between you and me.” He grinned―it wasn't pretty. “What's your second thing?”
“I want to contact the man who shot my wife.”
Dominick and Carlo whooped with laughter, and Dominick shook his head. “You really do have brass balls. Huge, round, brass balls.”
“Could I please have the information? I'm guessing you still know how to contact the man.”
“I know how. I'm the one who set up the hit on your wife,” Carlo piped in. “Not that I'm gonna help you.”
“Speak when you're spoken to,” I said, adding Carlo to my mental list of accounts to be settled. To Dominick, “Listen, I meant what I said about your father and me. But the trigger man―that's something else entirely. I want that guy. And you can give him to me.”
“Why should I?”
“Are you asking me to do you a favor if you give me what I want?”
“That's usually how these things work. Scratch each other's backs, quid pro quo. You know how it goes, Jack.”
“Yes, I do, but I'm not promising any favors. I'm asking for your help. Straight up, one man to another. Please help me by giving me this information.”
Dominick's unpleasant grin slowly transformed into serious thoughtfulness.
“I'm asking you to do the honorable thing and help me get the man who killed my wife.”
“With nothing in it for me?”
“Except the satisfaction of doing a good turn for another man.”
“I don't think I've ever felt that,” he said, the grin back in full force.
“Try it. You might like it.”
The ugly grin subsided to a tight smile. He was shaking his head, bewildered by his own thoughts. “I don't think I can just agree to this. But I will make you an offer.”
“I don't actually know who the man is who killed your wife. I don't know how to contact him. But I give you permission to try and persuade Carlo, who does know.”
Carlo, who was standing on my left, took a step backward, moving away from me. His hand eased inside his jacket, probably to rest on the butt of his gun.
“I have your permission to persuade Carlo?”
“May I interpret the word 'persuade' broadly?”
“Be my guest.”
I stood up, as did everyone else in the office. The guy who had smashed me in the groin was the nearest, and he had a knife in his right hand. A six-inch blade. The two older guys both had their hands under their jackets like Carlo.
“Oh, great,” I said, “three guns and a knife―at least―against little old, unarmed me. Is that fair?”
Dominick shrugged, “No, not really. But I have a feeling this will be very entertaining. And, if you are lucky enough to survive, you'll have earned the information.”
“If I don't survive?”
“You brought it on yourself by coming in here and asking stupid questions.”
“Okay, if that's how we have to play this.” I looked each man in the eyes. “Before we get started, I want to point out that we don't have to do this the hard way. Carlo, you could tell me what I want to know. That way you'll all go home tonight in one piece, unharmed.”
“Listen to this guy,” Carlo squeaked. “I was wrong about you Tyrrell. You don't have brass balls. Yours are stainless steel.”
“They're titanium,” I said, spinning on my left leg and kicking him Bruce Lee style.
It's a move I almost never try 'cause if the other guy sees it coming it's incredibly easy to defend against. But Carlo never saw it coming. The bottom of my right foot caught him in the gut and sent him slamming against the wall behind him.
I spun all the way around toward the others and kicked the chair I had been sitting in into the guy with the knife. He fell backward, knocking the two older, stouter guys backward.
Jumping over the chair, I landed with both feet on knife guy's hand. He screamed and dropped the knife. I stomped on his balls―it was the least I could do―scooped up the knife and threw it at the other big guy who had searched me, the one who had never shown a weapon. He was in the process of sliding his right hand's fingers into a set of brass knuckles―the better to beat me with, my dear―when the knife caught him in his right biceps. He groaned in pain, and reached for the knife with his left hand.
I leaned down, grabbed his right fist and yanked it up into his own chin, smashing him with his own brass knuckles. He flopped backward onto the floor.
A bullet whizzed past my ear; I dove for the floor and rolled behind one of the couches. I didn't know who was shooting. Could have been Carlo, could have been one of the older guys. But I could see the other older guy; he was lying on his stomach on the floor with his eyes closed. He must have hit his head when he was knocked down. His gun was about a foot away from his right hand. About six feet from where I was behind the couch. Okay, Tyrrell, do you want the information or not? Time to earn it.
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