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Authors: John Nicholas Iannuzzi

Sicilian Defense

BOOK: Sicilian Defense
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Sicilian Defense

A Novel

John Nicholas Iannuzzi


To Geri


Monday, February 8

11:15 P.M.

Tuesday, February 9

12:15 A.M.

2:30 A.M.

3:00 A.M.

9:45 A.M.

1:00 P.M.

3:00 P.M.

3:30 P.M.

7:30 P.M.

8:45 P.M.

10:00 P.M.

Wednesday, February 10

10:00 A.M.

10:30 A.M.

1:15 P.M.

3:00 P.M.

4:30 P.M.

7:50 P.M.

8:30 P.M.

Thursday, February 11

9:30 A.M.

10:00 A.M.

11:30 A.M.

12:30 P.M.

7:45 P.M.

8:00 P.M.

8:25 P.M.

9:30 P.M.

11:15 P.M.

Friday, February 12

1:00 A.M.

11:00 A.M.

Monday, February 8

11:15 P.M.

Icy wind lashed the constant rain; beams of light from the streetlamps slithered across the deserted sidewalks of Mulberry Street. Cars huddled at the curbs. From the brick tenements above, life glimmered through frost edged windows.

A white neon sign flickered TWO STEPS DOWN INN through the plate-glass front of the small restaurant in the middle of the block.

Within, lights were shining brightly; several men sat at tables near the front. The jukebox pulsed with the tones of Sergio Franchi's
Male Femmina
. Franchi dominated all the jukeboxes since Jimmy Rosselli had become temperamental about appearing at the Italian Civil Rights League concert.

The restaurant had fifteen white-clothed tables in front. Toward the rear, behind a small divider, were a few more tables, a television set hung from the ceiling, and a glass-faced refrigerator, its shelves filled with wine, fruit, vegetables and whipped-cream pastries. Further back was a small service bar and, through a passage, the kitchen.

“Hey, Mike,” called one of the men sitting in front, “turn off the jukebox and let's have the news.” This was Gus, about forty-five, thin, balding and tough-looking.

Mike, the owner of the restaurant, walked forward, stood on a chair and tuned the TV, then moved to the jukebox, cutting Franchi in midnote.

“Shepard and the other astronauts are on the way back, aren't they?” asked Angie the Kid. He was at Gus's table. Angie was young, dark-haired, tall and very strong. He was just learning the ropes that, he hoped, would help him to earn a living later on. He drove some of the older men, most often Gus, around town, ran errands and wanted much to belong. Angie the Kid's greatest asset at the moment was that he had a lot of heart, which meant he didn't step back from a fight, and could take it as well as give it.

“Tomorrow's the splashdown,” said Bobby Matteawan. He sat alone. “You know, it rains every time they go to the moon. It rained three days the first time. It's been raining two days now already.” Bobby Matteawan was about forty, short, dark, thick-necked and thick-bodied. His family name was actually Vinci, but the name by which everyone knew him had been derived from the State Hospital for the Criminally Insane where he had spent an unpleasant five years. In all, Bobby Matteawan had spent sixteen of his first twenty-eight years in various state institutions reserved exclusively for criminals. Since then he had been clean of police trouble. Bobby Matteawan had something other than heart—when aroused, he was an uncontrollable fury.

The front door opened. The angry wind forced its way into the restaurant as Tony Mastropieri came in. Tony, small and thin, had no nickname. He was known only as Tony, but people around town knew who was meant when someone mentioned Tony. Those who didn't know got the vibrations of his awesome reputation just by looking at him—at the thin lips that never smiled, the dark steely eyes that never wavered. Tony unbuckled his long leather coat. Beneath it, he was dapper in a dark suit and shirt and pale silk tie. He and Louie the Animal, his driver, had just finished snaking their way across Manhattan, picking up the weekly take from the bookies, numbers men, and shylocks for Sal Angeletti.

“Hiya, Tony,” said Angie the Kid. The others nodded absently, still absorbed in the space mission.

“Where's Sal?” asked Tony, looking toward the empty table behind the divider where Sal usually held business meetings or settled disputes throughout the afternoon and evening.

“He hasn't been in all night,” replied Bobby Matteawan.

“Where's Joey—he should know,” suggested Tony. He took a napkin and wiped his shoes.

“He just went over to Sal's house to check.”

Sal Angeletti was, not in the ordinary sense, a banker. He supplied money to the smaller lights in the underworld cosmos for a percentage of interest called “vig.” Sal didn't take bets or numbers, didn't even have runners or controllers working for him. That was small potatoes. Sal was a money man, a banker's banker who, like J. P. Morgan, dealt only with professionals. Since Sal knew the people he dealt with, and they in turn—only too well reminded by his collectors—knew who they were dealing with, his risk was small and he could therefore charge an interest rate of just 1 or 2 percent a week. The money men in the street, dealing with such high risks as gamblers and people in a bind, charged a higher vig—3-5 percent a week. As the collections were made each week, Sal would wheel the money, that is, like a bank, put it out' again in the street, earning interest on the interest. Sal had five top men, or lieutenants. The second in command was Frank Grossi, called Frankie the Pig. Then came Joey, who was closest to Sal, then Tony, Gus, and Bobby Matteawan. All were assigned certain areas in which to make weekly collections, all earned 10% of their weekly takes; none was ever arrested, nor did their names appear in the newspapers—that was for hoods involved in violent and large-scale crime.

In addition to collecting for Sal, the five lieutenants each had men of their own to direct and control, and each had invested their money in legitimate acivities. Gus operated B-girl bars in the mid-forties for tourists who wandered off the beaten path from Times Square. Bobby Matteawan had fag joints in the Village. Tony and Joey were more unattached in their operations; they had interests in trucking and other ventures.

A couple of men entered the restaurant and looked toward the empty table in the back.

Gus recognized them as some of Sal's friends from uptown. “He's not here right now. You want me to tell him something?”

“We'll come back,” said the shorter man. “We're going over to the Grotto for some linguini. Is Frankie the Pig around?”

“No, he probably won't be back tonight.”

The two men left the restaurant.

“Where's Frankie, with
a cummad
'?” asked Tony. He ordered an espresso with anisette.

“Where else?” Gus laughed. “When he gets involved with a new
', that's the end of him—he bangs himself out for two weeks, then he's ready to come around again.”

Frankie the Pig was six-foot-two-inches tall, 275 pounds heavy, and he had plenty of strength and heart, cunning and viciousness. He had plenty of temper, too. Everybody feared Frankie.

“Who's he with now?” Tony continued.

“Some dame from the West Side, an
Irish fidend
,” replied Bobby Matteawan.

Tony made a face. “What good is a bony, cold
' you've got to get drunk to bang?”

They laughed and turned their attention to the television again.

“I wish they'd give the track results,” said Gus. “It's too cold to go to 14th Street for the papers.”

“You dopey bastard, I bet you'd walk through snow up to your ass to see if your lousy horses came in,” said Tony.

Gus shrugged. “Frankie's got his
and I've got my horses. At least once in a while one of my horses gives me something, like a two-horse parlay or a fifty-dollar winner. What the hell?” Gus was thoughtful for a moment. “If I had all the money I've gambled away …”

“You and Sal. Boy, the money he spends at the track is really wild,” said Angie the Kid. He looked around with a smile.

“Maybe that's where he's gone,” Tony suggested. “Maybe he's up in Yonkers.”

“On a night like this? Besides, you know he doesn't go without Joey.”

The door opened. Joey walked in. He was the youngest of Sal's lieutenants, tall, trim and dark-haired. He shook his head. “He isn't there. I don't know where he could be. His wife doesn't know either. She started to get worried, but I told her I just missed him somewhere else, and I'd meet him here.”

“Where the hell can he be?” Gus began to get agitated. “When did you see him last?”

“This afternoon,” said Joey. “He wanted me to do something for him and told me not to pick him up afterward.”

“What time was that?” asked Tony.

“About five-thirty.”

“I can't figure it out,” said Joey. It isn't like Sal to go off and not tell anybody where he is. Especially me.”

They fell silent. In the background the TV weatherman was predicting continued rain and cold.

As they sat, a car was heard approaching very fast. No one paid it any attention, but the rising drone as the car sped on the wet asphalt crept into the restaurant. Suddenly there was a tremendous sound of crashing metal, as if a car had struck something at high speed. The men whirled around.

“What the hell was that?” Bobby Matteawan snapped. The others rose and looked out. “Holy shit,” mumbled Angie the Kid. They all stared incredulously. Tony was the first one into the street.

The body of a man was sprawled on the rear deck of Mike's car, which was parked in front of the restaurant. Blood was dripping onto the white trunk, mixing with the rain, running black over the trunk and down the fenders. They stared at the body, momentarily shocked into inaction. It began to slide on the wet, rounded trunk. No one moved, each fighting the same fear. They couldn't see who it was, because the streetlight was behind the body and blood obscured the head. The corpse slid slowly off the trunk and landed in the gutter; the head bounced off the curb like a slab of beef, with a dull thud, and landed under the rear of the car.

“Jesus Christ,” said Joey, springing forward. He knelt and pulled the body, which was lying face down, sliding it from under the car. “Sal, Sal,” he called, as he moved the body out and turned it over. He stared, unbelieving, then looked at the faces hovering above him.

“Who the fuck is that?” Tony said, looking into the dead man's face.

“What kind of joke is this?” asked Gus. “I've never seen this guy before.”

Mike looked down the street after the car, which had long since disappeared. Up above, people were peering out of their rain-streaked windows. “Hey, the whole neighborhood's watching.”

The others looked up. The people in the windows shrank back.

Louie the Animal, who had been outside waiting for Tony, came running through the rain. “Some niggers were just racing up the street holding that guy at the car window—I saw them throw him out. They must have been going a thousand miles an hour when they dumped him.”

“And right on my car, the bastards,” said Mike.

“Niggers?” Tony asked.

“Those miserable
bastards,” said Mike, “throwing a stiff in front of my joint.”

“We'd better dump him someplace else before the cops think we stretched him,” said Gus.

“The guys down at the precinct won't want to find him here either,” said Tony.

“Why not push him in front of the next car that comes along,” Matteawan proposed, “then we'll call the cops to the accident.”

“Are you crazy?” Mike blurted out, before he realized whom he was speaking to.

Bobby turned slowly and stared at him.

“Nothing personal, Bobby,” Mike said hastily, “but we can't leave a dead body in front of my place.”

“We'll need a car,” said Gus.

“Mine's across the street,” Joey volunteered.

“Pull it over here, quick,” said Tony. “Angie, you drive this stiff over to the piers on the West Side and throw him in the river.”

Angie was stunned. “Me?”

BOOK: Sicilian Defense
4.54Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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