Derry, Northern Ireland

Derry, Northern Ireland
A book I'm working on is set in this town.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Don't feel like doing the dance

Some of what I've been working on with "Inherent Flaws"; Vinnie's working at a pastry shop around 1963 --

This one night, when Patty asked me to stay late. He closed the shop at seven and called out to have sandwiches piled higher than you could fit your mouth around delivered. Real Dagwoods. Then I had a coke and he had coffee as we chowed down.

We chit-chatted some about general stuff -- school, who my girl of the moment was, how his other helpers didn’t clean the tables as good as me...stuff. I didn’t know why I was still there, because it was one of Big Joey’s nights and he really doesn’t like new people standing around while he does business, but I wasn’t gonna gripe because Patty was paying me overtime. Then he said something that stuck with me.

“You’re a good boy, ain’t you, Vinnie?”

I shrugged and didn’t answer...mainly because my mouth was stuffed.

He smiled and patted the back of my head. “Good and quiet. I thought so. Stay that way.”

I wasn’t sure what he was talking about till this black Caddie limo...uh, Cadillac limousine pulled up at 7:20, sharp.

I almost didn’t notice because it was Fall and already getting dark out, but Patty knew, even though his back was to the door. He turned to unlock it then said, “Clean up, now, and take care of the customers,” and went into his office. I cleared off the table and went behind the counter to start squaring boxes for in the morning. Then this big brick of a guy opened the door and held it, and in strutted Big Joey. And I knew what was what; tonight was gonna be a big night and Patty had to stay out of it, and “good boys” are quiet and don’t run around telling tales.

I made myself focus on the box I was squaring as Big Joey walked to the rear booth and sat facing the door. Then the big guy, who I now recognized as his bodyguard (because he was in a suit as pricey as Big Joey’s, it looked like), locked it and stood waiting by it, like a gatekeeper.

Nobody said a word, so I headed over and asked, “What can I get you?”

He looked at me with these eyes, swear to God, I could see the devil in ‘em, and he said, “You’re new.”

I shrugged. “Six months.”

“But I seen you ‘round the neighborhood. Vinnie, right?”

I nodded.

He smiled and it changed his face into something human, then he said, “Be a good kid and bring me a coffee and Cannoli.”

“Coffee for him, too?” I asked, motioning to the bodyguard.

“Later,” he said, “but I like that you offered. Stunada (stupid) that’s here Monday nights -- you gotta spell it all out for him. But you, you’re a sharp kid, right?”

“Right,” I said. Then I took him his coffee and Cannoli and got back behind the counter.

Then this guy come up to the door and the bodyguard let him in without a word. He was stocky and didn’t look right in his suit, but his eyes were black with warning. I learned later his name was Dante and he was really Big Joey’s main guy, straight from 116th Street. “Dante from Harlem”, he’s called, but I heard he didn’t like it when people actually said that.

He strutted over to Big Joey and I could just hear him say, “They’re parkin’. Guy he’s with’s either a Mick or a Pollock.”

Big Joey shook his finger at him and finished his Cannoli, them motioned for more coffee. I got his cup and refilled it, then as I was setting it back on the table these two new guys appeared at the shop door. I mean really, I set Big Joey’s cup on the table then I turned around to see the both of them framed in the glass, like ghosts.I learned later their names were Kowalski and Moretti.

Kowalski was big, the size of a wrestler, and had these ice-blue eyes that looked dead. He carried a small cigar box with a red bow. Moretti was dark haired, in better shape, and only a little smaller. Both wore very expensive suits that didn’t fit them quite right. “Off the rack,” is how my Aunt Mary’d put it. The bodyguard opened the door without a question, and they strolled in like they owned the joint.

Big Joey stood and smiled as they came up to him, offering the usual greetings all around, then he and Moretti embraced and they all sat down.

Now I knew Moretti. Well, knew of him. Knew he’d grown up on the Meatpacking District and that he’s a New York City Police Detective. Got his gold shield a couple years ago, even though he hadn’t done undercover (or anything to earn it, according to gossip). Turned out Big Joey was not only his godfather but also his hook. Don’t need to be a rocket scientist to know that Kowalski was a cop, too.

Okay, it’s one thing for people to come meet with Big Joey about favors they need done. Some stuff’s just too much trouble for the cops to deal with, like some kid knocking up a guy’s daughter and not wanting to marry her. Or one of the union guys getting a little carried away with adding on carrying charges for deliveries. Crap like that. But this? This was pretty heavy duty for a kid who’s fourteen and catching his first look at the reality of how everything in this world works.

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