Audrey Austin

Audrey Austin
Proud to be a small town indie author

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Steven P. Marini -- this week's featured author

An excerpt from CONNECTIONS

       from Gypsy Shadow Publishing
      Author:  Steven P. Marini of West Yarmouth, MA, USA

Chapter One.

Jack Contino always walked into a bar like he owned the place.  He sucked in his gut as best he could before entering, keeping his six-foot four inch, two-hundred and thirty pound frame as erect as a fifty-four year old veteran cop could.  Despite his size, Jack had a lot of spring in his step.  It was late afternoon in Boston, the right time to catch one of the parking spots vacated by the daily commuter students, who gobbled them up by seven in the morning.  Jack worked his way onto an open stool at the far end of the bar and casually surveyed the room.

The Bullpen entrance was two steps down at the end of a short sidewalk on Commonwealth Avenue across from Boston University.  Its patrons were both working class and B.U. students, mostly the older ones taking classes through the Metropolitan College.  Some classes started as early as four-thirty.  Winter was over but people still wore warm clothing.  Some liked to get ready for class with a cold one.  A long, L-shaped oak bar took up the left side of the room.  Tables with four chairs at each were scattered along the right, leaving a small passage to the bar.  The lighting was dim and got dimmer toward the back.

The first two tables were occupied by a small group of university employees, a young mix of males and females.  They were a bit loud and seemed to be enjoying themselves.  There were five men at the bar.  Two looked like groundskeepers, with their heavy work boots and cuffed work pants and the others might be faculty or grad students.  The working men looked to be about forty plus while the others were probably in their late twenties.  There was casual conversation among the three faculty/grad types.  Jack couldn’t make out what the working men were saying to each other.  He noticed a lone figure sitting at a table in the back corner, a man about his own age.  The man was wearing a shiny Red Sox jacket and a blue baseball cap with a big red “B” in the front above the visor.  He had a hamburger plate with fries in front of him but he was looking around more than eating.  His beer bottle was half empty.  He knew Jack had spotted him.

“Give me two bottles of Miller,” said Jack as the bartender approached.  She was a middle aged woman wearing a white blouse buttoned up to the neck and black slacks.  About five-foot six, she cut a nice figure, her long brown hair in a ponytail.

“Coming right up.”

Jack put some bills on the bar when the beers arrived.  He stood up with one in each hand and walked over to the guy in the corner.  He placed a bottle in front of the man seated with his back to the wall and slid into the chair against the other wall.  Both men had a view of the whole room.  Jack took a swig from his bottle.

“So, you got yourself into a tight little spot in Connecticut,” said Jack.  That served as an introduction.

“Yeah, well, it was supposed to be a good deal, but it didn’t go so good.  That’s why I called your office.  I need some help and I’ve heard some talk that you’re the guy for that.  The word is you’re a straight up guy.  You gotta help me out, Jack.  You work with the Feds.  You can pull some strings.”  He took a bite of his burger as if to cue Jack.

“You think I’m the Seventh Cavalry coming to your rescue?  You ran some guns to guys planning a bank job in Hartford.  What the hell were you thinking?  Now the Feds have your number.”  Jack swigged his beer.

“Hey, I didn’t know what they were planning.  And those pieces can’t be traced to me. I made sure of that.  The Feds are setting me up.  Whatever they claim to have is bogus.”

“Hey, keep calm, will you.  Regardless of what you think is happening let me tell you what IS happening.  The FBI has you targeted and they have a way of making life miserable for people in their cross hairs.  You ran the guns to a guy who moved them to another party, the guys who wanted the bank.  Lucky for you they never got to the gig, because if they did, you’d already be in lock up and I couldn’t be of much help to you.  But your guy wants to go home at night so he gave you up.  They already have enough to put you away, Charlie.”

“So why didn’t they?”

Jack sat back and smiled a big smile, the kind that says I’m your Daddy.  He helped himself to a couple of fries and washed them down with beer.

“I’m already helping you out, get it?  But I’m not a social worker.  You have to make it worth my while.”

“What can I do?”

“ It’s time for you to reconsider this omerta crap, your code of silence.  I know you’re in a good position to know a lot about what the Boston mob is doing.  We know about that North End apartment of yours.  It attracts some interesting people.  Oh, don’t look so surprised.  We’ve heard about it now and then.  Some solid information from you, stuff that will hold up in court, might make me willing to talk to the Feds on your behalf. I’m especially interested in the Winter Hill guys.  There’s one guy I’d really like to nail.  He’s got connections at the State House, so he thinks he’s bullet proof.”

“Hey, Jack.  I don’t want to go there.  Are you nuts? I’d be asking for a bullet.  Hell, a bullet would be merciful the way that guy works.”

“He’s been pissing me off for a long time, but I’ve got to be careful.  Let’s just say he’s got good insulation.”

“There’s a lot of stuff that goes on that’s got nothing to do with him.  Let’s focus on some of that.”

“Well, it better be good.  Think it over, old boy.  Time’s a wastin’.”

Jack took a long drink from his beer.  He pushed back from the table, got up and walked away.  The other guy sat silently, watching Jack leave.  He had some decisions to make. He couldn’t see the broad smile on Jack’s face.
Chapter Two.

Maria walked slowly into the kitchen, tightened her robe and poured herself another Dewar’s after dropping two ice cubes into her glass.  “You want one?” she called to Ben in the living room.

“No. I’m good. Thanks,” he replied.  “Besides, I’ve got to go soon.”  Yeah, he thought. I've got some business to take care of.

Maria lost her smile.  She knew enough about his professional activities to understand that they were sometimes beyond the law.  She forced another smile.

“Well, that’s my Ben alright.  Good old Mr. Hit and Run.  Only no hit? C’mon.  What’s the rush?”

She took a sip from her Scotch and slid down onto the sofa next to him, leaning her head on his shoulder.  “It’s after 1:00 a.m.  That means its Sunday.  I thought you took Sundays off. I’m kind of in the mood for, you know, having you stay.”  She put her glass down.

“I’ll be back later,” he said. “I promise.”

He swallowed the last drop of Scotch from his glass and pulled himself up from the sofa. Maria let her head slide off Ben and she curled into a ball as he got up.  She turned onto her back, pulling her legs up onto the sofa.  She placed one hand against her forehead, her fingernails lightly touching her brow.

“Oh, Ben, you just can’t leave me.  Where shall I go?  What shall I do?” she said, mocking the voice of Scarlet O’Hara in “Gone With the Wind.”

Ben finished putting on his dark overcoat and looked at Maria as he reached the door. “Frankly, my dear, I don’t -”

“Oh, don’t bother.  Hey, tell me, what other bad impressions do you do?”

“All my impressions.”

He turned to open the door.  When he looked back at Maria, now standing, she had dropped her robe, showing her perfect body.  She looked at Ben with her head to one side, as if making one last offer.

“Scarlet never did that,” he said smiling.

She stepped closer, pressing herself against him.  “Well, if she had, it would have surely changed the ending to that story.”

He leaned toward her, his hand still on the door knob and kissed her.  “Nice try but I still gotta go.”

“Oh, poo!”

At this hour it was a quick drive to Commercial Street.  He headed east for a couple of blocks and then steered his 1956 Ford Thunderbird two-seater down an alleyway that led to a small parking area.  There were no open parking places, but Ben saw the BMW owned by Charlie “The Senator” Senatori, who owned the building that was his intended destination.  He swung his T-Bird around and backed it up to Charlie’s Beemer.  He shut down the engine and turned to get his tall frame out of the small vehicle.  Ben always liked these classic two-seaters so he bought one a couple of years ago and kept it in good running condition.  Ben glanced around at the other cars parked in the area.  Nothing that didn’t belong, he thought to himself.

Still wearing his thin driving gloves, Ben reached into his pants pocket and took out a set of keys.  He slipped one into the keyhole and let himself in to the small hallway leading to the stairs. Ben was one of a handful who had keys to this apartment.  Nobody actually lived here. Charlie had acquired the townhouse for business transactions and as a hangout.

Ben climbed the carpeted back stairs quietly and opened the door at the top.  As he emerged into the first floor hallway, he could hear several voices coming from the dining room. He stepped through the open archway into the room where four familiar faces were seated at the round game table.  Charlie Senatori was counting out chips and passing them to the players who gave him large amounts of cash.

“I was afraid you were going to crap out on us tonight,” said Charlie.

“Who,  me? No way.  Hey, it’s been a while between games.  When I heard there was a game on tonight I started to feel lucky.”

“That’s a good thing, Ben,” said one of the players.

It was Fred Di Nardi. Ben knew him from other game nights.  Fred owned a small club in The Combat Zone.  He was known as a guy who could provide you with a private back room where you could conduct special business without being disturbed, as business involving the sale and distribution of certain substances was frowned upon by the DEA.

“We’d sure miss the chance to separate you from your money….again!” Fred laughed.

“Cute! Real cute,” Ben replied.

Without taking off his coat, Ben went to the corner hutch that displayed several bottles of liquor, glasses, a pitcher of water and an ice bucket.  He poured himself a Scotch and took a sip. He looked at the other bottles on the hutch. Besides the Dewar’s, there was a Glen Fiddich single malt bottle along with a Stoli vodka, a Wild Turkey and a Ruffino Chianti.  That should keep everyone happy for the night, everyone who was not losing his shirt.

Giani Bertoli came up to the hutch.  He grabbed the Glen Fiddich and filled a shot glass. “When are you gonna graduate up to the good stuff, Ben?” 

Giani was the elder statesman of this group.  He had lived in Boston since he was six when his parents moved to the United States to get away from the tyranny of Mussolini.  His father made his own wine at home and the son eventually took a deep interest in the liquor business himself.  He started working for a beer and wine distributor when he reached his twenties.  He learned the business from the bottom up, was good with figures and eventually got his A.A. in Accounting, which, of course, made him the best candidate to take over the bookkeeping duties from the owner, who trusted him completely.  That, along with his skill with what one might call “the over and under method” of accounting, enabled Giani to fudge the books to his profit on a regular basis.  Giani made a life of betraying trust.

“I’ll have to give it a try sometime,” said Ben.  “But tonight, I’ll stick with my Dewar’s.”

Tom Jacobs looked up from the table at Ben and Giani.  He didn’t say anything.  Tom worked for a Boston newspaper as a street reporter who often covered the Boston underworld. His prime contacts were right in this room.  He was particularly friendly with Giani Bertoli, whose friendship he had cultivated over several years.  The men saw Tom as a straight shooter who never crossed over the line of their respect and trust when he covered a story.  They let him know just enough to get his story printed and to serve their purposes but he had nothing the police would be interested in, although sometimes they wondered about that.  That’s how he served the guys, making a news report that, although mostly factual, would send the police down a dark alley.

“Hey, Tom,” said Ben. Tom looked at him and nodded.  “You know, for a reporter, Tom doesn’t talk very much,” he said to the whole room.  They chuckled and Tom smiled.

“I gotta save it,” said Tom.

Everyone but Ben had taken a seat at the table.  He put his drink down on the hutch and Fred noticed that Ben was still wearing driving gloves.

“Hey, Ben, what’s with the gloves?  Trying to not leave finger prints?”

“Oh, yeah.  Always keep the place clean, you know.”

Everybody laughed.  “Geeze, I just remembered I brought a little surprise for Charlie," said Ben.  "I left it in the car. I’ll go get it and be right back.”

“She’d better be about five foot-two and brunette,” said Charlie.  Ben smiled at him and hurried out of the room and down the back stairs.

Ben went out to his car, a move designed to make his deception credible, and took a new, 1975 vintage 9mm Beretta from under the seat.  With a ten shot clip, it was a honey of a gun. There weren’t many of these manufactured yet.  He attached a silencer to it and slid it into his inside coat pocket and went back into the apartment.  The men were all still seated at the table, making Ben’s job a little easier.  Ben emerged into the room with his right hand inside his coat, making it bulge out and his left arm around the bulge as if holding something.  Charlie looked up first. “Hey, where’s that …?”  Before Charlie could finish the sentence, Ben drew out the gun and put a round into Charlie’s forehead, then fired rapidly at the others.  Giani was too slow to react and took his while still seated.  Fred was halfway to a standing position when a bullet put him down.  Tom Jacobs was the only one quick enough to make it out of his chair.  His back was toward Ben so he tried to dodge him to his right but there was nowhere to go.  Ben sent a bullet into the back of Tom’s skull.

Ben checked to see that all were dead.  Once satisfied, he went into the kitchen and grabbed a plastic garbage bag from under the sink.  He dropped his gun into the bag and left the apartment.  When he got to his car he put his gloves and overcoat in the bag.  Then he reached under the driver’s seat and took out two bricks.  They also went into the bag.  He slid into the driver’s seat and put the bag on the passenger side floor.  He drove to the highway and headed north over the Mystic River Bridge.  When he was half way over the bridge and no other cars were in sight, he stopped his car, quickly got out with the bag and sent it over the rail into the river.  Ben took a deep breath as he got back into his car and drove home.

Author:  Steven P. Marini

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