Chapter 1: Caught
Gunshots rang out from the hallway in staccato, echoing through the old warehouse like a barrage of firecrackers on the fourth of July. From what was visible in the dim light of the corridor, one body covered the floor, a slow pool of blood making its way along the floorboards from under the corpse. If shots kept coming, another victim was sure to follow.
Peter Tomasso was confused. He rubbed his hands against his pants, partly to wipe away the sweat, partly in the hope he could wipe away what had occurred. A drug deal had never gone so bad so fast. Just when everything fell into place, the roof caved in! He felt like he had the lead role in a bad dream! These were people he had dealt with before so there was no indication based on previous interactions that such a scenario would evolve. He had always been diligent in identifying all parties present, knowing their tendencies and their temperament. When new faces filtered into a group, the norm was to re-schedule until all facets of the operation felt right and any unknown factors could be scrutinized and addressed. He had been lazy tonight.
More shots broke a momentary silence. There were two of his cohorts in the room where the deal took place when he and his bagman, Larry Alessi, left. Peter did not carry a firearm. Luckily, Larry Alessi was packing and saved his ass since the small Uzi was much more effective than the handguns the other guys held.
It was silent again, with only the flapping sound of flimsy drapes from a nearby bullet-shattered window breaking the quiet. Until sirens pierced the silence, the confrontation had come to a stalemate. Now, movement shuffled in a room down the corridor. Windows that were closed were yanked open. Larry and Pete were too far from any window to attempt escape and still uncertain as to whether their adversaries would be waiting for them if they vacated their hideaway. Play it safe. Stay where you are and let Dominic Scialessi bail you out.
“Larry, what do you think, pal?” Peter asked instinctively. He didn’t need an answer, but Larry obliged.
“Let’s stay put to live another day, Petey,” Larry replied quietly, putting a cigarette in his mouth without lighting it, more relaxed now that he felt the chance of attack had diminished.
Having lived in New York all his life, Peter understood the wisdom inherent in Larry’s response. Surviving from day to day had always been the challenge. Tomasso’s Tailor Shop fed and clothed a family of five for many years in the manner any small business in the Bronx could…barely. Pete’s dad was a hard-working, honest man and had nothing to show for it when he died. He remembered how his father would work until all hours of the night to be sure his customers’ needs were met. He would rub his
hands with Ben Gay to soothe the pain from the countless hours of sewing and measuring. One of his father’s prized possessions, though, was a vintage Singer sewing
machine (one of the “luxuries” he allowed himself) that he had bartered for with Henry Ling, one of the local Chinese merchants. Peter recalled how his dad felt that this was
progress and elevated his status as a tailor even though such machines had been used for years. His father led a simple, normal life, and was happy. Peter had tried the normal life but wanted more. Dominic Scialessi had given him that taste and he savored it.
“Police!” the sharp voice came from the door as it was kicked open. “Don’t move unless you’d like to fulfill one of my fantasies.”
Neither Pete nor Larry cared to discover what that might be. Larry dropped the Uzi and several of New York’s finest swarmed over the pair like crows over road kill. They were cuffed, read their rights, dragged down the stairs to a squad car and whisked
to the holding cell at the 45th Precinct where they both had been before. On the way out, they couldn’t help but notice that two of the buyers were in custody as well. The third, the one Pete did not account for, stood with police officers recounting details of what had gone down. Damn, Pete thought. Why didn’t I catch it? Lazy, man. Lazy!
Harold “Hal” Anderson went through the tedium of iterating for the third time the sequence of events that led to the drug bust of two of the Scialessi family’s henchmen.
He had to satisfy the chain of command based on pecking order. Of course, since his immediate allegiance and affiliation was the FBI, they were the first to hear the story,
even though most of the event had been documented on video and audio paraphernalia of multiple types assisted by various agencies. Despite Pete Tomasso’s misgivings, the plan laid out by the Feds went right by the FBI playbook. They had compressed the window of time the $2 million for the cocaine would be available, knowing full well Pete Tomasso’s diligence in leaving no stone unturned when it came to individuals participating in the buy. The only missing piece to the puzzle was the fact that, during the initial encounter and ensuing meetings that set up the final buy, none of the operatives implicated Dominic Scialessi in any way. That would be the next order of business.
“Hal, when you get a chance…” a burly detective from NYPD called over. Hal was a placid man with dark, graying hair, keen eyes that honed in quickly on his prey, and a sure, steady voice that carried a latent twinge of south Texas where he was born and raised, not totally dissimilar in appearance to Sam Elliot. The 19-year veteran of the FBI wars, who hated being called Harold (the movie Harold and Maude only made it worse), still enjoyed the chase as well as the arrest. Several times, offers were made by associates in the Bureau to get Hal off the streets, but he would have none of it. Hell, what could be fulfilling about watching videos of crime scenes and writing up an assessment of the event? Or, whiling away days at a time following up on the twenty-first bank robbery of the week where the perp displayed no weapon and got a couple hundred bucks? No, he breathed the streets! Experience had made the rituals and phases
of the chase commonplace. But the strategies used to maneuver around a tricky situation or the finesse implemented when an unanticipated snag caught him by surprise, yes, this was the bait that kept luring him back.
His partner, George Wheeler, caught up with him. “Hal, let’s give these local guys what they want and get out of here. I’m exhausted.” Though George had been
delegated to the recording van, he seemed in worse shape than Hal. He reminded everyone (except his wife) of Louie on the TV show Taxi, only taller and not as good
looking. “I brushed off Fantauzzo, told him I’d give him copies of all our tapes and go over his report tomorrow. I mean, we nailed those guineas! Where do they think they’re going?” George’s face was sweating and flushed which exaggerated his already disheveled appearance.
“Georgie, they know Scialessi. They know that before the cock crows thrice, these mopes will be back on the streets,” Hal said in a manner of resignation. “Today, tomorrow, all that shit on tape means nothing. We’ve got to get to those runners and get them to finger Scialessi. He’s the golden goose. He’s the reason we started this in the first place. If we don’t nail him, we blew it.”
“ So, I guess a couple drinks are out of the question?”
“Hey, I didn’t say that.” Hal started to the car.
“Then what’s that mean about the ice cold cock?” Georgie was confused.
“Shut up, you dumb ass. It was a Biblical reference. Meet me at Mulvaney’s and I’ll educate your sorry Mick ass.” Hal grinned as he looked back before closing the car door. The drinks to follow would simply be a warm-up for the main event to be held at the 45th Precinct.
The holding cell in the 45th Precinct was cluttered with the day’s trash including a couple of inhabitants who didn’t make bail. Being rudely deposited in the space was not
unusual but tonight Pete and Larry felt like they had been tossed into a dumpster behind a store that specialized in dead animals. One of the denizens, covered with a ratty gray
overcoat, lay in the fetal position on one of the three benches lining the cell, his head propped on a bedpan. The other, a bearded, older man smiled a toothless grin in welcome while retreating for fear that the grin, as decrepit as it was, might give the wrong impression as to the old man’s intentions.
“What time is it, Larry?” Pete asked anxiously, pacing and snapping his fingers in a rhythmic fashion. Any time spent behind bars was too much time. Pete brushed past the toothless one and sat on a bench. Before Larry could answer, Pete continued. “Dominic needs to know. He needs to know! How long was it last time. Three, four hours before he sprang us? I don’t want to wait that long, Larry. I got things to do.”
Larry settled in next to Pete and put his arm around him. “Pete, relax, you’re going to end up with achita. It’ll burn a hole in your gut. You just did the thing you had
to do. Besides, it’s only about midnight. The real crime hasn’t even begun. We’re going to have company before we see Dom, trust me. Hey, I like that guy’s coat, I mean if it was new...” Larry stood to finger the material.
Pete turned his head to look and then swung it back as he punched Larry in the arm. “Shut the fuck up, you asshole. I need to concentrate.” Pete was more frustrated than angry especially since it was his oversight that put them here. He wasn’t a perfectionist by any stretch of the imagination, but to make a stupid mistake like not investigating an unknown face, that was inexcusable.
He jumped to his feet, grabbing the cell bars in front of him. “Hey, one of you cops get in here. When do we get a call? When do we get a lawyer?” Pete shouted.
“Sit down, you piece of shit,” came the reply in an equally invigorated shout back. “You got a date or something? Give her time to shave her legs and then we’ll let you out so you got time to buy her some dog biscuits.” A hearty laugh followed.
“Yeah, you’re quite a comedian for someone whose mother almost discarded your ugly ass because she thought you were the after-birth.” Pete could feel his blood boiling
as he grasped the bars tighter and pushed forward against them. He smiled and then started to laugh. He hated being out of control when some jerk pushed his buttons. A person of repute and a degree of pedigree, OK, but not a dumb flatfoot!
Two more derelicts were tossed into the cell, both staying prone on the floor where they were thrown since the urge to rise was squelched by their inebriation. Larry had stretched his feet forward as he sat on the bench to sleep. Pete paced back and forth
some more, snapping his fingers intermittently as if, by doing so, a solution would emerge. Finally, he sat next to Larry, laid back and fell asleep.
Few moments in life could be more humiliating than waking up in a jail cell with a friend’s snoring mouth in your ear, a derelict at your feet drenched in his own urine, and a stupid-faced cop smiling and shaking his head in smug humor while rattling the cell bars with his nightstick.
Yet, there it was, the ultimate Kodak moment staring Pete right in the kisser.
By 5 AM, Pete was getting nervous. At 6 AM, thirty minutes after he had contacted the Scialessi family’s attorney and no one had arrived to bail them out, he was mad. All the times he spent agonizing over details so Dominic would get the best deal and not be jeopardized in the process; catching the big scores and being content with being in the family, not pressing the advancement issue though he itched to handle bigger
deals and a broader scope of activity; and serving loyally without question for over seven years and this was the thanks he got! Granted, Dominic had delivered in the past and kept food on his table. Yet, wasn’t getting him out of jams and jail part of the package?
“OK, boys, rise and shine,” the cop blurted with little authority, probably spitting out the same idiotic phrase he started his day with for the last 25 years. “Got some breakfast and coffee here for your enjoyment. Any hygiene issues, you’re on your own.”
Pete got up to make his way to the stinking toilet, causing Larry to fall sideways, hit his head on the bench and fall to the floor. Larry rubbed his eyes, stretched with a yawn and bellow and followed Pete to the commode.
“How about a little privacy,” Pete said with a laugh. He completed the process at hand, shook off the dribble, and let Larry pursue the same.
“I might have to shit,” Larry grimaced as much from stomach cramps as the condition of the commode.
Pete was not sympathetic. “Squeeze your cheeks, stupid. You gonna sit on that mess, plus there’s nothing to wipe with. Dominic can’t be far off.”
“What, are you living in a dream world, Jack? He probably doesn’t even know yet. Come on, it’s six AM, he ’s only on his second erection.” Larry smiled but didn’t want to laugh as he subdued flatulence that could emerge as crap in his pants.
“Dominic knows, buddy. Oh, yeah, he knows,” Pete emphasized nodding his head while pointing two fingers toward Larry who was pissing a steady stream. “You don’t lose two mil and not know about it. Good piss, huh pal!” Pete laughed.
“A good piss is better than a bad fuck,” Larry retorted as he shook off the last drop and said “Maxwell House” to no one for no apparent reason. A couple of the other cell dwellers lined up for their morning void as both Pete and Larry walked back and
forth anxiously by the front of the cell. Morning movement in the cell area, probably typical day to day, appeared chaotic and bothersome to Pete, who was disturbed by the fact he had to endure such an environment for what he judged as an inordinate period of time. Noisy, senseless blather from cops changing shift, the clattering of breakfast plates
and utensils, and the leftover moans of the drunks only served to aggravate the situation. Larry handed him a cup of coffee.
“Drink up, Jack. I still think we have a wait. What do you think they’ll get us for?” Larry asked after taking a sip of his coffee then spitting it on the floor in disgust.
Pete thought about the interactions that had taken place between the two sides. How much had they been able to capture? He always made it a habit not to use Dominic in any conversation. Did he slip up this time? Is that why he and Larry were still locked up? “Possession with intent to sell will be one charge,” Pete answered instinctively like he was reciting lines from a script. “I’m sure they’ll try to trump up some other charges
as well. We both know the drill – ‘not guilty, I want to speak with my lawyer.’ Then we let the shysters do the talking.” A myriad of possible slip-ups during the deal continued to race through Pete’s mind even as he spoke.
A familiar, stupid voice interrupted his thoughts. It was Officer Fat Ass. “Hey, you two – Dumb and Dumber – someone’s here to see you. Almost seems to be human. Let’s go.” He stood eyeing the pair while unlocking the cell. “The rest of you
degenerates stay put and maybe someday a kind family will adopt you, too.” Two Officers entered the cell as two others stood as backup. Pete and Larry were handcuffed,
led out of the holding area past several cluttered desks clustered around a bank of filing cabinets, and down a corridor housing various sections of the precinct. Booking, Property Clerk, detective so-and-so, Forensics, and Records were some of what Pete read on hallway doors as he passed by. They were shuffled down a back wooden staircase
framed by walls with paint peeling and wire-covered windows that probably hadn’t been cleaned since the last rainfall. Not far from the bottom of the stairwell, Pete was steered
into a room as Larry was being directed ahead, most likely to a similar area. It was about time! He was tired of this place and the unpleasant stench of accusation. He would be glad to see the Scialessi attorney, Tony Andolina. As much as Pete didn’t like the little slime bucket, he was his ticket out of here. When Pete was yanked into an adjoining room by the fat ass cop, he was confused and halted in his tracks. It was not what he expected.