“John,” I said, after pleasantries and a few other things outlining the situation, ” need to know what you said to Capaletta, and his reaction.”
“He said ‘no deal’ stay out of here.”
“Did he try to hit the kid?”
“Wouldn’t put it past him, he’s seventy-eight, barely escaped the vespers, old school with a vengeance. No real ambition beyond what he has, but will fight to keep it. I didn’t push. What’s a lousy rich people’s bar? Doesn’t pay to service it.”
“What does it pay to have your people shot at John?”
“Actually, it doesn’t really pay to ignore it. I just can’t figure out what I get if it’s not known.”
" Apparently a rich peoples’ bar in Suffolk, because you need to call Capaletta and tell him that. And since Gio is one of mine it won’t remain unknown. Also, I want 50K for the operation.
“Actually, it will go to Johnny Shao to assure the best bodyguards.”
“Considine and who?”
“John, Jerry Considine is dead.”
“The Mexican drug lord, Gonzales.”
" The one who died in L.A, in July?”
“John, you don’t shoot at me and mine and survive the experience; understand?”
“Okay Nick, I’ll make the call. And let’s say the check’s in the mail. Gio is one of yours?”
“Yes, he is John.”
“Who do I know well? ”
“And the other?”
“Jerry from Hong Kong,”
“How do you get them so cheap?”
I chuckled. “The temptation to say power of the press is nearly overwhelming, but the truth is closer to friendship.”
“Joey can take care of himself.”
“I taught him John, I know. Still, a man needs friends when the firefight starts. Who do you shoot first? The man aiming at you, or the one aiming at the man who has your back?”
“You’ve got me, I’d say the one aiming at you.”
“And you’d lose. He’s already dead if your friend has your back, all you have to do is to make sure you get the guy who can stop that.”
“You want me to get heavy with Capaletta?”
“He’ll back off you John. And we can handle this without accelerating the body count beyond an innocent bystander. I’ll buy the damn Juke box and pay double to place it, I don’t like dead John, you know that.”
“It’s funny, I do, and yet...well, let’s say your reluctance is faster and deadlier than people who like it.”
“Perhaps that is why John. When the decision isn’t made lightly, it is pursued with greater dedication.”
“I’ll remember that.”
Handling the situation was coming together in my mind a bit. I didn’t want any killing, but Capaletta had to be taught. His ‘friends’ would teach him, at the loss of a bar. Still I had to be careful, hence Kenny and Jerry, and trust Joey knew enough to be safe. Gio was going to do exactly what he shouldn’t, run, or appear to. This decided, at least in my mind, I went to sleep.
The arraignment was at ten, Wednesday morning. Which meant we all enjoyed a nice lunch on Montague Street, the surprise was that it actually happened at One o’clock in the afternoon. “Not Guilty.” “Fifty Thousand bond, released on his own recognizance.”
This was so unNew York, it set things all a-wobble. Usually a ten AM arraignment meant ‘sometime before Friday.’
Jerry wasn’t due until Thursday morning, Ken was getting into LaGuardia in an hour. The group was Joey and Gio’s uncles, George, Tori and me. I forbid Jen, but told her to show at the loft. George made Mary and Dennis tag along. We walked to the loft, and all settled in with a beer or glass of wine.
I got the call that Kenny landed and was coming so I sort of appraised my companions to pass the time. One of Gio’s uncles was familiar. He was the one who tried to brace Joe and ended up with his own gun in his face. What was rather surprising was the way they treated Joey. Joey was the boss. I was to learn why.
When Ken came in I felt I could begin, except for how Joey acted with him. They shook hands and then Joey kept a distance, and kept trying to put furniture between them. Ken noticed.
“Years ago, Joey, relax. You learned well obviously, I have nothing left to teach you.” said Ken.
“The safest route is the best Kenny,” Joey said and Ken walked up to him, pushed his hand away and embraced him.
“Nothing is as good as being a successful teacher,” he said.
Joey just hugged back.
“Okay, let’s get down to business,” I said.
“Gio has a contract to reprogram the jukeboxes in Olivia’s Bar and Grill and Rosie’s Diner in Annandale, California.
" This comes along with a Confidential assignment to assess the war we know is coming on a small town, Jen is going to act as researcher for Deena. He leaves Friday George; can we do that with Brooklyn ignorant?”
“How can he do that with us here?” said Mary.
“With your consent, dear Lady. If he is in the wind, a murder is solved and the murderer relaxes, and you can catch the murderer. You come up from behind.” I said.
“Cops acting like journalists,” said George. “It’s always worked Nick. The question is the pressure, how do we apply it?”
" I’ve got John Russo to pressure Joey into a box in the Hamptons. The corporation has a house in the Hamptons, and if you agree, they go undercover at the bar, along with two of the world’s best body guards.”
“Why the body guards?” said George.
“Gio and Joey are family.”
“Joey, did you want to shoot Big Pauly?”
“It’s just a nightmare to me. Hell no.”
“So Ken, explain it to George.”
“He doesn’t have to,” said George. “It’s the way you operate. I hope I don’t get in that position. In any case, it’s their case,” he looked at the two Brooklyn detectives. “You want to do it this way?”
“Chances are excellent that we won’t solve it any other way,” said Dennis.
Mary was more thoughtful. “What’s the story? Who are we and how do we get in?”
“Joey gets you in,” I said. “Record company execs, checking out the area’s boxes. The house where you’ll be staying belongs to one of the largest corporations in the country. You’ll be approached. From there it’s on you.”
“You explained this to John?” said Joey.
“Yes, he agreed reluctantly,” I said. “It skirts omerta. I appealed to them, you didn’t, you can play it off as being duped.”
Joey thought for a second. “We need to talk, Nick, alone.”
“We will after you agree.”
“Okay, I’ll agree.”
I looked at George and the two Brooklyn detectives. “We’ll arrange it, I’ll let you know in a day or two. Now go, we have to work here on something besides your problems.”
George got up. “I’m going down to Montero’s. Next block west, second door. Having a shot and a beer before taking the subway home. Stand the two of you a round.”
Tori looked over at Joey. “This brought a lot down, a lot we were sitting on. Next week John might be indicted for Big Pauly. You won’t be...why?”
“Nobody wants my testimony,” said Joey.
“John is being indicted because Tony sold out. You know how Tony and I were joined at the hip. He hasn’t copped to half of what he did. He took your techniques, Nick, and became the deadliest hit man John has. If I flip on him, their case against John is air, and they can’t tie me to anything vaguely illegal since. I program juke boxes. Who do you want on the stand, me or an admitted murderer, hiding half his crimes? I offered, but John is still too traditional to allow it.
“And if I flip, can they give me less than Tony? John gets another decade. Until they bag John, I’m untouchable, and I have the feeling my silence is to their interests beyond that.”
“Works,” I said. “Actually more than you know. I’ll put you in the loop soon, and you should stay there.”
The world was changing, radically. The fledgling computer connections and message boards carried more news than we could see, much less cover. Harold was diversifying the company, and he was leaning heavily on me. We had a couple TV stations, and we were number two in cable television, finally we were the leader in the fledgling Internet service, and had just acquired a telephone company. Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island were a couple weeks from being in our cable network. Reconnecting with Joey, and Gio in the family just became a major asset. News, we understood, entertainment was our weakness.
Both Harold and I realized that our world was dying. Journalists were the equivalent of blacksmiths, wranglers on a dinosaur ranch. The magazines we built were spiraling into oblivion; already the cable shows were more profitable. The acquisitions, the other media would keep the magazines alive, hopefully as long as the chaos that is existence kept us that way. We were slipping from relevance to artists of a type, claiming that our paintings held more reality than the photographs.
John’s indictment was, to say the least, inconvenient. The company Joey ran controlled the bar’s access to cable. There was a contract for that. In other words, our business partner was being indicted a week before I could approach him while dealing with the underlying franchise. Bars paid less for basic service, add-ons like pro sports cost a premium. I was eyeing Joey, and now Gio, to handle this business in several metro areas, country-wide. But I couldn’t open the discussion with John until the sale was consummated and he would be under indictment by then. There was also the guilt factor. I killed Big Pauly. I set him up like a clay pipe in a carnival rifle shoot. Could I let John, through his Omerta take the fall? Not that he didn’t belong behind bars, for all that would accomplish.
I was gloomily eating a corned beef sandwich with these thoughts when a couple arms snaked beneath mine and hugged. I looked over my shoulder to see Hetty.
“Need you Uncle Nick,” she said,
“Beverly’s boyfriend has a blueprint for downstairs and so does Gerry’s partner. Both are built off this loft. ”
I turned around and grabbed her. I did three turns and ended in a dip. We ended in the middle of the loft, with her looking up at me.
“That works,” I said.
“Only way it does,” she said.
“Thought it was yours, I could let it go,”
“Isn’t working out that way.”
“Your design is too good, Uncle Nick. We’ve got two architects fighting over which variation we should use.”
“And you need me?”
“That’s why we danced.”
“Because you control it?”
“Love you Uncle Nick.”
Hetty was a principal dancer; she’d burned three lovers in five years. She loved to dance. Her emotions centered on how, when she moved. Someday some man would understand that, none had as yet, appeared. So, as it stood, I was the only man she trusted because I knew that. My son also understood but, I assumed was too young and inexperienced to consult. Her loft mates were Beverly, a featured dancer and Gerry, all three had boyfriends.
Hetty’s problem was solved rather easily, unlike the next one to raise its head.