Seven Little Girls

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Chapter Twenty-five

The Popovichi affair ended that evening. Tori and I had arranged to meet Hetty and her roommates for a shish kabob dinner at Haji Baba on the southeast corner of Hicks. I saw them hit the top of the subway exit, then I caught something that gave me pause. Someone in a very black, very long duster moved out of a walkway and started toward them. I drew my forty-five and ran down the street toward them until I was opposite and could see the figure clearly. I saw the knife and ran out into the street, causing a taxi driver to panic stop and unleash a stream of profanity that was only barely covered by his laying on his horn. I couldn’t shoot at the figure’s head or even torso as he was in front of a window. I loaded hollow points in the city so that there would be no ricochets, but a window wouldn’t fragment them, so I couldn’t afford a miss. Dropping my aim, I tried to target legs I could only partially see under the duster. My shot must have hit, as he stopped.

Now, despite Hollywood, a high caliber pistol will not knock a man down. It only makes sense. If it could an equal and opposite reaction would put me on my ass every time I fired. I was moving across the street with my pistol pointed about his hips when the dancers did something I didn’t expect.

Hetty, who had been in the center rolled over Gerry’s back, then they hit their assailant with three kicks. Gerry hit the center of his face, while the two girls tried to bring his ears together, all in the same instant. He dropped like a marionette with its strings cut.

Both the FBI, and the NYPD ‘unmarked’ cars erupted with two pistol wielding agents, cops each. Across the street the two CIA spooks holstered, I nodded to them and they left.

Tori came up, I didn’t know whether she’d drawn or not. She said she called George and he was on his way. Half a dozen people called 911 and an ambulance was enroute.

I took my pistol, thumbed on the safety and handed it to one of George’s people, who I knew well enough to know his name.

“Jeremy, I fired it, don’t know if I hit anything. Tell George we’re in Haji Baba’s having dinner.”

When we were seated and ordered, Hetty looked over at me. “You really didn’t have to shoot him Uncle Nick,” she said. “We saw him and the knife, he really didn’t have a prayer.”

“One international assassin has no chance against three New York City ballet dancers?”

“Of course not,” said Gerry. “My significant other is a muay thai fighter, and we workout together. You have to meet him sometime; my leg is better than George Foreman’s best punch. And, I think, Hetty is stronger. You saw him drop. He had to take Jody unaware. We aren’t powder puffs Nick.”

“Never thought you were,” I said. “Is that why you all wear combat boots?”

“We do have a fashion section you know,” said Tori. “Even I know Doc Martens are all the rage now.”

“So, four of the prettiest legs in New York, end up in combat boots?” I said, which got the reaction I was hoping for. Both Hetty and Beverly turned scarlet.

The advantage to an investigation shared by the local police, the FBI and covertly, the CIA is, simply put, that no one wants to make a ‘big deal’ of it. The five of us signed ‘statements’ that had actually been prepared by a legal team in the Justice Department. The Daily News tried to find a story in it, but failed. I had it as a scoop for Confidential and killed it. Aside from Confidential, the ballet company and Jody’s family very few people knew about it, and that seemed to make everyone happy.

As to Adrian Popovichi, my bullet nicked his shin, the dancers kicks, however, caused major brain damage. The prognosis was that he would never come out of the coma it put him in. His brother flew in to claim him and take him home.

Over the rest of March into April, I worked with Issam to expand the distribution of al-Qabas in the United States and Confidential’s into the American Arabic community. This worked out so well that Issam sent us Fahad Khauri, the reporter we’d worked with in Switzerland, to both coordinate from New York and translate selected Confidential stories for inclusion in al-Qabas. Fahad and his wife, Kadejah had become friends with Rick and Candi over the course of the war, and had a lot of support to join the New York journalistic community.

Though I didn’t really expect American, Arab relations to remain all that cordial for very long, especially with Tariq flogging Saddam’s leadership of the Arab world to the best of his, considerable, diplomatic ability, having and holding a balance between the Saudi and Iraqi primacy in Arab affairs with the Kuwaiti paper seemed to be working out well. Kuwaiti history as a buffer state between the ambitions of both Baghdad and Riyadh even seemed to settle the Israelis a bit, which increased Confidential’s circulation in the Jewish community.

The lawyers cobbled together and pressed the lapels on the new media/cable company near the end of April. Tori and I took Joey D, Marlene, Jen and Gio to Peter Luger’s in Williamsburg to celebrate on Friday, the twenty-sixth.

“You ready for Monday, Mr. CEO?” I aimed at Joey.

“Seeing as the business has been in my third bedroom for almost ten years, it’s a bit mind blowing. However, Harold told me that he eased the transition by making sure I could see the Verrazano from my office window,” answered Joey. “Am I changing out John Russo for Harold or you?” he asked.

“As you will learn soon enough, we have a Godmother, not a Godfather, and her name is Gwen. Unless you happen to catch Tori in storm mode, in which case you’ll hide under your desk, like the rest of us,” I said.

Gio turned to Jen, “You told them?”

“Only Tori.”

“Now might be a good time.”

Jen put out her left hand with a diamond sparkle on her ring finger.

“It’s always convenient to sleep with the person you ride to work with,” I observed.

“To be truthful,” said Joey, “This is a bit scary. Your cable companies are in Florida, Texas, Arizona, California, Missouri and Nebraska. That’s a lot of territory. Gio and I are Brooklyn, how will that play in the sticks? Florida, maybe, that’s almost like Brooklyn South, but the rest? Hell, neither one of us likes the Beach Boys. And what do they want to listen to in Texas? Lynyrd Skynyrd?”

“First lesson in management Joey,” I said. “Lean on your people, trust them. You have entire sales staffs with every company. Talk to them, find out what they listen to. You have full access to Tori’s research staff, one of the World’s best. Ed and, oh, who is she?”

“Elaine,” said Tori.

“Ed and Elaine are about the best statisticians in creation, you’ve got the best demographics available in your pocket. Also, remember, you’re not creating, you’re tailoring. Putting together the best music/sports/news packages at the best price. You’ve proven you’re the best in music, just expand your talents a bit.”

“Sounds a lot easier than I expect it will be,” said Gio, “although I seem to have pulled it off in Annandale. I did that basically off of record collections, Kat’s, Deana’s, and the one Susan and Jeanie keep in the dance studio.”

“I have an idea for a promo in Confidential, if you have a record that fits,” I said.

“And what record would that be?” asked Joey.

“One song that goes in all the boxes. What is the ultimate juke box song?”

Joey looked at Gio and they both smiled. “If you’re talking bar boxes there is one’” he said, and pointed at Gio.

“Mickey Gilley,” said Gio, “Don’t the Girls All Get Prettier at Closing Time.”

“Oh,” said Tori, “You’ve got to do that. It’s called ‘the closing time effect.’ After the song came out a bunch of studies were done to see if it was actually true. Turns out that, for various reasons, not just alcohol, it’s true. I pitched it to Murray, oh maybe three years ago, but he shot it down. Give one of these two a byline and it’s a great promo.”

“Hell,” said Joey, “I’m lucky to write my name and spell it correctly, Gio?”

“I are no fool,” said Gio, “I are a college grad-u-ate. If I can’t dazzle them with my brilliance I can certainly baffle them with my bullshit.”

As it turned out this decision ended up being part of an elaborate joke on Gio and Jen.

Harold’s friends, obviously, were among America’s richest people. One family had a smallish mansion in a cove just north of Hilo on the Big Island. They set their date on June sixteenth. Harold arranged for the house in Hawaii starting the nineteenth for a week. So, we went to work on Jen and Gio. The new cable service was too new for Gio to take off in June, and they should postpone their honeymoon. We finally got it across, and they agreed. It was, of course, bullshit. The plan was to get them to San Francisco and spring it on them. Gio was to take the earlier flight with Tori because Tori had the information on the closing time effect in San Francisco. She never entered it in the magazine’s computer system because Murray turned it down. Which again, was bullshit. I might not run the tightest ship in the publishing industry, but I was better than that.

Ali came in from San Francisco to fulfill the office of maid of honor, and Hetty was a bridesmaid. Both Kat and Deena flew in as well. Chavy did the photos while her Dad made a video.

After giving them a wedding night in the Plaza, Gio and Tori caught the morning flight. The rest of us caught the noon flight taking up most of first class. Chavy brought the contact sheets from the wedding so she and Jen spent the flight going through them. We landed into problems in San Francisco. A pretty massive pile-up on Bayshore prevented Tori and Joey from coming down to pick us up. Teddy showed up with Donna and Angie.

Teddy had a brand-new Dodge Grand Caravan, which was an eight-passenger van, but there were ten of us, and it would be an hour-long trip, down to Redwood City and across to skyline. We finally decided to chance it with Kat on my lap and Ali on Deena’s.

When we got in, Kat looked at Ali and said,” Short people got reason to live.” and they bumped fists.

Donna looked back and started to laugh. “You know Nick’s story about driving back with Teddy when he was freed.”

“Yeh,” said Kat. “Daddy’s sob story about how he did all the work and Teddy got all the girls. Raise your hand if you don’t know the song.”

Deena got a glint in her eyes and said: “All together now: one, two, three.”

And all seven of my little girls sang:

“Keep your mind on your driving

Keep your hands on the wheel

Keep your snoopy eyes on the road ahead

We’re having fun, sitting in the backseat

Kissing and a hugging with Nick”

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