Table of Contents

Spring 2009

From The Editor

Letter from Jack Getze

Short Stories

Patrick Whittaker

9:03

Anthony Rainone

Fall to Pieces

Phil Beloin

Late, After Dinner

Jake Nantz

Midnight on the Links

Stephen D. Rogers

Queen Anne's Lace

Mike Sheeter

Blue Fugazzi

David Moss

The Sleepy Pines Nursing Home

Fiona Kay Crawford

Successful Surgeon

Graham Powell

The Ins and Outs

John Towler

The Fall

Damien Seaman

Thursday Night Blowout

Matthew Acheson

Writing on the Wall

Interviews

Sandra Ruttan with Russel D. McLean

Declan Burke with Brian McGilloway

Jim Napier with Phyllis Smallman

Brian Lindenmuth with Craig McDonald

Reviews by:

P.A. Brown

Mexican Heat

Gloria Feit

Friend of the Devil

Theodore Feit

Death Was in the Picture

A Beautiful Place to Die

Night and Day

Claire McManus

The Hanged Man

The Poisoner of Ptah

My Sister, My Love

The Cruelest Month

Jim Winter

Trigger City

The Fourth Victim

TKO

Bookspot Review Roundup

Book Excerpt

The Big O
by Declan Burke

Featured Article

Passing of the Torch - Celebrated crime novelist dies
by Jim Napier

Blue Fugazzi

Detective Third Grade Joe Proetto flashed his badge at the Maitre D’ of the Command Level Dining room at One Police Plaza. The guy flipped through his book, and looked disillusioned when he discovered Joe’s name in it.

Joe had been pulling a static surveillance detail in the South Bronx when the summons to ‘report forthwith’ reached him. He hadn’t shaved in two weeks, and he was wearing a squeegee bum’s outfit that he’d pieced together from the dumpsters behind Amsterdam Avenue.

As a white-jacketed waiter escorted him to a table, various Captains, Inspectors, and Borough Commanders put down their knives and forks and gave him the evil eye. He pressed his thumb between his index and second finger, making a mano fico to ward off their negative energy. To his surprise, the bosses dropped their gaze.

Mario Proetto snagged the waiter’s arm and said, “We’ll have the Sole a la Meunière, and bring us a bottle of Pouilly-Fuissé.”

Joe had been thinking about ordering a meatball sub and a large root beer, extra ice. He hadn’t seen his Uncle since confirmation day back in parochial school. A month or two afterwards, Mario and Gennaro Proetto, Joe’s Dad, stopped speaking to each other. When Gennaro died of a massive coronary after retiring from the transit cops, Mario didn’t attend the funeral, pick up a phone, or send a sympathy card.
On paper, Mario Proetto ranked sixteenth in the department’s hierarchy. But as the three-star Chief of Personnel, he wielded almost unlimited power over the careers of all 37,000 members of the NYPD.

Mario smiled at his nephew and said, “You’ve been with the Emergency Services Unit for how long Joey, two years?”

“Twenty-seven months,” Joe said. “Mostly on the Taxi and Vandals squad at the Four-Oh in the South Bronx.”

Mario said, “Driving a decoy cab with a ‘shoot me’ sign on your back. You got a death wish, or something?”

“I’ve had worse postings,” Joe said.

Mario dipped some bread in the olive oil saucer. He looked at the morsel, sighed, and put it back on his plate.

“All this time, I expected you to ask me for a boost up the ladder, but you never reached out,” he said. “I respect that, your desire to make it on your own. The only problem is, nobody ever does.”

Joe shrugged. “I’m doing OK where I’m at.”

“Wrong. High time you made a career move. I’ve got a tumor where the Docs can’t get to it, Kid. Let me do something for you, while I still can.”

Before Joe could reply, a waiter arrived with their entrees. The Maitre D brought a silver ice bucket and uncorked the wine. Mario waved them off.

“You’re joining a special squad out of Manhattan North,” He said. “They’re expecting you on the first day of the new deployment period. Don’t screw up, and I guarantee you’ll be a Detective First Grade within the year.”

“Uncle Mario, I appreciate the offer, but I...”

“Enough already.” Mario shoved an interoffice envelope across the table. Joe found a thick wedge of cash inside.

“That’s twelve thousand bucks. Call it a special clothing allowance,” Mario said. “There’s a card from my guy at Brioni’s custom shop in there, too. Listen to his recommendations. Whatever you do, don’t embarrass me and buy cheap shoes, you understand?”

Joe didn’t understand. He stared at the cash, wondering if he was being observed by IA shooflies posing as busboys, and if the dessert cart contained a hidden camera.

“Thanks for stopping by, Joey,” Mario Proetto said.
“We’ll do this again, some time.”

It took Joe a few seconds to realize his Uncle had just dismissed him. He stood up and extended his hand. Mario rose too, surprising him with an abrazzo, and a kiss on the cheek.

* * *

Detective Lieutenant Leonard Moscowitz waved Joe into the metal chair facing his desk, gave him a once over, and said, “New kicks, huh? Forzieris?”

“Mariano Campaniles,” Joe said.

“Nice.”

The lieutenant resumed studying Joe’s personnel file. The new outfit’s administrative designation was the Organized Crime Control Bureau’s Special Task Force. They referred to themselves as the Gindaloon Squad.

Detective First Leo Orsini, the bullpen’s executive sergeant, asked, “You speak any Italian or Sicilian dialect?”

“A little of both,” Joe said.

“Hear that, Lou?” Orsini said. “The rook’s bringing us some authentic old world Guinea flavor.”

“Show him some respect, Leo.” Lt. Moscowitz said. “His file says he’s taken down two armed robbers. Both shootings were in-policy, too.”

Orsini grinned. “Yeah, huh? We’ve all had our innings with the review board.” He looked at Lt. Moscowitz and added, “Couple of times, some of us.”

Joe was surprised. None of the guys on this squad struck him as hardcore tactical types. Moscowitz and Orsini were a pair of Beau Brummels, both wearing conspicuously elegant hand tailored Italian suits.

Out in the bullpen, the other detectives lounged at their desks in designer shirts open to the third button, modishly cut sport jackets, and satin tracksuits.

These guys went in for jewelry in a big way, too: sporting pinky rings, ID bracelets, medallions, and wafer-thin gold watches. And Uncle Mario had definitely known what he was talking about when he stressed buying good shoes. The whole squad seemed to have a luxury footwear fetish.
Lt. Moscowitz stowed Joe’s file in a desk drawer and said, “You got any outside skills, Joe?”

“I used to be a photographer’s mate in the Coast Guard,” Joe said.

“Hey, terrific,” Moscowitz said, “Give him a camera, Leo. Let’s find out right now what kind of eye he’s got. We'll take him with us.”

Orsini left the room and returned with a DVD camcorder. He handed it to Joe and said, “Questions?”

Joe shook his head, no. They always watched how you handled yourself on a new posting. If you knew what was good for you, you kept your trap shut and your eyes open.

The lieutenant took a plastic baggie out of his desk, removed his badge and gold N.Y.P.D. Detective’s ring and popped them inside. Leo Orsini did the same, and passed the baggie to Joe.

Joe worried about what he was getting into, but he was determined not to send any of the wrong signals on his first day. He dropped his own ring and badge into the bag too.

* * *

By three a.m. Joe was celebrating his first professional killing at Swag, the notorious gentleman’s club on East Sixtieth. He shared one of the tiny candlelit tables with Leo Orsini and Detective Second Grade Denny Dignan.

Denny had been one of the four shooters. He still smelled of Jameson’s, burnt cordite and gun oil.

Leo Orsini slapped Joe on the back. “Wait till you do one of these yourself rook, you’ll love it.”

Lieutenant Moscowitz struggled out of his booth. He was glassy-eyed, leaning on a couple of the girls. He’d taken an active part in the hit.

The new squad was all about trigger time. Whenever the opportunity to get some arose, the detectives drew lots from a London Bobbie’s helmet in Moscowitz’s office.

“Let’s go to the instant replay!” the lieutenant shouted.

Moscowitz fire-wired the DVD camera to the bar’s big screen TV and pressed play. A title card emblazoned with the NYPD seal came up. It read: “Death of a Don VII.”
Leo leaned in and said, “We started out making training films. Before we knew it, the whole department wanted in on the act.”

“Now we’re kind of like those goofs who dress up as Civil War soldiers.” Denny added. “We like to think we’re preserving a vanishing heritage.”

Joe nodded. “But what we do is still classified, right?”

“The citizens wouldn’t understand,” Leo said. “This is strictly our thing.”

“What about them?” Joe said, looking at the dancers.

“The girls know how to keep their mouths shut,” Denny Dignan told him. “Their bosses too, or the vice squad will come by and remind them.”

Back on the big screen, two men sat in a white town car. The man behind the wheel was older, with silver hair. His sidekick was short and stocky, with a power lifter’s thick neck and sloping shoulders.

The sidekick spotted the target and used a cell phone, giving the shooters a heads-up. On the far side of 46th street, a black Lincoln pulled up under the steak house’s awning, streetlights gleaming on its mirror polished finish.

The Lincoln’s driver had just emerged from the car when two gunmen in white trench coats and Russian lambs’ wool hats intercepted him. A second pair of identically dressed killers ran around the rear deck of the sedan, drawing down on the man in the back seat.

All four shooters began firing their .380 pistols at the same instant, engaging each victim with double taps: four rounds in the torso, four rounds in the head. Within seconds, the driver-bodyguard was dead in the street next to the Lincoln’s hood.

His boss sprawled in the gutter on his back, mouth and nose bloody, eyes open. One polished Bally loafer rested on the car’s rocker panel.

Joe recognized his own hand-held camera work as they all watched the killers disappearing around the corner of Forty-Sixth, onto Third Avenue.

Now the scene shifted back to the two victims, a stumpy desk Sergeant from the Three Seven playing Tommy Billotti, and a portly, beak-nosed airframe tech from the Aviation Unit, who bore a vague resemblance to Big Paul Castellano.

Before the screen went blank, both corpses revived and stripped away their bloodied clothing, revealing burst blood bags and electric squibs.

The Gindaloons whooped and pounded on their tabletops.

“Is everybody in these things a cop?” Joe asked.

“You know it,” Leo said.

“We’re N.Y.P.D. all the way, Kid,” Denny said. “We only kill each other.”

* * *

The next hit, Joe teamed up with Denny Dignan, and made his debut as a button man. Orsini handled the camera.

A few days later Joe did a comedy relief turn, playing a befuddled drunk at the Staten Island Paddy bar where Assistant Chief Irv Navaretsky, as John Gotti, whacked Jimmy McBratney, stylishly underplayed by Detective Second Pete Apostal from Major Crimes.

The week after that, he put on a fat suit and dangled from a hook in a refrigerated meat truck, playing Louis the Whale Cafora from the Lufthansa robbery crew.

When they passed the Bobbie’s helmet around again, he drew a real plum, a chance to reprise his role as Albert Anastasia’s murderer, Crazy Joe Gallo.

He was sitting in a booth facing the Mulberry Street entrance of Umberto’s Clam House when he noticed three older guys staring at him from the bar. There was something hinky about them. Joe whispered to his bodyguard, Leo Orsini, “Who are those alte cockers? I know they’re not cops.”

“You got that right,” Leo whispered back. “Left to right, that’s Pasquale Sforza and Gasparo Montefiore from the Colombo crime family, and Lou the Chimp Assimilato, the last of the Profacis. They’re technical advisors. They were eating here on the night Joe Gallo got whacked. We don’t have any secrets from these guys, Joey, no more than they got from us.”

Three cops in ski masks from the Central Park Mounted Detail rushed into the restaurant’s side entrance.

The horsy cops were first timers, and overexcited. They started blasting before Joe was ready for it. Electric squibs popped off under his dress shirt, stinging him. Siobhan, who had been cast as Crazy Joe Gallo’s new bride Sina, screamed in his ear. Proetto chomped down on the blood bag in his mouth, coughing corn syrup and red food coloring onto her dress.

He rose unsteadily to his feet, reminding himself not to look into the camera. The three masked hit men ran out of Umberto’s.

Joe overturned the table, staggering out of the restaurant onto Hester Street. His murderers raced by in their Cadillac, still pegging shots. Joe sank to his knees and toppled onto the sidewalk face first.

He played dead as Siobhan ran out of Umberto’s shrieking, “The streets will run red with blood for this!”

Lenny Moscowitz clapped the scene slate, calling a wrap.
Nailed it in one take, Joe thought.

When he emerged from the men’s room after changing back into his own clothes, the trio of old Mafiosi presented him with a huge bouquet of red roses.

Joe clutched the flowers, embarrassed but pleased, while the aging wise guys handed him a stack of souvenir menus they wanted autographed.

“Anybody who don’t like your acting?” Lou the Chimp said, ”They don’t like chocolate ice cream, either.”

“Thanks so much,” Joe said, scribbling his name and badge number on a menu with a Sharpie. “That means a lot to me, coming from you guys.”

Pasquale Sforza carefully tucked his autographed menu away in his vicuña topcoat and said, “No, thank you Detective. You know what you done tonight? You showed us the soul of that rat bastard.”

***

After his triumph at Umberto’s, Joe’s squad mates deferred to him, offering him several leading roles.

His instincts prompted him to turn them all down, pleading exhaustion. He sensed that he was on the verge of something transcendent, and he wanted to conserve his emotional energies until the right moment arrived.

He was lolling around in bed with Siobhan one Sunday morning, sharing the Times, when Leo Orsini called.

“Today’s a big day for you, Joey,” Leo said. “I’m out in front of your building. Dress nice and get down here.

We’re meeting somebody important.”

Joe put on his charcoal gray banker-pinstriped suit and tied his tie in a double Windsor knot. This could be it, he thought.

He folded the script he had been working on into his jacket pocket. It was a shot by shot scenario for the 1972 assassination of Joe Columbo, during the Italian American Civil Rights League rally.

The I.T. guys from the administrative services bureau had already signed off on Joe’s storyboards, assuring him that digitally stripping in the cheering crowds would be a piece of cake.

Joe climbed into Leo’s sedan, too superstitious to ask questions. Leo hopped onto the BQE and took them out to Brooklyn, pulling up in front of a Chinese takeout joint on Knickerbocker Avenue.

“You recognize this place?” Leo asked.

“No,” Joe said. “I’ve never been here before.”

“Before the neighborhood changed, it used to be Joe & Mary’s, a Mom & Pop Italian restaurant. Best scungilli in the whole city.”

Joe spotted Lenny Moscowitz standing out front.

“Am I OK, Leo?” Joe said. “Did I do something wrong?”

“You got a choice to make, that’s all.”

Joe climbed out of the car.

Lenny beckoned him over to his unmarked Crown Vic and popped the trunk. A short-barreled 12-gauge shotgun rested on a blanket inside.

“What’s up, Lou?” Joe said.

“You want to stay with us, take the lupara and go see the man in the back,” Leo said. “If you don’t, you can return to the Emergency Services Unit, with no career repercussions.”

Joe picked up the shotgun.

Nobody looked directly at him as he walked down the length of the Chinese restaurant and pushed through the door leading outside, to the patio.

His Uncle Mario was alone at an umbrella-shaded table full of greasy dim sum platters and beer bottles, puffing on a Monticristo Robusto. He was in civvies, wearing a white sport shirt and sharkskin slacks.

“I’m glad you’re more pragmatic than your old man, Kid,” Mario said when he saw the weapon. “I’m tired, and I don’t need any more agita. Let’s do this.”

Joe thumbed the mule-ear hammers back, leveled the shotgun at his Uncle’s heart, and tripped both triggers.

Mario flew out of his chair and landed against the rear wall of the patio, his chin resting on his chest, his hands turned inwards like claws. His cigar stayed clenched in his teeth.

He looks just like Carmine Gallante, Joe thought. It’s a shame there aren’t any cameras this time.

* * *

Two heavily armed patrolmen from the City Hall detail stood guard in front of Command Level dining room.
Joe approached the long banquet table, dressed in a new, double-breasted suit. He took off his NYPD ring and his Detective First Grade’s shield, and placed them under the crossed pistol and nightstick facing him on the blue tablecloth.

Chief of Detectives Brian Gaffney said, “Who acts as this man’s compare?”

“I do,” Leonard Moscowitz said.

“This thing of ours, it’s the greatest thing in the world,” Gaffney said. Do you want to be a part of it, now and forever, for the rest of your life?”

“I do.” Joe answered.

“Suppose I told you your own brother’s talking out of turn, he’s gonna send some friends of ours to jail?”

“If he’s a rat, he’s got to go.”

Gaffney picked up Joe’s badge and said, “Let’s see your trigger finger.”

Joe extended his hand. Gaffney used the pin of the badge to prick Joe’s index finger, drawing a bead of blood.

He smeared some blood onto a small picture of Theodore Roosevelt, placed the crumpled photograph into Joe’s cupped hands, and set it on fire.

Sifting the burning picture from hand to hand, Joe said, “As this saint burns, so may I burn if I betray this organization, or any of its members. I come in alive, I’ll go out dead.”

Leo passed Joe an ashtray and a napkin.

The Chief of Detectives ritually bussed Joe on both cheeks. “Give the man his ring, Leo,” he said.

Orsini slipped a ring with a huge blue cubic zirconium onto Joe’s left pinkie. Everybody applauded as Joe took his seat of honor at the right hand of the Chief of Detectives.

Chief Gaffney raised his hands for silence, and said, “Tonight, we embrace Joe Proetto as a newly inducted soldier of the Fugazzi crime family. I trust Joe will pardon me if I take this opportunity to bring up a very upsetting incident that has recently come to my attention.

As many of you know, Captain Stan Karlinski, a friend of ours, retired from NYPD last year to become the Chief of Police of a small town in upstate New York.” Gaffney sipped his wine. “Recently Stan’s patrolmen spotted a caravan of limousines driving through town, so naturally, they investigated.

Who did they find riding in those limos? A bunch of State troopers in white socks and JC Penney suits, re-enacting the Appalachin crime conference!”

“Where do they get the balls?” Leo Orsini snarled.

“This concerns all of us,” Gaffney said. “But as a sentimental gesture, I call on our newest member, the nephew of our late consigliore, Don Mario Proetto, to speak first. What do you think we should do, Joe?”

Joe shrugged and said, “I’ll leave it to wiser and more experienced men to make the decisions. Wherever they lead, I’ll follow.”

Then he added, “But I can tell you exactly what my Uncle would have said. Mario would have said: ‘We need to send these white-bread punks a message they’ll never forget!’”



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