Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Peter Falk and My Childhood



Last week, Peter Falk passed away at the age of 83. Anyone under the age of twenty probably doesn’t even know who Peter Falk was, but for everyone else, we will always remember him as Columbo.

When I saw the headline that Peter Falk was dead, it shocked and saddened me. The man lived a long life, he was eighty-three, but for me he was always one of those guys who I thought would be around forever.

As I sat and read the article, I started to think back to when I was a kid, about four or five years old. Back then, my family consisted of my mother, my father, and four children, with one television available to entertain the entire bunch. I’m sure many of you reading this had it the same way growing up.

The kids would fight over what to watch, and the older ones would usually win. Me being the youngest, I would never win, so I was stuck watching their shows or I had to wait until they were gone and the television was all mine.

But when my father had a day off from work, forget it, it was his television, and the rest of us could either watch what he watched or go play outside with our toys.

That’s where Columbo comes in.

On the days when my father ruled the television, my parents would stay up late, cuddled up on the sofa in the dark living room with the television providing the only light, watching detective shows. And, for some reason, I would be the only kid watching it with them. Maybe these were school nights and the rest of the kids were sleeping? Like I said, I was only four or five, so it was before I started school.

Anyhow, I would either stretch out across the cold floor or sit on the sofa with them, but I enjoyed the heck out of those shows. The shows usually included McCloud, Columbo, and Quincy, M.E. But Columbo I enjoyed the most, and it all had to do with Peter Falk.

I’m not sure what it was about him. Maybe it had to do with the way he chewed his cigars, wearing that trench coat, and letting everyone believe he was slow-witted as he managed to prove them guilty of the crime they committed. Whatever it was, it kept me hooked on Columbo, even as a small child, and made me a fan for life.

I’ve seen Peter Falk in other movies besides Columbo. He played great roles in The In-Laws, The Cheap Detective, Murder by Death, Pocketful of Miracles, and The Princess Bride. But I will always love and cherish him as television’s greatest detective.

After reading the article and recalling my childhood memory, I realized how many years had passed since those nights spent with my parents, and how the more time passes, the more pieces of my childhood seem to fade away.

It’s true, I can never go back to being a kid, watching late-night television with my parents, and Columbo will never again solve a new case of some murderer who thought they had committed the perfect crime, but on those nights, when I feel like reminiscing, I can always pop in a DVD of Columbo and smile again.

Oh, just one more thing…we’ll miss you, Peter Falk.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Now I Lay Thee Down to Sleep - Chapter 1 of the new horror novel


Chapter One



The guy coming out of the duplex across the street was sleeping with my wife. I didn’t know for how long, but I found out about their little affair last week.

She was in the shower at the time, about ten at night, when her cell phone started beeping. She left it in her purse beside the bed where I lay watching an Adam Sandler movie. I rolled over, reached in the pricey Louis Vuitton bag, and pulled out the phone to check the number. It was a text message from nightlife10 saying: Off 2maro callout n cum 2 my place.


I was suspicious right away. I tried telling myself it was just one of her girlfriends. But I knew. Something was telling me this wasn’t right. It felt so secretive: a text message this late telling you to call out from work so you could meet this mystery person.
 

The shower cut off. The curtain was pulled open. She’d be in the room in a minute or two. I put the phone back in the purse and rolled over, eyes back on the television.
 

The toilet flushed. The bathroom door opened and Sarah walked in the bedroom wearing a towel and another wrapped around her hair. She heard the beeping of her cell phone that I pretended to ignore.
 

Out the corner of my eye, I could see the look of shock on her face. It came and went in a second but was there long enough for me to catch it. That confirmed it for me. My wife of six years was cheating. Pissed me off so much that I wanted to scream in her face; ask her how could she do something like this to me, to us, to our four year old son, Billy.
 

But I didn’t say a word. I bit down on my tongue hard to stop myself from losing control―I swear I drew blood. The anger was subsiding. I clenched my right hand into a white-knuckled fist, and the rest of it died away.

My eyes went to Sarah. She grabbed the cell, looked at it, shook her head in disgust, shut it off, and placed it in her handbag.
 

“How long was my phone going off?” she said.
 

I played dumb. “What?”
 

“You didn’t hear my phone?”
 

“No, was it ringing?”
 

“Yeah.”
 

“Geesh, I’m caught up in this movie. I didn’t even notice.” I paused, looked at the television, and said, “Was it important?”
 

She said, “Not at all. It was one of those spam messages, offering discount vacations or something,” without hesitation. Little bitch was proving to be a pro at lying. Christ, I would’ve never realized it. What else was she lying to me about?
 

We went to bed that night not saying much else to each other. Both of us thinking; her probably wondering about her big date, and me, trying to figure out how was I going to follow her without her catching on to me. It took me close to three hours to fall asleep, too much going on inside my head. But it wasn’t in vain. Before I finally dozed I had it all planned out.
 

I woke up before sunrise and called a buddy of mine, worked in the same precinct as me. I asked if I could borrow his car for a few hours. He was fine with it.
 

I was back in my neighborhood as Sarah was leaving to drop off Billy at her mother’s for the day. Sarah didn’t think anything of me being gone because I was supposed to be at work, but my captain let me have the morning off to take care of personal problems.
 

She had no idea I was tailing her from our house to her mother’s, then from there to Kerper Street.
 

My eyes stayed on her as she stepped out of her Camry, appearing nervous as her blue eyes darted side to side, making sure no one saw her enter the door of the duplex.
 

I waited in the car across the street for two hours that seemed more like twenty, but I didn’t grow tired. I was so goddamn angry. My head was hot, like blood was boiling and reaching my brain. I wanted to run over there and find out what my wife was doing to make me feel so miserable.
 

But I didn’t have to.
 

The door opened and Sarah and some Latino guy walked out. They were holding hands.
 

That was a few days ago. Now that same guy, who had no right touching my wife’s hand, was locking the front door of his duplex, while I watched from the inside of my patrol car.
 

He began walking down the steps. That’s when I got out and crossed the street in his direction. Our eyes met and he stopped in his tracks.
 

He sounded like a scared little boy, intimidated by the uniform, as he said, “Hi, officer.” I stopped in front of him. “Can I help with you...er...uh, can I help you with anything?”
 

My eyes were down on him, teeth were clenched, as I said, “How’s it feel to fuck a police officer’s wife?”
 

Not a word came out of this young guy’s mouth. All I could hear was the hard swallow that he forced down his throat.
 
“Relax, it’s broad daylight, and I’m in uniform. I didn’t come here to kill you or anything like that. I just wanted to talk.”
 

He shook his head. “I...I don’t know―”
 

“Cut the crap. I know what’s going on. Now turn around and get back in your apartment.”
 

His startled eyes went to the badge on my shirt that read: Roberts. “Listen, I gotta get to work. I’ma be late.”
 

“Call out, like you told my wife in your text message the other night.”
 

He hesitated, then tried to walk past me. My hand pressed against his chest and he stopped. His wide eyes came to mine. He said, “Please. I’m sorry.”
 

“You will be if you ignore me again. I’m a respected officer, and you better believe that I will hurt you if I have to. And I will easily find a way to make you a dangerous criminal. Understand?” He nodded. “Let’s go inside your home.”
 

I was calm and casual following behind him as he walked back to the duplex. He was nervous and even tripped over his own foot walking up the stairs.
 

He fumbled with his keys as he tried to find the right one. I reassured the handsome asshole―who couldn’t have been more than twenty―of his safety, just so he would calm down. He let out a deep sigh and opened the door.
 

We stepped in and I closed the door behind us. The hallway was dimly lit by a single bulb in a cracked ceiling fixture. There was a staircase five feet in front of us that led up to the second floor. To the right was a door. “Is this you?” I said. He shook his head and motioned up the stairs.
 

Then a hunched back old lady came out of the first floor apartment―must’ve been peeping out her window, being nosy, watching us outside. She looked at me then turned to him and said, “Carlos, everything okay?”
 

Carlos’s eyes came to me. He hesitated long enough that I knew I had to say something so this fragile woman wouldn’t grow suspicious. “Everything is fine, ma’am.” I smiled and kept it on until she was forced to return it, but hers was an awkward, unsure grin. “I have a few questions to ask Carlos. That’s all.”
 

“Questions?” she said. “What about?”
 

“Related to a drug deal that he was involved in. Now go back in and relax. Everything will be fine.”
 

The old woman was shocked. “Carlos, is this true? You were buying drugs?”
 

Carlos sounded annoyed as he said, “Missis Carducci, go back inside. I’ll explain everything later.”
 

She nodded and we watched as she closed the door, her nervous eyes never letting go of us, and my charming grin directed at her the entire time.
 

I waited to hear the lock turn. When I did I nudged the pretty boy. He started up the stairs. “Look, it’s not what you’re thinking.” He paused, like he wasn’t sure whether it would help or hurt if he kept on. Then he continued, “We’re friends...that’s it.”
 

“Yeah, I bet,” I said.
 

He said nothing further, except when he cursed under his breath. That was it.
 

We reached the top of the staircase. He looked back at me, then down in the direction of the old lady’s apartment, then back at me again. “That’s the landlady. She’s gonna wanna know why you were here.”
 

“And? I already told her why. You’ll be lucky to have a place to live after today.” He shook his head. “Maybe next time you’ll be more mindful as to where you stick your dick.”
 

His focus went back to the door. He opened it and stepped in. I followed and locked it behind me. Pretty Boy turned to me and saw my palm meet his nose. There was a crunch and a spurt of blood that shot back on his face.
 

He yelped, but I was quick to place my hand over his mouth, my face touching his, cheek to cheek, as I said, “Shhh, relax, pretty boy.” He struggled but was no match for me. I outweighed him by about fifty pounds and was well built. “We don’t want Mama Italy knocking, asking what’s wrong. The last thing we want is me having to hurt her and blame it on you.” His wide eyes were stuck on me, probably thinking I was crazy. But I wasn’t. I was just hurt and heartbroken. “Are you going to be quiet?”
 

Blood shot out from his nostrils onto my knuckles every time he exhaled. He was having a hard time breathing, and it showed from the color of red his face was turning and the tears that were building in his eyes. My fingers parted a bit, enough for him to breathe through his mouth.
 

He let out a few deep breaths before I asked again. He nodded and swore he’d keep quiet.
 

My hand came away from his mouth, didn’t even bother wiping his blood off. I was too concerned with other things.
 

Standing in the living room of Pretty Boy’s apartment, I stole a quick glance of the layout. There was a black futon in the carpeted living room with one of those foldaway TV trays acting as a coffee table and a 45 or 50 inch HD television resting on a television stand. On the stand were a few stacks of DVDs and videogames and an empty liter of soda. Besides that, the living room was bare, your typical bachelor pad.
 

He said, “Look, she came to me, okay? I...I wasn’t looking for her.”
 

“How many times?”
 

“What?”
 

“You fucked her. I want to know how many times.”
 

He stared at me. I could tell he was paranoid.
 

After waiting for a minute or so, I said, “It must be a lot?”
 

“Huh? No, man. I’m just nervous. I’m trying, I want to answer, but it’s hard. You standing here with that outfit and that gun. It’s scaring me a lil’ bit.”
 

“Why don’t you have a seat and relax, loosen up some.” He sat on the futon, his hands over his knees, as I stood in front of him, doing my best at intimidation. “You work at her job, I suppose?”
 

He nodded. “I work in the Shipping department. Um, about six months now, something like that.”
 

“Six months?” My right hand drifted over the firearm in my holster. Pretty Boy’s eyes followed it. I could see the sweat developing on his long forehead. “That about how long you two been seeing each other?”
 

As he mumbled he slid off the futon and onto the floor, one arm resting on the futon, the other resting on the TV tray. His eyes never left my holster. “Uh...yeah, pro...probably...”
 

Hearing that was like a blow to the chest. I took a few steps back and sat on the edge of the television stand. Tears were welling up in my eyes. I was beginning to accept it, more and more: my wife, the reason I put my life on the line day after day, was unfaithful in our marriage. I spent years working hard to become a real man and build the foundation of a family, and Sarah comes behind me and destroys it in a heartbreak.
 

I forgot he was there for a moment. I cried and brought my hands to my face and didn’t realize the firearm was resting in my palm. I gazed at it, just for a few seconds, then my eyes past the gun and landed on Pretty Boy.
 

He was terrified. Blood was running out of his nostrils, onto his lips, and he could care less. “Please let me go. I’m sorry. Please. I won’t bother her...Ever...”
 

I pointed the firearm at him. “I’m not a bad man.” He began to cry. “I’m a good person,” he begged, “a loving father,” and I ignored him, “a caring husband,” like he didn’t even exist, “but I feel betrayed, and that can take away everything good that I stand for.”
 

“I don’t wanna die.”
 

“Yeah? And I don’t want to see my family torn apart, but now I have no choice.”
 

“Please,” he got on his knees, “let me go. You can still have your family. I promise, man, you’ll never see me again.”
 

“Know something? The way I feel, I could definitely kill someone...”
 

Then there was a knock at the door. “Carlos?” It was the old lady.
 

We looked at each other. I whispered, “Say something,” with the Glock still on him.
 

He tensed up and tried to spit something out, “Missis Carducci, everything is...okay.”
 

“Well, I was going to head to the market. I wanted to know if you need for me to pick you up anything.”
 

“No, thanks,” he said, wiping the blood from his nose on the back of his hand.
 

She said her goodbye. We heard the light footsteps heading slowly down the stairs. The front door of the duplex slammed. The old lady was gone.
 

I composed myself as best I could. It was becoming more difficult to do lately. Too much stress with the job and now this. I was piling too much on my plate to deal with at once. I stood up and put the firearm back in its holster.
 

“Don’t say a word to her about what happened here, or about me finding out, got it?” I said. Pretty Boy nodded. “Let me find out you said something and I’ll be back. Just go ahead and keep on with your little fucking love affair,” because I planned on dealing with my wife my own way. “Pretend as if we never met. Matter of fact, this morning never happened. Don’t tell anyone how you got the busted nose and the broken arm.”
 

There was a squint in his eyes, like he wondered, What broken arm?
 

My foot came up and crashed into his forearm resting on the tray. The tray shattered and Pretty Boy fell on the broken pieces, crying.
 

I didn’t hear any bones break, and he was still moving his arm, so I stomped on it again. He screamed, but no break. Again and again I stomped until I finally heard the bone crack.
 

Sweat was running down my armpits as the aching Pretty Boy screamed. I wrapped my hand around his throat and told him to shut up or I’d cut off his air.
 

He started gagging and coughing. I stepped away and he threw up all over the carpet. Splashes of puke landed on my polished black shoes. I shoved him to the floor, onto his own vomit, and aimed the firearm at the back of his head. “You’re not a man. A man thinks before he acts, especially when a family’s involved.” I turned him over so he could see the firearm up close. “Remember what I said.”
 

I walked down the small hallway and into his bathroom, checked myself in the mirror, making sure I appeared as close to a well-polished police officer as possible, then I left. I went outside and kept a smile on my face as I headed back to my patrol car. The only thing on my mind was my wife, Sarah Roberts, and how she ruined my entire life.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Daddy's Little Boys - Chapters 1 and 2 of the new crime novel



Chapter One



The last thing Paul Flores and his younger brother Eddie expected to see as they exited their parents’ house, only hours after attending their father’s funeral, was a gun pointed at their faces...But that’s what happened.

“Get in,” the guy with the gun said, sitting in the backseat of the Lincoln Navigator parked along the curb. “Now,” his voice growing louder, impatient.

Paul and his brother looked at each other, sunglasses hiding their hazel eyes, the two of them in sharp black suits, suits they would never wear except to a wedding or, as in this case, a funeral.

“Don’t stand there thinking about it. Just get your asses in here,” the guy with the gun said. “The longer you stand there staring at each other like a couple a fruits, the more likely you are to try and do something stupid, like run away. Then I gotta go and do something crazy, like put a bullet in your back. Now get in here,” paused, eyes fixed on the two brothers. "If somebody walks outta that house and sees us here, I’m gonna shoot youse both.”

“Why do you want us in there?” Paul said, nervous, but remaining calm for the moment.

“Don’t worry, I ain’t gonna rob or rape yas, youse ain’t my type. Just be cool and get a move on.” The back door opened. The bulky guy, kind of old, probably sixty-five but in damn good shape, pointing the gun, slid back toward the other side of the spacious Navigator, making room for the grieving brothers.

Eddie, not saying a word, looked at Paul, then started toward the gunman in the white sweat suit.

Paul grabbed Eddie’s arm. Eddie stopped and turned to face his older brother. “What?” Eddie said.

“What what?” Paul said, trying to talk low enough so the guy in the Navigator wouldn’t hear. “What are you doing?”

“I’m getting inside,” Eddie said. “The guy’s pointing a gun. You wanna get shot? I know I don’t.”

Paul said, “But he’s probably looking for someone else―” eyes to the bulky guy with the gun, and speaking louder now, “I think you got the wrong guys, sir?”

“Youse David Flores’s boys?” the gunman said.

“Yeah,” Eddie said, Paul nodded.

“I got the right guys,” cocked the gun and aimed, tilting his head down, lining up his eyes with the top of the gun, like he was getting ready to pull the trigger. “Now get in.”

That convinced them. Paul moved forward, bumping into Eddie and shoving him along. “Hurry up, Eddie,” Paul said, his voice edgy, the sunglasses hiding his wide eyes.

“I’m going, calm down, Christ,” Eddie said.

Eddie climbed in, then Paul. Paul shut the door and the Lincoln Navigator drove down the narrow suburban street.

Paul sat rigid, staring at the houses flying past as the Navigator cruised down Route 611 doing forty, heading toward Philadelphia. All week long he couldn’t stop thinking of his father who dropped dead of a heart attack last Wednesday while on the job as a mail carrier, but this did it. The only thought running through his head now was wondering what the hell was going to happen to him and his brother.

They were in the SUV for about five minutes and no one said a word. All Paul could hear was the faint sound of music coming out of the speakers, sounded like hip-hop.

The older brother and elementary school teacher turned to the old bulky guy, whose leg was touching Eddie’s, and said, “Could you tell us where we’re going?”

The bulky guy, who Paul thought looked just like Lawrence Tierney, even had that same gravelly voice, put his hand on Eddie’s chest. “’Scuse me, pal,” he said. Eddie leaned back, the bulky guy came toward Paul and rammed his fist into his nose. Paul yelped as his head shot back and sent his sunglasses flying from his face, his hands covering his throbbing nose.

“Fuck me,” Eddie said, surprised. “What’d you do that for?”

“That’s for standing back and making us wait when I told your ass to get in the car.” The bulky guy said, “I tell you to do something you do it, you don’t stand there tugging on your dick.”

The pain was so intense it was making Paul’s eyes water. He felt his nose clogging up and knew it must have been bleeding. His hand came to his nostrils and wiped. He looked at it and saw blood on his fingers. “Jesus. I’m bleeding.” His gaze went to the rearview mirror where he saw the eyes of the driver looking at him. The driver, fat guy with a thin beard that tried to accentuate the jaw line that was all but gone with the aid of a double chin, smiled then chuckled as he watched Paul’s (probably) broken nose let out a stream of blood down his mouth and chin and onto his nice white shirt.

“Watch where you bleed, dawg,” the driver said. “I just got this bitch detailed.”

“Now to answer your question, we’re taking youse down to see the man we work for.”

“Who’s that?” Eddie said.

The bulky guy raised his index finger to his face. “The Finger,” he said, and that was it. He stayed quiet, staring at Eddie and Paul. Paul’s eyes were going from the bulky guy to the blood on his shirt, trying to stop the bleeding while, at the same time, trying to pay attention to this guy who was completely bald on top, but was overdue for a trim of the brown hair that graced the rest of his head, reminded Paul of a monk.

“Who the fuck is the Finger?” Eddie said, sounding way more relaxed than Paul felt.

“Sit tight, kid,” the bulky guy said. “You’ll find out soon enough.”


Chapter Two



Elmo “The Finger” Shanahan―but don’t dare call him Elmo, he’s liable to kill you for that―sat at a small table in his personal speakeasy that was more of a social club for the members of his crew. He sipped his beer from a longneck, licked his lips as he brought the bottle back down on the uneven table, and squinted at the television hanging from the ceiling in the corner. There was a commercial playing, an Asian guy pitching an appliance store, using a baseball bat to smash washing machines and refrigerators made out of cardboard: ...Those other places charge five hundred dollar for a brand new refrigerator, swung the bat, smashing the faux refrigerator, You’re out of here! He stopped and looked into the camera, breathing heavy, At Lo Appliances you can get a new, barely used refrigerator for only three ninety-nine ninety-five. The camera followed him to the cardboard washing machine. Those other places like to charge four hundred dollar for a brand new cleaning machine, again, he’s smashing the shit out of this piece of cardboard, doing his best Harry Kalas impersonation, Watch it, baby...out of here!!! Then he stopped and looked to the camera, his face red, At Lo Appliances, new, barely used cleaning machine, deep breath, two ninety-nine ninety-five. So come on down to Lo Appliances at Red Lion and Roosevelt Boulevard, and ask for me, Lenny Lo, and I’ll let you take advantage of our Lo, Lo prices. A small Asian woman, looked like she could be Lenny’s mom, inched into the frame holding a sign that read: LO, LO PRICES!!!

The screen went black and Shanahan’s eyes drifted to the star of the commercial, Lenny Lo, sitting across from him. Lenny looked nervous. “What you think, Mister Shanahan?” Lenny, co-owner of Lo Appliances, said, talking fast, with a heavy Chinese accent, to his business partner.

“How much did this thing cost?” Shanahan said.

“What thing?” Lenny said.

“The fucking commercial,” Shanahan said.

“Five thousand.”

“Five thousand for that shit.” Lenny frowned. “Christ, Lenny, you called a washing machine a goddamn cleaning machine.” Lenny stared, like to him there was no difference between the two words. “And what the hell is Watch it, baby? You trying to do Kalas?”

Lenny nodded, smiling. “Yes, I like Harry Kalas.”

“Well for future reference, Lenny, it’s, ‘Watch that baby.’” Lenny squinted, his thin small frame sitting there in a Lo Appliances T-shirt and dark blue jeans. “You know,” trying to do his best Harry Kalas voice, “Watch that baby ...outta here! Home run!”

“You sound just like him, Mister Shanahan,” Lenny said. Shanahan knew he didn’t sound shit like Kalas, nobody could ever sound like Harry. “But besides that, do you like it?”

“No,” Shanahan said, growing agitated. “You need to reshoot the son of a bitch. Get rid of the bat and smashing the fucking appliances. Look like a raging friggin’ maniac, swinging that bat around, fucking people’d be afraid to come anywhere near your store.” Lenny stared, disappointed. “Throw in some girls in bikinis, big tits and all, rubbing up on you, laughing and giggling, that type of shit, know what I mean?”

Lenny nodded, a sad expression taking hold of his face. He went to the corner where the television hung and removed his DVD of the commercial from the player.

Shanahan saw the front door opening and looked over. Bobby Mullen strolled in, followed by two guys who looked like Davy’s boys, then behind them, Owen “Owney” Benjamin, who was not only Shanahan’s best friend since childhood but also his bodyguard for over forty years. Bobby was about twenty-six or twenty-seven, Shanahan wasn’t sure, but he was a smart kid, even though he dressed with his pants hanging under his wide ass he knew how to get things done, and that’s why Shanahan used him so much. If Shanahan had a go-to guy then Bobby was him.

Shanahan himself made money any way he could, most of them illegal. He was part of Jesus Rodriguez’s drug empire that stretched across six states with origins in Puerto Rico, and he controlled most of the trafficking going on in the Mayfair and Rhawnhurst sections of Northeast Philly. He laundered his earnings through multiple businesses, including Apocalypse, a nightclub on Castor Avenue, just blocks up the road from this social club, and Lo Appliances. But Shanahan was a low key guy. He didn’t like attention, especially with all the money he made. He was married, no kids. His wife, Barbara, stayed at their house on County Line Road, just on the border of Bucks County, while he tended to business in the city, watching over guys who worked for him, simple shit, supervising.  

Bobby approached the table where Shanahan sat and said, “Here they are,” and stepped to the side, letting his boss get a good look at the Flores brothers.

“Hey, boys,” squinted at the older brother. “Sweet Mary, what happened to your face?” Shanahan turned to his old friend and said, “Owney, you do that?”

Owney, standing at the front door, behind the Flores brothers, his arms crossed, said, “He made us wait, Shan.”

Throwing his hands up, satisfied with the answer, Shanahan said, “Well, there you go,” smiling at the brother with the bashed face, “you don’t make Owney wait. He doesn’t like to wait.”

“So are you the Finger?” the younger brother said, his voice with a bit of an edge to it, as he removed his sunglasses.

Shanahan tightened his eyes and glared at the kid and said, “You don’t call me that. You got it?”

The younger brother, who Shanahan thought was Edward, looked to his older brother with uncertainty. Then his hazel eyes went back to Shanahan in the chair. “Yeah.”

“Call me Mister Shanahan.” There was a moment of silence. Then Shanahan pointed at the kid with the attitude. “You Edward?”

“Yeah, Eddie.”

Shanahan looked to the brother, his face and shirt stained with blood. “And what’s your name?” squinting, trying to remember. “I forget.”

“I’m Paul.”

Shanahan grinned, saying, “Yeah, that’s it, Paul. Sorry about your father’s passing.”

Paul and Eddie looked at each other. Paul said, “You knew our father?”

“Knew him,” Shanahan said with a chuckle. “Davy Flores worked for me for over twenty-five years.”

“Davy?” Eddie said, wearing a disgusted expression.

“That’s what I called him,” Shanahan said. “He didn’t have a problem with it. You’d better not.”

Again Paul and Eddie exchanged stares, then Paul moved forward and put his hands over the top of the chair across from Shanahan. “I think there’s been a mistake. You say you know our father. Maybe you got the wrong guy? Our father was David Flores; he was a mailman for almost thirty years. I mean, I don’t know what you do, but...” looked around the dim social club, “you know...this place...”

“What?” Shanahan said, offended.

“He means this don’t look like no fucking post office, Jack,” Eddie said, interrupting the two.

Bobby busted out laughing. Shanahan looked at him leaning against the far wall, then he joined in with a deep laugh that sounded almost as if he was coughing. Owney stood by the door, dead serious. Lenny was quiet, standing under the television behind Shanahan, clutching on to his DVD like he was afraid someone was going to steal it― Shanahan almost forgot he was in the room he was so quiet. Paul looked scared. Eddie seemed too tough for his own good as he gazed at Shanahan.

As the laughter began to fade, Shanahan said, “Sit down, boys. I wanna tell you about your daddy the mailman.” The brothers sat in the two remaining chairs at the small table, Eddie seemed a little hesitant. “Your father was a mailman, yeah, but on top of that, and what’s obvious you don’t seem to know, is the fact that your daddy also worked for me. And I’ll tell you what he did for the years he worked for me, because I know you won’t run and tell the cops or anything stupid like that, ‘cause if you do, then I’m gonna have the both of you join your father, wherever the fuck he may be, God rest his soul.” Eddie tightened his lips, glaring at Shanahan. Shanahan ignored him and continued, “Your father ran errands for me, all kinds of things, I won’t get into what, but most of the time it was moving money from point A to point B. And he did it while on duty, and no one thought the wiser. The guy got away with it for so many years, because, really, who the fuck would ever suspect the mailman. Right?”

The brothers listened, Paul seemed shocked and Eddie, pissed off.

“I can tell you probably don’t believe a word of it, but I really don’t give a shit. I didn’t bring the two of you here to tell you what your daddy was doing behind your backs. I brought you here because last week Davy had five duffle bags of money that totaled five million bucks. He picked it up from point A, and that we confirmed to be a fact―”

“Yes, that is a fact. But the money never made it to me, I swear,” Lenny Lo said, interrupting his boss.

The brothers’ attention went to Lenny as he came up behind Shanahan.

Shanahan squinted at the Chinese guy, who laundered Shanahan’s dirty money through his appliance store for the past ten years. Shanahan said, “Relax, Lenny, you’re getting panicky. Have a drink or something. You get all nervous I can’t understand a word you say, talking so fucking fast and all. It’s bad enough to try and figure out what you say when you’re calm.”

“Apologies, I just don’t want to be blamed for, uh, stealing. You a good man, and I would never never do that,” putting his right hand to his heart, then holding it up.

Bobby chimed in, saying, “Shut your bitch ass up, Lenny.”

Lenny, nervous, looked at Bobby and nodded.

To Lenny, Shanahan said, “Bobby’s right, just be quiet for a minute.” He turned back to Paul and Eddie and said, “So, what?” trying to remember where he left off. “Yeah, anyway, Davy made the pickup at point A and was supposed to deliver it to point B. The bags never made it to point B. That’s when Davy had the heart attack. He dies on the job, right there in his mail truck. As soon as Lenny here sees the drop-off is late, he calls me, I get Bobby here on the prowl, he finds the mail truck, the paramedics’re already there, and guess what?” He waited to see if the brothers would say anything, they didn’t. “The bags are gone. He got rid of’em before he died.”

“I still can’t believe any of this,” Paul said, shaking his head, then looking at Eddie, like he wanted him to jump in with his two cents.

“Well it’s true,” Shanahan said. “So my money is gone. The fact that the bags weren’t in the truck when he died shows he planned on running off with it or some shit. Now you either know where he hid the money and are lying your asses off, or you don’t know shit. But, regardless, Davy owes me five million, and since you’re his sons, and Davy’s dead, you owe me five million.” Eddie scoffed. Shanahan stopped and gave him a hard stare. “You remind me of your daddy when he was young: a stupid ass kid with all heart and no brain.” He turned to Paul and said, “Today’s Tuesday. I want my five million, in cash, here by Friday, nine am. If that money don’t get to me by then, you boys are gonna have a big problem.”

Eddie spoke up, saying, “Where the hell do we get five million dollars by Friday?”

Shanahan shrugged. “Not my problem.” He paused. “Now get the hell outta here and find my money.”