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Bone in the throat, p.2
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       Bone in the Throat, p.2

           Anthony Bourdain
 
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  "Sure," said Harvey "You understand that?" asked Sailv.

  "I understand," said Harvey.

  "Okay, how are we gonna straighten out this problem here that we got?" asked Sally.

  "Maybe if you can wait another week," said Harvey.

  "Listen," said Sally, raising his voice, "you're not even making the fuckin vig here and you're talking maybe'? You're saying next week'? This is not a next week' situation. I like you, Harvey, you're a nice guy. You did nice work that time on my niece's teeth and all. You gave my nephew Tommy a job. I appreciate it. But the way things are . . ."

  "How about steaks?" Harvey said hopefully. "I got some beautiful shell steaks down there in the walk-in. I got lobster tails—"

  "I don't want any fuckin' steaks," said Sally, his voice rising. "What the fuck am I gonna do with fuckin' steaks? I'm up to my ass in fuckin' steaks anytime I fuckin' want 'em! You've gotta do better than that. I'm not playin' with you here. This is serious. It's three fuckin' weeks. The man wants his money. He wants it regular. You understand where we are here?"

  "I just don't know what I can do," said Harvey, looking defeated behind his desk. "I don't know what else I can do."

  "I can tell you what we're gonna do," said Sally. "I—me personally—am going to cover you for this week. Out of my own pocket. This week only. This once. And next week . . ."

  Sally reached across the desk and grabbed a handful of his cheek. Harvey noticed how the gold Piaget watch on Sally's wrist hung like a charm bracelet over his hand. Then Sally started to bounce his head off the desk, and he could hear his glasses breaking.

  Harvey dabbed at his bloody nose with a crumpled tissue. Sally stood across the room examining Harvey's face with a clinical detachment.

  "We're not playing around here anymore," he said. "I'm not gonna get jerked off again. No more next weeks' outta you, you lit tie prick. No more I'll do my bests'. Just get me my fucking money Get it on time. Borrow it. Steal from your partners. Go back to pulling fucking teeth if you got to. This is serious. You seen The Godfather, right?"

  Harvey nodded.

  Three

  Harvey stood, head tilted back, in front of the restaurant's bathroom mirror, pressing a tissue to his nose. He was bleeding from both nostrils and was a little swollen over one eye. He rocked back and forth in front of the mirror saying, "Son of a bitch, son of a bitch." He noticed, from the corner of his eye, that the flowers in the vase by the sink were beginning to wilt. The lilies looked fine. Holding the tissue under his nose with one hand, he turned the vase around with the other so that the irises faced the rear. He took a long piss and saw that the porter had missed a spot in the urinal, and that the white hockey puck had melted down to the size of a Life Saver. He checked the inside of the toilet stall. There was no extra roll of paper.

  Harvey left the bathroom, muttering under his breath. He walked across the empty dining room to the ice machine by the bar and filled a dinner napkin with some ice. He held it over his nose.

  The interior of the Dreadnaught was fitted out like the lounge of an ocean liner. In fact, the fixtures, the zinc bar, the sconces, the curved banquettes, even the china and the silver, were from an old cruise ship. Harvey had bought the whole lot at auction. There were seats for forty customers in the back dining room, another twenty in the front cocktail area by the picture window. Two enormous murals, painted in the Social Realist style, ran the length of the restaurant. They depicted brawny, square-jawed dockworkers working on the New York waterfront of the 1930s. The murals matched the restaurant's color scheme, shades of black, gray, and beige, with little highlights of pink, painted in later, to match the tablecloths.

  A single skylight, streaked with dirt and lined with silver alarm-system tape, allowed a little sun into the dining room above a lonely potted palm. A thin fluorescent tube ran around the edges of the black ceiling, glowing pink on the banquettes.

  From his position at the bar, Harvey surveyed the room. Few things looked more tawdry than an empty restaurant during daylight hours. A bulb had gone out over the bar. There were scuff marks on the black baseboards, and he noticed that the bar stools needed reupholstering. Harvey tried to comfort himself with the knowledge that it would look better at night.

  BACK IN HIS OFFICE, Harvey picked up the phone and called his old office number. Carol picked up.

  "Dr. Rosenberg's office. Hold one moment please."

  Harvey listened to Billy Joel play through the receiver until Carol came back on the line.

  "Thank you for holding. How can I help you?"

  "Carol, it's me," he said.

  "Harvey, how are you?"

  "What, has that jerk got you answering the phones now? Where's the girl?"

  "She's out sick," said Carol. "I'm helping out."

  "Carol, I got a little problem here. I wonder if you can do something for me," said Harvey.

  "Yeah, sure. What's up?"

  "Can you stop by the apartment and pick me up my other pair of glasses and maybe a clean shirt and bring them down to the restaurant?"

  "I can do that. After work, right?"

  "Yeah," said Harvey. "Later. When you finish. I just can't get away till then. A light blue shirt. If there's no blue, a pink."

  "What happened?" asked Carol.

  "I was in—I had a little accident," said Harvey. "I hit my head."

  "Oh, my poor baby," said Carol. "Is it serious? What happened?"

  "It's those low ceilings in the kitchen. They got all those pots and pans hanging off of there. I walked into a saucepot."

  "Oh my god! Are you sure you're alright? Should you see somebody?"

  "No, no, no. It's nothing."

  "You should really talk to those boys down there in the kitchen. Somebody could be seriously hurt. You could get sued or something."

  "It's okay, really."

  "Do you want me to come right down?"

  "No. After work is fine. I just need the glasses and a shirt. I'll see you . . . what, around six or seven? We can have a drink and maybe some dinner down here. I'll get them to make us up something nice.

  "You got it, baby," said Carol.

  "You have your key?"

  "Of course, Doctor!" said Carol.

  HARVEY SAT at his desk and looked up at the wall clock over the door. It was a quarter to four. He pressed the intercom button on the telephone, "Michael, pick up. Pick up, Michael."

  The chef picked up. "Yeah?"

  "Is the bartender in?" asked Harvey.

  "He's changing," said the chef.

  "What about Stephanie? She's early person tonight."

  "She called before," said the chef, without inflection. "She said she's gonna be late."

  "Thanks for letting me know. How late?"

  "A few minutes," said the chef. "Head shots."

  "Let me know when she comes in," said Harvey.

  "Should I send her up?"

  "No, just let me know. I want to know if I got somebody on the floor. Cheryl's due in at five forty-five. And the busboy. What's his name?"

  "Hector?"

  "That's it."

  "Cheryl will be in early. It's chicken pot pie for the shaft meal. She loves chicken pot pie," said the chef.

  "I have to go out for a little while in about an hour or so. Barry is off today, so watch the store for me, okay?"

  "Okay," said the chef.

  Harvey punched off the intercom and pressed down for an outside line. He dialed and heard two rings and a series of clicks on the other end. Finally, someone picked up.

  A man's voice said, "Hello?"

  "It's me," said Harvey. "This is Moses."

  "Yes?" said the voice. "What is it you want?"

  "I have to talk to my friend. As soon as possible," said Harvey.

  "Is this an emergency?" asked the voice.

  "Yes, it's a fuckin' emergency," said Harvey, losing his composure for a second. He paused and took a deep breath. "Alright, maybe not an emergency. But I've got to talk to the guy. T
hings are getting bad here. I got hurt today. Just now. I think he broke my fuckin' nose."

  "Okay," said the voice. "Stay calm. You can meet him in . . . one hour. At the place. You know which place?"

  "Yes. I know it," said Harvey.

  "One hour then," said the voice.

  Harvey hung up the phone and called his ex-wife.

  Four

  Harvey stood out front of Village Cigars at the corner of Christopher Street and Seventh Avenue. The evening sky-was filling with clouds. A line of Lotto players pushed past Harvey and into the store. Commuters scurried by, making for the subway entrances. Looking across the street at the Riviera Cafe, Harvey watched the busboys breaking down the cafe tables in anticipation of rain. A dirty, barefoot old man with sores on his face shook an empty cardboard coffee cup at Harvey and asked him for change. He shook his head and the man moved on to the Lotto players.

  A cherry-red Alfa Romeo two-seater pulled up to the curb on Seventh Avenue. The driver rolled down the window on the passenger side and called out to Harvey, "Hop in, Doc!"

  The driver was a heavyset man with dark hair, thinning on top, and a carefully groomed mustache. He wore a blue-and-red-striped polo shirt, open at the neck, and a tiny gold crucifix on a thin gold chain. He leaned across the passenger seat and opened the door.

  "Come on! Get in!" he said.

  Harvey slid into the black leather bucket seat just as it began to rain. "Jesus Christ," said Harvey. "Is this your car?"

  "Nope," said the driver. "Perks, man, perks. They say we should blend. I'm blending."

  "They let you people have cars like this? This is where my tax dollars are going?" said Harvey.

  The driver laughed, "Since when have you been paying your taxes?"

  Harvey sat silently for a moment as the Alfa turned right. Another turn on Hudson and they were headed uptown in the early rush hour traffic. "I could have been killed today. Right there in my fuckin' office, he smashes my face in. Look at me . . . He could have killed me. He broke my glasses."

  "It doesn't look too bad," said the driver, sneaking a quick look as he steered the car between a bus and a delivery truck. "They said you got yourself a broken nose or something. It doesn't look broken to me."

  "I think it might be broken," insisted Harvey.

  The driver pointed at his own nose. "That's what a broken nose looks like. You put ice on it?"

  Harvey nodded.

  "It looks a little swole-up maybe," said the driver. "But it doesn't look broken."

  "It hurts," said Harvey.

  It was pouring rain now. They pulled up at a stoplight, and the driver turned and looked at Harvey. "So what happened today?"

  "He wanted money. It's Friday," said Harvey.

  "So you gave him some?" asked the driver.

  "I didn't have it to give," said Harvey. "I had to pay the liquor. You have to pay them or they put you on COD. You know what happens when they put you on COD? Once that happens, I may as well close the fucking doors."

  "Harvey," said the driver, putting the Alfa into first gear as the light changed. "You are pissing me off. Our office disperses you certain funds. You, in turn, are to disperse those funds in the precise fucking manner we agreed. You are not supposed to pay your liquor bills with that money. You are not supposed to pay rent, or make payroll, or buy gifts for your bimbos. We've had this conversation before. You are to use those funds for the express purpose of making controlled payments at the appropriate times. You are supposed to give the nice Mr. Pitera his money when he asks for it." Seeing a long line of green lights in front of him, the driver quickly shifted gears and raced to make them.

  "I'm sorry, Al," said Harvey. "I'm just trying to stay afloat till Labor Day. I'm jus' tryin' to pay my bills here. Tryin' to run a fuckin business. Tryin' to make a fuckin' living. And it's getting damn near fucking impossible."

  "That's just too bad, buddy," said Al, lighting a Marlboro 100 with the lighter from the dashboard. "But it sure beats spreading your cheeks up at Greenhaven, don't it?"

  Al gave Harvey an affectionate pat on the left knee and then down shifted into second gear as he swung the Alfa east, heading toward the park.

  "Now don't pout," he said. "We'll take a nice drive in the park. I got a stack of cassettes there, the previous owner was a Stones fan. Is that a break? We'll have a nice drive and you can tell me your troubles. We can go over a few things together, listen to a few tunes. You just relax and tell Uncle Al all about it."

  Five

  "So, how is your dentist friend?" asked United States Attorney Raymond Sullivan.

  "Whining," said Al. "As usual."

  "What's his problem?" asked Sullivan, a fiftyish, athletic-looking man with a full head of snow white hair and a ruddy complexion.

  "He got a boo-boo on his nose today. I had to kiss it and make it better. Sally Wig is unhappy with him."

  "What's he unhappy about?"

  "Harvey's behind with the money," sighed Al.

  "Our money. What's he doing with it?"

  "Fuck if I know. He says he's paying bills," said Al. "I think the guy's maybe taking things a little too seriously."

  "Like what is he taking seriously?" asked Sullivan, annoyed.

  "He's got delusions of grandeur. The guy thinks he's really going to make a go of the restaurant. You should hear him talk about it. He thinks he wants to be a success at it. I have to say, I was hesitant to disabuse him of the notion."

  "And why is that?" said Sullivan, one bushy white eyebrow raised.

  "Listen . . . We all know how Harvey got in the restaurant business. We put up his end, for Chrissakes. He knows that. We kept him out of the pen, made his problem go away and all. He's a snitch. He knows he's a snitch and he knows he's our snitch. It's just, I think he's beginning to think that if he makes some good cases for us he's gonna somehow get to keep the restaurant. I don't want to rub his nose in it."

  Sullivan leaned over his government-issue desk and clasped his hands together. "I really don't see why we should give a shit one way or the other what he thinks. I mean, handling an informant is all about control. You know that. It seems to me, the way I read it, the tighter control we have, and the more he knows it, the better. We own him. He knows it . . . So what? He's hardly in a position to haggle."

  Al settled back in his chair and smiled. "We want some indictments, right? We want a lot of indictments. More the merrier . . . This guy, given a little care and feeding, can give us some. But, I want everything to smell right. He's supposed to be a frightened, desperate little scumbag restaurateur, right? Well, that's exactly what he is right now. I want him to try and make a go of it. Can't blame the guy for trying. He's sure not gonna be practicing dentistry anymore—"

  "I certainly hope not," interjected Sullivan.

  "Sure, he's fucking us a little bit," continued Al. "He's fucking the wise guys. He's fucking his ex-wife and his girlfriend, and everybody else for all I know. Sounds like an amazingly lifelike re-creation of a frightened, desperate scumbag restaurateur to me. So the guy screws us for a little money. Good. He gets in a little deeper with the Wig. Maybe Sally gets mad and is kind enough to commit a few more felonies for us. Maybe on tape. I'm even wondering, maybe Harvey can get a knock-down loan from the Brooklyn people. They've been coming around, I understand. Acting real friendly, offering their services."

  "They haul his garbage now, right?"

  "Yeah. Maybe he borrows a little money from outside Sally's crew. That should send Sally right up the wall. I mean, they want to help, maybe we should let them help. You got anything against prosecuting people from Brooklyn?"

  Sullivan smiled. "Okay, okay. . . We'll let this go one time with the money. But you're gonna have to get him on a tighter leash in the future. He can fuck everybody else for their money, but I don't want him playing around with ours. I've personnel and automobiles and technical assets diverted full-time on this. I've got two observation posts sucking up overtime and rent and resources, I've got the c
lock running on the Title Threes . . . Sooner or later, I'm gonna get a phone call asking me what the fuck I've got to show for it."

  "Right this minute, we've got enough for bribery and extortion. We've got probable cause for some more Title Threes . . . We've got people on tape making usurious loans, arranging kickbacks. Things are progressing."

  "I'm looking for more than that. . . Racketeering. That's what this office is interested in, goddammit. I want some of that good ol' 'continuing criminal enterprise' on tape. I want more than Sally Fucking Pitera . . . I want his whole crew. I want Charlie Wagons. I want Danny Testa and all their little helpers. The whole bunch. I don't want them for some diddly-shit loansharking. At the end of all this, I want to be able to seize assets and salt the ground so nothing grows there ever again."

  "How about the Brooklyn thing?" asked Al. "They're offering."

  "Sure, sure," said Sullivan. "The Brooklyn thing interests me. Sure. Why not? Tell your friend to borrow some money from them. A few thousand. He shouldn't go overboard. Let's see what happens."

  "It'll make Sally angry," said Al. "And his people."

  "Good, good," said Sullivan. "Tell him not to tell them right away. It'll give us something to tickle the wires with later. Maybe we'll get some interesting conversations for a change."

  "We don't want to start a war," said Al.

  "Who's talking about starting a war? Hopefully, by the time they find out, they'll be well on their way to a meeting with the grand jury."

  "Harvey will have to testify," said Al.

  "So, he testifies. We get him into the program and he can go off to East Buttfuck somewhere and write his memoirs."

  Six

  Tommy sipped his coffee in the empty kitchen. The night porters, Big Mohammed and Little Mohammed, had finished their work; he could hear them arguing in Arabic in the changing room. Otherwise, the kitchen was quiet.

 
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