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Bone in the throat, p.23
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       Bone in the Throat, p.23

           Anthony Bourdain
 
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  "I'm going over to see him this afternoon. Hopefully, I can bring him around. I'll make it clear we have to have first bite of this thing, that I can't jeopardize our investigation. I have things to trade. I can make it a lot easier for him with his case. I'll tell him 'bout that tape of the two Calabrese goons talking to our guy, show him some pictures if I have to . . . I can make things a lot easier on him and he knows it. After we get our indictments, he can call a news conference and tell how he's cracked the case out there all by his lonesome. I think he'll see reason. Like everybody else, he wants to be mayor someday. Torpedoing a major federal investigation for reasons of jealousy won't look good on his resume. I'll whet his appetite. He wants our CI to testify in the Brooklyn case, back up the tapes, he's going to have to make nice, take a few more days to conclude his investigation. It'll be worth it in the end. I'll make it worth it."

  "He'll be discreet?" asked Al. "I don't want anything to happen to our sources here. Harvey's ready for a rubber room . . . Any more leaks he could dry up on us, run away, or worse. Sally's stupid, but he's not that stupid. He's already breathing down his neck."

  "He'll be discreet. I won't tell him too much. I'll keep it within certain bounds of. . . of good sense."

  "I hope so," said Al. "I told him to put away the wire, to just lay low, hang tight."

  "Good. Don't worry about the Brooklyn DA. Just make sure we have Tommy Pagano sitting down there by the weekend. That's as far as I can go. After that, I can't promise anything. Don't forget the memo. Copy me on that."

  "Right."

  Thirty-Eight

  There were three men in the room with Harvey in the basement of Testa Produce, Inc. Danny Testa stood in the open doorway of the refrigerated room, blowing cigar smoke through an opening in the plastic curtain. Sally stood on one side of Harvey, pulling on the end of a length of metal wire. The wire was wrapped once around Harvey's neck. Skinny stood on the other side, the other end of the wire wrapped around his gloved hand. Harvey sat in a chair, his wrists tied behind him with duct tape. His ankles were taped together also, and a rope around his waist kept him lashed to the chair. He was making a rattling sound as Sally and Skinny tugged on the wire, and his pants were wet.

  "Look at that," said Skinny. "He pissed himself."

  "Couldn't hold it?" said Sally, giving the wire another jerk. "Witta baby couldn't hold it? I told you, you shoulda gone before we left."

  Sally laughed and gave his end of the wire another tug. The rattling sound stopped. He let go of the wire. Skinny, wearing a full-length apron, took a short length of coaxial cable and a miniature baseball bat from Danny. He gave the cable to Sally and held on to the bat.

  "What the fuck is this?" said Skinny.

  "I got it at Bat Day at the stadium," said Danny. "Don't fuckin' knock it. Use it right, it hurts."

  Harvey sat trembling and wheezing in the cold room, his breath condensing in the refrigerated air.

  "Hurry up," said Danny. "I got the day crew comin' in in a few hours. I got a fuckin' business to run here, I don't want this to take all fuckin' night. Find out what we gotta find out and we can go home."

  Skinny brought the little bat down sharply across Harvey's nose. There was a crunching sound as the nose broke. Harvey shrieked, and blood ran down over his lips and dribbled off his chin. The refrigerated room was packed floor to ceiling with crates of vegetables, cases of Chinese fireworks, and two racks of men's suits. They absorbed the sounds of the bat as Skinny brought it down twice more, once on each knee. Harvey shrieked again. Sally whipped the coaxial cable across Harvey's cheeks a few times, back and forth. Harvey's screams tapered off into a broken moan, then a whimper. He sat, head bowed, crying silently in pain. Sally stomped on the arches of his feet, eliciting another scream. Skinny leaned in close and pressed the narrow end of the bat against Harvey's broken nose. "Ask him," he said to Sally.

  "What did you tell them, asshole," demanded Sally. "What. . . did . . . you . . . tell them?" Skinny pressed the bat harder against the bloody nose.

  "I had no . . . no choice," spluttered Harvey.

  Sally hit him in the mouth with the cable, shattering teeth.

  "Don't hit him inna fuckin' mouth, Sally," admonished Danny. "The fuckin' guy's gotta talk."

  Skinny gave Harvey another tap on the nose.

  "How long, asshole?" asked Sally. "How long have you been talking to the fuckin' cops?"

  "Thinna beginnin," said Harvey, through broken teeth. "Thinna beginna . . ."

  Skinny whacked him another time with the bat, on the right knee. Harvey jumped in the chair. Skinny hit him in the left knee.

  "Tapes . . ." said Danny. "Ask him if they got tapes."

  "Tapes," said Sally, his upper lip trembling near Harvey's ear. "They got tapes?"

  Harvey nodded, and Sally punched him in the jaw.

  Danny shook his head.

  "The fuck's been wearin' a fuckin' wire, you asshole," he said to Sally. "They got you on tape." He gave Sally a fierce look.

  Sally punched Harvey again. It made a wet, slapping noise.

  "I don't think they got much," he said. "I was careful."

  "Whaddaya mean, they don't got much?" yelled Danny. "They prolly got the fuckin place wired up like a fuckin' Christmas tree! Jerk!"

  Sally put his face up close to Harvey's. "How long?" he asked. "How long they been listenin' to me?"

  "The begin . . . " managed Harvey.

  "You already know that, you fuckin' moron," said Danny, disgustedly. "It's a sting, got it? He was workin' with the fuckin' feds from the start. You been lendin' our fuckin' money to the fuckin feds, unnerstand?"

  Sally stepped back, fuming. He started to take another swing at Harvey and backed off. He stood, blinking with rage in the cold room, opening and closing his fists.

  "They had that beef with the clinics hangin' over him," said Danny. "He's been with them from the fuckin' start."

  Sally walked over to a stack of cartons stamped MADE IN MACAO and ripped off the top of one. He rummaged around inside for a moment, withdrew his hand and tore open another carton.

  "What the fuck are you doin'?" said Danny.

  Sally turned away from the carton with a handful of cherry bombs.

  "Hey, I get money for those," complained Danny. "They don't fuckin' buy 'em, the box is open."

  "You eat yet, Harvey?" said Sally. "You eat yet?" He reached over and pinched Harvey's nostrils closed. Harvey's eyes raced around the room. He began rocking back and forth in the chair, straining violently at the rope around his waist, trying to keep Sally's other hand away from his face.

  "Hold him!" yelled Sally. "Will you fuckin' hold him!" He pressed the handful of cherry bombs roughly against Harvey's mouth.

  "I'm holdin', I'm holdin'," said Skinny, pulling back on the twisted metal wire around Harvey's neck. Harvey struggled to keep his mouth closed. Skinny raised the bat high up over his head and smashed it down against his collarbone. There was a sharp snap and Harvey passed out; his head fell forward onto his chest and his mouth opened, bloody spittle running onto his shirt.

  Sally pulled his head up by the nose and crammed the cherry bombs into his open mouth, distending his cheeks. Two of the cherry bombs rolled out and fell on Harvey's lap. Skinny looked over at Danny, raising an eyebrow. Danny nodded at him. "Finish him," he said.

  Skinny walked over to a shelf, reached behind a case of escarole, and removed a brown paper bag. He took a .22-caliber Colt Woodsman out of the bag.

  Sally was on his knees, in front of Harvey, fumbling with a book of matches. The draft from the cooling-system compressor kept blowing them out. He tried to light one of the fuses in Harvey's mouth, but the blood and saliva extinguished it.

  "Wait, wait," he said. "I almost got it lit."

  "C'mon, Sally, we don't got time for this," said Danny. "We know what we gotta fuckin' know."

  Skinny shook his head without expression.

  "I almost got it that time," said Sally, lighting an
other match. "Fuckin fuses are fuckin' wet. Keep gettin' blown out . . ."

  Danny looked at Skinny and nodded again. Skinny pressed the barrel of the .22 against the back of Harvey's head at an upward angle and squeezed the trigger. He moved the gun in a semicircle along the base of Harvey's skull, letting off round after round. The room filled with the smell of cordite, the smoke blowing quickly around in the draft from the compressor. When the hammer clicked on a spent cartridge, Skinny put the pistol back in the brown paper bag and took off his apron. He wrapped the bag in the apron and tied the strings neatly around the package with a bow.

  "Go get Victor," said Danny. "Get Victor and them upstairs. Tell them they can take him out to the place and dump him."

  Sally still crouched in front of Harvey with the matches.

  "C'mon Sally," said Danny. "What's the point?"

  A few sparks sputtered out of Harvey's mouth, followed by a plume of smoke. There was a loud hiss. Sally stepped back and covered his ears, and Harvey's cheeks blew apart, spraying bits of flesh and enamel around the room.

  "Jesus fuckin' Christ!" said Danny, wiping the corner of his eye with his pinky. "I got fuckin' food in here!"

  "The fuck," said Sally. "The fuck! . . . He really put me innit, didn't he?"

  "What the fuck you do that for?" asked Danny. "You didn't hafta do that. It's a fuckin' mess in here. Look at this fuckin' place!"

  "I hope he felt that," said Sally.

  "He didn't feel nothin'," said Danny. "The fuckin' guy was dead."

  "Maybe he felt it," said Sally. "You never know."

  "You can be a real fuckin' asshole sometimes," said Danny. "Now go upstairs with Skinny and tell Victor, get a hose down here and clean this fuckin' place out. It's a fuckin' mess."

  Thirty-Nine

  At the law offices of Benson, Richardson, Hale and Clawson, James Benson wiped a coffee ring off the heavy glass conference table and waved his hand disapprovingly in front of his face. "There's no smoking in here," he said.

  Danny Testa, sitting in an upholstered chair at the table, opened his mouth to say something, thought better of it, and stubbed out his cigarette in his empty coffee container. Benson, dressed in a white squash outfit, picked up the container with two buffed and manicured fingers and dropped it in a trash can next to his desk.

  "So I guess you've been reading the papers? That's what this is about?" said Benson, sitting down at the head of the table.

  Danny nodded. "Whaddaya think?" he asked.

  "What I think," said Benson, "is the man is going to be having some problems. You too. And maybe some others as well."

  "What do you hear?" asked Danny.

  "What I hear," said Benson, "what I hear is there's a grand jury meeting in secret about to indict any day now. United States versus a bunch of John Does . . . " He brushed a few imaginary crumbs off his lap.

  "What does that mean . . . John Doe?"

  "That means they don't want you to know who's the person going to get indicted, simply put," said Benson. "I gather they've been hearing testimony for some time now."

  Danny nodded gravely and cleared his throat.

  "Now on the face of it," said Benson, "it doesn't look too good. You can be pretty sure for starters that they're going to get their indictments. They almost always do."

  "So, what are you gonna do?" asked Danny.

  "I need a better picture of what they have before I can do much. I have to identify the problem areas. Maybe you can help me with that."

  "Whaddaya think they have?"

  "Well, if they've been hearing testimony in secret, it's a good bet somebody is talking to them. They've got informer testimony, somebody on the inside, somebody close enough to provide probable cause for wiretaps, that sort of thing. I'd have to say they have that at the very least."

  "So, you're sayin' we got a nigger in the woodpile," said Danny.

  "I don't know if I'd put it exactly like that," said Benson. "But it looks that way. I know Sullivan pretty well, as you know, and I can t see him going before the grand jury without that. In order to get court approval for wiretaps, he's got to demonstrate . . . he's got to have somebody submit an affidavit stating that there's reasonable expectation of criminal activity—specific criminal activity, mind you—that is going to show up on the tapes. You understand? He's got to show what kind of activity. To me, that says there's an informant."

  "Okay," said Danny. "Okay, I see that."

  "Good . . . " said Benson. He leaned closer to Danny. "Now, would you have any idea who that person might be? That would be helpful..."

  "We got a couple ideas," said Danny.

  "That's good. That's good. Because you can be sure they have tape recordings. You have to assume that. . . Now, the tapes, whatever they are, in and of themselves are not an insurmountable problem. There's ways to get around that. Maybe I can have them excluded. Failing that, tapes are ambiguous. Especially the way you guys talk to each other. No offense . . . Without a real live witness, somebody to give context to the tapes, somebody who was there for the conversations, who can explain them to the jury, well, an argument could be made that it's all a bunch of guys sitting around bullshitting each other. If it's just tapes they've got, we have a good chance of beating them."

  "Okay. I see what you're sayin'," said Danny.

  "Now this thing that happened in Brooklyn, that's something else . . . I don't think they have anything there or they wouldn't be crying to the newspapers, pointing the finger at each other. Clearly it's the U.S. Attorney in the Southern District you've got to worry about right now. The federal case—that's the case we have to concentrate on."

  "I'm thinking if we solve the one problem, we won't have no problems with the other," said Danny.

  "Really? Well that is good news. That would make things much easier. Are you certain there's only one problem area?"

  "What do you mean?"

  "Well, in my experience, when I was working for the prosecutor's office, I had a person with an allegedly criminal past for a witness, somebody who may have even taken part in some of the activities for which I'm prosecuting some other people . . . well, I always liked to have more than one, if you see my point. Corroboration. Juries tend not to like informers, people who testify against their former associates, to get off scot-free. It's always better for the state's case to have some corroboration. Is that possible? That there's more than one:

  "Well, counselor," said Danny. "It's possible. The one guy we think could hurt us . . . the one guy . . . I don't think he's gonna be a problem. I don't think you gotta worry about the one guy I'm thinking of. . . There is another guy . . . I can see that. I talked about it with the man. I mean, there is another guy I'm not so sure about. . . But the old man, he says this person is not somebody who would hurt us. That's what the old man says."

  "But you're not so sure," said Benson.

  "I'm not so sure," said Danny.

  "It would be better for everybody if you could be sure."

  "I'll talk to the man," said Danny. He took a thick manila envelope out of his jacket pocket and left it on the table when he got up. "Thanks for seeing me on short notice," said Danny.

  "That's perfectly alright," said Benson. "Anytime."

  Forty

  Cheryl was humming the "Final Jeopardy" theme in the shower. She used it, Tommy knew, to time the conditioner after she shampooed her hair. He listened, smiling to himself, for a few seconds before his thoughts returned to Al and when it was that he was going to call him.

  The phone rang, and Tommy was grateful for the interruption. He didn't like thinking about Al. He picked up the phone thinking he'd call him tonight.

  It was the chef calling.

  "They closed the restaurant for the week," he said.

  Tommy was taken aback. "No shit! How come?"

  "Closed for renovations. Victor called."

  "So, we don't have to go in? What about the food? It'll go bad."

  "I don't know. They want us to come
in today. Just you and me. They want to have a meeting, talk about the menu, some changes."

  "Uh-oh," said Tommy.

  "Yeah," said the chef.

  "What time?"

  "Eleven . . . Listen, is Cheryl there? They probably tried to reach her at home. Tell her she doesn't have to go in today, I guess they'll get back to her on the schedule. You want to meet at the corner of West Broadway and Spring? We can go in together."

  "Yeah, sure."

  "See you there at eleven."

  WHEN TOMMY and the chef walked in the door, Sally, Victor, and the Count were seated at a table in the front cocktail area, examining a stack of payroll sheets and invoices. Skinny sat apart from them at the bar, drinking coffee from a glass and leafing through the paper.

  The Count gave them both a big smile. "Tommy," he said. "Have a seat!" Victor pushed back his chair and jumped to his feet to intercept the chef.

  "Hey, chef," he said. "Why don't we go downstairs. There's some things I wanna talk about with you."

  The chef shot Tommy a curious look and followed Victor across the empty dining room.

  Tommy took this as an ominous sign. He looked around the room for Harvey. He saw only Skinny at the bar, which gave him no comfort. He sat down in Victor's chair, across from the Count, painfully aware of Skinny's presence behind him.

  "Where's Harvey?" Tommy asked.

  "He ain't comin' in I don't think," said Sally. "Vic said he wasn't feelin too good yesterday." At the bar, Skinny made a snorting sound that could have been a laugh.

  The Count was wearing reading glasses. He pushed them up over his large, liver-spotted forehead. He sighed melodramatically and moved his hands over the pile of papers in the center of the table.

  "Tommy, this place is a fuckin' mess. We been goin' over some papers, me and your uncle, and you wouldn't believe how bad things are. We're gonna be makin' some changes . . . " He smiled obsequiously at Sally. "Yer uncle here has axed me to come over and see what I can do to help out, try and get this fuckin place back on its feet."

  Tommy, thinking of the chef downstairs alone with Victor, tried to keep from wincing. Here it comes, he thought.

 
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