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Bone in the throat, p.25
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       Bone in the Throat, p.25

           Anthony Bourdain
 
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  "What the fuck is going on in here?" said an incredulous Sally, taking in the carnage.

  The Count stood behind him, his eyes bulging. He seemed to shrink back, looking for an exit. Skinny stepped forward past the Count, seemingly unconcerned. He walked behind the line, saw the chef lying there, bleeding from the face, a silver-dollar-size patch of white cheekbone visible through the blood. Skinny reached over and calmly turned off the slicer. He looked down at Victor, who was getting whiter by Sally's feet. And there was Tommy, still standing over his chef, the bloody ice shaver in his fist.

  Tommy felt ready to kill them all. He looked down at Victor and considered whipping out his cock and pissing on him. Instead, he took a deep breath, looked straight at Skinny, and with a shaking voice said, "We had a work-related accident here. We're gonna say there was an accident with the slicer . . . the chef's feet slipped . . . That's what we're gonna say. I'm gonna take him to St. Vincent's." He pointed at Victor on the floor. "He's goin' inta shock it looks like. You don't get him to a hospital, he'll probably fuckin die. Per sonally, I don't give a shit. . . But if he don't get that hand, the arm wrapped up, you're gonna be lookin' at a dead guy. I don't know how you feel about the guy," he said, "but I'd get him to Emergency pretty quick. I recommend Beekman. He doesn't look too good."

  "Jesus, Tommy," said Sally, "I didn't know ya had it in ya . . . You're right, he don't look too good."

  "I'll go bring the car around," said the Count. He scampered up the stairs, happy to get away.

  Tommy noticed that Skinny was smiling at him. He looked almost affectionate.

  He spoke directly to Skinny, encouraged by the amused look on his face. "So we're not gonna have a problem with this, I hope. The man was in the wrong. We gotta stick up for our friends, right Skin?" Tommy turned his back on the others and helped the chef to his feet. As he started walking him slowly to the delivery entrance, he noticed the little orange bottle, still grasped tightly in the chef's hand. He pried loose the chef's fingers and gently placed the bottle in a front pocket. "It's okay, Chef," he said. "Everything's gonna be okay. No problem."

  "No problem," repeated the chef weakly.

  When Tommy and the chef were out of the room, Skinny got an apron from the laundry room and threw it down over Victor's hand.

  "Get yourself together, Vic," he said. "We're takin' you to a hospital."

  Sally bent down and reached under his arms to lift him up. Victor howled in pain, suddenly awake.

  "Sorry, Vic," apologized Sally "I didn't see it."

  Blood dripped freely from Victor's elbow onto Sally's sneakers. Skinny stepped back, not wanting to get blood on his suit.

  "Jesus, Tommy," Sally called after him. "I guess this means you don't want the fuckin' job."

  Forty-Two

  Sally sat in a black leatherette recliner, feet up, in front of the television. The Flintstones was on, Fred and Barney propelling their Stone Age vehicles with rapidly moving feet. Sally was dressed in a sleeveless T-shirt and flannel pajama bottoms. There was an open box of Froot Loops on the carpet next to his chair and a half-empty glass of Slim-Fast wedged between his meaty thighs. He wiped his fingers on the front of his T-shirt, leaving brightly colored pink-and-blue trails of Froot Loop dust across his belly. '

  Sally threw the lever on the side of the recliner and brought his feet down to the floor. He rocked back and forth a few times, gathering momentum to get out of the chair, and then hauled himself to his feet. He lumbered into the bathroom and returned with a toenail clipper. He was just starting in on the big toe of his left foot when the doorbell rang. It was Skinny and Victor.

  "You're early," said Sally. "I'm just eatin' breakfast. You bring some crullers or somethin' at least?"

  Victor looked dubiously at the box of Froot Loops. "That's some fuckin' breakfast. I don't eat nothin' that color. Gives you cancer."

  Victor's arm was heavily bandaged above the elbow, and his hand was in a cast. There was an aluminum splint on the middle finger; it extended out from the hand in a fixed reproach, the gauze around it stained with yellow antiseptic and dried blood.

  "How's the hand?" asked Sally. "You ever gonna be able to play the violin again?"

  "S'alright," said Victor, settling into the recliner. "It's my fuckin' arm that's killin' me. They wanted to keep me overnight inna hospital. It throbs like a motherfucker. They gimme some pills . . ."

  There were some dark threads from the stitching running along the top of Victor's right ear. His nose was swollen, and he had two black eyes. "I'd like to kill that fuckin' nephew a yours . . ."

  Sally chuckled, "You gotta admit, the kid showed he had some balls . . ."

  "I'd like to cut his balls off. Feed 'em to a fuckin' dog. Did anybody find my fuckin' gun?"

  Sally shook his head. "Why don't you just relax a little bit there, Vic. You look like shit."

  "Yeah . . . " said Victor, turning his attention to The Flintstones. "Fuckin pills they gimme got me buzzed."

  "We gotta be in his office in a hour," said Skinny.

  "He said eleven o'clock. He said eleven yesterday, didn't he?" asked Sally.

  "It got moved up," said Skinny. "He's got another client he's gotta see, so we got moved up."

  "I'll get dressed," said Sally.

  Sally went into the bathroom and shaved with an electric razor. He slathered Bijan for Men all over his face and neck, and went into the bedroom and laid out a V-neck sweater and a Members Only bomber jacket on his unmade bed. He kicked off his pajama bottoms and put one foot in a pair of black, pleated slacks. He was having trouble bending over his belly to reach the other leg of his pants when Skinny came into the room. Skinny was naked, holding a Sig Sauer nine-millimeter automatic in one gloved hand. The rubber nipple from a baby bottle was stretched over the muzzle.

  Sally had time to look up at Skinny with a puzzled expression and wonder how he got undressed so fast before the first round crashed into his forehead. The gun made a loud fwap-fwap sound as Skinny kept firing, the noise getting louder as the rubber nipple disintegrated. His pants around his ankles, Sally was knocked backward between his night table and his bed, an ashtray falling to the floor. He crashed down onto the carpet in a heap, his arms pushed forward from his shoulders in the narrow space. Sally's shiny black wig slipped down over his face, blood running out from under it, soaking his T-shirt. The colorful pink-and-blue trails merged with the spreading blood and disappeared.

  Skinny walked back to the living room, took off the single glove, and put it in the brown paper bag with the gun. Victor was engrossed in The Flintstones, still sitting in Sally's leatherette recliner. Skinny put on his clothes, then walked back into the bedroom and collected the shell casings from the floor. He put them in the bag and put the bag in his jacket pocket.

  "That was loud," said Victor.

  "So's the television," said Skinny. "This neighborhood, we should be okay."

  "Do we gotta wipe the place down?" asked Victor, his eyes still on the screen.

  "No," said Skinny. "We're here alla time. It's normal they find prints. Long as nobody sees us comin' in or out. Try and keep your hand in fronta your face onna way to the car."

  "That's good . . . My fuckin' arm . . . I don't feel like cleanin' no apartment the way I feel . . . " Victor jerked a thumb toward the television. "You believe this Betty Rubble? The dress she got on? You can almost see bush unner there!"

  "We're all done," said Skinny.

  Victor got up from the chair. "Wilma's not too bad . . . " he said. "But that Betty, she's got it all over the other broad. Barney's got the better piece a ass hands down. I'll bet she's better inna sack too."

  "Let's go see the lawyer," said Skinny.

  They let themselves out the door and closed it behind them. They left the television on.

  Forty-Three

  They got grabbed comin outta Sally's place," said Charlie Wagons.

  "A terrible thing," said Danny Testa, shaking his head.

  The t
wo men walked, side by side, down Elizabeth, Charlie in his bathrobe and slippers, Danny in a dark double-breasted suit that was snug around the shoulders. Danny stepped around a dog turd.

  "Fuckin people should clean up after their dogs," he said.

  "The cops were right across the street," said Charlie. "They were listening the whole time. They heard it happen. Got it on tape, the whole fuckin' thing. They been there—who knows how fuckin' long they been there . . . They could hear every goddamn thing in the apartment. Sally farted in his sleep, they could hear."

  "I read the paper," said Danny. "What really happened?"

  "What happened is they walk outta Sally's and a million fuckin' cops come runnin outta the place across the street. You know the bakery there? They were up there in the apartment over the store. Takin' their pictures, listenin' in . . . Vic and Skinny aren't even in the car yet, they got cops swarmin' all over 'em. Squad cars, plainclothes, feds . . . They still had the gun . . . everything . . . Skinny had the gun in his pocket when they grabbed him."

  "You talk to them?"

  "No," said Charlie. "The lawyer called me. I hadda walk five blocks to the pay phone, call the guy back. It don't look good. They got 'em cold. They gonna have to go away for a while."

  "Son of a bitch," said Danny "

  Yeah . . . " said Charlie.

  "So is there a problem for us?"

  "From them? From Skinny and Vic? No . . . They ain't gonna be able to separate them from the lawyer, and the lawyer's gonna do what I tell him to do."

  "Skinny did the actual work . . ."

  "Skinny, forget about, he ain't gonna say nothin' . . ."

  "And Vic?"

  "He'll do what the lawyer tells him."

  "There's nothin' we can do?"

  "On this? Nah . . . I don't think so . . . Looks like they gotta go to the can."

  "That's too bad. Skinny's a great guy," said Danny.

  "Skinny's worried about the other thing," said Charlie. "He's got the one count hangin' over him he's gonna go away for . . . He's thinkin' about the other thing. The thing he done with Sally."

  "The guys the other night?"

  "Nah, that's no problem. The other guy. You know that guy? The one—"

  "The one from the fish market?"

  "That guy," said Charlie. "Skinny's worried about the nephew, Tommy. Sally's gone, so he has no worries there. But he's thinkin' about the nephew. The kid was there, he said. He saw everything that happened. Skinny doesn't want another charge."

  "How about us?" asked Danny. "Can the kid hurt us?"

  "No," said Charlie. "That was the only thing, that one time. That's been handled. You talked to Sally. Sally's gone. So you don't have a problem."

  "What does Skinny wanna do?"

  "He wants the kid clipped . . . One conviction, one count, he's out in fifteen years. Two, he's gonna grow old in there. So he's worried."

  "Can't blame the guy," said Danny. "So, you want me to do something about it?"

  "Not right now," said Charlie. "The way things are, with this rat dentist gone, Sally gone, those two inna can, the lawyer says he thinks they gonna lose interest in the racketeering thing. All they had there was Sally and them, and Sally ain't around to prosecute no more. The dentist ain't gonna be talkin' to nobody, so the lawyer says we should be okay. I don't wanna do nothin' makes 'em interested again." Charlie stopped walking and wrapped the bathrobe closely around his neck, "Fuckin cold," he said.

  "What about the kid?" asked Danny.

  "You ain't listenin' to me or somethin'?" said Charlie. "I don't wanna do nothin' right now . . . I got enough shit right now with that fag out there in Brooklyn all pissed at me and the fuckin' lawyers callin' me every ten fuckin' minutes. Let's give it a fuckin' rest. . . We don't have no problem . . . Somethin' needs to be done, we can do it later. The lawyer'll let me know they callin' witnesses. He thinks of a thing before the fuckin' prosecutor even thinks of it. The cops got a nice easy case to try. They're happy. I want 'em to stay happy."

  "The lawyer told me it would be good if the kid wasn't around," said Danny.

  "He said that?"

  "He said it would be better. You know how they talk."

  "Listen," said Charlie. "I hadda fuckin' dime for every time some smart fuckin' lawyer told me maybe somebody or other should get clipped, that maybe it would be a good thing . . . I . . . I'd be a rich man. As it is . . . I gotta pay this prick a hundred thousand bucks and the son of a bitch is gonna end up pleading anyways . . . Fuckin' lawyers. They watch too many fuckin' movies out there in Scarsdale, wherever they live . . . Always wanna whack a guy first . . . You know, I pay those pricks cash? You think they tell the tax people about that? I tell you, Danny, that's who the real fuckin' gangsters are, the fuckin' lawyers."

  "Can he do somethin with the jury?" asked Danny. "He's gotta plead?"

  "I told him I didn't wanna do that. I don't wanna go that route. First of all, it costs. Second of all, it's just gonna piss everybody off, the cops, the feds, it'll be all over the papers I pull somethin' like that. They don't get a conviction, there's gonna be all kinda problems. Then they come after you and me . . . Who needs that? They gonna do that thing with the jury anyways—where they lock 'em in a fuckin' room, nobody knows the names, they put 'em up in a Holiday Inn somewheres till the trial's over. They catch somebody you know, any friend of ours even talkin' to somebody who knows somebody on that jury and there's gonna be all sortsa problems. Nah . . . even Skin don't expect me to do nothin' about that . . . I don't need that right now. They just gonna have to suck it up and do some time."

  "What about the restaurant? What happens there?" asked Danny.

  "The place is closed. When the cops are done snoopin' around down there they'll probably sell it, put it onna block, take care a the people this guy owed money to. A course I ain't gonna see dollar one. You watch, those people in Brooklyn are gonna get fifty cents on the dollar for haulin' trash . . . Me, I'm stuck for around ninety long. Fuckin' Sally. Been givin' my fuckin' money to the fuckin' feds. I ain't gonna see nothin' outta there. Fuckin' Sally . . . I'd like to kill that pile a shit all over again. 'Solid' is what he tells me . . . this guy, the dentist, he's 'solid people,' that's what he says . . . They done business before, made some money onna clinics, that thing they had goin' on with the union awhile back. He doesn't say nothin' about no indictment hangin' over the guy's head. Sally doesn't tell me that. . . He's too busy talkin' inta little microphones . . ."

  Charlie took a deep breath of air and looked up at the late afternoon sky. He turned to Danny and squeezed his shoulder affectionately.

  "I tell ya, Danny. Even with alla problems I got comin' up, I feel like a new man with that prick outta my hair. I don't gotta sit there and watch that guy eat no more . . . I feel like I just had a good fuckin dump just knowin' that guy is inna ground. I can breathe the air again."

  Charlie started back to the Evergreen, a little more spring in his step, his bedroom slippers making a flip-flop sound on the pavement. Danny had to hurry after him to catch up.

  "You hear about the Count?" asked Charlie, laughing. "They got him for receiving. Can you believe that? They down there searchin' the place for that guy from the fish market and they don't find nothin'. So some smart-ass cop opens up the freezer and they find a load a shrimps gone missin' awhile back. Somebody musta lost a truck. Count's gonna get off with a fine, but he's gonna have problems now with the license. That's okay 'cause we got somebody else run it for him. Did you see the picture they had inna papers?"

  "No," said Danny. "I missed that."

  "Looks like they got the poor bastard outta bed. You shoulda seen the guy, swingin' at the photographers, he's got his gut hangin' outta his pants, and the best part, he ain't got his fuckin' teeth in . . . I saw it onna TV at the club. We had a good laugh."

  Forty-Four

  Tommy and the chef sat on the step in front of the Dreadnaught. The chef had a large, square piece of gauze taped over his right cheekbone
. There was a star-shaped welt in the center of his forehead, and his left arm was inside his jacket, supported by a makeshift sling.

  There was a marshal's notice taped to the front door saying the restaurant had been seized. The picture window had been covered on the inside with newspaper; a framed copy of the menu lay on its side on the windowsill, trapped like a dead insect between the paper and the glass.

  "Ricky got a job at the Lion's Head," said the chef.

  Tommy shrugged, "Good for him . . . At least somebody's working. . .

  "Cheryl find anything yet?" asked the chef.

  "Not yet," said Tommy. "She doesn't know what she wants to do. I think she wants to get out of the restaurant business."

  "You never called the guy, did you?" said the chef.

  "No," said Tommy. "I never did."

  ' 'Cause I saw you on the phone in the emergency room. I thought you were calling him . . ."

  "No. I was calling somebody else," said Tommy.

  The red Alfa Romeo pulled up with a screech in front of the curb. Al got out, the Rolling Stones' "Memo from Turner" escaping from the car when he opened the door. He approached Tommy and the chef, a sheepish smile on his face, palms turned up at his sides in a kind of frozen shrug.

  "What happened to you?" said Al, noticing the chef.

  "I fell down some stairs," said the chef sourly.

  Al took a deep breath, then looked around, letting the air out slowly. After a minute, he said, "So, what are you kids gonna do?"

  "Unemployment," said Tommy and the chef in unison.

  "Sorry guys . . . " said Al. "Was gonna happen anyway. One way or the other. Harvey or Sonny, makes no difference. They were ordering up enough shit to fill a fuckin' warehouse . . . That wouldn't a lasted long. I see Sonny's still open . . ."

  "I just saw him goin' in over there. He's gonna have his cousin run it for him, take over the liquor license," said Tommy. "Nice case . . . He says it's been good for business. I read he's gonna plead, have to pay a fine."

 
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