Time to meet Vinny.
Vinny is a character from my in-progress sequel, The Resurrection of Carlo. You'll meet Wally too.
11. Here comes Vinny
Wally staggered slightly as he made his way up the three flights of stairs to his crummy little apartment in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn. It was just after noon and the hangover from the previous night’s drinking was in full force, causing his slender five-foot-nine-inch frame to be more than a little unsteady. He had spent the night carousing with a few of his neighborhood bimbos and, after a night of excess in everything from booze to pot and sex, he was spent. He had only awakened from his unconscious state, on a bed with two of his more sexually active female friends, less than an hour previous. He threw on his clothes, still reeking of booze and the unmistakable aroma of pot, and headed home for a day’s sleep. Any other responsibilities could wait.
On a normal day, he would pay no attention to the filthy and decrepit condition of the stairwell leading to the third floor. On most days, he was usually too preoccupied with other thoughts to concern himself with the distastefulness of his living environment. On this occasion, however, it seemed that the very vision of this run-down building only added to his already throbbing headache. As he began the climb to the third, and final floor of his trek, he muttered somewhat dejectedly, “Jesus, what a shit hole. I gotta find someplace else to live.”
His observation was quite accurate. He did live in a shit hole. The walls of the entryway and stairwell were an eyesore of peeling paint, severely yellowed and dirty with age. The wooden stair treads were worn and splintered from almost a hundred years of
residents trudging their way to and from the various floors. The banisters rubbed almost devoid of the original stain, were creaky, and missing practically every third or fourth spindle. It would be ill-advised to lean one’s weight against them unless a freefall to the lobby was what one had in mind. Wally was making sure to keep his teetering body pressed, or more accurately leaned, against the wall, well away from the banister. Navigating the stairs was no easy task in his condition.
As a low-level hoodlum for the Scalise family, Wally made somewhat of a decent living, making collections and acting as an enforcer. Certainly, he could afford slightly better accommodations than these. He had only continued living in this building so that he might continue to collect protection money from the other tenants. Over twenty families live in the building, all of them immigrants from poverty-stricken regions of Italy. They were easy prey for Wally. Much to his pleasure, he got to play the role of a Mafia Godfather without the benefit of the legitimate title. Everyone knew he was connected. This was his personal power base. Outside of this building, he was nothing but hired muscle and was not deserving nor receiving of an ounce of respect from anyone other than those he intimidated. It was amazing that the Scalise family had recently entrusted this half-breed Italian with an important task to be carried out. It was even more amazing that he had, so far, ignored that responsibility.
When he finally reached the door to his apartment, Wally fumbled with the key, poking erratically at the lock until he finally succeeded in opening the door. He entered the living area of the three-room apartment and closed the door behind him. If you were to imagine the decor of an apartment in this building, you would not think of this. While the other tenants were living in squalor, with soiled and peeling paint, dingy floors, stained and cracked plumbing fixtures, and decades-old appliances, Wally lived in virtual splendor, although splendor and good taste do not always go hand in hand.
As Wally, desperate to lie down, slowly made his way toward the bedroom, he caught a glimpse of movement in his peripheral vision. As he turned to look at whatever it was
that had caught his eye, he almost shrieked, “Holy shit! Vinny? You scared the crap outta' me. What are you doin' here?”
Unlike Wally, Vinny Scalise was the epitome of dapper. Dressed in a black, double-breasted, three-thousand-dollar silk suit, burgundy shirt, and black tie, Vinny sat with his right leg crossed over his left and his forearms resting on the arms of an overstuffed chair that was isolated in a corner of the room. As his right hand reached into the left inside breast pocket of his jacket, Wally noticeably flinched. He was more than relieved when Vinny’s hand reappeared with a silver cigarette case instead of the nickel-plated Beretta that was always nestled in a shoulder holster under his left arm.
Vinny is, as Vito Scalise’s eldest son, the heir apparent to the Scalise crime family’s business. Not being your normal run-of-the-mill hoodlum, Vinny is highly educated with a degree in Law from Yale and possesses a great deal of class and good taste. The cigarette case he now held in his hand was sterling silver and painstakingly etched with depictions of ancient Egyptian flora and fauna. Centered on its hinged cover was a raised relief in the likeness of Nefertiti, Pharaoh Akhenaten’s beautiful Queen. Her face was enameled in flesh tones, her elaborate headdress plated in eighteen-karat gold. Around the outer edges, there were raised reliefs of hieroglyphics similarly plated with gold. This was a one-of-a-kind item. Vinny had commissioned the finest silversmith he could find, at a cost of over twenty thousand dollars, to handcraft it from his own painstaking design. It was his most prized possession. He had always said that if he could choose any period of time in which to live, it would be the reign of the Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten. Such was his fascination with ancient Egypt and with Nefertiti herself.
As he placed a cigarette between his lips and returned the cigarette case to his breast pocket, Vinny spoke without looking up. “I was under the distinct impression that we had an arrangement, Wally.”
“Yes! Surely you know what an arrangement is. When two parties enter into an agreement, it’s an arrangement, an obligation.”
“Oh,” Wally answered, even though was still a bit confused.
“You see, Wally, you were to scratch my back by carrying out a certain errand I entrusted to you. I, on the other hand, would scratch yours with ten thousand dollars. Five of which I paid to you in advance.”
“Oh, yeah. No sweat, Vinny. I’m on it. Not to worry.”
“You’re on it? I’m very relieved to hear that.”
“Yeah! Sure! No problem. I got it all covered, Vinny.”
By now, Vinny had lit his cigarette and, as it bobbed up and down from the motion of his lips while he spoke, smoke curled up past his hazel eyes. This was a handsome man, tall, fit, well-groomed, and possessing a perfectly trimmed head of darkest brown/black hair, pleasantly chiseled features, and pearl-white teeth. He could be easily mistaken for a high society charmer, a Wall Street financier, or a movie star.
“Well, Wally, since ‘it’, as you put it, is five thousand miles from here, just how the hell could you be ‘on it’?”
“No, seriously, I’m on the plane tomorrow, Vinny. It’ll all be done by the weekend.”
“You’re on the plane tomorrow?”
“Yeah! Right! Tomorrow morning.”
“What airline Wally?”
Wally stammered and fidgeted as he groped for an answer, “Uh, lemme see, it’s, uh, Northwest. Yeah, that’s the one.”
“Northwest? Then I’m afraid that you’ll get lost, Wally.”
“Lost? How could I get lost?”
“Northwest is a domestic airline, Wally. Didn’t you know? It doesn’t fly outside of the United States. It certainly doesn’t fly to Brazil.”
Vinny’s hazel eyes looked directly into Wally’s bloodshot orbs as he took another drag from his cigarette.
“Oh, yeah. You got me confused, Vinny. It’s American Airlines. Yeah! It’s American for sure.”
“I see. What time is your flight?”
“Uh, eight in the morning,” Wally’s lies were so obvious that Vinny found them almost humorous.
“Eight in the morning? That’s interesting since the earliest flight to Brazil isn’t until eleven.”
By now, Wally was pacing the floor nervously. Whatever partially inebriated condition he had been in, he was now stone-cold sober, and sweating bullets.
“Yeah, well, you gotta be there early for those flights. I have to be at the airport at eight. Security checks and all! That’s what I meant, Vinny. Gotta be there at eight.”
“Where is your ticket, Wally?”
“Yes, your ticket. You know what that is don’t you?”
“I gotta pick it up at the airport. I don’t got it on me.”
Vinny rose from his position in the chair, his six-foot-two-inch frame towering over Wally, and butted his cigarette on the surface of the end table.
“Aw shit, Vinny! What did you do that for? You burned my table. That table cost me a lot of money.”
“So maybe you should buy an ashtray. I’ll have my driver pick you up downstairs at seven in the morning. Seven exactly. Don’t even think about being late,” Vinny directed in a demanding tone as he walked slowly toward the door.
“Aw, no, Vinny. That’s ok. I’m gonna take the airport limo. You don’t gotta send nobody to drive me.”
“Seven, Wally. Don’t be late. It wouldn’t be good to be late.”
With that final remark, Vinny opened the door and stepped into the hall. Wally, now sweating profusely, slumped down on the sectional. All he could think of was that there had better be a seat available on a flight to Brazil tomorrow morning. If not, he was in deep trouble. Just at the moment he was reaching for the phone to call a travel agent, the door opened, and Vinny stepped back into the room.
“Wally, I forgot that my driver is busy tomorrow.”
“Oh, hey, that’s cool, Vinny. Like I said, I’ll take the limo.”
“Let me give you something to fix this whole thing up properly,” Vinny said in a reassuring manner as he reached into the left side of his jacket again.
Wally had been mesmerized by that cigarette case, and it was all he was thinking about as Vinny began to withdraw his hand from his jacket. Wally had always coveted that case. As Vinny’s hand reappeared, there was a flash of a silvery reflection as Wally looked on in anticipation. By the time he realized that it was the brilliant nickel-plating of Vinny’s Beretta, it was too late to do anything except say, “Oh shit!”
The first bullet hurtling through the silencer struck Wally in the heart, the second through the forehead. As Wally slumped over on his side, pools of blood turning the
white velvet of his sectional sofa a crimson red, Vinny returned the forty-five to its holster and re-entered the hallway. As he made his way down the stairs, he remarked to himself, “I should have known better than to trust a drunken half-guinea and half-limy idiot with a name like Wally. What the hell was I thinking?”
It was true. Vinny had been more than foolish to entrust such a moron with an important task. The problem was, he had no real choice. Wally was the only person in his organization, other than Vinny himself, without a criminal record and, therefore, the easiest for which to acquire a Brazilian visitor visa. Vinny already had a visa and now it would fall to him to take care of this urgent business. As he walked out of the front door to the building, he adjusted his jacket, put on his sunglasses, and stepped to the curb. Almost instantly, a black limousine pulled to a stop in front of him. Vinny opened the front passenger door, climbed in, and settled into the charcoal-colored leather seat. The driver, a burly and somewhat gruff-looking character in his fifties, was the first to speak.
“So, how did it go?”
“It went the way it should have gone long ago, Angelo.”
I coulda' done that for ya boss. You didn’t have to bother. It ain’t good you, getting your hands dirty.”
“It was my mistake, my cleanup. Besides, I wouldn’t have wanted to miss it.”
“Where we goin' now boss?”
“Back to the penthouse. I have to pack.”
“So, you’re gonna make this trip? Do this business?”
“No choice in the matter.” ”I ain’t sure you should be takin' that kinda risk boss.”
“It’ll be fine. You know that the family has connections there. I don’t foresee a problem.”
“I hope you’re right. Your old man ain’t gonna like it if anything happens to you. You know I been with him for over thirty years. I seen you grow up since you was nothin but a rug rat crawlin around the pizzeria. I ain’t looking forward to havin to deal with him if things go bad there.”
“Things aren’t going to go bad. You worry too much, Angelo. You’re a loyal friend. More than that, after all these years, you’re like blood family. I appreciate that you worry about me, but have a little faith. I can take care of myself.”
“Yeah! You was always good at takin’ care of yourself. I’ll still light a candle for ya at St. Mary’s. Just to be on the safe side.”
“Thanks, Angelo. That’s a very nice gesture. But I question whether God cares to look out for people like us. You might do better to light a candle for someone a little more deserving.”
As the limo pulled up in front of the Waldorf Astoria, Vinny gave a final instruction before exiting the car, “Tell my father I’ll call him from Sao Paulo. I’ll have this situation resolved by next week. He has my cell number if he needs to get in touch with me.”
“OK, Vinny. Vito ain’t gonna be thrilled, but I’ll tell him. Watch your back. It’s a whole different world down there. I wish I was comin' with ya.”
“Bruno is there. If I need help, he’ll be more than willing.”
“Yeah! Bruno. I ain’t talked to him in years. How’s he doin’ down there?”
“He’s doin’ fine. He has his own little sideline going. Not stepping on any big toes. Just enjoying life.”
“Yeah, well, tell him I ain’t forgot he still owes me a c-note from that bet on the World Series.” Angelo chuckled, patted Vinny on the shoulder, and gave him his most serious look. “This is for real, Vinny! I got a bad feelin about this. Be careful.”
“I will, Angelo. Now go keep an eye on my old man and stop worrying.”
Vinny smiled affectionately at this man who had been more an uncle than a friend for so many years. He knew Angelo was right about this being uncharted waters. He intended to be more than careful every step of the way. Get the business done and get back home in the shortest possible time. Once out of the car, he greeted the doorman with his usual twenty-dollar tip, walked through the front door, into the lobby, and onto the elevator. As he felt the elevator car begin its journey to the penthouse, Vinny leaned back against the wall and did a mental run-through of the reason for his trip to Sao Paulo.
One of the prime sources of income for the Scalise family involved the shipment of hijacked merchandise to Brazil. Their long-time connection in Sao Paulo, Luiz De Salvo, took possession of the merchandise, distributed it, and forwarded half of the profit to a Cayman Island account belonging to Vito Scalise. Luiz De Salvo was, in the Brazilian underworld, the equivalent of Vito Scalise. a Brazilian version of a Mafia Don! When word reached the Scalise family that De Salvo had been killed a thousand miles up the Amazon River, it sent a shockwave through the organization. They had few details and no idea who had been involved. They certainly were confused about motive. If it had been someone attempting to take over De Salvo’s organization, they would have been contacted to keep the lucrative lines of business open. Some negotiation would have taken place. As it was, the last shipment of stolen goods was still sitting, unclaimed, in containers at the port of Fortaleza, in Brazil. Over a million dollars was tied up at the docks and millions more were pending shipment. This was a serious problem.
Wally had been commissioned, expendable as he was, to go to Sao Paulo and make contact with one of De Salvo’s underlings. It was to be his job to find out what happened and who was now in charge. If the situation was such that he would be killed, he was not a loss worth worrying about. Now, the least expendable member of the family was making the journey himself. The risk in that was not going unrecognized in Vinny’s mind.
Within minutes, Vinny stepped off the elevator and entered his penthouse suite. If Wally’s apartment was the epitome of tackiness, Vinny’s suite was a picture of class and impeccable taste. The living room was furnished in a post-modern motif. The walls were tastefully decorated with paintings by Gauguin, Cezanne, Degas, Monet, Renoir, and even a few works by Michael Angelo. His collection of paintings would have been appraised at over fifty million dollars. Of course, most of them had been stolen and an appraisal was out of the question. Those few individuals who had the good fortune to visit were falsely assured that the paintings were merely copies.
Vinny’s favorite room was kept hidden from public view. Only a select few were ever allowed there. Walking into it was like stepping back over two thousand years. The motif was purely ancient Egypt. The most prized objects in the room were a bust of Nefertiti, crafted from pictures of the original that had been attributed to her likeness, and a six-foot wide by eight-foot-tall wall hanging, silver and gold embossed, that was an identical match to the cigarette case. These two items alone set Vinny back a cool half a million dollars.
The room contained all of the items that had previously been the furnishings of the main living room. Their removal to this area of the suite followed an unfortunate incident with one of the family’s best enforcers. Not everyone accepted Vinny’s preoccupation with Nefertiti in a respectful manner. When one individual made the
grievous error of making an insulting joke to a family outsider that Vinny would probably ‘do that Egyptian bitch’s corpse’, the scene was set for something very unpleasant. Vinny, in a fit of rage that was very unlike him, put a bullet through the offender’s head and dumped his body off the Brooklyn Bridge. It was the one and only time that Vito had found it necessary to castigate his eldest son. Soon after, the Egyptian room came into being and the main living area was refurnished in its current décor.
As Vinny lit a cigarette, he picked up a cell phone and dialed Bruno’s number in Sao Paulo. Never knowing if his regular phone was tapped, he confined his calls about business to a cell phone registered to someone else. Bruno had worked for the Scalise family for more than twenty years. He moved to Brazil a little more than a year ago to avoid indictment for, among other things, murder. He kept a low profile in Brazil, living off a substantial parting gift from Vito Scalise and a small operation that involved small-time scams and burglaries. He avoided anything that would call the attention of, or step
on the toes of the local crime syndicates. As for the police, he was just one more small-time criminal among the hundreds of thousands who rarely drew their attention. When the phone rang, he answered in his usual gruff manner.
“Yeah. Who is it?”
“Bruno, it’s me, Vinny.”
“Vincenzo? Vincenzo Scalise?”
“Yes,”, Vinny laughed, “But please, you know how I hate
being called Vincenzo.”
“Hey! It’s a good Italian name. But ok, Vinny, it is. What’s up? If you’re callin’ me you gotta have a situation.”
“I need your help. Just a small favor! I have business in Brazil, and I need you to book a suite. I fly out tonight and arrive in the morning. I also need a quiet nine and a double bed.” Bruno knew that meant Vinny needed a nine-millimeter pistol with a silencer and two boxes of ammunition.
“Must be serious business. You gonna need my help in any other way?”
“No. I should be able to take care of this myself. You need to keep that ugly profile of yours off the radar,” Vinny laughed heartily at the opportunity to tease Bruno the way he used to before he had to leave the country.
“Yeah, go ahead, movie star. Poke fun at the old guy. We can’t all be good-looking like you.”
“How’s life treating you, Bruno? Things going well there?”
“Hey, I got me a beautiful Brazilian wife and a beautiful Brazilian girlfriend on the side. What could be better? I got a little business putting money in my pocket, and life is good. I got no complaints.”
“Glad to hear it. But you know those Latin women have a serious jealous streak. You better be careful your Brazilian wife doesn’t find out about your plaything and do a number on you.”
“Don’t worry about that. She don’t know a thing.”
“Good! I’m arriving at ten in the morning. You need to book a suite at the Hotel Transamerica. Take possession of the key when you book it, make the drop off of my items, and then advise the front desk to give me a key when I arrive.”
“I got it. I’ll take care of it this afternoon. You gonna get in touch when you get here?”
“I’m not sure, Bruno. I would like to see you, but it might not be such a good idea. We’ll see how it goes.”
“I understand. Anyway, you be careful here. You need me, you call. Don’t hesitate. You understand me?”
“Bruno, if I need you, believe me, I’ll call. I can’t think of anyone I would rather have by my side in case of trouble. Now go take care of my business.”
“No problem, Vinny. Give my best to the old man. Tell him I’m always here for him. No matter what.”
“I will. Take care.”
Vinny closed the cell phone and headed to the bedroom to pack a bag. He was having difficulty shaking the ominous feeling that seemed to surround this whole venture. Only time would tell if his concerns were warranted.