A Meal to Die For

A Culinary Novel of Crime

Joseph R. Gannascoli with Allen C. Kupfer

Forge Books


Seared foie gras
with roasted apricots & sour cherry syrup

Seared Foie Gras
Slice foie gras and sear until brown.
Peel and halve and pit apricots; toss with olive oil.
In a saucepan, cook pitted cherries, sugar, red wine vinegar.
Puree in robot coupe.
Strain through chinois.
Cook until thick.
Toss sprouts with truffle oil.
Arrange foie gras and roasted apricots on a platter.
Pour sour cherry sauce over it.
Benny Lacoco walked across the street, pulled open the door to Cobbler’s, a neighborhood bar, and shook off the cold. The odor of beer and spirits hit him, but it was the warmth of the place that he immediately sensed.
It was goddamned cold outside, and the evening sky was dark, but it had that velvety, cloudy grayness that often predicts an impending snowstorm.
Everything was quiet: the few people walking the streets, the traffic, everything.
In fact, it was too quiet.
Even for a Monday night.
Especially for Brooklyn.
More than anything, it was that stillness that made Benny nervous. It reminded him of a lot of old westerns he had watched on television. There was always that moment in those movies and television shows, when the two protagonists—usually the sheriff and the head outlaw—approached each other down Main Street, their hands dangling by their sides an inch or two from the revolvers in their worn, leather holsters, their eyes fixed intently on each other. Then they’d stop and there would be that totally silent, totally still second or two before they would draw their guns and fire at each other.
It was the eventual gunfire that audiences found satisfying. But it was that pause—that hellish, quiet second or two—that got on Benny’s nerves. Shoot the bastard, he used to think. What the hell are you waiting for? Shoot, damn it!
Right now, as Cobbler’s stained glass and steel door closed behind him, Benny felt like he was caught in a real-world suspension of time like the scenes in the old westerns. Only he knew this feeling wouldn’t be over in a second or two. Probably not even an hour or two. Maybe if he were lucky it would be over before the early hours prior to daybreak, when he’d be meeting his friend Joey Arso back here in Cobbler’s.
Yeah, lucky, Benny thought, pulling up a red-cushioned stool at one end of the bar. From this seat by the window facing the avenue he could keep an eye on the open but staffless restaurant he had just left.
He didn’t know if he’d be lucky or not.
He didn’t know shit.
“What can I do you for?” the bartender asked.
“Lemme have a Heineken,” Benny said, reaching into his pocket and throwing a twenty-dollar bill on the bar.
“You got it!” the bartender replied. He was about thirty, several years younger than Benny himself, but he dressed like most of the clientele of the bar, who looked like they were in their early twenties.
Benny’s thoughts turned back to the evening ahead of him.
Lucky! he thought. I’ll be cooking all night and my reward could be a piece of lead in the head.
The bartender brought the beer, took the twenty, returned the change, and drifted back down to the far end of the bar, where he was engaged in entertaining two women trying hard to look twentyish.
Benny quickly checked out both of the women.
One had a nice shape, a decent profile, and a stylish haircut that circled and complemented her face. And she was wearing boots with stiletto heels that absolutely screamed “Fuck me!” She was provocatively sucking on a straw, all the time making eye contact with the bartender.
The other woman, Benny assessed, was a skank. Period. However, Benny wasn’t interested in women tonight, and that in itself was unusual. This was going to be a really strange, tense night, perhaps the most nerve-racking night in Benny’s somewhat unconventional life.
And it was still early.
The night hadn’t even really begun yet.
The Gunfight at Bay Ridge—if it were to occur—wouldn’t be starting until the sumptuous meal Benny was preparing was reaching its end.
He sighed and said, “Shit.” Then he downed half the Heineken and looked across the street to the front of the Il Bambino restaurant.
“Shit,” he repeated, mumbling the word to himself. Benny was tired. He had been in the restaurant since one o’clock in the afternoon. And before that he had personally selected and paid for a lot of the food he’d been preparing all afternoon. He wasn’t going to leave that to anyone else. After all, he had a reputation to keep. Nor was he going to use many of the supplies that Il Bambino stocked. The place was a decent enough neighborhood restaurant, but it never quite achieved greatness in anything: not in its recipes or the quality of its food, not in its ambience, not in its service. He was somewhat surprised when he got the call “from above” over the weekend instructing him to be at this restaurant on Monday night to prepare a meal for some of the family.
Face it, Il Bambino was no great shakes.
But someone at the top must have had his reasons. Maybe the owner owed a favor. Or, Benny thought, maybe it was the Bay Ridge neighborhood, which was usually quiet and unpopulated late in the evening on a Monday night, when most of the neighbors were home watching Monday night football on television.
Benny himself kept an eye on the television screens in Cobbler’s. More than one of them was tuned in to Monday night football. Benny had a couple of hundred riding on a straight bet on the Giants game, and after the financial beating he had taken the day before, he was eager to make his money back. God knows, the three-team teaser he had had for Sunday’s games had left him almost a grand and a half in the hole.
Those goddamn underdog Packers! They had fucked him over again.
He turned his thoughts back to the night ahead of him.
It wasn’t his place to question. He got the call to show up tonight, and he was here.
He just had to do what he did best: prepare practically legendary meals. Meals to die for, some of the guys at the top had called them.
Benny shifted his two-hundred-and-fifty-pound frame on the bar stool and drank down another mouthful of beer. He reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a box of Marlboro Lights, then remembered that he couldn’t smoke in the bar. For a moment, he weighed his choices: go outside in the cold to smoke or just wait a while for the cigarette. Or he could just light up, but that might cause a minor scene, which was something he didn’t want.
Not tonight.
A low profile was in order.
He opted to wait. It was just too nasty out there.
Goddamn stupid law, he thought. Can’t smoke in a bar! What’s this city coming to? Pretty soon you won’t be able to drink in a fucking bar.
The bartender approached him again. “Get you another?”
“Yeah, okay,” Benny answered. He had to kill some more time, at least until his “guests” showed up, not that he knew who all of them would be. As they showed up, he guessed that he would recognize some (maybe even all) of them, but right now he had little idea who had been summoned to this dinner. He didn’t want to be in the restaurant as they arrived, because that would mean more time shooting the shit with a lot of them. And some of the likely invitees he couldn’t stand. Some of the guys were straight-up; others were windbags or assholes. He’d rather sit in this bar for a while, at least until enough of the guys showed up so that they could amuse themselves.
He knew he’d have to make nice with all of them, whoever they turned out to be. A lot of them probably would have been connected far longer than he had and would technically have rank over him.
But Benny had an ace in the hole when it came to position in the family.
In the kitchen, Benny reigned supreme.
If the goombahs got overbearing, he could always withdraw to the kitchen, claiming he had to stir something, chop something, or keep an eye on something being prepared. And few would question him about it.
Besides, Benny didn’t feel like talking much tonight. Because deep inside, he was nervous. Scared, even. Thank God, the preparation of the many courses of this meal would keep his mind preoccupied. It’d help get him through the night.
The bartender brought the beer and asked Benny if he was through with the first one. Benny drank down the last of it and handed the empty bottle to him. “Yeah, thanks.”
The kid took another few dollars from the bar and rang it up on the register. Then the skanky chick called him back down to the other end of the bar again. The good-looking barkeep scooted down to her and her friend. Then she whispered something in his ear as she stroked his cheek with the tips of her fingers.
Jesus, go for the other one, the one in the boots, Benny thought. At least fucking her won’t put sores on your dick.
Then, just as the juke box in the bar began blasting “Here I Go Again” by Whitesnake, a car pulled up outside Il Bambino. Benny didn’t recognize the black Cadillac Seville, but he did recognize the man who got out of the passenger door. It was Palumbo. Thomas Palumbo. Or “Pally” as he was called by most of the soldiers. Benny always thought the name was ironic, because as far as he was concerned, Pally was one of the biggest pricks he had ever met. The men at the top seemed to love Pally because he was efficient, apparently loyal, and always got the job done, whatever his job was; not too many people seemed to be too clear what that was. But one thing was certain: if you were ever in a jam or needed a break or some help, you could never count on Pally Palumbo to cut you any slack. But he would “cut” you.
Palumbo entered the restaurant, but a minute later he was back outside, looking confused (probably because the restaurant was completely empty) and lighting a cigarette. Then he started to walk casually along Third Avenue. It was obvious to Benny that Pally didn’t want to be the first to arrive … or sit down. (At least not in an empty restaurant.) So he walked, puffing on a butt. He was wearing a black overcoat over his short, weaselly body, and his shoes were so shiny Benny could see the streetlights reflecting off them from his vantage point across the street.
Seeing Pally smoke made Benny’s desire for a cigarette grow, but he fought the urge. The last thing he wanted was to go outside, get noticed by Pally, and have to engage in small talk with the son of a bitch.
Fuck that!
Benny would rather go without the smoke.
Seemingly from out of nowhere, another of the guests was standing in front of the restaurant. Benny recognized him, too: it was Dominick “Aspirin” Aspromonte. His nickname was meant to be ironic. Aspirin made most of his money from drug trafficking. Many of the guys knew this; thus his nickname. But this part of his business dealings was never openly sanctioned by the family, and to some of the more senior members it was an embarrassment. Others, though, seemed to turn a blind eye to it.
Nonetheless, Aspromonte was responsible for more of the importation of heroin to this country from Asia than anyone else Benny knew about. Most of it was brought in in otherwise empty DVD cases from Shanghai, cases that supposedly had martial arts movies with titles like Shaolin Assassin or Kung Fu from Beyond the Grave in them. Aspromonte once told Benny his motto was “No disc … and no risk!” So at least Aspromonte had a sense of humor, which wasn’t always easy in the world in which he operated. Anyhow, a sense of humor was more than that scumbag Pally had.
Aspromonte spotted Pally and waved to him. Pally seemed to be trying to act casual, like he had just been leisurely arriving, and made a big show of approaching Aspromonte and shaking his hand. Benny noticed that the phony prick put on a big smile, shook Aspromonte’s hand, and covered the outside of the hand with his other one, cupping it between them. Like Pally was so fucking glad to see him.
He’ll be glad to cut your heart out at the first opportunity if it’ll benefit him too, Benny thought. The fucking guy makes me sick.
Palumbo and Aspromonte went into the Il Bambino together. Benny thought about just lighting up that cigarette he was dying for in the bar but again decided against it. No one else in the place was smoking. Why cause a scene? It wasn’t worth it … not here, not tonight. Instead, he decided the time might be right to sneak outside and have that smoke.
“I’ll be right back,” he yelled to the bartender, who nodded back at him. Benny stepped outside and a few steps up the block from the corner bar, away from the avenue. He lit up the cigarette with his Zippo and took a drag on the smoke, shooting glances behind him up the block and back toward the restaurant.
Two more men approached the restaurant on foot. One of them Benny recognized by looking at him. Michael Ischia’s long black hair was his trademark and had been so since the 1960s. Benny had seen old pictures of him with his hair down around his shoulders, looking like a keyboard player from some old late-1960s psychedelic band. These days, Ischia’s hairline had receded a bit, but what hair he still had was almost as long as it had been when Three Dog Night was cranking out new hit singles. Now it was thin and combed back and, Benny thought, most likely blackened with Grecian Formula.
Ischia was a strange guy with deep, dark, almost frightening eyes. Benny had never had many dealings with him, but on those occasions when they had met—someone’s wedding or, more often, someone’s funeral—he had seemed like an alright guy.
Benny recognized the other man he was with, but not from sight. Benny recognized his loud voice and obnoxious laugh. Matthew Di Pietro’s laughter could drive anyone nuts. And he laughed all the time. Often, it seemed, for no reason. He was laughing when Benny spotted him. Loudly. But Ischia wasn’t laughing; he was grinning, not laughing. He was probably just humoring his associate.
Benny ducked between two parked cars to avoid being seen by the pair. He still wasn’t ready to go back to the restaurant, though he knew he’d have to go back soon.
Finally, the two went inside Il Bambino. Di Pietro! Benny thought. Jeez, I’ll poison the fuck if I have to listen to his cackling all night. Di Pietro fancied himself a social butterfly. He managed a Brooklyn heavy-metal rock club nestled in a Bensonhurst warehouse (even though he dressed and looked more like Paul Anka than Ozzy Osbourne). Benny found it amazing how such an annoying guy could be so successful, but he had to give Di Pietro credit. The guy had kept the place open since the 1980s, it was still thriving even now, and it brought in a fortune. And it gave some of the higher-ups’ kids—those who fancied themselves future rock stars—a venue to showcase their bands, often as opening acts for second-string but nonetheless nationally known heavy-metal bands.
As far as Ischia, Benny was never quite sure what the guy’s function was within the organization. He still didn’t know. Sometimes it was better not to know, not to even ask. If he needed to know, Ischia himself or someone else would tell him.
Benny tossed the butt into the street and went back in the bar. The bartender noticed the red color on Benny’s face.
“Cold as a witch’s twat out there, huh?” he commented.
Benny nodded, then drained the Heineken. He pushed the remaining singles on the bar toward the kid.
“Thanks,” Benny said. “Keep it.”
Then he stepped outside into the cold again and looked at his watch. Ten forty-two.
Better get back to work, he thought. Lots to do. This meal has to be one these guys won’t forget. And one that one guy won’t remember … because he probably wouldn’t be alive at the end of the night.
Benny crossed Third Avenue, but as he reached the opposite curb he noticed an apple red Audi convertible pulling up behind him. It slowed to a crawl when it reached him. Its top was open and from inside he heard the words “Hey jack-off! How come you ain’t in the kitchen?”
Benny turned, looked at the driver, and responded, “Because I’m out here talking to a convertible-driving, ugly-looking pansy asshole like you.”
Then both men smiled, and Benny reached into the Audi and vigorously shook the man’s hand. It was Anthony “Double A” Abbazio, a friend he had known since his freshman year of high school.
Abbazio’s smile disappeared in a flash. Throwing the Audi into neutral, he said, “Hey, Benny, no kidding around. You got any idea what this meeting tonight is all about?”
Benny noted his friend’s seriousness. “It has to have something to do with the capo’s trial, wouldn’t you say?”
“I guess.” Abbazio looked away from Benny, then added, “But I don’t mind tellin’ you I don’t like the look of it.”
Benny said, “I gotta tell you I’m a bit … nervous. If you know what I mean.”
“Yeah. I know. Me too. To put it mildly.”
“Listen,” Benny went on, “you got a, shall we say, guilty conscience? Man to man, friend to friend.”
Abbazio exhaled deeply. “I mean … shit, Benny … don’t we all? In one way or another?”
Benny wasn’t sure how to answer, but he did anyway. “Yeah, I guess so.”
Then there was a moment of silence. Neither man would look at the other. Neither knew if they would ever see the other again after this night. They liked the other; both had had good times together. But there was only so far this conversation could go, even with the long-term bonds of friendship between them.
Benny broke the awkward silence. “You better go park that imported piece of shit, and I better get back to work in the kitchen. Some of the guys are already inside, probably wondering where the fuck I am.”
“Yeah,” his friend replied. “But make this meal extra special, man, you know, just in case.”
Benny picked up on the undercurrent of that remark but tried to change the mood. “All my meals are extra special, you know that.”
Abbazio’s demeanor changed again. Keeping his foot on the brake, he shifted the car into drive and said, “One more thing. Go fuck yourself, Benny.”
Benny laughed as Abbazio turned the corner. The son of a bitch had been telling him “go fuck yourself” since their days as St. Dominic’s High School. Over the years it had become his friend’s standard way to say “good-bye,” almost a term of affection.
For a moment, Benny stared after him. God, the trouble they used to get into in high school!
Then he snapped out of the reverie. He whispered the word “shit” and unlocked the side door of the restaurant with a key that had been given to him.
The kitchen of this place was no great shakes—it was smaller and not as well equipped as any of the finer, upper echelon ones he had worked in recently—but it was good enough for him to prepare a meal the likes of which none of the guys present would ever forget.
Once inside, he hung up his coat and looked around. He had been preparing the food most of the day, and he was tired, but the night was really just about to begin. He was confident that there’d be absolutely no complaints about his cuisine; his meals were legendary throughout the tristate area, and whenever the bosses from out of town were in New York on business, Benny’s place, Pazzo Oeuf, was where they came to eat—or wherever he happened to be working on special occasions. Benny had never heard any complaints from any of these guests unless it was some soldier unfavorably comparing Benny’s entrée to something the soldier’s dear old mother cooked a certain way. But those comments were more sentimentality than complaint, and neither Benny nor anyone else ever took them very seriously.
On the other hand, Benny’s artistry with food had helped him along in his careers—culinary and otherwise. Often, one of his “specials,” one of his finest kitchen creations, had literally saved his ass. He had found that the way to someone who’s about to cut you a new asshole’s heart was through his stomach. Great food could mellow a guy out even if the guy didn’t really appreciate what he was eating or the amount of creativity or skill that had gone into the dish. He had seen that happen again and again.
Not to mention what food could do to a chick’s attitude toward you.
His mind suddenly turned to Teena. She was some girl. But that was a long time ago.
He forced his thoughts away from her. This was not the time. That was long over. And there was still plenty of work to do. Gotta stay focused.
Benny heard a commotion out front in the dining room. He peered out through a little window and saw Anthony Abbazio shaking hands with the guys who were already seated or standing by the bar. Abbazio had apparently run into a couple of other guys outside, and they were loudly greeting the rest of the company too.
Salvatore Sapienza was one of them.
Benny didn’t know much about the big guy. He just knew that he was one tough son of a bitch. He stood about six foot three and had the biggest arms and shoulders Benny had ever seen on a guy who wasn’t really a world-class weight lifter. Sapienza was the last guy you’d want threatening to use muscle on you because this guy literally bad muscle—plenty of it, too. He was also a student of the martial arts, something he had been into, Benny had heard, long before the rush of kung fu movies in the 1970s and 1980s, when everybody and his grandmother was taking classes in tae kwon do.
Perhaps fittingly, Sap—Benny would never call him that to his face, although that was the nickname some of the higher-ups had given him—was a real sportsman. He had been working the gambling rackets for years with a great deal of success. Anyone’s worst nightmare would be Sapienza holding you by the front of your shirt, his beefy fist in your face, asking you for the five or ten grand you owed him.
Oddly, Sapienza was a funny guy with a big sense of humor. It was easy to make him laugh, which lots of the guys tried to do because it would make them laugh, too. Sap’s laugh sounded like something halfway between a throaty woman and a horse. When he let out a big laugh, it was hard not to laugh with him … or at him.
The guys were shaking hands, making small talk, patting each other on the back, and kissing each other on the cheek. Ischia yelled out over the noise, “Hey, I’m thirsty. Who wants to play bartender?”
Aspromonte responded, “Well, since you brought it up, why don’t you, Mike?”
Before Ischia had time to answer, Palumbo raised his arms to quiet everybody down. “Hey, shush up. I got a question. Who’s running this shindig?”
A silence fell over the assembled guests. Benny stared through a small square window from which he could see the dining room. He couldn’t believe that Pally could be such a schmuck. If there was one thing that all the guys did know about this dinner meeting, it was that someone at the top had called it and was therefore “running” it. And you didn’t question. You just didn‘t. You just showed up, as ordered.
Pally noticed the looks on most of the guys’ faces. “What the fuck is the matter with all of you? You know who’s in charge, just the same as I do.”
Di Pietro asked, “Yeah? Who?”
Pally shook his head. “Who do you think? Who’s serving us this meal? Who’s in the kitchen right now cooking? Fuckin’ Benny Lacocco, that’s who.”
Many of the guys’ facial expressions changed to looks of relief. Most of the tension in the muscles on their faces seemed to just melt away. Benny felt better too, although he thought he knew what was coming next.
Palumbo walked to the entrance door of the kitchen and pushed it open but didn’t go in. Even he knew that to Benny a kitchen was like a church and Benny was the monsignor.
“Benny, you lazy bastard, get out here and fix us some drinks,” Palumbo ordered.
Aspromonte shot a glance at Abbazio. The latter could read it. It said, “There’s gonna be trouble.” The rest of the guys stood still. They knew something was about to go down too.
Fucking Pally, Benny thought. Always the asshole. Calmly, he put down the knife he was using and walked to the door still being held open by Palumbo.
When Benny stepped into the dining room, the rest of the guys applauded, yelling, “Bravo!”
Ischia bowed in Benny’s direction and said, “Gentlemen, I give you the King of the Kitchen! Benny Lacoco!”
All of the guys continued to applaud. All except Pally, who stood by the door, smirking.
Benny raised his arms and said jovially, “Thank you, thank you one and …” Then he looked straight at Palumbo “ … almost all.”
The guys laughed. Again, all except Pally, who obviously didn’t like the fact that Benny had wised off back at him.
“You gonna serve us drinks, King?” Pally asked, sarcastically dragging out the word “king.”
Benny didn’t really want to get into a pissing contest with Palumbo, so he addressed all the guys. “Let me ask you guys something? Any of you think you can prepare a feast the way I can?”
Some of the guests shook their head. Others just sat still.
“Any of you know what you’re doing in a kitchen?”
“Shit, no,” Apromonte said aloud. “I can hardly open a fuckin’ can of anchovies!”
Some of the guys laughed. Benny smiled.
“But all you guys know how to pour a drink, don’t you?”
He turned to Pally and said, “So I can’t be two places at once. Elect yourselves a bartender.”
Pally’s face reddened. He must have thought that Benny was “electing” him to serve the drinks, and he was pissed off.
Abbazio picked up on this, and in order to spare his pal Benny any further grief—maybe even trouble that could get back to the bosses—he stood up and announced, “Hey, I volunteer. I won’t even water down the drinks.”
Benny nodded at his friend. “Thanks. Then I’ll get back to worn.”
Then, ignoring Pally completely, Benny returned to the kitchen, letting the door practically swing shut in Pally’s face.
“Fucking guy can’t take a joke,” Pally said to his cohorts. He ran his fingers through his graying hair. “Anyhow, Double A, I’ll have a Dewar’s on the rocks. In fact, why don’t you make it a double?”
Abbazio eased himself behind the bar. “You got it.”
The rest of the guys drifted over toward the bar.
Back in the kitchen, Benny turned his attention to the bread he was toasting, but couldn’t get Pally off his mind. Motherfucking blowhard, he thought. I’d pray he’d choke on his food except that would be wasting too good a meal on him.
Then he thought that maybe there was someone—or several people—at the top who felt similarly about Palumbo. Maybe this whole get-together was going to be a “surprise party” for Pally. Maybe Pally had something to do with the capo’s troubles. That would be justice.
Then again, Benny reflected, less happily, it might be my last supper, though he couldn’t think of any great offense he might have committed against any of the higher-ups.
Benny placed a couple more slices of bread onto the grill.
Two more guys walked into the restaurant. One puffed on a cigar. Before he even had his coat off, he said, “We can smoke in here, right?”
“Go ahead, Guy,” Sapienza said. “We got the place to ourselves tonight. Smoke your lungs out.”
Gaetano Ianello blew a long cloud of smoke. “That’s just what I’ll do. Thanks.”
Ianello was a total mystery to Benny. Of course, he had seen him around at various functions, but Benny had never really spoken to him at any great length or ever had any dealings with him. He was easily the oldest man at the dinner tonight, and he exuded an air of true confidence that the other guys didn’t have. Benny thought to himself that if there were one true “made” man there that night, Ianello was the guy who fit the bill.
At least he looked like he did.
Benny recognized the fellow with Ianello. It was Joseph Garguilo. Garguilo was always a “shining star” in the family, unlike Ianello, who had had several close calls with a Queens branch of the family.
Benny always thought of Garguilo as a “chef,” too. But his specialties weren’t of the culinary variety. Garguilo was a family accountant: he cooked the books. Benny had known Garguilo since high school days, although they had gone to different, often competing, Catholic schools. Garguilo’s days at Xavier High School were legendary. He had to hold the metropolitan area’s record for a sixteen-year-old selling grass. Kids from every local school would seek Benny out in Owl’s Head Park on Sixty-seventh Street. That was where he had his “office,” which consisted of a concrete-and-wood park bench and a concrete table with a builtin checkerboard.
Benny remembered his first car, a bright yellow Volkswagen Beetle (hardly a pussy magnet). Then he remembered Garguilo’s car at the time: a totally souped-up, gleaming green 1970 GTO. Obviously, Garguilo’s bookkeeping—not to mention importing and sales—skills were in full swing even back then.
“So when do we eat?” asked Ianello, throwing his Brooks Brothers overcoat onto a table.
“Benny’s working on it,” Aspromonte replied from behind the bar, where he seemed completely comfortable. “The bar’s open. What’ll you have?”
“Gimme a Bloody Mary.”
Then, just as Aspromonte was about to pour some Grey Goose vodka into a glass, Garguilo added, “Same for me. Just hold the vodka and the tomato juice. Just give me Mary. I could use a blow job.”
Sapienza let out his horse laugh, and many of the other guys cackled too. Whether they were laughing at Garguilo’s “joke” or laughing at the loud, raspy sounds emitting from Sapienza’s lungs Benny couldn’t figure out.
Ianello slapped the mahogany surface of the bar. “I’ll still have it with the alcohol in it. I can get a blow job later.”
Benny checked on the apricots he was roasting. Blow job? he wondered. He thought the odds were fifty-fifty that the only head Ianello would get tonight would be his own … wrapped in towels and placed on his lap.
Benny had heard rumors—fairly reliable ones—that maybe someone in this group here tonight had cooperated with the feds, maybe even worn a wire for a while. And that there was a very good chance that the capo, who had spent the last couple of weeks in court, was going to serve time. Benny had no idea if any of this was true or not. In his circle, rumors flew like sparrows at Capistrano. But if it were true, his money was on Ianello, who had more knowledge of where family money came from and went to than maybe anyone but the guys at the top.
The guys all had drinks and were sitting around a big table at the back of the restaurant, one that couldn’t be seen from the street outside. Benny had set the table earlier that evening. As a chef, he didn’t usually do that, but the higher-ups had instructed that there would be no wait staff or other help on this occasion. So it all fell on Benny’s shoulders.
It was a pain in the ass, but he hoped—if he got through the night alive—that he’d score a few points with the bosses.
Yeah, he laughed nervously to himself.
And that was going to be a big “if.”
Copyright © 2006 by Joseph R. Gannascoli and The Literary Group International