LOUIS QUATTROPA knotted his black silk tie and slipped into his suit jacket. He eyed himself critically in the full-length mirror. Despite his seventy-one years, he cut an impressive figure. The custom-made Italian suit hung perfectly, contoured to his slim, sinewy frame. His black eyes held a dangerous glint beneath his near full shock of gray-brown hair. He found himself frowning at his image.
The Russians. Those goddamned Russians. As if he didn’t have enough to worry about: the feds sniffing around constantly; the young kids coming up on all his crews, half of them druggies, half of them irrational violent psychos. And now the Russians.
He turned from the mirror. Brooklyn covered a lot of turf, and under Quattropa’s regime, it included Staten Island. But now the Russians were shrinking things. They were too hungry, too aggressive. And with their well-earned reputation for violent reprisals against law enforcement, plenty of cops and feds were all too eager to focus on the Italian mob, discreetly turning blind eyes on any transgressions of the Russians. Every day, it seemed, Quattropa’s grip on organized mob activities in Brooklyn grew more precarious, more perilous. And retirement was not an option.
No, Quattropa was old school, one of only a few such mobsters still active. He would cling to his power with both hands until his death, natural or otherwise, or until the law caught up with him and exiled him to some Midwestern dungeon for his last few years on earth.
Quattropa left the bedroom and descended the staircase of his palatial Bay Ridge home. His wife of fifty-one years was seated at the kitchen table, sipping from a demitasse cup.
“Carlo is here,” she said. “He’s outside in the car.”
Quattropa nodded. “I gotta take care of something,” he said. “I won’t be home late.”
His wife rose, crossed to him, kissed him lightly on the cheek. “Alright. Be careful.”
Quattropa patted her arm, returning the kiss. “Okay.”
Louis Quattropa, known since childhood as “Louie the Chink” because of his tawny skin and almond-shaped eyes, left the house and climbed into the front passenger seat of the softly idling Lincoln. Carlo Lentini greeted him from behind the wheel. “All set, Louie?” he asked.
In the dimness of the interior, Quattropa nodded. “Yeah. Let’s go. I wanna get there early, before this Russian prick shows up. I want him comin’ to me, not the other way around.”
Lentini pulled the car into gear, eased it around the circular driveway. “Smart,” he said. “The way it should be.”
“Yeah,” Quattropa said. “But the way it should really be, this prick should be in the river with the fish eatin’ his balls ’stead of gettin’ a sit-down with me. Goddamn Russkie commie prick.”
Carlo smiled. “Say the word. Just say the word.”
Quattropa reached out and laid a hand on Lentini’s shoulder. “It may happen, Carlo. Let’s see how tonight plays out.”
Carlo nodded, contemplating the brightness of his future. Only thirty-two years old and already working for the old man. True, he had to give up his crew, turn in his stripes, but a bump-up like this couldn’t be refused. The old man trusted him as much as he trusted anyone, and that trust meant money. And money translated to power. Carlo knew it was possible for him to earn the big chair some day. Yes, Frankie Saverese, The Chink’s first cousin, was technically next in line. But Saverese was only two years younger than The Chink, and once the old man was gone, who could say? Carlo had the respect of the captains and most of the soldiers. And, more important, he had their fear. Carlo Lentini was the most feared man in the Brooklyn mob outside of Quattropa and Saverese. And maybe that lunatic, Mikey. Mikey “The Hammer” Spano.
Lentini shrugged unconsciously as he drove. Bridges to cross, he thought. For another day.
The Hi-Fi Lounge had not changed much since it first opened in the 1960s. Most of its current patrons were only vaguely aware of what a hi-fi even was, but the business nevertheless did well. It was civilian owned by the same family from day one, and its current operator, Richie Maggio, played by the same rules that his father had established so long ago. Local gangsters were good for business. They were always welcome at the Hi-Fi and always treated well. In return, Maggio knew he’d never suffer at the hands of some two-bit stick-up man, nor would the local cops or Alcohol Beverage Control inspectors bother him much. Neighborhood folks knew they could stop by the Hi-Fi, double-park outside for as long as they needed to, and never be ticketed. They might even get to rub shoulders with a real wiseguy. And since the establishment held such a long tradition with the Brooklyn mob, it was understood that the place was off-limits for any business-related mayhem. It was a safe and neutral no-man’s-land, and very lucrative for the Maggio family.
And so, when approached by Lentini, Maggio had readily agreed to his request. Louie the Chink would be conducting business at the Hi-Fi on this Tuesday night, March 10. The rear room of the bar would be closed to patrons, its eight tables and small pool table sitting idle until all business concluded.
Richie Maggio took almost a sense of pride from it all: most of The Chink’s routine business was conducted at The Starlight Lounge, three blocks to the north of the Hi-Fi. The Starlight was anonymously owned by Quattropa. Without having to ask, Maggio understood: tonight’s business, whatever it entailed, needed to be conducted on the Hi-Fi’s neutral ground, and it must be very high level. Lentini told him to expect four men and to arrange a table accordingly. He prepared a corner table, using his best linens and finest place settings. Expensive Italian wine was chilling, Sambuca stood ready, and espresso awaited fresh brewing. An iced shrimp platter, covered in plastic wrap and fresh from the Thirteenth Avenue Fish Market, sat in the tiny kitchen.
Maggio, wearing his dark gray suit and best blue tie to mark the momentous nature of the evening, stood nervously in the large front barroom of the Hi-Fi. He eyed the room, noting how the cold, misty March evening had kept the bar crowd sparse. He smiled at the barmaid, known to most as Peggy Irish. She returned the smile while hustling to bring fresh beers to a couple of retired regulars at the bar’s end. Jimmy Jam, always jammed up because of problems with local bookies and loan sharks, sat mid-bar, nursing a Seven and Seven. Two construction workers Maggio had seen once or twice before sat nearest him, still working on the “couple of beers” they had come in for some three hours earlier. At a small corner table, sipping what appeared to be gin or vodka cocktails, a young couple, perhaps in their late twenties, sat laughing into one another’s eyes.
Just as Richie was about to turn and recheck the specially arranged table awaiting in the closed rear barroom, the front door swung sharply open. Louis Quattropa, his black felt fedora low on his brow, stepped in. Behind him, the burly figure of Carlo Lentini followed. Maggio glanced up at the clock fashioned into the Budweiser neon sign: seven-forty.
He moved across the barroom to meet Quattropa.
“Louie,” he said, extending his hand. “You’re early.”
“Yeah,” Quattropa said, unsmiling. “I’m early. You got a place set for us?”
Maggio half turned, extending his left arm, pointing toward the closed double doors at the rear of the room. “Of course, Louie, in the back. Just like I promised Carlo.”
Maggio led the way, nodding a greeting over his shoulder to Lentini. He swung the doors open wide, ushering Quattropa and his bodyguard through. Quattropa eyed the corner setup, noted the soft lighting, the low tones of Sinatra piped in over the sound system. He smiled and turned to Maggio.
“You’re a good kid, Richie. Like your old man taught you. How’s he doing, by the way?”
Richie Maggio beamed. “Good, very good. Enjoying himself down in Florida. I’ll tell him you were asking, he’ll be happy to hear it.”
Quattropa moved to the table, undoing his heavy outer coat. Lentini helped him out of it, and hung the coat and fedora on the rack against the wall.
“And your mother?” Quattropa asked.
“Good, thank God,” Maggio said. “It looks like they got it all. She’s feelin’ good.”
Quattropa screwed up his lips. “Fuckin’ cancer,” he said bitterly.
He sat, adjusting himself on the soft chair. Lentini took a seat to Quattropa’s left where he could watch both the side-door street entrance and the double doors they had entered from.
“Lock that side door, Richie,” Lentini said.
Maggio nodded. “It’s locked. I locked it myself.”
Lentini, his eyes dark, stood and crossed the room. He tried the doorknob and found it secure. He returned to his seat.
“What the fuck, Carlo,” Quattropa said. “The man told ya it was locked.”
Lentini shrugged. “Yeah. And he was right, too.”
Quattropa turned to face Maggio. “I apologize. Sometimes Carlo goes too far.” His tone was not the least apologetic.
“No problem, I understand. Can I get you gentlemen something? I’ve got shrimp on ice in the back, I’m putting up some espresso…”
Quattropa held up a hand. “No. Not yet. Listen, I’m expecting two guys. I tole ’em to check in with you at the bar. When they get here, come and tell us. Let ’em wait at the bar. Carlo’ll come out to get ’em.”
Maggio nodded, growing uncomfortable. He hadn’t planned on personally participating in anything this evening. “Okay, Louie. You sure I can’t get you anything? A drink? Carlo? Something for you?”
Quattropa declined. Lentini shook his head. “Not yet,” he said.
Maggio backed away from the table. “Okay, then. I’ll go out front, wait for … for your friends. Eight, you said, right? About eight o’clock?”
“Yeah,” Quattropa replied, turning from Maggio, dismissing him. “That’s what I said.”
Maggio left, closing the double doors behind him.
Quattropa turned his eyes to Lentini. “Check it.”
Lentini stood and moved to the coatrack. He removed an electronic scanner from his outer coat and returned to the table. After a thorough visual search of the table and its perimeter, he used the device to carefully scan the entire area.
“Clean,” he said.
Quattropa pointed a finger, indicating the rack against the wall. “Put it away.”
Lentini returned the scanner to his coat, then rejoined Quattropa. He placed his arms on the table and leaned forward. “So,” he said, “how you figure this’ll go tonight, boss?”
Quattropa sat back, inhaling and exhaling deeply. “This guy Oleg is a real greedy Russian prick. He’s got Brighton Beach, he’s got a hand in Gravesend and Gerritsen Beach and God knows where the fuck else. From what I hear, he’s eyein’ Canarsie and Flatlands, too.”
Carlo Lentini shook his head. “And he’s steppin’ on Frankie’s toes.”
Quattropa leaned inward, closer to Lentini. His eyes were flat, slitted. “I love my cousin,” he said softly. “But it’s my fuckin’ toes gettin’ stepped on. Don’t fuckin’ forget that. Frankie Saverese runs his crews for me, not for himself, and never for some immigrant Russkie.”
Lentini nodded. “Yeah, boss, yeah, I’m just sayin’. Maybe this guy, this Oleg, he figures he can muscle Frankie. Maybe he don’t figure it’s you he’s fuckin’ with. That’s all I’m sayin’.”
“Well, maybe the pope’s got three balls, too, Carlo. So fuckin’ what? Whatda I care what Oleg thinks? It’s what he does worries me. Besides, this is what fuckin’ Mikey Spano is supposed to be doin’. He’s the middleman on this operation, he’s the go-between for me and this Russian. Where’s he on all this? I gotta hear about this shit from my cousin Frankie? Where the fuck was Mikey on this?”
Lentini remained silent for a moment, then raised his brows. “I been wonderin’ about that myself lately. And I ain’t got a good answer for ya.”
Quattropa leaned back again, appeared to relax. “I don’t need no answers. I got the answers. I meet with this guy tonight, we straighten all this shit out. He keeps Brighton, but he kicks up to me through Spano. He can hire his crew out to Frankie for muscle or monkey work in Frankie’s territory. Frankie throws him a bone once in a while, lets him run some local shit in the Russkie sections. Sometimes we’ll run a joint venture, like the one with Mikey. Period. If he don’t agree to it tonight, I smile at him, say we’ll sit down again after I talk to Frankie. Then Oleg goes away. Permanently.”
Lentini’s eyes widened. “You serious, Louie? The time’ll be right?”
“I’m thinking it will be, if tonight don’t go my way.”
“I’m there for you, boss. If that’s what it comes to.”
Quattropa reached across the table, patted Lentini’s cheek gently. “I know you are, kid. I’ll remember that if this goes down. You can reach out to your old crew, whoever you figure you can count on, maybe that guy Pastore, and you get it done. We’ll talk about it some more if it comes down to that. But keep this in mind: I don’t trust Spano. He’s gettin’ too cozy with these fuckin’ Russians, too palsy. Like Joey Gallo did with the dit-soons, back before your time, before you was even born. There ain’t no equals. This is our thing. We stepped over the Irish, we stepped over the Jews, we chased the Jamaicans and the slopes that came from every shit hole in Asia. The Russians ain’t changin’ nothin’. Not while I’m breathin’ they ain’t.”
The two men sat silently for a moment, then Lentini stood. “I’m gonna tell Peggy Irish to bring us some drinks. What can she get you?”
Quattropa looked up at him. “Sambuca, chilled. And tell Richie to get those shrimp now. Let’s enjoy some of ’em before these two gafones get here and start pawing at ’em with their hairy fuckin’ fingers.”
* * *
AT 8:05, Peggy Irish, her long auburn hair glistening under the light of the back bar, noticed something odd. The young couple at the rear table stood up. The woman placed her large black shoulder bag onto the table. She then took both of the rock glasses, empty, that she and her male companion had been drinking from. Carefully, she placed them into her bag, along with the cocktail napkins they had been using. The man, tall, muscular-looking, turned and stepped quickly to the rear double doors, pushing one open. Peggy had worked and lived in Bensonhurst most of her life. She did not like what she was seeing.
“Hey, Richie…” she said.
From his seat at the bar, Richie Maggio turned to her, his brows raised in question.
At that same moment, Carlo Lentini looked up at the sound of the door opening. Expecting it to be Maggio announcing the arrival of the Russians, he glanced for an instant to his Rolex. The last thought he had was that these pricks were five minutes late …
After pumping two nine-millimeter rounds into Lentini’s head, the intruder turned toward Quattropa. The old Mafioso was unarmed, seated in a corner. He knew he was out of options. He spoke quickly, surprising the gunman, causing him to hesitate.
“When you get to hell,” Quattropa hissed at the young man, “I’ll be waiting for you. Then I’ll take your fuckin’ eyes out with broken glass and piss in the sockets.”
The silver automatic trembled slightly in the man’s grasp, and sweat broke out on his forehead. He avoided the burning blackness of Louie the Chink’s eyes and squeezed the trigger. A piece of Quattropa’s cerebellum rode the steel-jacketed bullet to the wall behind the table and clung there. The shooter watched as the brain matter slid an inch, then stopped. He lowered the muzzle and fired again into Quattropa’s face.
As he turned to leave, the half-closed door burst open and an irrational, red-faced Richie Maggio charged in, a long knife in his hand, anger throbbing in his neck.
“You can’t do this here!” he screamed. “Not here! You can’t…”
Startled, the shooter turned quickly and fired twice. Maggio’s death was nearly instantaneous.
The man went to the side door and unlocked it, a thick wash towel in his hand to prevent prints. He stepped out onto Seventy-second Street as a dark blue Volvo slid up to the curb. He crossed and climbed into the rear of the car. The driver accelerated away.
The shooter’s female companion from the bar table turned from the front passenger seat.
“It’s done?” she asked.
Quattropa’s final words and image were seared into the man’s consciousness. He shivered slightly as he spoke.
“Yes. It’s done.”
Copyright © 2012 by Lou Manfredo
Lou Manfredo, author of Rizzo’s Fire and Rizzo’s War, worked in the Brooklyn criminal justice system for twenty-five years. His short fiction has appeared in Best American Mystery Stories, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, and Brooklyn Noir. This is his third novel. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now lives in New Jersey with his wife.