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The P.I. Tag-Along

The P.I. Tag-Along

 

Do you think your husband or wife is cheating on you, and you want proof? Maybe pictures snapped in some Queens Boulevard motel after you’ve been told time and time again by your spouse that he or she will be home late due to weekly business meetings?

 

Call Lenny!

 

That’s right, call my close friend from high school – colorful, in-demand, private “eye” Lenny!

 

You own a restaurant and the cash keeps coming up short. Even so your maître d’ just bought a new Mercedes and you think he’s got his hands in the till.

 

Call Lenny!

 

You got locked up? Or you’re being harassed by a nasty landlord? Or you just got hit with a frivolous lawsuit, your neighbor’s dog just won’t stop yapping? Whatever your problem is and you want it taken care of, legally and clean, in New York City…

 

Yup, call Lenny!

 

Lenny is a good friend of mine. I’ve known him for forty years. We grew up on the streets together. He’s a private investigator, a “P.I.,” and one of the city’s best. Everybody knows Lenny in Manhattan, including top tier criminal lawyers, reporters, politicians, cops, good guys and even some bad guys. Lenny has street cred. The pulse of all five boroughs beat within Lenny’s body. He and the city are inseparable entities. Lenny gets front-page work, but you’ll never read his name in any articles. He works in the shadows.

 

Lenny is a gentle giant of a man – six foot six, 260 pounds, and soft spoken and caring. He gets his suits from Big and Tall men’s shops. He never wears ties. His suits and shirts are always Johnny Cash dark and forever rumpled from the office, his car, a silver Jeep SUV with 2,250,000 hard city miles on it. Potholes make it go BANG! It creaks when he drives and cell phones slide all over the slippery worn leather seats as he weaves in and around all things on wheels with ease. He has different phones for different reasons in his roving office. People don’t fuck around with “Big” Lenny despite his easygoing demeanor. Anyone who understands the streets will tell you that it isn’t the big muscle guys that are the most threatening; the blade or the bullet often comes from 130 pounders with monster egos, beastly attitudes and things to prove – fearless, crazy, one-man armies against the world.

 

Lenny keeps his retired NYPD service revolver strapped to his ankle at all times! PI’s don’t punch clocks – they are always on duty, watching. They are the hawks of the city’s jungle of justice. P.I.s work alone, eat alone and mostly sleep alone. It’s solitary work – dirty, thankless and dangerous. They go where no lawyer wants to go.

 

Sometimes I go with Lenny, just to tag along. He is always up for some company, and I need an occasional adventure. It’s a good fit, unlike Lenny’s suits. Here’s how it works. Anytime of the day between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. my cell phone might display “Call from Lenny.” I answer, “Hey buddy, How ya doin?”

 

The response is usually about the same. “Not bad, not bad – you know same ol’ same ol’.” Then “Hey, buddy, if you’re not doing anything important, would you like to go for a little ride?”

 

Now when two guys have been friends for over forty years, language boils down to its basic ingredients, and the meaning behind just a few words is intuitively understood. It’s not a lot that has to be explained in detail.

 

For example, I know that Lenny’s offer to “go for a little ride” means that he is inviting me to tag along with him on a P.I. investigation. Also, we both call each other “buddy.” If an outsider were to listen to our conversation, they would get the impression that both of us have the same name, Buddy, which can be confusing.

 

My response to Lenny’s offer is gauged not so much by time constraints but more by whether or not I feel I can handle descending into the dark side of humanity and the city at a particular point in time. It’s more about taking my personal inventory. Can I handle it emotionally? Am I feeling up to it? If I say no, I don’t have to make any excuses; I just say “No, buddy, not today,” and that’s the end of that. We move on with small talk for a while or Lenny takes another one of his barrage of phone calls coming into any of the three cell phones in his car-office.

 

However, if I say, “Sure, that would be great, buddy,” then we plan a meet-up. Lenny tells me where he is and how long he thinks it will take to get to such and such a corner near my midtown east apartment. Usually, he is calling from Harlem, Washington Heights (The Heights) if he is working Northern Manhattan, or he’s on his way back to the city from Brooklyn, The Bronx or out in Queens. If he’s on a case in Staten Island, it usually takes him about 40 minutes to get to our meet-up spot, but anyplace else, normally, he is incredibly fast getting to midtown.”

 

“Okay, I’m on the FDR now. I’ll pick you up at the usual meet-up spot on Third Avenue in front of the Clover Deli. See ya, buddy”

 

“Okay, buddy. Thanks – I’ll be down there waiting.”

 

You might find this imprudent on my part, but I never ask Lenny where we are going in advance or if the investigation could be dangerous or is just something routine such as process serving a court summons. Remember, Lenny carries a gun at all times and it’s not because he has “Dirty Harry” fantasies. Any of those delusions he may still have had dissipated over a 20-year career as a cop, detective and ten years as a P.I. The loaded revolver is for protection, pure and simple. Lenny will also intervene, and has, if he sees a crime in progress, such as a stick-up or assault. There is also the specter of that happening in a split second while traveling with Lenny throughout the city streets – especially at night.

 

Just a few nights ago, Lenny pulled his gun on the Upper East Side when he came upon a man garroting a woman with a piano wire as she took money from a corner ATM machine. The assailant got away with the cash, but, thanks to Lenny, the young woman has her life. Lenny cares about people and feels honor bound to protect the weak from the predators. All other things aside, that’s his true nature. He was always that way, even as a boy.

 

I don’t ask because I either don’t want to know in advance, or maybe I really have the “Dirty Harry” fantasy. I justify my actions by telling myself that if I don’t want to tag along, I can just wait in the car when we get there, hang around a coffee shop, or walk the streets looking for hidden cameras in order to be useful. By the way, I’m an excellent surveillance camera spotter – even better than Lenny. Video cameras, like cell phone records, solve a lot of crimes these days! Criminals are idiots for talking on cell phones or doing anything on the street, all calls and texts can be traced to exact locations and at any given moment they are being filmed from somewhere. Nowadays, the eye in the sky is watching the streets at all times.

 

As usual, Lenny is there waiting for me and not the other way around. I tend to dawdle getting out of my apartment, or need to jump in the shower. I might have still been writing in my underwear at noon if I was on a hot streak at the keyboard. Lenny is usually on the phone and never seems to get annoyed by my tardiness. He uses the parked time to make calls.

We give a secret handshake from back in the day and exchange smiles as I settle into his office and buckle up while Lenny finishes his call. The adventure can begin right then and there, depending on what GPS coordinates I glean from his call. I can also get a sense about the depth of the crime world we might be venturing into as well. I listen for key words and places. Brooklyn or Staten Island often means organized crime. Queens: burglary or assault. Manhattan (below 96th street): white-collar crime or surveillance, contentious divorce or love triangle. The Bronx: violent crime, drugs, or domestic dispute.

 

In general, except for Manhattan, most cases in the five boroughs seem to revolve around people who don’t have enough money and have done something to themselves or others to try and get some. In Manhattan, it’s the opposite. People get involved in all sorts of mischief due to an excess of greed or sex, and all types of dramas that the average street criminal could not even begin to comprehend. Mostly they just want the cash to survive.

 

“We’re going over to Brooklyn today for a sit-down in a nice little restaurant. I’ve been there before–great food. We’re gonna see a guy who just got out of the can and is now in the witness protection program.”

 

“What did he do?”

 

“I’ll explain as we drive, but he turned ‘rat’.”

 

A rat! And in Brooklyn! I knew what underworld we were about to sink into. Rat is the absolute worst word in their vocabulary on both sides of the street. Being within striking range of a rat in Brooklyn is not a safe place to be. This much even I knew for certain. If rats in the city get caught, they get exterminated. No questions asked.

 

Once Lenny got back onto the FDR, he started to give me the details. I listened intently, all the while trying to decide whether or not I should stay in the car when we get there.

“Welcome to Brooklyn, the fourth largest city in America” a highway sign read.

 

We were on our way to interview a gangster known on the streets of Brooklyn as “Eddie Dogs.” According to Brooklyn gangland intel, “Dogs” got his apropos moniker from his bad habits and personality. Eddie used to run a popular and very profitable pit bull dog-fighting ring from the basement of a Brooklyn apartment building. As he was the ringleader of the operation, he served two years in prison on animal fighting and cruelty charges.

 

“It’s pretty horrific inside – horrible conditions. I couldn’t even describe it,” NYPD Deputy Inspector Anthony Carnavalle told newspaper and TV reporters at the time of the bust. “The dogs appear to be in various stages of abuse and injury.”

 

Eddie’s connection to the handle “Dogs,” pit-bulls especially, ran even deeper, as he physically resembles the steely breed. Pit bulls are dogs of power, passion and undying willingness. They have brick-like heads, which are especially broad between the cheeks, to house their powerful jaws, which are carried upon a thickly muscled, well-defined neck. The neck runs into a deep, thick, well-sprung chest. Pit bulls are muscular, stocky yet agile dogs that are extremely strong for their size.

 

Personality-wise, Eddie also fit the bill.

 

Pit bulls are extremely courageous and intelligent guard dogs. They are full of vitality and are highly protective of their owners and their property. If challenged or threatened, however, they will fight an enemy to its death. They are usually very friendly, but have an uncanny ability to know when everything is okay or there is danger looming. They are generally sociable with other pets if trained well or raised with them from puppyhood. Even though they are friendly, they are not recommended for most people because most people do not understand how to treat them properly. Problems arise when one does not understand natural pit bull behavior and attributes human emotions onto the dog, which usually results in fighting. (A better resume for a racketeering foot soldier could not be written.)

 

The case files in the back seat of Lenny’s car flipped over, then scattered, mixing in with empty coffee cups, coke cans, daily newspapers and plastic water bottles as he over-steered the sharply curved entrance ramp, exiting Manhattan’s FDR and driving onto the Williamsburg Bridge. With the sight of gritty riverfront wharves and factories of Brooklyn before me, I felt the moat-like protection security sensation of my Manhattan Island fortress begin to slip away.

 

Lenny’s cell phone rang and he answered. Although Lenny was speaking in a sort of half-code street language, I was able to understand some words, like someone who had taken Spanish 101 in high school and is able to get the gist of what a Spanish speaking person is trying to communicate.

 

“Yeah, yeah, we’re still on. The place – you know – The Place. Yeah, right, I got the thing. Listen, I understand if you don’t want to bring up that guy – you know the one from ‘upstate’ – you know who I mean right? Yeah, yeah. I’m on my way. I won’t be late. Don’t worry, sit tight.”

 

I had a frightful sensation – the type that soldiers must experience as they cross into enemy territory. In reality, Lenny and “Dogs” are warriors of the streets, and combat could ignite all of a sudden just like on any other battlefield. My fear was real.

 

The call on the bridge gave me time to ponder if I was going to go into or not go into the prearranged sit-down. As Lenny spoke to “Eddie Dogs” in code, I turned my head away from the Brooklyn-bound vista before me and directly toward my lifelong brother friend Lenny, and studied him.

 

With his pant leg hiked up on the accelerator pedal, I could see the blue-gray sheen of the barrel of Lenny’s service revolver. It was bound to his leg with a black leather holster strap just above his ankle, almost to calf height. He exuded confidence in his movements. Lenny made it all seem so routine – even fun. I pondered his past as a highly decorated gold shield cop. I knew that he had been assigned to the worst neighborhood, The Heights, during the Crack Wars of the 1980’s and survived it all. After that, he was transferred to Undercover Narcotics: Buy and Bust Operations in Harlem and then finished off his career as a decorated homicide detective in Brooklyn where he now careened about the streets, bobbing and weaving with ease near his former precinct in Bensonhurst, seemingly without worry. At that moment I felt that I was heading into enemy territory with platoon strength (i.e. Lenny and all his police experience) and that all would be okay. No more indecision. I would join Lenny and “Dogs” in the sit-down. I would Tag Along all the way on this one!

 

Unwinding, I began to take in the sights of Brooklyn, which appeared refreshingly un-Manhattan-like, more neighborhood-ish and homey. Not such a bad place after all, I thought.

 

“Buddy,” I asked, “why would a guy in the witness protection program who turned rat dare to risk showing his face in the old neighborhood? There must be plenty of people who would love to see him, you know, gone, whacked?”

 

“Good question, buddy. But you got to understand, these guys don’t think like that. They’re a different breed altogether. They feel invincible. Most of them are adrenaline junkies and actually get off on the danger. The life is all they really know. Most of them go stir crazy in witness protection and a lot return to the old neighborhoods and take their chances.”

 

It seemed to me the risk Dogs was taking was stupid and crazy, but what did I know? I was just tagging along.

 

We pulled up in front of a pizza parlor that looked like a thousand other pie joints in the city. Lenny leaned across my seat and popped open his glove compartment. Papers fell out as he rummaged through until he grabbed hold of a plastic laminated “Law Enforcement” parking permit, which he tossed onto the dusty dash. I never ask questions about that permit. It’s nice to just park in front of anyplace you want in the city and not have to worry about getting a ticket.

 

“This is it?” I asked, motioning to the unimpressive corner eatery.

 

“Yeah, why?” asked Lenny.

 

“I thought you said we were going to have lunch in a nice little place.”

 

“Calm down, buddy. They serve pizza in the front, but the back is where we’ll be eating. You’re going to love it. It’s like a throwback to old Brooklyn – statues, paintings, and classical music. You’re going to think we’re back in the 1940s. Trust me, you’ll love it.”

I did trust Lenny. Nevertheless, I surveyed the street – up and down the block. I waited for Lenny to lock up the SUV, and then I filed in behind his large frame. I walked into the place wondering which of the faces I was passing might be Eddie “Dogs”- the gangster, killer and rat.

 

“Listen, buddy, I know you like to ask questions but try and let me do all of the talking on this one, okay?”

 

“Sure, no problem.”

 

Lenny was right. The back room was old school Brooklyn and empty as a mid-afternoon church basement except for one man, hunched over a glass of red wine and a basket of bread in a back corner, white linen covered table, who had his back to the wall and eyes on the door. The edgy man had a white baseball cap with the brim tilted down, shadowing his face from the sun streaming from the street side windows. Dark sunglasses rested on the table before him. I noticed he was also nervously tapping a finger. Gym-pumped muscles strained his V-neck short sleeve shirt. He had no neck, just a big muscular jaw affixed to ripped and powerful shoulders. Just like a pit bull.

 

Lenny extended his large hand to greet Eddie, aka “Dogs.”

Eddie didn’t stand. Instead, he diverted his handshake to an open palmed gesture at me. “Who the fuck is this guy?”

 

“Don’t worry, Eddie, he’s with me. He’s a friend of mine.”

 

“Oh, okay, he’s a friend of yours. Got it. All right, all right. Take a seat. What are you guys drinking? Here, have some bread. It’s fresh – good crust. You can only get bread like this in Brooklyn,” he said pridefully.

 

As I reached for the breadbasket I knew that I had passed the point of no return.

 

In 1991, the third and bloodiest Brooklyn war erupted when an underboss tried to seize power from the imprisoned Big Boss. The family split into factions and two years of mayhem ensued. In 1993, with 12 family members dead and the Big Boss imprisoned, the underboss was the winner more or less by default. He was left with a family decimated by war. In the 2000s, the organization was crippled by multiple convictions in federal racketeering cases, and numerous members became government witnesses.

 

Dogs started the conversation. “You know I ain’t supposed to be here, right?”

 

“Yeah, Eddie, I was shocked as shit when I got the call. What’s going on with you? Last I heard was that about five years ago you weren’t upstate anymore?”

 

“Yeah, yeah. I’ll explain more later, as much as I can. Let’s order I’m fucking starving – you guys hungry? I need some decent food in me. Where’d that fucking waiter go?”

 

Lenny sat directly across from Dogs at the table. The menus were stacked in front of Dogs. I reached over and grabbed one without asking and began thumbing through it.

 

“I know what I’m getting,” said Dogs. “Linguini with red clam sauce – you can’t find any decent clam sauce where they got me!”

 

I wondered where they had him – I desperately wanted to ask but Lenny’s caution to keep my mouth shut was as fresh as the chopped clams probably were.

 

“I’ve eaten here before” Lenny announced. “I’m getting the Veal Marsala. It’s the best – even better than you can get in Manhattan.”

 

I felt clumsy and out of place being the only one holding a menu. It’s manlier to know what you want – like these guys. I put the menu down. “I’m gonna get the clam sauce too – that sounds great.” I got a nod of approval from Dogs and a wink. I felt better.

 

After we ordered, we tore into the bread with our bare hands. Dogs ordered another glass of red wine. Lenny and I asked for cokes.

 

Lenny, very skillfully, made small talk with Dogs about stories from old days, cops and robbers stuff, until the steaming plates of delicious smelling food arrived. It was clear that Dogs’ first order of business was to eat.

 

“Hey – can you bring us some more bread?” he barked at the server.

 

After a round of oohs and aahs about how delicious the food was, Lenny chimed in. “So Dogs, what’s up? What can I do for you?”

 

“All right, you know that after ‘The Wars’ I caught a bullshit charge of two counts of ahh – murder, right!”

 

“Yeah, Dogs, I remember,” Lenny said.

 

I almost asked, “Why were they bullshit?” It was getting harder and harder for me to stay quiet.

“It was a case of self defense. Everybody knew those guys had a thing on me – you know, orders, a contract – so I had to get to them first. That’s the way it is out here. It’s like a game of chess – you got to anticipate the other side’s moves and act first. Besides it was war. I was a soldier. You know that.”

 

Lenny said, “Yeah, Dogs, I remember it all too well. I was in that precinct when all that shit was going down. You guys kept homicide busy. Bodies were turning up all over the place.”

 

“That’s right,” said Dogs, knowing Lenny was a guy he could relate to. I was impressed by Dogs’ chess strategy analogy and returned his clam sauce choice nod of approval without the wink.

 

Lenny needed to take control of the conversation to find out why he was called to this sit-down. Where was the business in it for him?

 

“So Eddie – how’s life in the country, or wherever they put you now?” he asked.

 

“Yeah, it’s in the sticks, you got that right, and it sucks. It’s fucking boring. I’m going out of my mind. The food’s like cardboard and I got some dumb-ass 9-5 job where the boss is a complete moron.”

 

Another urge to speak rises up inside of me once more. I knew I was about to fuck up again but could not stop the urge to speak.

 

“Well, I guess it’s better than prison,” I blurted out.

Lenny stopped cutting his veal with mushroom and wine sauce and Dogs’ fork ceased spinning around his linguini. I felt the tension rise as my friend Lenny’s gun foot in its size 13 dress shoe kicks me under the table.

 

“What the fuck is that supposed to mean?” Eddie barked. His face started to turn red and a large vein twitched in his neck.

 

“Ah,” I stammered. “It don’t mean nothing – I mean – it means it’s probably better to be free than locked up. I guess that’s what I was trying to say.” I dug myself in deeper.

 

“What the fuck do you know about prison?”

 

“Nothing.”

 

“Lenny – who the fuck is this guy anyway? I thought you said he was a friend of yours, so why is he saying dumb shit like that? You know the witness protection program sucks ass, right? ”

 

“Yeah, Dogs, I know, I know.”

 

Lenny’s voice was uncharacteristically raised a bit too,

 

“EDDIE – EDDIE, FORGET ABOUT THAT PRISON STUFF! Please now, why did you call me?” Lenny finally asked.

 

Lenny gave me a look, as in, “Please, buddy, no more questions.”

 

“Okay, okay. You remember a wise guy, Larry Handsome, right?”

 

“Of course, I do. I locked him up – a real ladies man. He was screwing all the broads in the neighborhood and even a made guy’s wife, which got him into deep shit with the bosses. He broke the code. I think prison saved his life.”

 

“That’s right – the fucking rat. He broke the code and he thinks with his dick.”

 

“Eddie, you got a beef with Handsome?”

 

“Yeah, I got a beef with him all right. I’ve heard through the grapevine that he’s been living with my ex-girl, Terry. To be honest, there ain’t much I can do about that, but I’m hearing bad stuff like he’s been slapping her around and that he even sent her to the emergency room a few times. I just can’t have this.”

 

“That sucks, Eddie. It’s horrible. I never liked that guy when I was a cop. I always thought he was a conceited son of a bitch, maybe even a psychopath.”

 

“Yeah – he is a psychopath and a piece of shit too.”

 

This was heavy-duty stuff I was hearing. This was the real deal. Makes TV seem like phony bullshit when you are seeing and hearing right from the mouths of gangsters and cops.

 

“Okay, Dogs, I think I see where you’re going with this,” said Lenny. “Sounds to me like you want hard evidence and not just hearsay on Handsome.”

 

“Goddamn right, I do. I want some fucking pictures or a video of this jack-off laying his slimy hands on Theresa – the fucker.”

 

“Then, after you get the pictures, Dogs, then what…?”

 

“Then it’s none of your fucking business anymore – that’s what. I’m offering you two grand, cash.”

 

Suddenly the table became quiet as Lenny processed the proposal.

 

To me, the silence became unbearable and I squirmed in my seat. Something had to break.

 

“So,” I said, “Is this your first time back to Brooklyn in a long while, Eddie?”

 

“No, I’ve been back a few times,” he said with bravado, his chest puffed out.

 

“You’re not worried?”

 

“Why should I? What’s gonna happen? Nobody’s got the balls to fuck with me over here.”

 

Lenny did not seem to mind the course of this conversation because it was feeding into Eddie’s ego and keeping him distracted while he ate, thought and planned his next strategic move.

 

“I don’t know. I was just saying.”

 

“Listen, if anyone comes up to me with fists – I’m gonna kill ’em with my bare hands. If they pull a knife, I pull a knife. If they pull a gun, I pull a gun. That’s how it’ll go down and I never lost a fight. Not on the street and never in the joint either.”

No doubt, the pit bull, like Eddie Dogs, would be a vicious opponent in close combat.

 

Lenny still had not rejoined the conversation. I think Eddie Dogs’ proposal was troubling him and he was trying to figure out a way to decline the offer in a way that would not enrage Dogs or alienate him as a future resource. Street cred as a P.I. is a very delicate act. If word got out that Lenny handled Dogs like a pussy, his workload could be badly damaged in this tough business, from the clients and attorneys who pay him to work the dark-side and also from the street sources who now know him as a stand-up guy they can trust.

 

At this moment I was glad I was not in his Big and Tall man shoes.

 

We all were sort of pushing our food around our plates and not eating with gusto as before. The air got thicker than the homemade tomato sauce.

 

“What about the Feds?” I jumped back in.

 

“THE FEDS? THE FEDS? WHAT THE FUCK DO THEY HAVE TO DO WITH THIS?”

 

Eddie raised his voice for the first time. I had struck a chord. I fucked up again, but much worse. Lenny pushed his chair back. I think the mere mention of the Feds had put Dogs into attack mode.

 

“I was just thinking,” I said.

 

“What were you thinking, pal?” Dogs blared back.

 

“Why not have the Feds take care of Larry Handsome and you can stay out of it,” I advised with trepidation.

 

“Lenny, what is this shit? Who the fuck is this guy you brought here?”

 

“Eddie, try to calm down – he’s just a friend. He’s not in this life. Sometimes he asks dumb questions because he’s curious. He just doesn’t know any better, that’s all…”

 

“Fuck that, Lenny. Who is he? A fucking cop? He looks like a cop – or a reporter. Maybe he’s even a Fed. I could go back to the can if they find out I’m even 100 miles near Brooklyn. Lenny, what’s going on here? What about the deal – the two grand and the pictures of Handsome? What the fuck?”

 

Dogs, enraged, was gripping his fork in a tight fist, like a weapon. In an instant, he could have easily gone berserk and plunged it right into my eye. My complete inexperience of the Lenny’s and Eddie’s of the world had brought the deadly pit-bull rage out in Dogs, which had earned him his well deserved nickname.

 

Needless to say, I was terrified. I looked down at my food, wishing to become invisible. I wanted to get back out of this Brooklyn place and over the bridge to Manhattan more than anything.

 

Lenny tried his best to calm Dogs down, but Dogs was still on a paranoid tirade about the Feds and Theresa, including everything that had been bottled up inside of him for five years living the quiet life and before that locked up in prison. It came pouring out of him like a caged-up fighting dog, suddenly set loose in the ring.

 

My submissive body language was not working. It was actually making matters worse as Eddie was on the prowl for an Alpha Dog to tangle with. It was time to try a new strategy. Although I was never exposed to the criminal world, I did run a business for over twenty years, and that takes guts too.

 

I raised my eyes to meet his and just locked into his anger. I didn’t speak. I did not dare blink either. We all have a dark side and mine had been awoken. Strangely, my fear had subsided. Some animal fight or flight instinct had taken hold of me.

 

Eddie bragged about mano y mano so, I thought to myself, “Here I am, Eddie. Are you going to yell and scream at me some more – use the fork – pull a knife –a gun? Bring it on!”

 

Lenny, wisely, continued to lay in wait. I suppose his instincts had also kicked in. And they told him to hold off and let Dogs continue to blow off his pent up steam and see if that’s as far as this thing will go. Just the same, Lenny’s right hand drifted down toward his ankle holster.

 

The veins in Eddie’s neck were engorged like well-fed pythons.

 

The shouting trailed off as the standoff became big death stares between the two of us. I could feel that he wanted to kill, and that I had become the object of his rage against the world. My question just happened to be the trigger. His emotional gun had been locked and loaded long before we ever laid eye on each other.

 

The stare-down continued but then everything turned surreal. The sounds of the street, the classical music, clank of dishes and chatter of people up front in the pizza parlor went silent in my head. Time warped into slow motion as, suddenly, I heard a distinct metallic PING near our table, an unfamiliar sound of hard materials making swift contact with each other.

 

It was like the premonition of lightning before the actual bolt cracks in a storm.

 

Milliseconds after the noises of the real world were tuned out and by then the mysterious ping, Eddie Dogs’ head exploded right before our very eyes, vaporizing into a cloud of red mist that sprayed over everything.

 

Blood, brains and bone shot across the room, splattering a white bust of Julius Caesar, the Mediterranean stucco wall, and a Romanesque painting of a nude woman in a gardenlike setting.

 

Lenny and I were covered in this goo.

 

The last thing I recall was seeing brain matter in Eddie Dogs’ half eaten linguini with red clam sauce, or more like linguini with brain sauce. Even more incredible of a sight, and probably due to the Dogs’ squat-based body gravity, the force of the powerful projectile didn’t even knock his body out of his seat at the table, so it just sat here headless, as if he was patiently waiting for more crusty bread to arrive.

 

Lenny shouted. “BUDDY, GET DOWN!” as he hurled his 260 pound 6’6” body in my direction, knocking me violently onto the tiled floor in a cluster of chairs, plates, food and blood.

 

Eddie Dogs’ grandiosity, or stupidity, had him convinced that when they eventually came for him, it would come from a frontal assault like two pit bulls in a ring. He was deluded into believing that he would have the chance to prepare himself for battle. But human beings are far more cunning than animals when it comes to killing and have devised all sorts of ingenious diabolical methods to dispose of one another.

 

The ping I had heard was the sound of a hit – a high-powered, sniper bullet breaking through the restaurant’s plate glass window. It came from a gunman who had positioned himself in the warehouse across the street with a telescopic sight. Dogs had made a tragically poor seating choice when he chose a sunny seat near a window.

 

Eddie’s enemies knew he could not stay out of Brooklyn for good.

 

Once the dust and shock had settled, in about a month or so, I saw “Call From Lenny” flash on my cell phone one late morning back in Manhattan, as I was writing in my underwear and sipping coffee.

 

“Hey buddy, would you like to take a little ride?”

 

At first, I was going to say “No, thanks.” Then, I felt like I could use some adventure, and I knew my old friend Lenny likes my company. So I said, “Sure, when will you be here?”

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