A bloody end in the Bronx
|PROMPT-- use the following words:
a black cat
under a ladder
grains of salt
Angie was sitting in Francine’s at a booth in the back. That alone was strange. I watched him from the entrance. It looked from there like he was dipping his tie into his Jack Daniels and then sucking on it. That was also strange.
Coming up to the table, I said to him, “Angie, what the hell you doing?” He says, “I told the doc, I says to him, hey doc, a black cat don’t scare me, walking under a ladder don’t scare me, breaking a mirror, forget about it. I got ya broken mirror right here. And spilling salt! Grains of salt? Ya kiddin’ me? Forget about it, and forget about all the other parafuckingnoiya bullshit.”
I said, “Hey Angie, why are you here, boss?”
Angie says, “The doc asked me the same thing. He says, 'Then why exactly ya here?' Just like that: Then why exactly are you here? like he’s rushing me. I’m paying this fuck three bills an hour and the son-of-a-bitch is rushin’ me?
He was still dipping his tie into his bourbon on the rocks. His hair was standing up from his head. i said, “You mean here here? In this restaurant?”
“No, I don’t mean here here, I mean in his office. Where the fuck you think I’m talking about?”
“I’m trying to figure that out, Ang—”
”It seems I got triskaidekaphobia.”
With that news, I sat down across from him and put my hat on the table. He says, “Yep, the old Tri Skade…” Angie looked off across the quiet dining room. I looked around as well. More than a few diners were looking back at us.
“Who told you that, Ang?”
“The shrink, for god’s sake! Who the fuck else?”
“Angelo, I really think we ought to get you out of here.” I turned again to check out the restaurant. I wanted to know who was coming in. Leaning across the table, I spoke softly, “You sure you want to be here? This is where we did Scarlatti, right? You realize that?”
“Scarlatti,” I whispered.
“Scarlatti’s dead!” he shouted. “I put two in that fuck’s brain pan right at this table!”
I looked around a third time. People were pretending not to notice us. Utter silence. Two old ladies in fur coats were just now waddling inside the joint. I couldn’t help noticing the diamonds hanging around their wrinkly old necks.
“Look, boss, let’s get out of here, okay?”
“I only had six drinks. I got seven more coming. And a steak! I ordered a raw New York with thirteen peas. I want a steak and thirteen peas!”
“Why? To prove I don’t got Tri Skade Kaphobia no more is why! You never were a good listener, Pauly. You know that?”
It all came clear to me then. Everybody knew the poor bastard had a fear of the number thirteen. All I could do was stare at him sitting there with his hair mussed up still dipping his tie into his drink.
“Tell me, boss, did the doctor give you any medicine for your triskaidifalus?”
“Hell yes! You think I’d be out today otherwise? Worked like a charm. Hell, I ain’t scared a nothin’ now!”
I sat back in my chair. The server came meekly forward with another drink for Angelo. The little bald waiter raised his eyebrows at me, and I shook my head no before he hurried away.
I turned again, looked toward the entrance. Three mugs in shiny suits were just now coming in. “I really think we should go, boss…”
“Not until I get my thirteen peas,” he said. He dipped his tie back into his fresh drink. “I ain’t scared a nothin’ no more.”
“Yeah, I can see that,” I said. I got up from the table and went the long way around the room, passing on the far right of the three goons approaching Angie at his table. I was outside on the sidewalk before they fired the first shots.
Next morning, I read the headlines. It seems last night, Friday the 13th, there was a gangland shooting at Francine’s Restaurant in the Bronx. Angelo Tortellini was left lying on the floor dead. Apparently, he looked like Swiss cheese. They counted thirteen slugs.
He never got his peas.