Sunday, June 15, 2008

Short Fiction: Immigrants and Out of Towners: Recovery and New Alliances

The phone wouldn’t stop ringing, and Sean Clark had finally given up on trying to answer it. He floated in and out of dreams seamlessly, totally unaware if he was awake or not. His head throbbed, and he didn’t know how long he had been in bed, out of touch.

From being dumped at the Embassy Hotel he managed to get a cab to take him to his apartment in Chelsea on the Westside. For a Vice cop he lived pretty well, being able to afford a two bedroom in Chelsea on his own, with off street parking.

The cab dropped him out front and Clark gave the Pakistani a wad of petty cash, not even bothering to count it and fell out of the back of the cab. The driver counted the money and waited for Clark to close the door so he could leave. He glanced in his rear view and then out the side of the cab, and saw that his passenger was laying down in the sidewalk.

The driver muttered something in his native tongue and got out and went around to Clark. He pulled him up to the stoop, rang a few of the buzzers at the door to his brownstone, and shut the backdoor to his cab and sped off.

Of course, this being New York, no one came to the door. A few people shouted into their intercoms, but being that Clark was only semi conscience and sitting away from the buttons, he couldn’t press one to ask someone to let him in. So there he sat for an hour until one of his neighbors came home and found his slumped against the door.

“Hey, hey asshole,” the neighbor said. “You’re blockin’ the door,” and gave Clark a little nudge with his foot. Clark groaned and managed to open his eye a little bit. Everything was in double vision and shadowed. He thought that his retina was probably detached from his eyeball.


Somehow, Clark got to his apartment and crashed on the floor in his living room. His cell phone kept ringing but he couldn’t answer it. From under him a faint buzzing could be heard more than felt. And it wouldn’t stop.

Eventually he got undressed, and propped himself up in the bathroom so he could take a look at himself. His face looked like it had be pulverized by a hammer, his left eye was swollen shut, his cheeks were puffed out, his chin was split, his lip was cracked and his hair was messed up beyond what was considered chic. It was also matted with his blood.

He tried to shower and bandage his face. It was nighttime now, and he retired to his bed amongst the buzzing of his cell phone.

Sometime the next day Clark could hear someone pounding at his door and yelling. He could barely lift his head, or even speak. Suddenly the door burst open and feet crunched across the floor, lots of feet.

Clark grabbed his Glock 19, his duty weapon and pointed it at his doorway, barely able to see to aim. He felt the gun shaking, but knew he could at least get one round through the door if he had to.

Clark?” It was Tiger Ramirez’s voice. Clark lowered his gun and cried in relief.

Ramirez had been trying to get in touch with Clark since that night, almost two nights ago when he went AWOL from the casino. They now sat in Chelsea Presbyterian’s Ambulatory Care Unit, where Clark’s condition was stable. He had a slight infection in his left eye, and his jaw had to be wired shut for a week so that the bone could settle back into the socket. He had been lucky, the doctors told Ramirez after they observed him. His jaw hadn’t been broken, just dislocated. Another day in his apartment without food or water probably would’ve killed him.

“So when’s he gonna get out?” Ramirez asked the doctor.

“Give him a day or two to get his fluids back in order, his jaw reset and that nasty eye infection slowed down. He’ll be fine, he’s a tough kid,” and the doctor walked off.

Clark was sitting up in his bed, awake, bandages over his face, just a little patch left over his right eye so he could see. He flipped through tv channels and sipped ice water through a straw that stuck into the bandages. He was connected to an IV that was a mixture of painkillers and antibiotics.

“They were dredging the river for you, you know that?” Ramirez said as he sat back down. On the little table by his bed, Clark had two hard bound books, an iPod and a portable DVD player that Ramirez brought from home once Clark had been well enough to communicate.

“Really?” Came out muffled from under his bandages, but Ramirez could tell that Clark was genuinely interested in that bit of news.

“Really, we all thought you were toast. You know they found Milano’s and his driver’s body in his Mercedes yesterday? It was ditched out in the Rockaways, they were both naked and gutted.” Clark nodded as he sipped.

“I knew,” he managed to say. Ramirez looked out the window. “So what’s next?”

“You’re going to get better,” and Ramirez stood, “and maybe take some time off,” and before Clark could protest, his captain was out of the room.

At St. Luke’s in Roosevelt, some 20 blocks north from where Sean Clark was sitting up sipping water, Martina De Rossi arrived with her usual entourage of thugs. She walked briskly to the information counter and leaned across the table at an older black woman who was typing into a computer screen.

“I’m here to find out what happened to Giovanni Capasso,” she said. The black woman didn’t turn or even acknowledge De Rossi’s presence, she kept typing. “Excuse me!” And the woman turned back towards Rossi, looking at her from over her glasses.

“I heard you the first time, I’m busy. If you want to check on a patient’s status, you need to see the duty nurse down the hall. This is general information, ms.” And a thick slice of attitude was served to De Rossi.

“Are you family?” and without hesitation, De Rossi answered in the positive. The nurse gave her a once over, and then told her to sit down in the waiting area, a doctor would be there to talk to her shortly. She did as told and waited, sitting down between an old woman who coughed too much and a bunch of children arguing. She thought it was funny that she was called to this hospital in Manhattan and not to one in Brooklyn where Don Giovanni lived.

She cocked a denim clad leg over the other and let her Luis Vuitton heel dangling from her toe as she flipped through an issue of Time magazine. Her long jet black hair fell into her face and she whisked it behind her ear. A few minutes went by and she grew increasingly impatient. She ordered her men to go wait in the car, and they left without protest. Shortly there after, an Indian doctor called her name.

“Ms. De Rossi, what’s your relationship to Mr. Capasso?”

“I’m his niece,” she lied.

“Ok, well, I have some very tough news to give you. Mr. Capasso died this morning of a heart attack. He was brought here by ambulance, but he was gone by the time we could get to him. His brain had been without oxygen for about ten minutes and there was no activity once we had him hooked into machines. I’m so very sorry for your loss.” And De Rossi wobbled on her feet. Her head went light, and she went to sit down, but there was no seat under her. The doctor grabbed her and held on to her. She pushed away and walked back outside to her waiting Denali.

“Qu’est il arrive?” One of her men asked from up front.

“Il est morte,” she said absently. There was a heavy silence, and one of the men made the sign of the cross.

“You know what these means, don’t you?” The same man asked her.

“Yes, I absolutely know what this means,”

“la vie longue la reine,” and the trucked pulled out.

Sean Clark was back at his apartment. It had been a few days and the place stunk like a bloated dead body. He picked up his bloodied clothes and threw them away along with the bandages he found all over the bathroom floor. He eventually found his cell phone and plugged it into the wall because the battery had drained out of it. Once it went through it’s start up, he checked his messages. There were easily fifty missed calls from Ramirez, but there were also a few missed calls from a number he didn’t recognize. He thumbed through and saw the caller had called from that number six times in the last two days.

He rubbed his swollen jaw and wrote the number down on a piece of paper. He started up his computer and sent an email to his friend in Warrants to do a reverse look up on the number. He then set about to do some grocery shopping.

Clark dressed in his usual super liberal casual attire, a hip tattered snug fitting flannel button up in gray and black, with a pair of tattered jeans, his gun and badge under his shirt that hung just to his zipper. He had his old black hi-tops too, and his Ray Ban sunglasses over his eyes to help hide his semi bashed in face.

He bought a few frozen dinners and some beer, and returned to his apartment from the bodega down the street. He checked his email and his friend in Warrants came through.

All I can tell you is that it goes to a cell phone on the upper east side, but from there I lose track of it. You know how many cell phones are in that area? Let’s get beers soon.



He decided to give the number a call and see where it would lead him. He thumbed the number up and hit send, pressing the phone to his sensitive ear. It rang twice and then was picked up by what he would consider an angry woman.

“What!” Came De Rossi’s voice. Clark pulled the phone back from his ear and looked at it.

“Who is this?” He said into the phone.

“You called me asshole, you tell me who this is.”

“This is Sean Clark.” And there was a pause on the other end.

“Oh, Mr. Clark. I was starting to wonder when I’d hear from you again. Have you changed your mind on my offer?” Clark had to think about it, was it too soon to accept the offer and was the risk of getting in too deep too great? He rubbed his swollen jaw thoughtfully before going on.

“I dunno Ms. De Rossi. Your guys did a number on me. I was thinking of just cutting my losses and going home to Boston.” And there was another long pause.

“Why don’t you come by my place this afternoon and we can discuss any long term plans in person, where it’s far more … personable?” Clark thought this over too and decided that it wouldn’t be a bad idea to do some recon at her place.

“Ok, what time and where?”

He was announced by the door man at her Upper East Side address. Her suite was a three floor mansion that occupied floors 19, 20 and 21. She had a private elevator and when Clark stepped off, dressed slightly more formal, in a buttoned up dress shirt and designer jeans, he was met by one of her many maids.

“Ms. Martina will see you shortly,” the short maid said as she stepped away. Clark walked around the grand room and took in all the expensive art and trappings. The fireplace was inactive but was impressive marble. She had a real Cezanne hanging over it. Expensive looking grandfather clocks, leather chairs and couches, rugs and animal skins.

Off in the distance, he thought he could hear drums being played. Not like a procession of drums, but someone actually practicing them. He followed the sound down a hallway and up a set of stairs. He came into a big reading room with a few short couches and guitars mounted on the walls. Amplifiers were set up and computerized monitoring equipment was around. It was a musical studio.

De Rossi sat behind a full drum kit, dressed in a black tank top with a glittery logo on it and skin tight denim designer jeans. She stopped her drumming but didn’t bother to hold the cymbals. She looked at him from behind the drums and held both sticks in her left hand.

“Good afternoon Mr. Clark,” she said from behind the kit, watching him.

“Good afternoon to you too, Ms. De Rossi,” and she came from around the kit and offered her hand. He took it and gave it a slight kiss. She smiled. “That’s cool that you play the drums,” he said.

“I play the guitar too, and piano. I’m from a very musical family,” she walked away and turned slightly as she spoke. Her hair was up in a pony tail and he noticed she was sweating a bit. “Would you care for a drink?”

“Sure, what do you got?”

Cognac, whiskey, beer, water, whatever. If I don’t have it, I’ll send someone for it,”

“Whiskey’d be great actually,” and she wandered off out of the studio to an adjacent room. He followed looking at her slender back and curves. She stood in front of a small serving tray and poured a glass of whiskey for him, as well as a cognac for herself. She turned and offered him the drink which he took, sipped, and made a little face. She giggled.

“I thought the Irish loved their whiskey, is that not true Mr. Clark?”

“It’s true, but we like Irish whiskey, not this Canadian club soda you’re trying to pass off on me,” and she frowned and went to take the glass back. He pulled back, holding it away from her. “I was kidding,”

“Mm, you should be more careful with your words, Mr. Clark, first impressions are everything.”

“This isn’t my first impression, my first impression was the other night at the casino,” She smiled, and he loved the way she smiled. He even let himself smile a little bit, even though it hurt is face. She picked up on his labored efforts and reached out and touched his chin.

“I’m glad to see you didn’t lose those boyish good looks, Mr. Clark. I apologize for the way my men treated you. Michael and Michael Anthony are very protective of me, you must understand.” She slipped away from between him and the cart and sauntered down the hallway. He tried to keep up. “Especially now that I’m the new Boss of the Capasso Family. Well, I mean, the De Rossi family.”

“I’m sorry?”

“Giovanni Capasso died this morning of a heart attack. Being that I am next in line, I now run what was the entire Capasso Family.” She smiled at him and walked back so that they were close. “Cheers to a new era?” And she lifted her glass. He tentatively touched his glass to hers.

“Are you sure that the rest of the family will follow suit? Not everyone’s hot to follow the lead of a female boss,” he said from behind her again. She looked back of her shoulder, a sly smile on her face.

“I have a way of dealing with men who do not like to take orders from women, Mr. Clark. What you suffered was just a love tap,”

“Have you ever killed anyone?” He asked her. She sighed and sat down on a leather couch in a small intimate library. Between them were low little white tables with candles and they were surrounded by books. He took a seat on another couch and put his elbows on his knees, looking at her through his sunglasses.

“Take those off,” she said. He did so, placing them on the table. She looked over his eye and smiled.

“Of course I have killed. It’s how things, real things, get done in our line of business, is it not? There are two types of people in the world Mr. Clark; those who listen to reason and those who listen to force. And it is unfortunate that most often in this life we lead, we deal with the latter than the former.” He nodded and sipped his whiskey. “Haven’t you had to kill?”

“Once, just once. I didn’t like it,” he said with finality. She nodded. He thought back to the kid he chased through a park two years ago. There had been shooting in his patrol sector, two blacks arguing over a 40 oz bottle of beer. One got heated and the other called him a bitch. That’s when the guns had come out. The first boy shot the second dead on the spot. His car was called to the scene, and when they arrived, the shooter was running down the street. Clark had jumped out and left his partner to take care of the victim. The foot chase ended three blocks away in Prospect Park, where the kid had turned and flashed the gun at Clark, and Clark buzzed the kid in the middle of his chest, exploding his heart.

The kid was 14.

Clark came back to reality and smiled a weak smile at De Rossi. She sensed something was wrong but didn’t want to pursue it.

“So let’s get back to business, shall we Mr.Clark?”


“Do you want to work for me, or do you want to go back to Boston. Because you can’t have both Mr. Clark. You cannot operate down in my city and still belong to them,”

“What’s in it for me?” She smiled, blushed a little bit and took a sip of her cognac. She leaned in a little, giving Clark a good look at her cleavage.

“Whatever you’d like,”

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