A Crowdsourced Novel
Read it here – Say what comes next.
“I’m sorry, Uncle Uomo. Both of ‘em were already dead when we got there.”
A massive fist, came down on the desk and Desi watched Grasso’s bloated jowls tighten. “Do not—do not ever simper with apologies. If that were necessary, you would already be…let us say I would have no further use for your services.” He scowled and leaned back in his massive chair, suddenly placid or seemingly so. Desi knew his uncle’s changing moods.
Oumo tilted his desk chair back a few inches, a chair Desi had personally chosen. $1,500—a birthday gift. It held his uncle’s 450 pounds and could hold more. Desi ordered a new one every year. Now, standing before the crime lord, he tried to appear calm and competent.
Fat lips formed words slowly in a low growl. “I sent you too late, Desi. I must speak to my people about their—shall we say inadequate alacrity?”
Desi tried not to let his expression change as his uncle went on.
“Now I have something of a dilemma. Not only must I find the traitor, Mr. Ferragamo, but I have lost two of my best men, the men who knew the most about his location. The airplane cannot be traced to me but I do not like the fact that Gort is dead—a man who possessed a peculiar facility to instill obedience. And I will miss my friend Luigi, who was not only intelligent but loyal like a brother to me. Always remember, Desi, loyalty is most important. It is difficult to buy outside of one’s family.
Desi nodded, but remained standing and controlled his expression. He’d kill Uncle Uomo if he could figure a way to take his place.
The low voice again: “We have Mr. Ferragamo to thank for this—this outrage. I will not underestimate him again but I will have my vengeance. Put the word on the street. One hundred thousand to the one who brings me his—shall we make it his head?” The fat lips curled into a sneer that Desi recognized as Uomo’s smile. “Yes, his head—on a silver platter. It’s so exquisitely Biblical.”
* * *
“Paul, get me Dan Mahoney at organized crime.” Agent Harris waited for the signal then picked up the receiver. “Mahoney let me pose an interesting question. Is your suspended agent capable of strangling a 300 pound giant?”
Mahoney chuckled and responded in his nasal whine. “Even for Roya that’s a bit unconventional.” He paused. “It does seem unlikely, but I suppose it’s remotely possible. She is quite resourceful and does what it takes to get the job done. Don’t let her petite frame fool you. Pound for pound she is physically very strong.”
“Okay, that’s all I wanted to know.”
“I haven’t finished, Stan. Since she is technically still my responsibility, I would like to be kept in the loop. There are some ongoing undercover operations that could be compromised if we don’t handle this correctly.”
Harris balled a fist. “What gives you to think it won’t be handled correctly you Washington pencil pusher?”
The nasal voice: “No offense, but recall that incident with Sergey.”
“That was your screw-up, not mine.”
“It happened in your jurisdiction, Harris.”
“You’ll hear from me when I’ve got something for you. Till then, stay out of my way.” Harris slammed the phone on the cradle. “Paul, find me these people. We got an agent gone bad and new muscle out there. I want them off the street. Got that?”
* * *
Tony Ferragamo watched Roya duck into the women’s restroom at Union Station. She hadn’t spotted him—he was sure of it. He stood half hidden behind a kiosk selling sunglasses. How she’d eluded him on the train, he couldn’t figure, but now he knew what he was up against. This needed more care, more thought. For the present, he’d follow her and she’d lead him to Frank Smith. He could plan his next move once he took in the whole situation.
There she was, marching out the door at full stride. She went right up to a beat cop. What the hey? In a minute, they both marched directly to him. Tony looked over his shoulder and scanned the room. No escape. When he turned back, the blonde and the cop stepped up to his face. She pointed at Tony and spoke to the cop. “Officer, I don’t know about rules and stuff, and maybe I watch too much TV, but this guy has been stalking me all the way from Joliet. You can see he’s carrying a gun in his pants.”
Tony saw her flash a quick smile then switch back to a frightened look. He wanted to shoot both of them right there.
The cop’s expression turned from blank to grim and he unbuckled the flap on his holster. “Sir, do you have a permit for a concealed weapon?”
Tony tilted his Cubs hat back on his head and tried to look innocent. He watched the blonde back away. She kept backing up. Then she turned and walked briskly to the stairs. He was losing her.
He looked the cop in the face. “Officer, I’m a Federal Agent in pursuit of a criminal. Here’s my ID.” In one move, Tony pulled a hunting knife and plunged the blade into the cop’s solar plexus and up to the heart.
The feeling gave him an instant thrill. The policeman went down immediately. Crouched on one knee, Tony withdrew the knife, wiped it on the uniform, then wiped his hand and wrist across the policeman’s coat. He slipped the knife into a sheathe in his jeans.
Those in the crowd that saw the act stood stunned then they made way for him.
He quickly moved through the milling crowd to the stairs. Posing as Frank Smith gave him a feeling of invincibility.
* * *
Frank Smith sat quietly on the Metra ride to Crystal Lake, watching Roya in the seat facing him, reflecting on what he knew and what he could surmise about events to date. Roya had to know more than she let on. “The guy chasing us—who was his target?”
She undid the pony tail and shook out her hair. “What makes you think I know?”
“You figure him for a hit man. You figure it’s a hit gone wrong. You figure the target was somebody important. The guy looks just like me so you figure he wants the mob to kill me in his place. You were on the inside. So I figure you know the target.”
Roya closed her eyes for several moments then finally looked directly at Frank. “We know Uomo Grasso is after you and thinks you’re this hit man. He could have told the goons to make you disappear in Missouri instead of bringing you to Chicago, so, we know it must be personal with him. That means Grasso let the contract himself. So I was thinking. If Don Grasso himself wants Frank Speck so badly, it might help if we got to know the guy better. Maybe have him on our side. Of course we have to make sure it’s not a trap. I’m sure he’ll untangle himself from the police and find us again. When he does, I want a talk with him.
Frank looked at her. Was she crazy? “You’re joking. You already told me Speck will kill me himself if he can’t get the mob to do it. That’s how he disappears, right?”
Roya smiled. “What’s the matter, Frank? Losing your nerve? I just want to talk to the guy. He’s kinda cute, if you know what I mean.”
Frank didn’t respond to her innuendo. “No, Roya. We lost him now—let’s keep it that way.”
“How we gonna do that, Frank? He’ll find you eventually. This way, if he doesn’t want to join us, I can take care of things. Listen, I have a friend back at the organized crime division. He and Sergey were tight. I can trust him. I’ll just ask some questions. So far we’re acting on guesswork. We need real answers.”
She pulled a phone out of her bag and dialed a number. “Dan Mahoney, please.” A pause. “Dan, it’s RF…Can’t help that. Gotta talk to you…Yeah everybody’s after us—you guys, the mob, and a loose hit man. What can you tell me about the hit man?…Uh huh…Okay later.” She put away the phone and went silent, looking pleased with herself.”
“So, what did he say?”
Roya grinned. “The hit man’s name is Frank Smith.”
She laughed. “Dan’s gonna call me back. We’ll know more later. Here’s our station, Frank.”
Roya’s sister was waiting as they stepped off the train. Frank looked around at the quaint, small town stores a good hour and a half train ride outside Chicago. He thought it looked okay for a place to hide.
Tatiana led them to her SUV and they drove the few miles to her large house on the lake. There was a room above the garage for Frank. Roya took the guest room. Frank decided to take a shower. As long as Roya was with her sister, she couldn’t do anything crazy.
When he rejoined them a half hour later, Roya put away her phone. “Listen, Tatiana I think I’ll take Frank for a walk—show him around.
Outside, they walked the lawn to the lakeshore. A breeze off the water. The air alive with insect noise. A speedboat tied up at the dock. “What’s up?” Frank asked. “Or did you just miss me?”
“Actually, yes, but listen. I just got the call from my contact inside. The guy following us? Turns out it’s not you after all.” She giggled. “He might be Tony Ferragamo, who happens to be a hit man for Grasso. I don’t know the target but maybe Ferragamo squealed to the Feds. Maybe he got on the witness protection program under the name—and get this—Frank Speck. And maybe Grasso found him. And maybe you’re his patsy because you look alike.” She laughed again. “Frank it’s too beautiful to be true.” She spoke through the laughter and tears. “Our guesses were on target. I love it. I just love it.”
Frank looked at the lights across the lake and turned his thoughts inward. What was so funny about it?
She leaned against him. “Listen, Frank, you ever see that old Steve McQueen movie, Bullet? Remember when he’s being tailed and he switches places with the stalker? That’s what we’re gonna do. My contact gave me an address for Tony’s sister, Delores, in Berwyn. I think we might want to do a little stakeout to see if he’s hanging out there.”
HOW TO PLAY–This is an interactive story based on Nate’s game in my novel. You get to say what comes next:
1.) KEEP IT SHORT – It’s easy to play Nate’s game. Just enter your idea as a comment like, “their jeep drives off a cliff.” Don’t worry about form—just suggest the next step in the story. I’ll pick one, write it, and post it as a scene in serial form.
2.) KEEP IT CLEAN – I hold the veto pen. In general, if it wouldn’t fly in an old 60’s Bond movie, then it’s out. Since this is an experiment, I get to add rules as we go along.
3.) SHARE – Your posts are a precious gift to me. Maybe you’ll help write my next novel. If so, I’ll list your name prominently as a contributor. If not, then we’ll just have a great time. I take you at your word that all ideas are your original thoughts. No criticism. No arguments. No lawsuits allowed. Let’s have some fun.