Read it here – Say what comes next.
Frank stared at the man on a park bench outside the restaurant and could not speak. He felt as if he watched an image of himself, but distorted into a monster. What kind of man killed for money? It made him conscious of the life he took so recently with his bare hands. Was he turning into a Tony Ferragamo? It never seemed so personal behind the controls of his F-15.
“Frank. Frank!” Roya cuffed his ear. “Follow me quick. I don’t want him to see us here.”
Frank quickly stood, tipping his chair over, then stumbled after her as if in a trance. They sat at a table further from the window and he finally found his voice. “That’s Ferragamo out there, right across the street.”
“Yes Frank. I know what you’re thinking. He didn’t follow us—it’s just one of those things. Get hold of yourself—we’ve got the advantage here. I’m going to be very, very Russian for a while. Play along with me.” Under the table, she passed something heavy onto his lap. He lifted a cloth napkin, revealing a .22 pistol with a silencer. Where did she get that? What else did she keep in her bag?
“Know how to use that? You got my back.” Without waiting for a response, Roya pushed through the door of the restaurant, crossed the street and marched directly to Ferragamo.
Through the big glass at the front of the cafe, Frank saw the man go tense. He watched, transfixed as the two stared at each other. What if Ferragamo killed her right there in the street? What made Roya so sure he wouldn’t? Ferragamo wanted to point the Mob at Frank and Roya’s plan to enlist the hit man seemed illogical and dangerous. Frank wondered if she lied to him about her reasons.
The waitress filled a coffee cup and Frank chugged the hot black brew to shake the shock from his head. She poured another and he downed it, then tested the weight of the pistol under his coat, dropped a few dollars on the table and moved fast through the kitchen, past the staff and into the alley. He ran down the alley as far as the next street. Turned onto the open sidewalk. Peered around the corner. Spotted Roya and Ferragamo. Neither looked his way.
Frank crossed the street and continued into the park, working his way behind the two. His hands shook. Maybe all that caffeine was a mistake. He took up a position behind a tree not 50 feet from the park bench. Holding the pistol, he braced his hands in the crotch of two limbs and sighted down the barrel at Ferragamo, hoping the tree would hide the gun and its long silencer from public view.
* * *
Tony Ferragamo watched the blonde approach him—the same broad hanging around his patsy, Frank Smith. She sat right next to him. What the hey?
He responded in an angry grumble. “What is this?”
“Let us get to point.” Her accent sounded Russian or something.
“I will soon eliminate Uomo Grasso.”
Tony snapped his head around to face her. Grasso dead could be real convenient for him. “What’s that to me?”
“You will work for me. And live longer. In better style.”
He looked her up and down. Not bad. Might be good for a night. “You got no idea who you’re fooling with.”
“I already execute four top men in organization. Are you so different from them? You fail to do a simple hit. You are gambling your life.” She nodded. “Yes, I know about you, Tony Ferragamo.”
He quickly grabbed a handful of her hair. Yanked her head back. Held the point of his hunting knife to her throat. “Whadaya mean, simple hit, you lousy slut?”
The bark of a silenced pistol and Tony felt an instant searing pain at his foot. The girl jammed her fingers into his eyes and before he could react, she seized his knife hand. Twisted his wrist. Wrenched his elbow the wrong way. He winced. Then she was behind him forcing his arm up his back till he thought it would break. His own knife blade pricked the back of his neck. She kicked the side of his knee and he squeezed his watering eyes shut. Then she talked in his ear from behind. “Nice muscles. I like. But they not do you much good right now.” She wrenched his arm tighter and he thought it might go out of joint. He felt his pistol slip out of his belt then the knife from his hand. It was all he could do to keep from crying out in pain. “Okay, okay. You made your point.”
“You Americans must learn. Tough guy does not mean professional. Look there, Tony. By that tree.” He complied but his vision was blurred. “Is your double. See him? Check your boot.” Tony glanced down at his throbbing foot to see a crease cut across the instep of his shoe. “Too bad to ruin such expensive pair. First shot is warning. Second is in your head. Do you want second bullet, Tony? If I give signal…”
She had him outflanked and Tony knew it. “Let go my arm.”
She released him and sat next to him while he slowly bent his elbow and flexed his shoulder. He saw her drop his knife and .38 in a big leather bag. “Such heavy hardware, Tony. .22 is better. Now you will answer my questions. First—how you find this Smith?”
“You been hangin’ ‘round the guy. Ain’t you on a first name basis yet?”
“Very well. How you find Frank?”
“Who are you?”
“Call me Roya. You remember. That little problem with Russians?”
Tony slowly nodded. So that was it. He thought she looked familiar. He lost six friends during that turf war. Now he knew what he was up against and it didn’t make him comfortable. He rubbed his arm. “How many did you do yourself?”
“Two men. One I make die slow.”
“What’s your angle in all this?”
Roya smiled. “More questions? I think word is revenge.”
Tony laughed and shook his head. “No money in that.”
“And if I take city?”
He met her gaze. This babe had chutzpah. “No woman ever controlled the Chicago underworld.”
Roya ran a finger down his trousers then tapped his knee at the spot where she’d kicked him. An electric jolt ran up his nerve. “There is always first time. That bloated pig–he control it now.” She clucked her tongue. “He know about your plan. He know about Frank Smith.”
“You lying bitch.”
She stood. “You take chance, Mr. Tough Guy?” She laughed lightly and Tony didn’t have an answer. “I prefer men to be, how you say, polite. Perhaps I make signal?”
He ignored her for the moment, then: “Gimme the names of the ones you took down.”
“Demands? Ah, you test me. Da, Tony. Four men: Luigi. Gort. Nicklaus. Petro. Big one was pleasure. I strangle him myself.”
Tony uttered an oath. This little slip of a foreigner killed the giant?
“I am burning organization to ground and Fat One with it. You work for me now, Tony. Is better than Mexico.”
“What about the police, the Feds.”
She sighed. “They are such nuisance. You always have them with you, Tony. Enough. Answer question immediately. How you find look-alike?”
He nodded. Why not play along? Call it Plan B. If this broad took out Uomo, it sure would simplify things. Either way, what difference did it make what she knew? “Okay hot stuff, you earned my respect so I’ll tell you. The whole thing was easy. Facebook. This Frank Smith moron has it all out in the open—address and everything. Probably lonely for a lost sweetheart. Soon as I see his picture, I got it figured. Guy looks just like me. All I gotta do is let everybody follow me to Smith, then disappear. Beautiful setup.”
“But you not disappear.”
He grinned. “Gotta keep my eye on things till I’m sure it all works out. And I can help it along. Eventually, they’ll bury him in cement and nobody’ll ever know the difference.”
“And if police get him first?”
“That puts him in Uomo’s hands. Why you askin’ if you got it all figured?”
“Like I say Tony, I test you. Next question: Who is target you forget to take out?”
Ferragamo went silent. He had to think this out. Then he nodded and spoke in a low tone. “Some jobs you don’t touch—some you wish you hadn’t. Uomo wanted the Governor whacked.”
“Where is profit?”
“Casinos. Governor blocked ‘em. Uomo wants to make Chicago another Atlantic City, but he didn’t stop with the Gov. State Supreme Court—three of ‘em don’t want gambling. So it wasn’t no simple hit.”
“And you run.”
Ferragamo raised his voice. “Don’t you get it? What’s the percentage? Job like that—it’s a death sentence. Uomo paid too much up front—tipped his hand. No way I live to spend it.”
Roya sat beside him again. “He kill you when you finish job. Sounds so Russian, Tony. I am thrilled to hear.” She laughed. “Perhaps I misjudge you. Come work for me. I will hold this town in the palm of my hand. But I need organization. If problem with authorities, I fly you to Tahiti in the Fat One’s—in my private jet. Or we give Frank to authorities.”
Tony knew Uomo’s Gulfstream could make the trip non-stop. “Thought you two were in thick.”
“I do not think he help build organization like you.”
Tony’s arm throbbed and his knee tingled. His foot burned. His vision was blurred. But Roya had him–had him as he looked her up and down again and licked his lips. “I like your style, babe.”
Roya smiled and raised a hand, crooked a finger. In a moment, Frank stood beside them. “Tony, you should meet your twin brother Frank.”
Tony hesitated. His brother? He knew it was a possibility but wasn’t ready to accept it. Still, it explained a lot. Again, he determined to play along. If things didn’t go his way, he’d probably find himself in a better position than ever to execute Plan A. He looked up, trying to appear sincere. “Did Uomo know about that connection?”
“Of course he know. The Fat One is—what is word? Perverse? He want to see brother kill brother. Is big game.”
That finally added up. Tony stood and took Frank’s hand in a firm shake.
Frank glanced at the crease in Tony’s shoe, satisfid that his shot hit the mark perfectly.
“No hugs, boys. The police’ll be here any minute. Let’s get moving.”
Tony squinted at her. “What happened to the accent?”
Roya sighed. “It comes and goes. Can’t talk pigeon all day long. A girl gets tired of it.”
* * *
“Uncle Uomo, are you sure that’s wise?” Desi didn’t like it at all—Uomo in Vegas to cut a deal with the Gionelli family. That ran counter to everything he swore on his mother’s grave that he would never do. “We still have plenty of men.”
“You are an ass, my nephew.” The low rumble came across the phone. “Think. We lose four good men and one turns traitor. You would put family at risk before…” He raised his voice. “Before we know exactly who we are dealing with?”
“You’ll give the Gionelli family a foothold in Chicago.”
“I am disappointed in you, Desi. I send you to the best schools. You constantly nag at me to keep up with the world but you have much to learn. We outsource our muscle. I believe that is the term you use with me so many times. Let this Russian gang kill Gionelli’s people–not ours. During that time, you learn what is going on.”
“No, Uncle…” Desi stopped, knowing argument gained him nothing.
“Get me the truth, you insufferable whelp.”
* * *
Agent Harris hung up the phone. No new leads on any front. The trail of Frank Smith and Roya Fetova was cooling it made him sweat. He knew in his gut there was some connection between those two and Grasso.
Harris already assigned four more agents to keep watch on the local mob. Now, Uomo was at some pow-wow in Sin City. The local FBI office claimed to have no assets in that group—as if he were supposed to believe that. He knew he’d never learn much about that meeting, but he was sure of one thing. Two mob families added up to no good. Add in the Smith and Fetova bunch and it looked like a bloodbath in the making.
“Here’s the coroner’s report on that wreck.” Paul set the file on Stan’s desk. “Positive ID on those two charred corpses.”
Harris leaned back and stretched his taught neck muscles. “Thanks Paul.” He studied the file and recognized the names immediately. Two more of Uomo’s men. He let out a bushel of air. Mob war. He had a mob war on his hands.
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.