From the Inside Flap
Bartolommeo motioned the worker to beat it.The old-timer sauntered off into the shadows of the stage with his push broom.Bartolommeo kept an eye on the worker to be sure what he was about to say wasnot over-heard. "It's done. Carlo Axler, ten thousand."
"This is a Polish boy, not the Pope."
"Perhaps you prefer to have your son doit."
"The price of blood money, these men arevampires. I don't think we should go through with this, Bartolo." Anthony'sface became so distraught he appeared to be a pale-skinned Englishman.
"This is my daughter found naked and your,soon to be, daughter-in-law."
Anthony retrieved a tattered telegram fromhis pocket and began to read aloud. "Nicole is mine, she was never yours. Yourfamilies' blood will never run pure." He studied the expression onBartolommeo's face. It read nothing but trouble. "What kind of hogwash is this,Bartolo? Any bum could've sent it. It happens all the time for Christ's sake."
Bartolommeo took the telegram and crumpledit in his stubby hand. "Not to me. Don't you see, Anthony, they've fallen inlove. They met at your God forsaken lake and now they're spending nightstogether. I say this Polish boy sent Nicole this telegram."
"We don't know that for sure. I say we hirea real detective."
"I say we end the problem right now and payCarlo the money."
"I'd say you've gone mad."
"Then mad I've gone. But this Polack won'trun off with my only daughter and destroy my family's name."
Anthony let the hard truth sink in. Nicolerunning off with this Polish boy, embarrassing his only son was hard venom toswallow. Reluctantly, "I don't trust reporters so don't get this in the papers.I can't afford a public scandal."
A broad, tough smile broke acrossBartolommeo's face. "Relax, Mr. Big Shot District Attorney, no one will pointtheir pencil-worn finger at us."
"What about O'Garrity? The fool, I don'tlike him. He couldn't find his way home from a daydream."
"That's why he's perfect for this. We'vetaken every legal step we can take. O'Garrity keeps the boy on the run. Hisfamily is, or perhaps could be, involved with illegal running of rum across theDetroit River. If the boy disappears or is brutally murdered, who would be thewiser? Certainly not O'Garrity."
"Still, this kind of thing makes menervous. We're not little boys playing in Palermo any longer."
At this, Bartolommeo held up his glass."Yes, we were troubled young men. To when days were different and we weredifferent men."
Bartolommeo took a mouthful and swished itabout his hippo teeth. "Salute," Anthony said and did the same, but with a lotmore grace. "Not bad for a couple of old Guineas like you and I."
"You and your public life are old, Anthony.I am merely fermenting in the shade like fine wine waiting for my time to becherished by others." Bartolommeo pulled two hand rolled cigars from his coatpocket. He rolled one between two of his stubby fingers and waited. He knewAnthony had tried to quit so he didn't offer. He merely clipped their ends. Heknew Anthony well. Inevitably, Anthony extended his hand and Bartolommeo placedthe cigar in it. The other one he threw at his own face and it lodged firmly inplace between his stained teeth. He sucked on it like a newborn child. Anthonyheld up his lighter. Its flame leapt in front of Bartolommeo's face.Bartolommeo's eyes shifted away, hiding something as unfathomable as sinisterfrom his best friend.
"What is it, Bartolommeo?"
"Nothing." Bartolommeo fought to hide anythought of his deep dark secret that was buried beyond the glow in hiscalculating eyes. As far as he knew, only two other people alive that nightknew how much truth that telegram contained. And one of them was a poet.
"Are you sure?"
Anthony smoked a moment and dropped themental strip search and sank into a familiar reflective mood. It was part ofthe reason why he tried to quit smoking. It reminded him of his dear departedwife. "Women," he said and sighed as he lit his own cigar again, "love them andthey perish to the beyond, despise them, and they live to haunt you forever."
"Political power has made you cynical, mydear friend."
"Thank you. It has also made me a lonelyman. I look forward to the pounding of little feet again."
"Perhaps you should remarry."
"Digamy? Never. A promise is a promise."Anthony swirled his cognac and held it up so that the work light from the stageshone through it. "How much of this have we brought across this month?"
Bartolommeo chuckled at his childhoodfriend and reached for the bottle that lay between them. He splashed anotherounce in both glasses. "You, Anthony, would make love to the most beautifulwoman in the world then ask yourself how much. I, on the other hand, would haveto kill for such an opportunity and laugh at how little it cost me."
"I am a public figure. It's my nature toworry. I do worry, I promise you, Bartolo, I worry."
"Nature! The wind is the force of nature.The wind billows the sails of innocent men and launches the ships of reason.Nature doesn't worry where it blows our ship, and neither should you. So,relax, let the wind introduce us to whole new worlds."
"Screw Columbus, I don't want new worlds. Iwant money and power and a family to pass it onto. You understand me, don'tyou? Now, how much?"
"Trust me, my friend, we want the samethings, me and you. Two more truck loads arrive at the lake tomorrow. For atotal of just eight this month. I'll move it to Florida on the sixth and we'llbe done for thirty days. Fast and simple." With this he drew contently on hiscigar and blew out a cloud of boastful smoke, following it with his eyes towardthe old darky who now somberly roamed further out onto the dance floor, lockedin a silent romance with his mop. Bartolommeo leaned across the table, keepinghis hands underneath, "Don't worry. I've got Albert and Johnny tracking theNiemiec family to see if they're stocking a warehouse. If Michal is running rumand is as careless as his boy, and we tip O'Garrity at the right moment,perhaps with a little luck, The Polish Gang will be out of the bootleggingbusiness forever, maybe even deported on charges by my dear friend the DA.Charming enough?"
Anthony had to smile at the way his fat littlefriend's devious mind worked. "You always were a cruel bastard."
"True, I am to blame that bad things happento those who wrong me. That is not being cruel in my eyes. That is just playingthe game."
"And I'm fully aware I wouldn't be where Iam today politically without a good man like you making things happen the waythey're supposed to happen in this town." They toasted in agreement. "ToProhibition."
"May it, and all our generations liveforever."
They drank deeply then smokedphilosophically. A cloud formed above them before Bartolommeo continued, "Youand I, Anthony, we should've been brothers."
"And now we shall be grandparents together,instead."
"God bless America."
So the solution tothe unfortunate circumstances that life had bestowed upon Bartolommeo andAnthony was simple -- ten thousand dollars. The outcome, the Polish boy mustdie.