Danny Spagnoli tears
into a second slice of pepperoni. Grease oozes its way off his chin like molten
lava sliding down the side of a volcano. I have taken one bite from my first
slice, burning the hell out of the roof of my mouth in the process. Danny says because
I’m Irish I can’t eat hot pizza, the way an Italian can.
It’s after nine on a
Thursday night. We’re the only ones in
the joint, Springsteen’s on the juke, singing Atlantic City. Danny’s drinking a
Moretti; I’m slowly sipping a Yuengling. It’s been two weeks since Danny killed
Rob McEvoy and Sean Reilly. Danny works for Joey Merlino and whacking a couple
of micks over a meth deal made him his bones.
We are in the
neighborhood where we grew up near Logan Square. It’s been gentrified and it
sure ain’t the same as it was. Used to be a tough neighborhood, tough but nice
if you know what I mean. Everybody knew one another and the beat cop would give
you a swift kick in the ass or drag you home by your ear if he caught you
screwing around. That is unless he was on a stool in Oscar’s Tavern knocking
back a shot of Bushmill’s. Now it’s a bunch of wimpy-looking hipsters with
their craft cocktails. Nothing stays the same, except for this old pizza joint,
the only change here is some of the songs on the juke box. It’s why me and
Danny come here, reminds us of the old days.
and me were pals from the day we fought each other in third grade at Holy
Redeemer to see who was at the top of the pecking order. Turns out it was
neither of us. Sister Mary Agnes, who was the biggest nun I ever saw, pulled us
apart and laid into us with a ruler and the square-toed black shoes she wore.
After we absorbed that beating, she sent us to Father Brannigan’s office where
he took a belt to our bare butts.
first bust came when we robbed the candy
store around the corner from the row houses where we lived. Twelve years old,
couple of career crooks in
the making. We went to juvie together, just like we did everything in those
days. Danny was sixteen when he got out and the day after beat the shit out of
Father Brannigan. He always said dreaming of that day got him through four
years of lock up. He also said the good father liked our butts bare. There were
rumors about him. Danny fixed his ass good.
Not long after, we
held up a bar in Devil’s Pocket. Turns out it was owned by Lefty Shannon who
fronted the Irish mob in Philly. Only took a day for some of his guys to round
us up and deliver us to Lefty. He tells us he ought to just whack us and dump
our remains in the Schuylkill River. Instead, a couple of his goons knock us
around for a while then Lefty surprises the hell out of us by offering us jobs.
Says we’re either the dumbest crooks ever or we got balls bigger than the
Liberty Bell. But he makes sure to let us know that someday we will have to
repay the debt we owe him.
Lefty and his crew
had just expanded into the meth trade and he hires us to make deliveries to the
Warlocks and Hell’s Angels, two biker gangs that are his biggest customers.
It’s easy money and for a year or two we have no issues. Then a strung-out
Angel who goes by the name Hard Rock tries to shake us down. When Danny told him
to fuck off, Hard Rock took offense and pulled a blade. So, I put a hole in his
chest with a .38. That stops him in a hurry. Guess he wasn’t so hard after all.
The charge gets pled
down to manslaughter and Danny and me end up in Pine Grove. That’s a maximum-security
joint for youthful offenders. That place was a goddamn jungle. Took a year
before the cons there learned not to mess with us and believe it or not, after
that we both stacked our time and kept our noses clean.
When we got out
after five years, Joey Merlino had been released after serving a jolt on a RICO
beef and was back running the Italian mob. One of Danny’s cousins was a
lieutenant and recruited Danny. I went back to work for Lefty Shannon. I didn’t
see much of Danny. We would occasionally have a beer or go to Penn National to
bet the ponies.
Danny got caught
hijacking trucks and that earned him a nickel in Rockview. I busted up a
crooked lawyer who was behind on payments he owed Lefty and got sent to Albion.
Doing time without my old running mate was tough but I got by.
Soon as I got out, I
hooked back up with Lefty, started doing hits for him. A while later I heard
Danny was back on the street,
doing the same for Joey Merlino. We still got together occasionally, and it was
always like old times—that is until Merlino tried to muscle in on the meth
trade. When Danny took out two guys that worked for Shannon, I knew the shit
would hit the fan.
Lefty called me the
night before, reminded me of my debt to him.
Danny’s stuffing his
face with pizza. I’m still picking at my first slice. Under the table, a .357 is
pointed at his gut. I pull the trigger
until the gun is empty, my debt paid.
his last pizza; he always said if he ever got the death penalty that would be
his request for a last meal. Besides, all those years ago when we held up
Lefty’s bar? That was all Danny’s idea. So, he only has himself to blame.
Baber’s crime fiction and poetry have appeared widely online and in numerous
anthologies. His writing has earned Derringer Prize and best of the Net
consideration. A book of his poetry, Where the Wind Comes to Play, was
published by Berberis Press in 2011. He lives in Tucson with his wife and a
spoiled dog and has been known to cross the border for a cold beer. He is
working on his first novel.
John L. Thompson
currently lives in New Mexico with his wife of twenty-five years.
When he is not searching for
lost remnants of the old west, he can be found working on several writing projects.
Thompson is known to have worked as a truck driver, heavy line diesel mechanic, armored
truck guard, corrections, body guard, and a host of other professions.
His true passion is writing, collecting vintage books and is the current cover
artist for the Casca the Eternal Mercenary series. His novel 'Truck Stop' is due
out 2017-18 by Dusty Desert Press.