It was cold outside, real cold. The wind was angry around East Market Street and got
downright mean when we made the left onto Foster Avenue. The street was deserted;
it was dinner time in Brooklyn. She put her arm through mine. My body temperature went up like a shot.
“Don’t get the wrong idea, Johnny. That Army jacket is thin as paper, just trying to keep you alive until we get to your mother’s.” I turned my head to face her, there was just enough street light to see those beautiful eyes looking directly at me. My temperature rose a few more degrees.
“Then what?” I tried to smile, but my lips froze half way and I just looked
“She asked me to fetch you. And I did. That’s all I know.”
She squeezed my arm so tight it hurt.
“Johnny, just walk, don’t talk. Ok?”
I did as she said. We passed Connie’s News Stall; he was closing up.
“Hey Connie, can I get a pack of Lucky’s?”
Connie was busy counting his extra papers and didn’t look up.
“Sorry pal, I’m closed,” then he pushed his cap up an inch, “Oh, it’s you Johnny! I wasn’t looking.” He looked at Mary, a lot longer than he looked at me, “Hi Mary, pretty cold out tonight, ain’t it?”
Mary smiled at Connie,
“Yeah, Connie, pretty cold.”
Connie grabbed the pack of Lucky’s, handed it to me and I tossed him a half dollar. He bent down to make the change.
“Don’t worry about it, Connie.”
“Thanks, Johnny.” Connie looked at the shiny coin. “Hey Johnny, my brudda’s wrestling tomorrow at the Garden, you comin?”
Connie’s brother was known as The Cave Man in the fast-growing professional wrestling world; he wasn’t all that tall, just under six feet, but almost as wide. He was covered with matted hair from neck to his feet. It was a thing to behold. Whenever he went to the beach at Coney Island, he’d have an empty quarter acre all to himself. He was a terror in the ring and would roar at the crowd. The public ate it up. Right now, he was a winner and destined for a chance at the championship. After that, who knew. But now he was riding high, saving his dough and making sure he was around for supper every night with his wife, a smiling pleasant woman, and five children.
“You bet!” I answered as we hustled down the street.
I noticed Mary’s hold on me had now included most of her body. It felt good.
We took the left at 93rd Street to where my parents lived and climbed up a flight to the apartment. The door opened into the kitchen. My old man sat at the large wooden table reading his Brooklyn Eagle. Emma, my kid sister, was busy trying to show Mama a pattern for a new dress. My cousin Eddie was sitting on the opposite side of the table, staring at Emma and fidgeting. Mama was stirring her Pasta Fuzool and the whole place smelled like heaven with just a touch of furniture polish and a slight hint of fish; my old man worked the docks.
Mama looked up at me and frowned.
“How come Mary has to get you out of Tony’s place? Whatsa matter? You too good to have supper with your family?”
“I was busy on a case, and thought I’d grab a bite. It’s late, and I wasn’t supposed to come around until tomorrow.” I countered.
Mama raised her wooden spoon at me, not a good sign.
“Don’t be fresh, Mr. Big Private Detective.” She looked at my cousin Eddie.
My father snorted behind his paper.
“Eddie came with the news”
Emma perked up, “I went to your office a couple of hours ago.”
Pop looked over his paper, “What office? He’s got a store room at Pasquale’s
grocery store!” Then he tucked his head behind the paper.
Mama’s eyes softened.
“Okay, Okay. Johnny’s here now.” She motioned to the table, “Sit down Johnny,
Eddie has something to tell you.”
Eddie stretched his neck, “Why me?”
Pop put his paper down.
“Tell Johnny what you heard, Eddie.”
Suddenly the room got very tense. This was not about missing dinner. That part I got.
“It’s Vincent, Johnny. They found him in the print shop this morning. He was pretty beat up.”
“He was working late at the shop last night, and some guys came in, wrecked some of the machines and beat poor Vincent up.”
I looked at Mary.
“Why didn’t you tell me right away?”
Mary looked as startled by the news as I was.
“Honestly Johnny, I didn’t know. You mother just called and asked me if I knew where you were and if I could look around for you and bring you home.”
Mama touched Mary’s arm tenderly, “I didn’t want to worry you sweetheart.”
“Okay, Okay. Where is he now?” I asked.
“Over at St Agnes Hospital,” said Eddie. I grabbed the door.
“I’m going there now.” Mary looked stricken.
“I’ll go with you.” Mama looked at me and said,
“Can’t you sit down for a few minutes and have some dinner? I’m sure they’re taking care of poor Vincent.”
I leaned over and kissed my mother.
“No, Ma, I gotta go now. I’m gonna find out who did this and I’m gonna make them pay.”
“That’s what mama’s afraid of,” Pop said in a soft voice hidden behind the wall of news.