Read an Excerpt
Coney Island Avenue
By J.L. Abramo
Down & Out BooksCopyright © 2017 J.L. Abramo
All rights reserved.
The face in the mirror returned a dazzling smile.
The lips, complete with a fresh coat of Covergirl Fairytale 405 lipstick, mouthed three words. I feel pretty.
It was her twenty-fourth birthday, Eddie had made dinner reservations at New Corners Restaurant and Angela Salerno knew that Eddie Cicero was going to pop the question.
Eddie would be arriving soon to pick her up, with a fistful of flowers and a ring hidden in a jacket pocket. Angela turned from the mirror and redirected her attention to the new dress neatly laid out on the bed. It was a little black number, short black satin with spaghetti strings. When Angela had tried the dress on at Cue Boutique in Fort Hamilton her best friend Barb had assured her: You look so hot you are going to burn New Corners down.
It was Barbara who had confirmed Eddie had a ring. It was Barbara's boyfriend Albert, Eddie's best friend, who let Barbara in on the secret. Barb had not been able to keep it to herself.
Angela didn't mind, she could act surprised. She was thrilled knowing Eddie had finally decided to take the big step.
Angela was about to pull the new dress over a short black silk slip when there was a knock on the apartment door. Eddie was early. Better than late.
She danced over to the door and she looked through the peephole.
It was her brother Vincent.
She reluctantly opened the door. Vincent rushed in, moved her back into the living room and quickly pushed the door shut.
Vinnie was carrying a large green gym bag and he was visibly upset.
"I need money, Angie," he said.
"Hi, sis, it's been awhile, you look great, happy birthday," Angela said.
"Hi, sis, happy birthday, you look great," Vinnie said. "I need money."
"I have an address for his parents' place and one for his sister. I want both watched until he shows up."
"Give me the addresses, I'll call Gallo," Mr. Smith said.
Thomas Murphy took possession of a stool at the bar.
Augie Sena, from the opposite side of the bar, set a bottle of Samuel Adams Boston Lager within Murphy's reach a moment later.
"I haven't seen you move that fast since the last visit from the Health Department," Murphy said. "How did you know I wanted a beer?"
"Wild guess. It's on me."
"My birthday is not for another five months."
"I might not live that long," Augie said. "The beer, my friend, is meant in way of congratulations."
"You heard I won two bucks on a ten dollar lottery ticket?"
"I heard you're up for lieutenant."
"Bad news travels fast," said Murphy. "Thanks for the beer anyway."
"I'll bet you the two bucks you would love the fried calamari over linguini for dinner."
"Just call me Sena the Psychic, but the calamari is not on the house."
"That, my clairvoyant friend, even I could have guessed. I'll take it with the hot sauce."
Angie Salerno gave her brother Vincent all of the cash she had on hand.
Vinnie thanked her with a bear hug.
"Okay, Vincent. You'll ruin my makeup. And what's with the gym bag? Did Mom's washing machine break down or are you planning a trip to Monte Carlo?"
"Cute. I have to run. By the way, you do look great."
"Thanks. Go, before Eddie gets here and I beg him to slap some sense into you," Angie said. "Be careful."
Vinnie ran down the two flights of stairs and was about to exit through the front door when he suddenly decided against it.
He continued down to the basement instead, opened the metal door at the rear of the house, skipped up the concrete steps and slipped out to the back alley.
He headed down the alley toward Avenue U, turned east on the avenue, and hurried over to the elevated train station on McDonald Avenue.
He rushed up the stairs and anxiously waited for an F Train.
A man in a gray suit slipped into the front passenger seat of a black Lincoln sedan on the opposite side of the street from the house entrance.
"Are you sure he's in there?" he asked the man behind the wheel.
"I watched him go in and I called you, I haven't seen him come out. I checked the mailboxes. His sister lives on the top floor."
"I would rather deal with him out here."
"We can wait."
"Who is that?"
They watched a young man walk into the building.
"How the fuck should I know?"
"On second thought, let's not wait."
"There's a kid in a hurry," Augie Sena said, seeing a young man with a green gym bag race past the front window of Joe's Bar and Grill. "Maybe you should go after the kid. He may have knocked off the Jerusalem Pizzeria."
"He'd deserve a medal. The pizza there tastes like soaked cardboard."
"How is the linguini?"
"Not bad," Murphy said. "How did you get it delivered here so fast?"
"Anyone ever tell you you're a laugh a minute, Tommy?"
"I hear it every sixty seconds," Murphy said, slipping a forkful of calamari past his smile.
"My sister's boy is popping the question."
"What question is that? Why is the eggplant always greasy?"
"He bought a ring for his girlfriend."
"Jesus, Augie, what kind of uncle are you? Couldn't you talk him out of it?"
"You're a hopeless cynic, Tommy. I haven't met her, but my sister says she seems likes a very nice girl."
"They all seem like nice girls, and then they grow into their mothers. Which sister?"
"The sister who married Cicero? I'm not too sure about her judgment."
Murphy shook his head and let out a deep sigh.
"What?" asked Augie Sena.
"The cynic and the psychic," Murphy said. "We're quite a pair."
It was all Eddie Cicero could manage to say when Angie opened the apartment door wearing the short black spaghetti string dress.
"Not bad, right?"
"How am I supposed to give the osso buco at New Corners the attention it deserves with you sitting across the table in that thing?"
"Chew slowly," Angie said, beaming.
Eddie handed her a dozen red roses.
Then there was a rapping at the door.
"Expecting your other boyfriend?" Eddie said.
"Everyone is a comedian. It's probably my worthless brother. He was just here for another handout."
Angie opened the door half way.
The two men in the doorway did not look friendly.
"We're looking for Vincent Salerno," said the shorter man.
He was well groomed and he wore a gray business suit. An expensive suit. He could have passed for a banker.
His companion wore a blue jogging suit and looked like something she might have seen in a zoo.
"Vincent is not here," Angie said, Eddie close at her side.
"We saw him come in."
"He was here, he left. I don't know where he ran off to."
"Mind if we take a look?"
"Yes. I do mind."
The ape violently shoved the door open, knocking Angie and the flowers to the floor. Eddie reacted and went after the big man. The gorilla laid Eddie out cold with a roundhouse punch. The two men walked into the apartment. The well-dressed man shut the door while the big man kept an eye on Angie.
"We can do this the easy way or the hard way," the banker said.
"Very original. God, you really hurt him," Angie said, looking over at Eddie.
The big man kicked her in the side.
"Where is Vincent?"
"I told you I have no idea where my brother went," Angela screamed from the floor. "Keep that animal away from us."
The big man kicked her again. Then he pulled a gun out of his jacket and pointed it down at Eddie. Eddie was still unconscious.
"Please, don't," Angie said, terrified. "Take whatever you want. I swear, I won't say anything to anyone."
"Where is your brother?" the man in the business suit said.
"I don't know."
"I am not going to ask you again."
"Please, I don't know."
"Fine. I believe you."
Suddenly the big man made it official and then Mr. Smith made it absolutely final.
Vincent Salerno hopped off the F Train at 42 Street and he walked the two blocks to the Port Authority Bus Terminal. Vinnie used most of the money he had scored from his sister, his girlfriend and the man in the restaurant for a one-way bus ticket to Chicago. The bus was scheduled to leave in less than an hour. He walked into Casa Java, located an empty chair at a small table near the rear exit, placed the gym bag under his seat and held it between his feet.
Vinnie nearly jumped out of his skin when he finally noticed the waitress standing beside him.
"Can I help you?" she asked.
"I doubt it."
"Coffee," Vincent said. "Light. Lots of sugar."
Mary Valenti had been attending evening Mass at Sts. Simon and Jude every Wednesday since losing her husband to a massive heart attack fourteen months earlier. As Mary crossed Avenue T on her way home from the church she could hear her dog barking.
"Hold your horses," she mumbled as she picked up her pace. When Mary reached the house she found the front door wide open. Unusual.
She rushed to her apartment door to let the pooch out before he put a new design on her living room rug. The dog raced right past Mary when she opened the door and headed straight up the stairs.
"What in God's name has gotten into you, Prince?" she said as she reached the third floor landing. The door to the top floor apartment was opened. Prince had disappeared inside and continued to bark wildly.
Mary called out her tenant's name. When she received no answer she entered the apartment. She found the dog and saw what he was yapping about.
Mary held back a scream, quickly made the sign of the cross, scooped up the animal and ran down the stairs to call 9-1-1.
"I have to say, Augie, the garlic bread was particularly good this evening," Murphy said after polishing off the last morsel.
"Tell your friends at the precinct."
"Unless I swallow an entire bottle of Listerine before I head back, I won't need to tell anyone anything."
The siren turned both their heads toward the front window.
The patrol car raced up Avenue U and turned sharply onto Lake Street.
"One of yours?" Augie asked.
"Are you going to check it out?"
"Not unless I have to."
The siren went silent.
"It's close," Murphy said.
"Are you going to check it out?"
"Not unless I have to."
Vincent Salerno stepped up onto the bus.
He showed his ticket to the bus driver, made his way to the back of the coach and put the bag under his seat.
He would be arriving in Chicago the following day, late in the afternoon. Carmine Brigati would be meeting him at the end of the trip and then he and Carmine could argue about how Vinnie was going to get out from under the mountain of trouble he found himself in.
Vinnie thought about his big sister. As often as he had disappointed Angie, she had always come through for him. He wondered when he would see her again.
Vinnie was determined to stay awake. To protect the bag. To guard the tape recording that was causing all the turmoil.
When the bus pulled out of the Port Authority Terminal ten minutes later and entered the Lincoln Tunnel, Vinnie was asleep.
Officers Landis and Mendez were first on the scene. They were greeted by a woman who was nearly hysterical. Trembling, sobbing, babbling. She clutched a small, wiry-haired dog tightly to her chest like it was a life raft.
Landis gently eased her into a chair at the kitchen table. Mendez scared up a glass and filled it with water from the kitchen sink. When he placed the glass on the table the woman reacted to it as if it had eight legs.
Landis finally managed to calm her down somewhat by assuring her she would not have to accompany them to the third floor. Landis asked her to wait and the two officers headed up.
When they reached the second floor landing they both pulled out their weapons.
At the third floor landing, they found the door to the apartment opened wide. Landis entered first, slowly, holding his weapon out in front of him with both hands. Mendez followed suit.
"Jesus," Mendez said.
"Check if either victim is alive, nothing more," Landis said, fairly certain about the answer. "I'll make sure there is no one else in the rooms."
A few moments later Landis was back.
"Clear," he said.
"Both dead," Mendez said. "Should we check for identification?"
"We call it in and leave it to the guys making the big bucks. But I can tell you who the boy is. That's John Cicero's kid."
"Detective Cicero from the Sixty-eighth?"
"Fuck," said Mendez.
"Pretty dress," Landis said.CHAPTER 2
Sandra Rosen sat at her desk, alone in the large squad room.
Detective's Squad. Second floor. 61 Precinct. Coney Island Avenue. Brooklyn. New York.
Rosen looked around the room. Six desks. Ivanov and Richards out trying to track down two teens who had robbed a coin-operated laundromat wielding metal softball bats. Senderowitz completing a seminar at John Jay College of Criminal Justice called New Directions in Evidence Collection for the 21st Century. Murphy taking a dinner break.
The last desk, once occupied by Lou Vota, remained unassigned.
Samson was in his small private office in back, door closed, window shades drawn, not to be disturbed. Buried under a mountain of thankless paperwork.
It was unusually quiet in the precinct and abnormally calm out in the street. Particularly for this time of year, during the dog days of August, when breaking the law in the Borough of Churches was a popular pastime rivaled only by baseball.
The call was transferred up to the detectives' squad by Sergeant Kelly down at the front desk. Rosen answered on the third ring and she kept the conversation short.
She grabbed her jacket, her shield, and her holstered .38.
Moments later she was tapping on Samson's door.
"Come in, Rosen."
Rosen opened the door and entered the captain's office.
"How did you know it was me?"
"I can identify all of you by the way you knock. Although you are becoming less and less tentative as you settle in here. I almost mistook you for Senderowitz."
"Think you will ever mistake me for Murphy?" Rosen asked.
"Not unless you start using a battering ram. What's up?"
"I just took a call from Landis. I'm on my way out."
"Two dead. That's all I got. I asked Landis to hold the gory details, work at locating the medical examiner and a crime scene investigation team instead. Want to ride along?"
"Do you need me to?"
"Where is Tommy?"
"Out to dinner. I know where to find him. I'll call him on my way."
"I'm glad you came over to us, Sandra."
"So you've said."
"Glad I came over? The jury is still out."
"Because of you and Murphy?"
"Call me from the scene. Let me know what you think happened there and yell if you need more uniforms."
"I will," Rosen said, turning to leave.
"And, Sandra," Samson said, briefly stopping her in her tracks.
"It's only tricky when you're not sure what you want."
Ivanov and Richards used their legs, leaving their vehicle parked out in front of the laundromat and moving east along Avenue S.
The first confirmed sighting was reported by a Pakistani grocery store manager.
"Two boys walked in and tried to buy cigarettes and beer. I told them it was not possible. They insisted they were old enough. I asked for ID and told one of them if he didn't stop waving his bat, I was going to wrap it around his neck. They left."
The two detectives walked into a pizzeria further down the avenue.
"Two boys, ordered three large pizzas. One was on his cell phone the whole time they waited for the pies, inviting friends to a party at the school yard. David A. Boody Middle School, two blocks down on the right."
"Did they have softball bats?" Ivanov asked.
"One blue, one gray. One of them paid for the pies, pulled forty-six dollars from a fistful of small bills."
"Thanks for your help," Ivanov said.
"In my day, they called them Junior High Schools," the man said.
"Junior High Schools?" Richards said.
"Things change," Ivanov said.
She dragged Richards back out to the street.
"What was the rush? That kind of thing interests me."
"Let's go back for the car and find these delinquents while there is still daylight. You can come back here for a history lesson later."
"You're no fun," Richards said.
"You may change your tune when we get to the school yard."
Like Sandra Rosen, Marina Ivanov and Marty Richards were new recruits to the Six-one. Ivanov had come over from the 60 Precinct, Coney Island, four months earlier after working as a member of a joint task force that included Samson, Vota and Murphy from the 61 and Rosen, at that time with the 63rd Precinct, Flatlands. Marty Richards had come over less than two months earlier after finally realizing he was not cut out for the Internal Affairs Bureau.
They found eight teens, five boys and three girls, sitting on the ground under a basketball net. Gathered around three open pizza boxes. Someone had scored beer.
Two of the boys were holding court, side by side with two softball bats resting between them, likely bragging about their daring adventures.
A boom box was pounding out a rap tune Ivanov did not recognize and Richards could not stomach.
"How would you like to approach this?" Ivanov asked.
"By the book."
"What? Police, you're under arrest? Have you taken a good look at that sorry bunch? By the book is seldom effective when dealing with comic book characters. And with that suit you're wearing, they'll make you from a mile away and scatter before you say a word."
"Do you have a better idea?"
"The Russian-American junkie prostitute approach. Wait here. Pay attention."
Excerpted from Coney Island Avenue by J.L. Abramo. Copyright © 2017 J.L. Abramo. Excerpted by permission of Down & Out Books.
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