Tipping the scales at 240 pounds, Alphonse Joseph Bressio is a big man in New York’s legal investigation biz, though he’d rather be doing almost anything else. If he had heeded his ample gut’s feeling and refused a powerful lawyer’s request to help out the paranoid ex-girlfriend of middle-age, drug-dealing loser L. Marvin Fleish, Bressio could have spared himself a headache bigger than his appetite and gambling problem combined. But his soft heart got the best of him. Now the portly PI is running afoul of local mobsters, overzealous federal narcs, and blue-blooded ex-government functionaries by looking too closely into strange doings at a downtown loft that the cops aren’t talking about, despite the unusual number of corpses that seem to be connected to it. Bressio is starting to think it would have been less hazardous to his health and sanity if he had followed in his father’s footsteps and become a Mafia enforcer. At least it would have made his mother happy.
From Richard Ben Sapir, cocreator of The Destroyer series, comes a wild and woolly, tongue-in-cheek take on the hardboiled detective novel. Sapir’s Bressio is a nonstop delight, frenetic and funny with a truly outrageous cast of anti-heroes, detestable villains, hard-luck bystanders, and arguably the most endearingly unforgettable protagonist ever to grace the pages of noir crime fiction.
|Publisher:||Open Road Media|
|Sold by:||Barnes & Noble|
|File size:||1 MB|
About the Author
The author died shortly after submitting the manuscript for his final and highly acclaimed work, Quest, which his editors found to be so well written that no changes were made before publication. It was named an alternate selection for the Book of the Month Club. That same year, the New York Times called Sapir “a brilliant professional.”
Read an Excerpt
By Richard Ben Sapir
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1975 Richard Ben Sapir
All rights reserved.
Alphonse Joseph Bressio woke up thinking about the bills he had gone to bed to stop thinking about. Besides his personal affairs, which he felt he could always straighten out somehow, there was office rent, office-furniture payments, quarterly payment on the large loan which last year was supposed to consolidate his indebtedness, Clarissa Duffy's salary and her summer-school tuition, which she had explained was part of an understood fringe benefit.
Bressio had said he would finance her college education — nights — as long as she was his secretary but hoped she would someday learn that nowhere in the law was there such a thing as an "understood fringe benefit."
"It's a moral understanding, Al. It's above the law," Clarissa replied and Bressio had acknowledged that while many things might be outside the law — "not above, Clarissa" — a labor contract was not one of them.
Because of his pressing financial problems that muggy morning, Bressio did not weigh himself or begin a diet, which naturally would be doomed to fail. He ate a chocolate cupcake in two bites and licked his fingers as he waited for the two coffees and Danish to go at Moochie's Luncheonette on Canal Street, a few blocks from 1250 Broadway, his office. He did not have to say, "Two Danish pastries." In New York City two coffees and Danish meant two coffees and two Danish pastries.
"What do you like?" said Moochie after Bressio had placed his order. Bressio knew Moochie was not trying to rush him. Moochie liked Bressio to hang around. He said it made him feel safer. Not everyone knew that Moochie's was a connected, and therefore protected, place, especially the young kids. To disrupt or rob Moochie's meant assaulting an entire organization which could break bones and spleens and visit all sorts of awesome grief upon those who threatened it. Unfortunately, to many young men in dungaree jackets, Moochie's looked like a luncheonette with a lot of breakable glass and pocketable goodies, and a thin bald owner who whined when he talked. All his connections were useless against youngsters who pocketed cupcakes and threw coleslaw.
When Moochie talked about feeling safer, he always nodded to the .38 police special shoulder-holstered across Bressio's chest. But Bressio knew it was not the gun. It was the appearance. At five feet nine and a half and two hundred and forty pounds, Bressio's dark craglike face and burning black eyes deep under fierce bushy brows took the fighting desire out of almost everyone who saw him. He looked as though he could throw a man through a wall, and want to.
"What do you like, Al?" Moochie asked again.
"I like the Cubs very much," said Bressio.
"It's six and a half five and a half you pick 'em," said Moochie.
"That's even money," said Bressio. "The Cubs always fold in the stretch. The Mets always come on strong. How come it's even money? This is New York City. You should be dying for Cubs money."
Moochie shrugged, that very Jewish shrug which signifies one is dealing with the unfathomable laws of the universe, which one can no more explain than one could change.
"You pickem isn't a bet. It's a lock, Moochie," said Bressio. "Three yards."
"With you, Al, I'm not worried about money. That's my last worry."
"I know the tab's over thirty-eight hundred dollars. I'll take care of it. I haven't forgotten."
"Hey, Al. Al. Don't be upset. I toldya the money don't bother me already. You're good for it. I've carried you for three times that much. No worry. With you a little phone call could make you rich. Any time you want. With the talent I have heard that you have, you would never have to mess around with taking the bar again." When Moochie referred to "talent" he purposely looked away from Bressio's shoulder holster.
"I'm not messing. I'm not taking the bar," said Bressio, supervising with his eyes the countergirl who was filling his coffee to go. "No cream," he shouted.
"Clarissa was in here last night, said you was taking the bar."
Bressio made a little wave of his hand, signifying that Moochie should know better than to believe such a thing.
"She seemed certain, Al."
"I'm forty-two years old, Moochie."
"You should be rich, Al. As a friend, I'm telling you. You should be rich."
"You're rich, Moochie. You could buy half those investment people who send over here from Wall Street."
"I'm talking about rich," said Moochie, whose face squinted in an ecstatic, voyeuristic appreciation of a certain wealth somewhere between a great inherited fortune and an entertainer's brief, glittery success. "Rich, Al. Rich."
"Make that three Danish," said Bressio.
By Broadway the coffee leaked, so Bressio ate the most-soaked Danish. But when he reached his seventeenth-floor office he stopped worrying about wet, dissolving bags or how to continue maneuvering the morning newspapers free of the drip.
The door to the hallway was open and the office was dark but for a line of weak yellow morning sunlight coming under his inner office door. He could make out the file cabinets behind Clarissa's chrome-and-teak desk. The top three drawers on the left file cabinet were open. Someone had gotten to the medicals.
Bressio smoothly removed his .38 police special from his shoulder holster, shielding the action from the crowded morning hallway spilling workers from arriving elevators.
He moved into the office with a decisive quiet for a man of his bulk. He checked the outer bathroom. Nothing. He checked his inner office. Nothing. He snapped open the door of the inner-office bathroom. Still nothing. He looked at the gray metal safe, untouched behind his desk.
"Ahhh," he said in a disgust that was more acceptance than grief. He returned the gun to the holster. If it had been a professional job, they would have gone for the rinky-dink safe behind the desk and picked up a couple of hundred he left for that purpose. If it had been a professional job, they wouldn't have bothered with the files left unlocked and accessible in the outer office, and even if they had, he could probably put out the word to buy them back. If it had been a professional job. You could reason with professionals.
"Ahhh," said Bressio again and kicked the stupid safe; He hung up his jacket, locked the gun in the center drawer and put the coffee, Danish and papers on his desk.
By ten-fifteen he had skimmed the Times and the News, finished his coffee and the one he had ordered for Clarissa, and was working on her Danish. She still hadn't arrived. Bressio took a stack of manilla folders from the top right drawer and glanced through them. Work to be done. Clarissa, as usual, had organized it perfectly. The top file was labeled HOLZMAN, and Clarissa's note read: "Ripper's running again."
William "Ripper" Holzman was a client at his father's request. Bressio would never have taken him otherwise. The old man was a Brooklyn lawyer who had sent his son to Swarthmore and Harvard Law, then set him up in what the father proudly called "fancy-shmancy Park Avenue offices." Old man Holzman had asked Bressio to keep an eye on his son until he got "some sechel," a Yiddish word meaning wisdom. "Brains he's got in abundance, but sechel, that will take a little time. Let me know how he's coming along, okay?"
It had been five years and Bressio had painfully avoided letting old man Holzman know how his son was coming along because he respected the older Holzman as a lawyer and as a person. Ripper, as the son was known, had showed little interest in making a good reputation for himself, helping his clients or even making money. He had one simple little ambition — to infinitely change the basic legal contract of American society. He was a "Constitution nut," according to Clarissa.
Bressio glanced at the case and shook his head. It angered him when lawyers attempted to transform a simple phone call into a philosophical battle. This was more common among young lawyers. Those who survived usually changed in three years. Bressio dialed the phone.
"Put Ripper on. This is Bressio." He waited, fingering Clarissa's typed notes.
"Hey, Ripper, this is Bressio. I got your simple-negligence case here. Do these people really want to play around with admissible evidence? I mean, it's a small plastics factory they got, not the Ford Foundation."
"We could take that tack I outlined, though, couldn't we? I mean, I would have a chance to get it off the ground, wouldn't I?"
"Yeah, you would have a chance. But do your clients want to march all the way to the Supreme Court? That's where it's going if their money holds out and you can maneuver that point intact through appeals."
"I got a chance, huh?"
"That wasn't the case, Ripper. It's a busted leg. A busted leg for this guy I figure is seven hundred, maybe five hundred bottom, to tops twelve hundred, and if you go to fifteen, you're screwing your client. Now, as to whether a doctor who had been employed by the Department of Public Health when —"
"That's the question," said Holzman.
"No," said Bressio. "The question is whether the plastics people — it seems like an odd spelling of Feldman here — would want —"
"Al, I gave Clarissa strict instructions that I wanted your opinion on whether we have a constitutional case. I'm not particularly interested in the grubby bargaining of someone's hairline fracture."
"For one, Ripper, you don't give Clarissa instructions, especially strict ones. Secondly, the grubby bargaining over a hairline fracture is what you were hired for. Thirdly, you will phone the plaintiff's attorney and make the deal. There's an area in here in which he's weak. It's something as grubby as the question over the entrance to this loading ramp. Now, you would probably lose on this thing if you fought it, but it is questionable enough to save your client some money when you deal with the plaintiff's lawyer. Tell them you'll give four to five and settle for anything less than twelve hundred."
"If my father —"
"If your father weren't paying your office rent out of his Brooklyn practice, you'd never use me. I know."
"He didn't send me to Harvard to produce another Jewish Brooklyn lawyer, Al."
"Son, you couldn't carry your father's briefcase and you never will."
"If I were Murray Blay Dawson, you wouldn't speak to me like that," said Ripper, referring to a famous lawyer he had been trying to meet through Bressio.
"I wouldn't have to; goodbye, Ripper, and don't let me hear of you in court with that case."
Bressio checked his watch again. The next folder was labeled MCGUFFIN. Way back in his career Francis X. McGuffin had been with the DA's office. He had the reputation of trying to compromise with an avalanche. He was more afraid of appearing in court than most button men, Bressio knew.
Naturally, the McGuffin case required court action. He had sent it to Bressio to see if there was some way he could avoid this. Bressio dialed the phone again.
"Frank, this is Al ... Yeah. I got it this morning. Look, we're going to prepare a simple brief for you. You've got the closest thing to an airtight case there is. Don't piddle with this guy ... No, Frank. You don't have to take less ... Yeah, I know they're recalcitrant. That's why you're going to court ... Bronx Superior Court, Frank. You take the West Side Highway ... Frank, listen to me, Frank. There's some nice money in this ... Don't worry ... If they fight, they're fools. You can really clean up for yourself and your client. Frank, money, Frank. Money. Money. Money. Okay? Don't worry. And, Frank ... money. Goodbye."
Bressio outlined the thrust of the case, which was all Clarissa would need for a brief. He checked his watch again. Almost eleven o'clock and Clarissa still had not arrived. The next folder was marked WARD WHIPPLE, of Whipple, Barnes and Trent. It was a long letter from Whipple's secretary posing a good and sticky question. Bressio would have to think about that one when he had time, probably a week hence.
The heavy click of wooden-soled shoes came down the hallway and Bressio leaned back in his chair. The outer office lights went on and the outer office door shut. Clarissa came into his office, a night school notebook held over her chest, like a square miniature shield. She was a fine-featured young woman with a grace of freckles over a delicate nose, and brown sensitive eyes that could at times show a world of sympathy, and a mouth that could smile a hermit into congeniality. When there was a smile. This morning her brown hair was stringy and her face looked like an old washed-out tennis court.
"I see the files are open, Al. Did you leave them open? You shouldn't leave them open like that. Someone might get to them, you know."
Bressio sipped at the remnants of coffee.
"Did you get coffee and Danish?" she asked.
"I finished them waiting for you."
"You shouldn't have. You know what that does to your diet. You look as though you've lost some weight."
"Oh," said Clarissa and glanced sideways in what Bressio knew was the formulation of a difficult sentence. "Al, I want to talk to you. I've got to talk to you. We've got to communicate. I think we've got to express ourselves honestly and communicate. I think that's where our difficulties come from. We don't communicate."
Bressio picked up the Daily News and reread a column, but saw only the words. Their meaning at that moment was irrelevant.
"Al, are you going to talk to me?"
"Yes. Go to the outer office and retrieve the medicals. It was the medical files you took, wasn't it?"
"You don't need compensation cases any more, Al. Dammit, listen to me. You don't need a list of doctors who'll swear a woman's nerves are ruined for life because she slipped on a banana peel. You don't need the shyster ambulance chasers. You don't need to be a goddamn private detective for Murray Dawson. You could be a great —"
"Did Dawson phone me recently?" Bressio asked, a sharp note of suspicion in his voice.
"For the last two days. He says it's urgent, damn you, stupid sonuvabitch," sobbed Clarissa and she dropped her notebook and covered her eyes and cried.
Bressio got his revolver from the center drawer, snapped it into the holster and headed for the door.
"For Dawson you'd use a gun," Clarissa shrieked after him. "Why don't you use it for the right people and make some real money, if you're going to use it at all. You dumb guinea cocksucker."
She heard the hallway door open and shut.
"Dumb guinea," she said and cried for the rest of the morning.CHAPTER 2
When Bressio entered the elegantly furnished reception room of Dawson, Hemler and Burns on Park Avenue, clients suddenly became very interested in magazines, briefcases or laps. Bressio was used to this reaction, but it never failed to make him a little sad.
"Dawson says it's urgent," he said quietly to a lush young receptionist with a soft artificial smile.
"Certainly, Mr. Bressio," she said in a clipped British accent while ringing the private line to Dawson's private secretary. There was no direct line from the reception room to Dawson's private office, nor was there need for one. Few of the people waiting would ordinarily ever see Murray Blay Dawson, much less discuss their case with him, yet all of them would feel he was involved in their legal matters and pay that much more for it.
This illusion was calculatedly fostered, Bressio knew, by the younger lawyers of the firm, who often told clients, "Mr. Dawson and I believe," or, "Mr. Dawson fears you might run into some trouble if ..." or, "We think we see an opportunity that Mr. Dawson has been waiting for." In the floor-wide spread of Dawson Hemler and Burns, Dawson's office was secluded to the right because, as he had told Bressio, he did not like to run into the young lawyers who handled the caseloads. He could never remember their names, and that embarrassed him.
Bressio did not sit down among the clients, for there was always someone, usually an elderly woman, who would assure him that Murray Blay Dawson would get him off. And in support of this prediction they would invariably open up one of the magazines and point to an article. The office bought them in five-hundred-block lots so they were always new.
Excerpted from Bressio by Richard Ben Sapir. Copyright © 1975 Richard Ben Sapir. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.