Father Jim has a gambling problem, a girlfriend, and his brother Gabe just killed his bookie. Detective Mark Porfino investigates while mob boss Mario Gallante arrives to figure out why his protégé was found floating in the harbor. Mark and Mario form an unholy alliance, with fast food, drinking, Girl Scout cookies, a dead man with a morbid sense of humor, and a wedding with a miracle, contributing to the search for the killer.
Jim must weigh family loyalty and protection of his lover against the vows he’s made to himself and his church. Will Gabe confess and relieve Jim of his burden? Or will they both be dragged further into the abyss until their secret is revealed?
|Publisher:||Black Rose Writing|
|Edition description:||First Printing ed.|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.58(d)|
Read an Excerpt
The Long Harbor Testament
By Tom Minder
Black Rose WritingCopyright © 2016 Tom Minder
All rights reserved.
Genesis and the Garden
Father Jim had writer's block.
He glanced out the frosted-over window of his small office in St. Augustine's rectory on the cold November Saturday afternoon. He'd been a priest for five years and actually liked creating sermons while in seminary. Now he would gladly just wing it from the pulpit. Most people don't listen anyway.
So here he was preparing another sermon for folks who would rather skip it and get on with the mass. Those extra ten minutes could be used at home to open a beer, grab some Doritos, and position oneself on the Lazyboy to watch your team under-perform and destroy your football picks. He reached for his own sheet. Another $150 down the drain.
So what's the sermon for this week? Genesis and man's fall from grace.
My friends in Christ, God in his abounding love created the first man, Adam, in his image and likeness and built for him an earthly paradise free of pain and suffering ... and free of surprisingly accurate football point spreads and over/unders.
God understood Adam's need for companionship and so constructed a helpmate, Eve, to share paradise with him and make him happy. Bad move, God. Things will go downhill from here. Why is the over/under for the Bears and Eagles set at 46? That's too high.
But Adam and Eve were flawed, as we all are, and were convinced by the serpent that they would become as powerful as God if they merely ate of the Tree of Good and Evil. When confronted by God, Adam replied with the first recorded cop out in human history ..."The woman made me do it." And here we are now. SSDD: Same shit, different day.
Jim mulled over his options: keep it brief, or delve into Cain and Abel. Now, there were prototypical siblings. Who's to say Cain didn't have a good reason to club Abel? There's always a good brother and a bad brother, isn't there? Abel and Cain, the Prodigal son and his nose-to-the-grindstone brother, the sainted Gabe and Father Jim Cooper.
My friends in Christ, like Adam and Eve, we face difficult decisions every day. We don't always make the right choice. Maybe we can't even be certain what the right choice is. God Knows. But he isn't telling.
All we can do is follow our God-given instincts and keep to the faith. Let's live every day knowing that God expects an accounting for our actions and the decisions that we make. Not bad. Now for the big question. How can the Lions be giving six points?CHAPTER 2
David and Bathsheba
Silvio returned to his office after a lunch of a double cheeseburger, large fries, and enough soda to ensure he would never be thirsty again. To make sure he burned no unnecessary calories, he piled his 5 foot 10 inch, 270-pound frame into his Explorer and drove the two blocks to Smitty's and back.
When he entered, he was surprised to see Mario Gallante waiting. Although a silent partner in Fortunato Brothers, Mario rarely showed interest in the day-to-day business of stopping leaks, unclogging toilets, and installing water heaters. What did interest him was Silvio's real profit center: sports betting and associated gambling interests. Silvio knew this was not going to be a social visit, but started with pleasantries anyway.
"Mario, it's good to see you. This is a surprise." He pulled his chair and dropped a Snickers bar onto his desk. "What brings you to Long Harbor?"
Mario closed the Ladies of Construction calendar he had removed from Silvio's wall and tossed it on the desk. Silvio picked it up, turned to November, admired the faucets of the young tradeswoman and returned the calendar to its position of honor. He knew it was a good idea to sponsor the calendars. They made nice Christmas handouts.
"Silvio, we need to talk about your bookkeeping. Let's go into your back office."
The back office was little more than a desk with a lamp, phone, internet connection, and a few plumbing manuals for show. This room was for betting.
Mario closed the door and settled himself. "Silvio, there seems to be less revenue coming from your office. I know that there's no shortage of gamblers in Long Harbor, and those folks increase their bets over time. What the hell's going on?"
Although Mario had always been a father figure, Silvio knew that he was about to see the bad side of that relationship.
"Mario, I've been building a nice trade here and have always brought in good money for Gallante Supplies. In this tough economy, some clients are having trouble covering the full amount of their bets."
Silvio studied Mario's expressionless face and decided to revise the approach. "The vote to rezone key land for residential use is coming up soon. I want to be sure that we're in the middle of this. We need to bring in a more affluent set of residents who, I assure you, will want to wager large chunks of their paychecks on football and whatever else we can make available to them."
He grew more confident. "I don't need to put the screws to people right now. Don't worry, those bettors who came up short are paying interest on their debts and in cases where someone has leverage locally, I'm pressuring them to talk up Fortunato Brothers and the zoning change."
"Silvio, I get what you're doing, but we need to bring in more money. Gallante Supplies has a bottom line too. I answer to people even less patient than me."
He leaned forward, picked up Silvio's Snickers bar, broke the chocolate masterpiece in half, and took a bite. After an open-mouthed chewing process that disturbed Silvio, Mario swallowed and let out an "ahhhh." He looked at Silvio. "Neither of us wants to end up on a road side ditch or feeding the Long Harbor aquatic life."
"Like my brother Enrico?"
"I didn't mean to bring that up, Silvio. We still don't know who killed him, but we haven't given up on it. It wasn't from the organization, I know that for sure. It was someone who was either lucky or knew how to cover his tracks."
Silvio leaned forward. "I think it was someone Enrico was pressuring. That's my point, Mario. These folks can come unhinged easily."
Mario growled through a peanut lodged in his front teeth. "I expect the next month's set of payments to be twenty percent higher than you sent in last month. And I want to see your books. There has to be a few marks that jump out."
Pushing back in his rolling chair, Silvio removed the manuals and empty fast-food containers covering the safe. This was not going well, but he had few options. Mario could replace Silvio in a minute with someone more willing to drag money out of the locals. Silvio was facing the loss of his position in the community, and maybe a few appendages. Severance in this line of business was a lot different from most occupations.
He handed the ledger to Mario, who started with the latest set of entries and worked backwards. Specially coded line items indicated the betting transactions.
"Silvio, I see several clients who need to catch up with their payments. Father Jim himself seems to be down quite a bit. Go to confession and unburden yourself that if the good father doesn't make good on his debt, he'll be facing pain and suffering not mentioned in the bible. Tell him to dip into the collection basket if he has to."
He thought for a minute and smiled. "Father Jim seems to be well liked in this community and his word carries. Tighten the screws on him. Tell him that if he talks up the zoning and does what he can to show Fortunato Brothers in a good light, his trespasses will be forgiven and his penance not so heavy as he deserves."
He continued to look at other entries in the ledger. "Now let's find some more deadbeats who need to cash up before they meet an unexpected misfortune. Same rules as Father Jim. Pay up or convince us you can make up your debt in other ways."
* * *
Gabe's cell spat out his answer message: "This is Cooper Renovations. I cannot answer your call at the moment but please leave a message and I'll get back to you as soon as I can."
Jessie Fortunato took a breath and responded to the beep "Gabe, this is Jessie. Silvio and I are thinking of adding a room onto the back of the house. We would like you to come over and give us an estimate on how much time and work would be involved. I'm home anytime and look forward to seeing you."
Gabe returned the call, arranging to stop by in the afternoon. He never felt comfortable alone with Jessie. Still attracted to her, he regretted not continuing their relationship past high school.
His foreman Lou would come along on the estimate to help measure and assure propriety. However, a late morning emergency call about a retaining wall meant Lou was needed elsewhere. Gabe drove to Jessie's alone.
Gabe tapped lightly on Jessie's door, hoping for no answer. She answered quickly, wearing a short, tight blue skirt that would get her arrested in some states. Waving Gabe inside, she explained that Silvio was off working, and Rico was in class at the community college.
The requested addition was straightforward in scope and seemed unnecessary since the house was large and nicely laid out. Jessie seemed more interested in talking to Gabe than in understanding the work involved. Gabe sensed this and tried to keep the conversation focused on the effort, price, and time estimates.
"So Jessie, I'll write up a full estimate so you and Silvio can look it over. Frankly, I like your house as it is and don't see how adding the room would improve things very much."
Jessie tapped the counter. "Gabe, I want to talk about Rico. He seems to be distracted and unclear about what he wants to do with his life."
As she stepped closer, Gabe took a half step back, pinning himself against the counter. "He loves Silvio and wants to win his respect," she continued. "But Silvio has always seemed disappointed in Rico and makes no attempt to hide it. Rico respects you, Gabe. Can't you speak to him?"
She closed the distance between them making slight lower extremity contact with Gabe. He was moved by Jessie's emotion, some parts of him more than others.
After a pause to choose the best words and allow sufficient blood to return to his brain, he asked, "Has Rico spoken to counselors at the community college? Maybe he can focus his studies on an area that attracts his interest."
He put his hand on Jessie's shoulder to comfort her. Probably a bad move, but it felt right.
"Maybe after a time, he'll decide what is best for himself and realize that Silvio's approval is Silvio's issue and not his. He has to realize that he won't please everyone and shouldn't live his life trying to do that."
Jessie reached around Gabe's shoulders and hugged him, pinning him to the counter. "This is why I rely on you, Gabe. You know just what to say."
It felt good to embrace her. The front door opened and Silvio lumbered in. Seeing Jessie and Gabe in mid-embrace, he skidded to an unplanned stop.
"What's going on? Cooper, what the hell are you doing?"
Jessie spoke up while drying a tear. "I called Gabe to give an estimate on adding a room to the back. I wanted some more exposure to the afternoon sun."
"I don't remember discussing any addition. And if I was a few minutes later there might've been lots of exposure."
Gabe slid from between Jessie and the counter. "Silvio, this was, uh, just two friends supporting each other. I gave Jessie the estimate and if you're interested in having the work done, we can discuss it later."
"Why don't you leave now, Cooper? I have friends of my own who would be happy to talk to you. You aren't needed or welcome here."
Rico walked in and sensed the tension. Silvio turned. "Ah, here's my son. Nice of you to join us at this time. Your hero, Mr. Cooper, was helping your mother to work out some issues with her posture. He's leaving now."
Rico looked at his mother, then at a red-faced Gabe. Rico considered the posture remark, decided to let it pass, and turned to his father. "Dad, Mr. Cooper is a friend. I'm sure this was just friends talking."
Silvio faced Gabe and snorted. "Rico, if you don't think there's anything going on, you're nuts. Your lack of common sense comes from hanging around that community college, and not having the stones to make something out of yourself.
"Cooper, maybe we can have a short supportive talk sometime ourselves. Maybe we'll even hug. But for now, it's late and you should be on your way. I'm sure you have other appointments."
Gabe picked up his supplies and walked towards the door. "I look forward to our talk, Silvio. Maybe we can understand each other better."
When he was outside, Gabe's cell vibrated. Lou. "We're done with the wall, Gabe. How'd things go at Silvio's?"
"I don't think we're getting the business. Silvio has something else in mind for me." He sighed. "Lou, it's been a long day. I'm going to grab some dinner and a beer at The Wharf. Care to join me?"
"Thanks anyway Boss, but I'm heading home. Stay away from Silvio. He's bad news and he's not someone we want to associate with. Have a good night and don't drink too much."
* * *
Gabe made his way to The Wharf at Quincy Pier at the south end of the harbor. The popular after-work watering hole was perfect for him, as it also served a limited menu of easy-to-dump-on-a-plate meals.
The Wharf had replaced a gentleman's lounge called The Long Haul. Gabe's waitress tonight was Carla Ciccone. She was an ex-mermaid, the name given to the dancers at the club. Famous for pleasing the male guests both with her interpretive dancing and individual attentions, Carla was arrested in the last raid of The Long Haul and might have been charged with solicitation if Silvio hadn't intervened.
Being a regular, Gabe had no need to order. Carla brought a draft, smiled, and asked about his day. Gabe mumbled a quiet "okay" and started into the beer.
After he'd eaten and downed a few more brews, Carla came over to check on him and drop off the check. "Here's how my day was. I went to Jessie and Silvio's to give an estimate on building an addition."
He drained the remainder of his draft. "I hate going to Jessie's because she's the one who got away and now she's married to that Neanderthal, Silvio." He held up the mug to make sure no liquid remained. He sighed, belched, and continued. "That bastard treats Jessie and Rico like shit. Anyway, Silvio caught Jessie and me in a friendly embrace and freaked out."
He looked up at Carla, who was paying close attention, as good confessors do. "Here I am dumping this on you when I have my brother the priest I can bother with my personal life."
Carla smiled. "Gabe, I've heard things no priest will ever hear. Just tread lightly around Silvio. He's possessive and overreacts. Better not to stir up a fight. He has friends."
Gabe continued to explore for one last drop. "I wish it was that simple. I'm thinking I wasted a big opportunity with Jessie and now she and Rico are paying for it. Silvio's not worthy of Jessie, damn it."
"Gabe, you've had too much. Take it from a friend. You don't want to mess with Silvio. He's not rational."
"Thanks, Carla. But there must be something I can do to protect them."
"Nothing can be done while Silvio is around, believe me. He and Jessie just don't work. Maybe they should split up. It would solve a lot of problems."
Gabe wondered what that meant but knew Carla was right. He should sleep this off, and maybe things would be clearer in the morning. He paid the bill, tipped extra for the counseling, and headed out into the night.
Realizing that driving back to his apartment in his current state would be unwise, he decided to walk the two miles or so and get some fresh air.
* * *
Silvio had gone home to change clothes and prepare for a late night when he'd discovered Jessie and Gabe. He'd lost all romantic feeling for Jessie during the last year as things with Carla heated up. He was angrier about Gabe's presumption that he can fool around with Jessie and insult him, than with feelings of hurt for Jessie's affections being given to someone else.
He showered, changed into casual clothes, and headed to The Wharf.
Jessie was no fool. As he drove away, she picked up the phone and dialed a local number. "He just left and is heading to The Wharf. See who he talks to and where he goes when he leaves. Yeah. Love you, too."
Silvio parked his Explorer in his usual spot and entered the popular but dingy Wharf. What a dive, he thought, as he wiped a greasy substance from the doorknob onto his pants. I'm gonna buy out the other owners, knock it down and build a sports bar that the yuppies will go for. How about Silvio's Extra Point or maybe Silvio's Over/Under?
He had missed Gabe by 10 minutes. Carla brought him a large draft. "So, how was your day?"
"It sucked. I'm getting pressure from Mario to expand the betting and bring in more money. He's even threatening to bring in someone to run the territory and add muscle to the collections. I need to start leaning on some of the deadbeats to pay up completely."
He took a quick gulp of the brew then slammed the mug down, causing drinkers at neighboring tables to stop talking and look over.
"Then I go home and find Jessie in Cooper's arms. I never liked Cooper, but he is 'The Angel Gabriel' in this town and has connections." Silvio sighed and looked at the patient Carla. "So, how did it go with your day?"
Excerpted from The Long Harbor Testament by Tom Minder. Copyright © 2016 Tom Minder. Excerpted by permission of Black Rose Writing.
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.
Table of Contents
Part 1: Advent,
Chapter 1: Genesis and the Garden,
Chapter 2: David and Bathsheba,
Chapter 3: Goliath and the Philistines,
Chapter 4: David and Goliath in Battle,
Chapter 5: Sins are Washed Clean,
Chapter 6: He arose on the Third Day,
Chapter 7: One Dying for the Many,
Chapter 8: Let He Who is Without Sin,
Chapter 9: Truth. What does that mean?,
Chapter 10: They Shall be Known in the Breaking of the Bread,
Chapter 11: Give Us Barabbas,
Chapter 12: Let He who is Without Sin,
Chapter 13: Let There Be Peace on Earth,
Part 2: Lent,
Chapter 1: The Wedding Feast,
Chapter 2: Revelations,
Chapter 3: Suffer the Little Ones,
Chapter 4: The Passion and Judgment,
Chapter 5: The Resurrection,
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
First off, a disclosure: While author Tom Minder and I don’t know each other, we share the same publisher and the same need for honest reviews. That said, I am pleased to report how enjoyable “The Long Harbor Testament” is, both from the standpoint of character development and the author’s attention to plot details. Serving as the backdrop for this gritty tale of gamblers, mobsters, detectives and a suspect land development deal is Long Harbor, an eastern berg notable for its wharf, piers and – perhaps most notably – its greasy spoons, where its mix of sometimes ethically challenged characters gather on regular basis to chow down on chili and exchange some not always so pleasant pleasantries. Father Jim, a priest with a football betting and girlfriend problem, and a fair amount of influence over the townspeople is at the center of a story, but he’s far from the tale’s sole focal point. He’s joined by an array of others, including his occasionally volatile brother, Gabe, who has some interesting personal problems of his own, one of which involves an accidental death that will prove tricky to explain since it involves the local mob boss’ protégé. (This occurs early in the novel, so don’t fear – this is not a spoiler.) The writing here is precise, direct and keeps the reading wondering what’ll come next; it’s a true page-turner. The humor here is appropriately dark but not overly so, and I found the use of the Father Jim’s sermons, inserted into the text of the book, an interesting way to provide readers with the priest’s inner thoughts. I highly recommend the novel and look forward to what Tom Minder offers going forward.