On Love, Doubles, and Supermodels
by Anselmo J. Alliegro
Table of Contents|
parts: 1, 2, 3
Midtown Manhattan was seized by a brutal winter, dreary and snow-capped and blistering cold. Outside the window of the Wilson & Goldberg law firm, the reclining model on the towering billboard, impervious to the elements, beckoned with her gray-blue eyes.
The Gambino crime boss’s nephew, a big and burly man, sat stuffed into his chair before Linden Litsky’s desk. Linden faced him with piercing eyes, clean-cut in his expensive suit, and presently a bit agitated. The young lawyer knew that at any moment, today in fact, a meeting with such a devious client could relegate him to the bottom of the Hudson.
“I wasn’t doin’ no drugs. Wasn’t selling neither,” Frank explained.
“Look, I warned you about this. The law is clear,” Linden said, sinking into his seat, navigating dangerous waters.
“So I’m hangin’ with the wrong crowd. They can’t pin nothin’ on me.”
“You’re now a habitual offender. The judge will throw the book at you.”
“Fix it so I walk. You’re a good lawyer, Lenny.”
“It’s a minimum of five years in prison this time. And I can’t do a damn thing about it,” said Linden, very bluntly. The idiot insisted on calling him Lenny, despite Linden’s having told him to stop doing it.
“No way,” barked Frank. “You can bribe the judge, or I can scare the witnesses like I done before.”
“Find yourself another lawyer, Frank,” said Linden and rose to his feet. The high ground was his for the moment, but Frank stood quickly to take it away.
“Uncle Al said I could trust you,” Frank said with a scowl. “I guess he was wrong. This don’t end here. You know too much about our business, Lenny. A word with him about this and you won’t find a damn hole to hide in.”
“Get out of my office. You’re the one with no future,” Linden heard himself say, thinking it was a fatal mistake.
“Dead men don’t know a damn thing about the future!” Frank replied, pointing a finger at Linden like a gun.
Frank swung the door open impudently, and left it that way. Linden shut the door behind him and locked himself in. He took deep breaths inside the office.
Once again he noticed the beautiful model on the giant billboard facing his window. He pulled a crumpled, coffee-ringed napkin containing a sketch of the model from his coat pocket. She had coaxed him, finally after days of her towering gaze, and he resolved to capture her mysterious beauty.
I should have been an artist, he thought. Law was leading to a dead end. Wilson & Goldberg didn’t care whether he lived or died. A replacement could warm his chair and start making phone calls and defending crooks. He left the office in a hurry.
Linden continued down a corridor towards the elevator. A friend and coworker intercepted him.
“Hi, pal,” said Marty. “Know any new places for lunch? Preferably expensive.”
“No, why do you ask?”
“Because my client’s picking up the check.”
Marty veered happy to know that, in their profession, there was such a thing as a free lunch.
Squeezed inside the crowded elevator at the Wilson & Goldberg law firm, an overwhelming terror shot through Linden. His heart started beating like a jackhammer, and he pulled at his collar in a cold sweat. The door opened and the foyer was awash with stark fluorescent light. The workers glided along, automaton-like, bathed in the cold glow. Who am I? Where am I? Everything seemed unfamiliar to Linden, and he felt terrified in his displacement.
A freezing and rainy January slapped him on the street. He felt invigorated by the icy wind. The model appeared on another billboard. Linden stood there gaping at her, amid the rush of pedestrians.
Linden strode over the sidewalk, black fences flashing. He hopped up the steps and used a key on the door of a classy, Victorian style West Village apartment. Everything was bought and paid for by his clients: members of a crime family.
Linden’s fiancée, Doris, was in the kitchen cooking dinner in her nurse’s uniform. She heard Linden at the door.
“You’re never home this early,” said Doris.
Linden passed the kitchen on his way to the bedroom; his mind elsewhere and ignoring Doris.
“Thought you were staying with your sister,” shouted Linden from the bedroom. “Now you’re here again. What, you got bored?”
“This is the last place I’d go if I got bored,” replied Doris. “Nobody likes being alone in an empty house.”
Linden hadn’t noticed her, leaning against the doorway of his bedroom, watching him.
“Trick o’ the trade, sweetheart. Long hours. You knew it,” Linden said.
Linden kneeled by the bed and reached under his mattress. He pulled out a .38 caliber revolver.
Doris stopped leaning against the doorway. She stood starring at the gun. “What are you doing with that gun?”
“A hard day at the office. Come here and kiss me,” he said, and noticed the fear in her eyes.
“Put the gun away,” she said.
“Nuh-uh. Do you love me?”
“Oh damn, you know, you... I’m not playing games with you.”
Linden put the gun in his belt. He moved towards Doris.
“Yes, yes, of course I love you,” she assured him.
Linden grabbed her by the waist. He stroked her back. “If you love me, prove it.” He moved in for a kiss, stopped and moved his nose close to her neck. Then he recoiled and released her. “You’re a liar, and very stupid. Go back to your sister,” Linden said, his face red with anger.
“Gladly,” burst out Doris. She dashed into the living room and took her purse. “A sick paranoid, that’s what you are!”
She slammed the door on her way out. Linden was left standing in the empty room. How do they find the time? he thought. He was thinking of Marty, his friend and co-worker. And wondered how Marty would litigate the incriminating evidence he had uncovered. He welcomed the confrontation.
Private Investigator James Forlenza sat on a couch across from his client, Mrs. Magovern. In his late fifties, Forlenza wanted to retire, before the bottle of Jack Daniels he hid under his car seat retired him instead. He was presentable in his suit and tie, clean shaven and well groomed, not dejected and unkempt as he had been just moments before. He needed the job, and was surprised news about his shady past had not reached Mrs. Magovern.
“He works in Wall Street, a hedge fund analyst. Very successful,” explained Mrs. Magovern, sitting rigid, immaculate with her pearl necklace. “He doesn’t come home anymore after work. That’s when he goes to see her. I’m sure of it.”
The phone rang, and Mrs. Magovern sat frozen and speechless. She sprang up without saying a word. Forlenza was left sitting alone and scanning the place.
The house was a large, finely furnished Long Island residence. A place befitting a wholesome family, not one haunted by the demons Mrs. Magovern wished so desperately to exorcise. Everything was in its place, impeccable just as Mrs. Magovern wanted it.
The phone stopped ringing. Mrs. Magovern’s voice carried, muffled, from a faraway room. “He’s not here. Don’t call this home anymore. He’s not with her, you hear me. He’s not. Stop calling here!”
She slammed the phone. Back she came, irritable this time, trying to light a cigarette with a defective lighter.
Forlenza stood and flicked his lighter in front of her. He reached into his pocket for his own pack of smokes, and pulled one out with his lips. Before lighting it he looked at Mrs. Magovern.
“Mind if I smoke?” he asked, with a cigarette nodding in his mouth.
“Silly thing to ask, Mr. Forlenza. Go ahead,” said Mrs. Magovern.
They sank to the couch again, blowing smoke. Forlenza noticed how rattled Mrs. Magovern had become over the phone call.
“That was him,” she said.
“Who’s him?” asked Forlenza.
“The creep who keeps calling. I need you to find out who they are; the mistress and the caller.”
“You didn’t say anything about a caller. Find the mistress, that’s what you said.”
“Having second thoughts?”
“What’s the caller’s problem?”
“A diehard broken heart, Mr. Forlenza,” she said, and took a drag from her cigarette. “Wants Nick to stay away from the woman he’s cheating with. I want the same thing.”
“So he’s calling to harass your husband.”
“They’re both obsessed with that bitch.”
“How do you know that?”
“I listened in.”
“How long has he been calling?”
“A couple of weeks.”
“What did your husband say?”
“Nick didn’t have time to put a word in. The man just kept cursing and threatening him and hung up.”
“Does Nick know this guy?”
“I don’t know.”
“Maybe you should ask him.”
“You try talking to a wall. He denies everything. It just scares me that... to think that man could...”
“Make good on his threat?” added Forlenza.
“He’s obsessed, he’s dangerous... making all those phone calls. I’ve got a young daughter, Mr. Forlenza. I would kill to protect her.”
“I suggest you change your telephone number.”
“I tried that. It didn’t work.”
“You changed your telephone number?”
“That’s what I said.”
Forlenza looked away, thinking, and pulled out a notebook. He wrote on his notebook, and quickly rose from the couch.
“Thank you for your time, Mrs. Magovern,” said Forlenza, and rushed to the door. “One more thing,” he began, almost in a whisper, “have you let anyone into the house: computer repair person, electrician, cable guy...?”
“I don’t think so.”
“Just a hunch. I suggest you don’t use your phone. Buy yourself a new phone. I’ll let you know if I find anything.”
“Please do. Sorry if I got on your nerves. This thing is driving me crazy,” she confessed, inviting his sympathy. “How about it, Mr. Forlenza? Find this caller harassing us. And find my husband’s mistress. Then I can talk to her, tell her I’m Nick’s wife. I need to keep the family together.”
“You sure that’s all you want?”
“What do you mean by that?”
“I mean this can be a dangerous situation. A diehard broken heart, remember?”
Forlenza told her not to call him. That he’d swing by again at the appropriate time. However, Mrs. Magovern called him anyway, several hours later, alarmed and distressed, after her husband found a cell phone next to his car’s battery. Nick thought it was a tracking device, she informed Forlenza. A surveillance expert is what Forlenza needed, and Tobin had always been helpful in the past.
The next day Forlenza waited outside Nick’s office, parked in his ‘68 Mustang convertible. He watched as Nick walked onto the sidewalk and entered his car. Forlenza started his engine. A short row of vehicles separated him behind Nick’s car.
He followed Nick down Manhattan streets, dodging traffic and frustrations. Nick turned on 12th Street and parked on the curb, by a row of apartments.
Forlenza drove down the one way street slowly and observed Nick. Finding no parking space, he turned on the hazard lights and exited the car. He strolled down a sidewalk and saw Nick at an apartment entrance.
A fourth story apartment window popped open. A pretty girl, with long wavy hair flowing in the breeze, shouted down at Nick, “Don’t you listen? Go back to your wife.”
“I can explain that,” shouted Nick, looking up at her. “Open the door.”
“You’re making a scene. If you don’t leave, I’m calling the police!” She withdrew and slammed the window shut.
Nick raced down the front steps back to his car. Had he assaulted her, that delicate flower, Forlenza would have killed him with his bare hands. A spark of blind rage surfaced; he was ten years old, searching the dark streets of Brooklyn, a faceless killer on the loose, his mother senselessly murdered.
Copyright © 2016 by Anselmo J. Alliegro