On Love, Doubles, and Supermodels
by Anselmo J. Alliegro
Table of Contents|
parts: 1, 2, 3
While surveilling Marina’s apartment from his ’68 Mustang convertible, a viable suspect presented himself to Forlenza. He was watching her, stalking her; in fact he had followed her, thought Frolenza, all the way to her apartment. The young man, his hair ruffled by the wind, was dressed casually but reeked of money with his new and expensive clothes. He glanced at Forlenza.
The man walked past Forlenza’s car, and was framed in the rear-view mirror. Forlenza took a gulp from his bottle of Jack Daniel’s. I’m drinking too much, he thought, and that can make me careless. He stepped out of the car to pursue the pursuer. He intended to follow the suspect all the way to his doorstep.
Forlenza gathered information on his prime suspect, a lawyer named Linden Litsky. A mob lawyer, as it turned out, with a tarnished history. The same man who put the boss’s nephew in jail. Surprising that Al Anastasio, head of the Gambino Crime Family, had thus far allowed Litsky to live. This was a dead man walking.
Forlenza was more convinced the suspect’s motive for spying on Mr. Magovern, planting the tracking and listening devices, was for financial gain and not merely jealousy. Mr. Litsky was a hunted man, with a looming expiration date, and needed some quick cash to make his getaway.
From his car, during one of the stakeouts outside his suspect’s apartment, Forlenza called Mrs. Magovern. “I’ve got a new lead,” said Forlenza, quite excited.
“No, that’s all right, Mr. Forlenza,” replied Mrs. Magovern in the receiver. “My husband told me everything. He stopped seeing her.”
“Has he called again?”
“No, he’s not harassing us anymore. It’s all over now.”
“Is he blackmailing you?”
“No, Mr. Forlenza. You can stop investigating this. I’ll pay the balance I owe you, first thing tomorrow. I can’t talk now,” Mrs. Magovern insisted.
She heard about me, thought Forlenza. Probably saw it on the news. His successful business as a private investigator was sinking, his clients jumping ship, because of the reports.
* * *
He had headed Community Security Services as a young man back in the 1980s, the same firm that provided security for the late Godfather, Big Paul Castellano, head of the notorious Gambino Crime Family.
Forlenza was also suspected of being a hit man for the Gambinos. However, as yet they had no evidence to support that claim. This bad news came after mob soldier Robert Falieri turned informant for the FBI.
Linden Litsky’s tumultuous history with the mob could prove lucrative. His PI business failing, Forlenza thought about resuming his previous job; taking the contract on Falieri, that snitch, and the back-stabbing lawyer as well.
His thoughts turned to his .45 caliber pistol. He cared for it, sprayed it with WD-40 and rubbed it with a rag and gave its black steel a lustrous light.
Having hatched his plan, Forlenza decided to pay his old pals a visit. In a wide-brimmed hat and trench coat, he hastened in the night through the snowfall and biting wind, toward a small Italian restaurant.
A dim light from the restaurant cut into the blizzard. The street looked deserted. Forlenza peered into the restaurant. He entered along with the wind and whirling snow.
Fred Lanza, a gray-haired Mafioso in his sixties, watched Forlenza closely from behind the bar. He was Anastasio’s underboss and the man Forlenza wanted to see.
Two thugs had been counting money at a table. They were watching Forlenza, fixed like statues.
Fred leaned forward and squinted at Forlenza. “Jimmy, is that you? What are you doing here?”
“Hi there, Fred. Still got the checkered tablecloth,” said Forlenza, brushing snow off his coat. “We gotta talk.”
Fred leaned back, suspicious. “You wired?”
“Fred, that’s crazy. Why would I be wired?”
“To the feds, in case you’re listening: I’m a legitimate restaurateur,” said Fred loudly at Forlenza. “Let me run my goddamn business — my bookkeeping’s off wack ’cause of you.” Fred looked to the thugs. “Check him out.”
One mobster left the table and started towards Forlenza. He got in Forlenza’s face.
“Unbutton the coat,” ordered the thug.
The thug ripped open Forlenza’s coat with a single jerk. Forlenza drew his pistol from his belt. In a flash, he put the gun against the mobster’s forehead.
His partner at the table jumped from his seat, with a gun aimed at Forlenza.
“Put the guns away! Jimmy, you said you wanted to talk. Is this how you open a conversation?” Fred pleaded.
To the thug at the table, Fred said, “Know who this is? Jimmy Forlenza worked for Big Paul Castellano. We go way back. Right Jimmy? Put the gun away, you idiot.”
The thug put his gun away. He remained cautious by the table.
Forlenza didn’t back off. He kept his gun against the mobster’s forehead.
“Jimmy, let’s go sit down,” Fred said in a calm voice.
“Outside,” returned Forlenza, slowly lowering his weapon, and backing off to the door.
Fred followed him, out into the gusting wind and the swirling snow. “You trying to freeze me to death?”
“Follow me around the block,” Forlenza said, his words punctuated by the steam puffing from his mouth.
Fred kept up with Forlenza, fighting the cold. “You don’t trust me?”
“Not you and not the feds,” said Forlenza bluntly.
“What, you think I got feds hiding in my tomato sauce? Jimmy, you know me, I’m a low-profile kinda guy.”
“So was Angelo, your consigliere,” Forlenza reminded him. Angelo Buzzati, inaccessible to prosecution for four decades, was Fred’s colleague and a man Falieri helped to convict.
“I hate a rat. That prick Falieri got his life revoked!” Fred burst out angrily.
“Leave that to me,” said Forlenza, having bloodied the water and waiting for a bite.
“You gonna clip a guy? Jimmy, you talking crazy. After that piece of crap got the feds dusting your damn soul for fingerprints?”
“Tell Anastasio. Tell him I’ll take the contract.”
“I don’t know, Jimmy. You’re too visible. Falieri named you to the feds. Probably flippin’ through your files right now.”
“Don’t forget, Fred. He named you, too. He gets witness protection and a book deal. You get life in prison. I can change that. Do the job and disappear.”
“Anastasio’s a cautious man. I can’t guarantee—”
“There’s a lawyer; Linden Litsky’s his name. I spoke with a guy who works with him. Because of Litsky, Anastasio’s nephew’s rotting in prison. Don’t forget to mention this to Anastasio. Two hits for the price of one. I think he’ll understand.”
“Damn lawyers, changing sides all the time. Sooner or later they go into private practice defending us. The hypocrites get rich.”
“Mention Litsky to Anastasio. Tell him we can’t risk another rat like Falieri,” warned Forlenza. “Buy one, get one free.”
That the FBI agents questioned Marty about him made Linden justifiably uneasy. How big and enduring a grudge did the adulterer who slept with his fiancée hold? What incriminating garbage had Marty divulged about him? Linden couldn’t read it on Agent Bradley’s face. He was sitting across Bradley’s desk, in the agent’s office at the FBI headquarters, as he had been summoned to do.
“Word is out, Mr. Litsky. You’re on the mafia’s hit list,” said Agent Bradley, leaning forward, elbows on the desk.
“Who put a contract on me?” asked Linden.
“We can’t tell you. But it shouldn’t surprise you, with the clients and associates you keep.”
“I’m not surprised. I can take care of myself.”
“We need your help, Mr. Litsky. Your testimony can lead to important convictions. We’re prepared to enter you in the Witness Protection Program; we’ll provide you with a new identity and other help.”
“No, I can disappear on my own,” said Linden, slouching in his chair. “This lawyering thing has led me down the wrong road, all the way to your office, with a contract on my life. I’m not cut out to be a lawyer.”
“Frankly you’re in over your head,” Agent Bradley said, leaning back and biding his time. “We know you engaged in unethical and unlawful acts for the benefit of organized crime. We can wipe that clean, if you co-operate.”
“I want my lawyer. Oh, he’s already here and about to leave,” Linden couldn’t help but say, but he didn’t want to sound sarcastic. “Agent Bradley, I’m sure you know that I’m in danger because I put Al Anastasio’s nephew in jail. What’s unlawful about that?” he concluded, and rose from his chair.
Agent Bradley got up. “They may have followed you here, Mr. Litsky. That makes you an even bigger target.”
“Using me as bait? My fault for showing up,” said Linden, and headed for the door.
“Think about it, Mr. Litsky,” called out Agent Bradley. “Witness protection for your testimony.”
Linden glanced at him from the door, but left without saying another word.
* * *
Linden wandered the streets, deliberating his difficult case. The clash with Agent Bradley shadowed him like a lingering nightmare. He shuffled along in the wee hours, ice cracking under his feet, snow crunching, in the sleepy parts of the sleepless city.
The Vineyard is where he wanted to relocate. His family had moved there briefly, like Marina and her family; short-lived but enduring in memory. Then his father’s job returned them to New York. That treasured oasis of enchanted memories invited his escape to its magic shore.
Such flights of fancy! Then he entered his bedroom, and someone crashed into him from behind in the dark. He was flung against the wall. A gun barrel pressed on the back of his head.
“Don’t move,” said a rough voice.
Forlenza grabbed the back of Linden’s coat and forced him towards a chair. “Sit down. Move and you die.”
Linden dropped to his rotating chair. Forlenza maneuvered behind him, and rotated the chair to face the bedroom window. The cityscape stretched before Linden, indifferent and glittering silently at this late hour.
“Like looking at pretty girls, Mr. Litsky? A bit of a voyeur. Maybe you can see her from here.”
Linden didn’t understand. I should be dead by now. Who is this guy? His only hope, he thought, was fastened to the side of his belt; an advantage this gunman had overlooked..
“I want the truth and nothing but the truth. So help me God, I’ll blow your damn brains out,” snarled Forlenza. “Hear me, Mr. Lawyer? Don’t look at me! Face the window!”
Forlenza leaned close to Linden. “The jealous type, aren’t you Mr. Litsky? I think you’re the caller. I’ve seen you following her, watching her... I know you’re the one. I just wanted you to know that before I—”
“Not me. You got the wrong guy,” Linden insisted.
“Shut up. I’ve seen you following her,” said Forlenza, jamming his gun into Linden’s head. He backed away, and began walking to and fro behind Linden. “Figured you’d shakedown her lover, that Wall Street millionare. Blackmail? Inside info on stocks? What’s your angle?”
“I’ve told you. I don’t know what you’re talking about,” said Linden. He became intensely aware of the gun on his belt; the importance of drawing it quickly, correctly, and at the perfect opportunity.
“That’s all beside the point, Mr. Litsky. There’s a contract on you. I’m here to collect,” Forlenza said.
Linden saw Forlenza’s face looking away from him, on the window’s glass, illuminated by the flicking of a lighter’s flame. He pulled the gun from its holster, swung the chair around, and fired a rapid succession of bullets at his aggressor.
Forlenza jerked, struck by the bullets. He shot and missed as he fell.
Linden sprinted nervously from the room. He burst from the building with his gun and slipped and staggered on the frozen ground beneath the entrance steps. He dropped to his knees, by the snowbank on the curb, and breathed deep the cold air. He was grateful to be alive.
* * *
At the start of spring, when Marina’s painting arrived by delivery, Linden Litsky had already vanished, courtesy of the Witness Protection Program. Her childhood in Martha’s Vineyard was rendered in bold strokes and vivid color. The word “remember” was written on the back with the initials L.L.
Had they stood together, at that decisive fork in the road, Linden Litsky and his double — whose name will be omitted for his protection — may not have recognized each other. One standing rigidly, with his perfect fitting suit and leather briefcase, lost with worries about clients and threats of malpractice and bad dreams; the other, a bright-eyed young artist, dressed casually, sleeves rolled up, traveling a different road toward a limitless horizon.
This artist can see Marina smiling in the lush paradise he painted. He waits on a bridge under which flows a sinuous river. She meets him there, at the end of the right and desired path.
Copyright © 2016 by Anselmo J. Alliegro