Friday morning dawned bright and clear. Susan was up and out riding before I was even dressed.
She had finished the painting next door, and we were to have an unveiling at the Bellarosas’ as soon as Anna found the right place for the painting, and Susan found an appropriate frame. I couldn’t wait.
I was having my third cup of coffee, trying to decide what to do with the day, when the phone rang. I answered it in the kitchen, and it was Frank Bellarosa. “Whaddaya up to?” he asked.
“I’m up to seven. What are you up to?”
“Hey, I gotta ask you something. Where’s the beach around here?”
“There are a hundred miles of beaches around here. Which one did you want?”
“There’s that place at the end of the road here. The sign says no trespassing.
That mean me?”
“That’s Fox Point. It’s private property, but everyone on Grace Lane uses the beach. No one lives there anymore, but we have a covenant with the owners.” “A what?”
“A deal. You can use the beach.”
“Good, ’cause I was down there the other day. I didn’t want to be trespassing.” “No, you don’t want to do that.” Was this guy kidding or what? I added, “It’s a misdemeanour.”
“Yeah. We got a thing in the old neighbourhoods, you know? You don’t shit where you live, you don’t spit on the sidewalk. You go to Little Italy, for instance, you behave.”
“Except for the restaurant rubouts.”
“That’s different. Hey, take a walk with me down there.”
“No. Fox Place.”
“Yeah. I’ll meet you at my fence.”
“Yeah. Fifteen, twenty minutes. Show me this place.” I assumed he wanted to discuss something and didn’t want to do it on the telephone. In our few phone conversations, there was never anything said that would even suggest that I might be his attorney. I think he wanted to spring this on Ferragamo and the New York press as a little surprise at some point. “Okay?” he asked.
I hung up, finished my coffee, put on jeans and Docksides, and made sure twenty minutes passed before I began the ten-minute walk to Alhambra’s gates. But was the son of a bitch pacing impatiently for me? No. I went to the gatehouse and banged on the door. Anthony Gorilla opened up. “Yeah?” I could see directly into the small living room, not unlike the Allards’ little place, the main difference being that sitting around the room was another gorilla whom I supposed was Vinnie and two incredibly sluttish-looking women who might be Lee and Delia. The two sluts and the gorilla seemed to be smirking at me, or perhaps it was my imagination.
Anthony repeated his greeting. “Yeah?”
I turned my attention back to Anthony and said, “What the hell do you think I’m here for? If I’m expected, you say, ‘Good morning, Mr Sutter. Mr Bellarosa is expecting you.’ You do not say ‘yeah?’ Capisce?”
Before Anthony could make his apologies or do something else, don Bellarosa himself appeared at the door and said something to Anthony in Italian, then stepped outside and led me away by the arm.
Bellarosa was wearing his standard uniform of blazer, turtleneck, and slacks. The colours this time were brown, white, and beige, respectively. I saw, too, as we walked, that he had acquired a pair of good Docksides, and on his left wrist was a black Porsche watch, very sporty at about two thousand bucks. The man was almost getting it, but I didn’t know how to bring up the subject of his nylon stretch socks.
As we walked up Grace Lane, toward Fox Point, Bellarosa said, “That’s not a man you want to piss off.”
“That’s a man who had better not piss me off again.”
“Listen to me. If you invite me to your property, I want your flunkies to treat me with respect.”
He laughed. “Yeah? You into the respect thing now? You Italian, or what?” I stopped walking. “Mr Bellarosa, you tell your goons, including your imbecile driver, Lenny, and the half-wits and sluts in that gatehouse, and anyone else you have working for you, that don Bellarosa respects Mr John Sutter.” He looked at me for about half a minute, then nodded. “Okay. But you don’t keep me waiting again. Okay?”
“I’ll do my best.”
We continued our walk up Grace Lane, and I wondered how many people saw us from their ivory towers. Bellarosa said, “Hey, your kid came over the other day. He tell you?”
“Yes. He said you showed him around the estate. That was very good of you.”
“No problem. Nice kid. We had a nice talk. Smart like his old man. Right? Up-front like his old man, too. Asked me where I got all the money to build up the estate.”
“I certainly didn’t teach him to ask questions like that. I hope you told him it was none of his business.”
“Nah. I told him I worked hard and did smart things.” I made a mental note to talk to Edward about the wages of sin and about crime doesn’t pay. Frank Bellarosa’s advice to his children was probably less complex and summed up in three words: Don’t get caught.
We reached the end of Grace Lane, which is a wide turnaround in the centre of which rises a jagged rock about eight feet high. There is a legend that says that Captain Kidd, who is known to have buried his treasure on Long Island’s North Shore, used this rock as the starting point for his treasure map. I mentioned this to Bellarosa and he asked, “Is that why this place is called the Gold Coast?”
“No, Frank. That’s because it’s wealthy.”
“Oh, yeah. Anybody find the treasure?”
“No, but I’ll sell you the map.”
“Yeah? I’ll give you my deed to the Brooklyn Bridge for it.”
I think my wit was rubbing off on him.
We walked up to the entrance to Fox Point, whose gatehouse was a miniature castle. The entire front wall of the estate was obscured by overgrown trees and bushes, and none of the estate grounds were visible from Grace Lane. I produced a key and opened the padlock on the wrought-iron gates, asking Bellarosa, “How did you get in here?”
“It was opened when I got here. Some people were on the beach. Do I get one of those keys?”
“I suppose you do. I’ll have one made for you.” Normally, anyone who opens the padlock does not bother to lock it behind them, which was how Bellarosa had gotten in. But there was something about this man that made me rethink every simple and mundane action of my life. I had visions of his goons following us, or somebody else’s goons following us, or even Mancuso showing up. In truth, you could scale the wall easily enough, but nevertheless, after we passed through the gates, I closed them again, reached through the bars and snapped the padlock shut. I said to Bellarosa, “Are you armed?”
“Does the Pope wear a cross?”
“I imagine he does.” We began walking down the old drive, which had once been paved with tons of crushed seashells, but over the years, dirt, grass, and weeds have nearly obliterated them. The trees that lined the drive, mostly mimosa and tulip trees, were so overgrown that they formed a tunnel not six feet wide and barely high enough to walk through without ducking.
The drive curved and sloped down toward the shoreline, and I could see daylight at the end of the trees. We broke out into a delightful stretch of waterfront that ran about a mile along the Sound from Fox Point on the east to a small, nameless sand spit on the west. The thick vegetation ended where we were standing, and on the lower ground was a thin strip of windblown trees, then bulrushes and high grasses, and finally the rocky beach itself. Bellarosa said, “This is a very nice place.”
“Thank you,” I said, leaving him with the impression I had something to do with it.
We continued downhill along the drive, which was lined now with only an occasional salt-stunted pine or cedar. The drive led us to the ruin of the great house of Fox Point. The house, built in the early 1920s, was unusual for its day, a sort of contemporary structure of glass and mahogany with flat roofs, open decks, and pipe railings, resembling, perhaps, a luxury liner, and nearly as large. The house had been gutted by fire about twenty years ago, but no one had actually lived in it since the 1950s. Sand dunes had drifted in and around the long rambling ruin, and I was always struck by the thought that it looked like the collapsed skeleton of some fantastic sea creature that had washed ashore and died. But I do remember seeing the house before it burned, though only from a long distance when I was boating on the Sound. I had often thought I would like to live in it and watch the sea from its high decks. Bellarosa studied the ruins for a while, then we walked on toward the beach. Fox Point had been, even by Gold Coast standards, a fabulous estate. But over the years the waterside terraces, the bathhouses, boathouses, and piers have been destroyed by storms and erosion. Only two intact structures now remained on the entire estate: the gazebo and the pleasure palace. The gazebo sat precariously on an eroded shelf of grassland, ready to float away in the next nor’easter. Bellarosa pointed to the gazebo and said, “I don’t have one of those.”
“Take that one before the sea does.”
He studied the octagonal structure from a distance. “I can take it?”
“No one cares. Except the Gazebo Society, and they’re all nuts.”
“Oh, yeah. Your wife paints those things.”
“No, she has lunch in them.”
“Right. I’ll have Dominic look at it.”
I gazed out over the Sound. It was a bright blue day, and the water sparkled, and coloured sails slid back and forth on the horizon, and in the distance the Connecticut coast was clear. It was a nice day to be alive, so far. Bellarosa turned away from the gazebo and looked farther down the shore toward a building that sat well back from the beach on a piece of solid land protected by a stone bulkhead. He pointed. “What’s that? I saw that the other day.” “That’s the pleasure palace.”
“You mean like for fun?”
“Yes. For fun.” In fact, the wealthiest and most hedonistic of the Gold Coast residents constructed these huge pleasure palaces, away from their mansions, the sole purpose of which was fun. Fox Point’s pleasure palace was constructed of steel and masonry, and during the Second World War the Coast Guard found the building convenient for storing ammunition. But as solid as it looks, or may have looked to German U-boats, from the air you can see that most of the roof is made of blue glass. Actually, on occasions that I’ve flown over the Gold Coast in a small plane, I could spot this and other surviving pleasure palaces because they all have these shimmering blue roofs. Bellarosa asked, “What kind of fun?” “Sex, gambling, drinking, tennis. You name it.”
“Show me it.”
“All right.” We walked the hundred yards to the huge structure, and I led him inside through a broken glass door.
The athletic wings of the pleasure palace resembled a modern health club, but there were touches of art nouveau elegance in the mosaic tile floors and iron-filigreed windows. Considering that it hadn’t been used since about 1929, it wasn’t in bad shape.
In one wing of the building, there was a regulation-size clay tennis court covered by a thirty-foot-high blue-glass roof. The roof leaked, and the clay had crumbled long ago, and it sprouted some sort of odd plant life that apparently liked clay and blue light. There was no net on the court, so Bellarosa, who had shown some confusion in the past regarding interior design, asked me, “What’s this place?”
“The drawing room.”
We walked through the larger adjoining wing, which was a full gymnasium, into the next section of the building, which held an Olympic-size swimming pool, also covered with blue glass. Adjacent to the gym and pool were steam rooms, showers, rubdown rooms, and a solarium. The west wing, more luxurious, contained overnight guest accommodations, including a kitchen and servants’ quarters. Bellarosa said very little as I gave him the tour, but at one point he remarked, “These people lived like Roman emperors.”
“They gave it their best shot.”
We found the east wing, which was a cavernous ballroom where Susan and I had once gone to a Roaring Twenties party. “Madonn’!” said Frank. “Yes,” I agreed. I remembered that there was a cocktail lounge near the ballroom, actually a speakeasy, as this place was built during Prohibition, but I couldn’t find it. Walking through this building under the ghostly blue-glass roofs, even I, who have lived among Gold Coast ruins all my life, was awed by the size and opulence of this pleasure palace. We had retraced our steps and were back at the mosaic pool now. I said to Bellarosa, “We have to hold a Roman orgy here. You bring the beer.”
He laughed. “Yeah. Jesus, these people must’ve had lots of friends.”
“People with lots of money have lots of friends.”
“Hey, is this place for sale?”
I knew that was coming. This was the kind of guy who had to know the price of everything and wanted to buy everything he couldn’t steal. I replied, “Yes, it is. Are you going to buy all of Grace Lane?”
He laughed again. “I like my privacy. I like land.”
“Go to Kansas. This is a million dollars an acre on the water.”
“Jesus. Who the hell can afford that?”
Well, Mafia dons. I said, “The Iranians.”
“The Iranians are negotiating with the family who own this estate. People named Morrison who live in Paris now. They are filthy rich, but don’t want to restore this place. Actually, they’re not even American citizens anymore. They are expatriates.”
He mulled that over, figuring as many angles as he could, I’m sure, from that skimpy information. We found the broken door and walked out into the sunlight. Bellarosa asked, “What the hell do Iranians want with this place?” “Well, there are a lot of rich Iranian immigrants here on Long Island now, and they want to buy this estate and convert the pleasure palace into a mosque. Maybe the blue roof turned them on.”
“A mosque? Like an Arab church?”
“A Muslim mosque. The Iranians are Muslims, but not Arabs.”
“Ah, they’re all sand niggers.”
Why do I bother to explain things to this man?
He jabbed his finger toward me. “You people gonna allow that?”
“Whom do you mean by ‘you people’?”
“You know who I mean. You people. You gonna allow that?” “I refer you to the First Amendment to the Constitution – written, incidentally, by my people – as it regards freedom of religion.”
“Yeah, but Jesus Christ, did you ever hear those people pray? We had a bunch of Arabs used to meet in a storefront near where I lived. This one clown used to get on the roof every night and wail like a hyena. Jesus, am I gonna have that down the street again?”
“It’s a possibility.” We were walking, and I turned toward the gazebo. I could see that my companion was unhappy. He grumbled, “The real estate lady never told me about this.”
“She didn’t tell me about you, either.”
He thought about that a moment, trying to determine, I suppose, if that was an ethnic slur, a personal insult, or a reference to the Mafia thing. He grumbled again, “Fucking Iranians…” It was really time for me to give this man a lesson in civics, to remind him what America stood for, and to let him know I didn’t like racial epithets. But on further consideration, I realized that would be like trying to teach a pig to sing; it wastes your time and annoys the pig. So I said, “You buy it.” He nodded. “How much? For the whole place?”
“Well, it’s not nearly as much land as Stanhope or Alhambra, but it’s waterfront, so I’d say about ten or twelve million for the acreage.” “That’s a big number.”
“It gets bigger. If you get into a bidding war with the Iranians, they’ll run you up to fifteen or more.”
“I don’t bid against other people. You just put me in touch with the people I got to talk to. The owners.”
“And you’ll make them your best offer, and show them that it’s their best offer.”
He glanced at me and smiled. “You’re learning, Counsellor.”
“What would you do with this place?”
“I don’t know. Take a swim. I’d let everybody keep using the beach, too. The fucking Arabs wouldn’t do that because they got this thing about seeing a little skin. You know? They swim with their fucking sheets on.” “I never thought about that.” I wondered if this guy could actually buy Stanhope Hall and Fox Point, and still keep Alhambra. Or was he just blowing smoke? Also, it struck me that he had a lot of long-range plans for a man who was facing indictment for murder and who had an impressive list of enemies who wanted him dead. He had balls, I’ll give him that.
We walked up the path to the gazebo and entered the big octagonal structure. It was made of wood, but all the paint on the sea side had been weathered off. It was fairly clean inside, probably tidied up by the weird ladies of the Gazebo Society before their luncheon. Someone should teach them how to paint. Bellarosa examined the gazebo. “You got one of these on your place. Yeah, I like it. Nice place to sit and talk. I’ll get Dominic here next week.” He sat on the bench that ran around the inside of the gazebo. “So, sit, and we’ll talk.” “I’ll stand, you talk, I’ll listen.”
He produced a cigar from his shirt pocket. “Want one? Real Cuban.”
He unwrapped his cigar and lit it with a gold lighter. He said, “I asked your kid to ask your daughter to bring me back a box of Monte Cristos.” “I would appreciate it if you didn’t involve my family in smuggling.”
“Hey, if she gets caught, I’ll take care of it.”
“I’m an attorney. I’ll take care of it.”
“What’s she doing in Cuba?”
“How did you know she was going to Cuba?”
“Your kid told me. He’s going to Florida. I gave him some names in Cocoa Beach.”
“What sort of names?”
“Names. Friends. People who will take care of him and his friends if they use my name.”
“Hey, what are friends for? But I got no friends in Cuba. Why’d your daughter go to Cuba?”
“To work for world peace.”
“Yeah? That’s nice. How’s it pay? Maybe I’ll meet her next time she’s in town.”
“Maybe. You can pick up your cigars.”
“Yeah. Hey, how’s that income tax thing coming?”
“Melzer seems to have a handle on it. Thanks.”
“No problem. So, no criminal charges, right?”
“That’s what he said.”
“Good, good. Wouldn’t want my lawyer in jail. What’s Melzer banging you for?”
“Twenty up front and half of what he saves me.”
“That’s not bad. If you need some quick cash, you let me know.”
“What’s the vig?”
He smiled as he drew on his cigar. “For you, prime plus three, same as the fucking bank.”
“Thank you, but I’ve got the funds.”
“Your kid said you were selling your summer house to pay taxes.”
I didn’t reply. It was inconceivable to me that Edward would say that. Bellarosa added, “You don’t sell real estate in this market. You buy in this market.”
“Thank you.” I put my foot on the bench and looked out to sea. “What did you want to speak to me about?”
“Oh, yeah. This grand jury thing. They convened last Monday.”
“I read that.”
“Yeah. Fucking Ferragamo likes to talk to the press. Anyway, they’ll indict me for murder in two, three weeks.”
“Maybe they won’t.”
He thought that was funny. “Yeah. Maybe the Pope is Jewish.”
“But he wears a cross.”
“Anyway, I don’t know if you know how these things work. Okay, the U.S. Attorney gets his indictment from the grand jury. It comes down sealed, you know, and it’s not going to be made public until the bust is made. So the U.S. Attorney takes his indictment to a federal judge, along with his arrest warrant, which he wants signed. Now this will usually go down on a Monday, you know, so they get the FBI guys out early on Tuesday morning, and they come for you, you know, they knock on your door about six, seven o’clock. Understand?” “No. I do tax work.”
“Well, they come for you early so they usually find you home, you know, with your pants down, like in Russia. Capisce?”
“Well, Tuesday is a good day for the news. You know? Monday is bad, Friday is bad, and forget the weekend. You think fucking Ferragamo is stupid?” I almost laughed. “Are you serious?”
“Yeah. This is serious stuff, Counsellor.”
“Arrests for murder aren’t made to coincide with the news.” Now it was his turn to laugh. Haw, haw, haw. He added, “Grow up” That pissed me off a little, but I let it slide, because this was interesting. I said, “But they could arrest you Wednesday or Thursday. Those are hot news days.”
“Oh, yeah. They could. But they like Tuesday for the big fish. This way they can make the Wednesday papers, too, and maybe a little Thursday action. What if they came for you on Thursday and you weren’t home, and they got you Friday? They’d be fucked, news wise.”
“Okay. So they arrest you on a Tuesday. What’s the point?” “Okay. So they pick you up, they take you down to Federal Plaza, the FBI office, you know, and they jerk you around there awhile, give everybody a good look at you, then they get you over to Foley Square, the federal court, right? And the FBI guys bring you in with cuffs about nine, ten o’clock, and by this time Ferragamo’s got half the fucking newspeople in the world there, and everybody’s shoving microphones in your face, and the cameras are rolling. Then you get printed and booked, blah, blah, blah, and at about that time is when they let you call your attorney.” He looked at me. “Understand?” “What if your attorney is in, say, Cuba?”
“He ain’t gonna be. In fact, I don’t have to call him. Because he’s coming over to my place for coffee about five in the morning for the next few Tuesdays.” “I see.”
“Yeah. So when the FBI comes, then my attorney is right there to see that everything is done right, that the FBI guys behave. And my attorney gets in my car with Lenny and follows me to Federal Plaza, then to Foley Square. My attorney is not in Cuba, or no place except with his client. Capisce?” I nodded. “Also, my attorney has a briefcase, and in that briefcase is cash and property deeds, and other shit that he needs to post bail for his client. My attorney will be given about four or five million dollars to post.” “You’re not going to get out on bail on a federal murder charge, Frank, not for any amount of money.”
“Wrong. Listen carefully. My attorney is going to convince the judge that Frank Bellarosa is a responsible man, a man who has strong ties to the community, a man who has sixteen legitimate businesses to look after, a man who has a house, a wife, and kids. My attorney will tell the judge that his client has never been convicted of a violent crime, and that he knew the FBI was coming for him and was waiting for them, and came along peacefully. My attorney was a witness to that. My attorney will tell the judge that he knows Mr Bellarosa personally, as a friend, and that he knows Mrs Bellarosa, and in fact my attorney lives next door to Mr and Mrs Bellarosa, and my attorney is making a personal guarantee that Mr Bellarosa will not flee the jurisdiction. Understand?” Indeed I did.
“Okay. So now the judge, who does not like to grant any bail for murder, first degree, now he has to consider all this shit very seriously. By now, Ferragamo has been tipped by the FBI that Bellarosa knew he was going to get arrested that morning, and that Bellarosa has the cash on hand for bail, and that Bellarosa has a very high-quality attorney. So Ferragamo gets his ass into the courtroom personally and starts putting the pressure on the judge. Your Honour, this is a very serious charge, blah, blah, blah. Your Honour, this is a dangerous man; a murderer, blah, blah. But my attorney goes balls to balls with the U.S. Attorney and talks about bail not being unreasonably denied, blah, blah, and the charge is bullshit anyway, and we’ve got five million in the bag here, and I gave you my personal guarantee, Your Honour. John Sutter, of Wall Street, is putting his balls right on the table, Your Honour. Right? Now Ferragamo didn’t expect this shit, and he’s the one who’s caught with his pants down. He’s jumping through his ass to see that Frank Bellarosa doesn’t walk. He’s got a big hard-on about seeing me in jail with the melanzane. And that night he’s gonna be home with his wife and friends having dinner, watching the fucking news while I’m in the slammer with a cork up my ass trying to keep the faggots out of my back door. You understand what I’m saying?”
Frank had a way with words. I replied, “I do.”
“Yeah. And you understand that this is not going to happen, Counsellor. You are not going to let it happen.”
“I thought you told me that Ferragamo wants you on the street after your indictment. So that your friends or enemies could kill you before your trial.” “Yeah. You remembered that? So here’s the thing. Ferragamo knows if he gets me in jail, we are going to appeal the bail ruling. Right? But this takes a few weeks. And the next time we come up in front of the judge, Ferragamo has told the judge on the sly that bail is okay with him. He winks at the judge and whispers in his ear. The FBI wants to follow Bellarosa. Right? This is all bullshit. The FBI has been following me for twenty fucking years and they ain’t seen shit yet. So the judge winks back, and I’m sprung. But I’ve been in jail two, three weeks by that time. Follow? So Ferragamo puts the word out that I sang and sang in the slammer. That I’m ready to give up all kinds of people for a reduced charge. So now I’m dead meat. But listen, Counsellor, if I can walk out of that courthouse on the same day I walk in, then I got a chance to keep things under control. You understand?”
“Yes.” I understood perfectly well now why it was me and not Jack Weinstein who was going to represent Mr Frank Bellarosa. It was John Whitman Sutter, great-great-great-nephew of Walt, son of Joseph Sutter the Wall Street legend, husband of Susan (one of New York’s Four Hundred) Stanhope, partner in Perkins, Perkins, Sutter and Reynolds, member of The Creek and Seawanhaka Corinthian, not to mention a High Episcopalian, a Yale graduate, Harvard Law, and a friend of Roosevelts, Astors, and Vanderbilts, and, incidentally, a friend and next-door neighbour to the accused – that very same John Sutter was going to guarantee personally in open court that his client, Mr Frank Bellarosa, was not going to skip bail. And that judge would listen, and so would every reporter in that court, and it would make every newspaper and every radio and TV news show in the tristate area, probably the country. The bastard was brilliant. He’d figured this out… when? The day I ran into him at Hicks’ Nursery? That far back? Mr Sutter? John Sutter, right?
But of course, it had to be even before then. He had known who I was, that I was a lawyer, and that I was his next-door neighbour when he ran into me by accident or design. He had already seen in his mind this whole scenario that he had just laid out before me and had figured out how to survive before his enemies even made their first move. And what was even more impressive was that he had been reasonably sure that I was in his hip pocket even after I’d told him to buzz off a few times. It was no accident that this man was still alive and free after thirty years. His enemies – state and federal law enforcement agencies, rival Mafia bosses, Colombians, and other opportunists – were not lazy or incompetent. They simply were not up to the challenge of getting rid of Frank Bellarosa. I mean, there was a time when I wanted to see him in jail… maybe even dead. But I had mixed feelings about that now, the way I do when a shark is hooked. You hate the shark, you fear the shark, but after about two hours, you respect the shark.
I heard his voice interrupting my thoughts. “So you understand?”
He went on. “We should be out of the courthouse before they break for lunch. I don’t want lunch in the holding cell. Then you and me go have a nice lunch someplace. Maybe Gaffe Roma. That’s near the court. I gotta make you try fried squid. So around that time, Alphonse Ferragamo is holding one of his fucking press conferences. He’s skipping lunch so he can make the late editions and the five-o’clock news. Right? He’s announcing my indictment, my arrest, and all that shit. He wants to announce that I’m in jail, too, but that ain’t gonna happen, so he has to eat a little shit from the press people and from his boss in Washington. But basically, he’s a happy man, and he’s going to fuck his girlfriend that afternoon, then go home and have a party. So we’ll hang around town awhile, get a hotel room, watch the news, get some newspapers, have a few friends over. You can make a few statements to the press, too, but not too much. And remind me to call my wife. Oh, yeah, it would be nice if your wife could go over to my place about eight, nine in the morning and sit with my wife. You know how wives get about this shit. Well, maybe you don’t. But I can tell you, they don’t handle it too good. So your wife can kinda keep Anna’s mind off things, maybe until her stupid relatives get out to my place and they can all hang around crying and cooking. Okay? But don’t mention any of this to your wife yet. Capisce? And try to be around for the next two, three weeks. You going on vacation or anything?”
“I guess not.”
“Good. Stick around. Get lots of sleep on Monday nights. All right? Practise what you’re gonna say in court. Get your brass balls on for the fucking Feds. We’re gonna look good in court.” He looked at me. “No jail, Counsellor. No jail.
That’s what I promised you, that’s what you promise me. You understand?”
“I promise I will do my best.”
“Good.” He stood and slapped me on the shoulder. “Hey, I got another problem. In Brooklyn, I got tomatoes the size of bull balls. Here it is the middle of July, and I got these small green things. But I see you got nice big ones, and those are the plants I gave you. Remember? So the soil must be different. I’m not embarrassed or anything, but this is hard to understand. So what I want is to trade you some of your tomatoes for something. I got lots of string beans. Okay? Deal?”
I don’t like string beans, but we shook on it.