I PAID THE FOUR BITS, folded the tabloid in half to hide the front, and took the paper straight to my apartment. I locked the door behind me. I pulled the shades down low. I flicked on a lamp by the couch and unfolded the paper beneath the artificial arc of light. Staring up at me was the picture that had shaken me so when I first glimpsed it in the bookstore. It was a picture of a man, stretched out on his back like an exhausted runner, a dark shadow slipping from beneath his head. The man’s mouth appeared to be laughing and at a glance it might have seemed a cheery picture except I knew the man and he was not much drawn to laughter. What seemed to be laughter was really a twisted grimace and the shadow was not a shadow and the man was no longer a man but now a corpse.
Dominic Volare, an old-time mob enforcer with strong ties to the boss. They had clipped him when he left his favorite diner in South Philly, waited as he leaned down to stick his key in the door of his Cadillac, rushed at him from behind, blasted him in the back and the neck, leaving only his face nicely unmarred for the picture. I had played poker with Dominic Volare, lost to him, been frightened by him, but he had never hurt me and had actually done a few favors for me along the way. I had thought him retired and now, I guess, he was.
There was a story inside linking the Schuylkill Expressway attack on Raffaello to Dominic’s murder and to another hit, just as deadly, if less photogenic. Jimmy Bones Turcotte, massacred in his car, a Caprice, the windows blown to hell by the fusillade that took with it his face. I didn’t know Jimmy Bones, had never had the privilege of standing in court beside him and saying “Not Guilty,” but I knew of him, for sure. He was another longtime associate of the boss. It was getting dangerous just then, I figured, to be a longtime associate of the boss, especially in or around your car.
The headline above Dominic’s death mask on the front page said it all: WAR!
It was on, yes it was. Dante’s battle for the underworld had begun in earnest and no one was safe, especially not a nickel-and-dime defense lawyer who had been roped into scouting for one side or the other. I turned off the light and thought about fleeing, maybe to Fresno, where mobsters in the movies always seemed to flee, Fresno. Or I could just cower in my apartment until it passed. I’d be all right, I had a television and a freezer for my frozen dinners and there was that Thomas Hardy book I had been meaning to read. I could hide out until it all blew over, lose myself on the bleak heaths of Hardy’s Wessex, I could, yes. But I wouldn’t. I had things to do, a fortune to hunt, and no slick-haired tooth-sucking loan shark like Earl Dante was going to push me off my path. What I needed was advice, serious advice, and there was only one man I trusted who knew enough of the ins and outs of the family business to give it to me.
With trembling fingers I dialed the 407 area code and then information. It was a shock to actually find his number there, as if all he was was another retiree, waiting by the phone for calls from his grandchildren. “Be there,” I whispered to myself as his phone rang. “Please to hell be there.”
“Yes?” said a woman’s voice, squeezed dry by massive quantities of cigarettes.
“Hello,” I said. “I’m looking for Walter Calvi.”
“He no here now.”
“I need to speak to him, it’s very important.”
“He’s gone two, three days, fishing.”
“Fishing? I didn’t know Calvi fished.”
“Big fish,” she said. “From a boat.”
“When will he be back?”
“Two, three days.”
“Can you give him a message for me?”
“He’s fishing,” she said.
“Can you give him a message for me? Can you tell him Victor Carl called and that things are going on up here and that he should get in touch with me?”
“Okay,” she said. “Victor Carl.”
I gave her my number and she repeated it to me.
“Could you tell him it’s important?”
“Nothing more important down here than big fish,” she said. “Except maybe cleaning the air conditioner and feeding the cat. But I tell him, okay?”
I hung up the phone and waited in the dark of my apartment for a while, waited for the light outside to grow dim, waited for Calvi to get his butt off his boat and tell me what to do. At least it had turned out all right for him, I guess. He was sitting on some boat off the Florida Keys, snapping marlins from the cool Atlantic waters, while the rest of us were stuck up here ducking Dante’s bullets. Of all the deals that were handed out Calvi got the best, for sure. I just hoped he would get his butt off that boat in time to tell me how to get one for myself.
When it was time I quietly left the quiet of my apartment, stepped down the stairs, looked both ways along the now dark street. Cautiously I slipped out onto the sidewalk. I passed my car and left it there. After what had happened in Raffaello’s Cadillac, and seeing what I had seen in the paper, I wanted nothing to do with cars for a while. I walked along Spruce, then down through the park at Nineteenth, and over to Walnut, to restaurant row. It was time, I figured, for me to do some fishing of my own.