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The Napa Sitdown, a fictional story, fueled by some fine red wine.
Ricky the “Moon Man”’s eyes darted around wildly. He let off a litany of cussing epithets and slammed the phone so hard on the table that the plastic of the hand held receiver shattered in a thousand pieces.
This was not a man to be trifled with. In Vegas he was the go-to-man for the Family. The city belonged to him.
He could handle the blade with the skill of a virtuoso, he was fast, he was quick, he was deadly.
His enemies often underestimated the ferociousness of this man. His eyes magnified by his thick glasses had an eerie quality, especially when he stared right at you.
He had a temper and had no qualms about letting it fly at will. This man was a volcano of emotions which erupted continuously out of his mouth with a spray of profanities which he weaved artistically as if a poet of the genre. His diminutive frame was wrapped with solid sinewy muscle, which would dance frenetically underneath his fine custom suits every time his rage took over… and that,…..was often.
“The Fro Man is dead! “ he screamed “dead!” he screamed one more time, and with that he smashed whatever was left of the phone receiver into the ground.
Big Johnny “T” was his boy, nobody was gonna make a move against him without his expressed permission. It was a matter of respect, even the boss Nick “Toll Tales” knew what that was all about. When the family wanted take Johnny to the big apple, Nick himself flew to Vegas to ask for Rick’s permission first. That damned Sicilian understood the meaning of respect.
But then again he was ‘Old School” ,all dressed up like a pretty boy going to church on Sunday, that “dago” could have charmed a snake with the mellifluous sound of his voice.
It was difficult to understand what Nick was talking about half of the time, one had to get past that damned accent of his, the ladies seemed to dig it , but to Rick it was a bothersome thing. Why couldn’t that Sicilian speak proper English like an American?
As far as Rick was concerned Andy “ Fro Man” should have been dealt with years ago when he made his first moves.
“The stones on this guy” he thought to himself. “ He just waltzes in Johnny’s place carrying a piece… he takes all his crew along .. what is this Chicago?” , then he felt his rage brewing from within: “ he is dead, dead deeeeead!!!!!” Rick yelled. “I am going to kill him with my bare hands!... I am going to…..”
Then it dawned on him. He had just slammed the phone down on Nick, and for brief moment the impetus of his rage got stuck down into his throat. He gulped and drew a big breath. His eyes froze still in his sockets . : “Get me another phone, get me that dago back on the line….!”
The “ Moon Man” had a hair trigger temper, but he was not stupid. Messing with Nick was not a good thing.
Nick “Tall Tales”
Nick knew that the “Moon Man” had an uncontrollable temper, and when the dial tone suddenly clicked in the midst of Rick’s epithets, he wondered to himself where did this irascible man smash the phone this time.
This thing was getting to be an annoying routine and Nick felt that maybe Rick needed some talking to.
He placed the phone down and poured himself a chilled Vodka Martini. This think between Johnny “T” and Andy “ Fro Man” was getting out of hand. He needed to figure out how to fix it before it got bloody. A war was the last thing he needed at this time. It was not good for business especially now as the family was making some big moves out west.
Even Gil “The Tango Dancer” from Philly had acquiesced to Jonny’s move. For God’s sake , if anybody should have been upset that would have been Gil .The Tango Dancer run a tight crew in Philly and a couple of other spots back in Florida. Pretty soon he was gonna make a move on D.C. and the family was all behind that.
If anyone was to make a beef out of this arrangement he should have been the one.
Nick knew this and he made an arrangement with Big Johnny “T” to cut in Gil for a piece of the action.
“Spread the wealth around” he said, this was not an order, but it was clearly understood by all exactly for what it meant. Nick “Tall Tales” knew how to sell a story. This blue-eyed Sicilian flashed a warm smile to punctuate every word, but the steeliness of his stare did not encourage any rebuttal.
There was no room for negotiation. He did not gloat he did not scream. He just got things done. That was is motto. “Get it done!”
Whenever he sent a crew out on a job, he didn’t need to know the details. Nick only expected results. The family was held together by a web of fragile pacts and alliances, his job was to keep it all well balanced.
“If this outfit was to survive” he was fond of saying “everybody needs to eat a piece of the pie.”
The Big Apple, was some pie and everyone was getting a piece of it, so “what the heck did that blood thirsty bastard from Beantown want?” Nick wondered quietly.
He took one long sip from his glass, swished the vodka around in his mouth and then he swallowed it, slowly, savoring that long, smooth, burn in the back of his throat.
As he sat down on his comfy club chair he started to analyze the angles in his mind.
The phone rang; he motioned to the guys guarding the door not to pick it up.” Let it go to message” he said. Nick knew that Rick was calling back to apologize and he did not want to talk to him now. In his mind he craftily thought: “ Let him stew in own juices for a while, it will put some fear in him.”
He took another sip of his drink, with the remote control in hand he cranked up the music playing in the background. Surprisingly he found himself singing along. Nick recognized the tune; it was a classic, Sinatra’s rendition of “New York”. “How apropos.” He thought to himself.
Gil “The Tango Dancer”
Some men look good in clothes Gil was fond of saying that he made the clothes look good on him. This man was not shy or modest for that matter. He kept his perfectly shaped head closely shaven, a pair of designer thin rimmed glasses always framed his eyes and he spoke with a languid South American accent that the ladies could not resist. Whenever he moved across the dance floor his feet seemed to glide on air .Whichever girl was in his arms swooned with the music and simply floated away with every note.
“The Tango Dancer” danced smoothly with every note, flashing that debonair smile that made grown men tremble with fear and swept his molls off their feet.
Make no mistake, Gil was a killer, but on that floor he was a dancer, whatever he did, even his most nefarious activities , he did with elegance and flair.
Toll Tales liked this man, they were often together and Gils’s crew was responsible for Nick’s safety whenever “ Tall Tales” came to Philly to square out a disputes.
Gil’s main job was to set up the “sit downs”. Issues at hand were put to rest quickly and quietly.
Whenever Gil stood next to Nick the message was clear: “Someone was gonna get his”.
His cell started to vibrate Gil’s hand was caressing languidly the mane of his Moll-du Jour. He was getting ready to make his move: “Damn phone” he thought to himself, always ringing at the most inopportune time.
He grabbed the receiver from the inside of his jacket , flipped open the phone with one single flick of the wrist , brought it to his ear and curtly said: “Yes TT what’s up?”.
He was the only man who could call Nick by this nickname. At lest the only one who could do it and still breathe after he uttered the words. Gil was a king in Nick’s posse and it was clearly understood by all.
“Ok , I will call Freddi’s Girl and will set it up . See you there” and with that he put the phone back in his jacket, stood up motioned up the guys standing guard on the corners of the room.
They all grouped by him in a two by two formation. Gil leaned in toward the couch and softly held the hand of the girl. By now she was trembling with fear, sensing that something dangerous was about to go down. “I will dance with you again another time” he murmured softly. “That is if you should want me to.” His lips brushed delicately against the skin of her hand with a gentle kiss.
She looked at him walking away, in the middle of that group of bruisers, elegantly strutting with a spring in his step as if tapping along some tango music.
She knew he was bad news but she could not help herself, she moaned dreamily though her pursed lips and then she leaned back against the plush cashmere cloth, which dressed elegantly the wide couch in Gil’s office. Two more men with dark glasses still stood guard by the door, but all that she could think about was Gil’s sweet smell and the feel of his touch. Her skin was still abuzz with electricity.
Her name was Lindsay but everyone called her by her nickname: “Freddi’s Girl”. She hated that name and the no-neck-dumb-ass crew of lowlifes’ who stuck her with it. Freddi was one of them and he was a moron too.
Lindsay was not one to meander much in the halls of small talk. She was not a doll, a babe or a moll. She was a woman. She had stance, strength, pride , and she knew how to take care of herself. She made her living, and a luxurious one at that, by handling the security and travel details for the big boys of the” Family”. “Toll Tales” was her favorite client.
He was the one who always called her by her real name, never by her nickname, at least to her face. He was respectful, almost old fashioned in his mannerism, but there was a very clear understanding that he was not a man to be trifled with. He did not show it, nor did he imply it, but you could read it in the eyes of those who were around him, they too were “respectfully afraid” of what this man could do.
Lindsay made it an art form to arrange for all details in a quiet unassuming way. Transportation and security was her specialty, but her real talent was to deal with a bunch of wild, hammered and belligerent alpha males who could not hold their liquor.
She was not the prudish kind, she knew what went on with these boys and frankly she did not care. But when Nick asked her to make sure that everyone be back to the mansion by midnight. She did not need to be told twice.
At first glance it was difficult to assume that she even possessed such intensity about herself. After all it was undeniable that she was a beautiful woman. Lindsay wore Manolos and Converse with the same style and understated elegance.
She had a stance about herself, a look that was both alluring and threatening at the same time. Lindsay would always ask kindly for things to be done, but it was made clear that there was a steely will even behind the most mellifluous intonations of her voice. She was not one to back down.
If you were smart, you made sure she did not need to be asked again. Freddi Santoro was not a smart man.
From time to time in the midst of a conversation or while sipping on a glass of wine she would think of the incident that gave her the dreaded nickname.
Some years ago Freddi’s was the official “ Fixer” in the ranks of the family. He was the willful executioner of the family’s darkest wishes. He carried out his orders with gleeful intent and he took great joy in intimidating those around him.
For such a man it was surprising that he could not hold his liquor. Booze made him sloppy and stupid. What made it even more worrisome, he knew of this weakness and seemed not able to resist the lure of one too many Gin and Tonic. How could such a man be trusted with some of the family’s darkest secrets?
Nick had been wrestling with this question for quite some time now, until Lindsay presented him with an opportunity.
Freddi had taken the boys out to Frisco, to hit the clubs and have some fun. Lindsay had arranged for a small motorcade, a security detail and passes for the hottest clubs in town. Right around 2 P.M. everyone was pretty well trashed and in need to get back to their hotel suites. By this time Freddi was a blubbering bowl of jell-o that made no sense when he spoke and stunk of cheap Gin. Then it happened, suddenly, he grabbed Lindsay. He grabbed her hard; he grabbed her where he should not have.
Another woman would have been afraid and called for help. But this is the thing with Lindsay, she is not another woman. She quietly turned her Diamond Ring outward and made a fist with her right hand. She gracefully stepped out of his drunken embrace. She petted his chin with her left hand and punched him , hard with a right hook.
In his drunken stupor, Freddi never knew what hit him, but he felt it. He felt it hard, then his leg buckled underneath him and everything went black.
They say that diamonds are the hardest stones and hers must have been at least two carats. As it made contact with Freddi’s face it made a loud noise and a resonant impact. The slob fell to the ground like a sack of potatoes. He rode in the trunk of the car that night, back to the hotel, and while no one knows the details of what followed, a new man took the role of the “fixer” in the family. Freddi was never seen or heard of again. Nick made sure of that.
That is how Lindsay became known as : “Freddi’s Girl”.
The phone rung: “Lindsay how are you?” Gil was always charming on the phone. “We are coming to Napa with boys I need you to arrange for everything. Nick is putting together a sit-down . Froman and Big Johnny “T” are gonna be there. Did you hear about that?”
She had her spies, she knew what this meant and what was going on. But she made no mention of it.
“ One thing I need you to do this time” Gil’s voice trailed off a bit.”… I need to make sure no-one carries a piece, especially these two guys. I need you to set us up in a Restaurant’s private room in Napa Valley, somewhere quiet. The food has to be great! You know how Nick is. Just in case make sure you bring some big trash bags, we might want to help the wait stuff and do some cleaning before we leave. You know these guys work as hard as it is!”
Lindsay understood only too well. The Tango Dancer did not have to spell it out. “ Would you like some big bags, triple lined, with a center zippers maybe?’ She asked matter of fact.
The Tango Dancer left out a soft chuckle. “ Yeah, those will do… those will do just fine.” Then Gil spoke softly and said: “Remember the word is “ Posse” . did you get that?”
“I got that” She answered, and that was that.
Wade was starting to sweat already. He had been rolling around the ground now for almost an hour, Cooper was on top of him, one little slippery guy, really hard to catch. They had being paying all afternoon chasing each other around the house, building the tree house and now, right before dinner they were wrestling on the floor.
Steph looked on them as she was putting on here final touches on her family meal . One thing about Wade was true. He was a great husband and a dedicated father. That is why it was almost impossible to believe that he was indeed “The Fixer”.
A tall handsome man with a bald head , he had the unassuming look of an all-American athlete. He looked like the guy you want to be friend with or the neighbor who would come to your house to help you on a repair. Wade was that man, but he also was “The Fixer”. That was his job and whilst he might not really love that aspect of his life, he was good at it and he did it better than anyone else.
When Nick needed to get things done, Wade was the go-to guy. His territory swung big and wide from Minnesota all the way to West Coast, he took care of the Family’s joints. He was the man you sent in to take care of problems.
Maybe the accounting got too creative or some unfortunate “captain” forgot how make money for any of the family’s units, he was the man you sent in for the job. When he walked in through your door, you knew you were in trouble.
“Wade! ” Steph was holding the phone when she came into the room: “it’s Nick.”
Wade’s face became sullen and for quick moment he hated the interruption of his time with Cooper , but he was a pragmatic man and he also knew there was no choice. That was his lot in life. He kissed his son on the forehead he gestured with his hand to be quiet, picked up the phone and went to the office upstairs” Yes Boss what do you need!”.
The next day Wade stepped out of the family’s private jet near the Boston’s airport, a car was waiting for him. He took a big breath, pressed the black fedora to his head, buttoned his smartly tailored overcoat, stepped down the ramp and got into the awaiting car.
The driver looked nervous, his passenger carried no bags, he had been further instructed not to make any small talk. Not that he wanted to; there was something frightful about his man with the black hat. The evening chill was setting in and the car pulled away into the awaiting arms of Beantown. Some body was going to have a very unhappy surprise.
Fro Man was in the midst of “ Taco Tuesday” and his joint was really hopping. He was looking around proud of himself and his marketing skills. The pace was packed. Then he saw The Fixer walking though the doors and his mood changed quickly. Except for his smile which remained frozen on his lips as he extended his hand and said: “ Wade what a pleasant surprise!”
Wade shook Fro Man’s hand but did not let it go. He looked at the man right in the eyes : “ Toll Tales wants to come and have dinner at your place in two weeks. Everybody tells him you got the best fish in town. Is it so?” Fro Man bobbed his head up an down, tried to let go of the handshake but Wade was not letting his hand out of the grip.
“FroMan I got to go, I will see you in Napa next week right?” Then he squeezed his hand even tighter : “ You know Andy you got some beautiful hands , strong , well articulated and full of healthy little bones…..” he lessened his grip on FroMan’s hand and smiled a treacherous grin. “I will see you in Napa then?”
Andy kept smiling. He massaged his hand which by now was reacquiring its natural color , in his mind he kept running the spreads on what to do next while waiving goodbye to “The Fixer”.
Fro Man had gotten the message loud and clear. If Toll Tales wanted him dead he would have been laying already on the floor by now. He got the message loud and clear, he was going to go to Napa . He just was not so sure he was going to come back.
Toll Tales had been very pensive, all the way back since the airport in San Francisco, he had barely spoken. Gill, who was sitting together with him in the back of the limo, was growing slightly concerned. Nick was a genuinely well mannered man, but when he would fall in a quiet funk like this it was quite clear that some heads were gonna roll. The scene had been perfectly set up , even the fixer had gotten his call and made his visit. All family protocols had been followed and now all that was needed was the boss’ say-so.
Toll Tales looked at his large watch, not so much to tell the time but, to gaze at the detailed guilloche’ work of the dial. This was an exercise he often used to keep sharp and focused.
He was getting ready to do battle and those around him were getting ready to follow. Gil’s thoughts wandered back to warm embrace he had left behind, and quietly thought to himself: “ I am a lover not a fighter”. He tightened his fis,t run his hand over the steel piece he carried. He knew then: “Heads are going to roll.”
Lindsey who was riding upfront rolled down the partition glass. Nick had buzzed her in. “ Lindsey, tell the boys we will be a few minutes late, stop at the old mill in St’ Helena I want to take a walk.” Lindsey knew better not to ask, there was a blank stare and his blue eyes seemed fixed with a steely gaze . She felt the ominous sense of impending danger.
Toll Tales looked at the water rushing down from the top, pushing forward the big paddle wheel , there was the roar of machinery, all that noise to turn grains into powdery flour, the simplest and most valued of cooking ingredients,…… well at least for Italians.
He turned back and yelled “Gil, we are going in the meat business tonight!”. The man from Argentina could not understand, he thought that the man staring back at him he had snapped.
“Gil didn’t the Fro Man go to K.C. some few weeks ago?” Gil was about to respond and then, he raised his eyes slowly , a smirk started to roll into a soft laugh and he thought to himself.” This Dago is a genius.” Both men walked back to the car.
The limo stopped in Yountville at the secret meeting spot. Lindsey opened the door and was surprised to see Nick smiling.
Security was tight that night; two body guards escorted the riders into the private dining hall. The whole crew was there, waiting. The heavy doors were locked.
Fro Man was visibly shaken, especially when Gil walked next to him and Wade, “ the Fixer”, stood behind them both, dressed in a waiter uniform.
Nick pointed to Fro Man and he gestured him to follow. They walked into a large office on the side , the security goons closed the armor thick doors and positioned themselves in the corners of the room.
Nick made his way to the bar and started to make a martini. “ Fro Man would you like one?” Andy did not know what to make of this; the evening was taking a strange turn.
“I love Kansas City” Nick continued ”Hell of a town, lot’s of action and some of the best food ever. Andy, do you like BBQ?”
Nick shook the martini shaker vigorously up and down as if keeping tempo with some imaginary rhythm then he elegantly dropped a couple of skewered olives in each glass and offered Andy a full glass of a perfectly chilled Vodka martini. Andy hated vodka but he was not about to say a thing. They both took a sip and Nick invited him to sit in the armchair by the fireplace. It was all so cozy and comfortable and it would have stayed that way if it was not for the fact that the security detail moved away from the corners of the room and surrounded the two arm chairs in a semicircle.
”This martini best be good” Andy said to Nick ”Especially if it is the last one I am going to have… by the way I hate vodka..” and in a single slurp he downed the whole glass and sucked in the olives with a loud slurping sound.
Nick smiled and he took one more sip: “ I knew about the vodka… but that is how I like it..sometimes you need to do things you do not like , in order to stay… how could I say…ALIVE!” he punctuated that word with sinister grin.
“But I am a man who does not believe in waste. Our world is made of a finite supply of energy. Passion, drive, and success are the result of a managed enterprise, something like a wagon that runs across the western prairie pulled by a team of galloping horses. In order to work they all have to go in the same direction. Every once on a while a horse may get into a fight with another stallion and then you have to put it down before it causes havoc amongst the whole team, you understand that don’t you Andy ?”
Fro Man was not a patient man, and as far as he was concerned, if this was the end of the line for him, he just wanted it over and done. Listening to Nick’s philosophizing about horses was even more painful that than waiting for the inevitable.
“Andy, if I were you I would start paying attention, NOW, what I am about to say next will change your destiny and I need to make sure you are hearing me right,… are you hearing me Andy?”
If Nick was miffed about Andy’s eye roll , it was not clear, but he was not pleased and a little bit of that Sicilian temper of his was starting to show… Andy recited one quick Hail Mary just in case.
“Big Johnny T gets 5 points, Gil gets 3 and the fixer gets 2, all from the top before expenses. The juice is fixed for two years, of course I will just keep 5 points for having to deal with this whole mess, my points stay indefinitely. That’s 20 points in total. Can you handle that?” This was not really a question and Andy knew that.
“Now let’s talk about K.C., Mr. Pit Master!” Andy was starting to get real worried now, but since the whole conversation was about points he wondered if he might still have a chance, since that money for those points was not going to pay itself.
“Our friends tell me you can really BBQ some brisket” Nick went on with a jovial tone , “I did not know you could BBQ!”
Andy was a bit puzzled and did not quite know where this was going: “ Well, Boss” Nick liked that, being called boss in the first sentence was a good beginning.
”You see ,……… I mean there was nothing to it. Me and a couple of boys from the crew , … well you see we like to BBQ, brisket is our game, … and we are kind of good at it. I mean this is not like we are muscling into anyone’s territory. This is a straight kind of thing. Look it is an contest, it is an invitational event, people come from all over the country… drink some beer smoke some meats and just have a good time . Well the boys and I thought maybe it would be fun… so well, that’s what happened we went there .. and ..” his voice trailed off for a bit , he did not know if he was in trouble or what did he do, where was Toll Tales going with this?
“And then you won…Andy.. didn’t you?” Nick now was staring him straight in the eyes.
”Fro Man, I do not like what you did to Big Johnny T, it was disrespectful.. bad blood is bad business. It is my inclination to cut tension early. Take the cancer off before it grows.. do you follow me? Anyone is not indispensable. You get a bad piece out and you put a new piece in,… like in a car engine. A part goes bad the new one goes in and the car runs a lot better.” Nick took one more sip of his drink.
Andy did not know where this was going, he sensed some approaching danger, his body stiffened up and his eyes started to look around. If he was going to go down, someone was gonna come along for the ride. He put his hand inside his jacket and then he remembered, Lindsay had taken his piece. This wan not a good thing.
“Fish is a good thing” Nick Stood up and walked toward the fireplace. “ but beef is a more profitable game, higher profits, wider market base, good cash flow. The family wants a piece of that action, we need a front man, someone who can run this business . We need a point man with “street cred” . Maybe we should look at some of the Fratianno boys, they already run a pretty tight operation in the Windy City and then I thought. How about Andy Fro Man?”
He tossed the rest of his drink into the flames dancing in the fireplace and suddenly the fire roared up with a big whooshing sound, the glow from the flames lit Nick’s face , he was smiling , Andy took that as a good sign.
“Let’s go Andy” tomorrow at breakfast I want to go over the detail of the deal,but for now let’s not make our friends wait in the other room, they must be hungry by now” He touched Andy’s shoulder and motioned to the door. “Of course there will be points involved , you understand?” Nick did not need to wait for an answer.
They both walked toward the door, looked around the room , the security boys opened the doors, he stood for a moment, took a big breath, looked around, then he called other waiter: “ I will take a Martini .. with Gin please.” It was good be alive, one more day! This thing with the beef was gonna be good”. He turned back to look at Nick who by now was chatting with Gil.
” Posse is the word! ” with that he pounded his chest with his fist. Gil smiled his sardonic grin, Nick responded: “ Posse is the word!..”
Freddy’s G, motioned to the burly boys, her security detail, to close the door to the dining room, she walked outside , and murmured to herself ” What a bunch of knuckleheads!”.
She was not wrong about this, after all they were just a bunch of testosterone laden little boys, who should not be playing with guns, at least for tonight it seemed they were all going to ride back inside their limos.” She motioned to the security captain to come over: “Put the big black zippered bags back in the trunk of the cars, we will not be taking any trash out tonight.”
“Yes Mam.” and with that he walked away.
She took one more sip of her drink and caught her own reflection in the mirror, lifted the glass as if to toast: “You are good!!” she said out loud and she was right.