(Setting: Angelo's Bar and Restaurant, Red Hook Brooklyn, 1960s)
Johnny London was flanked by a couple of soldiers. His icy blue eyes bored into Billy, who stared back unflinchingly.
“That job you pulled was a major fuckup.”
“Who says it was me? I haven’t heard a word from the cops about anything.”
“That’s because we sent word we’d take care of it,” Johnny growled. “Don’t you see the people who go to that place every day? Did you ever stop and think that there might be a special interest in that place?”
“C’mon, Johnny,” Billy reasoned. “I’m in here every other day and I’ve never heard mention about that place being mobbed up.”
“Well, we don’t talk about a lot of things, especially in front of people who are not mobbed up! Did you ever tell Dee Dee what you were planning?”
“Why would I tell Dee Dee? That would implicate him.”
“That’s the problem with smart guys,” Johnny pointed his cigar at Billy. “You think you got all the answers. That’s why smart guys don’t go into this lifestyle. This is like the police force, you don’t ask what assignments you get, you just go out and do your job. Maybe you should go be a cop and learn how to take orders.”
“They don’t take guys who did five years for armed robbery.”
“You think you’re the only one around here who’s ever done time?” Johnny smirked as the wiseguys alongside him shook their heads. “It gives you credentials, but it doesn’t mean shit to anyone besides whoever you did the time for. Think about that.”
“I’d like to speak to Mimi about this.”
“I speak for Mimi,” Johnny said flatly. “You know, if they linked you guys to this you’d be flushed down the same toilet. You know that spic friend of yours paid off his Mom’s rent for the year? What makes you think they wouldn’t pull a rerun on this? They pick him up, kick his ass, then you’re back in the can.”
“So there’s no way I can talk to Mimi.”
“Mimi told me to talk to you. What makes you think you can talk to Mimi whenever you feel like it?”
“I’m asking your permission.”
“Permission denied. You tell me what you want and I’ll tell Mimi.”
Billy reached inside his jacket, causing the wiseguys to rise in their seats. Billy’s hand stopped short and Johnny signaled them to back down.
“I know you’re supposed to pay tribute, it’s a tradition,” Billy laid a stuffed envelope in front of Johnny. “If there’s a special interest, then that should confirm it’s ten percent in there.”
“Smart kid,” Johnny grunted as he picked the envelope off the table and shoved it in his pocket.
“Real smart kid,” one of the wiseguys smiled.
“You lay low until we send for you, don’t come around here until then,” Johnny told him. “We know you and your friends hang out at O’Keefe’s, and we know where you live. We could make you bring the whole score back, but we know you made a mistake. Do you know you made a mistake?”
“I guess I did.”
“The place is insured, lucky for you. Like I said, you don’t do anything until we send for you.”
He lay in his hotel room that night, swigging from a bottle of Bushmill’s and watching TV until the station shut down for the night. He continued staring at the test pattern on the screen long after the National Anthem had concluded the evening’s programming. He relived the events of the last couple of weeks over and over again, wondering if he was maintaining control over his life or losing it without realizing.