Sergeant Joe Blenkinsop was a
good cop. Like all good cops he had learnt to rely heavily on
his instincts. Now, as he looked around the large wooden
crates, piled almost to the ceiling in the small warehouse, his
instincts told him that something was very wrong. He started
to turn, reaching for the snub-nosed .38 revolver tucked into
his belt, even before hearing the footsteps behind him. But
this time his instincts did not save him. Even as he began to
turn the two gunmen opened fire on him. At point-blank range
the first two bullets were both lethal -- one penetrating his
heart, the other passing through his left temple to lodge deep
within his brain. But the gunmen did not stop firing until
they had emptied their revolvers, firing a dozen bullets into
his body, which bucked and twitched beneath the hail of lead
before finally slumping into a bloody heap on the concrete
* * *
Sante Piccolo looked across
at the diminutive, grey-haired old lady sitting quietly beside
him on the front seat. He knew that strictly speaking he
wasn't supposed to use the black-and-white squad car to ferry
private passengers. But due to a mix-up in the shifts, his
partner, Joe, had been called onto duty at the last minute.
Too late to arrange for anyone else to collect his mother from
the airport. Not wanting the old lady to be stranded in a
strange city, Joe had badgered his long-time pal until Sante
agreed to collect his mother for him.
Seeing the wide-eyed look on
the face of the old lady, as she looked up in wonderment at the
towering projections of glass and chrome that made up
City, Sante said,
"It's a big city all right."
Looking startled, as though she
had forgotten the presence of the cop sitting beside her, Mavis
Blenkinsop looked across at him and said, "Yes...Yes it is.
It's quite a change from our little town back east."
They continued to make small
talk for a few minutes longer, however, Sante could tell the old
lady had something she wanted to get off her chest.
'She probably wants to thank me for rescuing
her from the chaos of the airport terminal,' thought Sante, 'and
doesn't know how to bring it up.' But instead, to his
astonishment, she finally said:
"You know, this wasn't really
Seeing the policeman's look of
surprise, she explained, "I mean you chauffeuring me from the
airport...Don't get me wrong, Sergeant, I'm very grateful for all
the trouble that you're going to, but I'm not really as frail and
helpless as my son, Joseph, seems to think...In a small country
town, like the one where I was born and raised, you soon learn to
look after yourself. If I had stepped out of the airport into a
strange, big city like this, without someone to meet me, it would
have been a bit of a shock...at first. But I would have found
my way to my son's apartment, without too much
She paused for a moment, before
adding, "Over the last twenty-five years, since the death of my
husband, I've learnt to be self-sufficient: I might look like a
helpless old lady, but I know how to look after
'Yes, I just bet you do
too!' thought Sante, smiling at the old lady's
They were only a few minutes
drive from Joe Blenkinsop's apartment building when the call for
assistance came over the police radio.
Like Joe Blenkinsop, Sante
Piccolo was a good cop. So, although his first instinct had
been to drop Mavis Blenkinsop off at her son's apartment first,
after a second's hesitation he flicked on the black-and-white's
siren, spun the car into a hard U-turn and sped toward the
warehouse area reported over the radio.
"Just keep your head down when
we get there, in case there's any gunplay," warned Sante. He
stole a glance at his elderly passenger, who seemed more excited
than concerned by this sudden turn of events.
Sante needn't have worried,
though. The gunplay was well and truly over by the time they
reached the warehouse. They arrived just in time to see the
lifeless body of Joe Blenkinsop being lifted on a stretcher into
the back of an ambulance.
"Oh my God!" said Sante
Piccolo. He stared in shock out through the front windscreen at
the sight of his long-time partner's bullet-riddled corpse,
temporarily forgetting the old lady sitting beside him in the
"Joseph! On no, Joseph! Not
my Joseph!" shrieked Mavis Blenkinsop. She leapt from the
black-and-white with an agility that belied her frail
"Mrs. Blenkinsop! No!" cried
Sante. He reached across the front seat in a desperate bid to
pull her back into the patrol car. But too late. The old lady
was already racing across the macadam, toward the startled
"Joseph! Oh my Joseph!"
shrieked Mavis. She tried to throw herself across her son's
body, almost causing it to topple off the stretcher, which swayed
precariously as the two men struggled to lift it into the back of
"Mrs. Blenkinsop, no!" warned
Sante. He pulled her away long enough for the two ambulance men
to do their job. Then, as she struggled against him, he gave up
and allowed her to climb into the back of the van to ride to the
hospital with her son.
* * *
Half an hour later, although
still clearly upset, Mavis Blenkinsop had calmed down enough to
ask, "Who...Who could have done this terrible thing, Sergeant?
Who could have murdered my Joseph?"
"We...we don't know for sure,
Mrs. Blenkinsop," admitted Sante Piccolo. He stood with his
back hard against a wall in the small examination room, at the
hospital where the old lady had been taken, when at first it had
seemed that she would need sedation. "But for the last two
years Joe has been...."
The policeman stopped for a
moment, took a deep breath, then corrected himself, "Joe had been
trying to get the goods on a local Mafia creep named Mario
Danzig. Danzig operates out of the back of a pool hall in Old
Manson Street, and we believe he's in charge of the local gangs
of juvenile pushers...."
Seeing Mavis Blenkinsop's
puzzled look, Sante explained, "These days the drug lords use
junior high school kids to push drugs for them. That way they
can pay them peanuts, and if the pushers get caught, instead of
going to jail for years, they get a slap on the wrist in the
juvenile courts and are straight back out onto the streets
* * *
Mario Danzig was tall and lean,
with a thick crop of jet-black hair, which made him look fifteen
years younger than his age of fifty-two. Over the last
twenty-five years he had had his hands in many million-dollar
deals. But at the moment he was engaged in a penny-ante game of
stud poker with three of his "boys", in his office at the back of
Mario's Pool Hall.
Mario had just decided to raise
a quarter, when the door in front of him suddenly opened. At
the sound of the creaking door, the three hoodlums dived for the
floor and reached for the revolvers that they wore in shoulder
holsters, as...in walked a tiny, grey-haired old lady.
Sighing from relief one of the
hoods stood up and said, "Wrong door lady, the powder room is two
doors further on..."
Then Mavis Blenkinsop pulled a
.38 revolver from her handbag and opened fire.
While Mario Danzig dived for
cover under his large oak desk, one of the hoods tackled the old
lady and managed to disarm her. Miraculously the six shots
fired by the old lady had all gone astray and no one had been
"Got her boss," said the
hoodlum. And Mario climbed out from his cubby-hole to see the
hood holding the long barrel of his revolver hard under the old
lady's nose, her own gun, now empty, lying useless at her
Walking rapidly across the
room, Mario grabbed the revolver from the startled hoodlum and
said, "What do you think you're doing, you creep? This is a
little old lady; you don't go treating little old ladies like
"But boss...!" protested the
"She's old enough to be your
mother. How would you like it if some creep treated your mother
Looking perplexed as well as a
little offended by the comparison, the hoodlum complained, "But
boss, she just tried to kill you!"
Mario thought about that for a
moment, then said with a laugh, "Hey everyone's entitled to make
one honest mistake in their life." Then a little more
seriously, "But I'm sure we can talk this thing out
He started to lead Mavis across
toward his bullet-riddled desk, then seeing the three hoods
standing around still, said, "I said we'll talk it out...You
creeps can wait outside!"
With a few grumbles of protest
the three hoodlums went out in the hallway as Mario led Mavis
across to his desk. Straightening up a chair for her, he joked,
"You'll have to pardon the state of the room, but it's just
impossible to get good help these days."
As Mavis Blenkinsop sat down,
Mario Danzig walked around to the front of the desk. Dumping
her .38 revolver into the desk drawer, he straightened his chair,
then sat down and asked, "Now what is this all about?"
Seething with rage, more at her
failure to kill Danzig, than at the way his boys had handled her,
she said, "You killed my son!"
Mario thought about that for a
moment, shrugged, then said, "Maybe I did...Maybe I didn't...What
was his name?"
Genuinely surprised Mario
asked, "The cop who was killed in the warehouse."
"That's right...You killed
"I can assure you Mrs.
Blenkinsop, I had nothing to do with the death of your son,
"You killed him, or you had him
killed!" insisted Mavis, refusing to be convinced.
"Mrs. Blenkinsop, I did not
have your son killed," insisted Mario. "Hell I'm no angel, I
admit it...Sure I've had guys killed from time to time. I've
even killed one or two myself...But I didn't kill your son.
Sure he was being a bit of a pest to my organisation, but as a
matter of policy I never have cops killed...It's bad for
For the first time since
bursting into the back room, Mavis Blenkinsop felt unsure of
herself. Seeing how crestfallen she looked, Mario said, "Mrs.
Blenkinsop, I know how you feel about the loss of your son
He hesitated for a moment,
breathed deeply, then said, "Some years ago I lost my
brother...Not...not in all of this...Not in my business.
Leonard...That was his name...."
Choking on his grief, he had to
stop for a moment before saying, "Leonard was too good to be
involved in this kind of racket. He hated the Mob and even
tried to talk me into getting out...Of course I couldn't have,
even if I'd wanted to...Getting into the Mob is a lot like
getting married, except that when they say, 'Till death do you
part,' they ain't kidding, because no one lives very long after
quitting the Mob...." He paused again for a moment, then said,
"Anyway, Leonard was killed in a simple hit-and-run. If...if
I'd known who the driver was I would've had my boys kill
He stopped to wipe at his eyes
with one hand for a moment. "But there were no witnesses and
the driver never came forward...So they never found out who he
was. For two years I used my network to try to track the driver
down...But it was hopeless...There were no clues."
As he stopped to wipe at his
eyes again, Mavis Blenkinsop was shocked to see that Mario Danzig
"Look at me," he said with a
half-hearted laugh, "a big Mafia goon crying like a
baby...Anyway, Mrs. Blenkinsop I didn't have your Joseph killed,
but I do know how you feel. Leonard died ten years ago, but
I've never completely got over his death...Never stopped missing
Wiping his eyes on a
handkerchief this time, he said, "I don't have a clue who killed
your son...But I've got contacts...If you like I'll ask around,
use my network to try to find out who did kill him."
Shocked by the Mafia boss'
tears, Mavis Blenkinsop sat there in silence for a few moments
before finally saying, "Thank you...Mario...I...I'm sorry that I
tried to kill you."
* * *
Mavis Blenkinsop returned to
her son's apartment building confused by her talk with Mario
Danzig. Over the next week or so her confusion, and alarm grew,
as a major Mafia war broke out in the big city. For ten days
New York in 1999 seemed more like Chicago in 1929, as rival gangs
opened fire upon each other with revolvers, shotguns and even
After ten days more than a
hundred people had been killed, half of them innocent bystanders,
and another fifty were on the critical list.
Afraid to leave the apartment
building, despite her feisty nature, Mavis Blenkinsop sat before
the television set watching in mounting alarm as the corpses from
each new gun battle were displayed on the late night cable news
It was on the tenth day of the
Mafia war that Mavis jerked to attention as the film on TV
suddenly showed someone she knew. An amateur camcorder video,
the film showed Mario Danzig flanked by two of his boys walking
toward his car. From behind him a young mother, leading two
small children, walked out of a bank as a black Cadillac rounded
the corner at high speed. Looking up at the sound of screeching
tyres, Mario dived for the bullet-proof car as the machine-guns
opened fire cutting down Mario, his two goons, the mother and her
"Oh no!" said Mavis, clasping
her hands over her mouth. Shocked both by the shooting of
someone she knew, no matter how slightly, and also because she
realised that if Mario Danzig died, she might never find out who
had authorised the murder of her son.
* * *
An hour later Mavis was at the
hospital mentioned in the news bulletin, trying to get in to see
Mario. But after managing to charm her way past the nurse at
the front desk, she found herself stymied by the young constable
posted on duty outside the private room where Mario had been
taken after eight hours in surgery.
"But I have to see Mr. Danzig!"
"Sorry lady, but that's
"But I have to see
"Sorry, but Mr. Danzig is in a
bad way. He'll be lucky if he ever sees anyone again," said the
young cop. He stopped as it occurred to him that the little old
lady might be Mario Danzig's mother, in which case he had just
committed a horrible faux pas.
They continued to argue for
another few minutes, then as the noise of the argument reached
the people inside the small ward, the door opened and out stepped
"Mrs. Blenkinsop?" he said,
astounded to see her. "What are you doing here?"
"Please, Sergeant," begged
Mavis, "I've got to see Mario for a minute."
"I'm afraid that's out of the
question, he's in a critical condition."
Before she could argue further,
Sante opened the small door and stepped back into the ward, where
Dr. Marilyn Coburn and two nurses were carefully monitoring the
life-support machines that kept Mario Danzig just this side of
As Marilyn Coburn looked up his
entrance, Sante explained, "Just an old lady wanting to see
Danzig." Then remembering that Coburn had known his dead
partner, "Joe Blenkinsop's mother. Though lord only knows how
she knows this creep."
"Mrs. Blenkinsop?" said Mario
in a weak voice, startling Coburn and Piccolo, who had both
thought that he was long past speech. "Mrs. Blenkinsop is
here?" repeated Mario, desperately trying to sit up on the
"Easy, easy!" warned Marilyn
Coburn, gently pressing him back dawn.
"But I've gotta see Mrs.
Blenkinsop!" insisted Mario.
"Mario that's impossible!"
protested Sante, going across to help hold the dying man down on
the small bed.
"Then you've gotta tell her,"
said Mario, startling Sante by grabbing him by the collar and
pulling him down over the bed. "You've gotta tell her that I
found out for her... I found out who killed her son."
Both Sante and Marilyn Coburn
looked startled by this revelation.
Hardly able to speak anymore
Mario said in a croaking voice, "It was two outta town shooters
hired by that creep Franco Venuti."
"Are you sure?" demanded
Ignoring the question Mario
continued, "I promised her I'd ask around until I found out, and
For just a moment his eyes were
shining with ecstasy, then slowly Mario's grasp slipped from
Sante's collar and as he fell back onto his bed, the life-support
monitors went wild.
While Marilyn Coburn fought
futilely to restore life to Mario Danzig's dead body, Sante
Piccolo went out into the hallway where he found Mavis Blenkinsop
"He's dead," said Sante
"Did he...?" began
Nodding his head Sante said,
"He told me that Joe was murdered by a rival Mafia boss named
"This Franco Venuti...?" began
Mavis. But she was cut off by Sante who answered:
"He's dead. Franco Venuti was
killed in the Mafia war two days ago."
"Then justice has been done,"
said Mavis, sounding satisfied. "My Joseph was killed and now
his murderer has been killed!"
Sighing from frustration, Sante
said, "Mrs. Blenkinsop, before he died Mario Danzig said that he
asked around for you...to find out who killed Joe?"
"Yes, that's right."
"Mrs. Blenkinsop, Mario must
have asked around too much."
Looking perplexed Mavis said,
"I don't understand?"
"He must have asked the wrong
person. He must have asked Franco Venuti or someone in Franco's
network..." Seeing that she still didn't understand he
explained, "As a consequence of your desire to find Joe's killer,
we've just had one of the bloodiest Mafia wars in the history of
this country...Mrs. Blenkinsop, you got revenge for the murder of
your son, but in the process over a hundred people have died.
Half of them Mafia creeps, the other half innocent men, women,
and children who just happened to be in the wrong place when the
Turning he started to walk into
the private ward, then looked back and added, "Even Mario Danzig
died for you...You've had your revenge for Joe's killing Mrs.
Blenkinsop, I just hope you're satisfied!"
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