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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic
"Vinnie" is a dark comedy of a small time career criminal who is kidnapped by a volunteer organization with good connections. He becomes a pawn in a scam to spring a love struck drug dealer from jail in Germany. Everyone lies to everyone and uses Vinnie's dilemma to settle old scores.

Submitted: May 06, 2015

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Submitted: May 06, 2015





"Did he die well?"
The question  careened  around the small room without finding a parking spot, losing half of its energy on each bounce. Not quite done, it approached but never touched the x axis of dismissal.  
He waited not patiently, silently.  Three minutes in, quite a bit of silence actually, she flashed a look past her screen to see that he had arranged his features into what they both referred to as "the face".  He was fond of saying that the face first came to him in Paris.  Not that Paris.  The one in South Carolina.  It had been explained to him kinetically, while taking off his eyeglasses and coming to the position of parade rest, that "silent" ...left hook, "contempt" ....right hook, was an offense punishable under the UCMJ.  That being the gunny sergeant's uniform code of "my" justice.  Translated from the original it means "I don't like the look on your face."  Since then he had perfected an expressionless stare that still managed to convey a disregard for authority.  And he was beaming it now, using her seniority as a lever against her and her ever present laptop.  The face does it's job and she looks up again, admitted defeat by closing the cover and unleashing the heaviest sigh.  
Becoming the team leader again, she hit the ball back.
"Vinnie?  No." 
The face melts away.  He was no longer spoiling for a fight.  "I wish I didn't feel responsible."  
"Bart, I was hired to do a job and I brought you and the rest on to help.  We weren't there, we can never know. I figure that being Vinnie, he was cocky...sure that he could bluff his way and blew off everything we taught him.  Then he realized he was in trouble and panicked.  He said too much or tried to run his game. Or there are a thousand other explanations.  We'll never know."
"I know, yeah.  But I'm the one who picked his name."
"And I'm the one who gave you those files and told you to pick one."  
"Vinnie was as good a choice as any."
"Molly, I'm not sure that I'm cut out for this work."
This, she thinks, is why I should never take on another leadership gig.  The extra money isn't worth it.  I just don't need to know other's inner struggles.  Young Bart here, the reluctant warrior, way above average member of the short attention span generation.  He wants to tell me, to confess, and summon forth my worse self. Father Abraham called us to "the better angles of our nature", but did he  rub shoulders with a cohort of world class over sharers?  But he's a good lad and I owe him a bit of my ear.  I'll resist the temptation to strangle him.  The burdens of command.


Vinnie became Vinnie after two decades as a career criminal.  Not bad for a16 year old illegal who walked across the border east of Nogales.  He has his own name then but no one cared about that.  It begins with eight tough months walking or in the bed of pickups, north from Quintana Roo.  Once on the roof of a slow freight train car where you really didn't want to fall asleep.  He left home in a hurry, steps ahead of the tourist police who had his picture on the BOLO.  Months later and not many hours into the north, he was captured by the Greens.  Line up for finger prints by the woman who uses both hands to rolls each of his fingers on the white card. Here's a water bottle and mystery meat sandwich for the ride south.  Caught and released, back across at Agua Prieta.  By the standards of Mexican law enforcement, it's not bad.  Everyone knows their part and there are tears but no blood. 

The Bronx

And that's it for over a year, until Vinnie is in the Bronx on the bottom rung...a shivering lookout, first on foot and then stepping up to a bicycle, ready to spread the alarm to the slingers.  Always moving up,Vinnie soldiers for years, decades, until the old guys count him in and the young guys try to catch his eye, show him that they have heart.  He's smarter than most of the psychos in his trade.  Not opposed to violence, he doesn't look for opportunities.  And he learns early the value of the neighborhood abuelas.  He pays rent for one...down three flights.  That where he does business, never at his place.  Everybody wins."
" Fortune continues to smile on Vinnie, even when he oversleeps on the 6 train and wakes at Pelham Bay Park....the last stop.  Always playing the angles, Vinnie walks the park and sees where the ladies of Larchmont come to score weed for the book club.  Two or three in a minivan with cash from the kitchen fund, after the kids are in school.  Handsome Vinnie is good with the ladies, playful not threatening, just like Cancun. His number gets passed to the new arrivals. Welcome to the neighborhood.  Do you need a list of sitters?  Do you get high?  God bless America.  
By the time he is kidnapped, Vinnie has corners and a steady crew.  A slender connection between the grit of the Bronx and the northern ladies who don't mind a little daylight slumbing.  

 One of the lovelies on the surveillance team looks at his photos and pronounces him "a perfect Vinnie".  And that's when he is christened.  The in-briefing dissolves in laughter, at least the women get the joke.


How it began.  Vinnie doesn't know his father and sees his mother if she is around.  He is taller than the Mayans, so maybe his father came from Vera Cruz.  But mostly he works with his "sister" and Aoturo.   His job is to spot the mark and show the picture book...and get the money.  This guy coming towards him now doesn't look like a gringo.  Haircut and shoes say European, maybe German...probably German...they're everywhere.  He is supposed to stay on the blue painted sidewalk square, but Vinnie steps out to offer the young guy a timeshare pamphlet.  Maybe he is on a sex holiday?  
Tourist murders are bad for business, these things are to be settled quickly....especially in Cancun.  Word travels quickly.  There is no identification on the deceased but a plastic wrist band shows his hotel.  One knife wound in the upper should not have been fatal but it was.  The locals divide their tasks.  One pair to the hotel and every other available officer on "spring roundup" of all the usuals.  Hookers, pimps, pickpockets....everybody into the makeshift confinement facility at the schoolyard soccer field.  Autoro being older, slower and half drunk is in the net.  He has made enemies for years and one gladly points him out to the sergeant in the sunglasses.  He tossed the kid's wallet and the badge but missed the two Euro coin in his pocket.  The new currency from Europe is the problem.  Maybe he would like to explain to the officer?  By early evening Autoro has been enticed into confession and gives up Lana and Vinnie. Case closed, what's next?
At the tourist's hotel the manager opens the room safe for the police.  Big eagle on the green passport cover, twenty three years old, brown on blue, and a Munich place of birth.  The two person consulate notifies the embassy in Mexico City and the gears turn.  Night action required.  Bad news across the Atlantic.  Really bad news in the fatherland where it is past midnight.  Anguished parents will learn that their just graduated son is to be shipped home.

The police are moving... none napping today in the afternoon heat.  Vinnie waits for darkness and walks out of town, having failed to get a taxi driver to accept the strange bank notes as fare. Headlights send him into the ditches until an farm pickup turns onto the road in front of him and he takes the chance of hitch hiking. And that is how if goes for a teenager whose big dreams are confined to getting by another day.  He is nowhere near confident enough in his own instincts to take comfort in his escape.  And the coming months will provide enough hardship and occasional danger to keep him down.  Later in life he will see how he used good luck to great advantage...kept his head straight...but for now he is a scared kid, moving away from danger without moving towards anything better.


Parents grieve at different speeds, sending each down different roads.  The priest who baptized them as children, explains the way it can happen, does happen.  It is a human phenomena that can be explained logically, it can be calculated.  They are semi-retired from Catholicism, but in shared anguish turn toward their faith, bruised by the years but still there.  The gentle Bavarian cleric is their rock.  He tells them it is very important to do something to stay connected to Erik's memory.  
"You must do it together." Tusammen.   Her need for justice burns brighter and so they settle on a reward for finding Lana and Vinnie.  He goes along passively, thinking other thoughts but following the priest's prescription.  The account is established at the Deutsche Bank Mexico and grows on the anniversaries.  The macabre ritual of even year visits begin.  They come in February for the sun and to make polite inquiries about the status of the investigation.  Drie weken.   Their younger son votes to send at least some of the swelling deposits to a good cause...a charity.  But it just grows along with the value of the European economy.  A tribute to currency arbitrage.  Always upward, just like Vinnie, but faster.

Hasty Site Kilo

"Well Vinnie, I've got news for you.   To begin, do us both a favor and keep your mouth shut.  Don't say anything and just listen."
Vinnie's starts into the obligatory curse but waits when she slowly raises her hand in the universal stop sign.  
Quietly she insists, "just listen...boca cerrado".  If she were a man Vinnie would have to rant.
"I was hired to find you in the Bronx and kidnap you. And to hold you here.  It wasn't that hard...for a middleweight you kept a big profile.  You remember the blond who poured you a drink?...she works for me and that was three days ago.  Since then I've kept you sedated....asleep.  Easier for everyone while we moved you here. So maybe your groggy.  
My medic says that you'll be fine....not any smarter, but fine.  A few hours ago I got instructions to soften you up...more about that in a bit but it isn't what you think".
"Everybody knows that your not Vinnie.  But that's what we call you.  And no one here uses their real name anyhow.  I use Tanya...and your Vinnie.  Comprendes?  My boss is reasonably pleased so's hard to tell about him.  If he wasn't you would be waking up in a jail cell in Chetumal.  We could make a lot of money by sending you home.  It's a long story but your moron partner killed a foreigner with a lot of juice and the police still want you....even after all these years.  And there is a reward, a big one, and me and my team would get a slice".

"Vinnie, I've got your file...some big holes in it but what I find interesting is that you have never been arrested.  Clever Vinnie.  I know a lot..much more than you and it's not all least for the moment".  
"But Vinnie, I mean this with all my heart and I've got nothing personal against you, I've got an approved plan to offload you if I think you'r getting cute.  I might have to justify that after the fact but I've got a steady green if I need it.  That isn't what I want to do....I'd rather pass you on to whatever they have planned for you and let you be someone else's problem...but I'll drop you like a bad habit if I have to save my reputation.  It would be a business decision. Don't make me and you get a chance to see how this goes.  I've already told you that I know a lot...but there is also much that I don't know.  I've got no idea...and I'm not curious...about what comes next for you.  I get do things, not to ask questions.  I'm a couple of days away from bringing in a winner...the biggest show I've ever run...right now I'm looking at a gold star for focusing on my part and not even thinking about the bigger picture.. you should be with me on this".
"So about softening you up.  Sleep've had your share for a while.  I'm going to be keeping you awake and sooner than you think you will do or say anything to just get some rest. Your brain needs it and controls your body. No rough stuff but no sleep for you.  The order to keep you awake tells me that my part is ending...after almost three weeks of non stop you, Vinnie, I'm ready...nothing personal but I'm ready.  If all goes well you'll be moved on in a few days.  You'll be all strung out from the chemicals but nothing that you can't recover from if you don't get all macho and stupid".
"That's it.  I'm beginning to think this might work because you didn't act out just now.  Remember...keep your mouth shut and watch what is going on.  You've survived twenty years longer than you should have and can keep it going if you use your head.  I don't particularly want to send you south ...but I will....what I do is up to you."

Offsite Conference

"If there are no more questions, that will conclude this morning's agenda...but first let's have a hand for our panel members.  A little more enthusiasm could be joining them on the bus to Mordor.... better."

It's the semi annual show and tell with Himself presiding...master of all that he can see, that being forty plus of the cognoscenti.  In from all points of the compass to see and be seen and examine entrails for clues of their future.  
Himself is not without humor and is remembered for his forbearance at last year's holiday bash.  The most junior officer played Santa with a gift and a joke for each in attendance.  His was a poem, explaining in twisted verse that his nickname had been reduced from "Bad News" to "BN" as in "take a long lunch, BN is looking for a human sacrifice."  In the new year he started initialing the documents he read "BN".  He kept it going with the answer poem "I didn't know bad could feel so good".  The troops loved it.  The joke burned out when a trio of lovelies attended vespers with "bad to the bone" on their matching tee shirts.  

"I pushed things ahead this morning to make room for a brief from one of our ongoing accounts.  And the caterers say that lunch will be ready in 30 minutes. So I'm exercising one of my numerous prerogatives..Regrets if you hoped to get to your phones out and check e-mail....war is hell...".
"The multi talented XO just flashed a thumbs up and that means that the SVTC link is settle in folks and listen up.  But first, and you new this was coming, a task from me to you.  In tonight's fireside chat each Division Chief is to weigh in on the central question in the next presentation.  This brief will show a way to solve our biggest, funding.  But it comes at a price...changes almost everything we is the game worth the candle?  That what all who see themselves sitting in my chair next, will speak to.  Your chance to shine like a public. That should be enough chum in the water for you carnivores.  So please listen and reflect...I'll be needing your best thoughts.
"Mighty XO...bring  the link"

"Hello Molly...your looking telegenic.  Folks this is Molly...Some of you may know her a "Tanya".
"Molly and I came up together through the training program.  She was our class's honor graduate, got the golden bullet from the faculty, and did a fast burn through two field assignments and a headquarters desk in eight years.  She was on the executive track when she resigned to joint a religious order...Sisters of Charity...became a licensed practical nurse and went to Haiti and....
"Mali sir"
"Right Molly...Mali ...thanks....and then she returned into our clammy embrace as a contractor....excellent work over the past four years.  She is the first and only contractor to lead a mixed staff member/contractor team and briefed me yesterday from one of our hasty field sites."

"So over to you Molly...knock'm dead."

"Thanks sir for the kind words and good morning all.  I know that I stand between you and your lunch, so I'll try to be ...brief, bright and gone.  I'll go over what I told his eminence yesterday, updated by a few recent developments on the margin."
I'll paint the operational picture of the Vinnie show and portray it first from a top down view of a project/program manager...and then the bottom up view from the team...warts, lessons learned...ugly stuff.
First the manager view...cost, schedule and performance...the metrics that most of you use to compare one against one or against many.  
A little context before the numbers.  I was contracted to write a plan to snatch Vinnie and, if it was approved, to execute it on an extension.  In the past I had contributed small parts to someone else's plan but never wrote the whole enchilada by myself.  It was endless...four times back and forth with Morder...turns out it's harder to write your own than grade someone else's paper.  
But eventually....just as I was ready to swallow all the pills...the light went from yellow to green.  So my start point is 18 operational days, a $347K budget and 11 tasks specified in the approved plan.
Today, and it is later here, is day 13.  The burn rate is $309K as of this morning, projecting about  327 at end of mission, and we have submitted 9 statements of task completion that are being coordinated by our desk officer.  His unofficial feedback is that they look good and should survive the usual sniping from the wood line.  We should knock out task 10 this's essentially to prepare Vinnie for transport by air, tomorrow.  And then the final one is to break camp and head out without any security incidents.  So the short version is ...ahead of schedule, slightly under budget and meeting the mission".
"Now for the twist...and this is what I think the boss was most interested in.  Turns out that Vinnie didn't trust banks...he was sitting on his cash...I guess that's considered a best practice in his world".
"I left two team members back in the Bronx and so far they have come up with a bit over half a million in cash and gold coins.  We found two safe deposit box keys in Vinnie's apartment.  One of my team has been warning Vinnie's clothes and using his bogus driver's license at the local banks. If you factor in Vinnie's two cars and his "I am  a player" jewelry collection, that number goes up.  So it appears at this junction that Vinnie paid for his show and we made an unexpected profit.  This is a first for me so I sent up a flare asking how to handle it.  The gnomes may eventually respond, perhaps in iambic pentameter, but so far, only silence from Mordor".

"Aside from the cash management dilemma, what does this mean going forward?  Should this be done again...deliberately for profit?"  

"That's part one.  How am I doing on time boss?"
"Doing fine're on a roll..."

"So the rest isn't that upbeat because I'll focus on what went badly.  Before that I have to say that we...the team...did a lot of things well..particularly in recovering from gaps in planning and in making unplanned adjustments.  I'll talk about three things that were my's not false modesty...I just don't want to make these again.  And I'd rather be the one to point them out before the morticians dig in."
"Incomplete planning for technical support, over reliance on surveillance and a lapse in situational awareness....these are the three.  Each of them deserves its own chapter but I spew the highlights in the hopes that it helps with some backdrop for tonight's session.  I wrote my first plan on Vinnie and covered what I knew first.  When I hit a bump I often lifted words from other plans written by somebody else....shocking I know, I must be the first ever.  Everything in my plan that dealt with technical support was recycled from some other document.   Now I realize that when those familiar words were read at Mordor, it effectively said that the Vinnie planner didn't need any...or really want any support.  I got back equally canned verbiage that pledged no dedicated support but general advice and assistance...the resources would go elsewhere where the need was clearly stated.  Works for everyone until it doesn't.  By day four it is clear that unless we can gain entry to Vinnie' apartment, we are in trouble.  So I threw myself on the mercy of the court and I have to say that the tech staff was outstanding.  They walked me and the team through a solution via remote control.  If Vinnie was more than a talented amateur, he might have noticed the keystone kops flopping around..lucky for us he is a Olympic bozo.  Once we had video of Vinnie inside his apartment, we gained the really was the key to everything else that went right.  We were waiting for him outside, but he used a second apartment in his building for business.  We went three days without even seeing him.  We got lucky with the help of the tech staff.  I' m told that luck is not a strategy, so the take away is for me is much greater emphasis on tech support".
"Second...over reliance on physical surveillance.  I started the team off with a half day surveillance exercise.  All team members had the familiarity course and one of us had a full tour on a ground team.  I asked him to plan and control the exercise.  Briefly, we sucked.  We missed properly laid down signals, listened to wrong frequencies and even spent almost an hour bumper locked on an innocent civilian from Westchester County ...a different world from the Bronx by the way...before we broke contact and shutdown. So that wasn't the best kickoff.  But the real problem is that I never connected the activity with the mission tasks.  On day three my best guy called me out privately and asked why the hell we were sitting on Vinnie's building as if we were trying to catch him in some act.  We weren't going to court and we didn't have the snatch what's the point?  All those hours gone and nothing to show for it.   A bit humbling as you can imagine, but I called everyone in for group hug and out of that we started the exchange with the tech staff.  The uncomfortable specifics aside, the lesson for me was...only do stuff that matters...don't use a capability just because you have it...or think you have it.  If you can't link it to an assigned task, don't do it".
"Number three...situational awareness.  I had left two in the Bronx, so we were already short staffed when we arrived at this location.  Twelve on, twelve off for everyone...wears people down even when they don't admit to being tired.  Out of the blue there is a fistfight between two of my team....people I know well.  I missed what was going on between then, but others on the team didn't.  The heart of the friction was Vinnie's cash and what to do with it.  The root of all evil.  If I had built in a process to check for heat rash, I might have been able to head it off.  It broke my heart.  I would have sent them both home if we weren't already short.  So I dropped the first puncher at the cost of a lot of extra time and effort that chewed into my funding cushion with expedited transportation costs.  And extra activities that raised our awards for operational security this time.  I'll have to deal with it when I get back home...but the lesson for me is ...figure out a way to step back from the moment and look at the human dynamics.  We are in a people business and know the signs of trouble.  Next time, I'll add some eyes and ears from the team to help with that...ours is a team sport.  And I'll stress...the money is corrosive, or at least was in this case.  It pitted one against another within the team..bad juju.
That's it sir...more detailed planning...clear links between capabilities employed and tasks assigned...and situational awareness, particularly when the pressure is building.   Subject to your questions..that concludes my part."

"Boffo Molly...tell what you going to tell them, tell them, and tell them what you told them...all 10s  except from the Albanian judge.
Seriously, great stuff and a very good preamble for tonight."  
"Questions from the great unwashed?"

"Hey's business?"
"Hello Tom...long time..."
"So how do you come down on your question...ops for profit?"
"It's really a policy issue, isn't it?  I don't wear that suit anymore, so I don't have an opinion.  I can make a case both ways."
"Nice footwork Molly, but let's assume, just between us girls, that the boss already has the benefit of your thoughts and most of us are going to have to be nimble this evening.  It was you who raised the issue early in your excellent briefing.  Let me rephrase...from an operational perspective, what cautions come to mind?  The value is fairly obvious, so I'm trying to think about the downside...want to help a wounded veteran?"

"OK...for an operational perspective,  lots of caution needed.  I wouldn't want to burp out a show and just  slip profit in as an afterthought.  That is in fact what is happening in Vinnie, but that doesn't mean it is extensible or repeatable in other venues."
"Each event should support a strategic goal...Vinnie is one of many countering prison radicalization.  Like my surveillance guy said...why are we doing this?"
"Funding is a support function, it is not our core mission.  When support needs starts to drive ops, the tail is in charge of the dog.  Funding doesn't link to anything other than itself.  I say that you would have to rethink the way that we operate...which quickly gets to training, recruiting and career progression.  You would have to answer the "why are we doing this " question a lot better than I can at this moment.  So from my perch, it's more complex than it looks a first glance.  Even in our small mob, everything is connected to everything else.  I used my hinged ankles to lean over into your policy domain, but that's the short version of my talk with himself."

"Excellent...thank you.  You said you can make the other case also?"

"Sure...I feel strongly in both directions...we are essentially a charity, running on contributions from the believers and dollar a year volunteers.  The case for funding as a core mission can be made...a bit crass for all you altruists, but there you are.  It could touch off an institutional identity crises...are we a NGO?  A business?  A hobby shop?  We would have to do some navel gazing to figure that one out, and the chance of total agreement is, I would think, low.  Past circumstances didn't allow for that level of contemplation...most of us just hopped aboard a moving train."
"But I do feel sincerely, that it is again, more complex than it looks."

"Good discussion...there is time for one more question...Eva?"

"Molly, the first puncher?  Staff member or one of your's?"

"Both are my subs.  I'll deal with them.  Out of a duty of candor, I should say that they are both decidedly female.  I was going to hold that back but since you asked..."

"Alright Molly...thanks again for your've got a show to run.  And this mob is getting ugly."

"Roger Sir...thanks all.  Out here."


Hasty Site Kilo

Molly turned from the screen and asked Bart..."how did that sound?"

"Good.  Maybe a bit rushed at the beginning but you settled in to a nice pace.  The only off putting part was that last question...what was that?"
She turned back to the console make sure that the audio and video were off.  "Eva?  She was salting my wound.  Making sure that everyone understood that it was on me.  She recommended one of them for this show, so she had to wash her hands in public.  You just have to play over those shots...if you respond in kind, you loose.  You, my boy, really need some female sensitivity training". 
"My boy?   Well, so much for the iron skirt sisterhood.  I thought you were all supposed to stick together."
"It is written on the walls of Mordor's ladies rooms...if you want a friend, buy a dog.  Eva doesn't want boy!"


Domesticated Molly is a bit bored, losing a degree of intensity everyday to the glaucoma of inactivity.  Sharpening one's martini skills goes only so far.  A welcomed intrusion, she answers on the third ring.
"..Duffy's tavern, where the elite meet to eat"
The familiar voice..."Yes, I need a taxi to the airport."
"You have called an incorrect number", is out of her mouth before she can think.  What the coach would call muscle memory...action without thought.  Most people would have said wrong number, but "Incorrect" means that she is alone.  And as the line goes dead, a car horn sounds from the street and through the phone line at almost the same time.
Anger sweeps across her...rookie mistake.  Pull yourself together, it's showtime.  Out on the street, he is waiting in a rental car and she enters the passenger side.  No talking until they are at a park and walking away from the car.
"Sorry for the intrigue, but it is good to see you."
"I can't say the same.  We had an agreement."
"I know,  I'm sorry.   I'm not here for myself or for Mordor.  It's Mike, he's in trouble."
"That is not news...I thought he was in Germany."
"He is, Augsburg, and that's where he's in jail for possession and for dealing."
"I'm sorry for that.  My godson in prison."
"Not yet.  It's the local lockup while the investigation continues...they are pressing him for information about the local whale and he is being a jerk.  Won't say anything...won't even speak to them in German.  They are not amused with his attitude."
"You said much weight?"
"It whatever they want it to be.  He could walk out with a referral to a drug counseling center or could be ten years older when he's escorted to the border.  The trafficking is purely bogus.  That's just the squeeze."
"Oh lord, why is he being so stubborn?"
He didn't answer, just stared past her by way of affirming that he had not actually talked to his only child.  Silence descends and the first to speak loses the duel.  
"Molly, if I go back it  only makes it worse.  Mike will really act out and I'm still PNG in Berlin.  I don't think they have connected Mike to me yet, but if they do Mike is sunk.  Dominic took a huge risk by even calling me.  It could send his career up in smoke."
"Dominic called?"
"That's how I found out."
"Nice that you have concern for him, that's new, so you want me to go?"
"It wouldn't be for would be for Mike."
 "Back up Jumbo...tell me what you know." 

"Sure...too much, too fast. Mike is really bright and really angry.  Probably like I was at his age.  A year and a half ago, I left on 48 hours notice but Mike stayed and went to Garmisch to become a ski bum....his words.  I couldn't explain to him what happened and why I had to go.  He thought that I had a choice, and it to was screw up his life so that I could get a better job back home.  Five years without a mother turned him inward....doesn't talk if he can sulk and leaving him alone tripped a major sulk." 

"He's 19 now?"

"21 in two months. And I have no idea about him and drugs...all the things that worried me...drugs wasn't one."  
" Dominic called six hours ago, kept it very short and used his official voice....all business.  Told me that Mike was arrested and the charges against him and referred me to the American embassy in Berlin for any other information.  And that Mike was making it harder on himself by not cooperating.  That's pretty much it...maybe a minute and a half altogether

"He mentioned the embassy?"

"Sure....that was a warning to keep it short."

"Why are you here....what do you want?"

"There is a flight tonight through Copenhagen.  I can get off there and take a train and you can fly through to Munich.  Dominic will be expecting contact, maybe we can catch him at lunch tomorrow but eventually you would have to meet with the Augsburg police and see what they want from Mike...and make a deal.  I think Dominic would help in talking to them."
"I'm only guessing that they haven't made any connection between Mike and me...that might happen over time but if we can get him out before..."


"OK...right.  If you can get him out."

"You know every time I see you, it's bad news."
He started into a stare-down but dropped his eyes in submission...he had done more to screw up her life than anyone and now he was at it again.  She let him twist in the wind.

"OK....I'll go but you stay right here.  You are the biggest threat to a quick in and out.  Your just a brick in my backpack.  If I even think that you have moved toward any EC country, I'll walk away.  Maybe you think that I would not do that to Mike, but knowing that you finally got some payback would help ease my guilt.  And you probably have two other plans to spring Mike and I'm just your first stop.  I'm not going to play Joan of Arc...if you try and fight me for control you can clean your own mess."

"Thanks Molly.  I'll have your ticket waiting at the counter and here's four thousand for expenses and bribes."

Flight 130 to Munich

In the night darkened airline she tried for sleep and wondered as always, how she could have given herself to such an empty suit.  Stupid.  Self hatred rattled its cage and made her use the counselor's cognitive dissonance trick.  Can't think two opposing thoughts at the same time....unless your nuts.  Forget about the victim stuff.  Besting him was the pleasure.  And for the first time ever, she had backed him down...won.  Especially the part about him having two other backup plans.  That hit solid.  So focus on helping Mike...and of course Dominic...sleep tiptoed down the aisle to Molly's seat.

 Augsburg Haupbahnhof

Molly's train from the Munich airport arrives, on schedule naturally, in Augsburg.  A taxi takes her to a church near Dominic's.  She walks away from her destination until the taxi is gone and makes her way indirectly  to his building carrying only a strapped handbag across her chest and a backpack...both hands free.  Not much sleep and strong coffee have her jumpy and she waits in his lobby trying to concentrate on the next step.  Telling herself her story one last time.  

Some things never change.  The key is suspended from the back of the radiator by thin fishing line.  No elevator for Molly, she is up the stairs on foot and enters Dominic's apartment.  He is dozing, or pretending to, on the sofa and asks, "what time is it?"

It's their oldest joke.  Years ago she had answered, "it's six minutes until sex" which is funnier in German, and he had been trying to get her to repeat it ever since.  She shook her head at him and laughed without peak.  

"Right, but your still the most beautiful woman that I've ever slept with."

"And I always will be if you don't come up with some better lines".  Molly pushed him gently back down on the sofa".

Jet lag always wins.  Always tired and hungry at the wrong hour.  After some sleep, Molly talks him through it.

"There's this guy...Vinnie.  He has some bad paper from twenty years ago when he was in on the murder of one of your's in Mexico.  It's a long story but, I helped set him up for jail in New York a few months ago.  The idea is to get a better sense of how prisoners are radicalized to political violence...race haters, religious...the whole internet bomb kit crowd.  We have a good reporter inside...for years now...but he has gotten cocky like the good ones do.  We sent Vinnie in to see some of the same events as our guy and then we could compare notes from both...see if our star is improvising."
 "The victim's family still wants justice for their son.  They have become influential, here in Bavaria...Christian Social Union types.  If they get a micron of closure they probably would be grateful.  Let's find the first officer in the chain who can spring Mike, with no questions asked.  Offer the story of one of the three who is responsible for the son's death...were he has he got away.  I made some calls after Jumbo left and Vinnie can die inside.  Better that way, no requests for extradition.  I can promise a senior police officer verifiable information that scores points with a powerful family, in exchange for Mike.  All that's left is to make what's his name happy with information about Nita".
"Manfred.  I'll never understand you Americans.  Why so complex?   There must be a more direct way to get to the same place."
"We worship complexity, plus it allows our allies to feel superior...uber alles."

Augsburg, Hermannstrasse Polizei Station

"I knew your Mom for over twenty years and I was with her when she died.  The day before, she made me promise to look out for you.  She had every right to be mad and bitter but she used her final energy for you...and that's why I'm here.  Your in trouble and I made a promise to your mother.  We had an up and down relationship, your Mom and me.  We were roommates and good friends for three months while we were in training.  We both fell in love with the same man...your Dad...Jumbo as we called him.  At first he choose me but by the end of the course, they were a couple.  The last month was terrible, your Mom and I were savage to each other inside our little dorm room.  But years later we became friends again...when your father was no longer in the picture for either of us.  When she knew she was very sick, your Mother reached out to me and I was very touched that she wanted me to help her.  She could have kept me at arm's distance and let me wallow in guilt for the rest of my life.  But she didn't.  We talked it all out and decided to let go of all the your Mom's words "tie it to a red balloon and watch it float away".  I stayed with her for a little less than a month and it changed my life for the better...much better.  Her death was tragic, but there was also some sweetness at the end.  It turns out that I'm good at taking care of sick people and it makes me feel good about myself...I like it".
"So here we are Michael.  I'd like to help, so don't hold me off.  In a few minutes a policeman is going to come in and  talk to you.  Please listen to him, he's a friend."

"And I want to apologize for not living up to my word when you were younger.  I started to...had good intentions.  I sometimes went to your soccer games on Saturday mornings.  But I didn't know what to say.  Michael, I'm sorry.  I got caught up in myself and my problems with your father...forgot about you....I never meant to, but I did"

"I saw you always sitting by yourself, away from the parents.  The coach told us not to talk to you."


"Too different, didn't look like a parent."

Molly realizes that he didn't mean it as an insult.  It's true and it hurts...not as much as it did years ago but it still stings.  My train didn't stop at that station.  Young Michael will have to do as a surrogate son.  We can be lost together, me and Mike.


"Mike, this is Dominic. Please listen to him."

"Hello Mike.  You don't look like a criminal to me but you have broken several laws and now we have to talk about what is going to happen.  I'm going to speak to you like an adult because I can only talk to you once.  I don't have time for you to like me or trust me".  
"Your in trouble...maybe a lot, maybe a little.  The officer who arrested you, the formidable Manfred, needs information that you have about a woman named Nita.  His boss wants results and you are causing a problem.  If he can't break a young punk like you, he'll never get promoted.  You're a small fish but if you are all he has, you will have to do. He will make you sound like an American gangster who came here to poison the German youth.  And they will use you as a statistic for the next budget review.  They will send you away the prison at Landsburg.   Nice place, you could learn to be a baker, unless somebody tells the guards that you are a trouble maker.  A handsome young man like you will be passed around among the guards until your sold to one of the prisoners.  That will make you wish you were back with the guards.  By the time you are released you will be a lot older and you will be a monster without a chance at a normal life.  
Now I'm told that you love Nita and won't talk about her.  This is a picture I took today of Nita and the new you.  Nice clean cut young man who fits her needs and can't believe that she slept with him ...his lucky night.  Remind you of anyone?  You may be in love, but Nita is in business and she has moved on from you.  You can keep the picture".

"Miss Molly and I have a half assed plan that we are working on.  Your part is simple.  Keep your head down and act with respect while your here.  This is a really nice place compared to where you may be going.  I've got two days ...tomorrow and Sunday to get information that can help you.  After that, Monday, I won't be able to help. If you leave here you'll be taken to Munich while they prepare for your prosecution....a long, slow process.  And sometime Monday the ink will dry on the reports and that is the end for you.  Mike, look at me, you don't want to go to Munich and you absolutely don't want to go to Landsburg."

Augsburg Fussganger Zone

"Your Nita?"

"Who are you?  What do you want?"

"I'm here to talk about my friend Mike."

"Don't know any..."

"Sure you do Nita, remember he gave one last look in your direction when they were loading him into the police van?"  
"Here's the thing.  I work for Mike's father, an important guy who doesn't need this noise.  My friend over there works for him too.  I'd like you to talk with him and because I can see that you are a business woman, I'll pay you for your time.  There is a book on my friend's table...if you turn to page 50 of the book, there's 200 Euro for you....not bad for a few minutes of chat.  And I want you to make a video clip for Mike.  Tell Mike your no longer interested in him...that's worth another 300.  You can use my friend's cell phone.  500 for a few with me?

Nita approaches the cafe table with her eyes fixed on the paperback book.  Dominic does not rise to greet her.  She doing a stone face and grunts softly when she sees the bills inside the book.

"Leave the money in there, and keep the book.  I've got the rest in my pocket.  OK, let's get started.  You use my phone to make a video.  Be careful what you say because the police may see it before they let me show it to Mike.  No business talk, just personal.  Use your own words but make sure he understands that your breaking up with him.  Keep it short.  Now take a minute and go over what your going to say."

She's good, convincing.  She never meant to hurt him but was on the rebound from her previous and now they are back together.  Now they want to have a baby together and asks him to understand.  She hates herself for using him and knows that he will find a good woman.  Don't despise her, but it's over.  

Dominic picks up the book and inserts money from his shirt pocket.  Slides it back to Nita and palms the phone.  And that is when the magic begins.  He calls for beers and becomes friendly.  Compliments flow and hints that maybe she has talents he can use.  Always looking for smart, attractive women who think quickly.  Does she like to travel?  Italy or  Amsterdam to drive back a package for pay.  Good driver?   Tanya doesn't know about this business...she's in love with the boss, Mike's father...he'll never marry her.  So this is just between us.  

By micro steps the sit down becomes a job interview.  She's brought along helping to smother her normally guarded instincts.  More beer.  She knows she is smart, and thinks that makes others are dumb.  Dominic lets her take over the conversation...dictating her non negotiable demands for coming aboard.

Can she get away next weekend?  Who's is she working for now?  It comes out on the second pass, a cretin who threatens everyone, girls who collect the cash and the boys, like Mike, who hold the dope and wait for a text.  He takes no risks, Nita and the boys do.  She is the captain of the boys team...finding new talent in the clubs at night...bringing them in to the web while they are smitten.  She isn't moving up the food chain fast enough and she doesn't like the looks from cretin man of late.

Dominic's tricked out cell phone gets it all.  Happy Birthday Manfred.


"This kind of work?  Is this about Vinnie?"

"Yes and no.  His death brings makes me squirm.  I didn't join up to orchestrate the demise of minor criminals.  Somebody else can do that.  No disrespect Molly but I don't want to wake up some morning and realize that I'm OK with murder."

"You think I'm a murderer?"

This is not going well for Bart.  Same mistake, talking before thinking.  He could have waited until she was free.

"This isn't about you or your choices, it's about what I don't want to be."

"Is this a done deal or can we talk about it?

"Of course we can talk.  Your my rabbi and you've done a lot for me.  And I know my timing sucks.  You probably just sent my probation report...recommended me for full status.  Sorry that I didn't speak up sooner.  But Molly, I've given this a lot of thought.  And it's not just Vinnie.  It's the whole life.  This work is a cruel mistress...wants everything from you and gives back the minimum.

"How did you get started with us?"

"Got a call from one of my squad member's father a week after my discharge.  He invited me to lunch and introduced me to an associate.  We were off to the races pretty quickly.  When I thanked him for the referral, he told me that if I was unsure about this work, that was strong evidence that it was not right for me.  I wasn't really listening..I was star struck.  But I get it now."

"If Vinnie were alive, would it make any difference?"

"Not really.  Vinnie is a talking point.  If there never was a Vinnie, I still would not be a good fit."

"Well, we should talk tomorrow.  I need to think about what I might say to you.  You know that I haven't told you everything, right?  Actually I've lied to you a bit.  You OK with that?  I mean not just quibbling, where I  technically don't lie but I do misled you.  Like about my being gay.  But actually lie."

"Wait.  Your not gay?"

 "Just for the next few minutes, could you turn off your idiot switch?  I'm trying to to say that you don't know everything that bears on this decision.  You don't have the whole picture."

"Sure.  That makes sense.  I wouldn't tell me everything either.  And I might have lied to you a little too.  That's all true but it doesn't change the thing about not being right for this work. I don't have the fire in my you and the others do.  But I feel much better now that I'm not covering it up with you.  I'm personally loyal to you but I don't want to be you when I grow up.  No offense."

"OK, let's talk tomorrow?  I'm jammed up for the rest of today.  I've got to talk to a guy."

"Great...thanks.  You sure your not gay?"

"I'm sure and you, my boy, are a mental midget.

Tomorrow will come and go without another mention.  Molly isn't lying, her commitments are sincere and aspirational...she wants to talk again to Bart, just not now, ever.  And so it goes, Bart sees an honorable path out and Molly breaks, or bends, another promise.  As a team, they had a good run.  They part friends.  

Hasty Site Kilo

"Vinnie, I never thought I'd see you again.  But here we are, same crumby room.  Attica looks good on you, dropped maybe twenty pounds?  Watching your carbs?"
"But we're not here to poke fun at your situation...we've got business.  From what I read, you're doing O.K.  No behavior problems and you see a lot of things that others miss.  So that's a B plus.  But everything has changed in the last few days."
"You won the lottery."
"Yesterday was your lucky day.  This memo says that you died peacefully yesterday morning in your sleep.  The department of corrections Physician says heart attack and the Chaplin made the arrangements.  In accordance with your wishes, your body was dressed in clean clothing and transported a mortuary in the town of Batavia where you were cremated.  Thus ends Vinnie."
"While you were asleep...we knocked you out again for two days this time...we photographed and fingerprinted you and took some skin samples.  We can pretty much prove to anybody that you are dead.  As a professional courtesy, the DOC will be notifying the Mexican authorities of your passing.  There's an explanation that when you were in processed at Attica the Mexican detainer request popped out of the system, so they were just tying up a loose end."
"Tomorrow afternoon you will be dropped on a street corner in El Paso, that's in Texas.  Nice place. Your kind of place. Yards from Mexico.  You'll have some good documentation in your new name, a resident alien card that's good for another 17 months and an ATM card with a almost three thousand dollars in your account.  We will keep an eye on you and bring you back here if we want.  We can do that anytime, we can always find you."
"You might think it's a good idea to go back to the Bronx, but don't.  Four months ago, the day after we grabbed you, just about everyone you did business with was arrested.  Except for a few bench warrants and some idiots who resisted arrest, most of those chollos are back on the street.  They all can handle an arrest, part of doing business.  But everyone of them was told that you have been an informant for years...everything they said on the phone or to you in person recorded.  And they were told that your in witness security and will be testifying at their trials.  If you show up there, they will take you out, no question."  
"That money that you hid in the Bronx? We have it.  Took a while but we got into both of your safe deposit boxes.  I offered Mrs. Morales a year's rent money to talk about how you used her apartment and where the cash went.  I guess she followed you to the bank once.  When she saw your furniture on the sidewalk and the St. Vincent de Paul truck, she was convinced that you were not coming back and she took the deal...nice lady actually".  So thanks for 600's for a good cause."
"And you should stay away from Cancun, go there and embarrass some big guys who are taking credit for keeping your case open for twenty years.  They might have to choose between giving back reward money or making you dead like your supposed to be.  Orgulloso too.  Other than that you can relax and enjoy life, unless you see me again."







© Copyright 2018 Ian McGee. All rights reserved.

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