Copyright (c) 2017 by Randall R. Peterson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This is a work of fiction. All persons, locations and actions are from the author's imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner.
By R. Peterson
I looked at Cat and he looked at me neither of us knowing quite what to do. Vincent Carminati gestured toward the man’s body floating face-down in the swimming pool and smiled. “Come to pay your respects eh?” Several of the men who had guns pointed at us snickered. “Go ahead! This I want to see!”
There was a moment of hesitation before Cat turned and walked toward the edge of the pool yowling as he did so. I followed a step behind allowing my tail to drag on the inlaid bricks. “It’s not Charlie,” Cat hissed as we reached the edge of the water. “But we still have to act as if we belong to the dead man.”
“Why?” I growled looking over my shoulder at the mobsters. “As we got closer I realized the man in the water was wearing Armani slacks and nine-hundred dollar Gucci shoes. I knew it wasn’t our simple friend who sold hotdogs out of a cart near the York Street subway entrance.
“Because I have to think of a way to get us out of this mess,” Cat whispered.
Cat yowled again, louder this time, dragging out the final vowels into a wail like a damaged World War II fighter plane falling out of the sky. I tipped my head back and howled at the moon which had just peaked from behind some clouds.
Vinnie and his men laughed outright. “Joseph Anabello must have been telling the truth about having no friends or family to pay his overdue debts,” Vinnie snorted. “Greed will do that to a person. I promised Joe he could see his pets one last time before his swimming lesson.” Vinnie shrugged. ‘I lied. The commotion at the gate must have scared away the driver when he brought them over.”
Vincent Carminati suddenly became serious as he grabbed the man next to him by the collar and slapped his face. “Go in the kitchen and see if we have any of that Bistecca Fiorentina left. Joe’s been here for two days. These animals must be starving!”
When the man left for the kitchen, another of Carminati’s associates asked Vinnie how much longer Joe’s body had to stay in the water. Vinnie looked at his watch. “Another twenty minutes,’ he said. “Angelo will show you the exact spot to dump the body in the river. The rental car hired with Joe’s Visa Card was driven off the bridge last night by Angelo’s nephew. He looks enough like Joe to be his twin. It was a nice ride he tells me. Too bad Joe never got a chance to enjoy it. The broken bridge railing and the police report will provide more or less an exact time of the accident.” Vinnie smiled. “The same exact time I was at an insurance convention with five-hundred witnesses.”
“What about the dough he owed you?” a fat man holding a machine gun scowled at the floating body.
“Joe had a million dollar life insurance policy with my invalid sister as his only beneficiary,” Vinnie snorted. “It’s standard policy for all the vendors who work my territory.”
The red-faced thug returned holding two sizzling platters. Obviously he had put the food in a microwave. “Give me those!” Vinnie grabbed the two plates. “You don’t heat food that you give to animals!”
Vincent Carminati walked toward us smiling and using some kind of baby talk. “Is you little ones hungry?” he asked, crinkling up his nose and making his eyebrows dance as he looked at Cat and then at me. “How about a drink? I’ll have you brought something!” He suddenly turned back and his voice changed. “Fill up some bowls with milk and bring them out now!” At least four men sprinted toward the house.
Brooklyn’s most notorious gangster placed the two plates behind us and Cat turned sniffing and so did I. “Easy now!” Vinnie warned with a smile. “It might be a little hot.” Cat’s tiny mouth had just touched the sizzling meat when he hissed and leaped high into the air landing on the mobster’s astonished head. Cat dug his claws into the balding man’s thin scalp and thrashed like he was either break-dancing or trying to get to a rat hiding under a shag carpet. Vinnie screamed and thrashed around in circles. I didn’t know what to do, Cat hadn’t let me in on his plan … so I bit the man’s leg.
For the first time I noticed that Vincent Carminati wore diamond-studded Givenchy boots with matching socks. That probably cost more than poor Charlie made in a year. The half-dozen guards watching first stared stupidly as they pointed their guns at the fight and then with foolish looks at each other dropped them and ran forward to help their boss.
Vinnie was off balance and Cat leaped free just as he toppled into the pool taking three of his men with him. It was a shame about the shoes. I heard the door to the house open and four bewildered men came out, each one carefully carrying bowls of heated milk. I knocked the first one over right after Cat ran between his legs and the rest stumbled over him. Warm creamy liquid spilled on my back and my tail. I could have complained, but as the saying goes no use in crying over spilled milk.
“What did you do that for?” I growled as we raced toward the open door.
“Bistecca Fiorentina!” Cat hissed with displeasure. “I don’t like T-bone steak cooked in olive oil!”
With Cat’s help, I slammed the door as soon as we crossed the threshold. I looked but there was no lock. Cat scampered to the left and then leaped toward a red button inside a control panel embedded in the stone wall. A series of flashing lights sounded along with a massive thumping as bars descended over windows and steel doors became impenetrable. “How did you know that was there?” I gasped.
“I didn’t … not for sure,” Cat said. “But a mobster like Vincent Carminati lives in constant fear of attack by his enemies. An elaborate automated system to turn his house into a fortress is not unexpected.”
“What do we do now?” I asked. A moment before I had heard footsteps as a multitude of persons, most likely servants ran down a stairway.
“We won’t be able to do anything until the police arrive,” Cat told me. “Until then we’ll use the time to search for Charlie.” We were standing beneath a wide scene monitor which showed camera views of the outside. One of Carminati’s long black limousines screeched to a stop beside the swimming-pool and several of his men quickly loaded the drowned corpse into the trunk as Vinnie looked on, yelling profanity and enraged orders in Italian.
“Police?” I asked. “I thought Vinnie would have had an entire precinct under his control.”
“He most likely does,’ Cat said. “But in a direct assault situation like this one …” He smiled. “Carminati will rely on mostly legitimate police officers to come to his aide. Those who he has in his employ may also be too easily corrupted by his attackers.”
I couldn’t help but noticing the portraits of animals, mostly dogs and cats, that adorned every wall. Vincent Carminati may have been a terror to other humans, mostly competitors and gang rivals, but his love of domesticated creatures was apparent. But still after looking closely in every room. I could see no sign that he had any pets of his own.
“Don’t worry he won’t bite.” Cat glanced toward a gilded statue of a wolf (that looked ready to pounce) placed just behind a sofa. “Our host left his love of animals as well as his childhood back on the dirty streets of Brooklyn when he became a man.”
We found the stairway and could hear excited whispers coming from below. I trod cautiously down the steps but Cat forged ahead as if he hadn’t a care in the world. We found the humans, including a dozen women huddled behind a pool table. At least four of the females appeared to be older maids or kitchen workers hired for aptitude or culinary skills while the others were obviously employed for other purposes. They were all dressed in children’s rabbit-footed pajama bottoms and naked from the waist up although the youngest appeared to be at least seventeen and all were generously endowed with ample breasts. “Humans are so perverted and convoluted with their sexual desires,” Cat said shaking his head. “It is a wonder the species continues.”
Charlie was huddled in a corner along with two other vendors I’d seen before and who I suspected had also failed to make payments to Carminati. “It’s bad enough that that madman tries to extort money from my relatives,” Charlie moaned and rubbed his head with his hands. “But now he involves my friends that are not even human.”
“Now what?” I asked Cat.
“We wait for the cops!” he said.
It took almost an hour for an electronic specialist from the Seventy-ninth Precinct to open the electronic locks on Carminati’s fortress home. By that time Charlie and the others were crowded next to the front door. “Thank God you got the doors opened,” Charlie told the armed officers who swept past him and the others and began to search the rooms. “We thought we’d be locked in here all night!”
Vinnie apologized profusely but Charlie and the other employees insisted on leaving with the police. Wisely, he and the others said nothing about being held captive. “The troublesome security in this place has convinced me to seek employment elsewhere,” he insisted and several others agreed. All the men and women in the basement left including the dozen women. The topless girls walked away with their noses held high conveying elegant theatrical posture and with their other remarkable attributes equally at attention. Most of the police stared at the sewn-on rabbit feet while several, especially the younger officers, attempted to steal lustful glances without seeming obvious.
I thought for a moment that Cat and I might also be able to slip away with the officers but a glaring Carminati blocked our way. “That dog should be on a leash!” A rookie officer who obviously didn’t know about the mobster’s numerous department connections warned as he looked at me. Vinnie hastily agreed. “I assure you both of them will be restrained,” he said licking his lips. I could tell by the wild look in his eyes that his love affair with animals was coming to a quick if not an extremely sadistic end.
No sooner had the door closed behind the officers when Carminati and his men lunged toward us.
Cat moved through the forest of stomping Italian wing-tip oxfords with the ease of a mechanical loom weaving cloth while I just ran. He managed to make several of them trip and bring down the others. He caught up to me as I entered a second story library with tall, steel wire embedded cathedral windows that showed a city nightscape. We had about ten seconds before our impending death … maybe less. “There’s no way out,” I gasped as Cat studied the eight-foot tall bookcases.
“I’m not looking to escape …. At least not yet,” Cat said. ‘I’m looking for a special book that I’m sure must be here.”
“What a time to read!” I yelled, just as Carminati and his men entered the library behind us.
Cat leaped onto a bookcase and climbed the leather-covered volumes like a mountain goat. He was near the top center when his claws caught and tugged on a book with διαφυγής written on the red spine. “Watch out!” he screeched. At least four-hundred books crashed to the floor along with the mahogany bookcase and a foot-thick section of a brick and mortar wall.
About half of Carminati’s men were unconscious the rest stumbled helplessly in the dust and debris trying to figure out what happened. I followed Cat through the gaping hole in the wall, across a roof and down a towering Arborvitae to the ground. We were running across the rocky beach toward the river when I asked Cat how he knew the emergency exit was there. “It was the only book on the shelves with dust on it so I knew the maids had been warned never to touch it,” he said. “Besides διαφυγής is Greek for escape and I’m sure Vinnie still has trouble reading a Dick and Jane primer.”
If it was me I would have taken my chances swimming but Cat insisted we head toward a boathouse. Several guards walking along the riverbank had ran toward the house when they saw the wall crumble. Bullets struck and splintered the wooden door I was trying to open before Cat miraculously slipped under a two inch gap at the bottom. ‘How did you do that?” I gasped as he opened the door from the inside. “It’s an old mouse trick,’ he said as we climbed into one of two fishing boats and Cat searched under a seat cushion for an ignition key. “You can make any bone in your body become as flexible as Mozzarella string cheese … if you’re scared enough.”
Cat found a key taped to the bottom of a half-empty bottle of Zacapa Rum just as the man-door behind us burst open and a storm of Uzi machine guns began to blow bullets our way. The double doors that dipped below the water were secured with a lock and chain and I knew we didn’t have time to search for another key as Cat cranked the engine. He thrust the throttle all the way forward and dual three-hundred horsepower marine outboard engines roared to life churning a rooster-tail wake behind that all but drown our pursuers in smoke, gas fumes and river water. With only a few feet to accelerate I was surprised when the doors exploded on contact. I could only surmise that the dozens of bullet holes had weakened the wooden structures.
We were perhaps a hundred yards out and headed for the center of the Hudson River when the other boat started and roared after us. There was not a lot of recreational traffic in the hour before dawn and Cat steered toward the only vessel large enough to block the endless gunfire that struck the water around us and sent wood and fiberglass splinters flying above our heads: a slow moving and massive barge loaded with a mountain of oily, semi-composted refuse destined for India and other even less resourceful lands.
I thought it was smoke that engulfed the reeking barge but on closer inspection and with the first glimmer of pre-dawn twilight breaking over the Atlantic we discovered it was flies. A square mile horde of dual-winged insects happily spawning an army of squirming maggots on the floating garbage piles of north eastern America’s largest cities.
As we thundered toward the rotting storm clouds I was tempted to throw myself overboard. Being struck by a bullet and drowning in the muddy water would have been dismal but at least quicker than being slowly torn apart by buzzing insects looking for fur covered damp places to lay eggs. Cat had the throttle fully open and never slowed as we raced alongside the edge of the barge. We were close enough to see water from our wake splash on the dark plastic used to keep the mountain from spilling over the side.
Vincent Carminati was driving the pursuing boat himself and enraged fury forced him to follow every move we made with no thought to the inherent dangers involved.
Machine gun fire began to tear apart the stern as Cat cut the boat’s wheel to the left and then sharply around and came at Carminati from the side. “Jump!” Cat hissed as he shoved me seconds before the two boats exploded into a massive inferno that set the floating garbage mountain on fire.
I was in the water and paddling toward shore as the flames and subsequent explosions from ruptured fuel tanks lit the night sky. I searched for Cat in the water and up and down the rocky beach for hours after I reached land. Later, I watched without emotion as the charred bodies of Vincent Carminati and two of his thugs washed up on shore but I could find no trace of my feline friend. I wasn’t surprised, Cat was many things but he’d never been a great lover of water and feared swimming, even in a small Central Park duck-pond, more than the back wheels of a delivery truck.
As the sun rose over the eastern horizon and left behind a darkening Europe and Asia I turned to a silvery moon just sinking into the lands to the west. I raised my head into an almost vertical position and howled to the ancient Gods that have ruled Earth since primordial times. I voiced a long and sustained heartbroken tribute to the best friend a dog like me ever had. And then I padded toward the city … as if waking from a dream.