Charlie “Crappy” Crappola sat alone at his favorite table at Forlini’s Restaurant, on Baxter Street, 50 feet south of Canal Street. Forlini’s is right around the corner from New York City’s Criminal Courts Buildings and down the block from the City Prison, ominously call “The Tombs.”
In the last generation, there has been a mass exodus of neighborhood Italians to places like Brooklyn, Queens, Long Island, Staten Island and unfortunately, Rikers Island and other prisons located in the continental United States. Not to mention various graves, some in cemeteries and some in places unknown, beneath the ground, in various rivers and streams, or compacted in cars.
Forlini’s clientele now consisted almost entirely of people associated with the criminal courts buildings in the immediate neighborhood. Ninety percent of Forlini’s customers are judges, lawyers, district attorneys, court officers, court workers and what Crappy called rat-bastard cops. Wiseguys and their associates avoided Forlini’s like the plague, not wanting to be under the same roof with those whose life’s mission was to put them permanently in prison.
Crappy’s table was next to the cash register, to the immediate left of the restaurant entrance. From this vantage point he could see everyone as they entered, before they could see him. Which just might one day save Crappy’s life.
Baxter Street is one block west of Mulberry, where all the wiseguys hang out to discuss whose legs deserved to be broken and who they should make soon disappear off the face of the earth. Be that as it may, Forlini’s was the perfect place for Crappy to meet someone in “the life” without the treacherous scumbags around the corner knowing about it.
As for the menu, Forlini’s was famous for its fine Chicken Gropallo — chicken with artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, black olives, mushrooms, and white wine sauce, served on top of fettuccine; the people’s favorite Scarparelli, for one or for two — diced chicken, sausage, filet mignon, bell peppers, mushrooms, scallions, garlic and white wine sauce. And the immortal Involtini di Gamberi — rolled shrimp, stuffed with prosciutto, cheese and mushrooms and white wine sauce.
Crappy, who weighed somewhere in the neighborhood of 400 pounds, had just ordered all three of Forlini’s specialty dishes as his main course, after first knocking down two Hot Antipasta Platters of Clams, Shrimps, Stuffed Mushrooms, Sauteed Eggplant and Artichoke Hearts Arreganata.
Of course, all three main courses came with either a side of spaghetti, or a side of escarole. Crappy, daintily watching his weight, had opted for only two side orders of spaghetti and one side of escarole, just to be on the safe side.
The busboy removed the finished Hot Antipasto plates, as the waiter refilled Crappy’s wine class with red vino from a large carafe of the house red, which was just fine indeed and a hell of a lot cheaper than any wine Forlini’s served in bottles.
Minutes later, just as the waiter was placing the three main course on the table, Crappy noticed Skinny Benny slide though the front door of the restaurant. Skinny Benny spotted Crappy and Crappy waved him over to the table.
“Sit down,” Crappy said.
Skinny Benny did. The waiter quickly set anther place setting in front of him and poured a Skinny Benny a glass of red.
“Would you like to order something, sir?” the waiter said.
Skinny Benny surveyed the food on the table. “Are you kidding? Where would you put the food anyway? On my lap? There’s enough food on this table to feed a battalion.”
The waiter shrugged, then left the table.
Crappy started eating with a vengeance. He spoke with his mouth full, but did so with such expertise, only a few a morsels of food got spewed on Skinny Benny’s face.
“Dig in and shut your face,” Crappy said. “If we need more food, I’ll order more food. They have a great Golden Brown Chicken I forgot to order anyway.”
Skinny Benny shook his head. “Na, I just ate an order of beef and oyster sauce over at 16 Mott.”
Crappy looked up with fork in hand and disgust on his face. “Why do you eat that Chink crap anyway? You’re putting money in their pockets.”
Crappy put his fork down. “So what? Look around you. This restaurant is packed, but not a Chinaman in sight. You never see those slanty-eyed bastards in an Italian restaurant. Like they’re afraid that we’ll make some money off their skinny asses.”
“Hung Far Low doesn’t have a skinny ass,” Skinny Benny said. “His ass is almost as big as yours.”
“Very funny,” Crappy said. “If you don’t want to eat, then shut up till I’m finished.”
Twenty minutes later, without Skinny Benny touching a crumb, nary a drop of food was left on the table. The busboy removed the empty plates, as the waiter refilled the wine glasses.
“Any desserts sir?” the waiter said.
“Later. Let me digest my food first,” Crappy said.
The waiter left the table.
“Digest your food?” Skinny Benny said. “You ate so fast, you probably didn’t even taste your food.”
Crappy belched into his cupped hand.
“Salute,” Skinny Benny said.
Crappy brushed the right sleeve of his shirt across his mouth. “Thank you, now let’s get down to business.”
For the past two years or so, Crappy and Skinny Benny had been the two top captains for Tony B. Each had over 50 men working under them, robbing banks, knocking over trucks, doing jewelry heists, and running the loan sharking and bookmaking operations. Of all of the money made on the streets by these men, fifth percent was kicked upstairs. Minus whatever was robbed by the street crooks in the first place.
Of this fifty percent, half went up to Tony B, and Crappy and Skinny Benny split the other half. This was not such a great deal for them, but this was the way business had been done by the mob in America since forever.
Now all of a sudden, Tony B, the greedy bastard that he was, wanted more. He wanted thirty percent of the fifty percent being kicked up from the streets. And if that was not enough on any given week to satisfy his hunger, Tony B said he wanted a flat fifty grand a week, no questions asked.
“This crap has got to stop,” Crappy said. “I’m starting to pull the hair out of my head.”
“I guess he needs the extra money to feed his girlfriend, Big Fat Fanny,” Skinny Benny said. “She does eat a lot of food. Even more than you do.”
“I don’t give a damn about Big Fat Fanny. Let Tony B buy a ranch, with five thousand head of cattle to feed her, for all I give a damn.”
Skinny Benny took a sip of wine. “Then there’s the pasta she eats to consider. I hear she can knock down five pounds of pasta in one sitting. With another five pounds of sausage and five pounds of meatballs on the side. And then she has the nerve to want to eat dinner.”
“Freakin’ amazing. I can eat and I can’t even come close to what that fat bastard shoves down her throat.”
“But she does have a pretty face. And in her own way, she very sexy.”
“Sexy? You gotta be freaking kidding me. She looks like King Kong in a dress. She’s probably got a bigger schlong than King Kong too.
“But don’t forget, she’s only 22 years old. Tony B’s 50. Not many old guys like him can get a young broad like her.”
“She’s not a broad,” Crappy said. “She’s an entire harem. Two harems maybe.”
Skinny Benny snickered.“A battalion of harems.”
The waiter came over to the table. He checked the carafe and it was empty. “More wine sir?”
“Nah,” Crappy said. “Bring over a bottle of Sambuca and a couple of cannolis.
The waiter turned to Skinny Benny. “And you, sir?”
“A double Remy, straight up. In one of those large sniffers.”
“You mean snifters, sir,” the waiter said.
Skinny Benny looked annoyed. “Yeah snifters, sniffers, whatever. Just bring the double Remy in a glass.”
“Yes sir,” the waiter said. He adjusted the small vase of flowers in the middle of the table, then left.
Crappy leaned over the table and whispered. “The main thing is, Tony B has got to go. He’s financially choking us to death.”
“But he’s been my friend my whole life,” Skinny Benny said. “I can’t just kill the man.”
“That’s why you have to be the one to do the piece of work. He trusts you. You’re the only one who can get close enough to him to do the job.”
“Let me think about it,” Skinny Benny said.
Crappy leaned over the table and whispered again. “You can think about it all you want, but you’ll come to the same conclusion I have. Tony B has got to go.”
The waiter came over with the drinks and the desserts. Then he left.
Skinny Benny took a sip from the snifter. “Maybe you’re right. Tony B has become too greedy.”
Crappy and Skinny Benny spent the next half hour or so figuring out the best way to get rid of Tony B. Then Crappy paid the bill in cash, leaving a generous 10 percent tip and the two men exited the restaurant.
As the busboys were taking the dishes away, the waiter took the cash and the small vase of flowers off the table.
He went into the men’s room and locked himself in a stall. He removed a small wireless microphone from the vase and put it in his pants pocket.
When his shift was over, the waiter went outside to the entrance of the building directly over Forlini’s Restaurant. He entered the building, climbed to the second floor, walked down a long corridor and knocked on the last door.
A man opened the door and the waiter handed him the microphone.
“Well, Officer Russo, I think we heard some very interesting conversation,” the man said to the waiter, who was in fact an undercover cop. “And I have it all down on tape.”
“I couldn’t hear too much, Sergeant Molloy,” Officer Russo said. “I was too busy feeding that fat bastard’s face.”
“Oh, but I heard a lot. Stuff I’m sure our Captain would love hearing.”
“So you’re turning in the tapes to our superiors?You might be able to get a big payday elsewhere.”
“Of course I’ll turn the tapes into our bosses. But after I make a copy,” Sergeant Molly said. “And don’t worry Officer Russo. If something comes out of this, you have some cash coming to you.”