Mick Abruzzo: The Second Wire
Mick Abruzzo: The Second Wire
Against his better judgment, Mick Abruzzo agreed to meet his idiot brother at a noisy South Philadelphia college hangout where Little Frankie swore they'd blend in. But when Mick showed up, Frankie was wearing a pinky ring straight out of The Sopranos and flashing a wad of cash the size of a baseball. He had staked out a pair of stools right in front of the March Madness opener on the big screen. A swarm of girls hung around the nearby pool table. One of them had a finger stuck in her mouth as she lifted her sweater to show Frankie a rose tattoo on the soft baby fat of her belly. Frankie finally gave her some cash and she trotted off to the jukebox.
Frankie drained his glass and turned companionably to Mick. "I hear you need money, and it just so happens I know where to get some."
Even though the bar noise was enough to keep their conversation private, Mick waited until the bartender set down his draft and eased away. Then he said, "You couldn't have made yourself more obvious in this place?"
"What? You mean, with the chick?"
"You gonna help her with her algebra homework later? That girl is jailbait."
Frankie grinned. "Lucky me."
The older Little Frankie got, the more he took to pretending he was Big Frankie - talking like he owned most of the rackets in Jersey. He tried to imitate Big Frankie's half-friendly, half-threatening smile, too, which on Little Frankie ended up looking like the big, loose grin of a patsy who'd buy another round without too much convincing. Little Frankie still hadn't grasped the fundamentals.
But Little Frankie wasn't stupid. He was a lazy crocodile - floating around in the swampy river until a thirsty gazelle came down for a drink. Then all of a sudden he was the smart one, scoring with hardly any effort.
Mick had the uncomfortable feeling he had just been pegged for a gazelle.
Frankie said, "Since when did you get to be such an old man when it comes to jailbait? Since you shacked up with the redhead I've heard so much about? Pop says she's the swanky type. You have to buy her jewelry to get her to put out? What does a diamond necklace get you in the sack, bro? Or maybe now you're broke, you're not getting any good action?"
Punching his brother in the mouth always felt like a good idea. Growing up, they had fought like wolverines. Even with Frankie satisfyingly bleeding from his nose and mouth, though, Mick had usually been the one who ended up in handcuffs. The first night Mick had successfully stopped himself from trying to beat the crap out of his brother, he'd slammed out of the house and stolen a motorcycle to get far away from the whole damn family. A day later he'd been picked up by a particularly vigilant cop, and his years of hard time began.
So maybe he had learned to hold back when it came to Frankie. But holding back had its consequences, too.
Now, though, Little Frankie only seemed to call when he was in trouble. Trouble that could spread to the rest of the family if Mick didn't throw water on whatever fire Little Frankie had lit a match to.
"What's the matter?" Frankie asked while Mick considered the situation. "You worried about busting your parole to make some money? Or do you want to hear the particulars?"
"Whatever it is, as long as it's coming from you, I don't want anything to do with it."
"Suit yourself." Frankie put his elbows on the bar, both hands around his beer. He pretended to watch the game for a minute before leaning over again. "I just thought I could do you a favor, Mick, get you out of the jam you're in. I heard about the accountant stealing all your dough while you were inside. Tough break. But that's what happ