The Hit and The Marksman
The Hit and The Marksman
Watching the car come up, I was counting on the mob's need to keep things quiet. Ours was a city in which the Cosa Nostra overlords still maintained impunity, with bought-and-paid-for cops and politicians, and a degree of anonymity: the southwestern Families hadn't hit Life magazine, local newspapers hadn't started any crusades, and PR men for Madonna's modernized mob gave enthusiastic support to the Anti-Defamation Committee when it insisted there was no such thing as "Organized Crime"; if the town had any crooks with Sicilian names that was just coincidence.
Maintaining good public relations and a peaceful surface of quiet was particularly vital to the mob right now: through his political mouthpieces, Madonna was exerting pressure to introduce legalized gambling into the state. It was sensitive; he couldn't afford untoward publicity. Sal Aiello's disappearance would be bad enough; the mob wouldn't want to have to explain Joanne's disappearance-and mine-along with it. So I didn't really expect them to use too much muscle-unless they knew things I didn't know. I glanced at Joanne in the shadows by the screen door; she was holding out on me, I knew that. I didn't have time to press it out of her.
There were two of them in the car-Cosa Nostra soldiers modestly masquerading in Hawaiian sport shirts. I knew them by sight: Ed Baker and Tony Senna. Baker was a bookie and numbers runner, not long on brains; he was driving the car but I knew he would let Tony Senna do the talking-Senna, who must have been a carney barker in some prior incarnation, was one of the mob's running dogs, an enforcer with a glib tongue and a cruel sense of humor.
The Ford rolled to a genteel halt ten feet from me and both men got out, not hurrying, not showing weapons, though it could be assumed they had guns under the flapping shirttails.
Tony Senna walked around the car with both hands in his pockets and glanced at Joanne before he formed a smile with his teeth and said to me, "Hello, flatfoot. Hot enough for you? I hear the burglars are only breaking into air-conditioned houses." It elicited a bark of laughter from Ed Baker, a big-nosed brute with shoulders like a Percheron, who looked as if he belonged behind a butcher's counter. Baker, a onetime prelim fighter, was a grade-B Hollywood gangster with the personality of a closed door.
Senna, sizing me up through his accidental smile, was another breed-a small, thin hood full of conspiratorial mannerisms; a sharpie. He had waxy Latin skin but you got the feeling you could have lit a match on his jaw.
He said casually, "How're they hangin', Crane?" and shot a shrewd glance past me at Joanne. "Pete thought we might find her here. Pete's pretty smart sometimes." He meant Pete DeAngelo, Madonna's consigliore , the number two man in the Family.
Senna smiled again. "You ain't talking much."
"What kind of talk did you have in mind?" I said.
Ed Baker talked without moving his lips: "He's got some heat in his back pocket, Tony."
Senna chuckled. "See how long it took him to spot that, Crane? I swear, Baker's the dumbest guy I've ever met. He can't even remember what comes after Walla." He chuckled and drew a circle in the sand with his toe, and looked up abruptly, as if trying to catch me off guard.
He said in a different voice, "You mind if we have a look around the place?"
"I mind," I said, "but if it'll clear things up, go ahead and search. Just put things back where you find them."
Without turning his head, Senna spoke over his shoulder to Baker: "Look around, Ed."
Baker went toward the house. I stood back and kept an eye on him while he went past Joanne. She was stiff but composed; she met his glance without flinching. Baker went into the house.
Senna was smiling again: "I'm glad you didn't argue, Crane."
"I never argue with a criminal type," I said