HERE TOMORROW 7 PM PST. MICHAEL O’KEEFE AUTHOR OF: A RECKONING IN BROOKLYN (SEE NEW EXCERPTS)
7 PM PST.
Bushwick Brooklyn in the 1970s is a cesspool of drugs, violence, and depravity. Every aspect of life in the blighted neighborhood has been contaminated by the Mafia. Butchie Bucciogrosso is an Italian cop who detests the Mob. A survivor of the streets, he returns from Vietnam only to find Bushwick in ruin. His partner, Fast Eddie Curran, had to kill his way out of Belfast. They are the only cops with the courage to take on the Mob, becoming a deadly nuisance trying to win back their streets. Only the Mafia, their own dirty Department, and a corrupt federal justice system stand in their way. With themselves and their loved ones squarely in the crosshairs, can they destroy the Mob's criminal empire before they are killed? Can they outwit a crooked Department of Justice before they are framed and imprisoned? The clock is ticking with Bushwick's survival in the balance. A reckoning in Brooklyn is the new historical crime thriller from Detective Michael O'Keefe, the author of the breakout novel, Shot to Pieces.
When Butchie got to Fat Sam’s clubhouse, in the former storefront of Bruno Badlamenti’s latticini, he was prevented from entering by two of Sam’s goons.
“This is private property, copper. You don’t get to come in here,” Donato Trinchera spat. He was the larger of Fat Sam’s bodyguards.
“I need a word with your boss,” Butchie told him.
“He’s not seeing visitors,” Vito Meloro, the other bodyguard jumped in, poking him in the chest. “Least of all, Italian cops who hate their own.”
Butchie looked down at the gangster’s fingers in his chest. He grinned at the thug. Meloro had only the briefest moment to appreciate the derangement behind that smile before all hell broke loose.
Meloro hit the ground with a thud after Butchie shattered his jaw with his lead sap. Trinchera took two shots to knock out, but his jaw was just as broken. He leaned over the two goons to admire his work and ensure they didn’t require any more of his tender administration. Satisfied, he stepped over the fallen thugs and entered the clubhouse.
He spied Fat Sam at the card table in front of the espresso bar. He was playing pinochle with a group of older Italian men from the neighborhood. Also, a part of the group was Father Alphonso Spinatro, one of the parish priests from St. Brigid’s. He said the Italian mass on Sunday mornings which Butchie’s parents attended.
“Hi, Father,” Butchie greeted the priest as he advanced on the card table. Fat Sam looked up, confused.
“How the fuck did you get in here?” the gangster demanded.
“I let myself in,” Butchie informed him as he overturned the card table, scattering cards, money, the players and their espresso cups in every direction.
He grabbed Fat Sam by the throat and lifted him out of his chair and drove him to the floor. Standing over him, Butchie took out his five-shot off-duty revolver and shoved it into his mouth. Fat Sam looked into Butchie’s impassive, dead eyes and instantly comprehended the very great peril he was in. Indelicato’s face became a mask of terror.
“Listen carefully,” Butchie cautioned him. “Because you only get to hear this once. The Bucciogrossos are now exempt from paying you for protection. If you set one foot in the bakery, if you come near any member of my family, I will end you. If anything should happen—a broken window for instance, or an electrical fire, even an act of God—I’m coming to talk to you about it. But trust me on this, if I come back here, my face will be the last thing you ever see in this life. Capisce?”
Butchie took the gun out of Sam’s mouth to let him answer.
“I’m not going to fuck with you, Butchie. But when Lilo hears what you did today, he’s not going to like it. He’ll have something to say about it.”
“That’s why he’s next on my list of phony-baloney tough guys who get a visit. I’ll discuss it with him when I see him.”
Butchie put his gun away and got off the frightened gangster. He made a point of not helping Fat Sam off the floor, slapping his hand away when he reached up for assistance.
“One other thing,” Butchie told him before he left. “You will not come to the bakery for the rent. You want it, you get it from me. But you’re going to have to come to the precinct for it.”
As Butchie stepped over Trinchera and Meloro, still laying in the doorway, he knew Fat Sam would never come within a block of the ancient precinct-house on DeKalb Avenue. The bakery was now rent-free, as well as unencumbered by the fictitious protection fee. Now Butchie just had to make Carmine Gigante understood the new rules.
Paddy Durr is a brilliant detective and his own worst enemy. A brutal upbringing filled with abuse, neglect, and abandonment has left him with an ingrained sense of worthlessness. When he catches a grisly gang-related street assassination in Brooklyn, he is on the verge of an emotional and psychological breakdown. His wife is divorcing him. His children won't speak to him. His murder case is a political nightmare. The mayor and the police department would rather it just go away. Paddy finds himself on his own. With the clock ticking, Paddy must hold it together long enough to solve the case, fix himself enough to rescue his family life, or implode, irrevocably destroying his career, his family, and himself.
Paddy Durr had been a member of the most prolific Anti-Crime Unit in the history of the NYPD. Mostly of Irish descent, with an Italian and a Mexican, thrown in for good measure, the seven cops and their sergeant were responsible for more than four hundred gun arrests in a calendar year. They were on a pace to surpass that number in 1992. The night of July 3rd, Paddy and his partners had spotted a guy with a large caliber revolver sticking out of his waistband. The three cops quickly concocted a plan to approach the suspect. Paddy, who looked nothing like a cop at this point in his career, what with the long hair, earrings, and goatee, would approach from the corner, presumably unnoticed. His partners would circle the block in their unmarked car. Though the vehicle was a non-descript Chevy Caprice that looked like a livery cab, Paddy and his partners had been jumping out of it to lock up guys with guns for the past two years. Every bad guy in Washington Heights knew this car intimately. The cops learned to use that notoriety to their advantage. They would flush the suspect toward Paddy on the corner. Like most brilliant plans conceived on the fly, this one went bad almost immediately.
When the unmarked Caprice hit the block, the alert call went up as expected. But, instead of causing the suspect to walk toward the corner, he instead turned and walked toward the lobby doors of the apartment house on the right. Paddy caught up to the suspect just as he was entering the building. He was big, six foot two and at least two hundred and forty pounds. It was also later discovered that he was a cocaine addict and was high at the time of the encounter. When Paddy grabbed the suspect by the lapel of his sport jacket and identified himself as the police, the perp elbowed Paddy in the throat and dragged him backwards into the hallway, a cavernous marble thing more reminiscent of a mausoleum. This was fitting because when Paddy got dragged into that hallway, he was certain that he would die in there. What began as a five-minute fight to the death for the suspect’s gun, which he kept trying to draw to shoot Paddy. Durr stayed close with his adversary, never letting him clear the gun from his waist. Several times during the hand to hand battle, Paddy tried to radio for assistance. But he hadn’t intended to be in a building, so he didn’t know the address of the one he was in. So while everybody knew he was in trouble, no one knew where to look for him.
After five hectic minutes of pure mayhem, with Durr taking the worst beating of his life, the suspect managed to pull his weapon and hit Paddy in the mouth with the barrel. Durr was able to grab the perp’s right wrist and jerk the gun away from his face, but only briefly. As he was losing his grip on the sweaty and blood-smeared arm of the suspect, he drew his own revolver. As the perp’s gun swung up again into Paddy’s face, he had the fleeting impression that he was looking down a manhole, the business end of a gun never being as big as it is when pointed in your face. But in that instant, Paddy punched his gun out in front of him until the barrel was pressed against the perp’s chest, and quickly fired twice. The suspect, already dying, spun to the ground at Durr’s feet.
By that time the radio knocked out of Paddy’s hand earlier, had erupted into pandemonium. Every cop in Manhattan North was trying to find him. They were screaming at central in a futile attempt to add something to the conversation. But they had nothing to add but confusion, and there was plenty enough of that. Finally, Paddy found his radio on the floor. He holstered his own gun and picked up the perp’s weapon from the ground, just in case it decided to take a walk. Not likely in a closed hallway, but not worth taking a chance with either. Paddy had seen too many guns disappear from crime scenes to trust this one to providence. The gun was staying with him. Paddy walked out to the front lobby doors and looked up. There was the address, 555 W 162nd Street. Paddy put over his location, as well as reporting that he had a perp down. Central repeated the address and tried to ascertain if Paddy was shot. As he walked back over to his fallen adversary, Durr was just too exhausted and disoriented to answer. So he waited.
Moments later, Police Officers John Di Santis and his partner Danny Neylan came running into the lobby. Paddy must have been a fright to behold because Di Santis kept asking him where he had been shot. Paddy had trouble comprehending the question. So Di Santis and Neylan started stripping off Paddy’s top layer of clothing to try and find the bullet wounds they were sure had to be there. Paddy found his words and explained. The big .357 Magnum he was holding had been the perp’s gun. Only half of the blood covering him was his own, and none of it was from a gunshot wound. As more and more uniform cops arrived in the hallway, Di Santis and Neylan grabbed Paddy and rushed him to the Emergency Room at Columbia Presbyterian.
Paddy and Mairead had gotten engaged that winter. They were scheduled to be married in the first week of September. Mairead was working in the ER that night. There is always a handful of cops and EMT’s hanging around an inner-city emergency room, and they all had their radios on. When Paddy first broadcast his call for help, Mairead heard it and recognized his voice. She did not recognize the tone of panic underneath it. She didn’t believe Paddy was afraid of anything. So when she heard the fear in his voice, she was horrified. She heard every subsequent transmission from Paddy over the next two minutes, and then the awful silence. The only sound now coming from the radios were the cops beseeching Paddy for his location, so they could find him and help him. And then the terrible frustration and despair when no answer came. If Paddy thought he was going to die in that hallway, Mairead and every cop in the city thought he already had. Several minutes later, when Paddy broadcast his location, Mairead still recognized his voice, but it had an exhausted, beaten quality to it. The echoes from inside the marble hallway gave his breathless words a hollow and ethereal quality as if he was sending his last message from beyond the grave. Mairead had no cause for optimism when she heard they were rushing Paddy to the hospital. She had worked on too many cops that were already gone when their partners carried them into the ER, not to realize that a trip to the hospital didn’t mean you weren’t already dead.
When Mairead saw Paddy walking through the front doors of the ER with Di Santis and Neylan, still very much alive, she bounded down the hall and pounced on him. Through a veil of sobs and tears, Mairead tried to brush away the blood from Paddy’s face and neck. But it had become encrusted by now, and the futility of Mairead’s efforts made them both giggle. When their lips locked they stayed in that embrace, like time didn’t matter. As they were moved into their own private examination room, cops and supervisors from all over Manhattan were dropping in. They were there to show support and express their relief that Paddy hadn’t been killed. It was a spontaneous gathering, all raw with emotion, much preferred to an Inspector’s funereal. Mairead was fascinated. There was almost a religious bearing to the cops that came in from all over the borough. It was as if they had to be here.
“Why do they come?” Mairead asked.
“Out of respect, mostly, but there’s more to it than that.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Active cops are a different breed,” Paddy tried to explain. “We’re the gunfighters, the alpha dogs of the police department. We’re not special, just different. We all think we’re Superman; bulletproof, avenging angels of the Lord. We pretend no harm can come to us because we walk in the light. But the light doesn’t stop bullets, and doing God’s work offers no additional protection. When the shit hits the fan and even the alpha dogs are fighting for their lives, as cops, we’re forced to confront our own mortality. We have to admit that this shit is real. It’s not a game of cowboys and Indians. People die at this, and it’s usually the good guys. So this pilgrimage, because that’s kind of what it is, is as much a way to say I’m glad we’re not meeting at your funereal as it is to say thank you for reminding me to get my head out of my ass. An event like this forces everybody to get back on their A-game.”
When they were alone, Paddy told Mairead that she had saved his life tonight. The only reason he hadn’t died in that hallway was because he needed to see her face again.
“I was done, Mairead. I had nothing left. When that gun came up in my face the last time, I was just waiting for it to blow my head off. But I had a fleeting vision of my partners having to come in here to tell you I bought it in some filthy hallway. I couldn’t leave you like that. Somehow, I found the resolve to shove that gun out of my face and do what I had to do to get the fuck out of Dodge. Now you’re stuck with me, and it’s no one’s fault but your own.”
“I don’t mind being stuck with you, Paddy,” Mairead said, as she pulled him closer and rested her head on his shoulder. “But it would be a big help if you could stop trying so hard to get yourself killed.”
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