By Charles Shafer

Angie had been out all evening, I really didn't know where. Shopping with the girls, a workout at the gym, whatever. Some guys might be jealous left by their lonesome. Not me. Us two, we're a team. Two peas in a pod. Made for each other. She proved it, too, soon as she got home. I got my customary smooch on the lips, along with a whisper in the ear, saying, "Follow me, Loverboy," and she went skipping up the stairs. On the landing, she slipped out of her designer T-shirt, swung the thing over her head and let fly. Got me square in the chops. I took my time peeling it away. Angie's scent all up my nose. What a babe.

By the time I got up there she was in the shower. I was thinking seriously about joining her, but decided no, let her wind down some. I sprawled out on our heart shaped bed, happy with myself, and oh so ready for her to come out so I could make her just as happy. From head to toe.

The shower went off. I sat up straight, expecting that luscious hunk of women to come striding out without a stitch on. Jump my bones right there and then. She came out all right. Wearing goofy pj's buttoned to the neck, corny green and yellow balloons over a pink background. Like some kind of clown outfit. She took one look at the disappointment on my face and let out with a horselaugh. Finally said, "These jamas, they come off, you know."

That perked me up, and I went to grab her, but she skipped out of reach, saying, "You get a pair, too." And threw a matching set in my lap. "They're a gift from the Don."

"The Don?"

"He said to tell his favorite consigliere tanx for signing off on the Sticky Fingers Frankie hit."

"Takes care of me, but you...?"

"I delivered him Fingers'...uh, fingers. In a paper sack, if you know what I mean."

Only then did I find out what she'd been up to that evening. Made me sick down deep, seeing as Fingers had been a lifelong pal.

Angie could see it, and said, "Hey, I mean, after Fingers got caught skimming the Don's take..."

"All right, already." I really didn't want to hear it.

Angie, being one slick girl, knew enough to let it go, and went into her nightly routine, brushing a hundred strokes through those jet-black tresses of hers.

With eyes all on her sweet dupa, I counted out the strokes, going, "Ninety eight, ninety-nine," when, wouldn't you know it, the phone rang. I said, "Whoever it is, tell 'em you broke a leg. The house burned down. Anything!"

She said into the phone, "Rocky? Yeah, he's here." She gave me one of those don't-you-look-stupid faces, before saying, "The Don says howdy."

I wasn't much listening, down on the floor, sucking on her big toe.

She kicked me away, said to the Don, "Consider it done, boss." Then hung up, told me, "We gotta go out," and disappeared into the closet. Not the cubbyhole thing we had for me. Her walk-in. Thing was about the size of Lake Michigan.

There I was flat on my face, my night of bliss a total loss. That's when Angie reappeared in a plain black dress. The one she used for the many funerals we had to attend back then. Kind of surprised me. I was expecting a sweater-skirt combo, maybe a blazer. Something she could hide a shoulder holster under. To tell the truth, gave me some hope. You know. Me'n and Angie stop off at Zito's Funeral Parlor. Give the familia an hour or so, hug one or two mustached old ladies, lacy black dresses down to their ankles, get back to the house, still have most the evening to get it on.

"So who got it this time?" I said. Then thought about it, and said, "You mean the cops already found what's left of Fingers?"

"Not likely," Angie said, "seeing as he's part of that new runway out at O'Hare." That said, she took me by the collar. Dragged me to my knees. Put her lips on my neck, right under my chin. Her powdery kind of scent all in my nose all over again. I was loving it when she licked all the way up my cheek, across my forehead and down the other side. She ended up by my ear, whispering, "Don't forget where I left off. You know, for when we get back." Then hiked her dress up and went to strapping her favorite three-two auto onto a milky inner thigh.

I couldn't help but say, "Uh, need some help there, babe?"

"Nope." She went to the wall safe, rummaging, and came out with one of the miniature hand grenades she has made up special.

As she strapped it on opposite her three-two, I said, "Ain't going to any funeral, are we?"

"Not right off, we ain't." She covered her three-two and the grenade with her dress, and checked herself in the floor to ceiling mirror, made a satisfied nod, and marched into the hallway. Her nasal type squeak echoed from the stairs, "Meet me in the garage."

I pulled my jeans on. Punched my feet into a pair of Eddie Bauer boots. Threw on a Frank Sinatra T-shirt, which was tight considering my paunch. I hurried through the house and into our attached garage. Some kind of big, it was, like an indoor parking lot.

Angie was shopping through the ten - twelve work cars she kept in there. Each one souped up, with secret hiding places for her kind of equipment, shotguns, machine pistols, that kind of stuff. "This one'll do," she said, and jumped behind the wheel of a plain-looking Dodge sedan.

I had all I could do to drag myself into the passenger seat as she peeled off. I white-knuckled the dashboard, and yelled, "You gonna tell me what's to it, or what?"

"Family business," is all she said, and I cringed when she buzzed through a yellow light.

A CTA bus about went sideways, its driver standing on the air-brakes. When I got up enough nerve to open my eyes again, Angie had her foot to the floor, and was weaving through traffic. Zipped by Cook County Hospital. A place I figured we'd both be ending up soon enough. Wasn't long and she flipped a quick turn up Taylor Street, into Little Italy.

About then I came close to swallowing my dentures, because up ahead the cops had the street blocked off. Must've been thirty - forty of them, all scrunched down behind patrol cars. Emergency lights flashing everywhere.

"Oh, Christ. Somebody squealed," I said.

"That ain't for us, dumbbell." She pointed up the street where tracer rounds were blazing out the top floor window of a two-story frame, pelting into a brownstone across the street. Coming out of the brownstone was the thuda-thuda of, I could hardly believe it, an automatic rifle.

I was doing my best to make out whose houses the shooting was coming from when Angie pulled up by the cops. She got out, saying, "I do the talking."

Like there was a time she didn't, me being the family consigliere or no.

Some cop sergeant hurried up to her, and hollered in an Irish brogue, "Move it along, lassie. Now!"

Angie went to blubbering — that girl should've been in the flics the way she could turn on the waterworks — and looked like that Mother Superior from St. Carmine's in her go-to-funeral outfit when she collapsed into the cop's arms.

He stumbled back, shocked, especially when Angie wrapped her arms around his neck, and started screaming in Italian. I would've laughed, only what she was saying translated into, "Don't just stand there, Rock. Go find Booster Fazio before Mongo does in the Don."

I blurted out, "That's Mongo shooting? At the Don?" I mean, I was absolutely stunned, and said, "But...why?"

Before she could answer an all too familiar voice hollered, also in Italian, "Hey, Ang, Rocky. About time you showed up."

I looked around, and there Booster was over by Enzo's Beef Stand, all decked out in his cop uniform, playing with the twisty end of his handlebar mustache, at the same time chomping on a meatball sandwich. For sure he hadn't paid a dime for the thing. It's how he come to be called Booster. A cheap thief, cop or no cop.

The Irish cop shoved Angie towards Booster, saying, "Do something with this, uh, this lady, will ya, Captain?" Not waiting for an answer, he hurried over by the rest of the cops.

Angie held back until nobody was watching before putting herself in front of Booster. Standing tall, legs wide, she stabbed a finger on his police star, and said, "You got fifty-some of Chicago's finest and can't put down an old man with one gun?"

Booster went, "Har, har," sounding like that Long John Silver guy, and said, "That's right. Chicago's finest, not Chicago's stupidest. No way they're gonna get in the middle of a gun fight." He slurped down some sweet pepper, and whispered, "That's what the Don's got you for, girl."

Angie made a straight face, and said, "Me, I'll be fine. But you know my Rocco, always trying to use lip to solve family spats." She grabbed me under the chin. "Pretty, ain't he? So take it from me, my man gets a scratch — just a little one — I'll fix it sos you're patrolling the Chicago River...from the bottom up, you get what I mean."

Booster did another of his, "Har, hars," only it came out a weak, "He, he," and said, "Geez, Ang. The Don tells me to keep the cops from rushing Mongo until you guys show, it's what I do."

Angie looked like she was ready to stuff Booster's police star down his throat, so I got in between them, doing my consigliere thing, and said, "Okay, Booster. Just don't look so happy about it, is all."

About then this dapper-looking dude runs up. He stuck a microphone in Booster's face, and said, "Eye Witness News, Captain Fazio. Chicago wants to know how the police intend to proceed."

Booster kept worried eyes on Angie, and wiped his uniform sleeve across his mustache. Straightened his tie, combed the curly locks out of his face. And when the TV camera came on, said, "First and foremost the Chicago Police Department is concerned with saving lives. Therefore, we've called in the niece and nephew of Mr Bronti. They've volunteered to try and talk the gentleman out without any further bloodshed." Then, if you can believe it, he had the stones to give Angie an excuse-me smile.

Made me wish I carried. I would've blown that twisty mustache clean off his ugly mug. Even if he was the Don's man inside the cops.

I looked at Angie, to see how she was taking it. She gave me a wink, and hugged Booster close. Said into the TV camera, "Meester Cap-y-tan, he so brave. Gonna take us to da uncle."

Booster's knees buckled, you could see it. Angie had all she could do to make it look like he was holding her up instead of the other way around. Quick, I got on Booster's other side and helped her out. All the while Booster was going, "Uh...I mean...But..."

I was starting to get a bang out of the whole thing, and whispered in Booster's ear, "What'sa matter? I mean, the mayor'll be putting ribbons on your chest when this is over."

"Or maybe on his coffin," Angie said, as we pushed through the police line.

All of a sudden things weren't so funny, because when we got close, the old block looked like something out of a World War II movie, London all bombed out. Burned houses, bullet riddled Caddy's all up and down the street. I was half expecting Robert De Niro to come out of the alley blasting away on a machine gun. Scary as hell, but Angie was taking it all in like we'd arrived at Heaven's Gate, and said, "Little Italy. You gotta love it."

She dumped Booster into my arms and headed for what was left of Mongo's Mens Club. I was trying to keep up, only having to drag Booster, didn't get inside until Angie was up the stairs and into Mongo's 2nd floor office. When me and Booster finally got up there, bullets were pelting through the street-side windows. Booster scrambled behind a corner desk. Not a bad plan, and I was looking for a place to hide my own self. Then I spotted Mongo crouched down by the windows. He had an army helmet screwed down on his bald head, along with a bulletproof vest over the Hawaiian shirt he always wore.

He said, "Hi, folks. Be right witcha." He pointed what looked like a thirty-ought-six out the window, and bango, popped one off at the Don's place across the street. Then put himself against the wall, and said to me, "Uh, I wouldn't be standing there about now, I was you."

Before I could get out of harm's way a bullet went skimming between me and Angie. We dived for Mongo's oriental rug as six - seven more went zinging over our heads, pounding into the knotty pine wall behind us.

Which produced a wild scream. At first I thought it was me, but with my tongue half down my throat, not possible. Wasn't Angie, either, so I looked around, thinking it had to be Booster. Nope, not with his head buried in a desk drawer.

That's when this broad popped up from behind the sofa. The painted lady type, like Marilyn Monroe in Some Like It Hot. Had her hair piled all on top. Looked like an albino beehive up there.

She brushed knotty pine wood chips out of her beehive, and yelled, "Dammit, Mongo. You want, I'll go over to army surplus. Get you a bazooka sos you can finish the Don off right."

Mongo was reloading his ought-six, and mumbled, "While you're at it, ask do they got a Howitzer I could use."

Angie crawled up to Mongo, and yelled out the window, "Dammit, boss, hold off sos maybe we can get something done over here."

A pause, then the Don's gruffy voice came bellowing, "You're my shooter, ain't ya? So shoot that mangy bastard and be done with it."

"Hold off one," Angie yelled. Then said to Mongo, "Who's the blonde biddy with the big mouth?"

Mongo looked up from his gun like he was in a trance, and said, "Uh, say hi to Dotty. She's Fingers's lady friend. Used to be, anyhow."

"Angie, that's you?" this Dotty said, "The Don's shooter? Come to do Mongo, did ya?"

Mongo tipped his helmet back, and said, "Ain't Dotty a peach? Worrying over me like she does."

"Yeah, a peach," I said, rolling my eyes at Angie.

Who said, "What the hell, Mong? Taking potshots at the Don."

"He had Fingers kilt, the piece of dog dirt."

"Then you're gonna wanna do me'n Rocco, too, because was me what did the deed, and Rocco put his stamp on it."

Which wasn't the smartest thing to say, seeing as Mongo was fully armed, so I said, "Uh, Mong. He didn't come to be called Sticky Fingers for nothing, you know."

Mongo wasn't listening. He never had paid me much mind, and looking around, spotted Booster peeking from behind the desk. "Dotty's right, ain't she?" he said. "The Don got Booster to hold off the cops so Angie can do the number on me."

"Zackly," Angie said. "Only I ain't gonna, less you give me no choice."

Mongo threw the ought-six down, and said, "Hey, that's life on the wild side. Do what you gotta. Only let me tell you, I'd know if Fingers was skimming. I mean, he was number one man on my crew for more than twenty years."

"Wrong," I said. "Fact is, it was more like scooping. The Don showed me the books himself."

"He's got his books, I got mine. Dotty's been keeping them for me. Good with numbers, Dotty. Tell them, hun."

All eyes turned to Dotty, and all of a sudden she was looking damned guilty. I was about to call her on it, too. Only before I could, she said, "I ain't got time for this crap," and pulled a nine mil Glock from behind a chair. One squeeze of the trigger and boom, Mongo's head disappeared above his bushy eyebrows. The rest of him slid down the wall, plopping on his wide haunches. Blood gushing everywhere. About ruined the Roman Empire type wallpaper that me myself had picked out.

Angie went for her three-two auto, but Dotty had her cold with that Glock. Dotty yelling, "Don't move, any of you." While we froze, she raced across the room and grabbed Angie's three-two.

Angie remained her cool self, and said, "Just so you know, I'm gonna have'ta splatter you, honey."

Dotty said, "Just so you know, it'll be me doing the splattering around here." She smacked Angie across the side of the head with the Glock.

Angie went to her knees, still looking defiant, even with blood oozing from her ear. I was afraid she was going to mouth off again, so I took her in my arms, and said to Dotty, "I don't get it. I thought you and Mongo were tight."

Angie was struggling, trying to pull out of my arms, and spit out, "Had to be her was doing the skimming. No doubt talked Mongo into going after the Don, too. Yeah, set up this whole thing. Knew the Don would call me in to put Mongo down. Save her from being found out."

"Something like that," Dotty said. "Only turns out you ain't dedicated to the job, so I did the old fart my own self."

I knew me and Angie were next, and was trying to figure a way out when I got new hope, because Booster was just then climbing out from the desk. Even better, Dotty was occupied with Angie, not even noticing. I was holding my breath, trying not to give Booster away, but just when I thought he was going to plug this Dotty bitch good, he said, "I knew Angie wouldn't do Mongo. It's why I wanted out of it."

I couldn't believe my ears, and said, "Not you too, Booster."

"Why not, the sleaze that he is?" Angie said.

"Shut up, the both of you," Dotty said. She told Booster, "Stop your sniveling and holler to the Don it's done with Mongo."

He made a wide circle around Angie, went by the window, and yelled, "Come on over, boss. Mongo's down and out." Then into his cop radio: "This is Captain Fazio. I need a volunteer to bring the old man across the street."

"So now what?" I said. "You and Dotty do in the Don, beat it with the cash you skimmed off? Not smart. Ain't nowhere you can hide we don't find you."

"He still don't get it, does he?" Booster said, his mustache twitching like the alley cat he was.

I knew I was a dead duck any which way, so when footsteps sounded on the stairs, I yelled, "It's a double cross, boss. Run for it!"

But the footsteps kept coming. Only instead of the Don, it was the Irish cop who Angie had done the bear hug on when we first pulled up. He wasn't acting the clown like before. All business, scanning the muzzle of a forty-four long barrel across the room. Sparkling-blue eyes showing nothing, taking in everything. They came to rest on Dotty. Studied her. Looked like he was gonna shoot, and then I got another surprise when he said, "All clear, boss."

The Don showed himself. He was in his full-length overcoat. Even wore it in July, self-conscious about what a bag of bones he was. His moniker being Narrow Hips until he got made Don. Thing is, Angie was the only one could still get away with calling him it.

Dotty held up her Glock, and said, "Your shooter wasn't up to snuff. I was, though."

The Don's sunken eyeballs went straight to Angie. He flashed a hint of a smile. Like a full blown belly laugh for anybody else. He took her hand, drew her up. Gave her a kiss on the cheek. And, uh-oh, another on the other cheek.

We all knew what that meant, and I was sucking air. Wasn't gonna be long, me and Angie would be trying on a new set of pj's. The winged kind.

The Don held Angie at arm's length, and said in his gravely voice, "Gonna miss you, girl. But no way do I trust you after this."

She got right up on him and with her brow pulled low, spit in his face. Twice.

The Don shoved her to the floor. Glaring, he pulled a handkerchief from his breast pocket. He wiped from his one protruding cheekbone, over that pimply nose, to the other cheekbone. When he took the handkerchief away, his glare was replaced by an evil smirk.

Like in some kinda horror show.

Then he stepped in front of me, shook his head, and said, "Rocco, The Idiot, Ingalli. Nice guy, but about the worst consigliere ever. You, I ain't gonna miss a bit."

I was too shocked to speak, but Angie wasn't. She said, "You skinny, scum sucking, rat-faced...Was you yourself doing the skimming. Probably what you was suppose to send on to the other families. What happened, they catch you short? Sure, that's it, so you had this Dotty broad put it on Fingers. And when Mongo goes berserk you call me in to clean things up."

The Don sported that half grin of his.

So I said, "Mongo was a stand up guy. He would've died for you, gladly. Me'n Angie, too."

"Oh, you're gonna die for me," the Don said. He turned to the Irish cop. "Wait until I'm back at my place and bring them to the window. I wanna watch." He looped an arm around Dotty's shoulder, and headed down the stairs. Booster trailed behind them like a four-year-old afraid to leave his daddy's shirttail. He said into his cop radio: "I got one hostage released. I'm taking her and the old man back across the street."

I squeezed Angie tight, saying, "Guess this is it, babe."

She ran her hand under my chin, and said, "My Rocco. So innocent. How you got to be consigliere I'll never know."

That took me off guard. I mean, even as hard-nosed as that girl was, I was expecting a tear or two, maybe some screaming at the Irish cop. She looked at him all right. Staring. What a broad, showing him no fear, even when he placed her in front of the window.

If Angie could hang tough, so could I, so I jumped up beside her. Made my best gangster mug, too.

The cop curled his thick lips into an ugly sneer. He was ready, I knew it, so I glued my eyes on his, daring him to do me first. That's when he bent over, hands on knees, gasping like he was having a heart attack. Then burst out laughing. Roaring. Angie started in laughing, too. She slapped the cop on his wide back, and said, "Stop it, Patty. They'll see us."

"Huh?" I said, and looked across the street. The Don was standing in his window. Booster and Dotty were right there with him.

Angie waved at them like I little kid, you know, hand held high, flopping fingers, and yelled, "Bye, bye, Donny boy."

The Don's face went blank, but in a flash he was back to his confident self, and hollered, "Gotta hand it to you, Ang. Laughing all the way to gangster heaven."

Angie was still waving, and yelled, "Only it's you on your way, pal. Look in the pocket of that tent you call an overcoat. See the present I left for you."

The Don shook his head as if to say, this broad's more than I can take, but he reached into his pocket anyhow. Then went rigid. His lips quivering as he pulled out Angie's miniature grenade. Right away he was doing a hot potato act with the thing.

Angie clicked this hand held gizmo thing, and whoosh, a fireball exploded where the Don used to be. While brick, mortar, and itsy-bitsy pieces of the Don rained from the sky, Patty grabbed his police radio, and said, "Everybody's dead except the niece and nephew." Then he pulled his cop hat off, and went to one knee in front of Angie. He took her hand, kissed it, and said, "Donna mia."

My heart went straight to my toes, pounding. I looked at Angie, and managed to say, "You? The new boss?"

She wrapped me into her arms, and said, "It's squared with all the families. Since yesterday."

"You mean — Jesus! You had it figured from the get go, didn't you?"

She gave me a peck on the cheek, and said, "Little Italy. You gotta love it."

Charles Shafer is a retired Chicago cop. He has sold two crime fiction novels and several short stories.

Copyright 2012 Charles Shafer. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of the author is prohibited. OMDB! and OMDB! logos are trademarks of Over My Dead Body!

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