The Next Chapter In Mary Reinholz’s Great Saga

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November 1, 2014 · Posted in Exit From Eden -Mary Reinholz 

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EXIT FROM EDEN: The Author During The Times She’s Writing About

Chapter 17

El Quijote restaurant was right next door to the Chelsea Hotel. I’d been told it was a well established joint with chandeliers, exotic wall hangings and moderately priced Spanish cuisine. So I checked out the menu and ordered seafood paella with a pitcher of white Sangria, figuring such a feast would fortify me through the night and into the next morning for my meeting with porn king Harvey Jewell and his mafia distributors.

“Make that two pitchers of Sangria,” I told the solemn Spanish waiter, who was decked out in a black jacket. I brazenly pinched his cheek. He scurried away, muttering, “Si si, Senorita.”

A swarthy man in blue jeans and a turtle neck sweater raised his glass in salute from his place at the crowded bar. I could barely make out his features from my booth. But when I nodded to acknowledge his greeting, he came over to me still holding his drink. He was about 40, with high cheekbones and a full head of black tousled hair streaked with white around the temples.

“I’ve seen you at the hotel near those creaky elevators,” he said. “I’m Peter Gasolini, and I know where most of the bodies are buried at the Chelsea.” He paused and smiled at me as if we shared a secret joke. “Between you and me, I think the corpses are down in the basement with all the old furniture. Chairs and sofas with torn cushions are lying around like broken dreams.”

“C.J. Ryder here,” I said, instantly recognizing his name and liking his black humor. The man was a well known beatnik poet from San Francisco whose early work I had read as a teenager. It was gritty stuff, all about his youth growing up working class in Oakland. His father was a mechanic, his mother a seamstress. Somehow he got into Harvard after a stint with the Merchant Marines. Maybe this visceral man of letters and I could connect on another level.

“C.J. Ryder,” he repeated. “I can see you’re trying not to be a girly girly type. Richard the desk clerk told me you’re a writer. I am too. May I join you?”

“I know your work, Mr. Gasolini, and I would be honored if you joined me,” I said, feeling my grim mood lift as the great man sank beside me on the stiff leather upholstery.
He had intense brown eyes widely set apart, the kind of eyes you think you can swim in. I found myself hoping he also had some understanding to offer a stranger. But then maybe he’d be utterly repelled if I told him who I was: a California girl killer of two people in Arkansas—the first, a motel owner who raped me; the second his ex-wife who died of a heart attack in police custody, wrongly accused of murdering her husband whom I had dispatched when he started to strangle me.

“The honor is mine,” Gasolini said, breaking through my reverie. He smiled again. “You don’t seem like a typical New York girl. Where are you from Miss Ryder?”

“West Hollywood and before that San Marino. My family wasn’t filthy rich but we were lily white. Very few blacks Jews or bohemian residents were around when I lived there.”
He chuckled. “I know San Marino. I take it you’re the rebel in your family?.”

I nodded. “More like the black sheep.”

“That bad?” he asked.

The waiter brought the pitcher of Sangria and one large goblet. I filled it to the brim and took a gulp, trying not to hiccup. I never was much of a drinker but now I longed for liquid that might bring oblivion. But not stupidity. I didn’t want to tell this intriguing man everything.

“My parents would think I’m very bad if I told them what I’m doing,” I said. “I’m working on a crime story for the New York Bugle involving the Mafia. I wasn’t raised to write about people my father always claimed were hatching murder plots in pizza parlors. There are none in San Marino, you know. They don’t even have gas stations. Or movie theaters.”

Gasolini laughed heartily. His teeth glistened in El Quijote’s flickering lamp lights. “You’re a writer for the Bugle? My dear, you’re a butterfly in a sewer.”

This was a man with metaphors. Maybe he would inspire me.“I’ve been known to spread my wings a bit, Mr. Gasolini,” I replied, now tipsy enough to be bold.

Gasolini raised an eyebrow and finished his drink. It looked like bourbon. “Call me Pete,” he said. “I wouldn’t mind seeing some of your writing. You seem like a clever girl.”

The waiter arrived with the seafood paella. I asked Gasolini if he’d like some. He agreed quickly after examining the steaming dish. It contained half a lobster, mussels and clams, way too much for one person. I asked the waiter for another large bowl and when it came, I spooned a hefty portion of the meal for Gasolini. He devoured it.

Both of us decided to skip dessert. We had that in my room.

##
When I awoke the next morning around 6 am, fighting a headache and chaotic dreams, Gasolini was gone. There was a sprawling dark stain on the bottom sheet from our one night stand. I frantically tried to scrub it off with soap and cold water, paranoid that the hotel maid who came by around 11 am to clean my room might spread gossip that I had a night of rough sex and with it some unwanted attention.

Of course, the maid might recognize the stain as menstrual blood or the blood that comes when a cocksman rams into a woman when she’s dry as the Sahara. I recalled that Gasolini had stuck it to me without benefit of foreplay. He wanted a quickie after a big dinner and that’s what he got before falling asleep.

But he was kind enough to scrawl a note on a hotel envelope left on my desk. “You’re very talented, C.J., but I must get to Boston for a reading otherwise I’ll never leave. Ciao.”
He signed the note. It would be a souvenir to savor on another lonely night. Still half-asleep, I remembered what he said after scanning a few of my stories from California.

“They’re good,” he said. “But you’re still too involved with being a woman. Don’t make your stories pretty. Make them strong.”

Recalling his words, I could feel energy surging back to me. I swallowed two aspirin and carefully prepared for meeting Harvey Jewell and his distributors. Both my little gun in its leather case and a borrowed Cannon flash camera fit easily into my shoulder strap bag. I put on black tights, a black pantsuit with a white sweater and a thrift shop leather jacket. I also packed my old California bikini in case the brisk autumn weather turned warm enough for sun bathing.

As I grabbed a container of black coffee at the deli next to the Chelsea, it occurred to me that early November was much too late in the year for the business trip at sea that Jewell had proposed I join with his mob associates.

He had talked about shark fishing aboard a Mafia owned yacht in Long Island Sound but now it all seemed like a little boy’s fantasy meant to grab a reporter’s attention. Even so, I hailed a cab at 8th Avenue and told the bearded driver to take me to the address Jewell had provided.

Without a word, he stepped on the gas and headed west on 23rd Street towards the Hudson River, turning south on 11th Avenue. His disapproval of the neighborhood was palpable as we drove through desolate industrial terrain. There was no one out on the streets but we passed by several trucks coming out of the loading docks. I got a glimpse of sides of beef carcasses hanging on hooks.

It was nearly 10 ‘clock in the morning and I was right on time for my appointment. The cabbie, an earnest young dude with rimless glasses, bumped along past a row of brick buildings, one of them housing what looked like an empty bar.

“Why is there a bar in this no man’s land?” I asked him. “Does it have a name?”

“It has no name. It’s a gay bar,” the cabbie said tersely. “It’s run by the mafia.”

A U-haul rumbled by us and my driver looked nervous. Then he stopped outside a blank faced building. A fire engine red Cadillac was parked outside, shrieking color as jarring as a neon sign inside a funeral home. Its license plate had the words F.U., so I knew that Harvey Jewell was waiting for me.

***

Galaxy News Center was in a poorly lit warehouse filled with metal file cabinets and stacks of paperback porn books and weekly magazines. At the end of a vast space was a desk and a teenage receptionist busy behind a Selectric typewriter. She wore a crotch-high mini skirt and platform shoes, but still looked like something out of an old Dracula movie with her powdered white skin, towering black beehive hairdo and blood red fingernail polish.

Jewell was seated a few feet from her on a work bench, dressed in an F.U. sweatshirt and baggy jeans. He was staring at the girl’s legs, shapely stems sheathed in fishnet stockings, but looked up as I approached, beckoning me to sit beside him.

“All ready to go shark fishing this morning Ryder?” he asked, and winked. “I’m waiting for VdeQ to join us. He’s in that office behind Daniela over there,” Jewell said, pointing to the receptionist, who turned her head towards us. “Danny girl here is VdeQ’s right ball.”

Daniela shot him an icy glare and said nothing, returning to her Selectic.

“This is a girl who likes macho men. She hangs out with outlaw bikers,” Jewell went on. “She won’t let me near her pussy because I’m too fat. But my money pays her salary.”

I tried to change the subject and blurted. “I always loved riding on motorcyles with my boyfriend in California.”

Now Daniela, an apparent underage teenybopper, gave me the fish eye. “How come you’re here?” she asked. “Who are you?”

“She’s a reporter, Danny girl,” interjected Jewell. “She’s on assignment doing another big story about me and my friends. Tell your pansy of a boss that we’re tired of waiting for him. We have big fish to catch.” He was just kidding around, but Daniela didn’t appreciate it.

“VdeQ is busy with somebody in there,” she said. “And don’t you dare call him a pansy, you fat fuck. He could wipe up the floor with you.”

But she placed a telephone call, apparently to her mysterious boss. As she spoke in muffled tones, I asked Jewell what the initials of VdeQ stood for.

“Vinnie DeQuattro. He’s a capo decina,” Jewell confided, lowering his voice to a near whisper. “And that, as a congressman from Greenwich Village said recently, ‘ain’t a cup of coffee.’ VdeQ’s in charge of pornography, prostitution, union fixing, mob hits—all of it strictly business for him.’”

“A leader of ten,” I translated, suddenly fascinated. “He’s a big man in the organization.”

“He’s a skinny little guy with excellent sartorial tastes and he speaks well,” Jewell said. “If you’re looking for Damon Runyon type characters on this assignment, Ryder, VdeQ is not your man. But he’s old fashioned in other ways. He goes to mass every Sunday. He was outraged when I wrote in F.U. that the pope smokes dope and goes looking for dicks to suck in men’s rooms at the Vatican.’”

Just then, the door behind Danielle burst open and a slim short statured man in an impeccably tailored three-piece suit came out, striding over to Jewell and extending his hand.

“Sorry about the wait, Harvey,” he said smoothly. “We’ll get together in a few minutes for our chat.” He looked at me and then back at Jewell. “And who is your attractive lady friend?”

“Meet C.J. Ryder, a writer on assignment for the Daily Bugle, VdeQ,” Jewell said. “She’s researching a story on my exciting life. I told her we’d be going shark fishing today.”

VdeQ issued a short guttural laugh, but he didn’t seem amused. “Oh Jesus, I can’t believe you’d tell a reporter such a bullshit and bring her here without telling me first. Our conversation has to be strictly confidential. Miss Ryder, you can talk to Daniela about our business if you like, but I’ll be tied up all day after Harvey and I finish up.”

The capo de cina nodded at me, swept past Harvey without another glance and returned to his office. He was not pleased.

Abruptly, I stood up, preparing to leave. Jewell stood up too, his blue eyes pleading. “Where are you going, Ryder? We had a deal, $200 for a day for you to join me on a shark fishing trip with my business associates. I was speaking metaphorically. Do you have to take everything so literally? I need you to protect me with these guys. I need to keep them guessing.”

“Jewell, I don’t like being jerked around,” I said. “And I told you two days ago that I can’t accept money from you and also write about you for the Daily Bugle. It’s conflict of interest. Right now, I have lost interest in you and your publicity stunts. Lay them on someone else.”

Furious for being made the fool, I was practically shouting at him and unaware aware that someone else had entered Galaxy News. The newcomer only got my attention when I heard a clattering noise. It was Daniela running in her platform shoes towards an exit in the back of VdeQ’s warehouse.

I turned around and saw a burly guy in gray sweat pants advancing towards us, motionless in his track shoes. His head was shaved like POW’s. He didn’t seem much bigger than a beer truck and he carried a snub nosed .38 revolver in his right hand.

Jewell dove under the bench but the armed man appeared oblivious to him. He came straight to me and spoke in a gravely voice full of menace. “I hear you’re a reporter.”

“Yes,” I said, stricken with fear and barely able to speak.

“You work for that shithead VdeQ?”

I shook my head no.

“Reporters usually can be had like two dollar whores but I believe you,” the man said. “If I were you, I’d get another line of work.”

Then he kicked open the door to Vinnie DeQuattro’s office. I heard shouts and then the sound of two shots. Within seconds, the man walked out of the office, still carrying his gun.

“When the cops come,” he told me. “Tell them that VdeQ and his scumbag partner had it coming.”

As soon as he left the warehouse, Jewell and I rushed into VdeQ’s inner sanctum. He was still seated at his shiny mahogany desk, a potted orchid blooming in front of him. His head had been blown backward, and I could see blood streaming from the bullet in his throat. It soaked his shirt and the vest of his expensive suit. A silver haired man was slumped over in a chair, a bullet hole in the back of his head. I took some pictures with the Cannon flash camera and called my editor. Jewell called the police.

#

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