Mary Reinholz Plunges Onward Into Chapter 18 Of Her Novel, “Exit From Eden”
Ever since she arrived in the Big Apple, the author of “Exit From Eden” has hung out and interviewed some tough customers. Here, she’s interviewing the leader of the New York City’s Hell’s Angels.
By Mary Reinholz
It generally breaks my heart when tough guys cry.
So I felt a twinge of sympathy as corpulent New York porn king Harvey Jewell shed copious tears over the murder of his wise guy distributor in a double homicide. I didn’t know what to say or do as he sat bawling on a wooden work bench a few yards from VdeQ’s office where the capo de cino also known as Vinnie DeQuattro still sat at his desk, shot dead by a single bullet to the jugular.
But when Jewell’s nose started running, I handed him some Kleenex from my shoulder strap bag, patting him on the head as if he was a small boy stricken with grief over the sudden loss of his favorite choo choo train.
“VdeQ helped me launch F.U. nationally,” Jewell blubbered. “Nobody else would distribute it except him. Together we put an honest sex tabloid on the map. . He was a sensitive guy. I brought him a gift today. A cigarette lighter with his initials on it. It’s sterling silver and it cost me. But VdeQ was worth it.”
Jewell heaved dry sobs as he showed me the lighter. Yes, I mused, here was a smut merchant with a deeply sentimental side. There was something endearing about his feelings for a thin well dressed mafia killer who was probably getting ready to slit his throat for bringing me unannounced to his mob warehouse. Meanwhile, the shooter of VdeQ and another man in his office was at large and the cops were on their way. Jewell needed to get himself together for a grilling.
“Harvey,” I said, calling Jewell by his first name for the first time since we met. “You’ll find someone else to distribute F.U. But right now you’ve gotta get a grip before the cops come. We have to keep our stories straight. Remember: I’m a reporter researching another story on you for The Daily Bugle and you invited me to see this side of your business. Are you okay with that?”
“Yeah,” mumbled Jewell. “And we were just sitting here waiting to talk to him when this guy in sweat pants walked in with a gun. Like he had just come out of a gym.”
“You don’t have to go into the shark fishing expedition B.S. you told me about, but you should tell the cops that VdeQ’s underage receptionist got the hell out before the shooting began,” I counseled.
“Yeah, I saw that little cunt running towards the back door. I never liked her and she might be behind this,” Jewell said. “I hid under this bench and didn’t get a good look at the hit man.”
His eyes were furtive now, shifting. I could tell he was trying to distance himself as he wiped away his tears with the Kleenex. “You got a good look at him,” he went on.” He even talked to you.”
He stared at me with wonder in his eyes and waxed philosophical. “C.J. Ryder—my feminist protector,” he mused. “You’re this ball busting broad so tough that you don’t even seem to mind that you could have been killed by that hit man. Most women I know would be hysterical.”
“Harvey, I’m a reporter, remember?” I said, not telling him that I was also a killer with a little gun in my bag and a personal history of recent chaos that forced me to play it cool just to survive. “I’ve covered crime stories before and I intend to give the cops a full description of a strange hit man.”
Jewell looked relieved. “Mob guys generally kill witnesses, Ryder,” he said. “So you’re in more trouble than I am. But yeah, a hired killer in sweat pants seems strange. Maybe this wasn’t a professional hit. Maybe it was just some psycho who reads newspapers and collects grievances. Anyway, my lawyer should be here at any moment.”
He pulled a Mars bar out of his canvas tote bag and took a bite. He was calmed by the prospect of seeing his mouthpiece, chewing peacefully as I left him to look around VdeQ’s office again.
The author, back in the day
There wasn’t a drop of blood on the potted white orchid that sat on the slain mobster’s desk or on the tiny note I found folded in the leaves: I peered at a few words on it scrawled in blue ink: “Blood brothers forever. Love you man. T.” I took a picture of the note with the Cannon flash.
It sure looked like VdeQ had a male admirer, perhaps the dead older man seated in the chair opposite him, blood congealing from the bullet wound in the back of his head. Maybe he had several other boyfriends. I flipped through the capo de cina’s bulging rolodex. None of the names meant anything to me. There was nothing under the Ds for Daniela, the young receptionist who had bolted when the shooter entered the warehouse.
Then I came across the Ns. There, on the last card of the section, was the name of Doria Nune, my upstairs neighbor at the Chelsea Hotel and a feminist designer who dabbled in what she called the “demimonde.” Doria was about to launch her own erotic monthly magazine for women. It was to be a high gloss publication. Expensive graphics. Marquee name authors. VdQ must have been one of her investors, a sugar daddy with deep pockets and a national distribution network. I bet Doria knew all about his sexual proclivities. Maybe she had some ideas about his killer.
I slipped the card with her name into my wallet, freely tampering with evidence and committing obstruction of justice before the NYPD showed up. Doria had lent me her camera for an assignment that had become a major crime story. I owed her some loyalty for doing me a favor. In a way she was a sister outlaw to me, even though Doria didn’t know I was once Joanna Willowby, now using the name of C.J. Ryder after having killed a rapist on the road from Los Angeles to New York.
The cops would soon be coming, but I decided to check out VdeQ’s bathroom. It was tastefully appointed with plenty of condoms and lubricants in a small medicine chest directly above the wash basin. There were a couple of lithographs of male Renaissance nudes hanging on the walls, the kind that could be classified as religious art. I took a picture of those too along with VdeQ’s monogrammed black satin robe hanging outside a glass encased shower. The Daily Bugle would appreciate photos showing a wise guy’s decadent lounging duds.
Outside I could hear sirens wailing. I considered leaving my unregistered little gun in VdeQ’s medicine chest or in one of his office desk drawers, suddenly paranoid that the cops might decide to frisk me. But then again, maybe they wouldn’t want to mess with a correspondent for the Daily Bugle. I inspected the two men deep in their eternal slumber one more time and walked out. They didn’t seem to mind.
Vinnie DeQuattro’s Galaxy News Center turned quickly from a desolate mob distribution headquarters into an active crime scene right out of the movies. Besides a couple of plain clothes cops from an anti-crime street unit questioning Jewell, there were several uninformed NYPD boys in blue looking at VdeQ’s corpse and taking pictures of their own. They knew who he was but couldn’t identify the body of the silver haired man opposite him at his desk who had also been shot dead by the same assassin I had encountered less than 20 minutes ago.
As I was preparing to leave, an FBI agent in a dark business suit and a blue sweater vest showed up and mumbled something to the effect that the second “stiff” was a member of a rival Mafia family. He identified himself as Jack Donovan.
“And just who are you, young lady?” he asked, eying me with a small sardonic smile. He was an arrogant Irishman with pale hazel eyes and a jutting chin. He probably played football in high school.
Before I could answer, Steve Battaglia, one of the plainclothes cops who had taken notes on my eyewitness account, came over and confronted the federal agent.
“Look Jack, this is NYPD’s case and you don’t have to bother with the lady here,” he said. “She’s a reporter from the Daily Bugle who was interviewing Harvey Jewell about his distributors when the perp arrived. We’ve already gotten her statement.”
“Now isn’t that interesting,” Donovan drawled sarcastically. “I suppose I’ll have to read all about this double mafia murder tomorrow in the newspapers. But in the meantime, what is this reporter’s name? Or does she have a real name? Some of these news hens have fake pen names. Isn’t that right little lady?”
Again, he was gazing at me with a cold smile as if he could see right through me. I smiled right back. “My name is C.J. Ryder,” I said. “And I often wonder if the FBI ever gets anything right.”
“Do you have any ID, Miss Ryder?” Donovan asked, his smile suddenly gone. “And why the initials C.J.? Are you trying to be one of the boys?”
“I’m new to the Daily Bugle and don’t have a press pass yet, and I’ve already identified myself to the New York City police who arrived long before you did.” I ignored his remarks about the initials of my new name.
“I’d still like to see some ID,” Donovan pressed. “How about a driver’s license? A social security card? I need something official that shows you exist.”
Slowly, reluctantly, I handed over to him the social security card of Cassandra Ryder, deceased Jamaican client of my black feminist lawyer pal Zenia Smith, who had given me her ID when I fled to Washington D.C. after fatally knifing the rapist Jed Scott in Arkansas enroute to the city and becoming a fugitive.
It had been hard starting over in New York and I regretted giving Donovan anything, especially a card for the late Miss Wilson since she had once served time for severing her abusive husband’s head with a machete. There was probably an FBI file on her that could lead to Zenia and maybe to me. I could feel my left eyelid twitch.
Donavan scanned Cassandra’s social security card and his sneering smile returned. “Cassandra Ryder—what kind of name is that? The only women I know with names like that are black women. Who the hell are you, lady?”
He handed the card back to me.
“You don’t have to answer him,” Battaglia said, suddenly moving right beside me. He was a lean good looking guy in jeans and a leather jacket I had seen before but couldn’t remember exactly where at first. He turned to Donovan. “Jack, I know who this reporter is,” Battaglia said. “I’ve seen her in the neighborhood. Lay off.”
Donovan fastened his steely gaze on his rival in the NYPD. “What neighborhood would that be Steve?” he asked. “You get around a lot. You used to be at Midtown North chasing prostitutes. Then it was the Chelsea neighborhood making narcotics arrests. Now you’re in the sixth precinct that covers Greenwich Village. Bet this so-called reporter lives in the Village. She looks like a hippie drug runner.”
Suddenly a rich baritone voice intruded. “I can vouch for Miss Ryder.”
It was Ted Katz, the mustachioed chief investigative reporter at The Daily Bugle I had blown off when he asked for a dinner date only a few days ago. Now I was very glad to see this pesky news hound standing a few feet away from me on the cement floor of an echoing mafia warehouse, flashing his press pass. It hung on a cord around his tweed jacket.
Both Donovan and Battaglia glared him. They obviously knew Katz and had tangled with him before. But they listened quietly as he recited my official bonafides with his paper. “Miss Ryder is a freelance correspondent for The New York Daily Bugle who just signed on as a columnist for the Sunday Magazine. I have a letter from her editor Jason Slade. If you have any questions, call him.”
Katz withdrew Slade’s letter on Bugle Stationery from inside his jacket and handed it over to Battaglia while Donovan looked on. Then he took my arm confidently for a man who came up to my ears. “And now if you gentlemen will excuse us, Miss Ryder and I have a deadline to meet.”
Yes, I mused, as we headed to a waiting yellow cab, there is such a thing as the power of the press– even on a slip of paper.