Chapter 22 Of Mary Reinholz’s Amazing Novel “Exit From Eden”

Hits: 265
April 1, 2015 · Posted in Exit From Eden -Mary Reinholz 

 

Mary_Photo17

Wild Woman Of Yore 

  A few snow flakes were falling at noon when I found Sean Collins in Tompkins Square Park, letting his dog Mistake run loose as he threw bread crumbs to the pigeons. I sidled up next to him and asked if he’d help me ice Sargeant Battaglia. I was only half-joking.

He shrugged, looking like he had heard similar requests once too often. Finally, he asked, “Are you one of these off-the-pigs radicals?”

Collins sat down on a park bench, lit up a cigarette and stretched out his long legs on the pavement. I suddenly wanted them wrapped around me.

“I’m not a total cop hater,” I said. “But I think this undercover cop I’ve run into wants to kill me. He thinks I might write about his dope habit and how he blackmails girls to have sex with him by saying he’ll bust them for buying drugs. He’s an ex-narc, a pretty boy drunk with power. I think he’s a psychopath.”

I must have sounded hysterical because Collins took my hand and pulled me down on the bench next to him. He spoke soothingly. “He’d have to be a very stupid cop to go after a reporter in this town. I read your story on the mafia killings yesterday and it mentions a plainclothes cop with an Italian name. Is that the one you’re talking about?”

I nodded.

“I’ve run into that cop,” Collins said. “And yeah, he’s an ex-narc who does drugs. He’s not exactly the only cop who likes to get high. Firemen are into dope. So are construction workers. Drugs are everywhere in New York. You should know that as a reporter. You’re naïve, little girl.” He smiled paternalistically.

Then his gaze turned somber. “You probably know that I have a drug habit. I’m what they call a speed freak around here and I sell amphetamines sometimes to friends. I’m no saint but I don’t force girls to have sex with me. That’s something that happens or it doesn’t.”

Collins rolled up the sleeve of his sweater. I winced when I saw track marks on his right forearm. “Oh J esus,” I groaned. “Why do you need to shoot up, Sean?”

“I don’t know why, but I don’t question the need. What I don’t need is to get into any more trouble with cops. And I don’t see why you need to do that either. You’re ahead of the game. You’re C.J. Ryder, girl reporter for a big New York newspaper.”

“I’m just a girl alone in the city and today I feel a need for protection.”

“I understand. You’re human,” Collins said.

He stood up, took my arm and said we could talk more at his place on East Third Street. His big scruffy mutt followed us as we walked into a decaying residential building. It was about a block away from the Hells Angels New York clubhouse.

Collins’ place was the third door down on the first floor corridor, a charred ruins from the fire a month ago. Soot covered the walls. But the heat and electricity were working.

He took me to a large shadowy room with a rumpled bed. There, unscathed by the blaze that had erupted from a faulty hot plate in the kitchen, was a stockpile of treasures he had gathered from his garbage picking forays: chess sets, old TVs and radios, a couple of hard hats and red flags he had stolen from a construction site. There was even a cuckoo clock with a miniature Bavarian chalet and two plaques: one bearing the name of the Irish Republican Army and another from the International Ladies Garment Workers Association with a chain for hanging it.

Almost instantly I was spellbound, remembering how my Irish American mother had worked as a girl in a Massachusetts textile mill. It seemed like my ancestors had caught up with me on the East Coast and once again I felt a powerful kinship with Collins. He said his Irish grandfather from the old sod had been in the IRA–“and he was black Irish like me.”

He gave me the ILGW plaque, saying it would remind me to write about women garment workers for my column in The Bugle. I took his gift, put it my tote bag and kissed him. Then I took off my boots and lay down on his bed.

“What’s your hurry?” he asked softly.

He lay down next me, his eyes glowing like lighted candles in a dark corner of the world. I could hear Mistake’s tail thumping against the floor boards.

***

An hour later, we walked arm and arm through the East Village heading west with Mistake beside us, and there were moments when I wanted to be with Sean Collins for the rest of time. But he had a wife and baby girl in New Jersey staying with his mother- in- law. Both were planning to return soon and then I would be forgotten.

.As he escorted me to the Chelsea Hotel, I asked him if he knew of a runaway girl named Daniela who had worked at the mob warehouse where the two wise guys were murdered. “She’s pretty with dark hair. Calls herself Donna now. I hear she hangs out with an outlaw biker in the East Village who’s into speed. I’d like to talk to her about her late boss.”

For the first time since I had been with him, Collins seemed to lose his cool. Still holding my arm, he plunged us into traffic against a red light on 8th Avenue, waving at cars maniacally.

“That teenybopper is nothing but trouble,” he said when we reached the other side of the street. “And that biker is certifiably nuts. His name is Veto. He brought the girl to my place when he wanted speed. I think the cops are following him and they’ll bust him for having sex with a minor. I don’t want to get busted with him.”

We walked along quickly. I didn’t know what to tell him. So I drew closer to him, putting my hand into his jeans pocket. Finally he calmed down.
“What do you know about this teenybopper?” I asked him as we drew close to The Chelsea. “I hear her father runs a bar somewhere in Queens.”

“Veto told me that,” Collins said. “He collects girls like her.”

“Did he tell you the name of the bar?”

“Yeah, It’s called Dino’s,” he said. “It’s a cozy little joint right across the East River in Hunter’s Point. I’ve had a few drinks there myself. It’s a mob bar.”

“Bingo,” I mumbled. Collins looked puzzled. We embraced at the entrance to the hotel and I agreed to cook him dinner later that night. He said he’d have lamb chops in the fridge. It had survived the fire.
***

The Sisters of Charity at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Greenwich Village let me see Doria Nune in her room for a short visit. She was on antibiotics, wearing a cotton gown and coughing up sputum in her bed when I walked in around 3 that afternoon.

“You were right about that pig, Battaglia,” she said hoarsely as I sat down next to her. “But you shouldn’t have told him you wanted to write him up in F.U., the naughty sex tabloid he likes to put down but reads on the side. Are you crazy?”

“Probably,” I said. “What you going to do now? File attempted murder charges?”

She managed a brief ugly laugh. “I can’t prove anything. He’s a horny bastard who’d do it with the crack of dawn. We had sex early in the evening. I smoked a joint with him and must have fallen asleep. When I woke up he was gone and the mattress was burning. The flames singed my hair and my sinuses will never be the same again, but I was able to douse the fire with a fire extinguisher one of my clients gave me as a present. It was right next to the bed. Battaglia probably didn’t notice it.”

Her voice grew weaker and she rested it for a minute. I held her hand. It felt clammy.

“I could have died from smoke inhalation,” Doria went on, “but what else is new at The Chelsea Hotel? I’ll be moving out soon as possible. Maybe go back to New Jersey and work on my magazine from there. None of my pictures or files were ruined. And thank Goddess my cats are okay. All that got ruined was a crummy hotel mattress.”

“Good to know you’ll be okay,” I said. “But you really shouldn’t let Battaglia get away with what he did to you–blackmailing you into having sex with him because he caught you buying cocaine.”

“He’ll get his,” she murmured. “I don’t have to do a thing. His karma will catch up with him.” She sipped water from a plastic cup, looking resolved. “And if that doesn’t work, I’ll testify before the Knapp Commission investigating police corruption.”

She was a brave girl who seemed to have plenty of fight left in her. I asked Doria if the late mobster Vinnie deQuattro was an investor in Pink, her new erotic magazine for women about to hit the stands early next year. After all, I had seen her name and telephone number in the deceased’s rolodex.

“No, he wasn’t an investor– I don’t need mafia money,” she said briskly, suddenly all business. “But I did meet VdeQ when I was working at F.U. Harvey Jewell introduced him when he came into the art department. He asked me for my card, saying he was looking for different kinds of artwork for his office, and I gave it to him. I thought at the time, ‘What the hell–Why not?'”
***

When I got back to The Chelsea, there was a message telling me to call Zenia Smith at her law office in Washington D.C. Collect. I did that and listened to Zenia heap lavish praise on my story about the mob murders in the meatpacking district. It had been picked up by the local papers via the wire services.

“Keep this up, honey, and you’ll be a star!” she gushed, ever a devoted publicity hound.

Zenia also wanted to warn me again to get rid of my unregistered gun, the .22 caliber pistol given to me by another fugitive just before both of us left California. “That gun could ruin your life,” she said.

“I need it for protection from a crazy cop,” I told her. “He’s a killer, that man.”

“Sweet Pea !” she shouted. “He could take that gun away from you in a minute and blow you away! And if he doesn’t kill you, he could have you arrested. It’s a misdemeanor in New York to have an unlicensed gun and it’s a felony to carry one. If you get busted for this, your career as a little newspaper reporter will be over just when it’s getting started. And the publicity could get the cops in Arkansas to reopen the case against you for killing that redneck rapist.”

Funny, being with Sean Collins had made me almost forget about Jed Scott and my deadly tango with him in his motel room during my road trip enroute to New York in Zenia’s Mercury. But Zenia had a point about my gun. I was attached to it but maybe didn’t need it now that I had Sean in my corner, however briefly. I told her about him and how he once was arrested for assaulting 14 police officers.

“He’s a fearless street fighting man,” I said. “Fighting Irish. His grandfather was in the IRA.”

Zenia was unimpressed. “Baby doll, you could find ten men like him in any bar.”

“He’s a wonderful lover,” I said. “Everybody needs love.”

“Watch out for that love,” Zenia said grimly. “Love can kill you. Or bring you a baby screaming and throwing up over your shoulder and later telling you it didn’t want to be born.”
***

A recording of Mick Jagger singing “Wild Horses” played on a creaky old stereo while I made Sean Collins dinner at his place that night. Even the sudden arrival of the outlaw biker Veto Bandito, a little fireplug of a guy armed to the teeth with a sawed off shot gun, a dagger in the belt of his army camouflage fatigues and a skull on his matching military cap, couldn’t drag me away.

“Who’s this cute cunt you got here?” Veto asked Sean in a gravelly voice, grinning at me and then playfully setting off a firecracker in the living room. He was sky high but wanted more amphetamines.

Sean said nothing at first as Veto paced about his apartment, claiming he was about to off a Hells Angel as a way of announcing that the Pagans, his rival motorcycle club, were still a force in the neighborhood. He found a piece of red chalk and wrote on a wall. “As you are, I was. As I am, you shall be! Veto Bandito.”

The man fascinated me, but Collins made it plain he was persona non grata in his apartment. “This is my friend C.J. Ryder, Veto,” he said coldly. “She’s a writer working on a story about the East Village. Where’s that teenybopper from Queens? If you bring her in here, I’m gonna have to chase you both.”

“She’s in my car outside, Sean. No sweat. I know you’re paranoid.”

That’s when I piped up, trying to sound sweet and earnest. “I’d love to meet her, Veto. I’m going to be writing about runaway girls in the neighborhood. I’m not using their real names. Is it okay if I go outside and say hello?”

“Sure, “grunted Veto. “It’s the green sedan on Sean’s side of the street.” He took out a cigarette from a pack of Lucky Strikes in his chest pocket. His lighter, emblazoned with the Confederate flag, started tinkling, “Dixie.”

Quickly, I put on my jacket against the early winter chill and walked towards his car, a late model Ford. Daniela sat in the front seat. She was wearing a black beret and a heavy layer of makeup. Her long fingernails tapped the dashboard as she listened to the car radio.

I knocked on the window and she whirled around. “Hi Daniela,” I said. ” We met at a warehouse the other day. I was with Harvey Jewell. Do you remember me?”

“Yeah,” she said, opening the window to a slit and staring straight at me. “I remember. You said you were from California and like motorcyles.”

“I got the impression you like bikers and the mafia guy you worked for, right?”

“The mafia trip and the biker trip is the same trip,” Daniela said, looking blasé. She turned up the volume on the radio.

When I asked her if the hit man who killed Vinnie deQuattro was her father, she rolled up the car window and started honking the horn. It sounded like a scream.

images

 
The author with her grandniece in a downtown Manhattan café, close to the East Village

 

Comments

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.