It Starts Getting Rough In Chapter 23 Of Mary Reinholz’s “Exit From Eden”
Soon enough that night, the East Village block where I was standing became a blur of noise and furious confusion: first a cascade of lights from darkened windows as several retirees shouted into the street below, hurling obscenities at Daniela to stop honking the horn as she sat inside the car of her biker boyfriend, Veto Bandito. “We can’t sleep, you little bitch!” one of them yelled.
When Veto appeared on the street, waving his shot gun wildly, Daniela screamed at him, “Get me out of here, Veto! Now!’’
He glared at me for a second as I hunched against a brick wall, then climbed into the driver’s seat, gunning the engine.
As he drove forward, I could see two Hell’s Angels advancing on Veto’s Ford sedan. It sped past them, careening down the street. Someone fired several shots as the car turned a corner. Then there was silence and the lights of the retirees went out.
The Angels stopped to chat. “You alright, lady?” one of them asked. He was a big guy with shoulder length brown hair, an unlikely prince charming. On another night, I wouldn’t have minded having a drink with him.
“Yes, thank you,” I mumbled. “I was waiting for my boyfriend when this couple started arguing.”
The Angels moved on. Suddenly from behind me, I felt hard arms around my neck in a vice like grip, and a man’s voice murmuring, “Keep cool—say nothing.” It was Collins, pulling me away and into the vestibule of his building and then down the dim corridor to his burned out apartment. He let go of me once we were inside.
“I told you that teenybopper was nothing but trouble,” he said angrily. “What happened? What did you say to her?”
“I just asked if her Daddy was the hit man who killed her boss in the meat packing district the other day,” I said. “My question must have hit a nerve because she started honking the horn and acting crazy. Now she’s gone with her psychotic biker boyfriend, so why are you so upset?”
“Because Veto will come back—he didn’t get his drugs—and he’ll trash my apartment looking for them. The cops may come even before he does.”
“I haven’t heard any police sirens yet, Sean, and Veto isn’t crazy enough to come back tonight,” I said, trying to soothe him. “Let’s finish dinner.”
“You better watch out for Veto,” Collins warned. “He may come after you because you upset his girlfriend. He called you a leaky cunt of a reporter. You don’t want him on your case.”
“I’m not worried about that punk, Sean. I have a little gun for emergencies. I’m more worried about Sargeant Battaglia coming after me than your friend Veto.”
“Veto is dangerous and he’s not my friend,” Collins said. “If you’re not worried, you should be.”
We listened to some music. Collins shot up speed in the bathroom because I couldn’t bear to look at him jabbing a needle in his arm. Then, back on his bed, he started shaking uncontrollably, apparently because the needle he used was old or contaminated with someone else’s blood.
“Let’s go to the hospital right now,” I said, holding his hand. “I’ll be with you every step of the way.”
He shook his head.“It’s a bone crusher,” he groaned. “It’s like being punched all over your body, but the pain will pass.”
Collins was in agony, sometimes shivering from chills. But he didn’t want his drug use to become part of any record that the police might find in an emergency room. His stoicism impressed me even as I suffered with him in my own way.
Finally, the spasms stopped.
Around midnight, we walked back to the Chelsea Hotel on streets slicked clean from a sudden rainfall, acting as if nothing had happened. Garbage pails clattered as Collins’s hands roved through trash, finding trinkets he placed inside his windbreaker.
It was my last night at the bohemian haunt on West 23rd Street and Sean said he’d be moving on too—maybe back to New Jersey. He might even try to reconcile with his father, a lawyer of some means.
“The old man might get me a job. It’s too dangerous here in this city for my wife and my daughter,” he said. “I care for you C.J. Ryder but I still love my wife. I can’t leave her.”
“I know that, Sean.”
“You need to be with a guy who has more income and can take of you because you’re reckless like me,” Collins went on. “But tonight you are my true love.”
We must have made love for hours. I lost track of time and there was a moment when my sense of identity seemed to disappear as Collins came into me, looking intently into my eyes. I felt myself receding into nothingness. It was terrifying. I jumped away from him and rushed down the hall to take a shower in the communal bathroom, trying to pull back myself back from the pit.
When I returned to my room, Collins seemed to be sleeping. He awoke shortly after dawn, dressed hurriedly and pulled me close to him for a few minutes before bolting out the door. Hours later, while I was gathering my few possessions to move into an apartment two blocks down from the hotel, I realized he had taken my little gun with him.
Next morning at F.U., Harvey Jewell’s weekly sex review, the mood was decidedly somber when I arrived to interview the porn king. The blinking red lights on the nipples of his breast sculpture had been turned off. Jewell himself was a picture of grief in a pair of black jeans and a black t-shirt bearing the slogan: “Lenny Bruce died for our sins.”. He wore a crucifix dangling from a chain around his neck.
Jewell’s tone was unusually grim. He said he was only agreeing to talk to me again for The Daily Bugle because he wanted to prod the police into finding the hit man who had killed his mafia friend, Vinnie deQuattro, the elegant capo de cina who distributed F.U . Jewell wasn’t bawling like he was right after VdeQ got whacked in his warehouse. But the lids of his eyes were red from crying.
“I don’t know the other guy that was killed by that nut job when we were there a few days ago, lucky to escape with our lives,” Jewell said as he sat behind his vast desk, tapping a Cuban cigar and eying me warily. “But I don’t think the police give a fuck and you can quote me on that, Ryder. That Italian plainclothes cop only asked me a few more questions after he talked to you. The FBI guy said nothing. I told those two dicks to get stepping and bring VdeQ’s killer to justice. But I’m not expecting anything. The cops never got the guys who ripped us off a month ago. It seems you have to bribe them to work and I won’t give those shits a dime.”
He seemed as solemn as a rabbi. I noticed he had a framed picture of VdeQ next to a photograph of his wife and infant son arranged on a coffee table. A cut glass vase sprouted lilies, roses and babies breath. Even a votive candle flickered. I let Jewell rant on awhile before asking him what he knew about Daniela, VdeQ’s underage receptionist who had run from the warehouse minutes before her boss was shot dead.
“Why do you want to know about that little cunt?” he asked, lighting up his cigar. “She worked for VdeQ and seemed to like him, but I personally think she had something to do with this.”
“What’s her last name?” I asked. “I’ve heard her father owns a bar in Queens and that she ran away from him. He may have something to do with this. What do you think?”
Jewell gazed at me with a look that seemed almost respectful. “C.J. Ryder,” he murmured, “You may have a phony name—I heard that FBI asshole claiming your name Cassandra Ryder sounded like the name of a black woman. I don’t know who you are either. But I think you’re right on the money on this one. Daniela’s daddy—why didn’t the cops figure that out by now? Why didn’t I?”
“What’s his name?” I pressed Jewell.
“Joe something—Mozio, I think,” he said, inhaling deeply. “JdeQ called him GI Joe because he used to be in the Army during the Korean war. He told me Mozio was very strict with Danny-girl, and didn’t like her running around with bikers. She knew about JdeQ somehow and came to see him on the back of a motorcycle a few months ago. He liked her and her biker boyfriend. He hired her and found her a place to stay. I don’t know where.”
“Did JdeQ tell you about the bar her father owned?” I had my notebook out and a ballpoint pen poised to take down Jewell’s comments for the record. He was accommodating.
“He said her father ran a mob bar out in Hunters Point near the waterfront. JdeQ said you could see the UN building from there across the East River. He called it ‘a million dollar view’ and wanted to set up shop in this industrial neighborhood despite the risks from another crime family. It has one of the biggest prostitution strolls in the city at night in the warehouse districts under the Queensboro Bridge. The johns come in their cars looking for action. They probably pay off the cops. I’ve written about this in F.U.”
Jewell continued to speculate. I kept writing.
”Maybe Daniela’s father paid the cops hush money and that’s why they’re not checking him out,” he mused. “He probably got mad because his little Italian princess ran away from him and worked for a powerful wiseguy who made him look like a nothing. He probably thought VdeQ was playing around with his darling daughter. I bet he didn’t know that VdeQ was a homo. Mafia guys are supposed to be macho studs.”
“Did you ever play around with her?” I had to ask.
“Are you kidding?” Jewell looked bitter now. “That girl would take my testicles and put them in a meat grinder without a second thought. I never touched her. That’s probably why I’m still alive.”
It seemed time to prepare a write-up back in my furnished sublet that was only a few blocks from F.U. I thanked Jewell for his time and climbed two flights of stairs to type up my notes in peace.
Then I called Jason Slade who had me dictate them to metro. The Daily Bugle ran my much edited story the next day with a headline blaring: “Porn king rips NYPD for “dropping the ball” on Mafia Murders.”
The subhead read: F.U. publisher calls New York’s Finest “corrupt” and “incompetent.”
Around 10 am that Wednesday morning, I took the number seven subway line from Grand Central station to the Hunter’s Point district in Long Island City. There were no skyscrapers here in this modest working class neighborhood filled with small stores and garages. Delivery trucks rumbled by. I had the feeling few people here would get excited if they were told I had killed rapist in Arkansas and had become a fugitive.
For a few minutes, I savored the mid- Manhattan skyline from the other side of the East River. A man on the train heading to this stop had told me that real estate developers were calling it “the Gold Coast of Queens.” I was fascinated by his account of the giant float bridges on the water’s edge that lifted freight cars from river barges and set them on railroad tracks headed to Long Island.
There was a corner drug store not far from the mouth of the subway run by a wiry Greek man in his 40s. After buying a couple of packs of Kleenex and Bayer aspirin, I asked him at the cash register if he knew where Dino’s bar was in the neighborhood.
“Up a few blocks,” he said.
“Did you know the owner, a John Mozio?” I inquired. “My husband wants to talk to him about investing in his place.”
The Greek’s eyes told me he knew Mozio. “I haven’t seen him lately,” he grunted. “I don’t know much about him. He keeps to himself.”
Dino’s was still locked up when I arrived. It seemed to be a well maintained joint with a white stucco façade and narrow windows showing a gleaming standup bar inside along with several tables and chairs. Peering in, I could make out framed pictures of nearly naked women that looked like they had been taken from Playboy magazine. The usual sexual sell for boys relaxing over beers.
I spoke to a few neighbors who claimed they didn’t know Mozio but said his hours usually began at 5:30 pm. I noticed a sign from the New York City Department of Buildings about scheduled repairs to the building. The D.O.B. sign identified the owner as a corporation called JCM, Inc. I assumed the name was Mozio’s initials. I made a note to call the D.O.B.
When I got back to my Manhattan sublet and began watering the tenant’s glossy house plants, the phone rang. It was Ted Katz. He said Jason Slade had given him my number .
“Good story today, Ace,” he drawled. “But I get the feeling you were holding back on some things about Jewell and the suspect in the mafia murders. How about dinner tonight?”
I agreed to meet him at the Slaughtered Lamb pub in the West Village. Katz couldn’t help me forget Sean Collins, but maybe he’d take my mind off him for an hour. ###