Saturday, January 16, 2010

A Twist Of Noir 326 - Kieran Shea


Originally published in the last issue of DEMOLITION MAGAZINE

Kevin Slattery didn’t trust Tony Giordano as far as he could throw him. As it turned out, that ended up being twenty feet off the rear patio deck.

Like all of Slats’ outbursts, the Tony G. ‘accident’ went down because of some perceived personal slight against Slats. Me, I wasn’t surprised in the least. Slats was always a touchy mother and Tony G. should’ve been wise to that fact. Fucking guy. Wagging a grilled sausage at Jeanie like some kind of scorched dong.

We were hanging at Slats’ mom’s place on Staten Island during Labor Day weekend. You know the scene. Drinking like maniacs, music cranked, guys floating around in Mrs. Slattery’s above ground pool like a bunch of inebriated ducks. Lots of girls, some girlfriends, plenty of ass grabbing. Besides me and Tony and Slats, the Patazzi twins were there, so was Chuck Sullivan and Donnie MacKenzie and like three of Donnie’s stoner cousins from Queens.

We’d all have been at the shore but traffic on that Friday was a bitch with that creepy terrorist scare. Bridges and tunnels totally done. And that two tanker fire on the Jersey Turnpike didn’t help matters much. People just went nuts thinking someone set off a dirty bomb or something. The news stations played into it, too, all that recycled 9-11 hype, interrupting Family Guy on WPIX with helicopter footage of people abandoning cars and taking off into the refinery weeds. Like if a nuclear bomb were to actually go off you’d think you could run out of north Jersey. What’s your plan, genius? Flag a DC-10 at Newark?

I’m telling you, this day and age sucks balls.

So the traffic jam was like Friday and by Saturday noon when we finally got our acts together, we just figured we’d stay put, have our own little beach barbecue at the Slattery house. Mrs. Slattery was doing her annual slots pilgrimage that week in Atlantic City so we knew she wouldn’t be giving us any static, and it’s a big place. One of those tall townhouse jobs in a decent neighborhood. She took the house from Slats’ old man in their divorce. Only a one-car garage, but still real nice, you know? To look at it you’d never know a Class E felon was raised there.

Anyway, after Slats pitched Tony G. off the deck, I climbed down to take a look at him. Everyone else stayed up top, laughing and thinking Tony G. was knocked cold, clowning on his ass. Except Jeanie. Jeanie stomped off inside to make her tenth Cosmo or something, giving Slats her best queen bitch drama, flipping her dyed blonde porno hair and calling him a total jerk. Don’t get me wrong, Jeanie’s a sweet piece of ass, and she gets points for sticking by Slats when he was at the Arthur Kill for eighteen months, but with all that maintenance I’d just as soon jerk off than get legit with a girl like that.

So I get to Tony. And like right away I see that something’s not right. I kneel down and see there’s a bulge on his neck that sure as hell wasn’t there before. All wrong and purple and whatnot. He wasn’t breathing, either.

I did some quick thinking and laid a wet pool towel over Tony’s head. Then I shouted up to everybody on the deck.

“He’s OK.”

Like four heads turned, actually giving a shit.

“Just passed out. The big baby.”

And like that, everybody went back to partying.

I knew I had to play this cool. I bit a Parliament out of my pack and climbed the stairs back up to the party. When I reached for my red plastic cup of rum and Coke, I could feel Slats’ eyes drilling me from across the deck. I swallowed some of my drink, lit my smoke, and stared back at him. Then I gave him a tilt of my head, motioning for Slats to meet me inside.

I went first, shouldering my way past a group of sweaty people in the sticky yellow kitchen and made my way to the stairs that sliced down to the garage and Mrs. Slattery’s finished basement. I slowed to be sure Slats was following me and he was, smirking and swapping fist pounds on the way with the Patazzi twins. Fucking Patazzis. Two gold chain wearing goombahs draped in Ecko and Akademiks thinking like they’re all Ghostface Killah and shit.

When I got to the bottom of the stairs, I snuffed out my cigarette in the last rattle of my drink and looked up at Slats, coming down, palms wide.

“The fuck, Mikey?”

I shook my head and crossed to the sliding glass door that opened below the deck.

“This is some bad shit, Slats.”


“Real bad.”

“Again, what?”

“He’s dead.”

“Dead? Who’s dead?”

“Tony G.”

Slats hesitated, sizing me up for a joke. He then swatted a meaty arm through the air, “Aw. Get the fuck outta here, man.”

I shook my head again, “No joke, Slats. His neck’s broken.”

Kevin Slattery was a scary-looking guy to begin with, but when he got angry he was out and out terrifying. More mileage than anyone should have at twenty-two, but I guess doing any kind of time will do that to you, especially a bald white-ass mick having to tough it out in jail. Word was he was done with dealing for now. Flying right as a house painter, living under his mom’s roof, seeing his P.O. twice a week as ordered. Me and Donnie picked up his slack, but the word from the North Shore crew was no more weight for Slats. Not like any of us were big time gangsters. Just some side income tweak and weed for the college kids, construction stiffs and bored housewives. Every once in a while we’d get some crummy enforcement work, but for the most part our deal was moving product around the lighter shaded neighborhoods. Most of us (the Patazzis, Slats, me) we all had real jobs anyway, hell, half my time I was running around as a plumber's apprentice for UA Local 1. Thing was Slats got tagged DUI holding way too much, and the judge was pissed off at Slats’ violent juvie priors. But he kept his mouth shut. The North Shore guys respected him for that as did those badass Latin Kings who supplied them with their bathtub crank and weed. Word was that promises were made and Slats had some decent payback coming to him down the line.

Slats strutted over to the sliding glass doors and racked open the pane. Not more than fifteen feet away across the brick patio lay Tony, damp towel still clinging to his face, wet grass plastered against his Yankees calf tattoo. Above us, people were chatting up a dull roar backed by thumping bass from the stereo. No one was in the pool no more.

“You’re shittin’ me, right?”

I set my plastic cup down on a television near the sliding glass door. On the TV was a framed picture of Slats in his Pee-wee football uniform. Jesus. Even at twelve, Kevin Slattery was a big motherfucker.

“Take a good look, man. Look at his chest. He’s not breathing.”

Slats squinted. “This better not be a joke, Mikey.”

“Do I look like I’m joking here?”

Slats slipped outside, went over and peaked under the wet towel. When he came back he grabbed me by the throat and slammed my back against the basement wall, the drywall snapping between my shoulders.

“Anybody else see this?!”

I could barely breathe.


“You sure?”

His breath was sour and metallic with smoke and booze. His eyes flicked back and forth.

“Nobody,” I repeated, “Just me. Everybody else thinks he’s passed out.”


About ten minutes later, we made our way back upstairs to the party, playing it cool. Me and Slats had lit a joint in the basement and let it burn, taking a sizeable hit each but wafting most of it over us so we had a stench of weed on us. Good enough reason to be out of pocket. Once upstairs, Slats sidled up to Jeanie, coaxing her out of her bitchiness and they started making out and grinding to the music. I made my way back out onto the deck and had a good look around. It seemed no one really noticed or even cared that Tony G. was still gone from the party, so I started talking to one of Jeanie’s friends. Carol something. She was all revved up and chatting away about her new job in the city. When Carol bummed a smoke off me, I discreetly pressed send on my cell phone as I searched for my lighter. Inside, the house the land line rang. Slats positioned Jeanie and him next to the telephone just for this reason. Even outside and over the music, I could hear Slats yell for everybody at the party to shut the fuck up. Then I heard Donnie Mac yell at someone to eighty-six the music. Reluctant groans but then finally someone yanked the plug.

Ma, calm the fuck down. Where are you? What? No, put him on. Ma, put the guy on. Ma! Listen to me. The doctor. Yeah. Put, yeah, put the doctor on. Whos this? Wait, say that again. Where? What, wait, what happened? Is she OK!? Is she OK? Oh, thank Christ, what happened? Yeah, Im her son. Somebody gimme a pen.”

Clear the house by faking his mom being in an accident down in Atlantic City. As luck would have it, people actually believed this bullshit.

Maybe it was because Slats was a good actor in a pinch, or maybe it was the fact that when Kevin Slattery asked you to leave a party you pretty much left without question. The townhouse was vacant in like ten minutes, except for the Patazzi twins who lingered by the door giving Slats the best advice for getting south fast.

Then Donnie Mac piped up about Tony G.

“Fuck’m,” Slats snarled, pushing Donnie down the steps into his cousins. “Let that drunken faggot sleep it off and find his own ride home.”

Jeanie wanted to stay but Slats talked her into leaving with her friends, saying that he’d call her from Atlantic City when he got his mom all straightened out at the hospital. Jeanie was so lit it’d been a shock if she remembered the party at all, let alone Slats’ mom being in a supposed wreck. For additional cover, Slats made a big deal about me staying by the house phone in case the hospital called his mom’s place instead of his cell.

When everybody was gone, I pried a peek at the street through the front blinds just to be sure. “You think they bought it?” I asked.

Slats strode into the kitchen and took a long, watercooler-like pull on a bottle of Smirnoff.

“Totally,” Slats said.


It took us about five minutes to get Tony’s body inside through the sliding glass door, the basement, and out to the small garage. And, man, what they say is true, there is no weight like dead weight. Awkward, too. Tony’s head drooped at such a crazy angle I had to keep looking away.

On the count of three, we hoisted him onto some garbage bags we laid out in the trunk of Slats’ gold-colored Toyota Camry. Looking down at Tony G. lying there all folded up on the black plastic, I noticed something I hadn’t before.

“Hey, look at that.”

Slats wiped his brow with his shirt tail.


“His shirt.”


“That pattern. On his shirt.”


“Looks like airbrushed skulls or something. The fuck? It is skulls.”

Slats arched an eyebrow. “Huh. Maybe Tony G. had a premonition his ticket was getting punched tonight.”


“Fuckin’ jerk. You know, if he had just left Jeanie alone, you and me wouldn’t be in this mess.”

“I know.”

“I know you know. You see what he was doing with that sausage up there? Not right, man, not right. Tony should have known better. I mean, he thinks he’s got the sack ’cause his old man’s got a few connections?”


“Well, fuck’m. And fuck his old man’s connections. I mean, I’m sorry and all that, but he provoked me.”

I nodded and rubbed my neck.


“His dad.”


“Mr. Giordano. He’ll be looking for him.”

“So big freaking deal.”

“I’m just saying.”

“Like I’m all kinds of scared of Mr. Paul Giordano. What’s he gonna do, hit me with one of his bread trucks?”

“People know he was here, man. People saw what happened.”

“People know better than to tell stories.”

“Yeah. I guess you’re right.”

“Goddamn right I am. I am not going back inside over this.”

Slats was quiet for a minute. It looked as if he was digesting something bitter and complicated, but he finally looked up at the garage ceiling and barked a laugh.

“Know what, Mikey?”


“I think I got this all covered.”


“His cell, man. It fell out of his shorts.”

I blanked.


“So, we make some calls.”


“Yeah, calls. Like first we can call information and get a taxi service and do the whole drunk thing, saying we want to go into the city. They send a car here. Bang. We’re not here, they’ve a record for a missed pickup at this address from his cell. Figure he just found another way into the city, but if it gets to the cops it gives us some space, right? Then we take his cell and make a bunch of text messages to my phone, yours, and to some of the other guys. We do it from different spots around the island in case they can trace that. Just drunken rants and stuff. Then we chuck his phone in the drink and head south. Cops will think Tony G. was just shitfaced and wandering around Staten Island looking for us. You with me?”


“Then we dump him at some closed rest area down on 295, make it look like he got in the wrong car. Like, get this, he gets into some homo’s car. Fags are always creepin’ ’round them rest areas. Poor drunk Tony G. hitches a bad ride, passes out.”

“All the way down 295?”

“Yeah. We got to get out of here. Off the island. Out of New York period. We need to get far away.”

“Those rest areas, man, I don’t know. They always have people and truckers, you know?”

“Not down 295. It’s not like the Parkway or the Turnpike. 295 runs parallel to 95 from like Trenton to Delaware. There’s a couple of closed stops along it, I’ve passed them. Cops’ll figure Tony G. just got in the wrong car, passed out drunk. Woke up, some guy rubbing his dick.”


“Think about it.”

“Tony’s not gay, though.”

“I’m not saying he is. What I am saying is Tony G. got into the wrong car on a freaked-out holiday weekend and took a ride to nowheres. We can’t just dump him, we have to set up a possible scenario, understand? Hey. Let me ask you. You packing rubbers?”

“What? No! I’m not packing rubbers.”

“Shit. We’ll just have to stop on the way...” Slats slapped my shoulder. “Buy some flavored condoms, huh? Make it look like Tony G. was really into smoking pole.”

“Goddamn. Remind me never to be on your bad side.”

“Payback’s a bitch.”

“What about his neck though?”

“Easy. We run it over.”

“Aw, Jesus...”

“Sure. Goes like this. Spurned loverboy’s a psycho. Runs Tony G. over. No loose ends, end of story. Tell me, am I or am I not a genius?”

“And your mom?”

“Nevermind her. You think my Mom wants to see me back inside over this douche bag? Trust me, she’s been through enough. After we dump Tony, we keep cruising to A.C. and meet up with my Mom, get her all straight.”

“This sucks. I mean, this really sucks. This is so fucked up.”

“Yeah, well, clearly. But I need you, man. I need you cool. Besides, it’s not like it’s you or even Donnie. It’s Tony G., for fuck’s sake. Who’s going to miss him?”

Slats had a point. Tony Giordano was kind of a pain in the ass. For as long as we’d known him, the guy was constantly screwing things up and taking cover with his old man’s relatives if things got hot. Always thinking he was better than the rest of us because of the money his dad had and his dad’s old school connections. Patazzi brothers said Tony G. had skimmed a lot, too, and talked smack about us to his friends in the city. Maybe Slats was right. Who’d miss him?

I watched Slats rifle through Tony’s cargo shorts. He found a black-handled gravity knife and took a bunch of twenties from Tony’s gold money clip. He kept the knife and the cash and stuffed the empty clip back in Tony’s left front pocket. Slats gave me a shrug and shut the trunk.

“Hey. At least we don’t have to worry about gas money.”


My skin glowed red in the taillights.

“OK. Stop, stop! Stop!”

“Huh? What’d you say?!”


“I’m stopped.”

“Aw, man,” I choked down a ball of vomit, “The tire, aw shit.”


“His head’s nearly off, Slats.”


“His fucking head. Aw, shit, Slats. It’s like, like the tire decapitated him.”

Slats got out of the car and looked down at the ragged crunch that was Tony’s head and neck.


“Yeah. Fuckin’-A right wow.”

Slats wiped his lips with his right thumb and forefinger. Then he went back to the driver’s side door. He looked at me over his shoulder.

“Get in.”

I did what I was told.


I didn’t really even pay attention to the road until about an hour later. I was so wiped out from the whole ordeal, so drained that my whole body felt like it was crashing. I closed my eyes tried to shake off the image of Tony G’s ragged neck being flattened by a tire. Man, it is so easy to screw up your life. One second you’re scoping some pussy at your friend’s barbecue, the next you’re prowling around the Garden State with a corpse in the trunk, an accessory after the fact.

At some point, I beat my eyes open and thought I saw a green highway sign for Atlantic City, but then I couldn’t be sure so I closed my eyes again and fell back asleep. Next thing I knew it was pitch dark. No streetlights or late night suburban sky glow of any kind. Just lots and lots of country road.

“What the...hey.”


“What’s up with this? I thought we were heading to Atlantic City.”

Slats poked the ashtray lighter, let it click, and seared a smoke to life, “We are. The Patazzis said just to stay on this road. Kind of slow but it bypasses the Atlantic City Expressway and winds you in via the sticks.”


“Yeah. Who knew places like this existed in New Jersey? Fucking boondocks.”

“Yeah. I hear that. Hey, you call your Mom?”

“Yeah. She’s at Trump’s Taj Mahal. Be there in about forty minutes if you want to keep napping.”

“Um. Nah. I’m cool.”

“Really, get some sleep. We’ll hit the tables later.”

“Nah. Really. I’m cool.” Jersey towns I never heard of slid by in the darkness. Places called Oak Shade and Tabernacle. Lots of ranch houses.

A hand-painted sandwich sign for tomatoes and sweet corn and a picnic table stacked with empty, grey baskets.

Dense, creepy-looking woods everywhere.

“Hey. Ain’t I supposed to be guarding the phone up at your mom’s house? What if Jeanie or somebody checks back?” Slats gave me a look.

“Relax, Mikey. The taxi we called had to come to an empty house, right? If someone comes back, they’ll figure we had a change of plans, you went with me to the hospital.”




“Everything’s cool. Don’t sweat it.”

I shifted in my seat and stared out my window. With my right hand, I felt around the sideboard for a weapon. A screwdriver. A pen. Anything.

I came up empty.



“What’re you looking for?”

Slats’ eyes were straight ahead.


“Yeah. That’s what I thought.”

Slats braked and fish-tailed the Camry onto a sandy, double tracked road with weeds mohawked down the middle. As we drove in, my body tensed with fear and I felt my bowels shift. There was a moss-covered sign saying something about a state forest.

And that’s when Slats told me he was real sorry.

BIO: Kieran Shea scratches at the crime fiction eight ball like a lot of sordid lots. He blogs his struggle at BLACK IRISH BLARNEY.