gulf-boulevard-cover2
View Gallery

Gulf Boulevard

Available in

$9.28

English

Visited 29913 times , 2 Visits today

Prologue

Two Scales

“Two things are infinite: The universe and human stupidity; and I am not sure about the universe.”

~Albert Einstein

 

Salvatore Scalisi drove his car down Atwells Avenue in the heart of Federal Hill, the “Little Italy” section of Providence, Rhode Island. Passing the small, quaint restaurant of his interest, he found a parking space on a side street. He maneuvered his large, bulky weight out of the driver’s seat, stretched, and took in the superfluity of Italian aromas diffusing throughout the neighborhood of eateries. His stomach growled.

The sign on the awning read—Caesar’s Ristorante. He stepped over to the front window and perused the menu displayed on an easel inside the restaurant. Fingering the choices from his side of the glass, he was certain he could order and then finish each item listed. But, he wasn’t there to dine. Tonight was business. He had been asked there by Joey “The Nose” Di Matteo, a local capo, to accept a last-minute contract—an above-average contract. Something heavy was going down.

He opened the door and stepped inside. On his left, a dozen tables set with white linen, stemware, and centerpiece arrangements of fresh flowers. Several were occupied. On his right, a refrigerated pastry display, followed by a bar that ran the length of the establishment. Pictures of celebrities adorned the walls. Sinatra and Martin stood out. In another frame he saw the portrait of Don Vito Corleone surrounded by his sons, Santino, Michael, and Fredo, as they stared down menacingly at the patrons.

He closed his eyes and inhaled deeply. The aroma of basil and garlic permeated the room. On one table, he stared shamelessly at a dish of lobster fra diavolo until a waiter stepped in front of him with a plate of veal saltimbocca alla romano. After only several steps inside the restaurant, he had added several pounds to his bulk.

An attractive hostess, dressed in a low-cut, tight-fitting black dress approached, holding several leather-bound menus. “May I help you, sir?” she asked, smiling.

Before he could answer, a voice bellowed from the rear of the room.

“Hey, Sal, get your culo grasso over here!”

A wave of subdued laughter erupted from some of the diners and employees.

He looked beyond the hostess and found Joey at a table in the rear of the dining room, waving his arm as if hailing a cab. The hostess seemed stuck between a smile and a laugh. When Sal dismissed her with a nod, she slipped away, pressed the menus to her face, and let a fit of giggles escape.

Sal focused on the table in the corner. On one side sat Joey, his friend of many years, with a nose that started in one zip-code and ended in another. Across from Joey sat a guy Sal thought he may have seen before, but wasn’t sure. From where Sal stood, the man had chiseled features, broad shoulders, and a receding dark hairline. A napkin sprouted out from the man’s neck protecting his white shirt, tie, and suspenders. Sal started walking, trying to place the face.

The floor creaked as he made his way past the tables. Several people gawked at him for a moment, but then lowered their gazes in capitulation. When he reached the table, Joey stood and embraced him, followed by heavy clapping on each other’s back as if they were cowboys dusting one another off after a long ride.

“Sally, where you been, huh?”

“Laying low and on the go,” he replied.

He tapped Sally on the cheek several times. “I want you to meet somebody,” Joey said, sitting back down. “Boss, this is Salvatore Scalise, a friend of mine I told you about. Sally, this here is the boss, Raymond “Junior” Gulioti.”

The Boss! Sal leaned over and extended his hand. The highest rank he’d ever met in any family was a capo, so sitting at a table with the underboss of Providence excited him. This was big, just as Joey had promised.

Gulioti ignored him, engrossed by the current twist of linguini on his fork.

“Sit,” Joey mumbled, chewing on a meatball the size of a baseball.

Sal slowly drew his hand back, as he lowered himself in the seat. The chair moaned under the sudden avalanche of weight. Silence ruled the table as both men continued to eat. Sal stared at a plate of gabagool, and then at a serving of gnocchi in marinara sauce—both nestled between other plates of Italian cuisine dividing the capo and the underboss. Beads of sweat surfaced on his forehead. His mouth salivated. His tongue swept his lips. He wanted a bite of something.

“Bless me where I fuckin’ sit if it ain’t Salvatore “Two Scales” Scalise,” the underboss said, reaching for his glass of wine.

Joey laughed. “Two Scales. I haven’t heard that in a while.”

Madonn’, have you ever once in your fuckin’ life considered eatin’ a salad?” Gulioti asked, raising the linen napkin to the corners of his mouth.

Salvatore “Two Scales” Scalise sat dumbfounded. All three-hundred and eighty- plus-pounds on his five-foot, ten-inch frame, stilled at the ridicule tossed at him by the underboss. He didn’t know how to react.

“Boss,” Joey interjected on Sal’s behalf. “He comes with a solid book. Short notice and all, huh?” Joey said, talking more with his hands.

Gulioti tore at a piece of bread. “I’m listening.”

Joey leaned in. “Couple of years ago, that chili-shitter who raped the union boss’s niece? I put Sally here on it. Turns out it’s her neighbor. Sally finds the guy, sticks a blade in, but not enough to kill him. He calls me, I call the union boss. The union boss gets his justice by beating the living fuck out of the guy, but he don’t have the balls to finish him being a civilian and all. So, Sally takes over. End of story.” Joey rubbed his hands together to imply a done deal. “They ever find the body?” Joey asked, turning to Sal.

“A few pieces,” Sal said.

“There you go, short notice and all, Boss. Sally’s the man for the contract. He’ll do it good,” Joey said.

Gulioti turned back to Sal. “Do you really use two scales to weigh yourself? Like, add the fuckin’ numbers together, or what?”

Sal lowered his gaze to the table. Ridicule and hunger were not mixing well.

Exasperated, Joey said, “Boss, we ain’t asking him to run a marathon, huh?”

Gulioti leaned back in his chair as though deciding whether or not to offer the contract. Sal watched as Gulioti’s eyes swept the restaurant in an apparent search to see if anyone was paying attention to their table. The closest ears belonged to two men sitting at the bar. Sal suspected them to be soldati—there to protect the underboss.

Gulioti gazed down at the table as he started to fold his napkin in a perfect square. “I got a finook in my crew. Name is Frankie Moretti, married with a kid. Can ya believe that shit? A good earner though, but I can’t reconcile the two. If it ever gets out we’re running a business with a queer in charge…for fucksakes, what a tempesta di merda! Even worse, he’s the boy of one of my capos.”

“It’s a sad predicament,” Joey inserted.

Gulioti turned to Sal. “Here’s the paper. The guy’s wife and kid are going to New York Friday afternoon for the weekend. We’ve made arrangements for Moretti to be picked up at midnight for a job down at the docks. So you need to be there and complete the paper beforehand. This is our window, short notice and all. I need it to look like a couple of moulinyans broke in for money and drugs. Fuck the place up. Take out Moretti, but nothing to the head. I want an open casket, understand?”

Sal nodded.

Bene. Take the money, jewelry, and in your case the food…make it stink like one of them smash and grabs. Call Joey when you’re done. Can you handle the job or what? We only got one shot at this, capisce?

“No worries, Mr. Gulioti. I’ll do you and Joey good.”

“Sally here wants to make an impression, boss. Maybe when we can’t get the Philly boys, on short notice and all, we call him. Ain’t that right, big guy,” Joey said, landing a playful fist on Sal’s arm.

Sal remained stoic, the professional hitman’s look. He had learned that from watching The Godfather movies.

Gulioti stared at Sal for a moment, shook his head as if questioning his decision, and then snapped his fingers, causing one of the men from the bar to step over to the table. The man reached under his jacket and removed a banded envelope. He handed it to the underboss and reclaimed his seat at the bar.

Gulioti pushed the envelope slowly in Sal’s direction. “Twenty-five large now. Another seventy-five when it’s done.”

“Thank you, Mr. Gulioti,” Sal said, reaching for the package.

Gulioti’s hand reached out and grasped Sal’s wrist. For a moment nothing was said. Then Gulioti leaned over and whispered, “Don’t fuck this up.”

******

Sal trudged up several staircases carrying a Francesco’s Pizza box within an insulated delivery bag, which he balanced carefully in his gloved hands so as not to let the cheese slide. Inside was his favorite, a large extra cheese smothered with mushrooms and prosciutto. He rested at each landing and was tempted to sit on the top step and grab a slice while it was still warm. But he plodded on.

On the third floor of the apartment building, he rested again, caught his breath, and searched the corridor for apartment number 36. He balanced the pizza box on the handrail and removed the handgun from his shoulder holster. From his pocket he secured the silencer and screwed it on. Sal continued down the hallway, walking past a door with the number 32 tacked above a brass knocker.

A few muffled televisions could be heard, but other than that, the hallway was quiet. He paused for a moment to listen for traffic on the stairs or voices near doors. Satisfied, he stepped in front of apartment number 36. Balancing the pizza in one hand with his gun underneath, he lifted the knocker and let it fall two times. He stepped back in clear view of the peephole, so his target could clearly see his Francesco’s Pizza delivery cap and delivery bag. He glanced down the corridor again to see if the noise of his arrival had attracted any meddlesome neighbors.

After a couple of seconds, the door opened until a chain pulled taut. A face appeared in the small opening.

“What?”

“Pizza delivery for…Moretti,” Sal said, pretending to read the name taped to the side of the box facing him.

“Nobody ordered any pizza, Einstein,” the man said, yet he sounded as if he wasn’t sure.

“Hey, they told me Moretti in apartment 36. This is 36, right?” Sal asked, with the number inches away from him.

The man leaned out of sight. Sal thought about kicking in the door with the useless chain, but then it closed, followed by the sound of metal sliding. The man opened the door wide, stepped back, and waved for the pizza deliveryman to enter.

Sal stood staring for a second. The man in front of him was wrapped in only a towel. He was young, thin, and athletic looking. Mid-twenties, Sal guessed as he eased his wide frame through the doorway and slid the pizza box on the closest table.

“Is there any pizza left in it?” the man quipped.

Sal spun around to face the smiling man. He dropped the carrying bag and squeezed the trigger, shooting the man dead in the heart. As the body slumped against a wall and snaked to the floor, he reached over and closed the door gently.

Sal rested in a chair next to the pizza box. He placed the gun on the table and removed a small bag of cocaine from his pocket. He then spread the contents indiscriminately on the table to make it look like a drug deal had gone bad. In the background he heard the shower running. He’d shut it off in a minute, but first he wanted a slice. He walked over to the refrigerator and found a beer. Back at the table, he lifted the box cover, and massaged a heavy, grease-dripping slice, into a “V” shape.

“No, you finook, I’m not gonna leave any pizza,” Sal scolded the dead body.

He took a large bite, cutting the slice in half. He moaned with pleasure as he chewed. His favorite pizza and a successful hundred-grand contract in one night. Life is good. Well, for some, he thought with a chuckle.

Another bite. He washed it down with a swig of beer, wiping his mouth on his sleeve. He started to reach for his cell to call Joey, when the sound of falling water stilled.

Sal reached for his gun and jumped to his feet as fast as his corpulent frame would allow. “Fuck,” he muttered. They had assured him the wife would be out of town. He gripped the gun and headed toward the bathroom. His thoughts raced. He had a rule about women and children, but getting caught trumped all rules. He needed to act fast. Maybe catch her off guard and knock her out. Sal lumbered over to the bathroom door and listened. Someone was inside and moving around.

He surveyed the area. Hide in the bedroom? Hide in the kitchen? He had to get to her before she saw the body. A scream would…

“Hey, Vinny?”

The deep male voice from inside the bathroom stunned Sal.

“Yo, Vinny? I’m out.”

Vinny?” Sal mumbled. He looked at the sprawled body on the floor and realized he had killed the wrong guy. No big deal. Shit happens, he thought. Sal placed his hand on the doorknob and opened the door. A cloud of steam billowed out. He let the door swing in.

“Hurry the fuck up, handsome,” the naked man said. “We ain’t got all night.”

Sal slid into the haze, lifted the gun and fired. The force of the shot pushed Frankie Moretti against the tiled wall. His body twisted, bounced off the sink, and slumped to the floor. Sal checked the pulse to make sure he was dead.

He emerged from the bathroom and searched the rest of the apartment to make sure he hadn’t barged into Finooks “R” Us. After securing the other rooms, he settled in the bedroom. Male pornography and condoms littered the unmade bed. Sal shook his head in disgust. On a chair were draped two pairs of pants with shirts. He lifted the wallets, watches, and rings from the nightstand, bundled the clothes in a ball, and then returned to the pizza.

Chewing on his second slice, he opened one wallet, removed the cash without counting it and checked the license. Francis Arturo Moretti. He tossed the wallet over his head. The second wallet had a thicker wad of cash. He piled the bills on the table. The license in that wallet read, Vincent Nicolo Gulioti. He tossed the wallet over his head.

After he had consumed six of the eight slices, Sal moved around the apartment to make it look like a heist, as well as a bad drug deal. He grabbed a pillowcase and filled it with the jewelry, the clothes, a laptop, and an iPod. He opened drawers and emptied the contents on the floor. He turned over furniture. When the apartment was as disheveled as he suspected a moolie might leave it, he returned to the table to finish the pizza.

After a grunt for a job well done and a belch for devouring the whole pizza, Sal put the pile of money in his pocket, stuffed the pillowcase of goods inside the pizza bag, and reached for his cell to call Joey. The call was answered on the second ring.

“Hey, Sally, how’s everything at the office?”

Sal nodded as he reviewed his efforts. “We’re good, Joey. It was a two-for-one special tonight, but no problem. I won’t charge ya.”

“What? You walked in on him doing it…with a guy?”

“Close, but the boss was right. Now he ain’t got no problem in the ranks no more.”

Joey laughed. “Un-fuckin’-believable.”

“Yeah, and the other finook got a name like the boss.” Sal stood up, walked over to the wallets and found the one he was looking for. “Joey, the other guy’s name is Gulioti.” Sal paused as he read the name a second time. Something didn’t feel right.

“Sally, don’t fuck with me,” Joey said with a nervous laugh. “Spell the name.”

He spelled the named. Silence. It was becoming obvious to both men. Sal spoke next. “Joey, this can’t be, right?”

Sounding suddenly distressed, Joey replied, “Sally, what’s the first name?”

“Vincent.”

“Oh, my fuckin’ word, that’s the boss’s kid.” Joey mumbled. “You know what the fuck you did?”

Sal knew now. But how was he to know the capo’s son was finooking with the boss’s son? “You saying the boss’s kid is a homo, too?” Sal asked.

Silence.

“Joey?”

Sal could hear the muffled sounds at the other end. He wanted to ask if he was still getting paid the back end, all seventy-five large. His heart was beating fast. His agita was ready to blow, big time. A heavy weight fell upon him. He had whacked the boss’s son. He gripped his chest as a flamethrower erupted inside.

“Sally, get your ass out of town tonight. You hearing me? Get the fuck out tonight! Far away, until I see how this plays out.”

The call was abruptly terminated.

 

Chapter One

My name is Jason Najarian. I live on a barrier island off the west coast of Florida, under lazy palm trees and salt-laden air. Warm breezes sway my hammock. Dolphins play in turquoise water just beyond my reach. Sandpipers dance along the shoreline. There’s not a person in sight. I live here until I wake up each morning just north of Boston. This is why Ambienis my best friend as well as my travel agent.

     Reality kicks in.

I slosh my way to the front entrance through a mixture of snow, slush, and crunchy rock salt; the result of a heavy winter snowstorm that turned to sleet before changing back to snow. When the skies cleared, the temperature promptly plummeted, freezing everything in place, as if my surroundings had become a postcard.

     Ah, New England weather.

It is the time of year when most people verbalized their contempt for the elements.

     It’s too friggin’ cold.

     What happened to global warming?

Or my favorite: Is it cold enough for ya? Who answers no to that inquiry?

Six months from now, when winter is a distant memory, those same amateur meteorologists will ask:  Is it hot enough for ya?

Who answers no to that inquiry? Me.

I’d rather be toasting my buns on a tropical white sand beach, under the fronds of a palm tree, surrounded by the scent of multihued flora seducing my senses, than trudging through knee-deep powder with air so cold it shrink-wraps my testicles.

I despise winter so much that my final wish clearly states the following: Cremate me; urn me; carry me to a warm, deserted shoreline; buy a beach chair and position it facing the setting sun; gently pour me out on the seat and leave me alone.

     Go away.

      Screw off.

I will disperse of myself when the first sea breeze embraces me.

I open the door, step inside and shake myself like a dog out of water. I stomp my feet to remove the snow banks that have accumulated on my Merrell boots. The secretary, who usually greets me each morning with a grunt sound like “Mor-in”, is busy preparing the conference room for another monthly staff meeting, which typically make my ears bleed. I loathe sitting in one place for three hours, listening to talking heads expound on how great their department is performing. I don’t drink coffee or energy drinks, or indulge in any substance worthy of giving me the jolt sufficient to survive these marathon sessions of unadulterated boredom. Each time, I’m forced to stifle yawns and fight back heavy eyelids. Our monthly meeting-of-the-minds works better than any dose of the strongest sleep aid. I’ve often thought about secretly recording these conferences and selling them on eBay to the sleep deprived. It is on mornings like this that I reflect on the five years I’ve labored for Winchester Rope Company and realize how much I hate my job.

I start toward my office when suddenly I stop on a dime, literally. I lean over to claim my find when the tail side comes into focus. I ease back up, leaving the riches of bad luck to the unsuspecting.

“Mor-in, Jason,” Barbara calls out from the conference room, as I try to scoot by undetected.

“Hey, Barbs.” I stop and lean in. “Fine job as usual,” I say, surveying the monthly reports neatly arranged in front of the tucked-in chairs. In the center of the table sits a pitcher of water with seven glasses. Barbara is furiously erasing notations from a previous meeting on a wall-mounted dry erase board. In the corner stands an easel with a thick pad of paper the boss defers to when the white board is reduced to a confusing road map of numbers and arrows. I suspect he likes the paper display better as evidenced by the way he gently lifts each page, folds it over the top, and then irons it out with a gentleness better reserved for one of Barbara’s copious breasts, before defiling the paper with a black magic marker.

“Mr. Steinberg wants to start promptly at nine this morning,” she says, pointing the dry eraser at me. “Don’t dilly-dally.”

“Barbs, you know this is the highlight of my month. I’m already feeling bloated and crampy. But fear not, I’ll be here at eight fifty-nine sharp.”

Barbara knows better. She dismisses me with a wave of the eraser.

I continue through the lobby nodding silent mor-ins to a few early arrivals. I’m almost in my office when Jimmy DiLorenzo, our purchasing manager, pops out of his.

“Hey Jason, I put some receiving reports on your desk.” He says this as he walks by me. He then turns and while walking backwards says, “Is it cold enough for ya?”

My office sits at the end of the lobby, a room of four walls, no windows and a threadbare commercial carpet. There is one wood-framed guest chair with torn upholstery and an old metal desk, battleship gray, that is dented on three sides with drawers that stick shut every other day of the week. The walls are adorned with three oil paintings of what I haven’t figured out yet. If forced to describe them, I would say they are a cluster-fuck of colors painted, I assume, by a gorilla with a paintbrush between his toes. I can’t emphasize enough how eager I am each morning to arrive in my opulent surroundings.

I toss my coat onto the chair in a heap. I find if I hang it neatly around the back of the chair, my coworkers will find this seat an invitation to lower their butts and talk. They are less likely to do so if my coat is thrown on the seat in a ball. It leaves them compelled to stand, not knowing what to do with my garment. This has taken me years to refine. People who have to stand for information tend to exit quickly. The exceptions are Jimmy and the warehouse manager, Carlos Alvarez, who both carelessly lift my coat off the chair and drop it to the floor before taking a seat. But it works with most coworkers, especially the boss. During the warmer months, however, I’m screwed.

I slip into my squeaky, high-backed chair and lower my briefcase to the floor. On my desk is a pile of papers thrown haphazardly at least two feet from my in-box. I’m a fastidious accountant, so finding my desk out of order can set me off. It’s a quirk of mine that may need to be addressed on a couch someday. I shuffle the papers into a neat stack, paperclip them, and place the collection off to one side.

With a punch of a button, my computer comes to life. First things first. I check for replies to my Craigslist advertisement under men seeking women. Why begin working when a rich widow or divorcee is answering my listing for a passionate woman who seeks long walks on the beach and candlelit dinners? I’ll even throw in a puppy. I’m prompted by two messages.

The first reply is from a woman who says she is a BBW with a great personality. BBW is an acronym for big beautiful woman, which is further translated by some to chubby chick. She writes that she loves to cook, and favors the Patriots over the Red Sox. She is comfortable in her skin and if I don’t like BBW, I can move on.

The second reply is from a woman named Mistress Pandora, who is willing to teach me to crawl to her, lick her leather boots, and obey her every whim. She goes on to write that if I perform my duties to her satisfaction, she will reward me by strapping on her portable manhood and ride me like a bronco. I quiver at the uncomfortable image. All I have to do to experience this nirvana is reply to a website, make an appointment, and secure it with a credit card.

It appears my early morning choices are limited to a dominatrix-driven colonoscopy or possible suffocation should the chubby chick prefer to be topside.

I deliberate.

Jimmy glides into my office. He lifts my coat, drops it on the floor and sits down. I quickly hit the minimize button, returning to my tropical island screen saver.

“Looking at porn?” Jimmy asks.

I toss him a look of disgust. “No, I was checking the stock market.”

“The stock market ain’t open yet.”

“So?  Hey, you think you can place the receiving reports in the tray labeled in-box?”

“Ready for the meeting?” he asks, ignoring my request.

“Yeah. I’ve been up all night in anticipation.”

“Good. Let’s kick some ass.” As quickly as Jimmy entered, he bolts out of the chair and leaves my office. My coat remains on the floor.

I look at my watch: 8:55 am. Plenty of time.

I reach down to the lower drawer of my desk and wrestle with it. Inside, the desk elf is apparently awake and pulling back. It likes to play tug-of-war with me. At night and on weekends, I’m fairly convinced that the elf comes out and hides my favorite pen and moves stuff around on my desk, just to screw with me.

I jiggle the drawer from side to side until the elf surrenders. With a metal squeal the drawer finally pulls out. This is the home of my sweet stash. I open the 56 ounce XXL bag and grab a handful of multi-colored M&M candies. Spilling them onto my desk, I maneuver the mouse to the Club Casino icon for a few hands of ‘just for play’ blackjack. As the program starts up, I sort my chocolate infatuations by color before devouring them like Pac-Man in a maze.

By 9:15 am, I’m up a few hundred bucks. Duty calls. I clear the screen, lift my coat back onto the chair and leave for the conference room. Barbara sees me coming, checks her watch and frowns at me.

“Don’t hold my calls,”” I say, eliciting a smile from her.

I saunter into the meeting and slither into the only empty chair, which happens to be next to Jimmy.

The white board is filling up with information as Sam Steinberg, the boss, is reading from my monthly report and highlighting the pertinent areas for the group to see. He turns when he hears me enter.

“Jason…we start at nine.”

“Sorry, Sam. The auditors called. They needed more info.”

He adjusts his glasses and twirls the magic marker between his fingers.

“Everything alright?”

I have sensed for a long time that Steinberg fears the auditors. He is hiding something and I enjoy giving him his squirm du jour from time to time.

“Nothing major.”

He stares at me for a moment longer, and then turns back to the board. Seconds later, a paperclip bounces off my chest. I look at Carlos sitting across the table, nodding. This is how Carlos says good morning, he throws things at me. His inventory is endless; paper clips, crumbled donuts bags, pens, rubber bands, anything small that he can grab usually bounces off my shirt each morning. A few years back I started collecting his greetings and tossing them under the front seat of his car. He hasn’t noticed yet.

The meeting drags along like the flat line on a heart-monitoring machine. Steinberg continues to reiterate what is in my report, prompting from me a tidal surge of yawns. The first wave is small and I either swallow them or cover my mouth. The next wave is substantial and infectious. Within minutes, my massive yawns cause the other managers to yawn uncontrollably while Steinberg talks to the white board.

Soon after, as with every monthly meeting, the sandman floats into the room and puffs sleepy dust into my face, causing my eyelids to become heavy. As each department manager takes their turn dragging the meeting along with tedious bits of information, my eyelids start to flutter. Moments later, the weight is too much for me to bear and I unconsciously hit the snooze button until Jimmy saves me with a flick to my ear, startling me back to the meeting. Someday, I fear being in my comatose state and expelling one of those snort-snores that sound like you’re gasping for your last breath as the boss colors with his magic marker.

With our three-hour assembly concluded for yet another month, the bloating and cramps subside and I head back to my office. I click the favorites tab for Craigslist and find another reply waiting to convince me that she is the woman of my dreams. She calls herself Jennifer and she works as a nurse at Massachusetts General Hospital. She considers herself gregarious, loves practical jokes, and italicizes the words low maintenance. I’m so taken with this reply that I find myself sucking in my gut as I read it.

Steinberg walks in. Can’t a guy have some privacy? He looks at my coat bundled in a pile, and decides to lean on the doorjamb.

“Are you sure we’re good with the auditors?”

“Yes, Sam. They were fishing for information I’d already given them.” I hate lying because it never fails to take on a life of its own, but it is good theater watching Steinberg age in front of me. Winchester Rope is a family run business, so there is plenty he is probably manipulating.

He nods to my answer. Wavering in the doorway, he says, “Is it cold enough for ya?”

     Christ.

I smile. “Gotta get these receiving reports in before lunch,” I say, placing my fingers back on the keyboard. Steinberg checks his watch, issues me a salute, and leaves.

I check my watch: 12:15 p.m. My stomach grumbles for sustenance. But first, back to the letter from the nurse. I reach down to my bag of M&M’s, snag a few and splatter them blindly on my desk, totally captivated by my computer screen as I continue reading her reply.

     “…and I love the outdoors. Please be tall and considered handsome because I am over six feet tall. Sorry short guys…I don’t want to look like a circus act.”

My balloon pops. My tire deflates. I let my gut out and punch the delete key.

Disappointed, I look over at my M&M’s and…I can’t believe what I’m looking at! I stand up, push back my chair, and stare at my desk in amazement.

     Holy shit!

Customer Reviews

One Comment

  1. admin February 17, 2013 at 10:02 PM .

    “Hart (Life Minus 3 1/2, 2012, etc.) returns with the humorous adventure of a
    lotto winner, a gang of mobsters and an unlikely group of friends along Florida’s
    Gulf Coast.
    Like many people, Jason Najarian is tired of his job. Day after cold New
    England–winter day, the accountant trudges through ice and snow to sit at a desk
    and dream of palm trees and tropical breezes. After a lucky omen compels him to buy a lottery ticket, cut to Jason living a life of luxury on Sand
    Key, a barrier island off the Florida coast. A cast of unsavory characters soon appears on Jason’s secluded stretch of sand. Neighbor and Mafia hit
    man Sal Santini, however, is often more comical than sinister. Readers learn early of Sal’s chosen profession, but Jason remains oblivious for
    much of the book. Hart plays this card too long, as clue after clue is all but dropped at Jason’s feet; yet he still doesn’t catch on. Nor, apparently,
    do his other new friends. Phyllis Hammerstein—the real estate agent who sold Jason his beach house—involves herself in his personal life at
    every turn. The beautiful Native American Fiona, also known as “Running Bush,” jogs onto Jason’s beach and into his most intimate dreams.
    Amber shows up with a sour, judgmental mother in tow along with tales of two troublesome brothers on the mainland. Add to this unusual mix a
    bearded bait-shop attendant with an unkempt ponytail, who conjures up strains of dueling banjos from Deliverance; a curious but reluctant blue
    heron named Harry; and a parrot who can recite the entire script of Scarface and “shoot” people with his realistic imitation of a machine gun.
    With such a sprawling cast of players, it comes as no surprise that some fall prey to stereotype. Flirtatious cougar Phyllis transitions too quickly
    from her annoyance with Jason to obvious affection for him—especially after his net worth is revealed. Jason’s money-hungry ex-wife and Sal’s
    portrayal of a bumbling, none-too-bright mobster also cover familiar territory. But overall, Hart’s characters are well-developed as they blend
    together in an offbeat, funny story. The frequently thrilling tale ends on a cliff-hanger that begs for more fun and danger in a sequel.
    An eclectic mix of characters heightens this absurd, comic adventure.” – Kirkus Reviews