Wilmington Woman's Club Ch. 53byParis Waterman©
December 29, 1989 - Rahway, New Jersey --
"Thirty-one ain't so old y'know, y'got a lotta years ahead of ya."
Marty Piatkowski didn't bother answering. He was trying to determine how best to pack. Everything he owned was spread out on the bed, all neatly folded; four white T-shirts, four pair of briefs, four pairs of white socks, three short-sleeved shirts (one dark blue, one red and one light green), one pair of khaki pants, plus the clothes he had been wearing when he was arrested for armed robbery eight years, two months and seventeen days ago.
"Marty, you listening?"
"Horace, I gotta get this stuff packed. Lemme ask you something. Do you think I should keep my old stuff, from before? I don't know as I'll ever get back into those pants."
Horace Walpole, the prison guard who had looked after Marty after Marty had stepped in and held another prisoner in check after he had stabbed Walpole in the throat during a riot, sighed. He picked up the pants and held them up against Piatkowski. The cream-colored slacks still bore some of the bloodstains from the beating the police had given Marty in subduing him that day over eight years before.
Horace admired the material.
"Nice slack's, Marty. What is it, Italian?"
Horace nodded, impressed.
"I'd keep 'em, I was you."
"Naw, I got three inches more in the waist now then back then."
Back in the day, Marty had lived large. He stole cars, hijacked trucks, and robbed high stake poker games, and payrolls. Flush with cash, he hovered up cocaine for breakfast and Maker's Mark for lunch, so jittery from dope and hung over from booze he seldom bothered to eat. He had gained thirty pounds in prison.
Horace refolded the slacks.
"Was me, I'd keep 'em. You'll lose some weight once you're out. Give yourself something to shoot for . . . getting back into those pants."
"I'm leavin' the past behind. Keep 'em for yourself."
Horace admired the slacks then looked sadly at Marty.
"Aw, you know I can't. I'll pass'm along to one of the guys, you want. Or give'm to Goodwill."
Marty went back to staring at his clothes. His suitcase was a rumpled grocery bag. In another hour, Marty would be a free man. He had served his full sentence. There was no parole board to contend with. No reporting to anyone. He was free, completely free, no strings attached.
Horace nodded to himself, as if saying he had done everything possible to get him to keep the damn Italian slacks, and then said aloud, "I'm gonna go get the papers together. I'm gonna miss you, Marty. Thanks again for what you did back then."
"Forget it, will'ya," Marty muttered, not looking up, but concentrating on layering his clothing into the bag. He had a job that he had no intention of reporting to waiting.
Unconsciously, he glanced at his left wrist, but the eighteen thousand dollar Patek Philippe he had stolen years ago, had been unceremoniously ripped away by one of the arresting officers, and of course, never returned. For eight years he had promised himself another one just like it when he got out.
He smiled to himself. Gentner would give him half of their loot, maybe $350,000 or so, and the watch would be his first purchase after he got himself a car.
An hour and a half later, Marty Piatkowski sauntered through the thick door, and stepped outside for the first time in seven years into a raw, blustery day. The population of Rahway State Prison in Woodbridge Township, New Jersey, was now lessened by one.
Marty pulled his parka tightly around him, trudged slowly to the corner and waited patiently for the bus to pull up alongside him. Patience was something he had learned to master during his incarceration.
He rode the bus down Rahway Avenue, made a right onto Randolph, which, as they passed under the New Jersey Turnpike, became Roosevelt Avenue, and took it into Carteret. He hopped off at the intersection of the Peter J. Sica Industrial Highway, several blocks from the waterfront, and entered a seedy bar.
Taking one of three vacant stools, Marty ordered his first beer since being arrested for the armed robbery. After a second beer quenched his thirst, he went to the phone hanging on the wall, and called a local number. A raspy voice answered at the other end.
"Is Toughey, there?"
"Who wants to know?"
"Tell him Marty "P" wants to talk to him."
"And, who the fuck is Marty Pee?"
"If he's there, put him on. Don't make me come looking for you, Deep Throat."
"You a tough guy or sumptin?" the raspy voice asked, half snarling, half laughing."
"Tell ya what, Raspy," Marty said, his patience surprising him, "if he's there; ask him, he wants to talk to me."
Marty's mouth curled into what might grudgingly be called a grin, as he heard the phone leave Raspy's hand and bang against the wall. He heard, but couldn't understand the voices in the background; then faintly, Raspy's voice snarling, "Why the fuck din' you say so?"
A more friendly voice spoke into the receiver. "Hello, Marty?"
"Yeah, when'd you get out?"
"About an hour ago."
"Christ, you din waste any time. Where are ya? Need a ride?"
"I'm a block from the Newark Bus Terminal. Place called . . ." he had to read the neon sign backward . . . "Dewey's B&G."
"I know the place," Toughey said, "be there in twenty minutes. It's good to hear your voice again, Marty."
Thirty minutes later, a tall, lean man in a fleece lined, denim jacket, entered the bar and headed directly over to Marty.
"How'ya doing, you mutt, ya?" the tall man said, faking a punch at Marty's arm.
"Hey, Pal, how you doing?" Marty said, more than pleased to see his old buddy. He smiled, lit another cigarette and blew the smoke toward the ceiling.
"I'm fine, and you?"
"Jesus . . . only an hour ago," Toughey said, and paused, as he scrambled to put the right words on his tongue.
"I . . . I would'a been here sooner, only the drawbridge was up and I couldn't get across the river."
Marty laughed at his old friend's humor, and Toughey relaxed a little before joining him, cackling like an old woman.
The bartender ambled over, and stood behind the bar, waiting patiently.
"Marty, it's really good to see you," Toughey grinned, revealing yellow stained teeth. "Lemme buy you a drink. What'll it be?"
"Gimme a Bud, okay?"
"Sure ya don't want single malt or somethin'?"
"Thanks, but beer's fine," Marty said, still smiling, but now carefully studying his old friend Toughey.
The bartender served him a beer, and he took an appreciative sip, placed the glass in the center of the napkin that served as a coaster and asked, "The guys still around?"
After a slight hesitation, Toughey said, "Some."
"Some?" Marty asked, his brow furrowing questioningly.
"Yeah, ya know, some guys stay, others move on."
"So, who's moved on?"
"Okay, okay," Toughey said, holding his left hand up placatingly, "Gentner ain't around. He's gone maybe six, seven months now. And Hastings, too, he's in Galveston . . . least ways I think that's where he went."
"And, Gentner's whereabouts would be?" Marty asked, snuffing out the cigarette that he had just lit. His pained expression warned Toughey that he thought his friend might just have the knowledge available if pushed hard enough.
Suddenly Toughey was acting nervously. "I swear, Marty," he blurted, beads of sweat were forming on his brow. "I don't know. Tell ya what though; some of the guys are having a game at Fat's place tonight. Game starts around seven. We could maybe drop by; ask 'em, you never know."
"Why don't we do that," Marty said his calm demeanor only increasing Toughey's nervousness. "In the meantime, lemme buy you a drink."
Toughey shrugged his shoulders, and nodded his acceptance. A weight seemed to be lifted from his shoulders.
A few drinks later, they left the bar and found a diner where Marty had his first real meal since being incarcerated. Steak and mashed potatoes, with Key Lime pie to wash it down. At ten to seven, they left the diner, and made their way to Fat's place. At no time since they'd gotten together had Toughey been allowed out of Marty's sight. Toughey knew it was no an accident and the pressure could be seen on his face. It was evident that he knew Marty was not one to fuck with, even though they were life-long friends.
At exactly seven, Marty and Toughey entered a run-down tenement, and climbed to the third floor. This was Callahan's place. Toughey knocked two times, paused for a three count, then once more. The door opened a crack and an eye that belonged on an overweight person's face peeked out at them.
"Jesus H. Christ, look who the fuck's comin tuh my place!"
That said the fat man hurled the door open, and threw his arms around Marty. Fat's Callahan was actually blubbering as he embraced Marty, and then kissed him, a slobbering buss, on the left cheek. Marty allowed Fat's to hug him tightly for a moment; then gently disengaged himself from the fat man's arms.
"Come in, come in," Fat's croaked effusively. "Hey guys, lookit who's back amongst us . . . Marty Piatkowski hisself!"
A tall, thin, bald headed man got up from his chair and moved to Marty with a broad smile on his face. "Welcome back, stranger!" he said.
"How are ya," Mick?" Marty said, smiling back. They had gone to high school together, pulled off several successful robberies and in general, palled around for much of their adult lives. They shook hands and then Mick pretended to count his fingers, a bit they had used on one another for years. Marty laughed, and moved to greet yet another old crony, Sammy Pardo, who opened his arms to embrace Marty.
"Wanna beer guys?" Fat's asked, and quickly produced two Heineken's, handing one to Marty and the other to Toughey.
"You're just in time; Blaney here lost his drawers in just three hands. The mutt can't play the game, ya know?" This from a broad-shouldered man named Zit's, who was conspicuous in not having risen to greet Marty.
"Zit's," Marty said, "Howya doing?"
"Doing all right, especially tonight," he said as they shook hands.
"Yeah," Fat's added, he's got all Blaney's dough."
Several of the players laughed, and Marty smiled along with them.
"Hey," Fat's chirped, wanna sit in? We got plenty of room at the table."
"Thanks Fat's, I appreciate the offer, but I'm a little light at the moment. I hope you understand."
"Hey, ya want a small loan? No vig attached, just one friend to another, what do ya say?" Fat's said with a smile.
"I can always use a couple bucks, but I can't afford to play being afraid to lose. Its bad form, but thanks anyway, Fat's, you're an okay guy."
"Take the money, Marty," Zit's said quietly. Marty looked at him, puzzled by the comment until Zit's reached into a pocket and pulled out a thick wad of money.
"I believe you left town with me owing you a little money, my friend." He began counting, stopping when he reached fifteen hundred, which he then handed to Marty. "Some unfinished business, don't trouble yourself to remember it, I wouldn't want word to get around, ya know?"
"Yeah, sure," Marty said, accepting the money. He knew it was a gift. He had done the same for one or two others when they got released. It was start up money, and Marty nodded his appreciation to his old friend. "Thanks Zit's, I can sure use it."
"Use it wisely, my friend, wisely," Zit's said and sat back down and asked, "Whose deal is it anyway? I believe Lady Luck was sitting on my shoulder when these two jabops walked in."
He looked up at Marty and smiled. "Don't go jinxing me pal."
Marty smiled, "I'll try not to, Zit's."
"So, ya playin' or not?" Fat's asked, wanting the game to get going again.
"Playing," Marty said, then looked to Toughey, "You in too?"
"I guess," Toughey said and pulled up a chair and sat down.
Lady Luck apparently deserted Zit's the next several hands, which went to Mick and Toughey.
Marty noted that they were all small pots and smiled mentally as he drew two Aces the following hand. The room went quiet and it was obvious, although they were all competent poker players, that several had good hands.
Zit's folded right off. Fat's bet twenty and was immediately raised by Toughey. Sammy threw his hand in. Mick thought about things for a moment, then threw his hand in too. Marty called Toughey's raise and wasn't surprised when Fat's raised him back. Both men called Fat's and the dealer, who happened to be Zit's, turned a Jack of Clubs face up.
Fat's Callahan bet another twenty, and was quickly bumped by Toughey for another twenty. This time Marty jumped in, seeing the raise and adding another twenty to the pot. Toughey raised an eyebrow at this, but he saw the raises, and waited patiently for the next card.
Callahan called, and Zit's dealt the fourth card, an Ace of Hearts, giving Marty three aces, making him the odds on favorite to win.
Fat's passed, choosing to let the others take the lead from him. Toughey bet another twenty and Marty raised him yet another twenty. Callahan threw his cards in, saying, "I think you guys got more ammo than me."
The fifth card was dealt, a Four of Hearts. Toughey checked, and Marty bet another twenty. Toughey sensed trouble, but with all the money already invested, really had no choice but to call.
"Three Aces," Marty said, making sure to keep his face blank.
"Shit!" exclaimed Toughey, "and I had three Jacks!"
Marty won a couple hands after that, all small pots, and lost a few, again all small amounts, for he folded early, and avoided getting burned by the others. He stood up, and made conversation, contenting himself with watching the others play their respective hands.
Toward the end of the evening, Marty finally broke his silence and asked, "Anybody seen or heard from Conrad Gentner, recently?"
Fat's coughed, and looked down at the table.
Sammy shrugged, his eyes were sad as he spoke, "I don't believe I had the pleasure of meeting the man."
Toughey kept his eyes on Marty.
Zit's looked at Marty and shook his head, 'No.'
Mick smiled, and met Marty's eyes. "Might have left town a while ago, Marty, least I haven't heard anything recently."
Marty's voice was pleasant as he asked, "Anyone have any idea where he is? A rumor, maybe?" he let some chips glide idly from hand to hand.
Fat's Callahan said, "Hey Marty, why not let it rest?"
Marty turned and faced the fat man. "Well, I'll tell you, Fat's . . . me and Conrad, we have us a misunderstanding going on eight years now. I happen to think it's about time we got over it."
"Now, take it easy, Marty," Toughey said, reaching out to take hold of Marty's right arm as if to restrain him from a violent act.
"Don't touch me, just don't touch me!" Marty said, wrenching his arm free.
None of the men at the table feared much, but they knew Marty was deadly serious about finding Gentner. There were those who had no knowledge of Gentner's whereabouts, and there were two who happened to know exactly where he was at the moment.
"Hey did you guy's hear that Denny Gallivan's passed away?" Fat's Callahan said, trying to change the subject.
Marty decided to give them all time to answer his question and replied, saying, "Ah, fuck, not Denny!"
An air of relief flooded the room.
"How tall was that little prick anyway?" Zit's asked, only to happy to talk about something other than Gentner's whereabouts.
Marty stuck his arm out; his hand hovering over the floor. "Maybe four foot six or seven," he offered, a wry smile briefly crossed his face.
"Christ, he was really a little fucker," Mick said, his voice tinged with genuine sadness.
"Yeah he was," Sammy said, "Had a schlong like a Missouri mule, though. Mike Covelski"
"The restaurant owner?" Toughey asked.
"That's him," Sammy said, "Owned the Dungeon Hole over Journal Square a few years back. Well, Covelski hired Denny Gallivan to serve tables at a birthday party he gave for his bimbo, Marion Sulzinski, in the banquet room of his place.
Zit's smiled. "I remember Marion. She was truly beautiful."
"Wasn't worth a damn though," Fat's said, "But, goddamn, she was beautiful."
"Could stop your heart, as well as turn your head," Marty agreed.
"What about the party?" Toughey said.
Sammy was only too anxious to regale them with the rest of the story. "Marion liked them big Polish sausages, you know? I mean, you give her a choice lobster, filet mignon, pheasant under glass or sausage she takes the kielbasa every time. Course, she being a fashion model . . ."
"No shit, she was?" Zits said, surprised.
"Well, yeah, she was," Sammy said. "It was in her contract that she couldn't eat them, or certain other things but one or twice a year, 'cause they was afraid she'd get too fat. Anyway, so it's her birthday, and Covelski has them serve these great big fat sausages arranged on beds of boiled cabbage. Some wise guy gets this idea, and they make up a tray of sausages but with this hole in the bottom through which Denny Gallivan sticks his dick and lays it out there with the rest of the sausages on the cabbage.
He goes over to Marion Sulzinski and tells her to make her selection. She don't know the joke, of course, and she's not paying much attention. She gives the tray a fast glance and shoves her fork into the sausage she fancies, which is Denny Gallivan's dick."
They all laughed, with Marty laughing the loudest and the longest, but not as long or as loud as the others might have hoped.
"Christ, that must have hurt a little," Fat's said.
"Denny Gallivan let out a yell they heard all the way down to the Jersey Shore," Sammy said, with a forlorn smile.
"So what did Denny do, sue Covelski? Put a hit on the wise guy's?"
Denny couldn't put no hit on anyone," Zit's said.
"No," Sammy said, "but Covelski settled with him. That's how poor Denny Gallivan bought the hot dog stand he had for years over on Montgomery Street near the high school. But that ain't all," Sammy stopped a moment before sniffing, and wiping his nose on his arm. The others waited for what was more.
"Marion was so upset about what she accidentally done to Denny's pride and joy, that she took him to her own doctor and nursed his joint back to health afterward. That's how come Marion, who was so beautiful that she could stop your heart, came to be Denny's broad for two years, maybe more. I mean, well, word was she figured here was this big sausage; she could have all she wanted, never worry about getting fat. At least that's what people who like to tell dirty stories used to say."
Marty spoke up, "There were others who said Denny Gallivan was the sweetest guy ever lived."
There was a long silence; and no one contradicted what Marty had said. They happened to agree with him on that point.
Fat's asked, "Whatever happened to Marion?"
Sammy said, "Oh, you know. Models. . . . Her time in front of the camera passed. They lost interest in her as a subject. She got older and last I heard she wound up working as a salesgirl in a small town in North Carolina."
Fat's wandered over to the stove and returned to the table with a hot pot of coffee, and poured refills all around.
"My kidneys are floatin'," Marty said, and got up, walked to the toilet.
Fat's said, "I don't know about you guys, I'm going to miss Denny Gallivan, and then took a long swallow from his bottle of beer.
"That 'cause he dropped mosta his hotdog money at this table here?" Toughey asked genially enough.
"Maybe I should head home now," Sammy said, putting down his half empty cup and standing."
Marty came back, pulling at the front of his trousers to settle himself. A small wet stain was spreading across his crotch area.