Augie by John H
JOHN H RIZZO
RED PARIGI SAT AND SIPPED a bottle of Heineken as he looked with mild anxiety at the sleeping cell phone that lay on the iron tabletop next to him on the rear patio of his lavish Boca Raton residence. He faced east towards his yacht, Nancy, which was bobbing gently on the Innercoastal Canal that bordered his backyard. He luxuriated in the hot tropical night, as his skin soaked up the warm but refreshing breeze that wafted off the ocean and sighed a subtle counterpoint to the thrumming of the cicadas, with a delightful obbligato from the occasional cries of various water birds.
But Red’s mind was not on the aesthetics of this typical South Florida evening. Phil should have called by now. Actually he should have called at least an hour ago. The last time he talked to him before feeding Augie some bullshit, Phil said he had made the delivery and was just about to go out the door of M & M Trucking. Red had ordered him to call the Chicago cops as soon as he was outside and to phone him immediately thereafter. Then Phil was supposed to get a cab to O’Hare and to let Red know when he would be back in Miami.
Besides horses and his daughters, Red had a soft spot for his younger brother. Phil wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer, but he was blood, and he needed looking after, even though he was forty years old. Maybe he wasn’t going to call until he got to the airport. But he should have been there by now, shouldn’t he? Well, Red knew from experience that things don’t always go according to clockwork and, the last time he talked to Phil, everything seemed okay. Nevertheless, the kid should have called by now. So Red sat staring at his phone, waiting for it to ring, much as Augie had earlier. It made him think about that time, around ten years before when he anxiously awaited a call…a call that would change his life...
IT HAD BEEN THREE WEEKS since Tori murdered his estranged wife and her lover. He had dug up the money and jewels that he had taken from that pansy maitre ‘d twenty or so years ago. Once again he took a boat to Miami, this time bringing Phil with him.
Naturally, it had cost him double for the boat trip, but he had no doubt that having someone he could trust for a companion, someone potentially as ruthless as Phil, would be well worth the extra expense. The brothers checked into the Del Rey Beach Hotel in South Beach, and Tori immediately called his father’s longtime friend, Skeets Bonano. Sonny Boy’s old chum connected the brothers with Gus “Bags” Branchesi, who led a crew of thieves and cutthroats that were into all kinds of illegal activities, from drug dealing to murder-for-hire.
Although, even back then, Gino Torelli was the Numero Uno Cosa Nostra figure in Dade County, the Miami chapter was not as tightly run by a central authority as in Chicago, where Hippy Fiore gave the orders. There was token obeisance in South Florida to Gino, but most of the crews operated independently, like small businesses. Naturally, there was quite a bit of competition between the crews, sometimes resulting in bloodshed, so the crew bosses, like Bags Branchesi, were always on the lookout for new members who were tough and ready for violence. The first time Gus met the Parigis, he knew they were exactly what he was looking for.
The first thing they did after being admitted to Bags’ crew, was to meet with a creepy weapons dealer named Pasquale Spadaccino. This guy was the ugliest man Tori had ever seen, but he had a humongous arsenal in his Everglades hideaway. Among other things, Tori bought a Glock 9mm and shoulder holster for himself, and a .38 revolver with an ankle holster for Phil. He also bought a pair of twin black-handled pushbutton stilettos for him and his brother. Tori still favored his trusty straight razor for slashing, but the stiletto gave him the ability to stab as well as cut, and he always preferred killing with cold steel, as opposed to firearms. It was this stiletto that he would use to carve up Frankie Blue.
Before Tori and his brother got rolling with the Branchesi gang, he wanted to get in touch with Nestor Ruiz, the rancher from Colombia. He had called the Miami number Ruiz had given him, but his secretary said that her boss was “out of the country at this time,” but he would be returning in a “couple of days” and that she would give him Tori’s phone number when he got back.
That was a week ago. While Phil went out, hunting pussy as usual, Tori never left the Del Rey. He just sat in the hotel room, reading newspapers and magazines as he waited for Ruiz’ call. He had almost given up on Ruiz when the phone rang one sultry afternoon. When Tori answered, he was greeted by Ruiz’ secretary who told him that the Man would see Parigi “tomorrow at three o’clock.”
Tori, dressed as nattily as possible, waited in the outer office of Ruiz’ downtown business suite for about half an hour before the sexy blonde secretary led him to her master’s inner sanctum. Just as they got to the door, it opened and Ruiz came out, dressed in a dark blue blazer with tan slacks. Tori immediately stuck out his hand, which the man took tentatively, giving Tori a vacant look that showed absolutely no trace of recognition. “Don’t you remember me Señor...from Havana?” Tori asked hopefully.
“Tori! Come on in!” shouted a voice from the inner office.
Tori, still pumping the man’s hand, was startled to recognize Ruiz’ voice. He looked in the office and was dumbfounded to see another Ruiz behind a twelve-foot-wide desk, laughing and motioning him to come in. What? Did this fucker have a twin brother? Then Tori looked closely at the face of the man whose hand he was shaking.
The difference, mainly around the eyes and nose, was very slight, but it was there all right. He looked back and forth. Even from a short distance, the two men looked identical, with the same builds and general features. Mystified, Tori entered the office as the secretary closed the door behind him, and took a seat facing Ruiz on the other side of the desk.
Ruiz smiled at Tori, who could only utter, “Who...?”
“That’s Jaime. He works for me...and is paid very well...a million dollars a year, in fact.”
“A million per year?” mumbled the perplexed Tori.
“With success comes enemies. Don’t ever forget that, Tori. There are a lot of people who would like nothing better than to kill me. Jaime is very well paid because he is prepared to take a bullet for me. Of course he wears body armor under his shirt, but...Anyway, I am very happy to see you.”
“Likewise, Señor,” Tori replied politely. “What can I do for you?”
“An excellent question. But first let me say, as I’m sure that you have already figured out, that raising and breeding horses is not my main business. It’s not a business at all, actually. It is a hobby. Nor is ranching in Colombia my major source of income.”
“Yeah, I figured that,” confirmed Tori.
“Okay, Amigo. Then let’s start at the beginning.”
Over the next hour or so, it became apparent that the warm relationship between the two men was a match made in Heaven—or, more appropriately—in Hell. Ruiz revealed that he was a buyer and seller of contraband, including cocaine, which he was able to purchase at the source for a very small cost. He imported it to the States through the Dominican Republic. He sold huge quantities, for big profits, of “pure” product. A significant amount of this went to a Dominican gang for distribution in Miami and a piece of the East Coast. This gang was a “subsidiary” of the smugglers who moved the coke from South America to the U.S.
Ruiz, who was a Harvard graduate, had no real respect for the Dominicans other than that he had made a fortune doing business with them. They were “barbarians,” he sneered, and he saw a much brighter future doing business with Italians and their well-established markets. But up to now, he had no real “in” with them.
Tori, whose ethnic background, at least, was ideal, represented a way forward. Ruiz was pleased to learn that Tori had hooked up with Branchesi’s gang and he was delighted that his visitor had no qualms whatsoever about killing if the situation called for it.
Ruiz offered Tori an opportunity to buy virtually pure cocaine at prices Branchesi never dreamed of. But Tori would have to buy the product from Jorge Martinez, leader of the Dominican gang. When the interview was over, Ruiz walked Tori to the door, his arm around his shoulder, and said seriously, “Tori, there is no further need for us to see, or even talk to each other, until you have your own crew, and can start opening some markets, particularly in New York and Chicago. At that time there may be products even more profitable than cocaine to move. We’ll see. From now on, you deal with Martinez.”
Bags Branchesi nearly fainted with joy when Tori told him about his “secret” source for cocaine and the price he could get. This opened up a whole new market for a gang that had been doing okay, but clawing and scraping for every dollar. Suddenly the crew was awash in cash...everybody was making money, and the Parigi brothers were the heroes of the moment.
There were still problems, of course. Ruiz was not the only one who could buy cocaine from its source. Numerous small teams of entrepreneurs frequently made the dangerous trip to the jungles of Colombia, and many of them made it back to Miami to realize incredible profits selling it to whomever had the cash.
These brave freelancers were thorns in the Branchesi crew’s side, often selling the blow for less than the gangsters. Branchesi’s solution to this was simple. “Kill the fuckers.” Tori and Phil volunteered to do the dirty work, and soon the freelancers disappeared from the Miami scene.
The brothers would pose as buyers of the freelancers’ product and cut them to pieces at the transaction. Now, Tori had taken his father’s advice to heart, about getting rid of victims’ dead bodies whenever possible, and the disappearing act was made easier because Branchesi made a 16-foot speedboat available to the brothers. Between their butchery, some gym weights and the sharks, the gang’s competition was never heard from again. For this, both brothers soon became made men.
Then one evening, when the whole Branchesi crew was over at Bags’ backyard, grilling sausage and peppers, Gus said, “You know, there’s only one thing standing in our way of totally ruling on the coke front.”
“What’s that?” asked someone.
“That Dominican gang...you know...the honcho is Jose Martinez or something. If we can make them go away, we got it all.”
“Yeah!” cheered all the crew members except for Tori and Phil.
“Tori,” bellowed Bags, “you think you and your brother can waste enough of those guys to make the survivors take up the building trades?”
Tori was in a spot. He could not tell Branchesi that it was this very group that was furnishing their product. “Sure,” he said, thinking fast, “but we’ll have to come up with a plan first. And I’m not positive that me and Phil can take these guys down alone.”
“Don’t worry about it! All of us would like to get in on it if possible. Right boys?”…
JUST THEN, RED’S CELL PHONE RANG, snapping him back to Boca from the past. Before he picked it up, he looked at his Rolex. Two in the fucking morning! He must have dozed off. He grabbed the cell and said, “Yeah?”
“It’s me,” said Phil on the other end.
“Where the fuck have you been? I told you...”
“I know, Man, but I’ve had trouble?”
“What, with the cops?”
“No! It’s that fuckin’ Momo, or whatever the fucker’s name is...Augie’s brother.”
“What? He wasn’t supposed to be in on this!”
Phil went on to explain how Mimo got the drop on him just as he was going out the trucking building door to call 9-1-1. And how that fuckin’ brother of Augie’s made him drive all the way to Indianapolis, keeping his gun on him the entire time. Everything else had gone as planned, but two of the illegals croaked on the trip to Chicago, and their dead bodies were still in the truck.
Once Mimo got out, over two hundred miles from Chicago, Phil found a deserted-looking forest area and burned the bodies, then he hosed down the truck at a gas station and ditched it just south of Indy. He was calling from the Indianapolis Greyhound station now. Red told him to catch the next bus to Miami, but before he could hang up, he had to listen to a litany of cursing and swearing from Phil and how he was going to “Get that fuckin’ Momo. His wife, too,” but not before he “fucked the shit out of her.”
Red could not deny that things had not gone as they should have, but there just might be a way in all this that Phil could get his revenge, and Artie Musso could be checked at the same time