Reed Farrel Coleman

The Brooklyn Rules

Killing O'Malley

Though only pushing forty, Pete Connell was a bitter old fuck, the kind of man to turn the Host into ashes at the touch of his tongue. BodyofChrist, my ass! He was the worst kind of bitter old fuck, an impotent and drunken one and a liar to boot. His shamed relations claimed a thousand reasons for Pete's sour spirit, their favorite centering on the horror of D-Day.

'Oh, poor Peter,' they would say. 'The war done him in. His heart sopped up the horror at Omaha Beach, and his soul broke in the face of so much death. And the bottle … It's ruined better men than himself.'

Eloquent for sure, but utter bullshit. The only sand to have touched Pete's boney white feet had come from Brighton Beach. There were too many Jews for his taste at Manhattan Beach. And the closest he'd come to D-Day combat was slapping around a two-buck whore in Omaha, Nebraska, for laughing at his limp dick. She'd slashed his face with a straight razor for striking her.

'Kraut schrapnel!' he'd bark whenever anyone asked about the scar.

Perhaps the weakest excuse of all was the drink. In the overall scheme of things, Pete Connell had certainly brought more troubles to the bottle than the bottle to him. No, some men are just bitter born. He was one. There was but one pleasure, one joy in the miserable bastard's existence, his beloved Dodgers. Them Bums were it for him. Forget Kelly green Irish blood, Connell bled Brooklyn Dodger blue.

That night, the night at Muldoon's when the news fell on the patrons' heads like a British Comet falling out of the sky, Pete Connell was already feeling it. He was already several sheets to the wind, beer and bile indistinguishable to his palate. And what made the news that much worse to bear was the messenger. Pete Connell despised Michael Duke for everything Duke was and he was not.

Whereas Connell had pissed away his police career-taking a five-buck bribe from a colored whore and getting caught in the act-Duke had built his American dream out of near death and dust. Then again, Pete Connell always sold cheap. Even now, as the produce man at the Packers Supermarket on Kings Highway, Connell had sown the seeds of his own demise. For months he'd been selling a quarter of his daily order to Marinelli's Green Grocer on Avenue P for ten cents on the dollar and putting the shortages down as spoils. Ten cents on the dollar, that was Pete Connell.

Michael Duke had come to the States after the war with the first wave of refugees and camp survivors. When he arrived in Brooklyn in '46, he was Mikhail Dukelsky, a twenty-one-year old from Kiev who had exploited his wits and math skills to impress his Einsatz Groupen masters enough to last three years under their blood-red thumbs. He had used his ten-plus years in New York to change more than his name. Now a citizen and a CPA employed by the city, he lived a quiet, comfortable life with his wife and newborn son in a nicely appointed two-bedroom flat on Avenue H. He'd even purchased a plot of land in the Catskills on which he someday hoped to build a summer cabin.

His one selfish pleasure was his after-dinner stroll to Muldoon's Tavern at the junction of Nostrand and Flatbush Avenues. Mike enjoyed the serenity of the Brooklyn College campus as he made his way to the bar for his nightly stein of Rheingold. It relaxed him, strolling across the peaceful green quadrangle, stopping to gaze up at the clock mounted atop the tall white steeple. He loved the chiming of the bells. In the Ukraine, there were clock and bell towers too, thousands of them. Not even the Nazis and accursed Soviets could have destroyed them all. But Mike Duke thought the Brooklyn College steeple most beautiful of all. It was so un-European, so devoid of religious burden. That night, however, he did not linger by the clock tower nor was his stroll to Muldoon's a matter of simple relaxation.

'If it ain't Mike the kike,' Pete whispered just loud enough for Duke to hear.

Usually, Michael ignored the prick's asinine barbs. Compared to the inhumanity he had suffered at the hands of the SS, Connell's bigotry was usually no more than the buzzing of a fly. But just lately, it had begun to eat at him. Maybe it was the birth of his son, Alan, that had changed his attitude. That he had been forced to endure the hatred of others in the old country was one thing, but this was America, he was an American, and Michael would be damned if he would let small-minded cowards like Pete Connell poison his son's life. Tonight he would see to that.

The bar was empty save for Connell, Muldoon himself, Hattie the Hooker, and the Professor-a bum who had Einstein hair and scribbled nonsense on Bazooka Bubble Gum wrappers.

'Hey, Mike,' Muldoon muttered, putting up a tall glass of beer. 'How goes it?'

'Thank you, Patrick,' Duke said, placing two quarters on the bar: one for the beer and the other as tip. 'As to your question, I fear it goes not so well.'

'How's that?' the barman asked.

'I bring bad news.'

'What, someone blow up the Hebrew National hot dog plant?' Connell blurted out.

'Very funny, Pete. Why not cut the guy some slack?' Muldoon snapped.

'No, Patrick, that's all right. After I tell you my news, we will all need to find a way to laugh.' Duke sipped his beer.

'Now you got me curious, Mike.'

'Yeah, Heeb, you even got my attention.'

'You know I work for the City Budget Office, right?' Mike began. 'And if you recall, I mentioned several months ago that I was working on a very serious project that involved Brooklyn.'

'Sure. Sure!' Muldoon snapped his fingers. 'But you said you couldn't talk too much about it because you could get in hot water.'

'Yes, Patrick, you remember.'

'Enough with the suspense, Heeb,' Connell snarled.

'I guess I should just say it then. Here goes. The Dodgers are leaving Brooklyn.'

Pete Connell spit out his drink. Hattie lifted her head off the bar. Even the Professor stopped scribbling.

'I like you a lot, Mike, but you shouldn't ought to joke like that, not if you wanna live to see sunrise.'

'I wish only that it was a joke,' Mike said, holding his hands prayerfully. 'But I swear on the souls of my murdered parents that I speak the truth.'

Grief grew heavy in the air as Michael Duke explained how Mayor Wagner tried calling Walter O'Malley's bluff and how O'Malley had basically told Wagner to go fuck himself.

'He did a little Irish jig,' Mike said, lifting his trouser legs and hopping from foot to foot. 'He said Wagner should come visit him in L.A. and that he would find the mayor some nice seats in the Coliseum with the wetbacks, Japs, and Chinks.'

Of course, this last part was a complete fabrication, meant specifically for Connell's ears. Mike went on for about ten minutes, describing in excruciating detail how Walter O'Malley had taken great pleasure in his own greed and the thought of spitting on all of Brooklyn.

'The things he said about us … I am embarrassed even to repeat them. I will tell you, I was sick to my stomach.'

'Go on,' Connell demanded, 'tell me what he said.'

'First,' Mike said, putting a ten spot on the bar, 'a round for us all. You too, Patrick.'

'Okay, kike,' Connell said, 'let's have it, every word.'

Mike suggested that he and Connell retire to a corner table and discuss it between themselves. He said he knew that Pete hated him, but that on this issue they were brothers, that every Brooklynite had one color in common, Dodger blue. Pete agreed. Michael left the money on the bar and told Muldoon to keep the drinks coming.

Michael laid it on thick, pulling Pete's strings with every word, whispering so that only Connell could hear. First he told how O'Malley admitted to always hating greaseball guineas, stupid Polacks, and thick-skulled kraut

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