“Eggers was hung over this morning, but not enough to forget to weasel out of doing it himself.”

“So he made you do it?”

“Can you think of any other reason why I’d be involved?”

“Joe Giraldi,” Dino said. “He’s one of my guys, and I lent him to the Mob task force. He could do a family tree. He hates those guys, and it makes him good at his work. Here’s his number.”

Stone wrote it down. “Then I bet he would enjoy testifying against them.”

“He might, at that. I hope you don’t think I’m going to testify.”

“You sure as hell are. You’re my only eyewitness; you saw everything.” He paused. “Didn’t you?”


“What do you mean, ‘maybe’?”

“What’s in it for me?”

“You’ll have Herbie Fisher’s undying gratitude.”

“I’d rather have his dying gratitude.”

“Me, too, but I haven’t figured out how to make that happen, yet.”

“Oh, just pursue this case; it’ll happen. Maybe you’ll happen, too.”

“I’m going to try and avoid that.”

“Good idea. Maybe you better go see Eduardo.”

Eduardo Bianchi was Dino’s former father-in-law. He was Stone’s former father-in-law, too, but that was complicated. “I hate to bug him with something this trivial.”

“He likes you; he’ll give you a good lunch.”


“What else you got?”

“Not much.”

“Have a good time.”


Stone dictated the complaint and told Joan to get it filed immediately, then he went through his accounts receivable, looking for who owed him. Hardly anybody, as it turned out, and not very much. That took the rest of the morning. He ate a sandwich at his desk and worried about money.

After lunch, he called Dino’s Mob guy.

“Joe Giraldi,” a voice said.

“Hi, Joe, I’m Stone Barrington; I used to be Dino Bacchetti’s partner at the one nine.”

“I know who you are,” Giraldi replied. He didn’t sound thrilled.

“Dino told me you know everything there is to know about the Mob in New York.”

“If I knew everything there was to know about the Mob in New York, they’d all be doing time in Attica.”

“Heh, heh,” Stone said. “Well, the fact remains that you know a hell of a lot more than I know, and that’s what I’m looking for.”

“For what? You writing a novel?”

“No, I’m filing a civil suit against Carmine Dattila and…” Stone stopped talking. All he could hear was laughter from the other end of the line. He waited for it to subside.

“That’s rich!” Giraldi howled, trying to get control of himself. “Hey, Charlie,” he shouted to somebody in the room, “I got some schmuck lawyer on the phone says he’s going to sue Carmine Dattila!” There were howls from what sounded like half a dozen other cops. Giraldi eventually got control of himself. “What are you suing him for, Barrington?”

“A couple of his people assaulted a client of mine while collecting a debt.”

“Well, that’s what they do,” Giraldi chuckled. “Give your client some advice for me: Tell him to pay what he owes and not to bet with Mob bookies again. That’ll solve his problem.”

“I’m afraid it’s a little late for that,” Stone said. “He owes twenty-four grand.”

“Sheesh!” Giraldi exhaled. “What do you want to know?”

“I’ve got a lot of questions about the structure of Dattila’s family, who does what, that sort of thing.”

“Well, my price for that sort of thing is a steak dinner.”

“You’re on. Elaine’s at eight-thirty?”

“Nah, nah, nah. The Palm at seven-thirty. I get hungry early.”

Stone sighed. “All right, but that’s got to cover your testifying, too.”

“I’d love to testify against Carmine for anything,” Giraldi said, “in the unlikely event that it ever looks like you’re getting to court. I predict that your client and your other witnesses will be inspecting the bottom of Sheepshead Bay well before the trial date. Carmine doesn’t bother to buy off witnesses; it’s cheaper to off them.”

“The Palm at seven-thirty,” Stone said and hung up. He buzzed Joan. “Please book me a table for two at the Palm at seven-thirty.”

“You can’t afford it,” she said.

“Don’t worry, it’s research; I’ll bill Woodman and Weld.”

“Whatever you say. Oh, by the way, I can’t find a process server who’s willing to serve Carmine Dattila.”


“They all know his reputation.”

“Double the fee.”

“I tried that; the general response was, ‘You don’t have enough money.’ Apparently, the last guy who tried to serve Mr. Dattila didn’t make it home to dinner that night. Or any other night.”

“Why don’t you take off early tonight and drop off this summons?”

“Yeah, sure. I thought we already established that you can’t afford to lose me. You’re going to have to do it yourself, Stone.”

“You think I’m afraid of some two-bit wiseguy?”

“I read in the Post that Mr. Dattila is worth at least a hundred million dollars, and if you have any sense at all, you’re afraid of him.”

You read the Post?”

“The New York Times is not a full meal for everybody; some of us need dessert.”

“Just book the table.”

Stone arrived on time at the Palm to find Joe Giraldi waiting for him at the bar. He remembered the guy now; his desk had always been way across the squad room. “Good to see you again, Joe,” he said, motioning the bartender for the cop’s bill. He was about to leave a ten on the bar, when the bill arrived: fifteen bucks, not including tip. “Jesus, what are you drinking, Joe?”

“Johnnie Walker Black. Isn’t that in your budget?”

“Sure, sure,” Stone replied, leaving a twenty on the bar. Eggers would shit a brick, but that was okay with him. He steered Giraldi to their table. “Want another one?”

“Just to keep the flow of conversation going,” he replied.

Stone ordered another Johnnie Walker Black and a Knob Creek, and they looked at the menu. Stone gulped. He hadn’t been here in years, and inflation had taken its toll. He wondered if the waiter would speak to him if he ordered the hamburger steak, if they had a hamburger steak.

Giraldi didn’t even look at the menu. “I’ll have the Caesar salad and the Kobe strip,” he said to the waiter. “Medium.”

“I’ll have the same salad and the regular, ordinary American strip,” Stone said. “Medium rare.” He closed the menu before he could see the price of Kobe beef, which, allegedly, came from Japanese cattle that had been massaged daily by geishas, or something.

“Would you like some wine?” the waiter asked. The question was directed at Giraldi.

“Yeah,” Giraldi replied. “You got a Far Niente cabernet, right?”

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