Electric Boogaloo, Chapter 2: “Tony Puzzorelli Sr.”

Chapter 2: Tony Puzzorelli Sr.

Anthony Puzzorelli Sr. steeled himself as he approached the entrance for the Skinny FoXes strip club. It wasn’t supposed to have happened this way.

Ten men lost, including a nephew. Only two survivors, one in the hospital, and another missing. And now he had to explain to Jack Trent how, after fighting so long to have his family allowed to organize yesterday’s mission, he had managed to screw up so badly.

Upon arriving in the bar, Anthony haphazardly mixed several drinks into a glass, whose final product took on a sickly green pallor, which he began imbibing. He watched as Weasel, The Most Punchable Man In The World and—for some reason Tony couldn’t fathom—currently Jack Trent’s Consigliere, approached him, with a look of barely suppressed glee on his face. “Diamondback wants to see you,” he said, in his intolerably screechy drone which never failed to give Tony a headache. “Probably wants to congratulate you on your success yesterday.”

“In a minute, Weasel.” After finishing his drink, he went to the bathroom, where he took a prodigious piss. After spending a minute washing his hands, he finally decided to move towards the strip club’s back room, where Diamondback awaited.

Jack “Diamondback” Trent first made a name for himself as an enforcer for the Bustamante crime family during the early nineties. It was during this time that he gained his nickname, after he was reportedly shot eleven times in the back during a gang war with the Dracons without sustaining any major injuries. Since then, he had become the family’s go-to troubleshooter, until a civil war within the group caused several of its higher-ranking Mafiosi to rally behind him as the one man who could take down Silvio Bustamante, the Boss. Which he did. Years later, after the Five Families reunited in order to take advantage of The Shredder’s demise, he was an obvious candidate for leadership. Not that Tony Puzzorelli agreed.

Tony found Jack sitting behind his desk, looking more restless than anything else. “Remind me again, Tony, why choosing you to organize yesterday’s operation was a good idea. I’m sure you had a reason,” he said in a clear, precise monotone, which of course was scarier than if he’d been shouting—people who remained that calm, in Tony’s experience, were usually psychopaths.

Tony tried to recall his old arguments. “I knew people. It was in my old turf. It would help keep any heat away from you.” All logical reasons, although that did not make Tony feel any better.

Diamondback apparently agreed, as the eerie calmness persisted. “Oh, that’s right. Perfectly logical,” “So please explain why the fuck we’re down 14 men with nothing to show for it.”

“I…I don’t…” suddenly another rumor about Jack Diamondback came to mind. That while he hadn’t received any injuries to his torso, his head had been another matter entirely. Surely that was the only way to explain why the crime boss wasn’t trying to strangle him right now.

“What’s that? You don’t know how you fucked up? That there was no way you could have predicted that another group would attack the warehouse that same night?”

“Exactly. I didn’t—wait, what? You mean it wasn’t the Foot that killed all our men?”

“I’d wager not. Calling attention to themselves with something as flashy as a fire isn’t their style. No, this was someone else.”

Tony’s allowed himself to become a tad calmer. He may yet live through this. “So I’m off the hook?”

“Oh, not at all. However, you’ll get to keep your guts, for now. Fail me again, however, and no amount of mitigating circumstances will save you. Is that clear?”

“Y-yes sir.”

“Good. Two things, then. Has anybody heard from Dracon?”

“Not at all,” Tony said, glad that he was no longer the topic of conversation. “We’re reasonably sure he’s still alive, though—my man on the force tells me he wasn’t among those found.”

“Find him. He’s just as responsible as you for yesterday’s fiasco and I can’t have him, or anybody else, desert us at this time.”

“Yes sir.”

“Second question: is there any reason why Anthony Jr. was not chosen for yesterday’s job?”

“Junior? He’s useless. A total disappointment to the family.”

“Fair enough. However, you might want to integrate him more fully in what we’re doing here. It doesn’t look good to have one of my lieutenants shielding his family from the dangers of our job—it gives the impression of favoritism, and you don’t need people to be any more pissed off at you than they already are. Is that clear.”

“Yes, sir,” Tony said, as he tried to repress a scoff. No favoritism? In this outfit?

“Well then, unless you have something else to say, that will be all. And Tony?”

“Yeah?”

“Fix yourself a drink and call up a girl. You look horrible.”

As he left the room, his life assured for the moment, a wave of anger washed over Tony. How the fuck could he have let that upstart dominate him to that extent? He was Tony Puzzorelli, and yet there he was going all “yes sir”, “no sir” and “please allow me the pleasure of sucking your dick, sir.” It was intolerable.

As he served himself another shot of bourbon, Tony allowed himself to fantasize. Give him half a chance, and he’d show everyone what he could do. Tony Puzzorelli was no one’s puppet.

* * *

“Any idea what Bluestone wants us for?” Elisa’s partner, Cedric Harris, asked, as they both walked to their superior’s office in the NYPD’s Midtown South Precinct.

“I have a few guesses. Did you see him at the press conference?”

“Yup. Calling it awkward would be doing it a kindness.”

Although Matt Bluestone did not usually take part in press conferences, the fact that he had been tapped to deal with the “Canal Street Massacre”, as the media would dub Tuesday’s incident, meant that he’d had to take questions from the reporters. And while it was something Bluestone could certainly do, it had been clear that the spotlight did not shine on him favorably.

“Elisa. Cedric,” Matt greeted, as the two detectives entered the office that had once belonged to María Chavez, until the N.Y.P.D.’s post 9/11 restructuration moved her on to better things.

“Hey, Matt,” Elisa intoned, casually. “What do you need us for?”

“You both heard the press conference, right? How we’re supposedly organizing a task force to deal with this gang war we’ve suddenly admitted is happening? Well, you two have both been drafted.”

Detailed. Although Elisa wasn’t the least bit surprised, she was still quite apprehensive. Task forces, in her experience, were usually crapshoots. Given the right team, they could lead to some surprisingly rewarding work. Just as often, however, task forces were cobbled together from people whom departments really wanted to get rid of or punish; when that happened, it usually meant weeks of carrying the bad members’ loads, only to find the work wasted at the end when the brass lost interest.

“I’ll be e-mailing you the details later on—I just wanted you to hear it from me first.”

“Did they ask for us, or was it your suggestion?” Cedric asked.

“I suggested you, actually. Gordon Miller—your new boss—asked me for suggestions, and I’d thought that I’d send my best people.”

“Yay us, then. Anything else?”

“Not really.”

“Just like old times, eh, Elisa?” Cedric asked, as both detectives left Bluestone’s office?

“Huh?—sorry, I was distracted.”

“I was just saying how this reminds me of our first detail together—that anti-terrorist thing seven—eight years ago.”

“Oh. Right. Yeah, I was thinking the same thing. Some memories, huh?”

Which wasn’t quite true. Although both Elisa and Cedric were indeed thinking of the same assignment, their memories of the period were quite different. Elisa remembered that group as the Gargoyle Task Force, formed the day the world learned of the creatures’ existence. Cedric remembered no such thing.

* * *

As the first drops of sweet, sweet alcohol touched Longer’s lips, the disgraced policeman dwelled, as he usually did, on the events that had derailed his career.

He’d been a good cop, once. Although his investigative and deductive chops during those first few years weren’t up to snuff, he had something just as important: professionalism and passion. “Treat everybody with respect, complete every job to the utmost of your abilities; you might not get up that ladder, but you will never despair”, his mother would often say. He had never really believed it growing up, which made it all the more surprising when he began abiding by the maxim, and even more so when he realized…it worked. Witnesses were friendlier. Informants were more cooperative. Other policemen were less dismissive. Nobody was surprised when he was quickly promoted to detective and reassigned to Organized Crime. Things were fine, for a while. He learned the ropes, improved his craft and continued as he had on his beat. He had found his calling…until Ruffington.

Longer first learned of the arms dealer when he learned that Agatha, his then-boyfriend’s sister and a vice-president for Ruffington’s company, was being investigated for allegedly embezzling funds. Convinced of her innocence, he began investigating the C.E.O.—first on his own, and then, after convincing his superiors of the soundness of his claim, as part of an official investigation. It took some doing, but eventually they hit pay-dirt: Ruffington was dirty: briberies, illegal sales to underworld groups, fraud; had it been against anybody else, it would have been a slam dunk case.

However…

Lost evidence. Disappeared or strangely silent informants. Pressure from above. A suddenly cautious target. With each setback, Longer grew more paranoid and obsessed with stopping him. Ruffington had laid a trap for him, and he’d eagerly and without reservations walked into it.

As Longer drunkenly made his way to his apartment, relying more on muscle memory than anything else, he suddenly heard an all too familiar sound. Gunshots.

Shaken out of his half-awake state, the policeman pulled out his service weapon and headed towards the source of the noise, one of Manhattan’s ubiquitous dark alleys; however, instead of the ubiquitous New York mugger, he found something altogether different—the less ubiquitous New York corpse.

Shaking off his drunkenness as much as he could—the smell of blood helped—Longer examined the scene as well as he could in the dark. The shooter was nowhere to be seen, although he or she apparently had not been smart enough to know not to leave the murder weapon behind. The body was dressed like something out of martial arts movie, in a full body suit and mask, which sported an insignia that seemed familiar, although Longer couldn’t remember from where. He held a bloody sword in its right hand—apparently the killer had been wounded as well.

Before long, a forensics unit arrived at the scene, and after answering a series of questions, Longer was let go—something about being too intoxicated to be of further use, which was almost undoubtedly the case. Although disappointed, the detective felt happier than he had in a while; it had been the closest he had come to actual police work in months. Already he was imagining several scenarios for how the murder had gone down. Given the amount of blood on the floor and on the sword, the shooter had to have been pretty badly wounded—he or she would most almost certainly have to check in at a nearby hospital or unlicensed clinic. Fortunately, he knew precisely where to look.

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