I didn’t want to rule out further excerpts completely but I think I’ve about wrapped up Charlie’s story. I spent some time this past weekend working through a hard copy with a red pen. I didn’t make it all the way through but managed what I considered some decent progress. Once I finish that initial read-through and revision I’m going to be trolling for beta readers. (That’s the term, right? Beta? Someone who will read and provide feedback?)
Until that time, here’s a little more of Charlie’s story for those of you who have been following along. Thanks for reading.
Jeff put the phone down and groaned. He had hoped he could close up and head home for the night, pick up the Minnelli investigation in the morning. But a quiet evening at home wasn’t meant to be. Standing up, he put a fresh notebook in the pocket of his jacket, grabbed his hat on the way out of his office and locked up.
Hazel’s was close enough he didn’t have to drive but since it was after dark the temperature had dropped some so he took the Jeep anyway. He’d be headed home from there and it would save him a walk back. Parking in the first available space, he went inside.
“Hey Maggie,” he greeted the waitress, touching the brim of his hat in her direction. He crossed to the booth where Luke and another, older man sat. “Tyler.”
“Hello Jeff,” Luke said. He nodded toward the other man. “This is my client, Leo Delaney.”
Jeff held out his hand and the other man took it, shaking firmly. “Sheriff,” Leo said.
“Call me Jeff,” the Sheriff said. “We’re on the informal side around here.”
“Then I’m Leo,” the older man replied. “Please, have a seat.”
Jeff slid into the booth opposite Luke, removing his hat and setting it aside. He pulled the notebook from his pocket along with a pen.
“So Luke tells me you have information I should hear.”
“I think you might find it of interest,” Leo said. He put the last piece of steak in his mouth and chewed it slowly. Then he drank the last of his beer and set the glass on his empty plate. “Your ‘Blockhead’ as you call him, is probably Carlo Dante.”
“Car…, wait, isn’t that one of the shooters Jack testified against?”
“It is,” Leo nodded. “The reluctant partner of Tony Minnelli.”
“And you think he’s here in Manning and shot Joey Minnelli?” Jeff was confused. “Why would he shoot his partner’s brother?”
“Because he lost everything while he was in prison Jeff.”
“But wouldn’t that make him want to kill Jack?” Jeff was scribbling notes as fast as he could.
“You would think so, wouldn’t you?” Leo took a drink of water. “However, when Jack ditched me a few months back I started looking into the old case to see if I could figure out what Jack was trying to protect me from. What I found out surprised me.”
“Are you planning to share it with us old man, or just tease us?” Luke asked, straight faced.
“Well not if you keep that shit up,” Leo replied, hiding a smile.
“Could you tell just me then?” Jeff asked politely.
“Of course,” Leo answered, just as politely. “Don’t let us worry you Jeff; Luke and I mix it up all the time. He forgets I can beat the hell out of him any time I want to.”
“In your dreams Leo,” Luke said, but he was grinning and Jeff relaxed.
“So, please go on,” the Sheriff invited.
“Back when Tony persuaded Carlo to go along with him on the DeFranco hit, Vinnie Minnelli, the Godfather was in peace talks with Gino DeFranco.” Leo could see that Jeff was lost.
“The Minnellis and the DeFrancos were enemies, much like the Capulets and Montagues from Romeo and Juliet,” he explained. When Jeff nodded, Leo went on. “Vinnie was tired of the bloodshed and afraid for his daughters. He reached out to Gino DeFranco with a peace proposal and Gino bit.
“They were negotiating the terms, dividing up territories, et cetera when Tony, who hated the idea of peace between the families, decided to throw a wrench in the plan. He persuaded Carlo Dante to go with him to take out several of the DeFrancos.”
“You said Dante was reluctant?” Jeff asked.
“Dante has a reputation for being slow,” Leo explained. “Could be he was mentally impaired, could be he had an undiagnosed learning disability, could be he got hit in the head once too many times. I don’t suppose we’ll ever know for sure. But as a result he was easily manipulated, and Tony had always been there for him so he would follow Tony almost without question.”
“Almost?” Jeff looked up from his notebook.
“Yeah, almost. Apparently when Tony told him what they were going to do, Carlo balked. He liked the idea of peace. He was newly married with one kid and another on the way. The prospect of peace between the families was like a dream to him.”
“Then why did he go with Tony?” Jeff asked.
“Tony convinced him that Vinnie planned to install DeFrancos in the family business,” Leo said. “And that he – Carlo – would have no way to support his family. Dante wasn’t a member of the Minnelli Family, he was what might be called a ‘hanger on’. The Family owed him no loyalty and Tony persuaded him that with a peace there’d be no place for him.”
“That would mess with a guy’s head,” Luke said.
“Which was what Tony wanted,” Leo replied. “Carlo never would have been in that park otherwise.
“And you think the guy who shot Joey Minnelli is Carlo Dante?” Jeff stopped scrawling notes and looked at Leo.
“Almost certainly from the description you have.”
“But I still don’t understand why he would be after Joey?”
“As I said, while he was in prison Dante lost everything. His wife died in childbirth. His children want nothing to do with him. He has terminal cancer now, which is why he was released late last year.
“And he holds his partner responsible,” Jeff muttered, connecting the dots, “So he went after Joey because Tony’s still in prison and he couldn’t get to him.”
“That’s my theory,” Leo agreed, nodding. “And I think my theory’s accurate except for one thing.”
“Here’s where I get to catch up,” Luke said, leaning forward. He glanced at Jeff who was looking up curious. “He wouldn’t tell me this next part till you came.”
“Except for what one thing?” Jeff asked, meeting Leo’s gaze.
“Except that Tony Minnelli was released from prison last week.”