The Vanishing Santa, Part 7

Bruno felt a little stupid as he stood on the porch and knocked on the door, but a little stupid was an emotion that he could handle.

Plus, what he was about to do was going to make everything much better.

“What do you want?” Edmund Kroski demanded when he answered his door.

Bruno held out the giant deflated Santa Claus that he’d retrieved from Tex’s home before they’d left the man crying on his living room floor.

“Took you long enough,” the old man complained as he grabbed the Santa from Bruno’s grasp.

The two men exchanged icy glares.

“Took me long enough?” Bruno asked?  “Ya gotta be yanking my chain.  Ya only told me about this yesterday, and now it’s back.”

Kroski broke into a wide smile.  “Gotcha!”

Bruno just stared at his neighbor.

“Thank you, Detective Bruno.  Sincerely.  I never expected to see this again, and I appreciate your taking the time out of your holiday weekend to help a cranky, old neighbor.”

This finally led to Bruno flashing a half smile.

“Gotta prove I’m the best Detective in the city,” he grumbled.  “I don’t think there’s gonna be no more trouble, but if ya see anything suspicious, or anything else goes missing, come find me.”

Bruno turned to leave.

“Wait, you’re not going to inflate it and put it back on my lawn?” Kroski asked.

Bruno turned back ready to launch into a tirade, but he saw the old man’s smile.

“Gotcha again!” Kroski announced with glee.

Bruno just gave a polite nod, and turned again with no intention of stopping on his way to the car, regardless of what Kroski might say or do.

Thankfully, the old man chose the right to remain silent.  When Bruno got into the car, Wally turned to him with a goofy smile on his face.

“Another satisfied customer, I see.”

“Somedays, Kid, this job is totally satisfying,” Bruno observed, “and sometimes it takes all my power not to tell off the people I’m sworn to protect and serve.”

“Maybe he would have reacted nicer if he’d known you’d given Tex twenty bucks out of your own pocket for Santa,” Wally added his two cents.

Bruno shrugged.  “That guy was pathetic and clearly broke.  And it’s Christmas.  I figured he needed the money more than me.”

“Saint Bruno, patron saint of electronic country musicians,” Wally quipped.

Bruno chuckled.

“What’s next?” Wally asked.

“We’re gonna go talk to your lady friend ADA Ambrose,” was Bruno’s shocking reply.   “Then we’re gonna find out why the hell ya don’t know who Frankie Napkins is…”

Wally was both intrigued and worried about his immediate future.

Christmas, short story, Modern PhilosopherWhen they arrived at Michelle’s house, Bruno hesitated on the sidewalk.

“Is something wrong?” Wally called over his shoulder as he made his way up the front walk.

“Maybe ya wanna call ADA Ambrose first to alert her I’m with ya?” Bruno suggested in that hesitating manner he used when he felt awkward about a situation.  “Ya know, so she doesn’t come to greet ya all dolled up in some sexy lingerie or nothing…”

Wally chuckled.  “I already let her know we were coming.  And even though you might be here on a work issue, it is her home, so please call her Michelle, and not ADA Ambrose.”

Bruno nodded to acknowledge the request.  It was still hard for him to think of his old adversary as a friend he could address by her first name.

“And for the record, I must sadly report that she’s yet to greet me in sexy lingerie, but I am hopeful.”

Bruno cringed at the image.  Not because Michelle wasn’t attractive, but because this was someone he had to deal with quite often on a professional basis.  He couldn’t have weird mental images of her popping into his head at an inopportune moment.

Plus, Maggie would somehow know that such a mental image was up there, and she would give him hell for it.  That was a pain he refused to face.

Michelle did greet Wally with a kiss, but was fully clothed.  Bruno got an unexpected hug.

“How was shopping with your family?” Wally asked.

“Fine, but we can talk about it later,” Michelle steered the conversation back to a place that wouldn’t be awkward for their guest.  “I’m sure Bruno doesn’t want to hear about that.”

Bruno smiled at both Michele’s directing the conversation to a better place, and for calling him Bruno.  They’d struggled with what she should call him outside of work, and had both agreed that Maggie was the only one who should call him Chip.  No one called him Arturo or Art, so they settled on Bruno.

After all, that was the name he was used to hearing tossed in his general direction.

“I’m sorry to butt in on your day off, Michelle, but I was kinda hoping ya could lend us a hand on two matters,” Bruno explained.

Wally raised an eyebrow because he thought they’d only come for help about Frankie Napkins.

“Anything I can do to help,” she replied with a genuine smile.

Michelle was all about ambition, and anything Bruno was working on was usually the kind of case that made headlines and careers.

“As you know, Francesco Tamponi, aka Frankie Napkins, recently got sprung on early parole by the State of New York cuz of their new laws dealing with prison overcrowding…”

Wally had a revelation and cut off Bruno.  “Now I get it.  His name’s Tamponi, so they call him Frankie Napkins.  Slightly sexist and gross, but also hilarious.”

Since it was her house, Bruno deferred to Michelle to give Wally the icy glare.

To his credit, Wally picked up on the mean look and shut his mouth.

“All members of law enforcement received an email stating that a notorious made man from New York had decided to relocate to our fair city upon being paroled,” Michelle responded.  “If I recall correctly, he said he wanted to retire from organized crime after twelve years in jail, and decided to move to the home he’d inherited from his uncle while in prison.”

“Apparently, ain’t every member of the police department read that email,” Bruno said as he cast a disapproving look at Wally.

Wally threw up his arms in surrender.

“We get so many emails,” he lobbied in his defense.  “I can’t possibly read them all.”

Bruno shook his head, while Michelle patted Wally on the shoulder as a mother would to settle down a child who had embarrassed himself in front of the entire family.

“If you want to move up in the Department, you need to read every email, babe,” she consoled him.

“I ain’t got as much pull as you, so can ya do a little digging and find out if he left the family amicably?” Bruno asked.

Michelle nodded as her brain immediately went to work calculating all the angles.

“Are you thinking not everyone in the Big Apple is happy that Frankie decided to leave the business?”

“Something like that,” Bruno concurred.  “Not for nothing, but it would be nice to have something to rattle his cage cuz we gotta talk to him about our case.”

Michelle smiled.  Having her name attached to a case linked to New York organized crime would look very good on her resume.

Wally smiled because Bruno had referred to it as “our” case.

“I’ll get on it immediately,” she promised.

“Thanks.  As for that second matter, it’s private…”

They both looked at Wally.

Detective Bruno, crime, Modern Philosopher“Wait!  What can you possibly need to talk about that doesn’t include me?” he whined.  “I know we’re not officially partners, but I am working with you on this.”

Bruno sighed and gave Michelle a look meant to convey that this was the kind of thing he had to put up with every time they worked together.

“This ain’t gotta do with our case,” Bruno said.  “It’s about your Christmas present, okay?  There, you made me say it.  Are ya happy now?”

Wally was overjoyed.  His mentor and idol was getting him a Christmas present and asking his girlfriend for input!  It was destined to be the greatest Christmas ever.  Any planning of such matters deserved all the privacy in the world.

“Why don’t I run to the store to get some wine for later?” Wally suggested.

“That would be great, babe,” Michelle answered.

He gave her a quick kiss, and practically danced out the door, his head still in the clouds at the thought of a Christmas present from Bruno.

Once Wally was out the door, Michelle let out a heavy sigh.

“I get it,” she admitted.  “He can be a handful.”

“Luckily, he’s also naïve,” Bruno chuckled.  “He should know I ain’t the one who buys the presents.  That’s totally Maggie’s thing.”

“Color me intrigued,” Michelle said as she motioned for Bruno to sit on the nearby couch while she took the chair across from him.  “What is it that you can’t ask me about in front of Wally?”

Bruno loosened his already loosened tie, and let out a heavy sigh.  “This one ain’t meant for neither of our significant others, okay?”

Michelle leaned forward in her seat.  She was hanging on every word.

“Of course,” she assured him.  “You can count on my total discretion.”

“I need ya to look into someone named Anthony O’Connell aka Irish Tony.  He ran with the Irish gangs around here until about fifteen years ago when he moved to New York.  I ain’t got much to go one, but word is he hooked up with his Italian brethren there, and met a gruesome fate a coupla years later.”

“An Irish kid running with the Mafia?  Very interesting.”

Bruno nodded.  “He was Italian, but adopted by an Irish family.  Wanted to keep the crime blood, but get back to his roots.”

“What is it you want me to find out?” Michelle asked.

“Can ya confirm he really did die back in New York?”

“That shouldn’t be a problem,” she stated.  “Is Maggie related to him?  Is that why you don’t want her to know I’m looking into it?”

“Something like that,” he answered.  “Just my gut telling me to investigate and ya know I gotta do what my gut says.”

Michelle chuckled.  “I’m happy to help, and I promise not to say anything to Wally.”

“Thanks,” he replied with a smile.  “Can I ask one more thing?”

“Of course.”

“Is it true Wally ain’t short for Wallace?”

Michelle laughed out loud, but quickly restrained herself because she didn’t want to offend Bruno.

“Well, Wally can be short for Wallace, but in the case of our Wally, it’s short for Walter,” she explained.

“Good to know,” he replied with a slight chuckle.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Stay tuned for more of the Detective Bruno Christmas Special, and to find out the answer to the greatest mystery of all: Can Austin write the entire story and post it before Christmas???

About Austin

Native New Yorker who's fled to the quiet life in Maine. I write movies, root for the Yankees, and shovel lots of snow.
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6 Responses to The Vanishing Santa, Part 7

  1. kristianw84 says:

    I am so in love with this story!! My admiration for Bruno seems to grow with every installment!

    I’m glad Santa was returned to the old man’s lawn before Christmas!!

    I’m curious about Frankie Napkins (which is slightly gross, but very funny. I’m in agreement with Wally,) and Irish Tony…

    I have faith in Austin to complete the story by Christmas, but for the record, I don’t think anyone would complain about an extended version that lasted unt8l the New Year. I mean, Santa was returned and it’s still the holiday season…

  2. beth says:

    I think you can do it!

  3. markbialczak says:

    I will fit in as much of this adventure of Arturo and Walter as you can serve up, Austin. Thank you.

    • Austin says:

      I thought this was going to be a few chapters, and I’m about to start Chapter 12. That means I’ve got to post a new entry every night this week to get it all online by Christmas!!!

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