Monday brought a much welcomed return to normalcy. Bruno preferred to work when the station house was packed with people and humming with life. It just seemed like the natural orders of things, and it was too busy and hectic for him to think about anything other than his current case.
Of course, even if he hadn’t returned Kroski’s Santa Claus on Saturday, Bruno still would have taken off on Sunday. When your significant other was a strong willed Irishwoman, she made the rules. In Maggie’s world, Sunday was a day of rest meant to be spent at church and with family.
Bruno wasn’t a big fan of going to church, which was understandable given his upbringing. His mother had been such a devout Catholic, that young Bruno was certain that had the religion had an All-Star team, the Pope would have called every year to personally let her know she’d been named a starter.
Mama Bruno went to church every day, and dragged her son along for the ride. She also made sure he became an altar boy, a Sunday school teacher, and a Lecter. Bruno had no doubt that, at some point, his mother had petitioned the Archbishop and possibly even the Vatican to change the rules to allow grammar school students to enter the priesthood.
Since he loved Maggie, he was willing to compromise and attend Sunday services during what he referred to as “the busy season”. That included Advent, which meant he would be going to church every Sunday into the New Year.
Bruno’s only stipulation, which had been added after his first case with Wally, was that he’d never go to St. Sebastian’s. He had made some enemies and seen too much behind the curtain during that investigation, and he feared being trapped in a dark corner of the ancient church by either Sister Mary Catherine or Monsignor Bannon.
Maggie was fine with this since St. Patrick’s was her family’s church of choice. After Sunday Mass, they went to her childhood home where her parents hosted the extended family for a huge meal.
Bruno was happily able to vanish into the crowd while Maggie caught up with cousins, nieces, nephews, and old family friends. Since Champ was on the guest list, the two men retreated to an empty room to play chess.
As always the old boxer won every match, but Bruno didn’t care. It was all about spending time with Champ and enjoying his new friend’s wild stories.
The best part of Bruno’s Sunday, though, was sharing a beer with Maggie on the back stoop. She rested her head on his shoulder at one point, and purred in her enchanting brogue, “I saw Mr. Kroski fussing over the inflatable Santa Claus on his front lawn this morning. He looked so happy, and I thought to myself that my handsome boyfriend made that happen.”
Yeah, Mondays were fine with Bruno as long as they were preceded by a Sunday like that.
Trips to the office had become less annoying, however, now that he had developed a friendship with ADA Ambrose. Still, Bruno would rather never enter the building, but his job often sent him places he’d never visit under any other circumstances.
It was only somewhat reassuring that he had a gun at the ready when he walked the halls.
Michelle’s assistant led them right in to the ADA’s office, and Bruno let out a whistle.
The place was all done up for Christmas, but in a classy way. White lights and garland wrapped the desk, and also ran along the walls. Red and green glass ornaments were evenly spaced along the garland that hung on the walls.
A tiny Christmas tree with colored lights and a large star on top graced the corner of the room.
“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas,” Bruno observed with a smile.
“You like it?” Wally asked excitedly. “I helped. Actually, I did most of it yesterday while Michelle worked. No one really decorates at the station house, so it was fun to unleash a little seasonal creativity in this office.”
Michelle smiled from behind her desk. “In case you couldn’t tell, Wally is a little into Christmas.”
“It ain’t been apparent to me so far,” Bruno chuckled. “Great job, Walter.”
Bruno gave Michelle a wink at his use of the correct name, and she subtly nodded in return.
Wally noticed the little exchange between his two favorite people, but decided not to comment. Whatever it was, he liked it.
“While Wally spent the day decorating, I made some calls and did some digging on Mr. Tamponi,” Michelle explained as she motioned for them to sit.
When Bruno took a seat, he noticed that it felt more comfortable than usual. Maybe it had something to do with not being so uptight and or defensive when he visited the Assistant District Attorney.
Or maybe all the Christmas decorations just made everything seem merrier.
“I really appreciate ya giving up your Sunday,” he replied. “What did ya turn up?”
Michelle glanced down at the open file on her desk, but that was really only for show. Like Bruno, she had an excellent memory and rarely needed to refer to her notes.
“The New York District Attorney’s Office confirmed that Mr. Tamponi…”
“Can we call him Frankie Napkins?” Wally interrupted. “It’s just more fun.”
Bruno shook his head, and Michelle rolled her eyes.
“Mt. Tamponi did receive early parole because of good behavior, and the state’s new laws meant to combat overcrowding in the jails.”
“So we sure it ain’t cuz he ratted on someone to get sprung early?” Bruno pressed, not because he didn’t believe Michelle, but because this answer was very important to the theory slowly working its way through his brain.
Michelle nodded. “I confirmed with three separate sources. I was also able to verify that Frankie Napkins…” she smiled at Wally, “did receive the blessing of the head of the Mirabella Crime Family to retire and move out here.”
“I didn’t think you could ever leave the life once you were in it,” Wally put out there.
Bruno shrugged. “I ain’t no expert on the Mob, but I’ve heard that every family’s got its own rules. You gotta remember he was outta the everyday running of the business for twelve years. Maybe the family didn’t mind sending and old dog off to pasture…”
Wally nodded in understanding.
“Court documents confirm that Mr. Tamponi inherited his current place of residence and a small sum of money from an uncle who died two years ago,” Michelle continued. “The uncle never married and had no children, and told everyone who’d listen that Frankie was like a son to him. “
“And it makes sense that if you’re outta the life, you ain’t gonna wanna stay in the very city where you ain’t a player no more,” Bruno added.
“Sometimes you just have to leave the game behind and start over,” Wally said with a glance at Bruno.
If Bruno got what Wally was implying, he made no indication of it.
“Did ya talk to his parole officer?” Bruno asked instead of replying to Wally.
Michelle nodded. “He said Tamponi is clean as a whistle, never misses a meeting, and rarely leaves the house. And get this, Tamponi’s birthday is Wednesday, and he insisted that his PO come over for a home cooked, authentic Italian meal. The officer said he couldn’t pass up a chance at a home visit that came with a free meal.”
“Has anyone you arrested ever invited you over for dinner?” Wally asked.
Bruno gave the rookie a sideways glance. “All the time. I gotta have a personal assistant just to field all the requests…”
Michelle chuckled, but quickly covered her mouth so as not to offend Wally.
“I didn’t think it was such a ridiculous question,” Wally said defensively.
“Clearly,” Bruno quipped.
Wally sighed, sulked slightly, and then pretended that the Christmas decorations off to his right had suddenly captured his attention.
“Sounds like Frankie Napkins is trying to keep his nose clean,” Bruno remarked. “So it begs the question: Why the hell is he gonna risk it all by getting involved with Tex Bourbon and his chaos?”
Wally shrugged. “Maybe he got bored with being good.”
Bruno nodded. “Ain’t a bad theory, Kid. Good to see ya using your brain for something other than the usual ridiculous questions.”
Wally wanted to say something, but a glance from Michelle urged him to take the compliment.
“So what about that other thing?” Bruno asked quietly like he didn’t want Wally to hear.
Wally stood up. “I know you think I’m naïve, and maybe I’ve done a thing or two to deserve that stereotype, but I am well aware that this other thing isn’t my Christmas present. Maggie is obviously going to buy that, so whatever you’re talking about, I want to know. I accept we’re not official partners, but I am working with you on this case, and it’s not fair to withhold information from me if it’s pertinent to the case.”
Michelle smiled slightly and looked over at Bruno as if to say, “Your move.”
Bruno nodded. “Ya ain’t wrong. I’m sorry I lied, but it’s a delicate matter, and don’t get all moody and pouty when I say this, but ya got a tendency to blab. I gotta have your word ya ain’t gonna say nothing to Maggie if I let ya in on this. Can ya do that?”
Wally nodded vehemently.
“You have my word,” he promised.
“Cuz if ya say something, I’m gonna pop ya,” Bruno vowed.
“And I’m going to hold you down while he does that,” Michelle added.
Bruno and Wally were both caught off guard by that comment, but it made sense because Michelle and Maggie had become very close. Based on her looking into the matter, she probably put things together and realized that Maggie could be at risk.
“I’m liking this new side of you,” Bruno told her with a sly grin.
“Team up on me if you want, but I want in on the secret,” Wally insisted.
He even crossed his arms over his chest, and looked like he intended to hold his breath until he got his way. Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed and it never got that far.
Bruno gave Michelle a nod that it was okay to go ahead with the info.
“So this guy is related to our case?” Wally asked.
His arms were no longer crossed, and he sat like an attentive student at a college lecture.
“This is gonna take forever if ya keep on with all the questions,” Bruno scolded.
Wally nodded. Message received. There would be no more interruptions.
Michelle cleared her throat and then continued. “As you suspected, he moved to New York sixteen years ago, and quickly ingratiated himself to known organized crime figures. Word has it that Irish Tony was extraordinarily adept at getting away with brutal murders. While his death was reported three years later following the bloody shootout that reshuffled the hierarchy of the crime families, the rumor is that Irish Tony actually survived the massacre.”
“Let me guess,” Bruno interjected. “They faked his death so he could become some kinda ghost the new boss used to brutally eliminate his enemies, while further consolidating his power.
“That about sums up what I managed to get out of several reliable sources,” she concurred. “Again, no one’s actually seen him in thirteen years, or can confirm he is still among the living. He’s more a legend than anything else, and for all we know the family is using multiple hitmen and fueling the rumor that he’s alive to keep people in line.”
Bruno nodded and made that face he used when he was deep in thought.
“Can I ask a question now?” Wally queried cautiously.
“No, I ain’t sure he’s connected to our case,” Bruno replied and read Wally’s mind. “I’m gonna let this information stew for a bit, and maybe use it when we interview Frankie Napkins. Do I gotta remind ya how essential it is that ya don’t mention this guy to no one?”
“My lips are sealed,” Wally assured his mentor.
“Michelle, I owe ya for all this,” Bruno said. “Seriously, name your price.”
Without hesitation, she replied, “Just keep the annoying rookie safe and we’re square.”
She smiled sweetly at Wally, who smiled right back at her.
“Alright, lover boy, save the goo goo eyes for when ya ain’t in my peripheral vision,” Bruno warned. “Let’s go talk to Frankie Napkins, and put this case to bed once and for all.”
TO BE CONTINUED…
Because it is the Season of Giving, there should be a new chapter of the Detective Bruno Christmas Special every night this week. Make sure you come back to see what happens next!