The Vanishing Santa, Part 9

“I don’t care or nothing, but it really seems like you and ADA Ambrose are doing well,” Bruno stunned Wally by starting the conversation once they were back in the car.

Wally glanced over at him from the passenger seat like he wasn’t quite sure how to reply because it seemed like a trap.

“First off, I know you call her ADA Ambrose just to upset me,” Wally declared confidently.

Bruno chuckled.  “Ya get a gold star for finally catching on.”

Wally shook his head because it was so typical of Bruno to try to get under his skin, but so out of the ordinary for him to actually give a compliment.  The rookie decided to roll with it rather than waste too much time trying to figure out a man that possibly only Maggie would ever understand.

“Things have been pretty good,” Wally confirmed with a smile.  “At first, I thought the age difference might be a problem, or the fact that she used to date my brother, but that’s actually made this much easier.  We already know each other, so it’s just a matter of changing the level of our relationship.”

“Being friends first does help,” Bruno agreed.

Again, Wally was stunned.  Was the cranky Detective actually trying to bond?

“It hasn’t all been perfect, though,” Wally confessed.  “We actually had our first fight last night.”

“Well, it was nice while it lasted,” Bruno quipped.  “Maggie and I are gonna miss having the two of you around…”

Wally rolled his eyes.  “Our first fight was about whether or not Die Hard is a Christmas movie.”

Bruno slammed the steering wheel with both hands.

“She ain’t one of those people!” he said in a mix of surprise and anger.  “How they hell do ya not get that Die Hard ain’t only a Christmas flick, but maybe the best one of all time?”

Wally nodded in agreement.

“I’m a cop, so you know where I stand on the subject,” Wally replied.  “But you try arguing with an Assistant District Attorney about anything.  It’s not going to end well.”

Bruno shook his head.  “I’m so aggravated by this, I’m gonna turn the car around and march back into Michelle’s office to debate this right now.  Ya know how much I hate going to that office, so I really gotta be pissed to wanna go there.”

“You can refer to her as ADA Ambrose now,” Wally volunteered.  “As far as I’m concerned, she’s just a cold blooded shark when he argues against John McClane, the Patron Saint of Nokatomi Plaza.”

Bruno growled and drove in silence for about ten seconds, but he couldn’t hold it in any longer.

“She gets that the movie takes place on Christmas Eve, at a Christmas Party, right?” he bellowed.  “And there’s Christmas music, and Christmas references…and at the end of the flick after the big explosion when all the paper is fluttering down on them…”

“It’s like Christmas snow!” Wally finished his thought.

“Exactly!” Bruno yelled and bashed the steering wheel again.  “Ya gotta get her to come around on this, or I don’t see no future for you two.”

Wally nodded his agreement.  “Trust me, I’m working on it.  Maybe if the four of us got together to watch it, we could sway her.  I’m assuming Maggie is Team Die Hard Christmas?”

“I ain’t gonna date no one who thinks otherwise, Kid.  Stop with the stupid questions!”

Wally put up his arms in surrender.

“Well, at least when they make a movie out of this case, there will be no doubt that it’s a Christmas flick,” Wally tossed out there.  “I mean, we’re chasing down a stolen Santa Claus, we’ve made multiple references to Christmas, we played Christmas music in the car.  It’s a no brainer.”

“Ain’t no one gonna make a movie about this case,” Bruno disagreed.  “There ain’t no action, no chases, no explosions or shoot outs, and no catch phrases that can go viral.”

“Hey, I chased down that skateboarder,” Wally pointed out as he desperately sought to save his dream of having his life turned into a feature film.

“A guy running after a skateboarder ain’t no real chase,” Bruno corrected him.  “Besides, no one’s gonna wanna see my ugly mug up on the big screen.”

“That’s the magic of the movies,” Wally jumped on the comment.  “It’s not going to be your ugly mug up there.  It will be some actor exponentially more handsome than you, and everyone will be jealous.”

Bruno rolled his eyes and shook his head.

“Keep in mind, when they turn a real life event into a movie, they take liberties to make it more exciting,” Wally reminded him.  “My chasing the skateboarder might become a high speed chase with muscle cars on busy streets during rush hour.  Maybe Tex Bourbon has a dark past and uses the band as a cover to smuggle heroin into the country…”

“And maybe they’ll make your character a mime, so the world ain’t gotta be subjected to your endless yammering about the stupidest things,” Bruno added.

Wally shrugged.  “It doesn’t hurt to dream.”

Bruno pulled into a spot and put the car in park.

“Fantasy time is over,” Bruno advised as he put on his business face.  “Time to play a real cop who’s gonna get his partner seriously injured if he ain’t fully aware of his surroundings.”

“No worries,” Wally assured him.  “I’m laser focused.”

Bruno nodded.

“So how are we going to approach this guy?” Wally asked as they got out of the car.

Bruno paused, put his arms on the hood of the car, and peered over at the rookie.

“Ya ain’t gonna hear me say this much, Kid, but I ain’t sure.  Let’s just play it by ear.  That’s why I need ya totally on your game.”

Wally nodded that he understood, and then waited for Bruno to come around to the sidewalk, so he could follow him up to the house on the corner.

Christmas, Detective Bruno, Modern PhilosopherFrankie Napkins looked exactly how Tex had described him.  His house was quaint, but the enormous Christmas tree that dominated the living room gave the place a certain holiday charm.

“That’s some tree,” Bruno remarked after their host had them sit in the living room where it was impossible to miss the evergreen.

“Well, they don’t let you have a Christmas tree in prison, so I wanted to make sure to really go over the top this year to make up for lost time,” Napkins explained.

His voice was much lower than Wally had expected.   In fact, the rookie seemed unimpressed by his surroundings.  It was like he had expected the place to be a museum of crime with exotic weapons hanging on the walls, and the heads of the man’s enemies mounted above the fireplace.

But it was just an average house with sensible furniture, a few random pieces of art, and the largest Christmas tree that could fit in such a space.

“We appreciate you seeing us,” Bruno added.

Napkins smiled.  “I don’t get out much, and I do not entertain.  After twelve years locked up, I’m still adjusting to the idea that I’m free to go where I please.  A voice in my head keeps telling me it’s a trap, and the second I head somewhere, the guards are going to pounce.”

He laughed at his joke, and Bruno smiled politely.

Wally showed no reaction.  He continued to scan the room in hopes of finding something that would be a nod to this guy’s life as a made man.

“My parole officer told me you were coming,” Napkins continued.  “I’m sorry I made such a big production out of seeing our badges and identification, but one can’t be too careful.”

Wally chose this moment to finally speak.  “Shouldn’t a career mobster be able to smell a couple of cops from a mile away?”

Bruno shot Wally a look, but didn’t say anything.

Frankie Napkins chuckled.  “New city.  Cops have a different scent here I guess.”

“Hilarious,” Bruno responded dryly.  “You’re okay with us asking a few questions, right?”

Napkins nodded.  “Cooperating with law enforcement is one of the terms of my parole.”

“Why move here?” Bruno asked.  “We ain’t got nothing on New York.  What’s a big shot like you gonna do in a place like this?”

A slight smile danced on the lips of Frankie Napkins.  Like there was a witty comeback he so desperately wanted to share, but knew better to keep to himself.

“My late uncle was nice enough to leave me this beautiful house,” he finally replied as he looked around the room to really take in the beauty of his new home.  “It was like he knew I’d need someplace to go when I finally got out.  A place far from the temptations that had lured me down a path that dead ended at a prison cell.”

Wally snorted like he couldn’t believe how sappy this guy was being.

Again, Bruno shot him a look, but said nothing.

“So you wasn’t forced outta New York?” Bruno questioned.  “Maybe told to hit the road cuz your services ain’t needed no longer?”

“Quite the contrary, Detective,” Napkins answered with a chuckle.  “They seemed reluctant to let me go.  It was almost as if they wanted me to stay aboard the sinking ship so we could all go down together.”

Bruno raised an eyebrow to that turn of a phrase.

“You saying the Mafia is on its way out?  I gotta say that don’t seem to be the case…”

Napkins got up, walked over to the giant Christmas tree, and moved one of the numerous ornaments to another branch.

He stared at the tree for a moment, decided it was now perfect, and returned to his seat.

“Sorry, but that was distracting me,” he explained.  “I don’t like it when things are out of place.”

Wally looked at the tree like he was trying to figure out what Napkins had seen.  He didn’t get it, but now he was curious and decided to look for other flaws in the perfection while Bruno carried on the interview.

“You was saying something about a sinking ship,” Bruno nudged Napkins back on topic.

“Right,” the man replied with a thoughtful nod.  “I spent twelve years in jail, and during that time, I heard about the deaths of dozens of my colleagues.  I came to appreciate that being locked up was the only thing keeping me alive.  I did not choose a profession at which one can grow old and then gracefully step away to enjoy the golden years.  Our retirement parties are disguised as funerals.”

Bruno let that one sink in.  He hadn’t been sure what Francesco Tamponi would be like, but the man waxing philosophic from across the room was the last thing he had expected.

“So ya didn’t rat out no one to get sprung?” Bruno finally asked.

Frankie Napkins laughed out loud, which caught Wally’s attention, and drew the rookie back into the conversation.

“If I was going to squeal, why would I wait twelve years?” Napkins challenged.  “I would have done that when I was still young, and just stupid enough to think that the family held a future for me.  Sure, I moved here to get away from the life and to avoid any temptation to dip my toe back into those shark infested waters, but if I’m being completely honest, I got the hell out of New York to add a few decades to my life.”

“Had I stayed, I either would have been pulled back in, and quickly gotten killed because I’d lost about twenty steps since I’d last hit the streets, or some young hot shot would have tried to make a name for himself by whacking me, one of the old guard.”

Wally’s silence troubled Bruno because he feared it meant the rookie was going to blurt out something stupid to inject himself into the conversation.  To his surprise, Wally was simply listening and absorbing what was being said.

“What I don’t get is if ya really are intent in getting out of the life, then why get involved with a lost cause like Tex Bourbon?” Bruno pressed.  “It don’t make sense to risk it all to give some nobody tips on how to rob houses during Christmas.”

The man from New York smiled now that he understood what this visit was really about.  “On one of the rare times I ventured out of the house, I went to a nearby bar.  He was the only other person there.  It was obvious he was just the loud mouth, do nothing type, who was letting off some steam to the poor bartender about his horrible predicament.”

“There are some serious things wrong in the world right now, and this guy is all doom and gloom because his ludicrous idea for an electronica/country fusion band didn’t take off and make him a superstar.  He wanted to bemoan the world and everyone who’d done him wrong, and I was bored and felt like playing with a puppet that I could make punch himself again and again.”

“I told you it was boredom,” Wally said with a knowing nod.

Frankie Napkins smiled and pointed at Wally.  “Your young friend is quiet, but when he finally does speak, he says so much with so little.”

Bruno bit his tongue to keep the snarky comments inside his mouth.

short story, Detective Bruno, Modern Philosopher“So ya ain’t planning your big criminal comeback by turning some random, stolen Christmas ornaments into the biggest burglary spree this city has ever seen?” Bruno asked in a tone slathered in sarcasm.

“I’m well past the point of doing something so hopelessly stupid, Detective,” Napkins assured him.

Bruno nodded and took a quick look around the room while he pondered what card from his very thin deck he should play next.

“And ya ain’t seen no one from your old life since ya been here?” he finally asked.

Napkins shook his head.  “Like I said earlier, I rarely go out, and I have no intention of meeting up with any old associates because that would be a violation of my parole.”

“Probably why your PO likes ya so much,” Bruno quipped.  “Well, that and getting invited over for a home cooked Italian meal on your birthday.”

The mobster smiled.  “Are you jealous that you didn’t get an invite?”

“Nah, just surprised that after twelve birthdays in the joint, ya ain’t wanna go out and make a big deal outta this one is all.”

“I never go out on my birthday,” Napkins replied.

For the first time, Bruno noticed the gold crucifix that hung around his host’s neck.  It was only apparent now because Napkins pulled it out from under his shirt to give it a gentle rub after his last comment.

Wally noticed it, too, and opened his mouth to say something.

But Bruno wasn’t going to let that happen.

“Thanks for your time,” he said.  “Do us all a favor and avoid nobodies like Tex Bourbon in the future.  That way, we ain’t gotta drive all the way out here to interrupt your day by asking ya a bunch of pointless questions.”

“Understood, Detective,” Napkins assured him with a smile as he tucked away the crucifix again.

“Happy Birthday in advance,” Bruno wished him as he stood up to leave.  “And Merry Christmas, too.”

“Thank you for the well wishes,” Napkins replied.  “Merry Christmas to you both.”

Wally offered a half smile and a nod.  His first ever meeting with a mobster had been a complete waste of time, but at least he’d get to brag about it to the other rookies.

Bruno, on the other hand, made his way towards the door with his mind working a million miles a minute and his gut telling him it was time to visit another old acquaintance…


Feel free to use the comments section to make your argument for why Michelle is wrong because Die Hard is obviously a Christmas movie.

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.
This entry was posted in Humor and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to The Vanishing Santa, Part 9

  1. kristianw84 says:

    Love, love, LOVE it!!!

    “The patron Saint of Nakatomi Plaza” cracked me up! Bruno is so amusing!

    I don’t understand why people don’t think Die Hard is a Christmas movie… I mean, all the things Bruno mentioned are true! What constitutes as a Christmas movie to these people!?

    This is wonderful, and I’m so stoked to see who the acquaintance is!!

    • Austin says:

      I’m glad you enjoyed it. Couldn’t resist adding Die Hard to my Christmas story. Did it get you thinking about who would play these characters in the movie???

      • kristianw84 says:

        I fully support and understand the need to reference Die Hard whenever possible!

        I can’t believe I forgot to mention Wally’s dreams of his life on the big screen. The world needs a Brunoverse movie! Yes, I have started thinking of what actors would be a good fit for each character!

      • Austin says:

        Let me know if you have any casting suggestions.

      • kristianw84 says:

        I’ll message you later. Clearly, I have given this waaaay too much thought. 🤣

      • Austin says:

        We have a delay opening at work today because of the snow, so I’m taking advantage of the extra time to work on Chapter 12…

      • kristianw84 says:

        Casting suggestions:
        Michael Shannon – Bruno
        Ruth Connell – Maggie
        Tye Sheridan – Wally
        Haley Bennett – Michelle
        Mickey Rourke – Champ
        Ashkay Kumar – Captain Marc Hamel
        (I thought it would be funny for Mark Hamill to play him, but unless the Captain works past retirement, he’s a little old.)

      • Austin says:

        Very interesting suggestions. I must admit, I’m not really settled on how old Bruno is. I know he comes across as a cranky old man, but I believe he’s younger than we realize…

      • kristianw84 says:

        I pegged him to be in his 40’s. Only because of his years of experience on the force. I’m not sure how much experience one needs to become a detective, but I’m thinking at least 10 years.

        I don’t know why I thought of Michael Shannon, but he was the first to come to mind.

        For the record, I never thought of Bruno as cranky or old. He’s only easily irritated because he’s smarter than most people, and he’s highly observant, so he’s aware of the world while everyone else runs around with their heads in the clouds. Okay, so maybe he is a little cranky, but who could blame him?! Definitely not old, though. I don’t think anyone is considered old until their 80. Perhaps, that’s because 40 is on the horizon, and I want at least 40 more years before I call myself old. 😆

      • Austin says:

        I have these images of Bruno and Wally in my head as I’m writing, but their faces are never clear. More like I’m seeing silhouettes. Michael Shannon is an intriguing choice to play Bruno, for sure…

  2. markbialczak says:

    Can’t get the church out of it, Austin.

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