Wally wasn’t sure how they ended up at the chessboards down along the river walk. Bruno had a tendency to just drive when he was deep in thought, and the path was somewhere between The Scorpion Pit and he police station.
This location had been key in the solving of their first case together, so Wally thought of it as a good sign that they had returned at a moment when their latest case needed some clarity.
At least as far as Wally was concerned. The rookie was sure that his mentor had it all worked out in his head, but had simply not had the time to explain it to him yet.
While Bruno paced in the small area around the chessboards, Wally stood off to the side to allow the great Detective to process and to think. He noticed that there were no pieces on the boards, which Wally assumed had something to do with it being December and the weather not being as conducive to sitting outside for long spells.
Wally wondered if Champ still frequented this location for his chess fix, or if the charming former boxer now chose to play his favorite game indoors.
All these thoughts tumbled around in Wally’s head, and the young officer mentally chastised himself for allowing his mind to wander when it should have been focused on the case.
Perhaps that was the difference between him and Bruno. The Detective’s mind never wandered.
“Definitely,” Wally said as he walked over to join Bruno at the chessboard closest to the water.
“You got any thoughts?” Bruno asked as he sat at the table atop which the chessboard was carved.
Wally was confused. “Thoughts?”
“Yeah, Kid. This ain’t exactly a typical case, and I ain’t gonna drag ya along if you’re feeling like there ain’t nothing here other than my imagination going haywire.”
Wally, who had chosen to remain standing, decided it would be better to sit down across from Bruno.
“I’m just going to come clean and admit I have no idea what’s going on,” he confessed. “That being said, I trust your gut, your imagination, or whatever you want to call it. Whatever you decide is our next move, I’m right there with you.”
Bruno nodded. “That means a lot.”
“I assume this has something to do with the mysterious Irish Tony,” Wally stated. “That was pretty cool how you tricked Zeus into giving you a location on the guy.”
Bruno let out a heavy sigh. “That was a friggin’ Hail Mary that musta worked cuz someone upstairs took pity on a lapsed Catholic Detective trying to do a good deed for his neighbor at Christmas.”
Wally smiled at that concept.
“Look, your mind is like a super computer, while mine is like a solar powered calculator on a rainy day when it comes to making these amazing leaps based upon the sparsest evidence,” Wally conceded. “Can you take pity on a slow, annoying rookie and lay this out for me in the simplest terms?”
Bruno nodded and smiled. “Yeah, I can do that. But I gotta warn ya, I ain’t got much more than some wild leaps of faith here. This ain’t nothing we can take to the Captain until we come up with a way to really massage it.”
“Then convince me,” Wally suggested.
“We ain’t got no confirmation that Irish Tony is in town. Hell, we ain’t even got proof the guy’s alive,” Bruno explained.
“I heard what Michelle said, though,” Wally reminded him. “The working theory from several trusted sources is that he faked his death and continues to act as the New York Mob’s main enforcer.”
Bruno nodded in agreement. “But even if you’re willing to buy that, the only thing we got placing him here is Maggie catching a glimpse of someone she ain’t seen in fifteen years, early in the morning while she was working off a serious hangover.”
“What about Renegade’s encounter?” Wally tossed out there as he was eager to back up the theory.
“Again, there ain’t no actual confirmation it was Irish Tony,” Bruno pointed out. “He ain’t exactly giving a great description, and even if he did, we ain’t got no current photo to compare it to.”
Wally shrugged at the logic. “Still, that was pretty cool the way you manipulated Zeus into giving you our best lead on the guy.”
“Nobody knows criminals better than other criminals,” Bruno spun a pearl of wisdom. “I figured if anyone’s gonna know about a mystery man operating under the radar, it would be his fellow scum of the earth. And there ain’t no one scummier than the Heathens.”
Wally had to give the man credit. He knew how to use people to get the information he needed to catch the bad guy.
“I guess what I’m not getting is why you think Irish Tony is related to our case about the stolen Santa Claus,” Wally had to admit.
“He ain’t got nothing to do with the missing Santa, or that moron Tex,” Bruno clarified. “We just got lucky that Frankie Napkins got bored and decided to mess with an annoying stranger at a bar.”
Wally stared at Bruno like his brain wasn’t going to make a connection without more information.
“I think Irish Tony is in town to whack Frankie Napkins!” Bruno made it as clear as possible.
Wally’s eyes widened as his brain processed the information.
“But I thought Michelle confirmed that he got paroled early because of new laws, not because he agreed to testify against anyone in the family,” Wally countered. “And that he was given permission to retire and moved out here.”
Bruno shrugged. “Like I said, I ain’t got much to support this theory. Then again, when have ya known career criminals to be straightforward and honest? Even if the big guy gave his blessing, maybe someone else in the family ain’t pleased that Frankie Napkins decided to leave, or they ain’t believing the story that he got sprung early cuz of new laws.”
“Ya gotta admit, Napkins was pretty squirrelly about examining our badges and ID even after his PO told him we was coming. And what’s the deal with the way he ain’t hardly ever leaving the house after being caged up in a cell for twelve years? The guy’s afraid of something. Criminals have been known to have a gut, too, ya know…”
Wally nodded as he continued to process it all. He was amazed that Bruno could make these leaps based on so little information, and wished he had the same ability.
“I’m not sure how it fits in to all this, but something about inviting his parole officer over for dinner on his birthday hasn’t been sitting right with me,” Wally finally decided to trust his gut and throw and idea out there.
“Good catch, Kid, cuz that’s the glue that’s holding this all together. Growing up Catholic, now dating an Irish Catholic, knowing so much about how criminals think, and having this weird obsession with superstitions, it was kinda like the perfect storm of bizarre knowledge that ain’t exactly scientific or nothing, but I know it to be true…”
“Mobsters are ironically very religious,” Bruno continued. “And they’re beyond superstitious. Frankie Napkins pulled out his crucifix, so ya know he believes, and Irish Tony was born Italian, but raised Irish so the poor bastard is probably doubly religious and superstitious.”
“Anyways, there’s this belief that if ya die on your birthday, ya get trapped in Purgatory forever and ain’t never gonna end up in Heaven or Hell.”
“Which means that if you want to send a powerful message about ratting, or walking away from the family, you kill the person who broke your most scared rules on his birthday and damn him to an eternity in Purgatory,” Wally summed it all up like someone who finally got it.
“Furthermore, it explains why Frankie Napkins won’t leave his house on his birthday and why he would want his parole officer to visit and provide a little protection should an assassin visit.”
Bruno nodded proudly at Wally’s powers of deduction.
“Plus, it explains why Irish Tony is gonna suddenly show up now, months after Frankie Napkins moved to town. He’s gonna do the deed on Wednesday.”
Wally clapped in excitement. “This gives us two days to find Irish Tony. Let’s go tell Captain Hamel that we’ve got to put all our assets on this.”
Wally got up from the table, and expected Bruno to follow suit. However, the Detective remained seated and motioned for the rookie to sit back down .
Bruno waited until Wally was back in his seat before he explained why rushing off to tell their boss was not the best idea.
“This is all conjecture, superstition, and a very shaky ID by a witness who ain’t seen the suspect in over a decade. We barely got enough to justify you spending another day in plainclothes on this, let alone to mandate a citywide manhunt. I ain’t even gonna add that we can’t have a manhunt when we got no idea what the man we’re hunting looks like.”
Wally sighed and scratched his head.
“So what do we do?”
“We’re gonna present the Captain with a version of the truth that ain’t exactly a lie, but covers our asses if everything blows up in our faces.”
“I take it this would be one of those times that I should remain absolutely silent, and allow you to do all the talking?” Wally asked even though he already knew the answer.
“Kid, every situation should be like that, but this one definitely, one thousand percent gotta go down that way,” Bruno confirmed.
Wally nodded that he understood.
“We ain’t exactly doing this by the book, so if ya want out, I ain’t gonna be offended.”
“I am one thousand percent with you on this,” Wally assured him.
“Then let’s talk to Captain Hamel,” Bruno said as he stood up from the table, and took a moment to run his hand across the chessboard as if he was fondly remembering an important event in the not so distant past. “And may the Force be with us…”
And Wally kept his word to stay silent.
“This is related to that personal matter you came in to work during your time off?” the boss asked without looking up from the aforementioned file.
“Yeah, it turned out to be bigger than I thought,” Bruno didn’t necessarily lie with than answer. “A rash of home invasions at Christmas ain’t gonna look good, am I right?”
That lie was enough to get Hamel’s attention, and he finally looked up to make eye contact with his most trusted Detective.
“Not at all,” he confirmed. “And to be honest, I like this idea of your taking a couple of more rookies under your wing. That makes my job a lot easier, Detective.”
Bruno smiled. “Working with Officer Wainwright has been such a pleasure that I figure I gotta spread my wisdom around even more.”
The Captain had now lost interest and dropped his eyes back down to the file on his desk.
“Whatever you need, Detective. You have my absolute trust.”
Bruno cringed at that reply, so it was a relief that Captain Hamel was no longer looking at him.
“Thank you, sir,” he replied and saluted even though it would not be seen.
Bruno got the hell out of Hamel’s office as quickly as possible, and Wally was right on his heels. He sent Wally to find a pair of rookies he trusted. Their orders were simple: Sit on Frankie Napkins’ place in plainclothes so as not to arouse suspicion, and report to Bruno if anyone visited the mobster.
If Napkins left his house, the rookies were to follow him, but immediately call Bruno so that he could take over the tail.
“What are we going to be doing?” Wally asked.
“We’re gonna find Irish Tony and stop him from whacking the birthday boy,” Bruno replied.
“But how are we going to do that if we don’t know what he looks like? Even if we were sure he was staying at the Apex, it would arouse suspicion and take a huge amount of time, if the two of us were to conduct a room to room search,” Wally pointed out the obvious.
Bruno sighed. “I’m gonna totally screw with my personal happiness for the sake of saving the life of a career criminal.”
Bruno walked away before Wally could ask any more questions.
TO BE CONTINUED…
Come back on Christmas Eve for the exciting conclusion of Detective Bruno’s Christmas Special!