Peter Napoletano decides he has one partner too many

Here’s another look at the incredibly dangerous Peter Napoletano…


An excerpt from Rogue Elephants


Peter Napoletano was waiting in his office at the Bull Shot Lounge for Art Rhoades to arrive for their hastily arranged meeting and was appalled at how truly stupid Jimmy Tosca could be.  LaPone was searching in Oregon for the elusive Jonathan Tyne and since Jimmy had already paid a hundred and seventy big, he was not being shy about giving LaPone advice.  His latest bit of wisdom was for LaPone to lean on the girlfriend, Catherine Duvall and the ex-wife, Madeleine Valdés-Obregón, to get from them the location of Tyne’s Oregon ranch.  And Peter had to agree, leaning on the Duvall cunt was not a bad idea, he was contemplating doing it himself, but messing with Valdés-Obregón was insanity.  Insanity because she probably didn’t know the location of his ranch since Peter already knew she had never lived there with Tyne.  Worse than insanity for the heat whacking her would bring down upon them.

Peter was convinced Duvall could reveal Tyne’s whereabouts, since he believed she had visited him at his ranch over Christmas past.  And whacking her afterwards would present few problems.  The standard way to eliminate a woman deemed disposable was to give her a hot shot of nearly pure heroin.  Peter had done it several times and LaPone was a master of the technique.  He was never without a kit or two, just in case.  The heroin always contained a trace of lactose – milk sugar – to suggest the person doing the cutting had made a simple mistake.  And in Duvall’s case three phone calls to Montreal, New York and Seattle would guarantee arrest records for using and prostitution dating back to her college days so that when her corpse was found with a needle in its arm everyone would believe she ODed.

Not so Valdés-Obregón.  There is no way anyone would believe that lady used heroin, certainly not her husband who probably had her background checked out before he married her.  Even Jimmy knew that much since he was pressuring LaPone to make her death look like an accident.  In Peter’s opinion this was very bad thinking since staging accidents that would pass police and insurance scrutiny was not LaPone’s long suit.  He would surely make some mistake and if Charles Eversoll, her current husband, even suspected foul play the heat he could bring to bear would be felt from coast to coast.  If Tyne’s ex-wife turned up dead, because of the public death threat someone close to Jimmy had made against Tyne, perhaps Jimmy himself, Jimmy would be a prime suspect.  No way that could just be a coincidence.  And Jimmy was either forgetting or he did not know how much money his brother had invested in Eversoll’s hedge fund, Twenty First Century Fund.  Knowing how smart Francesco was and how dumb it was becoming increasingly apparent Jimmy is, he probably doesn’t know because Francesco didn’t trust him with the information.

That afternoon Peter was scheduled to fly to New York to discuss Jimmy with Tino Cassili.  He was ruminating about what to do about Jimmy when Rhoades knocked on his office door.  Peter invited Art to avail himself of whatever he wanted to drink from the built-in bar and asked him to pour a couple of inches of Dewar’s Signature over ice for him.  Rhoades chose Pellegrino bottled water from the built-in refrigerator.  When he was seated in front of Peter’s ultra-modern glass and stainless-steel desk he said, “You sounded a little upset on the phone.  Is there a problem?”

“The problem is Jimmy.  He’s off the reservation in this Tyne matter and I’m in the middle.  I agreed to run interference for him to the commission but now he’s using me as a conduit to LaPone.  If that isn’t bad enough some of the things he’s telling LaPone to do are incredibly stupid.”

“Can he do that, give LaPone instructions?”

“Yes, because he paid both the commission’s fee and the up-front money LaPone demanded.  I’ve tried telling him LaPone does not need his help but it’s like talking to a wall.  But that’s not what I want to discuss with you.  Last night you said you had some information about Tyne and I meant to follow up with you but this shit with Jimmy keeps happening.  So, what about Tyne?”

“I ran into him the other day at a gas station in Seattle.”

“You’re sure it was Tyne?”

“Absolutely.  I remembered him from Bend and he remembered me.”

“What did you two talk about?”

“Continuing as Catherine Duvall’s accompanist in Bend when we reopen; he again refused and then I asked whether he was seeing Catherine.  He said he has not worked with her professionally since the fire in September.”

“Did you believe him?”

“I tried to trap him by reminding him that as Michael Ware he made a CD with Duvall that she is hawking to restaurant patrons.  He was aware, he said, she had made the CD but denied he was the pianist she worked with.  Said the guy’s name was Felix Merak, someone Catherine knew from her time in musical theatre in New York.  He reminded me of the conversation we had about chemical-based sprinkler systems and pointed out how little Catherine and I paid him to accompany her.  He said in the beginning he thought it would be fun playing for her but it wound up costing more than it was worth.”

“What do you think he meant by that?”

“Possibly that Catherine wasn’t putting out for him as he thought she would.  He had a woman with him in the car, a very attractive Asian woman.  When I asked about Catherine his eyes went reflexively to the woman and he said he has been a little distracted.  That’s how he put it – a little distracted.”

“This woman; was she as good looking as Duvall?”

“Better and at least ten years younger.”

“Do you think he is this Felix Merak?”

“The picture of Merak on the CD jacket is definitely not Tyne.  As far as being able to tell by listening to the music, I can’t.”

“What kind of car was he driving?”

“A Chrysler rental.”

“You’re sure it was a rental?”

“Yep, I’m certain, it had an Enterprise sticker on the rear bumper.”

“A rental, eh; that means he flew to Seattle, probably from Redmond or Portland on either American Eagle or Southwest.  Did you write down the license plate number?”

“No, when I saw it was a rental I figured it was a waste of time.”

“Not true.  With the license number I could get information on his contract and maybe learn when he’s flying back to Oregon.  It would be easier with the plate number but if he flew commercial I can get his schedule, but if this sort of thing ever happens again, write down the fucking plate number.”

“It’s possible we might see him in Redmond or Bend, maybe even here in Berkeley in the coming days.  When I asked how long he was staying he said something vague about being there for a couple of days so I comped him the cover and dinner for two, good in any of our restaurants.  I gave him one of my business cards and told him to make a reservation and then hand the card to the maître ď.”

“Did he say whether he would use it?”

“No but he thanked me and put the card in his pocket.  I’ll let you know if he makes a reservation.”

“That was good thinking.  Did you ask where he was staying?”

“I did; he said at a hotel downtown but he would not say which one.”

“Did he say why he was in Seattle?”

“Some technical conference at UW, something like YAPC, whatever that is?”

Peter entered YAPC in the Google search field in his browser and learned that YAPC was an annual Perl conference this year held at the University of Washington April 5-7 in Seattle.  He searched in the YAPC page for Tyne and then Ware and discovered that M. Ware was scheduled to present a paper entitled, Using the Perl Debugger to Debug Apache mod-perl in Real-time the second day of the conference.

“Was this woman a nerd?”

“If she was she’s the best looking nerd I’ve ever seen.  Long black hair, huge dark eyes, nice tits and the little skirt she was wearing barely covered her jewels.”

“You saw a lot for a casual encounter at a gas station?”

“Well, from where I was standing the view of her in the passenger seat couldn’t have been better and naturally I was curious.”

“Un-huh; checked out the quiff okay but couldn’t get the goddamn plate number.”

“I mentioned to Catherine that I had seen him.  She was interested until I told her he had again declined our Bend offer.  After that she couldn’t have been more indifferent.  She said she has not seen him since he was released from the hospital, after the fire.”

“You mean after that fiasco with Nicky Parma?”

“Yeah, that’s what put him in the hospital.”

“And the broad you were shagging Dellacroce had to deal with… all because you couldn’t operate a fuckin’ answering machine.”

“Well, who uses an answering machine any more?  There are services for that… all the phone companies have them.”

“Are you fucking her?”

“No but not for want of trying.  She keeps turning me down even when I made it pretty clear to her that she would’ve had a contract a lot sooner if she’d been a little friendlier.”

“Stupid bitch.  How about the staff?  Do you know if any of them are fucking her?”

“I don’t see her hanging out with any of them and I’ve never seen her leave with anyone.”

“Is she a dyke?”

“I suppose that’s a possibility – or that she’s bi – but I think there was a man in Bend she was seeing and the pianist she came to Bend with was fucking her, of that I’m sure because he bragged about it.”  Here Art hesitated and looked away for a moment and Peter thought he intended to say more but was holding back for some reason.  Finally he said, “I didn’t tell you this when we hired her but I knew her before… some years ago… in ‘93, if I recall…”

“You mean you were fuckin’ her then but you’re not fuckin’ her now.  Is that what you’re saying?”

“Yeah… that’s what I’m saying.  I met her at a writers’ workshop at USF, just after I published my second novel.  She knew me back then as Andrew Carr, the name, my pseudonym, I write under.  She was recently divorced and feeling sorry for herself so… I dazzled her with my footwork and we had a thing.”

“Art, she was old even then.  She must have been pushing forty?”

“Well, yes… but she has a great body, does these crazy-intense workouts, just like you, she’s smart and pretty good in the sack…”

“No tits.”

“They’re small, sure, but she has great nipples… and…”

“Yes, and?”

“I just liked fucking her.”

“She suck your dick?”

“Man, did she ever.  One of the best I’ve ever had.”

“So what ended it?”

“She has this bourgeois notion about commitment…”

“She actually expected you to marry her?”

“No, but she expected me to keep it exclusive with her.  It ended when she caught me with another woman… and yeah, a woman younger than her.  So… it didn’t last long but there’s no question in my mind she likes men.  I’ve never seen her being cozy with any women.”

“So whom is she saving it for?  Apparently someone not connected with what she does for a living.  That could be Tyne or some other person we don’t know about.”

“I mentioned the woman Tyne was with to her and there was no reaction.”

“Or there was and you didn’t pick up on it.  It could have been something as subtle as a change in the width of her pupils and if you weren’t watching for it you could have missed it.”

“Yes, that is possible.”

“Write down her address in California.”

“What are you going to do?”

“Put a watch on her.  If she’s seeing him on the q.t., I’ll find out.”

“You wouldn’t hurt her would you?  I mean, she’s a nice broad and her act is sold out every night.  It would be a shame to ruin that,” his voice rising in alarm.

“Relax; I’m just going to watch her, to see whether Tyne is seeing her.”

Rhoades went to Peter’s desk and wrote down Catherine’s address on one of his business cards.  He extended the card to Napoletano who ignored it so he set it on the corner of his desk.  Napoletano finished his Scotch and then rose to replenish his glass and when he returned to his chair pocketed the card.

“I’ve been meaning to discuss something else with you and this is as good a time as any.  How familiar are you with our limited partnership agreements, specifically the provisions for succession and dissolution of partnership assets if a partner dies?”

“I know we included language to prevent an estate from forcing us to liquidate after the death of a partner.  If I remember correctly Francesco and Jimmy were both very insistent that the agreements have that language, I suspect because they secretly trusted each other least of all.”

“Yes, well I got to thinking about how Jimmy is the only Tosca left…”

“Aren’t you forgetting Sarah?”

“I should have said Jimmy is the only male Tosca left besides which Sarah knows absolutely nothing about Francesco’s investment holdings.  He never trusted her to keep her mouth shut so he told her almost nothing about what he was doing.  Before her heart attack she was the queen bee of all the guinea broads who moved out here from New York and settled in San Leandro and Castro Valley.  He knew she talked too much, couldn’t get her to stop so he told her nothing.

“Anyway, as I said I got curious so I had my attorney review the Blue Flame limited partnership agreements and he confirmed what I suspected.”

“And what was that?”

“That you and I, as surviving partners, would own on a pro rata basis Saratoga’s holdings… if and when Jimmy passes… that is, if we don’t liquidate the underlying assets.  If we did liquidate we would have to pay to the two estates the dollar value of their realized holdings.”

“Jimmy must have a will?”

“He does but he told me that after his wife died he changed it to leave everything to Sarah and Junior.”

“Which means Sarah inherits everything.”

“You know, Sarah would think she died and went to heaven if we sold off one of the limited partnerships, say that Arizona strip mall that we can’t seem to keep fully occupied, and gave her, say a million and paid the taxes on the distribution.  She would go off on one of her extended cruises and in a year or two probably succumb to another heart attack at which time you and I would own everything.  In fact, we could make up a story that in order to pay her the money and resolve some pending estate tax issues she would have to sign over the rights to the other limited partnerships or they would have to be sold off at fire-sale prices to avoid paying the deferred taxes.  She would look at the million tax-free bird in the hand versus the questionable future likelihood of realizing anything from the sale of the other assets, especially if you explained how much in taxes we would have to pay if we liquidated early, and take the money and run.”

“The only problem with that scenario is that Jimmy is as healthy as a horse.  Sarah may not have many years left but the same can’t be said about Jimmy.”

“Yeah, that is a problem… isn’t it?”

Rhoades stared at him for a moment fully comprehending what Peter was hinting at and finally said, “Regicide is a very, very dangerous exercise frowned on in the extreme by the other crowned heads.  Jimmy may not be the best godfather but he’s our godfather and he has a great many friends back east who would take a very dim view of his untimely passing, particularly if it wasn’t by natural causes.  If the job were done by a known associate the details would eventually get back to Jimmy’s friends who would send their own messengers to demonstrate that regicide doesn’t pay.”

“I wasn’t thinking of using a known associate.”

“You’re not thinking of Tyne, are you?  Peter, he’s just a lucky amateur whose days are numbered.  When LaPone finds him that will be the last we will ever hear of Mr. Tyne.”

“Yes, I’m sure you’re right but wouldn’t it be slick if before LaPone finished off Tyne, Tyne could solve our problem with Jimmy?  Jimmy’s friends would wring their hands and cluck their tongues but with Tyne disposed of life would go on and as a bonus, I would take over the Tosca businesses in the Bay Area.”

“You know that for a fact?”

“Yeah, with Dellacroce gone I’m the logical choice.  I know more about what’s going on than anyone other that Donnie Apia and he and I go way back, in fact, we made our bones together.  He knows he could not run things without Jimmy to tell him what to do and he would transfer that loyalty to me if he knew he would always be the number two.”

“Well, I wish you luck but that is too risky for me.  If it’s all the same to you, I don’t want any part of getting Tyne to whack Jimmy.”

“But you will cooperate with me regarding the limited partnerships?”

“Of course, on that you can be sure we are of one mind.  I just can’t get involved in any of these operational matters.  Indeed, I would lose my usefulness to all concerned if I ever strayed from doing anything other than managing Blue Flame’s investments.”

Peter refilled Rhoades’ glass and his own and they clicked glasses and drank and Peter said, “Here’s to fewer partners and none named Tosca.”

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