Tied to a chair, with a burlap bag over his head, Alonzo slowly drifted back to consciousness. Although he couldn't see clearly, he could see faint outlines, hear the rustle of footsteps, and knew he wasn't alone.
"I see youre awake, Mr. Rossi," a soft female voice said. "So glad you could join us from your little nap."
"I don't know who you are, or what you want," he blustered,"but youre making a big mistake." He tugged at his bonds, but found them perfectly tied.
"People who make big mistakes, Alonzo, get tied to chairs with bags over their head. It seems that you're the one who's made a big mistake. One so big, it could even cost a man his life."
Silence. Alonzo continued to tug his arms and legs to get free, but he was held securely.
The female voice laughed heartily. "Keep struggling. If you want to tie a knot, get a dockworker to do it for you."
"So kill me already, like you did with Tony. Or don't you have the balls."
"No, I guess I don't have the...balls." The unmistakable sound of a gun cocking, was the only sound in the room. "But I do have the will. The will to kill you, stuff you in a barrel of concrete, and then drop you off a pier never to be heard from again."
"Talk is cheap, and dead is dead. You can stick my body in a cannon and shoot me to the moon if you want."
"I'll tell you what I might do, instead, " the female voice said coolly. "After you're at the bottom of the river, I might just start spreading rumors about how you went rat, and dimed out every lowlife you ever met, all the way up to your precious Don. I wonder what he would do to your brother Franics, if he thought that happened? Francis Rossi, your brother who lives on 1337 Fulton St."
He'd be dead. Dead in under a week, Alonzo knew. The family could take a lot of things, but a rat was not one of them.
"Do I have your full attention now, Mr. Rossi? Or do I need to kill you to earn it?"
Alonzo had been threatened by a lot of people over the years, but all of them were men. The ones that shouted or were loud never amounted to anything; it was always chest puffing or posturing. When the person saying it delivered the threat like they were discussing the weather or the baseball scores...you ignored it at your own risk.
"You have my attention," he said, sullen.
"Good. Here's what I propose. If you do this thing for me, this one job, then I'm willing to forget about your shakedown operation here in Brooklyn. I'm willing to forget about your brother Francis. I'm willing to forget that I would love nothing more than to pull this trigger right now and fill that bag with your brains. So tell me, Alonzo Rossi. Do I have my man?"
Whoever this woman was, this silver-tongued devil, she had left Alonzo with no choice unless he wanted to set fire to his world, and his brother's as well. What was worse, is that he couldn't even count on Don Meggadino's help without putting his own life in danger. What was he going to tell him, that he fell asleep in a cab, got kidnapped and threatened by a woman who belonged to that same secret society him and his capos thought was nothing but a hilarious joke?
"A job? Couldn't you get one of your hired goons to do it?" Alonzo challenged.
"If I needed someone tied to a chair and beaten, I could have them do it. I need someone able to persuade. Shake someone down, so to speak. Yes or no, Mr. Rossi. Give me your answer. Now."
He was itching and sweating under the makeshift hood, but he could make out a faint outline of the woman speaking to him in front of him. She was standing rock still, and he guessed she was holding a gun. He was right.
"Si, si. I'll do it. What do you need?"
"There is a man in this city. A brutal man, like yourself, but very important to us. I need you speak to him, make him a deal, and he must accept it."
"Thats it? That's what you need me to do?"
"This man owes us a great deal."
"This is about money? Are you kidding me?"
The metal of the pistol, was unforgiving as it struck the back of Alonzos head hard. It hurt like hell, and he couldnt do a thing about it.
"Does it sound like I'm kidding?"
"Ah, jeez. Fine, fine. If he doesn't pay up , do you want me to throw him off the Brooklyn Bridge too?"
"We dont want him to pay up. We want him to accept an alternative offer. An offer that if he doesn't accept, Mr. Rossi, you might want to consider throwing yourself off the Brooklyn Bridge first."
Just as he was beginning to speak, Daisy grabbed the back of his head with one hand and jammed the barrel of the pistol into his mouth, the taste of burlap and gun oil dominating his senses.
"No harm will come to this man, Mr. Rossi. He has a considerable debt with us, a considerable debt that can be repaid only by doing this for us. Unless you want me to blow your head off, you had better make him understand that. Do you understand? Shake your head yes if you do."
Alonzo shook his head slowly in the affirmative.
"There is a girl that is very important to us, being held against her will. This man, Booker DeWitt, using whatever methods he deems necessary, will go and set her free. We have two contacts waiting for him at Grand Trunk Station, in Portland, Maine, that he will rendezvous with. They will take him to the drop-off point and provide him with the necessary equipment. Here," she said, shoving something into his jacket pocket, "is the train ticket in Mr. DeWitts name. If he agrees to those terms, and boards that train, all is forgiven and you live. If not," she pressed the gun slightly deeper into his mouth and said nothing more.
Just as quickly, the pressure on his head was released, and the gun removed from his mouth.
"Do you have any questions?"
"He didnt. One day he'd find out who was doing this to him, and have his revenge. But for as long as he could remember he'd been taking orders, and right now the smart move was to do what he was told.
""Where can I find this Booker DeWitt?
"His office is at 212 West 2nd Street, 3rd floor. He runs a private detective agency. If I were you, I'd visit him as soon as possible. Good day, Mr. Rossi."
Which was the last thing Alonzo heard, before being knocked unconscious.
The sounds of the surf gently lapping against the sand, and seagulls crying out to each other, woke Alonzo up from his sleep. It was not a pleasant transition.
Lying on the beach, his suit covered in sand, his head felt like it had been hit by a baseball bat. For all he knew it was. Sitting up, he patted himself down. He still had his billfold, but his pistol was gone. Standing up, he looked around to get his bearings, and the boardwalk quickly let him know where he was. Coney Island. He even knew why they dumped him here. De Witts office was only a few blocks away.
DeWitts building was very easy for Alonzo to find. He'd spent the past few blocks shaking sand off of his suit, and although he still looked a bedraggled mess, he had improved his appearance considerably. The building was a four-story job, brick, with a few scraggly bushes and some flowers planted out front. A wooden sign hanging by the door read, 'Booker Dewitt Investigations Into Matters Both Public & Private - 3rd floor'. Bingo.
Rossi entered, and made his way slowly up the stairs. His head still throbbed, and his neck was sore from sleeping on the sand, but other than that he was fine. The sound of his expensive shoes on the stairs, seemed to be the only sound in the building. Finally he reached the third floor, and walked into the building's main hallway.
It was well lit, with a tile floor and plaster walls that made every sound he made echo. At the end of the hallway, was a wooden door, with a frosted glass panel with a stencil that read exactly the same as the wooden sign on the buildings front: Booker Dewitt Investigations Into Matters Both Public & Private. He went over to the door, and turned the knob. It was open.
"Hello, Mr. DeWitt?" Alonzo peered his head inside.
A brown-haired man was face down at his desk, surrounded by bottles and glasses.
"Oh no, you gotta be kidding me," Rossi exclaimed as he ran over to the desk to check on him. Please don't let DeWitt be dead.
"Whuzzah, who," DeWitt mumbled, much to Alonzo's relief. Bookers eyes opened wild and wide, as he pulled a revolver seemingly out of nowhere and shoved it in Rossi's face. "What do you want!" he exclaimed.
This was starting to become a really annoying habit, Alonzo thought.
"Easy, fellah. I mean you no harm," he said, hands raised. "The name's Rossi."
"I dont know any Rossis" said Booker, unsteadily.
"Well you do now. My name is Alonzo Rossi. Can you please lower the gun, I'm here about a job."
In that instant, the look on DeWitts face changed, as if he suddenly remembered who he was and what he did for a living.
"Sorry, friend. I just...forget about it. My apologies." Booker opened up a desk drawer and put the gun inside the desk. "Let me make it up to you, can I get you a drink?" he asked, as he grabbed the nearest non-empty bottle and poured a generous glass of whiskey for himself. Booker looked at Rossi's suit and remarked,"You look like you had a rough night."
"You too, Mr. DeWitt, and no thank you. My head is pounding enough already. Please just let me do what I gotta do, and then we can both be on our way."
This interested Booker. "Speak, then."
"Ive been hired," Alonzo said, choosing his words carefully,"to contract you for a special job. A recovery."
"Recovery of what?"
"Recovery of who. It's a person."
"Yeah, see, I don't do those anymore. Those are too tricky Mr. Rossi."
"Why is that, Mr. DeWitt? It's a paying job."
"I'm sure. See, the tricky thing about recovering people, is that they can walk where they like. And unless I handcuff them, or tie them up, they tend to walk right back to where I found them in the first place."
"Its a dame."
"I'd be more surprised if it wasn't. I'm afraid I can't help you, sir. Might I suggest your employer move on, and fall in love with a different girl."
"If you do this," Rossi countered, placing the train ticket on the desk in front of Booker. "If you do this, my employer is willing to wash away your debts. Which I understand are considerable."
DeWitts face shifted imperceptibly, as he looked the man up and down.
"Does your employer routinely hire gangsters to deliver his threats?"
"To be honest, I have no idea who he or she hires, Mr. DeWitt. What I do know is that the people I work for, are dangerous people. I dont know how much you got yourself into them for, but if I were you, I'd take this job. This is quite literally," he said nodding at the paper on the desk,"your ticket out of this."
Booker examined the destination on the ticket.
"Portland, Maine?" he mused out loud, gulping down the shot of whiskey in one smooth motion.
"Once you arrive, you will meet with my employers contacts, and anything else is none of my business. They'll fill you in on all the details...I'm just the messenger."
"Doesn't your employer believe in Western Union?" DeWitt noted, pouring himself another shot.
"I will tell you what my employer does believe in," Rossi said, turning his back so Booker could see the back of his head. The matted blood from where he was struck, still visible in Rossis hair. "If you still got half a brain in that whiskey filled head of yours, youd be smart to be on the first train to Maine."
The two men stared at each other. DeWitt was the first to break the silence asking, "All of it? Every cent of what I owe will be cleared?"
"That's what they told me: Wipe away the debt. Listen Mr. DeWitt, when I'm not getting kidnapped by whoever you owe money to, I spend my own time collecting debts for another group of people. Vicious, cold people. Let me assure you, Booker, that the people I normally work for would rather cut off your fingers before forgiving one red cent of what you owed them. Because once you owe somebody, that somebody owns you and they can do with you whatever they want. I was sent here to give you a way out of this, unless you want to get killed, that is."
Rossi could see Bookers jaw firmly set, but something in that speech reached him. What it was, he would probably never know.
"So what are you getting out of this?" asked Booker.
"If I get you to board that train, then I get to live too. So please do me a solid favor, and lets not get you, me and possibly this broad in Maine killed, and just do whatever the hell they're asking of you."
Booker picked up the ticket, and slumped back in his chair to inspect it.
"At least it's First Class."
"Only the best. Can I take it you're interested?"
"I'm interested. You can tell them that."
"Thank you, Mr. DeWitt. With a little luck, maybe we can both live to be old men."
"With a little luck," DeWitt said without enthusiasm.
Rossi half-smiled, nodded, and started to leave the room, when he turned to Booker one last time,"I am asking you to get on that train, DeWitt. But if you dont get on that train, then I'm as good as dead, but not before I find a way to take you with me. Nothing personal, its just business."
Booker toasted his glass in the direction of Alonzo Rossi, and pounded his shot.
The brownstone door opened partway, the only part of Daisy visible was her face. Carl tipped his cap to her, and said in a low voice,"Rossi visited Mr. DeWitt this morning."
Daisy took a second to consider it. "Keep an eye on Booker. If he doesnt get on that train by tomorrow afternoon, I want you to pay him a visit."
Carl nodded. "What about Rossi?"
"Hes a loose end. Tie it up."
I thought he was forgiven?
"Nothing inspires revenge, quite like forgiveness, Carl." Her eyebrows furrowed and her expression hardened, "Now get it done, comrade, and let me know when DeWitt boards that train."
And with that, Daisy slammed shut the door.