Authors: Ronald Damien Malfi
Tags: #General, #Fiction, #Thrillers, #Suspense, #Horror, #Government Investigators, #Crime, #Horror Fiction, #New York (N.Y.), #Organized Crime, #Undercover Operations
For Dad, who attended every basketball game,
swim meet, and karate tournament …
and still found time to save the world.
Published 2009 by Medallion Press, Inc.
The MEDALLION PRESS LOGO
is a registered trademark of Medallion Press, Inc.
Copyright © 2009 by Ronald Damien Malfi
Cover Design by Michael Kellner
Book Design by James Tampa
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission of the publisher, except where permitted by law.
Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictionally. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Printed in the United States of America
Typeset in Baskerville
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Malfi, Ronald Damien.
Shamrock Alley / Ronald Damien Malfi.
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
The following is based on a true story. Though I have taken some liberty with certain names and events herein, the characters of Mickey O’Shay and Jimmy Kahn are quite real. The Irish gang of which they were the ringleaders terrorized Hell’s Kitchen for many years, to the point where even the sheer mention of their names caused doors to be bolted and prayers to be prayed. The following is the story of the young Secret Service agent who managed to infiltrate their organization in hopes of putting an end to their ghastly reign of terror.
That agent was my father.
ENEATH A SWELL OF DANCE-FLOOR LIGHTS
, John Mavio dropped the zipper of his leather jacket and shook his greasy hair down over his eyes. Industrial music shook the walls. Before him, a mob of dancers jerked and flailed like corks tied to elastic strings, their bodies intermittently bleached by harsh neon lights and shrouded by dense smoke. His mouth was dry, tasted sour.
To his left, Jeffrey Clay snorted and offered him a cigarette.
“You see some of these bitches?” Clay was young, maybe in his early twenties, but his creased face and nicotine complexion made him appear ageless. A wedge of wriggling, leather-clad women by the bar had collected his attention; Clay eyed them now like a hungry wolf. “Every goddamn weekend. You been to the Lavender Room? Just like this, only better.” Clay whistled. “I mean, you see these women or what?”
John pitched forward off the wall and caught a glimpse of Tressa Walker over Clay’s shoulder. Amphetamine-thin, her skin ghostly white, Tressa Walker caught his eyes and immediately looked away. On a riser above her head and sealed in a glass booth, a disc jockey wearing a wool cap spun records. Studio lights reflected off the glass.
John shifted his weight. He was of average height, well-built, his features predominantly Mediterranean. He felt out of place in the club. “What’s taking so long? Where’s your boy?”
Clay lit his cigarette, inhaled. As if tasting something bitter, his lips drew into a frown. Still watching the girls, Clay said, “Chill out. It’s all about good times—live in the moment. This is all for the fuckin’ moment, you know what I mean? No rush.”
“There’s people I need to get back to.”
“It’s all right, man.”
“This guy, he’s good?”
“We go back a long time, me and Frankie. Grew up in the same neighborhood, smelled the same shit.”
“I hate these places.”
“So drink something, screw somebody,” Clay said.
“Christ, no more beer.”
“Give it to me.”
Clay took one last drag and passed the cigarette to John. Behind Clay, Tressa Walker looked desperate to disappear. She was twenty-two and had a kid but didn’t look like anybody’s mother. Her eyes narrowed and her lips pressed tightly together, she stared into the sea of dancers, her thoughts nearly as loud as the music. She appeared to recognize someone in the crowd and brought her head up. She touched Clay on the shoulder. “Jeffrey,” she said.
Jeffrey Clay rolled his head, tendons popping in his neck, and grinned. Two men wove their way through the crowd. The lead man, dressed in a tight-fitting Italian shirt and pressed slacks, clapped Clay on the shoulder, whispered something into the crook of his neck. They both laughed. John recognized him as Francis Deveneau. Deveneau’s taller companion, decked in leather pants and silver contact lenses, his face a festival of complex piercing, stood off to one side, eyeing John with obvious disapproval. His skin was pale enough to look translucent beneath the club’s lights.
“This is Johnny,” Clay told Deveneau.
, Johnny,” Deveneau said and saluted. His eyes were bloodshot and sloppy. “Francis Deveneau.”
John nodded. “This your place?”
Deveneau bobbed his head, struggled with a lopsided grin. He was tapping one foot to the music. “Some of it. Just the good parts. You like it?”
“Some of it,” John said. “The good parts.”
Deveneau laughed. “You ate?”
“Jeffrey’s been picking up the tab?”
“He’s a cheap bastard,” John said, and Francis Deveneau laughed again. Behind him, his paleface companion shifted impatiently.
“Come on,” Deveneau said, “it’s all good tonight. Whatever you want on the house.” He turned his attention to Tressa Walker, who offered him a nervous smile, which Deveneau returned. His teeth looked dry and lackluster. “How you doing, babe?” He was a slender guy with hands as bony as hooves. “You been all right?”
“Yes.” It was the most she’d said all evening.
“This place,” Francis said, “has terrible food. I’m not kidding. Can’t help it.” He glanced at John. Winked. “Horrendous,
. After,” he told the girl. “After. Someplace nice downtown. Guspacco’s, maybe.” He looked back at John. “So you went to school with my girl?”
“For a little while. Before I dropped out.”
“You two dated?”
John smirked. “Nope.”
“She’s a good one,” Deveneau said.
Tressa took Deveneau’s arm. “He was older,” she said.
Deveneau smiled. Clapped his hands together. “Big man on campus.”
“Not exactly,” John said. “More like no man on campus.”
Clay pushed his way between them. “Come on,” he said, and wrapped his fingers around John’s forearm.
They maneuvered through a maze of grinding hips and swinging arms. The albino stuck to John like a dog, never saying a word, his eyes viciously sober. Only occasionally did he glance at Tressa, though never when the girl was looking in his direction. He looked at John, too, and with evident distrust. The music drummed on, programmed as one continuous loop. John spat on the floor and tossed his cigarette just as he and Clay followed Francis Deveneau, Tressa, and the albino down a flight of iron stairs. A corrugated concrete hallway closed around them. Metal creels hung from chains in the ceiling, adorned with flickering candles. As they sank deeper into the ground, the odor of sweat and mildew and incense grew strong.
“Frankenstein’s castle,” John muttered, and Clay snickered.
The stairwell emptied into a dimly lit corridor that seemed to lead everywhere and nowhere at the same time. They moved across the corridor and entered a large barroom. Red velvet couches, damp with rot and threadbare with age, were staggered like grazing cattle. A zinc bar clung to the far wall, collecting drinkers like fruit flies. Their shadows loomed large and distorted against every wall. A string of Christmas lights sagged against the wall behind the bar, most likely a year-round staple.
“They did a hell of a job down here,” Deveneau said. “Whole place was filled with sewage, maybe—what? Ten months ago, Jeffrey? Busted lines, rotted pipes. Christ knows. Rats the size of Thanksgiving turkeys watching you from every corner, hearing their little feet shifting through the muck. I been trying to talk Eddie into turning this place into some sort of underground casino. Like you see in the movies. Some fuckin’ tables, wheels, dice—the whole nine.”
“And when the cops come, he’s gonna spin the tables around and they’ll disappear behind the walls like in them gangster movies,” Jeffrey Clay said, chuckling.
Deveneau shook his head and glanced at his friend from over his shoulder. “You always gotta be a wise guy?”
But Clay was on a roll. “There’ll be a full bar on the other side, and some hot barmaid mixin’ drinks, real James Bond shit…”
John managed a grin. He was becoming more and more restless, charged by the stress of inactivity. The few drinks he’d had earlier were hitting him hard, and he suddenly felt as though he were moving two steps behind himself.
“You can see it though, can’t you?” Deveneau paused suddenly, causing the rest of them to catch their feet. He looked up, looked around. His left eyelid twitched. Some of the people at the bar glanced in his direction. “Lights and buzzers, heavy in cigar smoke. Air stinking of alcohol and cheap perfume. Breathe it in, man. All of it. All of it.” Deveneau shook his head. “Better than the goddamn swingers club Eddie wants to stick down here.” He jerked a finger in John’s direction. “You got your money?”
“You got my end?”
“Goddamn,” Deveneau said, grinning. From behind him, a number of middle-aged, overweight men pushed out of the darkness surrounded by a group of young girls carrying tropical drinks. A door must have opened somewhere; music was suddenly audible. Someone at the bar laughed too loudly. As the men and women passed, the vague, intermingled aroma of sweat and marijuana followed them. Deveneau’s albino companion shifted to let them pass, bumping John in the process. John felt the man’s hand brush against his hip.
“You curious about something, powder?”
The albino said nothing. At this proximity, John could smell him: a conglomeration of hair grease, fluoride, and ammonia. There was a faint scar the shape of a comma at the corner of his mouth, pink and raw-looking.
The passing wave of tension did not vex Francis Deveneau. “Should we get a drink? Let’s get a drink.”
“I’ve got some other business to take care of,” John said. “Besides, one more drink and I’ll never find my car.”
“Yeah, Frank,” Clay intervened, “let’s just do it. Johnny-cakes don’t seem too social tonight.”
Deveneau kissed Tressa on the cheek and ushered her toward a small doorway beside the bar. John followed, aware that the albino was directly behind him; he could feel his shadow pressing heavy against his back.