©1999 - 2012
Edward D. Reuss
All rights reserved. Including the right of reproduction in whole or part in any form


By Gina Gallo

It all started with the calamari.  But to hear Vincent Genovese's story, it never should've started at all.  Sitting in the interrogation room of the 25th District, he squirms  impatiently while his Miranda rights are read.  Remain silent? Are they kidding?  No way is he keeping his mouth shut, not after his restaurant burned to the ground and his own wife called the police. If these  grim-faced cops think they can pin this on him, they got another think coming.
"If you give up your right to remain silent, anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law."
"If I remain silent, how you gonna know what happened?" he retorts. "If you woulda been there, you'd have seen  the whole thing yourselves."  And then, with a long-suffering sigh, "I  wish you were there. Then you'd know what I go through."
The younger detective, DiNapoli drums his pen on the desk.
"There's some serious charges we're talking about here, Vince. So far, we got  attempted murder, arson, assault with a deadly weapon -"
"Clams ain't a deadly weapon!"
"When they're  still in the shell, they are. The guy's got a skull fracture."
Folding thick arms over the shelf of his belly, Vince shakes his head.
 "That's my putana wife, trying to send me down the river."  He squints at the Police I.D. clipped to DiNapoli's suit.
"DiNapoli. You're a paisan, right? You know how Italian women get."
"I'm a cop.  I know how jealous husbands get, too. In your case, arrested.."
"Why you wanna ruin my Christmas Eve?" Vince whines. " Ain't you got any holiday spirit?"
"Looks like Santa brought you a sack full of felony charges, pal." Sayre, the other cop, leans back in his chair. "I'd say your Christmas is already trashed."
"And all because of some no-good bum! That snake, he tried to steal my wife."
"You got the right to an attorney, Vince. Maybe you wanna keep your mouth shut 'til he gets here."
"Why I gotta wait for him? He knows the guy's a bum. Everybody knows!"
"What guy?" asks Sayre.
"You give up the right to remain silent, we'll consider this a confession," warns DiNapoli.
"Enzo Maglioni!" Vince shouts. "Forty-five years, he's been sniffin' around my Josephine, ever since our wedding day. Would you believe he was my best man? And that dog, he don't take 'no' for an answer! Tonight was the last straw."
Sayre clicks on the tape recorder.
"The following is the confession of Vincent Genovese, who has waived his Miranda rights and is making this statement without coercion, 24 December, at 2230 hours."
"You ain't gotta say all that," Vince blusters. "I'm just tryin' to tell you what happened.
Tonight - Christmas Eve, of all nights- that rat Enzo comes in my restaurant -"
"That would be Enzo Maglioni, the victim?"
"He ain't no victim! He's a worthless dog. So he comes in the restaurant, parks his butt at our best table, and orders a glass of anisette. Now this is Christmas, remember, so we always do something nice for our customers. A complimentary shot of anisette for the holidays, a cannoli after dinner - that extra special touch, y'know? So my Josephine brings him the anisette, and he gets that look."
"What look?" Sayre asks while DiNapoli adjusts the recorder's controls. Vince is bellowing loud enough to be heard on Jupiter.
"Like he wants to gobble her up!" The walrus mustache flutters from Vince's  gale-force blasts. "Then he says, 'I got a taste for some calamari, Josie. You know how I love your calamari!'
That dog, I shoulda killed him right then!" 
Since he's still handcuffed, hand gestures are out of the question, so Vince settles for a mournful pout. A little play for sympathy couldn't hurt.  He figures once these cops hear his side of the story, he'll be home in time for Midnight mass.
"He tells my Josephine he likes her calamari. Says maybe he oughtta have some clams after that, because nobody's clams taste better  than Josie's."
"Sounds like he's big on seafood," Sayre says.
Vince shoots him a narrowed glance.
"And then, he watches my wife walk away. With that hungry look, y'know what I mean? I'm standing at the kitchen door, I can see what he does. And he's watching my Josephine's legs.
Must've got excited by those fancy stockings she wears."
"Fancy stockings? You mean like fishnets - ?"
"Orthopedic," Vince corrects. "She got a little problem with circulation. But the doctors say, with the diet and all, once her weight gets under 300, she'll be fine. That's why this dog Enzo wants her so bad. Got an eye for voluptuous women."
DiNapoli looks up from his notes. "So that's when you set him on fire?"
"I didn't set no fire. I was in the kitchen, remember? Watchin' my cook make up the  plate of calamari.  So when Josephine brings out the food, this pig says, 'You all set for Christmas,
Josie? Did you hang your stocking for Santa?'  Like he's friggin' St. Nick or something, coming with his bag of goodies."
"And that's when you threw the bottle of Asti Spumante at him?"
"Anisette, not Asti. But no, it wasn't then. So when Josephine comes back to the kitchen, I tell her, 'Watch out. That Enzo's up to no good.' Just trying to warn her is all. She don't notice things sometimes, ever since that cataract surgery."
"So what happened then?"
"He's done with the calamari and now he's sucking up the minestrone. Three kinds of beans I put, simmered for three hours. And this slob don't even taste it because  he's ogling my wife. When Josephine asks if he's decided on an entree, he says he wants a plate of pasta. Angel hair, he says, because of Christmas Eve. Tomato and basil sauce, extra meatballs. Can you believe it? The guy says 'extra meatballs' on a holy night?"
"Would that be where you tried to shove the loaf of garlic bread down his throat?" Sayre asks.
"Nah. I decide I'm gonna wait, watch the guy make his move." By now, Vince's eyes
are as shiny as an olive salad. "I know it's coming, I wanna see it with my own eyes. And it happens, just like I thought. This greaseball finishes his pasta. Then he tells my wife he got a taste for something sweet. Maybe some melon."
DiNapoli steeples his fingers, considering. "Prosciutto and melon? Isn't that a common item on Italian restaurant menus?"
"He ain't talking about menu items!" Vince bellows. "He's a dog - you know what he's talking about!"
Sayre consults his notes.
"So that's when you clubbed him with the pepper mill?"
" That's when I beaned him with the clams." In spite of himself, Vince can't suppress a  proud smile. "Still got my throwin' arm, I guess. Clipped him right in the noggin with all twelve."
"You also shattered one of your windows."
"Not me. One of the customers smashed it when the fire started."
Vince notices that DiNapoli is frowning now. It doesn't look good for a sympathy bid.
Maybe a couple tears would help. Scaling his voice down a few decibels, he tries for a sad look.
"I only threw the clams when I missed him with the Anisette bottle. Damn booze spilled all over him, the table, and my good carpet. And that cigar ..." Vince struggles for a mournful tone. "....must've fallen when he got knocked out of the chair. And okay, yeah, we might have gotten into a little skirmish with the pepper mill and all, but it was Josephine who started the fire."
By now, DiNapoli is rubbing his eyes.
"Your wife started the fire?"
"Her oxygen," Vince corrects. "Since her last heart attack, she gotta wear an oxygen thing in her nose. Helps her breathe. So when she slipped in the pasta and took a header on the floor -"
"Which was already on fire from the Anisette -" Sayre says.
" - just a little," Vince allows. "But when that oxygen tube got yanked out, the whole place went up!  And the only thing she's screaming is, 'Enzo! Save Enzo!'"
"He's got third-degree burns on sixty per cent of his body," DiNapoli says. "Looks like you didn't try too hard."
"Try?" This time, Vince's outrage is real. "My wife wants to run off with that lowlife and I should save him? My heart is broken! That putana - she wants him, she can have him!"
"And that's when she called the police?" Sayre inquires.
"That's when she ruined my life! Forty-five years and for what? So she could run off
with that swine!"  Vince studies the two cops, who don't seem the slightest bit sympathetic.
In fact, DiNapoli's mouth is twisting like he ate some bad eggplant.
"C'mon, you guys! You must have wives - you know how it is!" With his manacled hands, he attempts to brush off the crushed meatball still clinging to his pants. When the detectives don't answer, Vince  offers his  final plea.
"Why you guys being such hard-asses? Ain't you forgetting what tonight is? Christmas Eve, remember? Peace and goodwill to all men."

Visit Gina's website at  www.gallostories.com
Her book, CRIME SCENES is available now from Blue Murder Press.
Coming in March, 2001: her memoir: ARMED AND DANGEROUS: MEMOIRS OF A CHICAGO COP, published by Forge Books.

Copyright © 2000 by Gina Gallo - www.gallostories.com



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