Read The Vulture's Game Online

Authors: Lorenzo Carcaterra

Tags: #Fiction, #Thrillers, #Suspense, #General, #Crime

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BOOK: The Vulture's Game
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Jimmy handed me a note. I read it and handed it back. “Scanlon’s call-girl operations will be the last to go. They can be made to disappear overnight. That’s just a phone call to the right person.”

Uncle Carlo sat back in his thick leather chair and glanced from me to Jimmy and smiled. “The two of you work this up?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said.

“Well, you seem to have touched all the bases,” he said. “Except for one.”

“What’s that?”

“Where’s all this money going to come from?” Uncle Carlo asked. “And what’s the gain for the person or persons taking care of these banks and investors?”

I smiled at Jimmy; this we had seen coming. “You get seventy-five percent of all profits generated by the buildings—existing as well as new ones. That’s for run of show. The remaining twenty-five percent goes to the two of us. Out of that, we pay all expenses and put in our guy to manage the buildings and the site. Same deal holds for the call-girl operations and any casino, racetrack, and airport action Scanlon had already managed to set up.”

“You got somebody in mind to run those buildings?” Uncle Carlo asked.

“We haven’t talked to him yet,” I said. “But I have a good feeling he’ll be open to our offer.”

My uncle sat silently for several moments, running the plan over in his head, looking for loose ends. “Want to know what I like about all this?” he finally asked. “That the two of you worked it out together. That pleases me no end. And it’s a good plan. No bloodshed, money coming in our way, and a major pain in the ass tossed aside. Guys like Scanlon live and breathe for attention. He’ll get plenty of that now, only it won’t be the kind he likes.”

“We’re not out of the woods just yet,” I said. “He’s in a corner and he might still try to make a move.”

“Against you, no doubt,” my uncle said. “He caught you off guard with that beating. Truth is, he caught us all off guard. Next time won’t be so easy. I’ll make sure of that.”


11:37 P.M.

“He’s got to go, Al,” Scanlon said. He was shouting now but could barely be heard above the din of the fire engines, the crowds milling as close to the destroyed construction site as they could get. “I let you talk me out of it one time. I’m not going to make that mistake a second time.”

“Let’s take care of what’s in front of us first,” Collins said in as calm a voice as he could manage. “This and the fiasco on the West Side.”

“And you think these two situations, both happening on the same night, are what? A
?” Scanlon shouted, not caring who overheard him. “You don’t think that punk bastard’s fingerprints are all over this mess? And I do what now? Stand here and start over, act like it never happened? That bastard dies, I’m telling you, even if I have to pull the trigger myself. Have I made my point clear?”

“Let’s take a walk, Frank,” Collins said. “We need to talk. Maybe someplace that has fewer than twenty-five potential witnesses listening to our conversation.”

Scanlon nodded, noting the change in Collins’s demeanor, figuring it meant he was now willing to go along with the idea of taking out Vincent Marelli. They stayed quiet until they turned right on to Madison Avenue, bustling during the day, but practically deserted after eleven in the evening.

“Okay,” Scanlon said, “what have you got for me?”

“You’re busted, Frank,” Collins told him. “There was more to today than the fire and the evacuation. A lot more.”

“Such as what?”

“The banks cashed out on your mortgages,” Collins said. “All of them. They extended you as far as they could. Somebody came along and bought them all out. The loans on the site, too. They’re gone as well.”

“The investors asked for their money back?”

“They didn’t have to ask,” Collins said. “They were paid—and paid well, I might
add—to walk away. All of them did. Every single one of them.”

“Who paid them?”

“Marelli,” Collins said. “The old man owns your buildings and your construction sites, and who knows? Before the night is out he might have taken over your shares of the casino, racetrack, airport operations, and the call-girl companies.”

“How did this happen?” Scanlon said, grabbing Collins by the front of his shirt and tossing him hard against the side of a parked car. “And the how the hell did you let it happen?”

“How?” Collins asked. “Let me tell you how, Frank. You tried to pretend you were tough. Only you were up against guys who don’t need to pretend. The old man
the college boy. In this match, you were the kid up against the pros.”

Scanlon glared at Collins. “How do you know all this?” he asked. “Have you been talking to them?”

“I wasn’t at first,” Collins said. “Though I had a feeling none of this would go your way. The casinos, racetracks, airports, call girls—hell, even the drug business. We don’t belong in any of those fields, neither you nor me. And then that old man gets burned to death in a tenement fire. A fire you ordered set.”

“The building was supposed to be
,” Scanlon said.

“But guess what?” Collins said. “It wasn’t and an old man died because you didn’t have the money to pay him out.”

“You were part of this, too,” Scanlon said. “Don’t start playing altar boy with me. I’ve known you for too long a time. I may have lost everything, but not you. The house on the beach. The condo on the East Side. The money in the bank. They’re all still there waiting for you. And none of that would be yours if it wasn’t for me.”

“That’s true,” Collins said. “Every word. All I have I have because of you. And because of that fact, I’m going to do you one last favor. Probably the biggest favor of your life.”

“And what’s that, ‘friend’?”

“Take your losses and walk away,” Collins said. “Don’t try to go out and pay someone to take out the kid or, even dumber, the old man. And don’t try to do it on your own. If you do anything foolish like that, one of your dreams will indeed come true.”

Scanlon looked at Collins. “What?” he said.

“You will finally end up on Page One of the tabloids,” Collins said. “Or at least photos of your body will.”

“You planning on doing a disappearing act, too?”

Collins shook his head. “No,” he said. “I signed on with a new firm. I start working for them next week.”

“Anybody I know?”

“They’re a new company,” Collins said. “Small, family run outfit, out of Westchester County.”

“What are you going to be doing for them?”

“What it is I know how to do, Frank,” Collins said. “Managing buildings and construction sites. It seems they’ve acquired a few new buildings and sites over the last week and they needed an experienced hand to come on board. They made me a fair offer and I accepted.”

“You’re leaving me to go work for the devil himself,” Scanlon said, shaking his head.

“It won’t be new to me,” Collins said. “I’ve had a lot of practice in that area.”

“This isn’t over yet, you know,” Scanlon said. “Give me a few years and then you’ll see.”

“It’s over for me,” Collins said.

Collins looked at Scanlon one last time and then turned and walked north up Madison Avenue, alone on a dark and empty street.

Scanlon watched him leave, stared at him until he was long out of sight. He put his hands in his pockets and began to walk toward the corner. A black sedan pulled up next to him and came to a slow stop. The tinted back window came down and a hand with a semiautomatic handgun stuck out, barrel pointed at Scanlon, who stood frozen in place.

I stepped out of the passenger seat and walked over toward him, my hands in my pockets. “Nice night,” I said.

“You won the first round,” Scanlon said. “But this fight is far from over.”

“Oh no, it’s done,” I told him. “
done. I own you now. Any move you
make, anything you try to do, won’t get done unless I give the go-ahead. You belong to me.”

“And how long you think that will last?”

“Until I decide you’re worth more dead to me than alive,” I said.

Behind me, the man holding the gun leaned forward in his seat, his face barely visible in the darkness. “That gun that’s behind us,” I said. “I can make it appear anytime, any place, anywhere. Can you see it?”

Scanlon nodded.

“Good,” I said. “The
time, you won’t see the gun. You won’t see the man holding it. You won’t see me. The next time it will be just bullets.”

The man sat back and brought his hand and the gun back into the car and raised the window. I stared at Scanlon for a few seconds and then turned and walked back to the car, got in, and slammed the passenger side door. The car slowly pulled out and drove up Madison Avenue.

Frank Scanlon, once thought to be the most powerful and colorful man in New York, sat down on the steps leading to the Morgan Library and stared out at the streets of a city he once claimed as his own.


12:24 A.M.

It was just after midnight and I was on the second hour of a long walk through Central Park. I needed some time alone, as the activities of the past few weeks had consumed all my time and energy. I knew the job I was given on Scanlon was a test, and I was pleased that I brought the matter to a successful conclusion.

In doing so, I realized that had been the moment I made my decision. For several years I had given a lot of thought as to what I would make of my life once my schooling was at an end. I’d thought about being a lawyer, but wasn’t certain I had the temperament for the job. I toyed with the idea of being a doctor, but it never went beyond that. Getting an MBA seemed a no-brainer since I could apply it to almost anything I chose to do. But what exactly would that be?

I knew what my uncle wanted it to be, or at least I think I did. He needed someone to step into his place when the time came and he was still young enough to groom his own successor. That right should have naturally fallen to Jimmy, and had he been born without his disability, I would probably have been interviewing at a few of the downtown accounting firms I keep my money in. But regardless how Jimmy might feel about being passed over, passed over he was going to be—if not by me, then by someone else. Uncle Carlo would never risk the future of his organization.

Now, I would be less than honest if I didn’t tell you how much I loved working the Scanlon job. I loved the planning, sizing up the adversary, trying to pinpoint his weak spots while being acutely aware of his strengths. And yes, I loved the danger, too. I chose the way to bring Scanlon down. The easy way would have been to take him out. Give the order, sit back, and wait for the hit to take place. But I’ve learned a lot from my uncle, not just his words, but also his actions. And I had learned just as much during my time in Italy watching the old Dons there go about their business. Toss in the books I was given to read about the men who established the international Crime Commission—Charles “Lucky” Luciano; the Chairman of the Board, Frank Costello; and the genius Meyer
Lansky—and the lessons were there to be absorbed.

You can always take someone out. If history has taught us anything, it has most certainly taught us that. From presidents to loan sharks, from popes to pimps, anyone can be brought down with a phone call and two bullets.

But not anyone can be put into such a corner, a tight spot from which there is no way out, and be defeated in so thorough a manner that he is left with nothing. That’s so much more fitting an end than leaving him facedown on a sidewalk. In a way, killing him lets him off the hook, death being the ultimate escape. But survival is a punishing weight he will carry for the rest of his life.

I walked past the shuttered children’s zoo and made my way down a dark winding path. I knew then that my life had been forever altered, my uncle and Frank Scanlon had together seen to that. When you come right down to it, the decision wasn’t such a difficult one. I might regret it one day, time would decide that. But back then, for that one moment, I knew there was no other way for me.

I would become what I was destined to become. I would take the reins from Uncle Carlo and continue to build on the foundation he put in place. I will become the one who decides.

I will be, sad but true, everything my father would have hated.

I will be feared and respected.

I will have great wealth and power.

I will be a mob boss.

I will be a Don.


A Safe Place: The True Story of a Father, a Son, a Murder




Street Boys

Paradise City


Midnight Angels

The Wolf

Short Story

“The Vulture’s Game” (eBook)


is the #1
New York Times
bestselling author of
A Safe Place
Street Boys
Paradise City
, and
Midnight Angels
. He is a former writer/producer for
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The New York Times Magazine
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BOOK: The Vulture's Game
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