Friday, January 15, 2016

The Yellow Hand

The Yellow Hand
Bobby Derie

"Blood. Violence. Power. Money. Vendetta. These things I understand." Scolese scowled, shadows of her grandmother-to-come in the lines of her mouth. She laid down a thick stack of polaroids. "This is something new."

Summer in Hoboken, you remember that this side of the Hudson was supposed to be the northern Everglades, before they filled in the wetlands and threw down houses. Swamp weathered settled in the streets, and every fucking weed did it's damndest to bloom. Rock started off the morning with zyrtec and rye, and seldom looked back.

They met in the backroom of Gunney's - Gunney being an ex-Marine, an ex-cop, and ex-God knows else. It was the kind of cop bar that the cops carefully stayed away from, with the illegal slot machines in the shady arcade next to the Pac-Man, protection paid up to the local racket, and a floating poker game every other Thursday night in the back room. The rest of the time, it was open for plainclothes and undercovers to have a little chinwag. He called it the office.

Rock leaned over the desk, flicked through the white-framed sheets. Bodies, no heads or hands. Mostly men, but also women, kids. He paused on one shot - there was a pair of cats, tiger-stripes on muddy brown with a white belly. They were play with the head of a newborn, batting it around like a mouse.

He thought back to a cold winter night on Weehawken. Laid flat on his belly on the beach, in amid the grass, with a fat telephoto lens on his Nikon, his big black dick shooting the made men gathered in the beach house. Not even the moon out, the photos had been shit. Black shapes gathered in a circle around the new initiate to the inner circle of the criminal fraternity; somebody's nephew, somebody's son, still shaking off the adrenaline from making his bones. The only light was the city in the background, and the pale flame of the card burning in the kid's hand...Rock had thought there was something wrong with the card. It was supposed to be a saint, but it was yellow - he had seen a flash of yellow, as the flame crumpled it. Running around there feet had been dark, furred shapes on four legs.

"That was part of the Patriarca family, the part that had connections with the Bonannos. We thought it was fallout from the Donnie Brasco thing." She laid one hand on her piece - Rock never knew why she always came to the office armed, but he knew that when they maroon fingernails tapped against her gun, she was upset. "That brought the FBI in. Cocksuckers. The thing is, they've seen this before."

She took out a file, three inches thick, rubber bands holding on for dear life, dry and cracked under his fingers as he slipped them off. Beyond the manila skin, rough grainy black on bright white paper, artifacts of being copied and recopied. The top page was dated 1908.

1908. The numbers shifted and blurred in his vision. 1890. The old book - cloth, not leather - fell out from the old man's bag. A pale image of a man in a robe, an angel with a torch, it's face hidden. The old man's enormous paw slammed down on the cover, looked him in the eye. Raw threat there. Rock had been eight or nine himself at the time, but his eyes weren't drawn to the old man, but to the little saint's medallion hanging loose on his neck, the one that looked like the angel from the book.

"This goes back a long way." Scolese brought him back to the present. "As long as the bureau's been around, apparently, if not longer. Ritual killing. Same every time. Except it isn't." Rock flipped through pages. Blurry photos, heads and hands arranged in patterns. The corpses were always kneeling, rock noticed. Like they were bowing to somebody. "This thing back then, it wasn't a mob thing. It's never been a mob thing, wherever it crops up. Lucky Luciano would not have recognized this for what it is. Crops up every now and again; back in the 30s the Feds thought it was some pagan survival, all that Margaret Murray shit..."

"The Godfather." Rock said, then stopped as he realized he'd spoken aloud.

"What?" Scolese looked at him.

"You remember when The Godfather came out?" She nodded, and he went on. "All the mob guys, they weren't exactly smart cookies. They didn't talk about honor and shit. Then The Godfather came out - and all of a sudden, the mob guys have something to look up to. They saw what they wanted to be, thought it gave them class. Had a lot of made men tried to be would-be Godfathers after that."


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