A simple bodyguard job for a Hollywood locations manager uncovers a rats' nest of sexual blackmail, murder, and high-level political corruption . . . and Ray Dudgeon is caught in a war between the FBI, the Chicago police, and the mob. With the line between good and bad blurring, Ray doesn't know who he can trust—or if he can even trust himself.
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Big City, Bad BloodA Novel
By Sean Chercover
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2007 Sean Chercover
All right reserved.
In the shadows of the John F. Kennedy Expressway, surrounded by warehouses, factories and auto-body shops, stands Villa d'Este, a family-run restaurant that serves generous portions of decidedly untrendy Italian-American food at reasonable prices. The restaurant was there more than thirty years before the expressway slashed the neighborhood in two and I imagine it'll be there long after the Kennedy collapses under the weight of bureaucratic neglect and political corruption. In Chicago, some things never go out of style.
I paced the restaurant's black and white checkerboard marble floor, waiting to ask Johnny Greico if he planned to kill my client. I didn't know how he would take such a question and I decided not to think about it. So I thought about other things.
I was doing my pacing in the Library Room, an ornate lounge they only used at night. Since it was just past noon, the room was closed and I was alone with my thoughts. Thinking, Maybe I should have called ahead for an appointment.
Sal Greico and his $3,000 suit strutted into the room.
"How are you, Ray?" He squeezed my hand harder than he needed to.
"Sal, good to see you."
Sal gestured to a pair of faux-nineteenth-century Florentine chairs. He tugged at the top of his trouser legs as he sat, to keep the razor-crease. Throwing caution to the wind, I neglected mycrease and just sat down.
"Big John is very busy," he said. "What can I do for you?" Big John was Johnny Greico, Sal's uncle, and nobody outside the family called him that.
"I don't mind waiting. I only need a few minutes of his time."
"What's it about?"
"Well it's not about you, Sal. Either I can see him or I can't. But I think he'll be disappointed if you send me away."
We stared at each other for about a week. Finally Sal said, "Everybody gets screened, Dudgeon. That's the protocol."
Protocol is a pretty fancy word for a guy like Sal Greico, but I left it alone. No use being a wiseass.
"Sorry, no disrespect intended. I'll just wait."
Sal stared at me for another week, then stood up and left the room. On his way out, he closed the door harder than he needed to.
I stood and wandered around, just to save what was left of the crease in my pants. The room had no windows and I wondered if the snow had started. There had been little snow this year, which was fine by me. Gus the barber had bemoaned the possibility of not having a white Christmas, now only a week away. Sitting in his chair, I'd made sympathetic noises, but I wasn't looking forward to Christmas and I certainly didn't care what color it was going to be.
I had sent out Christmas cards, not because I was taken by the spirit of the season but simply to remind previous clients that I still existed. One of those cards had gone to Johnny Greico.
Greico was what most people call a Mob Boss. He was probably the fourth-most-powerful organized crime figure in the Chicago Outfit, which made him pretty powerful. It was said that he controlled most of the bookmaking and loan-sharking operations in the Midwest and I had no reason to disbelieve it. The feds had tried for years to make a RICO case against him and had twice gotten indictments, but never a conviction. During the first trial a key witness turned up dead, and during the second, evidence went missing from police custody. Johnny Greico had clout. Johnny Greico was not a man you wanted to screw around with.
So about a year earlier, when I got a message that Mr. Greico wished to have the pleasure of my company, I wasn't about to say no. Sal had picked me up in a dark blue Lincoln Continental driven by a big boy named Vinnie Cosimo. I recognized Vinnie because he had played some college ball. He was a pretty good defensive lineman but they said he lacked the killer instinct and he never figured to go pro. Sal and Vinnie had brought me here, where I met Johnny Greico in a wood-paneled office behind the kitchen.
Greico was worried about electronic surveillance and hired me to sweep the office and the three cars he used regularly, and to check the telephone lines for wiretaps. He never said why he picked me for the job and I never asked. I suspect that he may have thought someone from inside his organization was involved, but that still didn't explain how he came across my name.
As it turned out, there were no bugs to be found. There was a tap on his phone line but it wasn't on the premises; it was located in the JWI terminal. That meant it was a police wiretap and there was nothing he could do about it, except to have his lawyers ensure that a warrant had been properly issued to place the tap.
Greico accepted the news without question and let me sell him $8,000 worth of electronic countersurveillance equipment. Plus three days of my time at $600 a day. I spent one day sweeping for bugs and checking the phone lines. On the second day I tracked the location of the wiretap and installed tap detectors on the phones. And on the third day I trained Vinnie in the proper use of tap detectors and bug-sweeping equipment. Vinnie surprised me by being a lot smarter than I expected and it only took a few hours, but I was charging by the day. In the end, I came out with a decent pile of cash for only a few days' work and I put Johnny Greico on my Christmas card list, not that I ever wanted to work for him again.
Excerpted from Big City, Bad Blood by Sean Chercover Copyright © 2007 by Sean Chercover. Excerpted by permission.
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