A nanny will go to any length to save a kidnapped Mafia prince in this madcap mobster farce by the bestselling author of the 87th Precinct series. Her name is Nanny, and she’s the most cutthroat woman in New York. Prim, slender, and dangerously English, she’s responsible for the care of Lewis Ganucci, a spoiled brat whose father just happens to control the city’s largest crime syndicate. Working on Mr. Ganucci’s sprawling Westchester estate is a dream . . . until Lewis disappears. Mr. Ganucci is vacationing in Capri, and Nanny sees no reason to inform him that she lost his boy. The kidnappers want $50,000, and if she can scrape it together before the boss gets back, she has a shot at staying alive. She recruits a mid-level enforcer, Benny Napkins, to help her get the cash and save the boss’s son, kicking off a chain of events so outrageous and delightful that Nanny will die laughing—if she doesn’t get whacked first. An uproarious story of kidnapping, extortion, and cold-blooded murder, this is Ed McBain at his best. If you love Damon Runyon or a great Robert De Niro comedy, you’ll enjoy this entertaining romp about a mobster on a rampage.
|Publisher:||Open Road Integrated Media LLC|
|Edition description:||Digital Original|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.20(d)|
About the Author
Ed McBain is one of the many pen names of legendary author Evan Hunter (1926–2005). Named a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America, Hunter is best known for creating the long-running 87th Precinct series, which followed an ensemble cast of police officers in the fictional city of Isola. A pioneer of the police procedural, he remains one of the best-loved mystery novelists of the twentieth century. Hunter also wrote under the pseudonyms Richard Marsten, Hunt Collins, John Abbott, Ezra Hannon, Curt Cannon, and others.
Read an Excerpt
Every Little Crook and Nanny
By Ed McBain
MysteriousPress.com/Open Road Integrated MediaCopyright © 1972 Ed McBain
All rights reserved.
It was a gorgeous Wednesday in August, of which there had not been too many in New York this summer. It reminded Benny Napkins of the good old days in Chicago, back in the sixties, when he had been in the garbage and linen profession. Not the winters in Chicago, no, because to tell the truth those had not been so pleasant, having to hang onto ropes tied to office buildings to keep from getting blown off Michigan Avenue, who needed that kind of breeziness? But he could recall Chicago summer days that inspired a man to poesy, mild summer zephyrs wafting in off the lake, guitars strumming, broads parading. Still, what good did it do to reminisce? Bygone days were bygone days. Linger on memories of summers past, and a person could miss the beauty of a truly magnificent August day that was actually here and now, the sky the color of Jeanette Kay's eyes, the trees in splendid emerald leaf awaiting the onslaught of fall.
He looked at the expectant trees through the windshield of the red Volkswagen. I think that I shall never see, he recited silently and completely from memory, a poem lovely as a tree. He pressed the accelerator to the floor and glanced simultaneously into the rearview mirror. This was not a day to get stopped by a state trooper. Not that any day, for that matter, was a day to get stopped by anyone connected with the Law. But especially not today. Nanny had called today, and Nanny had said there was trouble.
"What kind of trouble?" he had asked.
"Serious trouble," Nanny had replied.
"Yes, but what kind?"
"I can't tell you on the telephone."
"If you can't tell me on the telephone, why did you telephone?"
"To ask you to come here right away."
"I'm still in bed," Benny had said. "It's the middle of the night."
"It's nine-thirty in the morning."
"Jeanette Kay is still asleep. As God is my witness, Nanny, she is asleep here beside me."
"A man can't simply get out of bed and disappear in the middle of the night without telling his loved one that he is leaving."
"Wake her and tell her," Nanny had said.
"I don't like to do that. I like her to sleep till she's all slept out."
"Leave her a note."
"Jeanette Kay wouldn't read it."
"She doesn't like to read."
"Make it a short note."
"Even if it's short."
There had been a gravid silence on the line. Then Nanny had said, in the very precise English she used whenever she wished to remind people she had come from London only two years ago, "I am certain that Mr. Ganucci, when he returns, will be interested in learning that one of his trusted fellows did not respond to a call for help from his son's governess."
There had been another long silence.
Then Benny had said, "I'll get dressed and come right over."
"Yes, please do," Nanny had replied, and hung up.
It was now ten forty-five, which meant that in just an hour and fifteen minutes, Benny had got out of bed, taken off his black silk pajamas, showered, drunk a glass of grapefruit juice and a cup of coffee, dressed in his lightweight wool-Dacron suit (with matching blue socks, striped tie, white shirt, and black shoes), run down the five flights from his apartment on Third Avenue and Twenty-fourth Street, rushed across the street to where he parked the Volkswagen in a garage owned by Ralph Rimessa, whom he had known in Chicago in the sixties when he had been in the garbage and linen profession and who consequently charged him only half the usual rate for monthly parking, and driven all the way here to (he looked for a parkway sign to tell him where he was; well, wherever he was, almost to Larchmont, that was for sure, which was pretty fast moving for a man as big as he was).
Not that he was big.
He was, in fact, exactly five feet eight and three-quarter inches tall. He had once tried to talk a clerk at the Motor Vehicle Bureau into putting 5'9" on his driver's license, but the clerk had been one of those namby-pamby Goody Two-shoes who insisted on doing everything by the book, even though Benny had been throwing around some pretty big figures. As a matter of fact, he still found it impossible to understand why that mealymouthed little clerk could not be convinced — what difference did a lousy quarter of an inch make when the sum in question was something like forty dollars? But five feet eight and three-quarter inches it had remained, and that was what he was, and that was not big.
Well, perhaps in his childhood neighborhood on Taylor Street, five feet eight and three-quarter inches might have been considered big, especially since most of the people there were immigrants from Naples, which did not boast of a particularly statuesque population (with the possible exception of Sophia Loren, who, Benny supposed, was a population unto herself). But he had not been tall as a child, either.
The only time he could have been considered big, in fact, was when he had put on thirty pounds in as many days merely because it had been necessary to sample the food in so many restaurants. In those good old days, all the fellows had called him Fat Benny Napkins. Behind his back, of course. Until one night he overheard Andy Piselli bandying the name about, and then Andy met with that unfortunate accident of his in Cicero after which all the fellows immediately began calling him plain Benny Napkins again, or Ben Napkins, which was even more dignified.
He smiled as he drove along, the sun glancing through the branches of the trees, the leaves throwing their dappled patterns onto the windshield of the small car. It was a gorgeous Wednesday, and he was delighted to be awake and about before his usual hour. On a day like today, only an ingrate could be unhappy. He quickly recited a Hail Mary completely from memory and simultaneously reviewed all the things that made him so happy today: He had a nice little apartment on Twenty-fourth Street, which Jeanette Kay Pezza was kind enough to share with him most of the time, not to mention a little cottage in Spotswood, New Jersey, where he grew corn so sweet it made the teeth ache; he had a 1968 Volkswagen that had never given him a minute's trouble and started up immediately even in the winter; he had a nice outdoor job that didn't demand too much of his time and that paid a decent salary; and here he was on the way to Larchmont, enjoying the beautiful day and the drive to Many Maples, where he would try to help Nanny. He was flattered that she had chosen him over all the other fellows as the person to whom she wished to talk. He enjoyed listening to her. She was a lady to the marrow, and her voice with its pleasant English lilt was as lyric as a lark's.
"The little bastard's missing," Nanny said.
They were sitting in the living room near the big marble fireplace, Ganooch's collection of clocks on the wall, and also on the mantel, and also standing to either side of the open hearth (filled with flowerpots now), all of them ticking away minutes, throwing minutes into the room like strings of firecrackers. It was almost eleven o'clock. The governess was wearing a black dress with a little white collar. Her slender hands were folded in her lap. There was a look of intense pain and bewilderment on her face.
"Let's start from the beginning," Benny said.
"That is the beginning."
"No, it's more like the end. When did you discover ...?"
"Forgive me, I'm so distraught I don't know what I'm ..."
"There, there," Benny said.
"But he is missing, you see, and I'm all at sixes and sevens. That's why I called you."
"Well, I certainly appreciate your confi ..."
"Instead of anyone important," Nanny said. "I figured if I called anyone important, Mr. Ganucci might find out what happened."
"So I figured I would call someone who is very small potatoes."
"You were the smallest potatoes I could think of offhand."
All the clocks in the living room suddenly began tolling the hour, causing Nanny to wince, bonging and chiming and tinkling together, while unrelentingly ticking and tocking. And since it was eleven o'clock, and since presumably there would be a great deal of bonging and chiming and tinkling before they could resume their conversation, Benny seized the opportunity to reflect upon what she had just said. Yes, he had to admit he was very small potatoes as compared to some of the other fellows. Well, most of the other fellows. (If there was one thing Benny admired about himself, it was his uncompromising honesty.) But the fact that he was unimportant did not overly disturb him. He had once been very big in Chicago; he attributed his status now only to a little mistake he had made back in 1966. But who does not make mistakes, Benny asked himself, who indeed? The clocks continued their racket, as though clamoring to be fed. Nanny had covered her delicate ears with both hands and was now waiting for the din to subside. It did so all at once, just as it had begun. The living room was silent again, except for the incessant ticking and tocking.
"Beastly clocks," she said. "As if there isn't enough trouble in the world."
"Let's get back to your trouble," Benny said. "When did you discover he was missing?"
"At eight o'clock this morning. I went into his bedroom, and he wasn't there."
"Is he usually there?"
"In bed? At eight o'clock in the morning? Yes, of course he's usually there."
"But he was not there this morning."
"He was not there. And he is still not there. Nor anywhere in the house. Nor anywhere on the grounds, so far as I can tell."
"Maybe he's hiding or something," Benny suggested.
"I don't think so. He's not very playful that way. He's a rather serious little bastard."
"How old is he now, anyway?" Benny asked.
"He was ten years old last month."
"His father gave him a watch for his birthday."
"While at the same time paying tribute to a man he respects and admires," Nanny said.
"I see," Benny said, not wishing to pry. "I thought maybe if Lewis was slightly older, he might have a little girl friend, and maybe he went to visit her or something."
"No," Nanny said.
"No, I guess not."
"No. Lewis is missing. He is purely and simply missing. If Mr. Ganucci finds out about this ..."
"Now, now," Benny said, "Ganooch is in Italy, I don't see how he can possibly find out about it, do you? Besides, Lewis will probably turn up any minute now and all your troubles will be over."
"I do hope so. The little bastard has me worried silly."
"My brother one time," Benny said reassuringly, "when we were both little kids in Chicago, was missing all day long. Angelo. My brother."
"Where was he?"
"Angelo? In a garbage can, how do you like that?" Benny slapped his thigh, and burst out laughing. "He was hiding in a garbage can in the backyard! He stunk terrible when he finally came in the house."
"But he did finally come back?"
"Oh, sure. The same way little Lewis'll finally come back. You know how kids are, always looking for adventure."
"Well, Lewis isn't normally too adventurous," Nanny said.
"Even so. He probably got it in his head to take a walk or something. You got big grounds here, he may be out in the woods or something, watching ants or something. You know how kids are."
"Yes," Nanny said dubiously.
"So don't worry, everything'll be okay. Would it be all right if I used the telephone?"
"Yes, certainly. There's one in Mr. Ganucci's study."
She rose gracefully and led him out of the living room, and across the hall to where she slid open two heavily paneled doors. The study was quietly and tastefully furnished, the air redolent of good leather and musty books. Sunshine flowed through the leaded bay window at one end of the room, touching the leather-topped desk before it with a golden, mote-filled shaft of light.
"The telephone is there on Mr. Ganucci's desk," Nanny said. "I'll step out a moment, if you don't mind. The mail generally comes at eleven."
She closed the doors behind her and left Benny alone. He wandered to the bookshelves that lined one complete wall of the room, studying Ganooch's library, all of it bound in hand-tooled leather, and then turned away abruptly and went to the desk. He sat in the brown swivel chair, the leather sighing beneath him as he sank into it, reached for the phone, and quickly dialed his apartment in Manhattan. Jeanette Kay answered on the third ring.
"Hello?" she said.
"This is Benny," he said. "Were you asleep?"
"No," she said. "I got up a little while ago."
"Did you see my note?"
"I left a note on the refrigerator door."
"No, I didn't see it."
"Did you go to the refrigerator?"
"I'm standing right by the refrigerator this very minute," Jeanette Kay said.
"Well, do you see the note?"
"Yes, I see it. What does it say?"
"It says I'm going up to Larchmont."
"Oh. Okay. When are you going?"
"I'm here now."
"Oh. I thought you said you were going to Larchmont."
"When I wrote the note, I wasn't here yet, I was about to leave for here."
"Oh," Jeanette Kay said. She hesitated a moment, and then said, "That's what I hate about reading."
"Anyway, I'll be through here soon, but I got to go to Harlem to pick up the work, so I won't be home till sometime this afternoon."
"Okay," Jeanette Kay said. "Are we going out tonight?"
"Would you like to go out tonight?"
"I don't know. What day is it?"
"Wednesday is Beverly Hillbillies."
"No, that's Monday."
"It's Wednesday, too, Ben, don't tell me."
"Well, what do you think?"
"I'll see how I feel," she said. "They're all reruns now, anyway."
"Okay, I'll talk to you later."
"G'by," she said, and hung up. Benny replaced the receiver on the cradle, luxuriated in the feel of the leather chair for one last delicious moment, and then rose and walked swiftly to the sliding doors. He was stepping into the entrance foyer when Nanny came through the front door with the mail. Her hands were trembling.
"What is it?" Benny asked immediately.
Nanny was speechless. She handed the stack of mail to him, and he leafed through it quickly: a bill from the electric company, another from Diners' Club, a third from Lord & Taylor's, a postcard with a beautiful picture on it —
He quickly turned the card over to read it:
Benny shrugged. It was a nice enough card, well written and informative. Aside from Ganooch's promise to see Nanny at the end of the month (by which time little Lewis would most certainly have come out of his garbage can or wherever it was he had hidden), Benny could see nothing in it that might have so obviously upset her. Upset she was, no question about it. She stood leaning limply against the entrance door, trembling, one hand to her mouth, her eyes wide in fright. Benny looked at the last envelope in his hand. It was a strange envelope to be finding in the morning mail, primarily because there was neither a stamp nor an address on it. He lifted the flap, pulled out a sheet of writing paper, unfolded it, and read the words pasted to it:
"Oh boy," Benny said.CHAPTER 2
On a side street off a piazza in Naples, Carmine Ganucci sat at an outdoor table with two men who were trying to explain a rather complicated business deal to him. One of the men was named Giuseppe Ladruncolo, and the other was named Massimo Truffatore. Ladruncolo was perhaps sixty-five years old, and he sported a handlebar mustache which he swept upwards with the back of his hand each time he took a sip of red wine. He was wearing a pinstripe suit and a white shirt without a tie. Truffatore was more elegantly dressed. He was a man in his forties, Ladruncolo's nephew on his mother's side, in fact, and he considered himself one of the sportiest dressers in Naples if not the entire south of Italy. (He had never been to Sicily.) Truffatore was wearing a dark brown sharkskin suit, a pale green shirt, a yellow tie, yellow socks with green clocks, and brown and white shoes. He had dark brown eyes and black hair, as had his uncle. But he was clean-shaven and his manners were meticulous; he used only his thumb and forefinger each time he lifted his wineglass to his lips.
"I'm not sure I understand the deal," Ganucci said. He did not like the idea of having had to come into Naples when he was supposed to be on vacation. He did not much like Ladruncolo or Truffatore, but he detested Naples. His father had been born in Naples and had had the good sense to get out of here at the age of fourteen. Ladruncolo and Truffatore had been deported from America for various little activities, oh, many years back, but that did not mean they had to choose to live in Naples when there were so many beautiful cities in Italy. To Ganucci's mind, this qualified them as morons. Moreover, they smelled bad.
Excerpted from Every Little Crook and Nanny by Ed McBain. Copyright © 1972 Ed McBain. Excerpted by permission of MysteriousPress.com/Open Road Integrated Media.
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