What’s next for you? Does Jack Bertolino have another story?
I’m two hundred pages into my next Jack Bertolino book. It’s called, “Working the Negative.” Jack grew up in a Staten Island neighborhood populated with “made men” and friends of the Mafia. He cut all ties with the dark side when he entered law enforcement and thought he’d left his past securely behind when he moved out to California. But it’s never easy.
Jack carried a Subway turkey sandwich; a tall unsweetened iced coffee, a bottle of water, and a smile as he keyed the chain link gate that led to the dock in Marina del Rey where his boat was moored. It was always quiet during the week. Just the way he liked it.
He stopped for a moment to admire his twenty-eight feet of used Cutwater cabin cruiser before stepping onto his boats transom and then...
“Yo, Mister B.”
Jack never forgot a voice, which explained his reluctance to turn around.
“Yo, yo, Mister B.”
Miserably fucking persistent, Jack thought. He turned to face Peter Maniacci who was dressed head to toe in black; his outstretched hands clutched the chain link security fence like an Italian scarecrow. The black circles under his thirty-year old eyes belied his age. The sharp point of his sideburns, and his boots, and the thirty-eight hanging lazily from a shoulder holster did little to tame his goofy grin.
So close, Jack thought. His only worry that day had been whether to eat his sandwich dockside, or out on the Pacific with a view of the Santa Monica Pier.
“How you doing, Peter?”
“How you doin’?”
Jack let out a labored sigh. “We could do this all day. What’s up?”
“That’s funny, Mr. B. How’s the boy? How’s his pitching arm?”
Jack’s face tightened. His back twinged. He wasn’t happy that Peter knew any of his son’s particulars. When he didn’t answer, Peter continued.
“Hey, nice boat. I used to fish for fluke off the north shore. Long Island. I think I must be in the wrong business.”
“Count on it,” Jack said. “What can I do for you?”
“My boss was wondering if you could spare a few minutes of your time.”
And as if on cue, a black town car materialized behind Peter and came to a smooth, silent stop. The car rose visibly when Peter’s boss, a thick, broad shouldered man stepped out of the rear seat.
Vincent Cardona. Expensive suit, the body of a defensive line backer – fleshy but muscled. Dark penetrating eyes. Cardona looked in both directions before leveling his feral gaze on Jack. An attempt at a smile fell short of the mark. A thick manila envelope was tucked under one beefy arm.
Jack could see there was business to attend to.
Jack was more than aware there would be some form of payback due for information Cardona had provided on Arturo Delgado, the man responsible for the attempted murder of his son. He just didn’t think it would come this quickly. But was there ever a good time for payback? Jack opened the locked chain link gate, and let the big man follow him down the dock toward his boat.
As Peter stood sentry in front of the Lincoln town car, Jack allowed the devil entry onto his own little piece of paradise.
“How’s your boy? How’s the pitching arm?” Vincent said leading off with his own fastball. Just a reminder of why he was there as if one was needed.
“On the mend,” Jack said as he gestured to one of two canvas deck chairs on the open cockpit of the boat. Both men sat in silence for a moment as Jack waited for Cardona to explain the reason for his visit.
Jack wasn’t any more comfortable with Cardona talking about Chris than he had been
with Peter. But the big man had taken it upon himself to station Peter outside of St. John’s Hospital while his son was drifting somewhere between life and death. Cardona’s enforcer had scared off Jack’s old nemesis, Arturo Delgado, and in doing so might have saved his son’s life. An unsolicited good deed that was greatly appreciated by Jack. The debt weighed heavily.
“It rips your heart out when they have problems and you can’t do anything to help,”
Cardona said with the raspy wheeze of a man who had abused cigars, drugs, booze, and fatty sausage for most of his adult life.
“What can I do for you?” Jack asked not wanting to prolong the impromptu meeting.
Cardona, unfazed by Jack’s brusqueness answered by pulling
out a picture and handing it off to Jack.
“Angelica Marie Cardona. She’s my girl. My only. My Angel. Her mother died
giving birth. I didn’t have the heart to re-up. I raised her by myself.”
Mobster with a heart of gold. Right, Jack thought. But Cardona’s wife must have been a stunner because Angelica, blonde, early twenties, flawless skin, grey-green eyes, didn’t get her good looks from her father. Her self-assured attitude that all but leaped off the photograph; that could have been Cardona’s gift.
“Beautiful.” Jack Bertolino. Master of the understatement, he thought.
“And doesn’t she know it. Too much so for her own good. You make mistakes. My
line of business. Whatever.”
“What can I do for you Vincent?” Jack said dialing back the attitude.
Cardona continued on like Jack hadn’t spoken while he tracked a seagull soaring
overhead with his heavy lidded eyes and rubbed the stubble on his jaw.
Jack would have paid good money to change places with the gull.
“I shoulda never moved out here. LA. I’m a black socks on the beach kinda guy. East
coast all the way. Never fit in. But I’m a good earner and the powers-that-be decided they were happy with the arrangement. Everyone was happy except Angelica and me.
“She turned thirteen, didn’t wanna have nothing to do with her old man. Turned iceberg cold. I tried everything, private schools, horses, ballet, therapy, live-in help, nothin’ worked. She closed up tighter than a drum. I finally threatened to send her to the Nuns.”
“How did that work out?”
“I’m fuckin’ sitting here aren’t I? On this fuckin’ dingy... no offense meant,” he said
trying to cover, but the flash of anger told the real story. “I hear you’re an independent contractor now.”
Jack had recently turned down the Mayor’s offer to come on board as a paid consultant. A plum position for a retired NYPD Inspector. He had been promised autonomy and the power of the badge without having to wear a uniform, but as a paid member of the Mayor’s security team, he didn’t think that would ultimately be the case. Jack had been enjoying his newly-found freedom since moving west.
But, Jack Bertolino & Associates, Private Investigation? Hmmm. Still didn’t come trippingly off his tongue. And after the disaster up north, “We’ll see how that goes,” Jack said making a mental note to talk to his mother about curtailing neighborhood gossip.
“I haven’t seen my daughter in close to a month. Haven’t heard word one, since
around the time your son was laid up in St. John’s,” he said firing a slider, dangerously high on the inside. Reminder number two. “It’s killing me,” he continued. “I’m getting a fuckin’ ulcer. Then this.”
Cardona pulled out the LA Times with the front-page spread about the woman who
had reportedly died when her boat crashed on the rocks at Paradise Cove, and a second woman down in Orange County who had washed up on the beach, a few weeks earlier. He’d already read both articles with his morning coffee and the pattern, that the reporter more than inferred seemed weak.
“And the connection?”
“I gotta bad feeling is all. She’s never disappeared like this before, not for this long
anyway,” he said amending his statement. “And then...” Cardona said waving the newspaper like it was on fire. “It says here they were both blondes. Both about the same age. Both about Angelica’s age. They could be fuckin’ cousins. Could be nothing.”
“Did you file a missing persons report?”
“Jack, don’t fuck with me. We take care of our own.”
Jack thought before he spoke.
“I’m not one of yours.”
“Semantics, a matter of interpretation.”
“What about your crew?”
“I get angina, I don’t call my cousin Frankie who has a certain skill set, but stinks
when it comes to open heart surgery. Look I get it. You were on the other team. But this is straight up business. One man to another. One father to another. I need you to find my girl. You got my number. Use it Jack. Money’s no object. Find my baby.”
Publisher: Gallery Books, Simon&Schuster/Karen Hunter Publishing
Number of pages: 384
Word Count: 89,520
A Sizzling thriller for fans of James Patterson and Patricia Cornwell. An exciting tour into the real-life world of cops, crime, and murder. Retired inspector Jack Bertolino had strict rules when dealing with confidential informants. But Mia had the kind of beauty that could make a grown man contemplate leaving his wife, his job, and his kids. After a passionate night together, Mia is found murdered – and Jack is the lead suspect. Facing threats from the LAPD, the 18th Street Angels, and a Columbian drug cartel, Jack delves deeper into the seedy world of drug dealers and murderers and discovers that the top players knew Mia personally. And now Jack is torn between fearing for his life and seeking revenge for his slain lover…either way, the body count will rise.
Book Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vkyDF7KNdJ8
John Lansing started his career as an actor in New York City. He spent a year at the Royale Theatre playing the lead in the Broadway production of “Grease.”
He then landed a co-starring role in George Lucas’ “More American Graffiti,” and guest-starred on numerous television shows.
During his fifteen-year writing career, Lansing wrote and produced “Walker Texas Ranger,” co-wrote two CBS Movies of the Week, and he also co-executive produced the ABC series “Scoundrels.” John’s first book was “Good Cop, Bad Money,” a true crime tome with former NYPD Inspector Glen Morisano.
The Devil’s Necktie is his first novel.
A native of Long Island, John now resides in Los Angeles.
https://www.facebook.com/devilsnecktiea Rafflecopter giveaway
Jack Bertolino stood on the balcony of his loft in Marina del Rey, tending a dry-aged New York steak on his prized possession, a top-of- the-line Weber gas grill. He didn’t miss winter, not one little bit. Here he was manning the barbecue in his new uniform, a black T-shirt and jeans, while his cousins were chasing heart attacks shoveling snow off their Staten Island driveways. That image never ceased to put a smile on his face. That and the salty ocean breeze that floated in over the marina.
Jack nursed a glass of cabernet and watched the long line of bright white FedEx trucks return home from their final deliveries and park in neat rows in the lot next to his building. It sure beat the sight of patrol cars jammed onto the sidewalk in front of a precinct house.
Early evening was Jack’s favorite time of day. The sun was just starting to paint the clouds a muted orange. From his fourth-floor vantage point, Jack could see a string of jumbo jets in the distance, silently making their final approach to LAX. Stacked eight planes deep, their slim silver bodies glinted in the setting sun.
For the first time in Jack Bertolino’s life, he felt at ease.
His cell phone chirped, snapping him out of his reverie. He tossed some Japanese eggplant onto the grill, closed the lid, and checked his cell phone screen for the name of the caller.
“How’s my Italian stallion?”
“Mia . . . ,” he said instantly, his tone neutral, giving away nothing.
“All the planets are aligned, Jack. It’s time for you to man up and make an honest woman out of me.”
Jack couldn’t help but smile. Mia’s throaty voice and light Colombian accent had the power to make a grown man weep. More important, it could make a bad man give up his secrets.
He hadn’t really been surprised when he received her text. He knew it was only a matter of time. Payback’s a bitch.
“What can I do for you, Mia?”
“It’s what I can do for you, papi. My lips . . . they’re still magic.” “I love it when you talk dirty.”
“Only for love or money.”
Although Jack was enjoying the back and forth, he was no longer in the business. “Why are you calling, Mia?”
Mia dropped her act as well. “We need to talk.”
“It’s not a good time,” Jack said as he opened the lid of the grill and pressed his fork against the steak, checking for doneness.
“Face-to-face, Jack.” “I’m not in New York.”
“That’s why I’m in Los Angeles.”
Jack didn’t reply right away. He did a quick analysis of how Mia could know he was living in L.A., what kind of trouble she might be in, what kind of blowback he was going to suffer just from having this conversation. He came to the instantaneous conclusion that however this new wrinkle in his life played out, it would definitely have an impact on his newly found state of bliss.
Mia answered some of his unspoken questions. “I’m still connected, Jack, and you’re still on the radar screen. There are certain people-who will remain nameless, because I’m not on your payroll anymore-who are not convinced you’re out of the game.”
“I’m happily retired,” Jack fired back, wondering if his response sounded forced, wondering why he cared.
“And happily divorced?”
Jack didn’t respond. His private life was none of Mia’s business. He had strict rules when dealing with confidential informants, a line in the sand he never crossed.
But Mia had the kind of beauty that could make a man contemplate leaving his wife, his job, and his kids. Jack had never taken the bait, but had to admit he’d been tempted.
Mia was one of the best CIs in the business, and she and Jack had done groundbreaking work together. With the help of Mia and DEA agent Kenny Ortega, Jack and the team of NYPD narco-rangers he headed up had put away a heavy hitter in the cocaine trade.
Manuel Alvarez was the head of a Colombian drug cell that had been importing a thousand keys of coke into Florida on a weekly basis, and the poison was dripping into New York City. Jack and his group had put away a major cartel scumbag, and Mia had gotten rich.
The feds had a financial equation in place when dealing with CIs. The greater the quantity of drugs an informant was responsible for delivering, the more money it was worth to the United States government. They were happy to give to get. Mia did very well for herself at great personal risk. Informants had a short shelf life. Once a major domo got busted, the cartels worked very hard to discover where the “sickness” had come from. If your name ended up on the short list, you turned up dead.
Jack had made a promise to Mia that if things ever got too hot to handle, he would do whatever he could to help her out of the jam.
Mia was turning in her chit.
“Meet with me in an hour, after I get settled in.” “I’m about to have dinner, Mia.”
“Vista Haven Road, 3468. You owe me, Jack.” “It was a two-way street,” he reminded her. “And I don’t want it turning into a dead end.”
Jack was about to protest, but she clicked off. He turned back to his grill, but now he was unsettled. Mia had always been a cool customer, but there was an edge of panic in her voice. Jack let out an irritated groan. He shut off the grill with a hard snap. He wouldn’t be able to eat anyway until he found out what the hell was wrong.The San Diego Freeway was a more direct route to the house where Mia.