He would insist on meeting up with her. A public place where she’d feel safe. Let the private dicks know the meeting place, and take it from there. Would that work? Hell she was an amateur photo shooter; he was a professional athlete. What would she know about negotiations?
Then there were these two dicks, Anna and Jake. Nice bazookas on the woman, guy was no professional. He frowned. Something they weren’t telling him about Emmy?
The migraine returned.
BG slumped in his chair. “That’s a joke man. We had it done to stop the groupies from bugging me.” Eyes to the right. Untrue. “Where did you find it?”
“Ruth’s apartment was trashed,” said Mackenzie. “You know anything about it?”
BG sat up straight. “Hey, are you accusing me of something here. I need a lawyer, maybe?”
Mac sighed. BG had fielded it pretty good. There again he would have expected that from the pro. He turned on the country boy charm. “Just trying to clean up outstandings, so I don’t need to bother you none, is all.”
“Yeah, okay I can see that, me being focused on the big game Saturday week. I gotta be mentally prepared. You got any more questions?”
Mac stood up. “You’ve been a great help, thanks.”
Sammy De Maggio blinked. Yes, it was his sister. He hadn’t seen her for a couple of years, but she was unmistakable. Positive identification. The cop, Elmer Layton according to the badge, had apologized for the delay in getting in contact, but what could he expect from an out of town hick. The interstate police had eventually tracked him down in Tennessee. He and the hick cop were sitting in an interview room, Stockton precinct. The tape was running.
“Stockton, huh. What she doing up there?” He sipped his mineral water.
The hick tilted his cowboy hat. “As far as we know, she was acting in a media role for the Bees tour. Found her body in a park a few days after they left town. Bullet in the heart.” He stared at Sammy. One of those know-it–all stares. “It wasn’t a suicide. We found tire tracks.”
Sammy kept his cool. “You know who did it?”
“You got any suspects?”
“You got anything?”
“I’ve told you everything I know, Mr. De Maggio. Interview terminated 12:37.” The cop switched off the recorder, and wrote down an address. “Off the record, you could talk to Babe George. The Bees are in Longfield, this week.” He pointed to the address. “So was your sister’s apartment. You might want to take a look.”
Sammy had the feeling that this hick cop was a lot smarter than he looked.
“Sammy, you’re looking good. You could do with fattening up a bit, but still good. Why such a long time, you not visit your uncle Mario? And where’s Flora?”
Sammy accepted the rebuke. Family ties were most important. “Uncle Mario, I got business interests in Tennessee. I gotta take care of, else I’m small time. Flora keeps telling me just the same. You’re always working Sammy. No time to visit Uncle Mario.”
“Where’s Flora, Sammy?”
You do not mess with godfathers, thought Sammy. Especially Uncle Mario. “Flora’s back in Tennessee. We’re fine. And she’s been feeding me okay, too. It’s not about her - it’s Ruth.” He hesitated, unsure how to break the bad news. “She’s dead, Uncle Mario. Killed in Stockton. I just got back from talking to the cops there. I went to look around her apartment in Longfield, but it’s been trashed.”
Uncle Mario clapped a hand to his face, and grimaced. He waved Sammy to a seat and offered Sammy a cigar. Very traditional. Grief would come later. “Tell me,” he said.
Sammy chose the black leather armchair and settled into it. Uncle Mario’s house in Longfield was inconspicuous; the IRS couldn’t touch him here. Of course, he had much better houses around the world registered under company names. Totally unconnected, the lawyers had seen to that. Sammy cut off the end of his cigar, and accepted a light from his uncle. He told Uncle Mario what the cop had said.
Uncle Mario thought a while. “The apartment’s no problem: we can take it apart and put it back together piece by piece. If anything’s there, we’ll find it. No, the problem we got is Babe George.”
Sammy waited. He tapped the end of his cigar in the ash-can.
Uncle Mario blew out a ring of smoke and continued. “Sammy -- Babe George is a national institution or thereabouts in these parts. We don’t know nothing yet, whether he’s involved or whatever. The only heat we got right now is to warn him about an accident, if he don’t come clean.” He pointed the glowing tip of his cigar at his nephew. “Family would expect you to take care of that, Sammy. Take Mike and Bernie with you.” Uncle Mario thought a little longer and coughed up some phlegm into his kerchief. “If you find out he killed Ruth he’s concrete - they can put a statue up in his memory for all I care.”
Arnie picked up the call and listened. “Yeah, hold on, I’ll see if he’s around.” He put the cell phone on mute and shouted across the lounge. “BG you got a minute, this guy says he’s Sammy De Maggio, Ruth’s brother.”
BG swallowed his soda. “Tell him I’m not available for any interviews, period.”
Arnie switched on the phone. “He’s not available, sorry.”
“Give Mr. George a message. Tell him I got something the public would be very interested to hear. I’ll wait.”
Arnie got up from his chair and walked over to BG. “BG, he isn’t taking no for an answer. Says he got something on you, media wise.” He reminded BG. “You sure don’t want bad publicity coming up to the big game.” He offered BG the cell phone.
BG grimaced. Now what? He took the phone and waved Arnie away. “Mr De Maggio, sorry, thought it was another journalist. I’m real unhappy about your sister. I already spoke to the cops.”
“Mr. George, you can cut the crap, we need to talk in private, just us two. I’m not in any mood to listen to bullshit. I’ll meet you in the lobby of the Marriot in thirty minutes, at 12:30. Be there or my family will come and drag you out of your cozy little bear pit, and I kid you none.”
BG did know what he meant by family. Mafia. Deep shit.
“I thought you said just us two,” said BG. He looked warily at the two heavies who were lounging at the far end of the room watching football replays on the big screen TV, and eating pieces of Neapolitan pizza. Sammy had rented a junior suite so they could have their privacy.
“We’ll be doing the talking; they’ll be there in case you need encouragement.” He moved the lunch tray towards BG. “Help yourself, there’s plenty.”
BG shook his head and reached for a soda bottle. “I’m not too hungry right now.”
“Well I sure wouldn’t like to waste a good lunch.” Sammy poured a glass of Chianti Classico into his glass and took a sip. He stared at BG over the rim. “Thing is, I been talking to the cops off the record. They know you’re connected some way with Ruth’s shooting.” He opened his arms seemingly to welcome BG into the fold. “My family want answers BG.”
BG digested the information. Suspected, but no evidence. He could manage this risk. Already he loathed this skinny Guinea with piggy brown eyes, swaggering about as if he was a celebrity. But a little humility would do just fine. “You’re right on the ball, Sammy. Real sharp. I can’t say I come out smelling of roses and all, but it happened like this:”
‘It was a day off on the Bees training schedule. Ruth and I took a walk in the park at the back of my hotel after dinner. Get some fresh air, chilling. You know, we had a blanket and were just making out a little. You know, fooling around. This Ford drove up. I recognized the driver. Emmy Parton a Bees photo-shoot girl, taking shots of Ruth and me. She had the hots for me, I guess. A real weirdo, she got out of the Ford shouting abuse and waving a gun at us. Ruth got up and grabbed it and they wrestled. The gun went off. Ruth was hit. I’m not proud of what I done Sammy, but when Emmy turned the gun on me I took off. That’s the god’s honest truth.’
Sammy finished chewing. Spat out an olive stone into a glass ashtray. “You didn’t tell the police any of this, huh?”
BG watched the stone settle in amongst the others. “Sammy, I know it’s your sister, but I got my career to think about. You’re a business man; you understand I gotta keep it under wraps. Worse, this Emmy is now blackmailing me. She’s got pictures of Ruth and me, you know, together like. Says I’m implicated, big time.”
Sammy wiped his mouth with a fresh napkin. He called Mike and Bernie over. “BG, I find you’re not telling me all, you’re history. Where do I find this Emmy Parton?”