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Timing is Everything by Bruce Harris
Bruno “Killjoy” D’Gioia always had a radio at his regular table over at Coltello E Forchetta in the south Bronx. He enjoyed mixing business with pleasure. Twirling a forkful of spaghetti against his spoon, he stopped and raised a stubby finger—
The three of us paused, listened. Joe DiMaggio’s hit drove in a run, his seventeenth RBI of the young 1941 season. The Yankees were on their way to a victory over the Senators, their fourth straight win. Rumors abounded that if the country went to war, Joltin’ Joe might trade his pinstripes for Uncle Sam’s fatigues.
“That guy can hit a baseball,” Bruno said. “It’s all in his timing. My paisano’s got great hand-eye coordination. We’re still in April and he’s already in mid-season form. Joe’s the best.”
He lowered the radio’s volume. “This stuff is good, too. Best damned pasta in the city. Perfecto al dente. Again, it’s the timing. Critical. Don’t boil it enough; you don’t get the right snap. Keep the stuff in the water too long? It gets limp.”
“I don’t got no limp problems, feet or otherwise,” Ernie said, wishing he hadn’t opened his trap after Bruno’s eyes narrowed.
“Let’s go over this job once more,” Bruno said between chews.
“What for?” Ernie asked. “I know what I’m doing. I know how to tell time. What about you, Junior? You need to hear it again?”
I sipped wine. “If the boss wants to go over things one more time, we should hear him out. No sense taking unnecessary chances at this point.”
Bruno patted fat lips with a napkin tucked under his starched shirt collar. He looked content, and then pointed a freshly clipped, polished nail at Ernie. “That’s why Junior’s going places in this racket. He listens. Two ears, one mouth, remember? He’s got it up here,” Bruno said, touching his balding head. The boss looked around; made sure no one was in earshot. He sat back, hands clasped against an ample stomach. “Remember, every minute counts. Next Saturday, April 26, seven days from today is the big race. A hundred grand up for grabs.”
“With that kinda dough, I’d buy out Nathan’s and turn it into Coney Island’s biggest pizza joint,” Ernie said. “Wouldn’t sell any anchovy pizza though. You wanna talk timing—
“You better be two steps from a bathroom after eating those damned salty stinky fish. Instant shits.”
Bruno ignored him, poured himself another glass of wine. “By 11:00 p.m. they’ll have the day’s take bagged and locked in the racetrack’s safe. All the lost suckers’ bets in one place. At midnight the armored car backs into the track’s rear dock. Half-hour later, the money transfer will be complete. The truck with two guards on board begins its drive to the Empire State Savings and Loan. What time would that be?” Bruno looked at his Patek Philippe, a watch I’d seen him remove from Frankie ‘The Fish’ Lipps’ dead wrist.
“12:30 a.m., April 27,” I added.
Bruno grinned. “See what I mean, Ernie? This guy’s sharp. He’ll be my boss someday.”
“I knew that, too,” Ernie whined.
Bruno shook his head. “One hour later, 1:30 a.m., Junior and I will cut them off, crash the car, forcing the armored truck off the road. We’ll gently persuade the guards to open the truck’s locked safe. After we finish with them, they’ll head to the glue factory along with the slow horses.”
“That’s funny, boss,” Ernie said.
“Shut up.” Bruno laser-focused on Ernie. “At 2:15 sharp, not a minute before or a minute after, you arrive. You know the spot, right?” Ernie nodded. “We load the money bags into the van and head back up toward Saratoga. We’ll be in Canada before dawn. Everyone got that?”
I said yes. Ernie responded, “You can count on me, boss. Not a minute before or after. 2:15 a.m. on the button. Like clockwork.”
“Good.” Bruno turned, shouted, “What’s a guy have to do to get a couple a cannolis?”
As planned, I drove.
At the designated meet point, we forced the armored vehicle to a stop. Once we had the money bags, Bruno took care of the two guards.
“Dodgers or Giants?” he asked them.
The two men exchanged quizzical glances. “Look, mister … we don’t want …”
“Dodgers or Giants?” Bruno repeated.
“Dodgers,” the first one said. Bruno shot him in the face.
I could’ve sworn the bullet entered through the poor slob’s agape mouth. And I thought the second guard would faint.
“Dodgers or Giants?” Bruno asked.
“Giants.” His weak voice cracked.
Bruno planted a bullet between the remaining guard’s brown eyes. The guy’s thick eyeglass lenses provided less protection than a Swiss cheese condom. “Should have said Yankees,” Bruno muttered.
He ordered me to drag their bodies off the road. We waited with the cash for the getaway van, but Ernie was a no-show.
Bruno steamed. “Where is that goddamned idiot? He’s 20-minutes late. I knew he’d fuck this up.”
Suddenly Bruno and I were surrounded. Soon as the armored car was reported late, the cops were notified. We surrendered without a fight.
I noticed the cop’s Timex. The time—3:45—hit me harder than a Joe DiMaggio homerun.
“April 27th,” I said.
“What? So?” Bruno mumbled from the backseat of the police cruiser.