“You got it all wrong, boss. I ain’t done nothin’ wrong.
“Get outa my sight!”
“But, boss, I’m innocent. I swear on my kid’s grave!”
“Get out!” Mario Polzetti screamed as his brother-in-law, Giovanni, headed for the door, certain to be hunted down.
“Now get out of my sight you smooth-talking low life. No one crosses me and lives. Just crawl right back into that rat hole you came out of and disappear. Got it?”
As the door closed, Mario picked up the phone, dialled, and spat out instructions, “Got a job for you. It’s Giovanni. Do it.”
Mario Polzetti, in his early sixties, was short, stocky with an olive complexion, black swept- back hair and the boss of one of New York’s largest crime syndicates.
# # #
The winter sun shone weakly through the east-facing window of Detective Dabrowski’s office onto a desk piled high with papers. Behind it sat a man in his thirties with gangling legs that seemed to go on forever. His spiky hair and bewildered expression gave the impression he’d been electrocuted. But Leroy Dabrowski always looked that way.
The office door flew open and a dishevelled junior detective called Sam almost fell in. “Been another murder, boss: Polzetti’s brother-in-law.”
Dabrowski looked troubled. “Polzetti‘s never far away when there’s something bad going down, but we can never get anything on him. He covers his tracks like a prairie dog.”
“It would be good to pin this one on him,” Sam replied.
“Get me the details. I’ll go check it out,” Dabrowski demanded.
The phone rang. He picked it up but before he could speak a voice on the other end demanded, “Get in here, now!”
Dabrowski rolled his eyes. “On my way, Chief.”
“The Chief ain’t happy?” the junior detective asked with a snigger.
“Sure he is. Just can’t resist my winning personality!”
The phone rang again. It was the sharp and incisive voice of the Chief. “You comin’ or what?”
Dabrowski headed out the door.
Behind a desk sat a man whose double chin seemed to engulf his entire face. The Chief leaned forward and pointed a finger, then changed his mind and instead banged his fist on the desk.
“Another murder – sure to be connected with that damn Polzetti – but still no arrest! What in hell’s name are you doing about it?”
“You any closer to nailing that sleazebag?” he shouted, beads of sweat running through his open collar and down his neck. “We’re looking like idiots. The Press’re crucifying us. People on the street are demanding answers and so am I.”
“I know but…”
“You’ve got twenty four hours, or I’ll have your badge. You catch my drift, Dabrowski?”
Becoming even redder in the face, the Chief shouted, “How d’you feel about traffic duty for the rest of your life?”
Dabrowski pulled a face. “Not the career path I had in mind, boss.”
“Twenty four hours, that’s what you’ve got. Now get outa here!
# # #
Dabrowski returned to the police precinct later that day to report his findings to the Chief.
“Not surprised the brother-in-law was bumped off. Word on the street is that he’d been making a play for control of Polzetti’s cartel. Seems that Giovanni was having dealings with another syndicate. Polzetti wasn’t happy.”
“You got anything that puts him in the frame?”
“Not yet, boss, but I’m working on it. Something of interest, though, is that people on the street say there was an argument between Polzetti and his wife at a restaurant. They say she got up and stormed out after an exchange of words. I’d say it was probably because he had her brother executed.”
The Chief rubbed his chin. “Better watch her then. She’s probably on Polzetti’s hit list and in line to be the morgue’s next guest.”
“Have I done well, boss? Does this mean I’ve got a reprieve from traffic duty?”
“Go on. Get out of my sight.”
# # #
At eleven fifteen p.m. three days later, the emergency services receive a call from Mario Polzetti. “It’s my wife. I’ve just come home. She’s been shot. I don’t know what happened. I need an ambulance – quick!”
“Calm yourself, sir. Is she still breathing?”
“I think so.”
“Okay, sir. Just give me your address. We’ll dispatch an ambulance immediately. Just keep calm.”
“Keep calm? How can I with my wife lying here in a pool of blood?”
“I understand, sir. But the ambulance will be there in a few minutes.”
The ambulance and a police car with Detective Dabrowski at the wheel arrived a short time later. Polzetti’s wife, Gilda was taken away by ambulance. Her husband stood in the open door and watched as it drove away. “I ought to be with her,” he muttered wistfully.
“It’s better you stay here, sir,” Dabrowski said. “We need to find who did this terrible thing to your wife.”
“When did you find her?”
“I came home about eleven fifteen and found her on the kitchen floor and called for an ambulance.”
“Did you see anyone in the house or in the street?”
“Where were you this evening?”
“I’ve been at a business dinner from eight to eleven at a restaurant not far from here. If your next question is, ‘Can you prove it?’ yes, there were at least forty guests at that dinner that know me.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“I need to get to the hospital now. Can we talk later?”
“Sure, I’ll have forensics examine the house while you’re away,” Dabrowski replied.
# # #
Mario Polzetti arrived at the hospital and demanded to speak with the attending doctor.
“How serious is she, doc? Will she pull through?”
The grim-faced doctor gestured for Mario to sit down. “The situation is very serious, Mr Polzetti.” He paused for a moment. “X-rays reveal that a bullet is lodged in her brain and it’s far too risky to attempt to remove it. The slightest movement could result in her death.”
“Is there anything that can be done?” Mario asked.
“She is likely to remain in a coma – probably indefinitely. I’m sorry, Mr Polzetti, but you must accept the fact that you may never see her conscious again. On the positive side, while she is on life support in hospital, she may keep living for a long time.”
Mario stared at the floor and said nothing.
“I’m truly sorry for your loss, Mr Polzetti. I realize that seeing your wife in this vegetative state is not at all comforting for you. Of course, if she doesn’t recover you may decide, after a while, to request that the life support be turned off. That is your choice.”
# # #
Unconvinced of Polzetti’s innocence, Dabrowski checked out Mario’s alibi and confirmed that he was at dinner with business associates at the time of the murder, although most of those at the dinner were known criminals.
Interviews with neighbors revealed that two people in the street where Polzetti lived had heard a single revolver shot at about ten that evening.
Disgruntled, Dabrowski returned to his office. Sam the junior detective looked up as he entered. “Any progress?”
“Water-tight alibi again, damn it!” he moaned angrily. “I know he did it, but can’t prove it.”
Sam scratched the back of his neck and said, “With his sort of cash, he could buy any alibi he liked.”
Dabrowski nodded. “There’s a lot of money in that white powder.”
Sam nodded and said. “Forgot to tell you, I’ve checked and found that Polzetti is the registered owner of a revolver.”
Dabrowski looked up. “That’s interesting; I’ll check that out.”
# # #
Next day, Dabrowski drove to Polzetti’s house. He strutted down the path leading to the entrance door, his long arms swinging from side to side. He knocked loudly. The door opened.
“I need to ask you some more questions; may I come in?”
“How long will this take?” He grunted looking at his watch.
Dabrowski stepped inside. “I need to ask if there were any valuables stolen.”
Polzetti shrugged his shoulders. “Yeah, jewelry, money but nothing that can’t be replaced. Looks to me like a robbery gone wrong.”
Dismissing this theory, Dabrowski asked, “Our records show that you have a revolver registered in your name. Still got it?”
“Yeah, bought it years ago. Never had the need to use it, though. Not even sure where it is. Want me to look for it?” Mario asked.
“That would be nice,” Dabrowski replied.
Ten minutes later, Mario returned. “Found it in the garage. Doubt if it works, though. Covered in grim and dust. Let me get you a rag.”
“That’s okay. I’ll take it as it is.”
# # #
A forensic examination of the revolver revealed nothing; certainly no powder residue.
“You sure it hasn’t been thoroughly cleaned and then made to look discarded and dusty?” Dabrowski asked.
“It’s possible. I suppose anything’s possible,” the lab technician replied.
“Any evidence that this weapon was used in other crimes?”
“No, we can’t find any other matches.”
Dabrowski chewed his fingernails and sighed. “Didn’t think it would be that easy!”
“You look disappointed.”
“Damned right I am!”
# # #
Mario visited his wife, Gilda about once a week, but spent most of his time doing business on his cell phone. Sometimes he spoke to the doctor about his wife’s condition.
“I’m sorry, Mr Polzetti, but there are no signs of recovery so far. But she seems stable and there’s now no risk from the bullet as long as she remains quiet.”
“Thank you, doc.”
While he was speaking with the doctor, a young nurse entered to take Gilda’s temperature and blood pressure. She made notes then turned to leave, as she did so, she locked eyes with Polzetti. Outside the ward she spoke to another nurse. “That man gives me the creeps. He’s evil and you can see that he cares nothing about his wife.”
# # #
Mario was at his wife’s bedside reading a book one night a few weeks later when he heard a noise and looked up. She seemed to be making an effort to speak. Although her eyes remained closed she continued for some time trying to form words, but then stopped.
For just an instant Mario’s face lit up, but then just as quickly, changed to one of anxiety. Rubbing his chin in thought, he stared down at her with a look that was devoid of compassion; a look that only conspired to badness.
He stayed by his wife’s bed side for a few more hours but she remained quiet. After a while, he called the nurse in charge.
Burying his face in his hands, he said, “I think I’ve allowed my wife’s suffering to go on long enough, nurse.”
“I’m sure it’s the right thing to do, Mr Polzetti. I’ll arrange with the doctor to have the life-support turned off,” she said.
Almost inaudibly, he replied, “Thank you nurse, I think that’s best.”
The doctor appeared fifteen minutes later and putting a comforting hand on Mario’s shoulder, said, “I think this is the sensible step to take – we’ll take her off the life support immediately. First, come with me – there are some forms to sign.”
They entered the doctor’s office. Polzetti sat down.
The doctor took notes and asked some questions then turned to Polzetti and said, “Are you quite sure this is what you want to do?”
“Okay. You’ll need to arrange for your wife’s burial now, Mr Polzetti.”
“Cremation,” he replied.
The doctor peered over his glass. “Cremation, oh I see – just as you wish,”
# # #
Early next morning, there was a knock at Polzetti’s door. it was Detective Dabrowski with another policeman. “We have a warrant for your arrest.”
“My arrest! What for?” He asked mockingly.
“For the murder of your wife, Gilda Polzetti.”
“What’re you talking about?” he screamed.
“Mr Polzetti, while your wife was in a coma with the bullet wedged in her brain we could do nothing. But when you authorized the life support be turned off and she died, we were able to remove the bullet and compare it to markings on your revolver.”
Polzetti’s mouth dropped open.
Looking him straight in the eye Dabrowski said, “They match.”
Bio: Rod was born in the UK but moved to Adelaide South Australia some years ago. He has had over 30 short stories published in various books and magazine in many countries including the UK, Australia, USA, Canada, Singapore and Germany. In addition to fiction, Rod has been a contributor to many science magazines particularly those related to astronomy.