Later that day I get a call from Sonny Bosco, who works for my uncle. Bosco says he's calling from the car phone. He's downstairs and Weinstein sent him. I take my baseball bat and Beretta 92F and go downstairs. Bosco's waiting in the car and I see he's alone.

"You carrying?" he asks me.

"Yeah," I tell him.

He doesn't answer, just nods and drives away.

"You're lucky," Bosco says as we turn onto the Prospect Expressway heading north to Manhattan. "Pagoda's about to leave for Amsterdam with the tapes. He's figuring to lay low for awhile because he burned some heavy people in Vegas last month. I got somebody watching the house, don't worry about it."

Bosco explains that Pagoda has an escape exit system he uses when there's trouble. The apartment below him is vacant. He opens the airshaft window and swings down through a trap door in the window of the vacant apartment directly below, then he runs down streetside through the back exit.

"I know how that works," I tell Bosco. "That's an old drug dealer's trick."

Bosco figures he goes in and spooks Pagoda, who swings downstairs, where I'm waiting to put the boots to the fuck. Sounds alright to me, so I tell Bosco let's do it. I figure Bosco has Bobby Adams watching the street, because where you find Bosco you generally find Adams -- they probably hold each others' cocks when they fuck -- and I'm right. Adams says Pagoda's still inside the building. No way he could've gotten past him.

We go upstairs to the third floor, the floor below Pagoda's crib, and Bobby Adams picks the lock of the apartment, which is vacant and a known shooting gallery. Bosco points his index finger upwards and I nod and go inside the apartment. The place is a shambles, there's all kinds of shit lying around everywhere, including mattresses and used junkies' works. You could get AIDS from just standing in a room like this, I think as I go over to the airshaft in the middle room of the railroad flat and scope it out.

There's a sheet of plywood about three feet by five where the window should be, and it's fixed on hinges so that it swings inward. I stand there thinking about how Pagoda will hit the floor and decide to position myself to one side, where he ain't likely to see me when he hits the ground running. Meanwhile I can hear Bosco and Bobby upstairs. The building is so old and creaky you can practically hear the roaches scratch themselves.

I hear footsteps approach the door upstairs and a voice faintly ask who it is. Then I hear Bosco tell Pagoda it's the cops and he better open up because ifhe don't they'll bust it down and kick his head outa his asshole. Pagoda says just a minute and I get ready as I hear his feet going to the airshaft. There's the sound of a window opening above, scraping noises, cursing as he squeezes out the window, and then I see the trap door swing inward and the dirty tips of Pagoda's white Cons come flying through.

The rest of him hits the floor a second later and I rush the fuck swinging the bat. I don't have the gun out because I don't need it with a cocksucker like Big Johnny Pagoda, the jammy's for backup in case I have to cap him. But this little bastard is quick on his feet. He hears me and he whips around, bringing up a mean-looking Colt Python. As he points the magnum I let him have it with the bat, knocking the gun clean across the room. Pagoda gives out a yell and tries to dodge my next swing. He puts up his other hand to block it, but I hear his forearm shatter when the thick end of the bat slams it. I hit him again, across the side of his face, and he goes down on the floor, spurting blood.

"You fuck my wife?" I holler, standing over him, shoving the end of the bat into his groin. "Huh, you faggot? You fuck my wife?"

"Whuh? N-no. Shit. Who f-fuckin' are you?"

"Don't fuck with me, you cocksucker," I tell him. "You know who I am and why I'm here. Gimme the video."

"Video? What video?"

I'm pissed because he's still trying to lie so I slam the bat down on his hand, breaking it.

"Of my wife, ya fuck," I tell him. He makes a move but doesn't answer me so I bust one of his kneecaps with the bat.

"Okay," he finally groans. "In the bag."

He reaches for the knapsack he had when he swung in but I kick him away. I open it up and there's a couple of cassettes in there, plane tickets and some cash. I take the knapsack and sling it across my shoulder.

"These the master copies?" I ask him.

"Yeah. I swear."

"You better be right," I tell him. "Because if you're not the next time I'll fuckin' kill you." To prove it, I pull my gun and shove it into his mouth. "You like sucking on that, you faggot? Man, I oughta kill you right now." Instead, I put the gun away and smash his other kneecap with the bat. Pagoda is a bleeding, crippled mess on the floor. "You're lucky it's me and not Joe Trepiccione or the roaches would be eating your motherfuckin' balls by now."

Bosco and Bobby are outside in the hall. They look inside, see what I've done to Pagoda and smile.

"You really fucked him up," Bosco says.

"Not like he fuckin' deserved," I tell him.

If I'd of known then what the fucker had on that tape with Carol on it, I would of changed my mind and gone right back in there and capped that cocksucker off. He'd taken advantage of a sick person who didn't know what she was doing.

But I didn't know what was on the tape then, I didn't even know if the scumbag was lying to me or not, to tell you the truth. There might not have been anything but Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck on those tapes. Anyway, I had Bosco drop me off a couple of blocks uptown and as he did he told me I should get in touch with Weinstein because he wanted to talk to me.

I told Bosco I'd call him today and to thank him for what he'd done for me. Then I head for the nearest payphone and call my house. Nobody answers, just the machine, and I leave a message for Carol, who's at her job but has stepped away from the desk. I leave a message I'll phone her later but meanwhile I don't feel like going back home.

I haven't seen Diane in a couple of weeks but I'd like to hang out at her place if I can for awhile and chill out. I call her and she's in, she's free, and she tells me I can come right over. I hail a cab and get off on the East Side, in the high Eighties where Diane has a brownstone apartment.

She's a dancer who I've been seeing on the side for most of a year. This is nothing serious, just a little side pussy. She's not my woman and what she does when I'm not around is none of my business. Diane is black, but being from L.A. she doesn't talk like a spade. She lets me in and throws her arms around me, and I feel her tits press against me. Her body's warm.

"You brought the cold in with you," she says.

"Only temporary," I said, feeding her some tongue and grabbing her ass. "You got any plans today?"

"Yeah. I got something I gotta do this morning," she says. "But after that I'm free as a bird. You can hang out here while I'm gone."

"Sure," I say. "Then we can go out and grab some Chinese for lunch."

"Maybe we can fuck first," she says.

"Or fuck," I say, feeling myself start getting a hardon. Yeah, I could definitely fuck Diane instead of eating Chinese. No problem there.

When she goes out I figure it's a good time to check out the videos I got in the bag from Pagoda, who I hope is having a great time getting his bones wired back together at Downstate Medical Center by this time. I check out "Whip Me, Love Me!" fast-forwarding through the whips and chains garbage but no sign of Carol. Nothing on the next pick, "Mistress Glanda's School of Pain." But on my third try, "Dominoe's Dungeon of Delights," I find what I'm looking for.

There's Carol, getting her butt whipped by a masked figure in black leather chaps whose long but limp penis advertises him as Big Johnny. I watch as much as possible without gagging, and turn it off. Then and there I decide that crippling the motherfucker was not enough. He has to die. This means I gotta call my father-in-law and sanction the hit, but I know that Joe Trepiccione will be with me on this.

I phone Carol at work and she's back. She sounds normal to me now, and says it's very busy at the office. She apologizes for what happened last night and tells me she passed off the bruises by saying she fell. This, of course, means that everybody in the office will now think I'm a wife-beater. I ask her if she wants to meet me for lunch, but she says no, she's too busy. She'll be home on time tonight. No problem. She's really sorry. It won't happen again.

Okay, I tell her. I'll see you tonight. Not that I believe for a minute that anything has changed.

Once, in the early stages of her cracking up, I fell for Carol's bullshit, but not anymore. I was a veteran by now. In the beginning, I had hopes that Carol's new job at a public relations firm would be what she needed to help straighten her out. She loved screaming at me at the top of her lungs to "Go get a job, you unemployed parasite!" when she was in one of her moods, but the opposite was true and we both knew it.

I made plenty of money on my own by hustling this or that, and money also came in from a no-show construction job that was given me as a wedding present by Joe Trepiccione. Carol didn't have to hold down a job, but I wanted her to work at the office because I figured if she stayed around the house she'd go nuts. Like I said, at first it seemed to do the trick. But then she started turning it around on me.

Carol began using the office as a base of operations in Manhattan, a way to get out of the house, out of my reach, and go where she wanted to. She didn't give a fuck about being fired, because she knew she really didn't need the job. She'd say she was coming right home, but stayed out all night or for days on end. So when I heard her tell me everything was good again, I knew better than to believe her, especially after the other night. She was getting sicker and sicker and I was totally out of ideas. But I didn't want to think about Carol right now, in fact, I had to get her out of my mind for awhile or I'd start going bananas myself.

Diane came back in about two hours with some bags of groceries. She'd bought some booze at the liquor store too. She put on a cable station that showed soft-core porn movies and we started pigging out on the junk food and hitting the bottle. Pretty soon we were plastered and doing the missionary on Diane's bed. It was pretty good. Just what I needed, and later we had an early supper down on Grand Street by way of the Thieves Market in the Lower East Side.

I put Diane in a cab and told her I had to get home. She knew about Carol and I didn't have to tell her why. But I asked her if she had anything major doing for the next couple of weeks. She said she didn't, and asked me why and I told her I wasn't sure why, but I'd know in a day or two what was shaking. I couldn't put my finger on exactly why I'd asked her, except I had a gut feel for the way Weinstein worked and his habits in general.

I'd also heard some rumors and knew about how Tazzetta had it in for him -- not without good reason, I'll admit. But I didn't call Weinstein that day, or that night. I was too sick and tired of the bullshit Carol was putting me through to talk to anybody, and although she said she'd be coming home, she never did, not until four in the morning, stinking of booze and cigaret smoke and high on grass and the Prozac the shrink prescribed and who knew what the fuck else. Two hours later, I took a sadistic glee in kicking her ass out of bed, pouring hot coffee down her throat and pushing her out the door. She liked the office so much, let her go there.