Hard Boiled Plumber, Part II

Her words floated heavy in the air. Bowser Junior was son and heir to Bowser Benetti, boss of the Koopa crime family. Having a beef with Junior was a good way to stomped on hard. Luigi wasn’t a man who shied away from a good fight but there would be nothing good about taking on the Koopa. Rumor had it they’d taken out judges who were bold enough to hand down a guilty verdict. A nobody of a detective wouldn’t stand a chance and neither would the dame he wanted to protect. That was the thought that put things in perspective.
“How about you cut the stories and stick to the truth.”
“You don’t believe I’m his wife?”
“I don’t believe he wants you dead.”
“And why not?”
“You’re still breathing. We both know you’re quite the catch and I have no doubt Junior jumped at the chance to reel you in. But at the end of the day you’d still just be another skirt to a creep like him and easily replaced if he had a mind to do so, ring or no ring. Even if your pretty white gloves are hiding a band of gold, I doubt it would serve as a shield. A man like him would crush you like a paper cup if he wanted to. He’d have an even easier time with a gumshoe like me and breathing is something I’ve grown rather fond of. So if you want my help you better start over only this time say it straight.”
She looked over the detective again. His high cheekbones and thin lips gave his thin olive-skinned face a regal look that was destroyed by the comedy of his large black mustache and slightly bulbous nose. Under his rounded ascot cap he jet black hair was thick and matched the coal of his eyes. There was a fire in those eyes that she hadn’t noticed before. She had judged the man by the drabness of the office. She wasn’t the first to make that mistake.
“Tell me Luigi, if everyone knows that the Koopas are a major crime family then why aren’t they locked up?”
“Simple. What their money can’t buy their muscle beats down.”
“That works on most people. But there are some cops even money can’t buy. But Bowser’s accountants have built a thick paper wall around the family castle. Everything is laundered down to the last coin. Every ledger on Koopa’s business looks squeaky clean. Except for one.”
“And let me guess, you grabbed that one and Junior wants it back.”
She nodded. Luigi walked over to his brothers desk and picked up the upside down glass waiting there. He wiped the dust off with his fingers and returned to his seat. “And why would you want to take something like that?” he asked pouring a fresh round.
“Protection.”
“A being married to a man like him doesn’t give you protection enough. It’d take a damn fool to mess with the wife of Bowser Junior.
“He’s the one I need protection from,” she said and began sliding off her gloves. The smooth white skin gave way to purple-black bruises going all the way down to her wrists. A few of the bruises were so clearly handprints they could have been tattooed on. Luigi felt his anger growing as he stared at the maze of welts. One of the many thing his father had taught him was that a man who beat on women was no man at all. “If you want more proof,” she continued carefully replacing the gloves, “I can show you my ribs. They match.”
“Maybe some other time. If you’ve got this secret ledger, then why doesn’t he take it back?”
“He’s not he only one with friends. I’ve told him that if anything happens to me one of them will mail a small package to the district attorney’s office and the Koopa empire will topple like a house of cards.”
“Then what do you need me for?”
“He may be acting cautious now, but my husband is not a patient man. It wont be long before he starts going after anyone I know. I don’t want that so I want you to arrange a truce. He gives me a divorce. I give him the book and we go our separate ways.”
“What about the DA? Don’t you want to see this guy behind bars.”
“It would be a pretty picture, but I’d rather keep breathing.”
Luigi looked down at his still full glass. He could see her reflection floating in the caramel liquid. Going up against Bowser Junior would not be the smartest choice to make. This was one paycheck he knew he could do without. But her reflection looked eerily like a woman drowning and that seemed one likely outcome if he did nothing.
“My fee is fifty coins a day plus expenses and incidentals.”
“Does this mean you’ll help?”
“As long as the check clears.”
“Thank you Luigi. I knew I could count on you.”
He smiled, trying to look bashful. He knew it would do no good to bring up the fact that she was looking for his brother when she came into the office.
She stood and slowly walked to the door as if she were God’s greatest metronome. Luigi frowned wondering how badly bruised Junior might have left her.
“Mrs. Benetti, you’re hurting a lot, aren’t you?”
“I was taught that only the weak show their pain. I am not weak, Mr. Mario.” The smile she flashed made it seem the sun shined only for him. She opened the door and took one step out of the office before looking back over her shoulder. He swallowed hard, wondering how many more ships the Greeks would have sent for a woman with that profile. “and Luigi, you’ll find I am not at all easy to replace.” As the chime of her voice floated around the room the sound of her heels clicked down the hall.
From his third story window he could easily make her out as she exited the building a hailed the next taxi. He could also see the two goons waiting by the parked sedan across the street. They rushed to the doors of their car but before piling in one of the goons looked up at Luigi’s window. He raised his hand. His fingers formed the shape of a gun. He mock fired as he carefully mouthed the word “bang.” A second later the sedan was speeding off after the taxi and Luigi was wishing he wasn’t such a sucker for a pretty face.


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