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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

THE TEDDY BEAR DANCER -- Excerpt #16

The two on the phone were definitely in a booth near a track. From the sound of the voice, Uncle Pauly's companion was a child, just tall enough to reach the phone to be heard.

There was only one Jason who would use the code word "Gethsemane." Somehow, the old phrase, "Speak of the devil," didn't fit this situation, but Vic couldn't think of anything else that fit. Jason -- as in FBI Agent Jason McCoy, who investigated Mob activities from the inside. Jason McCoy, who had helped a hood with a bright future break free to save the life of the computer geek who had become a liability to the Family.

"This is Tony, Uncle Pauly," Vic said, and smiled bitterly at the sound of his coldly steady voice. He hadn't used that voice in a lifetime. Three lifetimes, actually. "Where are you?"

"Fleetwood Park." The old man chuckled, a ragged sound Vic knew well. "What you been putting me through? Don't you got no manners?"

"Did Jason tell you I've got a new life--"

"Yeah, yeah, I know all that. Can't expect my old head to hold onto everything. You got to get out here, Tony." Pauly took a loud, long, deep breath. "It's for a kid. I know I don't deserve no help, but there's a kid gonna get hurt."

"I'll meet you at the top of the grandstands closest to the gate. Give me an hour, okay?"

When Vic hung up the phone, he slumped back against the lowered blinds that covered the waist-to-ceiling window. The plastic and aluminum crinkled and rattled, but he didn't hear over the banging of his heart and the screaming of memories. Twice before, the past had reached out and grabbed him. But the past had never asked for help before. It never came with Jason's code word spoken in a child's voice.

Vic knew he should pray, but the pressure, the sense of drowning blocked all thoughts except those that had been trained into him so long ago.

"Help, God," he finally whispered, as he reached for his jacket -- automatic reaction to bring a jacket to alter his appearance, no matter how hot out it was today -- and headed for the door.

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