The sun settles in an orange haze, drooping over the Stella D’Oro umbrellas that had been propped up outside the neon pig-head grinning from one of the plate-glass window displays of a white-stone butcher shop.
Bright red lettering on the corrugated plastic spells out “Bucco’s Meat Market”, its daily specials etched onto chalkboard. Cleavers are wedged into wooden blocks and meat dangles precariously from hooks like marionettes, as though the sagging flesh is enough to beckon onlookers inside.
Stainless steel round tables have been pulled out front, a few sheathed by chequered red tablecloth, leaned over by geriatric figures in ill-fitting cardigan sweaters and coke-bottle lenses. The only one not matching this description was resting his considerable gut underneath the table, his FILA tracksuit somewhat wrinkled and off-white sneakers already sweltering from the heat.
“So,” he starts, double-chin starting to wag, “looks like that sorry old fuck Butchie’s finally getting out, huh? Time served, all right.”
“By all accounts, Jackie,” one of the plethora of geriatric mobsters reasons, “he mostly kept to himself in the can. Didn’t go round looking for trouble.”
“Yeah, well,” Jackie shrugs, “if I know Butchie, he’s gonna come see me first thing and ask for his gym back.” He rattles his cigarette against a glass bowl, sprinkling ash like loose debris, and smirks. “Course, I did a better job running that place than he ever could.” A beat. He furrows his brows, letting the cloud of smoke simmer from his cigarette, then his lips curl into a snarl. “Fuck him. That gym’s a real asset, if he thinks he can just waltz over here and have me sign over the place, then he’s got another thing coming.”
“Speaking of him waltzing over...” another of them starts. Some of them cock their heads to the slightly pockmarked face of Butchie: wavy grey hair with the occasional streak of white, large tufts of jet-black canopied against his eyes, thick lips contorted into a smile. He was cursed with a short stature, but nevertheless cut a fine figure in charcoal slacks and a tan Members Only jacket.
He kept his head down as he made his trek across the intersection jutting out towards the pork store. It was only when Butchie stepped onto the same tarmac as the crowd of geriatrics - and Jackie - that he cackled and smiled. “Jesus fuckin’ Christ, would you look at the lot of ya.”
“Hey Butchie,” Jackie smiles faintly, after the rest of the more senior wiseguys have given Butchie a bear-hug and the pat or two on the back.
“Jackie,” Butchie smirks, “it’s been too fuckin’ long.” He jerks his head towards the aluminium-frame front door. “Listen, can we talk in your office? Got a few things to go over.”
“Absolutely fucking not,” Jackie snarls from his end of the green-and-white chequered table. “Off the table.”
Jackie and Butchie are sitting inside the kitchen of Bucco’s now. A colossal boiling pot rests on the stove, nautical bulkheads - perched on darkened cedar - glow radiantly, assorted pots, pans and other utensils hang from the kitchen wall like prized trophies, and a shelf stretches out from the cedar, draped in the same red-and-white chequered tablecloth from before, straining under boxes of sugar and tea granules.
“And why the hell not?” Butchie frowns. “I let you run that place in good faith. I’m a made guy, for chrissakes, and I thought you, of all people, would be willing to listen to reason.”
“Butchie, you’re trying my goddamn patience,” Jackie simmers. He snatches a bite from the ziti on his plate before continuing. “And enough of this made guy bullshit, you act as though we’re a dying breed. That place was struggling to turn a profit when I took over, and now look at it. Business couldn’t be better.”
“You can’t be serious. I put you in action with that place, Jackie. What good is it arranging fights if you don’t have a venue?”
Steam hisses from the boiler, wobbling slightly in its wake. Jackie stirs the large expanse of maroon broth, then leaves it to settle.
He takes another bite. “It’s a big ask. Don’t forget the capital I have tied up in the place - and we’re not just talking about what comes from my pockets. I got a coupla’ outside investors on board, you really oughta consider things from my end. I can’t just sign over the place.”
Some hemming and hawing, then Butchie clicks his tongue a few times, deep in thought. “Alright. I’d be willing to settle for a minority stake.”
Jackie takes another bite. He glances up at Butchie, curls his lips slightly, runs his knuckles against the tablecloth. “OK, maybe I can give you twenty percent of the business for now, and we’ll see how things go from there. I mean, christ Butch, there’s already a solid infrastructure in place.” Another bite. “And all due respect, I’ve got as much as a stake to the business as you do.”
Butchie smacks his lips for a second, eyes darting back and forth. Then he shakes his head and sighs. “Fuck it, I don’t want to be the one to start a ruckus over a gym. I’ll agree to a twenty percent stake for now, but once I see how much the place really takes in, I’ll want us to sit down again and consider upping my commission.”
“Fine with me, Butch.” They pull their chairs aside, quickly embracing one another in a bear-hug.
“I hate to cut this short,” Butchie chuckles, “but I got another thing that requires my attention. See you around, kid.”
Jackie nods. As soon as he hears the shrill chime of the bell above the entrance, he snatches his cell and thumbs the keypad a few times.
Queens is no less diverse than Brooklyn, though it's population may be smaller. The Italians, the Irish, and the Blacks make up most of the Queens burrough, but there are Greeks, Polish, Russians, and others. If you're looking to make your way without ruffling any really rich feathers, this is your place. Once home to crime boss Antonio DiMatteo and criminal legend Antwan Lulcas, Queens is the sleeper in a city that never sleeps.
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