Joe De Matteo

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NOTE: Extra adjectives used to replace profanity..

Six

“What’s wrong between you and my brother?”

“I didn’t know anything was wrong until about five minutes ago; I haven’t’ seen John in two weeks; not since he left for vacation.  Do you know?”

“No.  I just know that he’s really angry…violently angry.  He isn’t making sense.  He’s raving mad; that’s why I came here tonight.”

The year was 1970.  They were sitting in De Costello’s Bar & Grill.  Costello’s was a man’s bar, not a sport’s bar, a man’s bar.  These men came here to drink and talk, to laugh and eat.  The old men told stories of war and business - memories; the young men talk about more current happenings.

And this was Thursday night.  Some thing always happened on Thursday night at De Costello’s.

Angelo was afraid that this Thursday night his brother and his brother’s partner would be the event.  And not in a good way.

At the backend of the bar a few guys were involved in a conversation about their cars and were planning a drag race to prove, once and for now, whether Pete Greco’s Charger or Billy Edwards’ Olds were the faster.  It would take at least four more drinks before they’d race; also, it was still too early to drag over on the flats.

The front-end of the bar had a crowd of guys looking at the charcoal drawing that Don, sitting in the second seat from the corner, was doing.  The bar was a backward L.  It came out from the left hand wall about five stools worth, then made its way to the back wall, where the restrooms were.  There was a restaurant area opposite the bar behind a five-foot divider.  Don was drawing Angelo and Joe, who were talking earnestly three quarters of the way down the bar.

This wasn’t the first time Don had drawn Joe.  Joe had a drawing in his house that Don did the night Joe had found out he had the clap.  Don, it seemed, liked drawing people with something on their mind.

 

Two years earlier John and Joe had opened a small hunting shop together.  They had been good friends before their partnership, but the partnership had brought them even closer together.  And now they were together all the time.  What was remarkable was that for two guys known for their tempers, they never had even the smallest problem with each other.  Disagreements had always been a laugh-fest of good humored mockery and teasing.

The shop was a hangout where beer flowed and the sound of men laughing and joking, and poking fun at each other rattled the walls until well after today turned into tomorrow.

 

Louie, the owner and bartender (most of the time), was a retired City cop, and he kept De Costello’s a safe and comfortable place for men to gather.  He took no non-sense, and the regulars respected him, trouble makers were smart enough to stayed away.

On his way back from the head Joe was stopped by Billy, another close friend, who wanted Joe tell a story about Billy’s driving skills and the big Olds’ power and maneuverability.  This was a two drink break from Angelo and the doom and gloom atmosphere around him.

Now, Billy hated oncoming vehicles that kept their bright-lights up when approaching him – it was disrespectful, and he wasn’t going to take disrespect from anyone. 

His MO in these situations was to blink his high-beams a few times to remind the opposing driver that he had their brights on.  If the yahoo didn’t take the hint, Billy would cross over the double yellow line into their lane in a headlong rush to impact, clicking his brights on and off until the disrespectful jerk turned his lights down. 

The problem this night was that the on coming vehicle was a cop, who, by later accounts, was hopping in his seat in fear while the Olds bore down on him. 

The Olds was like a missal locked onto a target, countering every evasive action.  This time the target was not only a cop, but a Vietnam veteran helicopter pilot. 

The drivers partner finally told him to turn on the red light on top of the police car.  Billy quickly realized that he had to get the f--- out of there, and quick.

The chase only lasted for fifteen minutes before Billy lost the cops.  They obviously never got close enough to get his plate number, because nothing ever came of it.

 

Joe was called back to Angelo by the clock; he wanted to be next to Angelo when John arrived.

When Joe got back to Angelo he found Fat Jack sitting in his seat and a fresh drink waiting for him.  The drink was on the bar between the two men.  Jack, John and Angelo’s cousin, was very agitated.  All he was talking about was how he’d just seen John and John was violently angry.  This made Angelo even more nervous.  With John and Joe being in the gun business, there was no shortage of guns available to them.

Angelo sat on the stool like a statue.  This was a bad situation and it was out of his control, and he didn’t like that at all.

The bar noise was load, groups of men filled the barroom and were having a good time.

Joe just put his drink down on the bar, he was still leaning across the two men when John appeared.  “You son-of-a-bitch.  How the f--- could you do this to me?”  Joe turned to face his partner, with the question still in his mouth when the fist two shots slammed him back into the bar-rail. 

Silence followed the blasts – everyone in the room froze.

The next four shots came in rapped succession.

Joe was lying on the floor.

“Shit,” muttered Angelo; he’d had no time to save his brother, or Joe.

 

No one moved for a long time.  It wasn’t until John reached over Joe and put the empty revolver on the bar top that things started to happen.  Louie sprang to life first, and men started talking in low tones, moving in to get a closer look; Angelo stood up and walked toward the exit.

 

Fat Jack was the first to laugh; Joe started laughing uncontrollably, releasing his pent-up adrenaline. 

Then everyone realized that they’d been had. 

Louie and Angelo were really mad; they were cops and had to be, I guess.  Angelo never got the joke, Louie did - about a year later. After all, it was Thursday night at De Costello’s.

Joe De Matteo

Joseph De Matteo, FalconRun, Inc., 31 Walnut St, New Windsor, NY 12553

Joseph De Matteo

 

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