There are some parts of Brooklyn that feel more Italian than insalata caprese, although nowhere near as palatable. Take a walk through Carroll Gardens and you could almost be in urban Napoli – best not go alone without an invitation though. This is where Julius Gelati calls home, but you’d have a hard time tracking down the Sicilian on any given day – he tends to move around a lot. Some say that he has a whole network of luxury ‘apartments’ beneath the streets of South Brooklyn: shipping containers, buried deep in the sewer network, kitted out with all the conveniences of home, but without the inconvenience of prying eyes and curious cops poking their noses in where they’re not wanted.
This is how Julius likes it – to be in control and calling the shots; what he doesn’t like is to share his power and influence, but this is how it has been for many long years. To be foolish enough to mention Don Mascarpone’s name in Julius’ hearing is asking for trouble – if you’ve ever wondered how the Sicilian’s most popular nightclubs ‘Sleeping with Fishes’, and ‘Concrete Boots’ came to be named, all you have to do is mention how successful Mascarpone’s business empire appears to be, and Julius will happily demonstrate the thinking behind those names.
Even so, those who are close to Julius will tell you that he’s a gentleman who will always treat you with politeness and dignity, although you may not appreciate those qualities at the time. Julius appreciates such qualities almost as much as he appreciates discretion and, should you ever find yourself involved in doing business with him you would be well-advised to bear that in mind. You will, of course, have to find him first.
Today, he is at the autoshop on 6th Street, in Gowanus – he’s not there for car repairs, this is one of his many business ventures in the area; coming to think of it, there aren’t many local businesses that he doesn’t have some vested interest in – even those he doesn’t own outright tend to pay a ‘subscription’ for his ‘concierge services’. Not everyone likes it, but most are content to put up with it for a quiet life. Today’s business, however, is a little out of the ordinary, for here, surrounded by the familiar workshop smells of oil, rubber and nervous impatience, Julius has called together his closest advisors to discuss the forthcoming christening.
“Mario… tell me the news I want to hear”.
The Sicilian’s distinctive voice was a slow, Bronx drawl – the sort of voice you might consider a little too intimidating for chainsaw massacre movie voiceovers. Mario – ‘The Fixer’ – was not intimidated, he had worked with Julius for a long time now and had little to fear from his boss. Mario often mused on the circumstances that had put him in the privileged position he now found himself and still found it somewhat surprising that he – a simple plumber – had risen to such heady height’s in the Sicilian’s organisation. To Julius, Mario’s services were invaluable and, whilst leaky taps didn’t feature too prominently in the larger scheme of things, there were many leaks, and blockages requiring fixing, and Mario was the Sicilian’s trusted right-hand man.
“All sorted boss, sweet as a nut. The cop was a pushover, and the big cheese did exactly what you said he would. He’s gonna be godfather for the kid and, better still, he’s letting the cop have the restaurant for a big get-together afterwards… there’s gonna be half the NYPD there and Mascarpone’s laying on security – we won’t get a better opportunity than this, ever!”
Julius nodded in satisfaction.
“Good work, Mario. As longstanding business associates of Signor Mascarpone and acquaintances of Detective Sherbet, I take it that we’re invited to the party?”
“Yeah, Toni owes me a lotta dough over that. Mario, you angling for a promotion or something? What the hell would I do without you?”
“Hey boss, I’m just a plumber – I’m happy just doing my thing – don’t go promoting me or nothing, not sure I could stay the course in management, it’s a bit too cut-throat for my liking!”
Julius smiled in satisfaction, things were turning out better than he’d anticipated. He sat back, relaxed now, and pulled a cigar from his breast pocket. Mario leaned forward, offering a light; Julius drew the fragrant smoke into his lungs and exhaled luxuriously, yes, things were looking good.
“Slim!”, he called out, beckoning the massive form of Rigatoni, his personal minder, from the shadows, “Slim, I want you to ensure that Mario is suitably rewarded for the work he has done, and whilst you’re at it, find me an appropriate christening present for Signor Mascarpone’s bambino, eh?”
“Sure thing boss.”
Julius grasped Mario’s hand warmly before Slim led him to the doorway.
“On your way”, the Sicilian pointed towards Mario, “take him to the cleaners will ya?”
“Sure thing, boss”
“Yeah, take him to the drycleaners… he needs a clean suit if we’re gonna be going to church – plumber’s overalls just ain’t suitable for a christening!”