Three years later, Mike and Tuesday are at it again—except, as far as Tuesday’s concerned, they’re not at anything together. She’s ditched her husband and moved on to national network TV.
When her reporter nose gets her in trouble—again!—Mike grumbles off to the rescue. And finds himself caught in a loony triangle between meddling saints, murderous mobsters, and his alleged ex-girlfriend Frankie Ciccone, the kindest, sweetest killer-for-hire on the planet.
From Boston to New Orleans to New York, from a California beach to a rural Virginia hideout, Mike juggles saints and sinners in his hopeless attempt to avoid the dictates of an unforgiving conscience—a conscience named Tuesday, naturally.
A Second Wave of the Wand
For Glinda, the original Tuesday’s child.
From the American Heritage Dictionary:
1. Everyday; commonplace.
2. Recurring daily. Used especially of attacks of malaria.
1. a. (Abbr. St. or S.) Christianity. A person officially recognized, especially by canonization, as being entitled to public veneration and capable of interceding for people on earth. b. A person who has died and gone to heaven. c. A member of any of various religious groups, especially a Latter-Day Saint.
2. An extremely virtuous person.
1. One that sins or does wrong; a transgressor.
2. A scamp.
One version of an ancient nursery rhyme of unknown provenance:
Monday’s child is fair of face,
Tuesday’s child is full of grace,
Wednesday’s child is loving and giving,
Thursday’s child works hard for a living,
Friday’s child is full of woe,
Saturday’s child has far to go,
But the child born on the Sabbath Day
Is bonny and blithe and good and gay.
Some versions quibble over the match-up of days to characters, but everybody loves Tuesday.
The name alone was a certified giveaway: Manny.
The place we found Manny hardly helped: In a decrepit courtyard off a cul de sac in the North End of Boston—aka Little Italy—aka Mob Heaven—aka until Mike the Greek dug the Southeast Expressway underground and drowned the neighborhood in giggling tourists.
We found Manny bulging out of a rickety K-Mart aluminum lawn chair with green-and-yellow plastic stripes and staring up at two of the scarier goons in town. A ghastly arc light atop one of the red brick buildings marked this as the last unconverted tenement in this gentrified neighborhood. That and the weeds struggling out of the cracks in the pavement, the parked Hummer bellowing out Aerosmith to smother their conversation, and Manny himself in his trademark Hawaiian shirt and Bermuda shorts.
But none of that would have bothered me quite so much if he hadn’t shouted so clearly as we rounded the corner, “How the fuck should I know where to find him? That’s what I pay yous for! I want him fucking hit, and I want it tonight!”
The grumbling goons leapt to it—picture a pair of Nimitz-class aircraft carriers careening about in a bathtub—until all that lumbering flesh turned and crashed together, startled at the sight of the two new lost tourists in the mouth of the alley.
“What the hell have you got me into?” I hissed at my less-than-perturbed companion Deadpan Jan.
“Relax,” she hissed back.
I’ve always had a thing for strong women, but this one tended to stretch the definition. Physically she was a rock, a bit on the stocky side, but curvaceous in a distinctly Sicilian way with jeans painted on the outside of her legs and buttocks. But she could forget her social proprieties, as now when she stepped half in front of me and started to scratch at her admittedly sensational behind.
“You brought a gun?” I hissed again, headed for hysterical. “You told me you retired!”
“Shuddup! I haven’t hit anyone since Bean.” A response I would explain, except that some things are just too complicated.
By the time Jan’s scratchy fingernails reached the small of her back under the short leather jacket, Manny had taken things in and recovered far enough to ask, “Who the fuck are you?”
“You Manny?” Jan asked.
“Is that the Messenger?”
My turn to screech. “No way in hell, Jan! You know damn well I don’t do that anymore!”
She must not have heard me. “It’s him.”
Nor Manny. “Really? Don’t look like the tightest lips in America to me. In fact…”
By now I couldn’t see Jan’s face, but deaf or not, something stopped Manny short of insulting me. It probably wasn’t the size of my biceps. I had aliased my companion Deadpan Jan for a reason, because in our on-and-off three-year relationship, I was still waiting for a ghost of a smile to warp her cast-iron features. But there was one subtle look she could manage that had literally sent motorists careening off the road to get out of her way. Evidently this Manny was smarter than he looked, but not his goons. They started to shift right and left. Which at least entertained the boss, once he shook off his own Jan-inspired shivers. He grinned and levered himself up. The chair went with him, until he peeled it off his massive back.
“What’s with the Jan shit? Aren’t you Frankie Ciccone?”
Which was technically true. But the first time Jan had tracked me down in my beachfront trailer in San Pedro south of Los Angeles, ripped off my clothes, and had her way with me, I had told her there was no chance of me performing if I had to picture her mountainous mobster-dad Franco and friendly killer-brother Frank.
Frankie? Not a chance.
“How’s your bro doin’ anyways?” enquiring Mannies wanted to know. “Our mutual friend said he struck it rich a couple years back and got out. Something about a lottery ticket in the City.”
Which was technically untrue. I had found Bean’s money after his much too complicated and untimely demise and left both of the Ciccone twins rich beyond their unholy beliefs. And vanished into the night myself, until Frances-Frankie-Jan heard about my wife ruthlessly ditching me and tracked me down on the beach.
None of which mattered just now, when Manny approached, reached past my alleged girlfriend, and took me by the arm.
“Where do you think you’re going?” she asked him, not me.
“You keep these things confidential, dontcha?” he answered me, not her. “It’s what I heard.”
I suppressed my own brand of shivers. “I would if I still delivered messages, but I don’t. Where are we going?”
“Over there is all.” By which he meant the far corner of the courtyard. “A little privacy.”
All journeys start with a single small, slow-motion, excruciating step. It didn’t help that Manny ran his arm around my shoulder, his vast, muscle-bound arm with the massive gold rings that could have doubled as brass knuckles. Nevertheless, I somehow managed to point out, loud enough for all to hear, “She’ll still shoot you and your guys before any of you can blink.”
Finally I had offended him. “Is that necessary? What’s with the hostility? I heard you was a stand-up guy. I—”
“Maybe it’s the English Leather.”
I had always wondered where the truckloads got shipped to these days, but evidently Manny knew. He was too Sicilian to let a zinger like that pass. He drew up and said, “You know, fuck you. I don’t give a rat’s ass. Our mutual friend asked me to pass on the message, but I don’t have to do a fucking thing for you I don’t want to.”
The good news was that Manny had taken back his arm, leaving his indignant piston of a finger to jab me in the chest. And at least I was still standing and not urinating. Yet. A glance back at Jan explained the giant’s restraint. She had given up on pretending to scratch her buttocks and taken to brandishing her favorite revolver. So much more lady-like.
“What’s going on, Manny?” she asked with a calm that would have chilled a polar bear. “You didn’t call us here for this.”
I thought about apologizing, but was still too irritated by the presumption—of the call, of the devious introduction, of the buddy-buddy arm around the shoulders, but especially by the notion that this second-rate bully and loan shark could have anything to offer me. I boasted enough ill-gotten gains of my own to buy him ten times over—but of course, no one knew that. No one knew anything about me. I hoped. Certainly not enough to do me any favors.
I glanced back at Jan again. The night she had showed up on the beach and demanded that we take a carnal test drive, she had insisted on lights out before taking my athletic prowess beyond its limits. The next morning, some cheesy male part of me might have quivered at the thought of waking up to this relative stranger’s morning-after look. But nothing had prepared me for the shock when I found my newly alleged girlfriend sleeping in the misty dawn. Like an angel. Gorgeous, sweet, and serious.
But then she had woken up.
Jan was definitely awake now. And she might have secretly been the kindest, gentlest killer-for-hire I had ever dated, but Manny and his boys had evidently missed that. Understandably. Which naturally emboldened me enough to puff out my chest, at least think about poking Manny in his, and demand, “What’s this about doing anything for me? I don’t know you, and have no idea who this mutual friend is. I don’t—”
“Not you, moron. Nobody gives a fuck what you do. It’s your crazy wife.”
Which was all technically true and untrue.