Detective Montgomery, Vice, met Detective Hanson, Homicide, at the latter’s request. Monty appeared at the Costanzo Bros. Bakery, which was at least as well known for being a front to the local Cosa Nostra mobsters as for making the best jelly donuts in the city.

Hanson was leaned against the counter, which was empty; Monty slapped down a five and took a few choice selections off the fresh donut tray.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” said Hanson drily.

“They can keep the change,” said Monty. “So what did you call me here for? You know the chief doesn’t like us buying donuts at Costanzo Bros., even if they are the best.”

“You remember a kid called Remo Aiolfi?” Hanson said. “Twenties, dropout, mellow to the point he probably took Ambien to wake up? Kid was baked, and baked hard.”

“Yeah, I remember him,” said Monty. “Kid was busted multiple times for pot, always was able to slip the charge or get it knocked down to community service. Don Colombera’s boys used him as a bagman, didn’t they?”

“My snitches have it on good authority that the kid was playing both sides, letting Don Anselmetti have a taste occasionally or selling him information,” Hanson said.

“Boy must have been toked to try something like that.” Monty took a meaty bite of a jelly donut, splattering filling all over the place. “God, this isn’t the Costanzos’ best batch, is it?”

Hanson shrugged. “That’s probably why Remo Aiolfi turned up dead,” he said. “Maybe the Colomberas did it, maybe the Anselmettis, maybe they both decided it would be better for business if he went away.”

“I’ll say,” Monty agreed through a faceful of donut. “How’d they off him?”

“Best as we can tell, they put him through a wood chipper and used him as a filler in the Costanzos’ latest batch.”

Monty stopped chewing, held out his donut at an arm’s length, and paled visibly.

“I told you the kid was baked, and baked hard,” Hanson said. “What did you think I meant?”

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Mack was the kind of person who always walked around in a cloud of cigar smoke–as if the other business he was involved in wasn’t enough, he loved to clench death-sticks between those fat lips of his and give people cancer. I sometimes wondered if he even really smoked at all, or if he just pulled out a cigar, as big around as his fingers and just as brown and weathered, to impress people. A cigar says power, money, influence. A cigar says ‘I’m the kind of guy you don’t screw with–you default on one of my loans, I break your kneecaps and shove this stogie in your crotch.’

None of that would bother me, of course, if I hadn’t been trying to kick the habit myself. Cigars and cigarettes aren’t the same, as any smoke snob will tell you, but that aroma was enough to make me reach for my empty breast pocket, where the cowboy-killers used to be. I rolled a stick of gum up and stuck it where a cig should have gone.

Mack laughed, dredging up a gallon of phlegm from deep inside his stout frame. “Ain’t you gonna light up?” he said. “Them Bubble Yum brand cigs, they sure pack a wallop.”

I laughed too–with Mack, you laughed when he did, whether what he said was funny or not.

“So, anyway, the old prick drops dead. Literally. Right there in his goddamn workshop. His kid found him there the next morning, at the bench, lookin’ like he was asleep.”

“Heart attack?” I asked, trying to sound interested, even though I didn’t know Karol Kazdemu from Joan of Arc. It’s always a tragedy when somebody dies–in the abstract. But if you don’t know ‘em, the most people can muster is a vague sorry feeling before they forget all about it. It doesn’t pay to dwell too much on death anyway.

“Stroke.” Mack gestured at Sunday’s Times, crumpled on his coffee table. “The obituary was very specific–I bet that was his doing.”

“Terrible tragedy,” I replied. “What’s it got to do with us?”

Mack took a fresh drag from his cigar and exhaled, filling the room anew with that sweet, dusky smell. My mouth tightened; God, I wanted a cigarette.

“For most people, yeah, stroke’s a terrible tragedy all right. But not Karol. For him, a stroke means he weaseled his way out of payin’ me back.”

“Nothing personal,” Luchari said, aiming the pistol. “Just business.”

“Is that supposed to make me feel better?” said Da Silva.

Luchari lowered his gun. “How do you mean?”

“Would this being personal really make that much of a difference?” Da Silva shrugged as much as his restraints would allow. “I mean, after all, I’m dead either way.”

“I suppose so,” Luchari said, stroking his chin. “Never thought of it that way before.

“It being personal might even be a good thing. Me, I’ve done some bad stuff in my time. I can see a guy taking something like that, making it personal, and going out of his way to settle accounts. It’s what I’d do. I can respect that in a way.”

“You know,” Luchari said thoughtfully, “I think it’s really more for me, than for you. Makes me feel like I’m somehow not killing you in cold blood, that everything’s okay.”

“Hey, I know exactly where you’re coming from,” said Da Silva. “Whatever it takes to get you to sleep at night.”

“This has been very illuminating. Thank you.” Luchari smiled, then squeezed off two shots from the hip. Da Silva slumped forward, the back of his skull gone.

“I love it when someone comes up with something a little more creative than ‘please don’t kill me,'” Luchari said to his men. “Having a little stimulating conversation for a change makes this job that much easier.”