The Grovenours Club wasn’t really a club, it was a restaurant in downtown Albany where the political movers and shakers and wannabe movers and shakers gathered. The food was surprisingly good and the host/owner Jellybean Iorizzo treated the lobbyists and legislators like members of a private club. Jelly was a genius when it came to who sat where and who not to sit next to one another. The Grove, as we called it, was like the Balkans and Jelly was the master diplomat. Most importantly the last member of the media that tried to eat at the Grove was sick for 3 weeks with explosive diarrhea from a bad batch of clams. I’ve never known anyone to get sick from the Groves food other than members of the media. Suffice to say that combined with the outrageously high prices that only lobbyists and the legislators campaign accounts could afford made the Grove our private club for all intents and purposes and provided a large amount of privacy from the public, of course it provided no privacy from the other members.
“Leathers how good to see you again”
“Really Jelly? I was just here for lunch yesterday”
“I know but we expected to see you for lunch today. I was worried that perhaps you had found another restaurant to frequent”
“Now why would I do that, Jelly?”
“Perhaps because Mr. Siler was in for lunch and made a point of requesting your usual table”
“And did you let him sit there Jelly?”
“Of course not, we just happened to have to remove several of the chairs at your table for cleaning.”
“And is Mr. Siler here this evening?”
“Not yet but I expect him later. Would you like him near or far from you?”
“As far away as you can Jelly but make sure he sees me. Anyone else of interest here tonight?”
“Mr. Haxster is waiting for you at your table, he’s already two drinks ahead of you, The big guy is just finishing dinner, the hose has come and gone and there are a couple of unpleasant large Israeli gentlemen waiting for Mr. Siler. They are just finishing their order of raw clams. I don’t expect they will be staying for dinner”
Now that was interesting information.
“Who made their reservation Jelly?”
“They didn’t have one, they just arrived and demanded to be seated while they waited for Mr. Siler, as I said they are unpleasant fellows. They are also armed”
“Law enforcement Jelly? That could prove unsettling”
“I doubt it, their suits are very expensive and not a single one has tried to steal the sugar packets”
“You don’t have sugar packets”
“That’s true but I was trying to be discrete by implying they aren’t cheap. The one who can speak English gave me a $100 bill as a gratuity”
“And what did you give him in return Jelly?”
“A recommendation to try the raw clams”
“You are a funny guy Jelly, You aren’t worried that large men with guns may hold you responsible for their intestinal misfortune?”
“Not a bit, my Uncle Vince and his associates are dining here as well this evening’”
The fact that the Grove was most likely secretly owned by the Iorizzo faction of the Fabiano crime family lent a little spice and danger to the place. I was always careful to be friendly and polite to Jelly and never ask for a business favor, the last thing you wanted in this town was to owe a favor to the Fabiano’s.
Cadillac Curtis always told me Albany politics was like the mafia when it came to outsiders. We would go to war with one another but outsiders, especially law enforcement would get a unified Armani wall of silence. He also said don’t confuse the amateur gangsters that were elected to office with the real thing. The Fabiano’s were the real thing. I’d help Karp with the amateurs, I had no choice, but heaven forbid he ever expected me to help with the pros.
On my way to my table I saw Governor “the big guy” McLowey sitting with his brother-in-law Larry Truesdale. Larry was the head of the Public Corruption Committee as well as the governor’s brother-in-law. Only in Albany would such a relationship not only be tolerated but would go unquestioned by the media. The head of the ethics commission related to the head of the executive branch, not only that but Larry’s wife, who was the governors sister was the chief executive officer of a small not for profit that received millions of dollars in state funds as a result of her lobbying efforts. It’s tough to say no to the governor’s sister. Plus the not for profit did good work helping unwed mothers find employment in local government. If I remember correctly it was called “Mothers In Local Foundations Fixing an Unhealthy Current Krisis”. I could never figure out why they spelled crisis with a K”
Bob was waiting at my table. Bob easy to spot. He was of average height but had to weigh close to 350 pounds. His custom suit was expertly tailored so he looked like a former football lineman but even the best tailor couldn’t hide his immense girth. The other notable feature Bob had was almost a complete lack of hair not even eyebrows, it made him look like a giant cue ball. Bob had been an assistant US attorney in the Northern District for a long time. He was rumored to be in line to replace the former US attorney Gary Sudsberry when Sudsberry was nominated to a federal judgeship. But Haxster was accused, anonymously, of tanking the investigation and prosecution of the former majority leader, Woodrow Andrews. Andrews would eventually be tried on a watered down charge of theft of honest services for his support of a bill to allow legalized prostitution in his home town of Binghamton. He was acquitted when the US Attorney’s office could not prove that Andrews benefited financially from the introduction of the legislation. The fact that Andrews had invested heavily in real estate in Binghamton’s renowned red light district and sold all his property at a huge profit when the bill was introduced or that Andrews wife, a former prostitute, had planned to return to her former occupation, never saw the light of day, thanks to Bob’s investigative work along with numerous off the record meetings Bob had with Andrews, his lawyers and the head of the state party. Sudsberry got his federal judgeship and Bob had to leave the US attorney’s office, but he had a soft landing he went to work for the same law firm that had represented Andrews and counted among its name partners the head of the state party. Only Andy Karp and I knew where the anonymous allegation about Haxster originated. Andy didn’t like losing and the Andrews case still pissed him off since he was the lead investigator for the FBI and had originated the case with a helping hand from yours truly.
“Bob thanks for coming”
“Sure thing Leathers, anytime, you send a lot of business my way the least I can do is have dinner with you, especially since you are paying”
It was only supposed to be drinks but all these law enforcement guys past and present where cheap motherfuckers.
“It’s always my pleasure Bob you should try the raw clams as an appetizer, Jelly tells me they are superb tonight”
“Can’t tonight, I’m on a new diet no seafood”
“That’s a shame. Well anyway I hear you were busy last night, since when did Richard and Ravi start using you?”
“That was my first case with either one. I just happened to be with Richard at the backgammon club when Ravi called him”
“Since when do you play backgammon?”
“I don’t, Richard suggested we meet there to discuss his firm developing a relationship with my firm”
“And Ravi called Richard?”
“Yes it was quite the coincidence, I could hear Ravi crying on the phone and Richard told him to relax, that he was with the town’s best criminal defense lawyer and we could be there in 30 minutes to bail him out.”
“Lucky thing for Ravi huh?
“You bet, I don’t know many lawyers that could have gotten him released without any record being kept of his arrest. You know he got caught blowing a .15 while being blown”
“And I hear the girl was one of his students”
“So it’s true she was Richards’s niece?”
“Richard’s niece? Not a chance this chick was a pro and a high end one at that”
A prostitute, that was an interesting twist, I’d never known Ravi to use prostitutes.
“A pro? Are you sure? I thought Ravi prided himself on his skills as a swordsman”
“No no no Ravi didn’t know her occupation he kept saying that he was at some party when the girl came on to him. I only knew because the firm had represented her before”
“You represented her before on a prostitution charge?”
“Not me but the firm did several times”
“She can afford your firm?”
“I doubt it but she works for the Kings Klub, they are a very expensive escort service”
Now that was something I could check out after dinner. Every Tuesday night I had a standing appointment with a $500 an hour relaxation consultant, hooker to use vulgar slang. We no longer relaxed instead we just talked, my own private therapy sessions. Jamie Ash was my relaxation therapist. She was also a lapsed Amish beauty from Bird-in-Hand Pennsylvania. If it wasn’t for the fact that Jamie took strangers cock in hand for a living I would have spent a lot more time with her. As it was I looked forward to our Tuesday evenings as a way to talk things out with someone whom I was afraid I had actually let get to know the real me. That was dangerous for a guy like me.
“That must have been quite the scene at the police station huh?’
“Leathers I’ve seen a lot of guys shit themselves when they get arrested but I’ve never seen a grown man act like such a pussy over a DWI. Ravi was ranting that someone named Lev had set him up. That the Israeli mob would kill him. That it was all Richards fault for getting him involved with drug dealers in the first place”
“What did Richard do when he heard that?”
“Nothing he wasn’t in the room with Ravi and I. When he came in Ravi shut up. We got him out and Richard drove him home in the Jaguar and I drove myself home. Haven’t really spoken to either one since last night”
At that moment Richard walked in, the Israeli’s ran to the men’s room and I told Bob I had to meet another client, but the dinner was already on my account so enjoy.
On my way out I stopped to chat with Jelly again.
“Hey Jelly have you heard any gossip about Ravi Kamatrappa and drug dealers?”
“Ravi and drugs? I haven’t but I could check with my Uncle if you like”
“No don’t go to any trouble I was just curious”
“Still afraid to ask Vince for a favor huh Leathers? Well now you’ve made me curious maybe I’ll do a little snooping around myself, you can’t be too careful these days about who frequents your restaurant. The last thing I want is Ravi bringing law enforcement attention to the grove, I can’t afford to have those cheap bastards listening in on my customers or stealing my silverware”
I chuckled as I waited for the valet to bring my Audi to the curb.
Twenty minutes later I was in Jamie’s $2500 a month loft overlooking Albany enjoying a cup of coffee while Jamie brought out homemade biscotti for us to share.
“Mort you look like the weight of the world is on your shoulders, is Mr. Karp trying to get you to implicate one of your friends again?”
“Jamie you know I don’t have friends but yes Andy is trying to get me to help him catch a corrupt politician again”
“But isn’t that what he is supposed to do? And shouldn’t you do everything you can to help him clean up Albany?”
“It’s complicated but let me ask you a question what do you know about the Kings Klub?”
“The Kings Klub is a very high end escort service, they charge more than I do but the girls only keep 20% of the fee the rest goes to the Jews that run it. Mean vicious Jews, not Jewish like you are but like real Jews. But not the Jews that wear those little hats or have the long sideburns more like the Jews that look like they are in the Army but not our Army like the Jewish Army, do you know what I mean?”
I smiled because I knew exactly what she meant.
“You mean they were Israeli?”
“I don’t know where they came from, I meant that they were more like Jelly’s uncle than your uncle, more mob goon than bagel eater, no offense”
“None taken but don’t be so sure my Jewish family doesn’t have some tough guys in it. My mother always told me that on her side of the family we had relatives that were in “Murder Inc.””
“Mort you are a lot of things but a tough guy isn’t one of them, sneaky and brilliant yes but tough no, to tell you the truth Morty when I first met you I thought you were gay”
“I’m not sure after all we don’t fuck anymore but we used to so I make it 50/50 you have at least some gay tendencies, at a minimum you are a raging metrosexual” and she laughed “you have more grooming products in my bathroom than I do”
“Fuck off Jamie you’re just jealous that I’m more attractive than you are”
“More attractive? You need to stop looking at yourself in the mirror and look at me more often, get some perspective on life”
“What do you mean” I’d found that Jamie had a unique way of making me think about my weaknesses by poking fun at my surface vanity, what she was really doing was questioning what made me the way I am.
“You’re always scheming and planning and worrying about things that you don’t control. You think you have some magical power to control everything but you don’t. It reminds me of a story my grandfather told me about our cow”
“Your cow? Is this another Uncle Elmer Amish fable?”
“No it’s a true story, my grandfather was taking a nap under the tree in our yard back in Bird-in-Hand when I noticed all my brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles were in the field gathered around one of the cows that was lying down. It was a big commotion because the cow was clearly in distress and everyone was worried. So I asked my grandfather why he wasn’t out there helping. And he looked at me from under his hat and while still on his back said to me “that cow is going to die I don’t suppose my worrying about it is going to save it””
“And what happened”
“Why the cow died of course”
“And how does that apply to me?”
“I think you would be happier if you acted more like my grandfather, you’re worrying about things isn’t going to save them, take a nap and let nature run its course”
That would have been good advice if I could have figured out who the cow was in my life, I was worried that the cow just might be me.
At that moment my cell phone signaled I had an email waiting. As I read the email I was relieved to note that at least tonight the cow was someone else. The email was from the political reporter at the Times Union, Casey Sailer, and he wanted to talk about a story he was working on involving Ravi, a stolen McLaren, Richard’s sister and an escort service that high level government officials were allegedly frequenting. Count on Dante to be Dante.