The Bartolo brothers lived on Dorchester Avenue above a butcher and a cobbler. The butcher and the cobbler had married sisters and hated each other only slightly less than they hated their wives. This didn't stop them, however, from running a speakeasy in their shared basement. Nightly, people came from the other sixteen parishes of Dorchester, as well as from parishes as far away as the North Shore, to drink the best liquor south of Montreal and hear a Negro songstress named Delilah Deluth sing about heartbreak in a place whose unofficial name was The Shoelace, which infuriated the butcher so much he'd gone bald over it. The Bartolo brothers were in The Shoelace almost every night, which was fine, but going so far as to reside above the place seemed idiotic to Joe. It would only take one legitimate raid by honest cops or T-Men, however unlikely that might be, and it would be nothing for them to kick in Dion's and Paulo's door and discover money, guns, and jewelry that two wops who worked in a department store and a grocer, respectively, could never account for.
True, the jewelry usually went right back out the door to Hymie Drago, the fence they'd been using since they were fifteen, but the money usually went no further than a gaming table in the back of The Shoelace, or into their mattresses.
Joe leaned against the icebox and watched Paulo put his and his brother's split there that morning, just pull back the sweat-yellowed sheet to reveal one of a series of slits they'd cut into the side, Dion handing the stacks of bills to Paulo and Paulo shoving them in like he was stuffing a holiday bird
At twenty-three, Paulo was the oldest of them. Dion, younger by two years, seemed older, however, maybe because he was smarter or maybe because he was meaner. Joe, who would turn twenty next month, was the youngest of them but had been acknowledged as the brains of the operation since they'd joined forces to knock over news¬stands when Joe was thirteen.
Paulo rose from the floor. "I know where I seen her." He slapped the dust off his knees.
Joe came off the icebox. "Where?"
"But he's not sweet on her," Dion said.
"Where?" Joe repeated.
Paulo pointed at the floor. "Downstairs."
"In The Shoelace?"
Paulo nodded. "She come in with Albert."
"Albert, the King of Montenegro," Dion said. "Albert Who Do You Think?"
Unfortunately, there was only one Albert in Boston who could be referred to without a last name. Albert White, the guy they'd just robbed.
Albert was a former hero of the Philippine Moro Wars and a former policeman, who'd lost his job, like Joe's own brother, after the strike in '19. Currently he was the owner of White Garage and Automotive Glass Repair (formerly Halloran's Tire and Automotive), White's Downtown Café (formerly Halloran's Lunch Counter), and White's Freight and Transcontinental Shipping (formerly Halloran's Trucking). Rumored to have personally rubbed out Bitsy Halloran. Bitsy got himself shot eleven times in an oak phone booth inside a Rexall Drugstore in Egleston Square. So many shots fired at such close range, they set the booth on fire. It was rumored Albert had bought the charred remains of the phone booth, restored it, and kept it in the study of the home he owned on Ashmont Hill, made all his calls from it.
"So she's Albert's girl." It deflated Joe to think of her as just another gangster's moll. He'd already had visions of them racing across the country in a stolen car, unencumbered by a past or a future, chasing a red sky and a setting sun all the way to Mexico.
"I seen them together three times," Paulo said.
"So now it's three times."
Paulo looked down at his fingers for confirmation. "Yeah."
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