Authors: John Nicholas Iannuzzi
John Nicholas Iannuzzi
A MADCAN Book
to my Mother,
and to Poppa and Uncle Binny
whom I never cease missing.
New York City / Friday, July 28, 2:50
Marc Conte walked slowly beneath the heavy overhang of shade trees that lined the Broadway side of City Hall Park. It was a scorching day; not a single leaf overhead fluttered. Waves of heat seemed to radiate from the sidewalk. If it weren't that his law school chum, Vinnie Bauer was being sworn in as a Judge of the Criminal Court this afternoon, Marc would already be far out on the cool, deep blue waters of the Atlantic, the sails of his forty-foot motor sailer,
, furled, searching for the breezes. Today, there were probably few breezes to be found even there, Marc thought.
Marc's full name was Marc Antony Conte, J.D. He never used his middle name or initial however; he thought Marc Antony a little too dramatic. The J.D. was for Juris Doctor; he didn't insist on being called Doctor either.
Marc was thirty-two, a born and bred New Yorker, with dark penetrating eyes and features that were at once rugged and mysterious. A thin, white-lined scar across his left cheekbone from a childhood accident, added to a wiry, graceful body, gave him the classic appearance of a
. Which appearance was appropriate, since Marc was a trial lawyer, specializing in criminal cases, and he was often pitted in the public arena in a life and death struggle (the police are sometimes called bulls), the ritual bounded and orchestrated by strict, classical ceremony.
The newspaper vendor at the kiosk on the corner of City Hall Plaza saw Marc and a smile creased his broken face. He was an ex-pug and a little light in the head.
“Hiya, Marc, pal,” said the newsy. “Hot as a bitch again, hanh?”
“Sure is, Champ,” said Marc, stopping a moment. The newsy liked being called Champ.
“You look like a million,” Champ said. He felt Marc's lapel. “Nice suit, nice,” he smiled. “How much'd you go for?”
Marc was wearing an elegant beige, almost white, suit that had been custom made. “A few bucks, I don't remember,” Marc said.
“You want your paper now, pal?”
“Not now, Champ,” Marc smiled. “I'll get the late one on the way out.”
“Oh? You going to see His Honor?” Champ asked, jutting his chin at City Hall.
“A friend of mine's being made a judge,” Marc replied.
“Better get in there quick, before His Honor changes his mind and gives it to somebody else.” Champ bent over to clip the wire from a bundle of papers. “He's a bum, this one. Couldn't last two minutes with me.” Champ rose with some papers in his hands. He began to dance and feint with his shoulders. “Not even a round.”
“See you later.” Marc smiled, thinking that Champ, who was white, was one of the last of a vanishing era. His contemporaries and compatriots had now emerged from the ghetto, leaving the tenements and the broken noses to Blacks and Puerto Ricans.
The clock in the cupola over City Hall indicated 2:55. The swearing-in was set for three o'clock. Marc paused a moment to admire City Hall, standing amid its tall trees and wide lawns, with its pink granite base, its veined, white limestone structure, topped by the cupola presided over by a statue of Dame Justice.
At the top of the wide stairway leading to the columned portico of the main entrance, a plainclothes policeman gave Marc a careful look, then nodded for him to enter.
“Where's the swearing in?” Marc asked the officer.
“Up in the Board of Estimate chamber.”
“Thanks.” Marc started across the marble lobby toward the double stairway rising in graceful spirals on each side of a center rotunda which separated the main floor. One side of the building was occupied by Mayor Scott U. Davies and his chief aides. The other side housed the City Council and Marty Dworkin, president of the Council. Recently, Dworkin had started making mayoral-candidate sounds, and the factions at each end of the building suddenly became enemy hosts within the same camp. After all, it was election year. And, although Mayor Davies kept telling the press that he was not a candidate for re-election, the odds makers were taking bets that he was going to make the run.
“Hey, Marc,” called George Tishler, Counsel to Mayor Davies. Marc, Vinnie Bauer, and George Tishler had all been classmates in law school.
“Hello, George, old pal,” smiled Marc, shaking George's hand. George, who had gained a few pounds since law school, looked hot and rumpled, his dark blue, pin-stripe suit seeming a heavy choice for such a hot day.
“Come over to see Vinnie Baby get sworn?” asked George, as the two of them walked up the stairs together.
“Sure did. I wouldn't believe it unless I saw it with my own eyes.”
“Vinnie's really been doing a great job as Deputy Administrator of the Criminal Court,” said George seriously. “Judge Goldman, Vinnie's boss, thought he was really functioning magnificently over there. That's how come he's getting a judgeship; figured he'd really be able to move things if he was on the bench.”
At the top of the stairs, Marc and George made a right turn to the Board of Estimate's chamberâa long, rectangular room with vast, high ceilings and intricate, gingerbread-scrolled woodwork. The scrollwork was traced around the top of the walls and six large windows. The entire room was white, very elegant in a colonial style, with several large crystal chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. At one end of the room were several carved desks in a semicircle. A high, carved canopy overhung these desks. The rest of the room was filled with oak benches and carpeted with a thick-pile red rug. Television cables had been stretched down the aisles, secured by an adhesive tape to the rug.
The chamber was crowded with judges, politicians, important commissioners and aides of the Mayor, city officials, and relatives and friends of Vinnie Bauer. Marc saw Vinnie sitting on a folding chair in front of the permanent desks, facing the audience. He was sitting right in the center of the action, near the microphones. Judge Goldman was seated on a similar chair next to him. Many other chairs were still unoccupied.
“Looks like Vinnie wants to be sure he doesn't get left out,” said Marc.
“Yeah.” George laughed. “See Gloria, Vinnie's wife, and kids right in the first row?”
“Say, how's Maria, that beautiful wife of yours?”
“Great, just great,” Marc replied.
“Still teaching the kids remedial English up in East Harlem?”
“She's some girl,” George said. “I don't know what the hell she sees in you though.”
“She says the same thing to me about you,” Marc kidded.
“Oh, that's very cute,” said George. He put his arm around Marc's shoulder. “It's good to see you, Marc. We really ought to get together for lunch one of these days.”
“When the hell can I make it, is right,” George said. “If I ever get time to eat lunch around here, the Mayor'll have me investigated for gold-bricking.”
George raised himself up on his toes, and waved toward the front of the chamber. Vinnie Bauer saw him and smiled, waving back. George pointed at Marc. Bauer smiled again, waving to Marc.
“He's nervous as hell,” said George.
“You would be too, getting a ten-year guaranteed job at thirty something thousand per year,” said Marc.
“Oh, Vinnie's not getting a ten-year appointment.” George lowered his voice.
“I thought Criminal Court judgeships were ten-year appointments.”
“They are. But Vinnie's not being given a full ten-year term. There are seven of those open, and the Mayor intends to fill all of them before the end of the administration. But he's giving Judge Walsh's spot to Vinnie.”
“Is Judge Walsh up for reappointment?” asked Marc.
“No. He's got three years to go. But the Mayor decided to roll Walsh over to one of the ten-year spots and give Walsh's remaining three years to Vinnie.”
“Ah, this way if he's a lousy judge they can get rid of him in three years,” said Marc.
“Smart boy,” replied George, smiling, shaking the political hands of the people coming into the chamber. “Besides, Walsh is a cousin of Jimmy Bainbridge.”
“You mean the district leader from uptown on the West Side?”
“The very same,” George grinned. He waved at someone across the room. “It's election year, you know.”
Mayor Davies entered the chamber from a door behind the permanent desks at the front. There was a back stairway leading to this chamber from his offices below. Some people in the audience began to applaud when they saw him. A pleased murmur filled the room. More people turned around, and in staggered waves, began to stand. The Mayor smiled, then waved. He was tall, trim, balding, with dark eyes and hair. He had a kind of All-American, Anglo-Saxon look which was one of his major assets with the voters, particularly the women.
“I've got to go up front,” George said to Marc. “I'll see you just as soon as it's over. Don't go away.”
The Mayor stood at the center of the row of folding chairs in front of the room. He shook hands with Judge Goldman, seated two chairs away, who then introduced him to Vinnie Bauer, who now stood in place, three chairs away. The Mayor had never before met Bauer. His Committee on the Judiciary, as well as several Bar Association committees, screened and evaluated judicial candidates. Ordinarily, the Mayor left the approval of the judicial candidates to the committees and George Tishler, who was the Mayor's liaison man in charge of matters dealing with the courts, judges, criminal justice, and the like.
A couple of newspaper photographers asked the Mayor to pose with Vinnie Bauer so they could take some pictures. The two struck a smiling, nonchalant pose as the cameramen flashed away.
An engineer from WNYC, the city radio station, approached the microphone which had been placed near where the Mayor was standing. He tapped on the head of the microphone. A light rapping noise carried over the loudspeakers into the room. He nodded to the Mayor.