The Way to a Man’s Heart by Gary Cahill

Enjoy this sneak preview of the first story on Plan B, here in its entirety for your reading pleasure. It is a tale of felonies, fishermen and foodies, not for the faint of heart. Of course, the faint of heart wouldn’t be here in the first place.

Diver Joe slipped and slithered and stumbled through the pre-dawn dank, between the lobster pots. Less than an hour to sunrise, running way late, riding the edge the way binge drinking makes you—sure, one more, plenty of time. Until the clock runs out.

Rockport had been a dry town forever; archetypical, right down to the de rigueur liquor store just across the city line, decked out like a Christmas tree; winking, beckoning. In time, the law moved on to allow serving legal hooch with a proper dinner, and a looser attitude prevailed, in general, about getting gassed now and then. But touristy galleries, shops, and charm kept the place a heavy duty anachronism up the road on Cape Ann from wilder and hard-worn Gloucester, the historic fish town famous for courageous captains, storms of the century, and an indulgent undercover world of vice that would stroke-out most modern Americans. The natives learned to put on a happy face for visitors, but beneath the veneer in underground Gloucester the fleet’s always in—without the spiffy uniforms. Along the entire Cape, like anywhere, human weakness and desire proffered piles of criminal cash, and Diver Joe was off to retrieve a to-the-gills green-stuffed duffel bag from the bottom of Rockport Harbor.

Mask, foot fins, small scuba tank and a cord-drawn navy blue ditty bag—Joe quick-changed at the edge of T-Wharf, his street clothes left on the rocks above the tide line. He submerged and moved away and down and aimed for the breakwater. At its outer reaches the harbor was no more than twenty-five feet deep, way less in close. The duffel was guaranteed waterproof to thirty, easy enough to find among the buoys he’d mapped in memory. Chuckling over maybe being arrested for drunk diving; seriously hoping the sun and the local watermen didn’t rise too soon. Lobstering was permitted an hour before and after daylight, so a zippy in-and-out for Joe was paramount.

But staring into the business end of a pump action bird gun off the stern of an outboard-motored utility boat was unexpected. As was the kid behind the gunman with the fishing gaff, a tool somewhere between meat hook and harpoon. Behind the shotgun was Sammy Calley, mid-fifties, sea-weathered well past that, denim pants and jacket over a snap-up lumberjack, with his son, Gorton’s-fisherman-yellow slickered Davey, holding the whale gutter like a bayoneted rifle. Already balding at twenty, there was a great darkness behind Davey’s eyes and no fear or regret in seeing dead things in front of them. Sammy kicked over a rope so Diver Joe didn’t need to keep treading.

“Diving’s illegal in Rockport Harbor, and plenty other places ’round here, ’cept sometimes if you’re working on a boat,” sounded Sammy’s New England-achusetts twang, accent ludicrously over the top, hard-angled arrogance amplified by having the upper hand. It played like a north of Boston reading of Deliverance, or Cool Hand Luke. “You weren’t planning a little nightshift dirty work on my lobster boat, were ya? More than enough trouble catching those bottom bugs and tryin’ to sell ’em to city markets when nobody’s got the proper money anymore. Barely make a fuckin’ dime, and you’re down there messing me up, yankin’ my boat out from under me? Sabotage? That it?” Joe knew this guy didn’t believe that. Salty’d seen the bag, if not while cruising the harbor then obviously now, tethered to Joe’s midsection.

Diver Joe started to tell him, making more sense than either Calley could grasp.

“Listen, you know I wasn’t screwing with anybody’s boat. There’s the bag. I had to do it and not be seen, it’s going somewh—”

“Whoa, whoa, nothing’s going nowhere, and… what’s your name again, there, Flipper?”

“Joe. You’ve seen me around.”

“Yep, yes, Joe the Diver, up from Florida early in the summer. Tanned and blonde. Made yourself useful around town, I know, fittin’ in real nice. What’s in the bag, Diver Joe? And what a bag, my, my. Where d’ya get something so rough and ready?”

Joe, trying to keep it civil, “Northwest somewhere… Oregon, maybe? Made for mountaineering, for some reason waterproof to 10 meters, 10 yards, whatever.” Grinning. “I don’t know how many fathoms.”

Sammy didn’t crack a smile. Apparently not a laughing matter.

Insistent. “What’s in the bag, Joe?” Quick, Davey with a half-lunge, Sammy’s left hand holding back his kid. “Show us what’s inside the bag, or Davey’s gonna show us what’s inside you.”

Joe was still in the water, the bag on the deck, waiting to be flayed, but Davey seemed to admire the thing as he opened the seals and the zippers and freed well into six figures, banded grands and five-Cs and on down, piles of it.

The hoarse awed whisper was Sammy’s. “How much?”

“Three hundred thousand, a little over. Don’t know exactly.”

It looked like six billion.

Diver Joe knew where this was going, tried to head it off with the truth.

“Listen, this is not local. It’s about Rhode Island, you know what I mean? Providence? Familiar with what goes on in Providence all these years? With who’s waiting for this?” Joe watched the money going back into the bag, gun barrel at the bridge of his nose. Careful.
“Listen to me, this is the real deal. I was planted here for this. We dunked it to cool it off, and now it’s—”

“We, huh?” The bag held too much to allow Sammy to think straight. “Who’s we? An army’s comin’ to bail you out, escort all this to the bigwigs in the million dollar suits, am I right? Please, you’re all alone here.”
“Not for long. Up from Connecticut and New York, tonight. They’re both in on this, and we’re responsible, severely responsible, for getting this to—”
“Both? Both? There’s gonna be only two of them trying to ride this out of here?”
The gun shook in his hands. “Break my back when the money’s good, now I’m breakin’ it when the money’s for shit, and if you think this God-sent whorin’, gamblin’, drug money’s leavin’ my hands with only two of anybody—”

“Either one’s always been enough, from what I hear. We’re meeting on Bearskin Neck after everything shuts down tonight. Wise up. Just let it go, or bring me over there with the duffel and arrange something, work it out. Nobody in charge ever wants a mess, any attention. They might settle with you. Within reason.”
Joe didn’t sense any recognition of reality, much less reason, with the Calley family. He tried to not sound desperate. “You take this, you run, they’ll find you. These guys, some other guys, doesn’t matter, they’ll get you and your son.” Worth a shot mentioning the kid.

“Oh, I guess we’ll need to meet the tough guys over on the Neck. But I don’t think Diver Joe Makes Three is going to happen.”

#

A train out of New York, running on the New Haven line, stopped at Norwalk and passengers stepped off, one with an illegit name for a bastard boy. Mom called him Johnny Ray after her favorite ’50s cloudy-eyed balladeer, and the Connell thing was pasted on, JonRay knew, to obscure his parentage. No father ever around that he could remember, but he’d always been treated with deference in the city, respect he assumed reflected some serious wiseguy’s tryst leading to his appearance on Earth. Having no idea if he was Italian enough to ever be a made man, or full on Irish, or even just a little Azorean, he chose to honor a roughhewn appreciation for street food and big flavor by identifying himself as “Gourmandish”, eating his way, con brio, through the local cuisines everywhere he was “assigned”, as they called it—barely gaining a pound, loving every bite. JonRay was looking for a starchy lump named Glen.

Not his real name either, but a mutation of Geraldo Leonardo Simone, everyone hoping for his sake the Geraldo part wasn’t after the TV talk show guy, but knowing better. Glen had the Town Car, found JonRay, and they got started, heading to a rendezvous at Rockport, Massachusetts. It was early afternoon, and JonRay was stoked.

Ready.

Set.

Although a faithful trencherman, he’d skipped breakfast.

Go.

“Oh, man, before we leave town, Swanky Franks, whadaya say? Couple o’ dogs, real vampire killers, then hit the road, got plenty of time, and they’re—”

“We just got in the car and you’re talkin’ about hot dogs? Vampire killers? What the hell… what?”

JonRay, perplexed. “Garlic, in droves. Swanky’s is not just some hot dog dump. In fact, Connecticut’s kind of a happy hot dog hunting ground. Blackie’s in Cheshire, Rawley’s, I mean Paul freakin’ Newman ate at Rawley’s, oh, and Super Duper Weenie, exit 25, off Route 95—”

“Four fuckin’ hot dog joints in 30 seconds? This how it’s gonna go? You know, I heard about you. They warned me. Look, I’m in with you and Florida blondie on a delivery …” He waited. Dramatically. “… but without all this one from column ‘A’ shit,” and he waited again on his leftover 1960s’ laugh line. Hadn’t been funny then.

JonRay’s mood was dampened. A little. He hoped side-splittin’ Glen didn’t have a million of ’em.

“Well, listen, you can’t deny the pizza, some of the greatest in the world is in New Haven. Man, since the ’30s, Pepe’s and Sally’s, the Spot, and Modern, there’s a Pepe’s right here in Fairfield now, and what’s that other new one over—”

Glen was adrift, trying to understand, a renegade among Italians, being what used to be called a “meat and potatoes man”; way past well-done and boiled plain, respectively.

“Jesus. Bread dough with whatever you got sittin’ around put on top, right? Basically? It’s all spiced up and you get it with burned edges sometimes and—” Oh my God, Glen, please, already JonRay could hardly take any more.
What a dope.

There must be something. Ice cream? I scream, you scream… forget it. White Farms, ooooh, White Farms—right where they were headed; their black raspberry would be lost on this guy. Doughnuts; Coffee An’ in Westport versus New York’s Doughnut Plant? In the city Mark’s got the edge with organic ingredi… forget it. Aaaah, ace in the hole, seafood. Fried clams, even better on Cape Ann than Cape Cod, oysters, those sweet, tiny Maine shrimp, so many places… forget it. This guy’s benchmark for fried fish was that finned scaly cardboard at the local deli every Friday, just like Mom used to buy when she thought the Church was still forcing it down your throat. Christ almighty already. Just deadhead to Rockport, leave Glen to his white bread double mayo on a buttered dinner roll or whatever, and see if anybody at the luncheonette ever found the old recipe for that butter-creamy clam chowder. Best ever, anywhere. Two years ago a waitress promised she’d look.

And the lobster place on Bearskin Neck, Moore’s. Oh, man. Then just sit back, wait out the twilight, the evening, the last straggling tourists, meet with Joe and his duffel bag and baby that money all the way into Big Daddy’s arms, back down in Providence.

That is, meet with Joe up past the strudel place, and just sublime it is, stall a little bit leaving town until it opens early in the morning, grab a white bakery boxful for the road. Hey, never know when you’ll be by here again. Golden opportunity. Really shouldn’t pass it up.

Glen showed concern for his teammate. “Ah, sorry. Jesus Christ. And I should come up with another God to swear on.”

JonRay was not in the mood anymore. “How’s Yahweh? Ganesha? Shiva?”

“What?”

“Oh, just swear, go ahead. Christ. That’s right. Christ.”

“See? See what I mean? JonRay, I think I’ll just call you ‘Hungry’ the rest of the trip. No, you know what? ‘HungRay’, what with your name and all. Yeaaah.”

JonRay was hoping Glen got his own filthy joke, though it seemed unlikely. He tried.

“Whoa, come on, the ladies love me, but you’re embarrassing me here. I know lesser men envy real men, but… ”

Glen stared ahead, looked left, checked the rearview, merged left, looked straight ahead again.

Just driving. Not a word.

Hopeless. You know what?

Forget it.

#

The phone call was less than comforting; an hour late, gruff, grumbling, and not Diver Joe on the other end. Joe was sick, no, couldn’t talk, but he had a carry bag he needed delivered to some friends, in town for the salt air and stunning sunsets. Just trying to do the right thing, be on the Neck after it shuts down.

Click.

What the hell.

The brevity left more time to pointlessly triple check their loaded 9s, and dwell a little on the rocking sundown they’d just witnessed. People paid a lot to bed-and-breakfast near Pigeon Cove and watch the day drop off a granite coastline into open water. Worth every penny, thought JonRay.

“Worth every dime,” said Glen.

Close enough.

#

Heavy, thick, warm for October, fog and mist and dew points giving after-midnight Bearskin Neck the movie look of East London, Whitechapel—home of the Ripper. Soles sucking up wetness, kissing the dark with every step toward land’s end, where the breakwater jutted out to confront the open Atlantic invading the stony harbor. JonRay to the left, Glen the right, guns pocketed, walked toward the traffic turnaround where the stores and restaurants stopped and the road fell away on each side to popweed, sea moss, and water lapping at the angled rocks. Some days you could watch terns and gulls dump clams and crabs over the edge to crack open the shells. Smart little bastards.

Davey got the drop on JonRay, junior pointing a javelin with a sickle on the side, apparently designed to scare you to death before you bled out, just to be sure. Glen faced the more understandable bird gun in the hands of a jean-clad human weathervane, shifting the barrel back and forth in front of him, guarding the duffel bag behind him. For now it’s hands up. They’d move for their hardware soon enough.

JonRay called out to Sammy Calley across the street. “How come no Joe on the phone? Something wrong with his throat?” And looking dead ahead at the blade and the kid, saw Davey’s buried eyes twinkle, like stars in blackest outer space. “Listen, you caught Joe hauling the bag, you know what’s up. You certainly know this is not gonna buy the beach house in… Manila, or wherever.” Jeez, that was smooth, why not Baghdad? Or that acid dump town in China, make it truly appealing, you dunce? “This is going to some importan—”

“Yeah, I heard it. Heard… it… all.” Sammy aiming higher, closer to Glen with the gun. He called over to JonRay.

“Gonna be a finder’s fee for my services here, know what I mean? Too much luck to turn my back on, so let’s figure how to explain Joe Cousteau’s actions. Some money’s gonna be gone and we’re gonna blame Diver Joe. Say he snatched it, took off, now here’s me and my boy to follow through best we can, doin’ the right thing. Certainly don’t want no trouble down in Providence, no way. We’ll bring a good bit back.” Yeah, keep it honest. Like us.

Glen was itching. “You and your boy. Who are you guys anyway, John Wayne and Captain Ahab?”

“I’m Sammy, he’s Davey, and let’s keep it straight, you mouthy scumbag. We’re gonna wash this filthy money off your hands. You and Dirty Harry over there.”

“What, I’m Dirty Harry?” A major compliment. “Then you know how this is gonna turn out.”

And Glen. “Wow, Sam and Dave, the Bluefish Brothers, the Lemon Sole Men, you guys know that shrimp boat song?” Sammy moved first.

And before Glen had his automatic anywhere near out and aimed, Sammy flipped his shotgun barrel back into a two-hand grip and bashed the hardwood stock into the left of Glen’s face, cheek shattered, teeth knocked loose, the greasy-phlegm flow of a garbled wounded night bird screech drooling to the pavement, and as Glen did a soft-shoe stagger toward the edge, Sammy wound up and launched another huge whack and crack that caught Glen leaning and dancing and sent him over. He hit bottom on the back of his neck, driving his head face first into his chest. He was broken dead on the rocks before the giant awful sound stopped reverbing around the harbor, bouncing from stone to wharf to water.
There had not been the alarming report of a scattergun, breaking the hush of night in this sleepy place. And with little notice taken, it all soon faded, to nothing.

Davey was ready. He followed Dad’s orders. “Get down there and get him in the boat, take him out.” A speed-jacked monkey-Davey clamber scrambled down to Glen, yanked him over into a motored skiff, puttered toward the break, and used his fishing gaff, over and over, to open up wide and make certain Glen would not come bobbing to the surface if the little arm-and-leg anchors broke loose.

JonRay walked toward Sammy, looked over. “Lotta sharks around here I suppose?”

“If they can really smell only one drop of blood in a million drops of water? Guess we’re gonna find out.”

#

“So, what’s the plan here, Clyde, or is it Dillinger? I’m way late making this phone call and any respectable mobster anywhere will kill you over ten grand and a missed call, much less a sack like this. And by the way, much less means what, exactly? How much you taking?”

“Listen, John.” Well, at least he almost got the name right. “Mind your own goddamn business here, and how much is none of your business.”

“I need to know all the particulars, jack-off. I need to make them believe you told me a square story when we got up here and you said Joe took off with fistfuls of cash and Glen got… well, what about Glen? Where is he? Settle down to do some farmin’? The new harbormaster, is he? Found a good hearted woman and decided to—”

“Stop it… stop it. I get it. I’m shakin’, OK?” And he was. “If I still smoked I’d be doin’ ’em all right now.”

JonRay smiled. You want to smoke I’ll cram twenty down your throat and torch ’em.

Maybe later.

“Sammy? You know what a dung heap you and Davey the Knife stepped in? Up to your eyes, and now you’ve got to crawl out. I’m calling. Now. And don’t be leaning in over the phone, ’cause if they smell something fishy… ah, sorry.” Oh, screw sorry. Hey Sammy, first-time crime, aren’t you glad you got your feet wet?
That one’s for funnyman Glen.
“How much you takin’, Sammy?”

#

Mr. Del would answer. DellaVerde. Perhaps you haven’t heard of him, for although he cuts a striking figure it is a low profile. That famous logo with the marionette on strings, unseen hands manipulating the action? DellaVerde gets the puppeteer the gig. Books the room. Waters down the whiskey.

Owns the club.

And turns out the lights.

Won’t ever see a cell. Left standing, while the rest take the fall.

He rarely gets personally involved. But he was right there to accept the phone from Andy.
“Mr. Connell, is it? We’ve met before, you remember.”

“Yes, Mr. Del, a beautiful seafood dinner on Federal Hill, the old neighborhood.”

To the point, darkly. “And does familiarity truly breed contempt, Mr. Connell? How long need I wait for your call? How long do I wait for anyone’s call, other than too long? But I know you, and I know of you from… others. This is not your way. Shall I assume something’s changed with the original plan?”

JonRay, looking at Sammy, nodding, smiling, “Yes, that’s right. Ah, nothing’s as it was. That was a long time ago.”

Mr. Del tried the obvious. “How many? Two?”

“Well, yes, but he is shorter.” Added a little laughter.

“One, then. All right, give me the new story. Then tell him I said the meet is at the laborers’ union hall, upstairs, quiet, out of the way, but you turn me down, very respectfully, very gently Mr. Connell, tell him you’re looking after his safety, and we’ll agree on a homey tavern near the water, good pizza, we’re adding on a room or two, and we’ll talk in the work area. How long, Mr. Connell?”

“We’re leaving right away.” He worked in their names. “Mr. Sam Calley and his son Dave came upon this mess and when me and Glen Simone arrived— ”

“You said only one other.”

“Yes, only Mr. Calley.”

“And Mr. Simone is making this trip?”

“No, sir.”

Three beats, exhaled. “Is Joe making this trip?”

JonRay thought, man, don’t give it away to Sammy, and said, “Noooo, sir. No.”

Low breathing, steady, maintaining, then careful directions to the tavern/pizza joint/construction site.

Halting.

“Tell him … what I told you.”

Terse.

“Bring the bag. And bring the bagman.”

#

JonRay drove the Town Car, Sammy and JonRay’s 9 riding shotgun, silent all the way save for Sammy rehearsing his speech. JonRay made it clear he’d put the lobsterman in the middle, and let him claw his way out. Sammy had it down; lay it off on Diver Joe making a run for it with a big cut, JonRay and Glen stumbling in, the Calleys trying to set it right. Oh, with Davey staying home tonight, always work to do, it’s so hard these days, and Glen hunting for Joe, because, well, all that missing money. The tavern was easy to find, even in the dark, a light left on in the building proper, others burning in the unfinished annex to the side. Tires on the gravel drive announced their arrival.

“Sammy.”

“What?”

“No gun.”

He left it, and they stepped in through split plastic sheeting.

The room was prepped for company with a cobbled plywood desk, two empty visitors’ chairs in front, one left, one center, and another throning DellaVerde, still enough shiny slate hair to sweep back nicely, top streaked, sides nearly solid cream with a silver current running; so complex for what’s really just black and white. Charcoal suit, burgundy vest, eyeballing JonRay all the way. JonRay had seen this set-up before, and stepped lively to the left-side chair as Mr. Del waved at him to sit. The rest of the place was a work in progress; raw wood, saw horses, Sheetrock and, JonRay noticed, a couple too many drop cloths. Mr. Del nodded and Sammy edged up to the table with the duffel.

“Just a moment, Mr. Calley. Andy, please, a nice red. Nothing too fancy, da tavola, you know, but not like that piss in a basket. Something easy, no pressure. Sometimes a table wine is all you need, yes, Mr. Calley?”

The bottle arrived, with three glasses. JonRay couldn’t see the label; might be from France, Italy, Chile, or New Jersey for that matter. Mr. Del raised a hand to hold off opening it just yet.

“The bag, and your story, Mr. Calley.”

“Call me Sammy, please.”

Mr. Del looked at him. Not moving. Until he opened the duffel, and Andy started counting.

“I caught the other one bringing this up out of the harbor, it’s illegal to dive there, and I stopped him. It’s illegal. And me and my son, we got him over to T-Wharf and saw what he had, and he said he was takin’ off with what was comin’ to him and all, before two others, this gentleman John right here, and—”

“Yes, Mr. Calley, where is Glen? He knows he should be here. He’s important in this.”

“Hunting down that Joe, I think, must’ve took … taken off on his trail. Joe told me what this all was, and who the two gentlemen coming to Rockport were, and—”

“So Joe didn’t take it all, he left the rest for you, to buy your silence if you could get away with it? Is that right?” Mr. Del’s hands were steepled in front of his chin. “But you knew what you were getting into if you tried that. And so we have here how much, Andy?”

Sammy sat down in the centered chair, uninvited. Mr. Del’s hands went to the table, fingers splayed. He stared.

And Andy, not quite done, said “Almost there, Mr. Del, but around two hundred, little over.”

DellaVerde’s face reddened, then darkened, as an internal clock rolled back to a time when he was less refined and reasoned, more coarse and wild.

Andy backed off.

“So, Joe doesn’t take it all, and simply dust you and your son, but covers his traitorous behavior by leaving the large end with you, and you bring that in to get yourself out from under because it’s more than what’s missing?”

A wave, rolling, deep blue, sad.

Louder.

“You think any of our people would run with that much, with New York and Connecticut in with us? With the long history of our connections up and down the seaboard, Mr. Calley? Does it seem to you that anyone would do that?” DellaVerde relaxed, settled, lowered his shoulders. He called Andy to open the wine, rose up from his chair, knees flexed, reached to read the label. Calley was sheet white and wide-eyed. Andy, experienced, played it halfway.

“So, Joe did this, yes? Joe.” Three beats, a breath. “I brought him up,” choking, struggling to continue, “… ahh… brought him here, from Florida. He worked for us. For me. And now you’re telling me Joe did this,” all the way out of the chair now. Pained, welling. “Me like a father to him, my nephew, my beautiful sister’s son, did this to me?” Three unseen guys with guns would make sure Sammy went nowhere, but he wasn’t moving. DellaVerde flexed his knees again, still reading the label.

His hand slid up to the neck and the bottle, like a tennis racket, mashed Sammy Calley’s head, knocked him to his right, broke him open, bleeding, snotting, crying onto an incredibly well-placed drop cloth. Location, location.
JonRay was impressed. And the wine was obviously from New Jersey.

“JonRay, where’s Glen?”

Sammy’s wimpering was already annoying.

“Gone. He’s over, Mr. Del.”

“And Joe.”

“I don’t know. We never saw him or heard from him. The kid had that look and the tools, though. That’s a little rough I said that. I’m sorry.”

“That’s all right. Mr. Calley will most certainly tell me before he dies. Some people will go up to Rockport to find Joe and finish off the Calleys.” Sammy wailed and DellaVerde would have kicked that yapper shut but for his fine Italian shoes. Someone else provided a heel to the teeth, and JonRay finally saw the three guys in the shadows. Waiting. Ah, well…

“Quite a mess we have, Mr. Connell,” said Mr. Del, calming. “Often these failures are wiped from memory from the top down; make just a bit more mess, break out the hoses and wash everything away. You know that, don’t you? And here you are.”

“Yes, I know how… it usually goes.”

“Well this is,” backhanding the air, “unusual, particularly because it’s not going to end that way. I appreciate all you’ve done. Thank you for bringing the lobsterman to me. We’ll declaw and split and gut him before we boil him. Although you’ll certainly tell me steaming in sea water is the only way. Your reputation precedes you.”

“Yes, sir, Mr. Del. Thank you. I hope… thank you.” Stopped sweating, started breathing again.

“Here’s a key card, a new hotel up around the way, toward the city center. A small suite, nice, not the Ritz. I’ll be sending over a beautiful red clam pie, garlic, fresh basil, charred edge, somewhere between Pepe’s and what you get in Trenton, just fabulous. And three or four of those Boston lagers? Or would you prefer an unassuming red? Not this wine on the table; I’m drinking this. And I’m still going to need the bottle.” Indeed. With his good fortune, JonRay had forgotten Sammy, leaking on the plastic, facedown on the floor. “My driver will have the Town Car, and when you’re ready tomorrow, whatever time, he’ll take you back to New York. And don’t worry, there’ll be no one-way detour deep into the woods. You’re going home. I’ll call ahead, let everyone know of your… triumph over circumstance.”

#

Nothing caps a skin-of-your-teeth, nail-biting adventure like…

Dessert.

And JonRay knew just where to go.

“Lee,” whose name was Lido, actually, “whadaya say, sweet tooth’s got me. Listen, off 95, exit 24, Route 58 up to Bethel, like, fifteen, twenty miles. Oh my God, Dr. Mike’s. Ever been? Last stop on the ice cream jubilee train, my man. What? Jubilee Train; great song. By Dave Alvin? With the Blasters? It’s like a rockin’ People Get Ready, the train to paradise. Oh, come on, don’t be like Glen. Pain in the ass, he was. I mean it’s terrible what happened to him. No great loss to the culinary world. Yes! All right, Lee, I’m buyin’. Any flavor you want, but you must add a scoop of the mystical Chocolate Lace, say hallelujah, and …” it was almost too good to be true, “they make their own whipped cream, put it in a cup to take it with you. This is great for us, to not pass this up. You really don’t know if you’ll ever be by here again.” And quit jabbering.

He almost lost it, and put his head against the cool window. Yeah, you really don’t.

Gary Cahill is an Active Member of Mystery Writers of America New York and International Thriller Writers.

His first published fiction, the noir short story That Kind of Guy, was a celebratory Black Mask and Department of First Stories selection in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, and was later online with and in a “best of” print anthology from Pulp Empire.  A sequel of sorts, Corner of River and Rain, appeared online at Short Story Me Genre Fiction, as well as in a Kindle and print “best of” anthology.  The Damnedest Things appeared in The First Line Literary Journal Fall 2012, and is currently found in audio form, read by the author, on their website.

He worked for nearly twenty five years in (and still plays in what’s left of) New York’s Hell’s Kitchen, and is now a staffer across the river at the Weehawken NJ Public Library.  He eats well, badly, often, and often too often.  Indeed, that can be so.  (Some inspiring words to live by come from the late food writer, photographer, and restauranteur Michael McLaughlin, to wit; “Too much of a good thing is a better thing.”)


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6 comments on “The Way to a Man’s Heart by Gary Cahill
  1. Amazing at description and dialogue. I felt like I was right there. I bet you would make a great screenwriter.

    • Gary Cahill says:

      Thanks so much. With these first-person voices, unless it’s all in the character’s head, it’s all about where you’re at, I think. I’m really a “where you are is what you do” kind of guy.

      Hoping to promote this new venture; please fill-in whoever needs to know. Let’s get Plan B going.

      Gary C.

      • Gary Cahill says:

        And you know, that’s really funny, in that I’m still thinking about this in first-person, the way it was originally written, until I opened it up the way it reads now to give myself some room. First is how I start nearly all my stories, going for that immediacy.

  2. James Sheridan says:

    ps. Darusha Wehm reccomended you (on her page).

  3. Mickey Hill says:

    Interesting story, great writing style. I want more.

  4. Barb Cannon says:

    Did my brother really write that? Can’t be. It’s really good.

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