Turn on the Heat

Started by Lt. Baxter at Oct 08, 2020 10:14 AM
February 28, 1924
238 Views
22 Posts

Lt. Baxter

Police Detective
298
?Years Young
14 Posts

“All right Mr. Calhoun. yes, we’ll keep him here until you get down to the station. You’d better hurry, though, his pal La Rosa’s probably heard by now and’ll be getting a lawyer over here before we know it.” Lt. Baxter listened to the Assistant D.A.’s reply on the other end of the line and put the earpiece back on the candlestick desk telephone, and then put the whole apparatus back on the duty sergeant’s wooden pulpit of a desk.

Strange, having Vito back in the questioning room after all these years: last time must’ve been, oh, ten years ago? He’d probably been pinched a few times since then, but not by Baxter. He couldn’t remember what it was for, that last time, just that it had been rancidly hot weather, like today. It had also been hot the first day he ever met the scarred, calculating assassin. Vito had just been a kid then, really, just into his teens, perhaps, but still small, young-looking, innocent faced even. Baxter had been a cop on the beat: fresh out of the Army and still under the delusion that everybody obeyed orders when they were given.

But that little Italian kid, caught stealing red-handed, hadn’t obeyed, when a younger, uniformed Baxter had ordered him to stop. He’d run off like the very devil, chased by the older man, who was soon panting in the stifling Miami heat. Baxter had been easily outrun, even in those far off days of ’04, but he was also tenacious. He eventually tracked the boy down to his home. What he saw there, the abject poverty and squalor, completely robbed him of his notion to run the lad in. In fact, he quietly slipped the emaciated woman who dwelt there a couple of dollars, told her to spend it on some food for the boy, lest hunger drive him to a life of petty theft and then greater crimes.

So much for the idealism of youth.

Baxter burst into the room where the Vito of today sat.

“All right, Trafficante, why’d you kill Tennille? You have a grudge, or were you paid to do it?!” he bellowed at the local hood. He took a puff of his big black stogie while he waited for the reply.


Vito Trafficante

Bootlegger
28
?Years Young
17 Posts

"You got a fresh mouth for a broad."


When Baxter arrived, Vito was swinging back on two legs of the chair he was sat in. His behavior probably alluded to some sort of undiagnosed attention disorder but bored and having his time wasted, what else could he do? For some reason the bulls had confiscated his smokes when they collared him; they'd roughed him up a little too but he was used to heavy-handed people. The Venetian blinds that hung over the only window of the room were twisted shut so it came as a big surprise to him when Baxter's shadowy figure appeared on the other side of the frosted glass of the door, flung it open and started to bark accusations at him. Vito snapped to and grabbed the table to prevent himself from falling.

Jesus Christ this guy is intense. He seems familiar, yet a complete stranger. I guess this is the bad-cop part of the routine.

"I already told the other crushers, I don't know no Tennille. You're wasting your time." Vito explained with a shrug as a thick cloud of smog emerged from Baxter's mouth. "Why don't you bring me my smokes so we can talk like gentlemen?"

While Vito had indeed shot, stabbed and killed by other means for money or honor, he'd never been brought in for any of the people he'd rubbed out. He was always careful, always particular about when and where he hit somebody. He'd only ever slain other underworld types or degenerates that had it coming. His rap sheet, while colorful, was filled with arrests for possession of alcohol, robbery, vandalism; non-violent crimes. The fuzz had nothing on him and he knew it - especially since he didn't kill anybody this time. Vito never really gave the police any trouble, but if they were going to waste his time, he was sure as hell going to waste theirs until his attorney arrived.

I know this guy from some place. Can't put my finger on it.

Vito looked the guy up and down as the fog from the cigar began to dissipate. His droopy eye clenched even tighter and his head twisted off to the left; he was thinking hard about how he knew the detective and it was creeping around somewhere in the front of his mind but his eye loosened up and his face returned to normal as he lost it.


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Lt. Baxter

Police Detective
298
?Years Young
14 Posts

"I already told the other crushers, I don't know no Tennille. You're wasting your time." Vito explained with a shrug as a thick cloud of smog emerged from Baxter's mouth.

“Never heard of the mug who stands up in court for all the criminals and low lifes like you, Trafficante? Don’t make me laugh. Well, he won’t be standing up there any more, not since you murdered him in cold blood!” shouted Baxter.

"Why don't you bring me my smokes so we can talk like gentlemen?"

“Smokes?! I’ll give you smokes! I’ll light a fire under you so hot you’ll be glad when you get to the electric chair! That’ll feel cool in comparison!” the apoplectic police detective threatened, mixing his metaphors perhaps, but certainly making up for it with the vigour of his language.

“Where were you at Four A.M. on Tuesday afternoon?!” Baxter demanded, waiting to hear what neat little alibi Vito would spout. "And who does the green motor belong to? We know it ain't yours!"

“Boy, I’d like t’ get the rubber hosepipes on this one!” the middle aged, but still rugged and burly, Baxter commented to another detective and a uniformed cop who were in the room with them. “Unfortunately, the Assistant D.A. wants to talk to him. You hear that, Trafficante? That’s the only reason we’re keeping that face of yours pretty! Once he’s gone, that’s when you’ll be getting the real third degree!”


Vito Trafficante

Bootlegger
28
?Years Young
17 Posts

"You got a fresh mouth for a broad."


Vito allowed Baxter to get what he wanted to off his chest, he seemed like a man possessed and someone flustered by this case. His bosses must have wanted results quickly and he was short on leads.

Old fella's a hot head for his age, if he ain't careful he's gonna pop an artery!

"I am pretty, ain't I?" Vito said with an arrogant smirk, running his pinky finger down the scar that decorated the right side of his face.

"But listen, detective, it's real swell that you think I can afford some fancy-schmancy lawyer but, really, I'm just a simple entrepreneur trying to make my way in the world. I ain't never heard of your man Tennille.  You're pissin' up the wrong tree." Vito emphasized, with a heavy sigh and a puff of his cheeks. "I can tell ya where I was, sure, but you're gonna have to be a little more specific - which Tuesday afternoon?"

Vito folded his arms to signal that he'd said his piece and he didn't expect the cops to believe him. He seemed lethargic and unmoved by Baxter's threats; he'd been on the receiving end of a beating enough times that he didn't care but he knew once his lawyer or the Assistant D.A. arrived there would be no way they could hold him here any longer.

A moment of silence gave Vito some time to think about who this guy was a little more. He thought hard but he still couldn't place him.

Maybe, just maybe, he picked me up when I was a kid running with Lo Squalo's crew but that would'a been twenty years ago. And I got picked up dozens of times.

Vito snapped out of his brief daydream, finding himself back in the room. He began acting all fidgety like a petulant toddler and unfolded his arms to throw another little piece of bait Baxter's way as he motioned to his lips with two fingers in the shape of a 'v'. He still wanted a cigarette.


Loved 1

Lt. Baxter

Police Detective
298
?Years Young
14 Posts

"I am pretty, ain't I?" Vito said with an arrogant smirk, running his pinky finger down the scar that decorated the right side of his face.

“Ha! You think that scar makes you look tough?!” Baxter barked harshly, pointing his cigar at Vito “I’d be more scared of the feller what gave it to ya! And don’t be relying on holding out until your lawyer gets here, we got ways of slowing him down!” he warned.

"But listen, detective, it's real swell that you think I can afford some fancy-schmancy lawyer but, really, I'm just a simple entrepreneur trying to make my way in the world. I ain't never heard of your man Tennille.  You're pissin' up the wrong tree." Vito emphasized, with a heavy sigh and a puff of his cheeks.

“Listen you mug, you don’t know what tree I’m pissing up! Only I know what tree I’m pissing up: you got that!?” It didn’t really matter that this sentence made no sense whatsoever, in fact, the more incomprehensible the stuff being shouted at the detainee the better. The aim was to confuse, disorientate, rile, upset – anything to break down the isolated individual’s composure.

“Now, where was you on Tuesday at four?” Baxter growled.

"I can tell ya where I was, sure, but you're gonna have to be a little more specific - which Tuesday afternoon?"

“Which…? Which Tuesday afternoon!? Well, the one before yesterday, of course, What’dya think I mean, the one next week?! Where was you on Tuesday the 26th o’ February?” he looked at his detective companion, then back to Vito. “Nineteen Twenty Four.”

The prisoner… well technically he was just ‘helping with enquiries’, at the moment… the prisoner clammed up, no doubt waiting for the 7th Cavalry to arrive and rescue him.

Vito snapped out of his brief daydream, finding himself back in the room. He began acting all fidgety like a petulant toddler and unfolded his arms to throw another little piece of bait Baxter's way as he motioned to his lips with two fingers in the shape of a 'v'. He still wanted a cigarette.

“Oh, I bet you’d like a smoke!” sneered Baxter, taking a long hard puff on his own cigar and blowing it out in Vito’s general direction. He was still standing up and far enough away for that to be pretty ineffective, but it was the thought that counted. “You nicotine slaves are all the same, take away your smokes and you all spill after an hour. And you’ll spill all right. It’s one thing creeps like you goin’ around bumping each other off, but this time you killed an innocent bystander, a mother holding her little daughter’s hand: you’ll go to the chair for that, Trafficante.”

Then there was a perfunctory rap on the door and a cop’s head appeared around it. “Calhoun’s here!” he warned the older detective.

Baxter nodded.

He turned and looked down at Vito and, for once, didn’t say anything, he just shook his head, almost ... wistfully?


Vito Trafficante

Bootlegger
28
?Years Young
17 Posts

"You got a fresh mouth for a broad."


Vito's demeanor, which had been almost that of tomfoolery up to this point, suddenly changed. He went on the defensive, but kept his cool regardless.

"Detective, you do yourself a disservice. I know this scar don't make me look tough! I hate this thing, you ever tried to pick up dames with a scar on yer face?" Vito asked with a shake of his head. "This scar is a reminder that I had nuthin' to say to the fella who gave it to me and I got nuthin' to say to you now. So spare me the empty threats, you're all piss and vinegar."

Baxter barked at Vito some more, who had nothing to hide and knew either a district prosecutor or his own attorney was on their way and so, he played the game.

"Tuesday at four? I was enjoying an early seafood linguine supper at a very reputable restaurant that wouldn't want their name dragged through the mud. I ate with two associates of mine who shall remain nameless, but the maitre d' will confirm that I was there." Vito told them, before remembering another detail Baxter seemed so interested in. "My blue Packard was parked out front the whole time. Matter of a fact, I got a ticket for a parking violation; I'd left it in front of a fire hydrant, oops. Paperwork says I got fourteen days to pay the fine."

Baxter took Vito's bait and was lured into another opportunity to throw further accusations across the table, this time suggesting that Vito had killed a civilian. He ignored most of the squalor that was coming from the law, from the consistent denial of cigarettes to the menacing quips about the electric chair. But worse than being accused of a crime he didn't commit was being accused of an abhorrent crime he didn't commit and it got Vito's back up further still.

The two men had traded verbal blows.

"You're way outta line you son of a bitch!" Vito snapped, slamming his handcuffed hand on the table as he rose to his feet and slid the chair out from beneath him. "You think you can just pick any fella up from the street and pin a double murder on him because he don't look the way you think he oughta? You got no evidence, no witnesses, no testimony because I wasn't there."

Two raps on the glass of the door silenced the room and gave Vito a chance to compose himself. An officer had poked his head around the door and notified Baxter that "Calhoun" had arrived. Vito knew him to be an assistant prosecutor to the D.A.

It wasn't his own attorney, Henry Spinali, but anything was better than toing and froing with these apes.


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Stephen Calhoun

Assistant District Attorney
298
?Years Young
13 Posts

"Y'all have to excuse my Southern accent, Mam. I hail from New York."


Steve Calhoun made it down to the station in record time; to tell the truth he hadn’t expected the police to track down and bring in Trafficante so quickly. Then again, most of the boys on the beat were either born and bred in the city or the surrounding counties, or had lived here a long time: they knew the back streets and the dives with their miasmic collection of low-lifes like the back of their hands, Baxter more than any of them.

He could hear shouting coming from the interview room, and was only surprised that it wasn’t Baxter’s voice doing it.

"You're way outta line you son of a bitch!" Vito snapped, slamming his handcuffed hand on the table as he rose to his feet and slid the chair out from beneath him. "You think you can just pick any fella up from the street and pin a double murder on him because he don't look the way you think he oughta? You got no evidence, no witnesses, no testimony because I wasn't there."

Two raps on the glass of the door silenced the room and gave Vito a chance to compose himself. An officer had poked his head around the door and notified Baxter that "Calhoun" had arrived. Vito knew him to be an assistant prosecutor to the D.A.

Steve walked in, a brown folder of papers in his hand.

“Thanks Bax.” He nodded “I’d like to speak to Mr Trafficante alone, please.”

Baxter didn’t look surprised, just touched his black derby and nodded, signaling to his sergeant to exit the room with him.

“You too, officer” he said to the uniformed man, but then stopped him. “Oh, and please take those bracelets off Mr Trafficante, he’s not under arrest, he’s just answering a few questions.” While the uniformed man did that, a look of distaste on his face as he did so, Steve fetched an ashtray from the side of the room and put it on the table.

When the dark blue uniform had disappeared from sight and the door closed behind him, Steve seated himself on the opposite side of the table and fetched out a silver cigarette case , then offered one to the scar faced hood. Taking one himself he placed it in his mouth and leaned over to offer the other man a light with a swish looking lighter.

“Sorry about that.” He smiled, dragging on his own smoke as he lit it. He blew out a long stream of blue smoke, like a man who had all the time in the world. “I told the fellers to invite you along here for a friendly little chat, not to give you the third degree. I guess old sweats like Baxter can’t help themselves.” He chuckled.

“Would it surprise you, Mr Trafficante, if I were to tell you that he’s quite an admirer of yours?” he asked, crossing his legs and leaning back a little on one of the spartan wooden chairs with which the room was equipped.


Vito Trafficante

Bootlegger
28
?Years Young
17 Posts

"You got a fresh mouth for a broad."


Vito, now uncuffed and no longer chained to the table, accepted a cigarette from Calhoun's expensive case with a civilized nod of gratitude.

"They took my Luckies." Vito began, gesturing to the cigarette that Calhoun was now lighting for him. "But you don't gotta say nuthin'. Bulls is bulls."

Vito leaned back, almost imitating Calhoun, though unintentionally. With the pleasantries aside, he knew the score, this was the good-cop part of the routine. He'd be roughed up by dozens of cops over the years, harassed and questioned over this and that; some of it he withheld what he knew, some of it he knew nothing about at all. This case was, obviously, the latter. Once they were comfortable, Calhoun spoke again.

"Would it surprise you, Mr Trafficante, if I were to tell you that he's quite an admirer of yours?"

"Nuthin' would surprise me." Vito explained, now getting a grey picture of who Baxter was in his head.

Baxter. He knew that name. He knew the fact, he just hadn't been given enough to work with until now. When Vito first encountered Lieutenant Baxter, he wasn't a Lieutenant at all. He was a beat cop, a uniform working for the Miami Police Department in 1904. Vito was just fifteen years old at the time and had been caught stealing $4,000 worth of postage stamps on behalf of his employer, Lo Squalo. He remembered getting off pretty lightly and his mother being able to put a little more food on the table for a couple of weeks, but hadn't been able to put two and two together. Baxter was a much younger man, in his early thirties and less cynical than he was now. Vito was wet behind the ears as a boy, but had grown up into a calculating and ambitious bootlegger, determined to remove the shackles of poverty.

Still, Vito didn't let on to anybody that he had those memories.

"Nuthin' at all." Vito stated with a shrug before taking a draw on his cigarette and polluting the air some more as the ceiling fan swirled the rising smoke about the place. He went on. "I said my piece. I don't know no Tennille, I don't know no lady that got killed."


Loved 1

Stephen Calhoun

Assistant District Attorney
298
?Years Young
13 Posts

"Y'all have to excuse my Southern accent, Mam. I hail from New York."


"They took my Luckies." Vito began, gesturing to the cigarette that Calhoun was now lighting for him. "But you don't gotta say nuthin'. Bulls is bulls."

“Lucky Strike, it’s toasted!” Calhoun chirped jovially, parroting the popular advertisement for the brand “Yeah, Baxter would do that, I guess.” He commented on the confiscation part.

"Would it surprise you, Mr Trafficante, if I were to tell you that he's quite an admirer of yours?"

"Nuthin' would surprise me." Vito explained, now getting a grey picture of who Baxter was in his head.

“That’s a healthy attitude.” the other man intoned as he opened the file and looked for a particular sheet of typewritten paper.

"Nuthin' at all." Vito stated with a shrug before taking a draw on his cigarette and polluting the air some more as the ceiling fan swirled the rising smoke about the place.

Calhoun just nodded at the repetition. Ah, here was the sheet he wanted. “Now, about the Tennille killing and Mrs. Harper…”

"I said my piece. I don't know no Tennille, I don't know no lady that got killed."

Calhoun looked at the ceiling and nodded. “Yeah.” He looked thoughtful. “See, in an ideal world, that would be … ahh … relevant.” He looked back down at Vito, eye to eye. “In this world, the D.A. needs an arrest and a conviction for this. Not so much Tennille, he was a lawyer and people don’t seem to like lawyers for some reason. But Mrs Harper, and her poor, orphaned children.” He shook his head.

“Election year. D.A.’s record isn’t great. He needs this, and he needs it timed right. And the big problem for you, Mr. Trafficante…” He held up Vito’s latest mug shots: front and side profile. State pen numbers on a plaque held to his chest.

“… your problem is that The D.A., he really likes this picture, he thinks it … ahhh … fits the frame perfectly.”


Vito Trafficante

Bootlegger
28
?Years Young
17 Posts

"You got a fresh mouth for a broad."


Vito largely ignored Calhoun's comments about Baxter, he wasn't surprised and he needed to keep his head in the room, focused on the conversation at hand. Very quickly Vito understood that the individual before him seemed far more calculating, but also ambitious not unlike himself, than Lieutenant Baxter and his wild ranting. He wasn't exactly equipped to deal with slimy lawyers but until his own attorney arrived, he'd have to do his best.

"People don't give a shit about lawyers? That's good to know, I got friends who'd be interested to hear that." Vito said with a smirk, a simple masquerade for the fact he didn't like that he was being leaned on so hard.

Vito sucked on the cigarette Calhoun had given him, mulling over his position. He was a typical looking Sicilian, for the most part; olive-skinned, dark brown hair, under six feet tall. He knew the cops had nobody for this, even before Calhoun just openly admitted it. They had no reliable witnesses, no murder weapon, not a single shred of evidence. If a witness turned up, chances were they wouldn't finger Vito for this anyway. Even if the state paid someone to testify in the case, Vito and his associates had ways of reaching them.

Then came the threats, the real threats, and not the empty kind Baxter had made. The sinister, corrupt, political kind.

"The D.A. sounds like a real peach. You ever get to wonderin' why people don't like lawyers so much?" Vito scoffed, before Calhoun dragged out his most recent conviction photograph. He actually hadn't been pinched for quite a few years. As his influence, popularity and reputation had grown, so had his circle of friends. He had capable people who kept him off the front line and kept him out of jail.

"That was what, back in fifteen?" Vito reminded the prosecutor. "A nine year old photograph of a kid picked up for burglary is what your boss is hoping will send me to the electric chair for a double murder? No disrespect, chief, but stop wasting my time. I ain't under arrest, so why are you really here?"

Vito began to wonder about Calhoun's motives. He was young, younger that Vito himself in fact, and seemed audaciously ambitious. Audacious enough to have the Miami Police Department pick Vito up, rough him up a little and bring him downtown without even charging him just for the pleasure of his conversation. Was Calhoun really trying to save the District Attorney's hide? Was he trying to get in his good books, to make a name for himself? Or was he really trying to bring down his boss from the inside? A wrongful conviction, especially one that would result in an execution, would end the District Attorney's career.

Calhoun could even find his own name on the ballot paper this year - Vito could help him punch that ticket; he had no love for a guy who kills innocent women and he had the clout to make that kind of thing happen. The heads of ambitious men can always be turned.