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Fingered by a Dead Rat

crime caper by Charles Thiesen

“Vinnie talked?” Bobby “The Mouth” Benedetto says.

“Everybody talks, Bobby,” Artie “The Angel” D’Angelo says. “It’s a new tradition, like Omerta was the old tradition, ratting is the new one.”

Artie looks around. Half the drinkers in the Jockey Tap were friends of theirs, the other half, while not enemies, shouldn’t hear some of this stuff.

So Artie holds his finger to his lips.

“But Vinnie, Artie?” whispers Theo “Toy Boy” Onofrio.

“Yeah, Vinnie. And since Vinnie was from our crew, we gotta take care of him.”

“With pleasure,” Bobby says. Bobby and Vinnie never did get along.

“I don’t mean take care of him like take care a him,” Artie says. “Donnie already took care a him personally. No, we gotta take care of what’s left of him. Now.”

Angelo “Turk” Greco groans.

“Does it gotta be tonight, Artie?” Turk asks. “I got bowling tonight.”


“Artie, it’s fucking cold out there,” Bobby says, even though it’s February and it has been cold since a dimly remembered September. “What are we, midnight sanitation? I fucking hate Donnie Lupo.”

This statement is as unnecessary as saying it was cold.

Everybody hates Donnie Lupo, from his cousin in Boston to the children of his barber. From his former eighth-grade teacher to his old lady next-door neighbor. Wise guys all over Massachusetts hate him. Christ’s sake, Sally “The Fish” Pesci, the boss of bosses, hates him.

Unfortunately, Donnie “Fat Face” Lupo is Artie’s boss while Paulie “Nice Guy” Gentile, the capo of Artie’s crew, is away. It’s just temporary, of course, but Artie’s got to do what Donnie says.

So Artie meets with Donnie at Emil Goody’s butcher shop.

“Donnie,” Artie says, “Cutting Vinnie into five pieces helps with transportation, but is it worth the exposure? You know; this butcher?”

Emil isn’t a friend of the family. He’s just a butcher who’s into Donnie for eight large since the damned Celtics betrayed him one dismal night.

“Don’t second guess me, D’Angelo,” Donnie says. “I’m the capo and you’re a fucking soldier. The guy fingered me, not you. I want to make an example of him. I want your guys to plant a piece of him in each of the neighborhoods.”

Emil didn’t have to make hamburger for that. Cabot only has five neighborhoods. Two welfare and two working class; one you can’t afford.

But Artie is remembering the last time Donnie got on Sally’s nerves.

“Will no one rid me of this motherfucking asshole?” The Fish whispered in Artie’s ear.

Artie didn’t take it seriously then, knowing Sally favored a bit of competition in the ranks. But now —- ? Whacking a capo is never a good career move, but there might be opportunity here.

“Will do, Donnie,” Artie says. “I’m on it.”

Then he clenches his teeth and his fists, as he pushes his way out to the parking lot.

In the car, Theo has a brain storm. “Why not drop him in the canals?”

Cabot, being a mill town, has canals up the wazoo, along with a criminal tradition of losing things in them.

“That’s good,” Artie says. “He’ll float up eventually and give Donnie the example he wants.”

It being the coldest month of the coldest winter in decades, though, their spades just bounce off the frozen Essex Canal.

Artie says, “I got an idea,” and jogs off, leaving the rest of the crew standing under the First Street Bridge with Vinnie’s head.

Five minutes later a bowling ball from Cabot Bowling & Billiards up the street — a big ball, ten pins not duck pins or candle pins — drops from the bridge.

It bounces on the ice, leaving not even a dent.

Artie tells his crew to wait in the warm car. He paces the icy canal and he thinks. This is what he’s good at, why he’s a crew chief. Sometimes, he thinks he should have been called “The Thinker,” although he appreciates the irony in his alias.

But the cold makes thinking tough. His mind takes refuge in memories of summer, the golden sweetness of his tomatoes, the trellises he loves, his raised beds.

Artie pulls his thumb down into his mitten so he can snap his fingers. That’s it!

“Gardens,” he tells his crew. “Turned earth will be easier to dig, and when the gardeners turn up Vinnie in the spring, Donnie’s got his example.”

They brainstorm the neighborhoods. Turk knows a good garden in the East End. Theo says Saint Patrick’s Parish is doable. Everybody knows Belle Reve Estates is a cinch. Bobby suggests two possibilities in Upham’s Square.

“That just leaves Saint Dominic’s,” Theo says.

“I know the perfect garden,” Artie says.

“Artie, no!” says Theo. Artie smiles.


Even Cabot can’t stay cold forever.

In Belle Reve Estates, a gardener, who lacks a green card, finds Vinnie’s bottom left quarter but reburies it under some lilies.

A retired plumber in St. Patrick’s finds the other bottom quarter, but the police can’t identify it. The East End quarter and the head in Upham’s Square remain interred to fertilize cucumbers and squash.

But the part of Vinnie that Artie planted in St. Dominic’s is easy to identify, after the next-door neighbor calls the hated owner because of the smell.

When he tells her to eat shit and die, the old lady calls the cops. They find Vinnie’s upper right quarter, fingerprints still legible, in a shallow grave.

Donnie Lupo, no longer capo because Paulie’s home for good behavior, denies any knowledge of the section of corpse buried beneath last year’s zucchini stalks. But motive and opportunity — and a mile-long rap sheet — sends him up for a plea-bargained fifteen years.

Of course, The Fish isn’t happy about losing a soldier, not even Donnie. But he can’t help laughing when a Cabot cop explains why the neighbor finally noticed the smell.

She spotted Vinnie’s hand sticking from the tilled soil, with his middle finger, taped to a Jockey Tap swizzle stick for rigidity, extending above his clenched fist.

Copyright 2010 by Charles Thiesen

Charles Thiesen lives in Dorchester, Massachusetts. He earns his daily bread as a journalist and technical writer and salves his soul writing (unpublished) novels and flash fiction. His work has appeared in Roofscape.

[Return to the April 2010 stories]

7 Responses

  1. […] Fingered by a Dead Rat […]

  2. Fun story! Loved the amusing outcome. Looking forward to more Artie stories.

  3. swizzle stick ….

  4. Dale, John no,

    Tanks (as I imagine Artie saying).

  5. Love the bouncing bowling ball.

  6. […] threads. This month’s story, By Any Other Name, is by Charles Thiesen. Charles brought us Fingered by a Dead Rat in the April 2010 issue. Fingered by a Dead Rat introduced Artie “The Angel” […]

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