Monday, April 24, 2017

Coney Island Avenue - Spotlight and Excerpt

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Coney Island Avenue by J.L. Abramo - released March 13th;

The dog days of August in Brooklyn and the detectives of the 61st Precinct are battling to keep all hell from breaking loose.

Innocents are being sacrificed in the name of greed, retribution, passion and the lust for power—and the only worthy opponent of this senseless evil is the uncompromising resolve to rise above it, rather than descend to its depths.

The heart pounding sequel to the acclaimed novel Gravesend—from Shamus Award-winning author J.L. Abramo—Coney Island Avenue continues the dramatic account of the professional and personal struggles that constitute everyday life for the dedicated men and women of the Six-One—and of the saints and sinners who share their streets.

About the author

J.L. Abramo was born in the seaside paradise of Brooklyn, New York on Raymond Chandler’s fifty-ninth birthday. Abramo is the author of Catching Water in a Net, winner of the St. Martin’s Press/Private Eye Writers of America prize for Best First Private Eye Novel; the subsequent Jake Diamond novels Clutching at Straws, Counting to Infinity and Circling the Runway; Chasing Charlie Chan, a prequel to the Jake Diamond series; and the stand-alone thrillers Gravesend and Brooklyn Justice.

Abramo’s short fiction has appeared in the anthologies Unloaded: Crime Writers Writing Without Guns, Mama Tried: Crime Fiction Inspired by Outlaw Country Music and Murder Under the Oaks, winner of the Anthony Award for Best Anthology of 2015.

Circling the Runway won the Shamus Award for Best Original Paperback Novel of 2015 presented by the Private Eye Writers of America.

Find J.L. Abramo online …

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An excerpt from J.L. Abramo’s Coney Island Avenue, a sequel to the crime novel Gravesend


Bill Heller could not shake the feeling he was being followed.
Heller was driving up 18th Avenue toward Ocean Parkway to pick up the Prospect Expressway.
When he stopped at a red traffic light on 77th Street, he noticed the OPEN sign in the window of Il Colosseo.
He decided to go in and have something to eat and try at the same time to determine if he was being tailed.

The restaurant was nearly empty at nine-forty on a Tuesday night.
They had stopped seating at eight-thirty. The sign on the front door had been flipped over to the side that read CLOSED.
A young couple rose from their chairs at the back of the dining room. The young man placed a tip on the table and escorted his girl to the front door.
Three twenty-something females were putting money together to cover their bill.
A man in his late-thirties sat alone at a table near the front window.
The bus boy had already started clearing vacant tables.
A waitress was refilling salt and pepper shakers.
The restaurant manager stood at the cash register.
The diner at the window spotted a big man in a jogging suit out on the street, straining to look inside.
He had paid cash. His waitress brought his change and his receipt—a carbon duplicate of the three-by-five inch guest check.
He asked her for a pen and a rubber band.

The large man in the jogging suit made his way back to a car parked on the opposite side of 18th Avenue. A second man was seated behind the wheel.
“He’s still there. He’s sitting alone in front.”
They watched the young couple leave the restaurant.
“How many others inside?”
“Looks like three more customers. There are at least three others working the floor, and maybe one or two in the kitchen. They’re shutting the place down.”
“Let’s wait,” the man in the vehicle said.

A few minutes later the two men across the avenue watched as the three young women came out of the restaurant.
“Those are the last customers other than him,” the big man said.
“Do you think he spotted you?”
“No, and what if he did. I’m just a guy on the street glancing into the place as I passed.”
Just a big ape in a goombah outfit, the second man was thinking.
“Take the car, go around to the back and watch the rear exit. If he isn’t out in five minutes, I’m going in,” the man in the car said.
He climbed out of the vehicle and handed over the keys.

The man at the table near the front window scribbled a note on the back of the guest check.
He called the bus boy over.
“Where is the rest room?” he asked the kid.
“Down at the end of the hall in back.”
“Can you hold this for me?”
He placed something into the bus boy’s hand and without waiting for an answer he walked toward the rear.
It was a small solid item.
It was wrapped in a paper guest check receipt held by a rubber band.

“Go back there and see what’s taking him so long,” the manager said. “We need to lock up and get finished here.”
The bus boy walked back to the men’s room.
He had slipped the small package into his apron pocket.
He returned a moment later.
“He’s gone. He went out the rear door,” he said, just as a well-dressed man opened the front door.
“We’re closed,” the manager said.
“I’m looking for a friend who said he would be here.”
“All of the customers are gone. The last seems to have used the rear exit for some reason. Maybe he was parked back there.”
“Can I go out that way?”
“Go ahead. I need to lock the doors before someone else wanders in.”
The well-dressed man exited through the back door and saw the ape in the jogging suit getting into the car.
“Did you see him come out?”
“I was about to drive around front to pick you up. I sandbagged him when he came out the door. He’s in the back seat, gagged and tied.”
“Did he have it?”
“I thought it might be a better idea to get away from here and find a more private place to pat him down.”

Thirty minutes later, only the bus boy and the restaurant manager were left in the restaurant.
The young man had forgotten the small package until he removed his apron.
He placed it into his jacket pocket.
“Are you all done?” the manager asked.
“Then go, I’ll see you tomorrow.”
The bus boy stepped out onto 18th Avenue to wait for Alison, who was on her way to pick him up. Her roommate was out-of-town and he was looking forward to being alone with her in her apartment.
Alison was a very playful girl. Maybe she would let him spend the night again.
While he waited, he pulled the small package from his pocket. He removed the rubber band and the paper guest check, revealing a small tape recorder and a fifty-dollar bill.
He noticed there was writing on the back side of the check.
Keep this safe. I’ll make contact. There’s another hundred in it for you.
He stuffed it all back into his pocket as Alison’s Chevy Impala pulled up to the curb.

Part One


How do you know love is gone?
If you said you would be there at seven
and you get there at nine,
and he or she has not called the police yet,
it's gone.

—Marlene Dietrich


The face in the mirror returned a dazzling smile.
The lips, complete with a fresh coat of Covergirl Fairytale 405 lipstick, mouthed three words. I feel pretty.
It was her twenty-fourth birthday, Eddie had made dinner reservations at New Corners Restaurant and Angela Salerno knew that Eddie Cicero was going to pop the question.
Eddie would be arriving soon to pick her up, with a fistful of flowers and a ring hidden in a jacket pocket. Angela turned from the mirror and redirected her attention to the new dress neatly laid out on the bed. It was a little black number, short black satin with spaghetti strings. When Angela had tried the dress on at Cue Boutique in Fort Hamilton her best friend Barb had assured her: You look so hot you are going to burn New Corners down.
It was Barbara who had confirmed Eddie had a ring. It was Barbara’s boyfriend Albert, Eddie’s best friend, who let Barbara in on the secret. Barb had not been able to keep it to herself.
Angela didn’t mind, she could act surprised. She was thrilled knowing Eddie had finally decided to take the big step.
Angela was about to pull the new dress over a short black silk slip when there was a knock on the apartment door. Eddie was early. Better than late.
She danced over to the door and she looked through the peephole.
It was her brother Vincent.
She reluctantly opened the door. Vincent rushed in, moved her back into the living room and quickly pushed the door shut.
Vinnie was carrying a large green gym bag and he was visibly upset.
“I need money, Angie,” he said.
“Hi, sis, it’s been awhile, you look great, happy birthday,” Angela said.
“Hi, sis, happy birthday, you look great,” Vinnie said. “I need money.”

“I have an address for his parents’ place and one for his sister. I want both watched until he shows up.”
“Give me the addresses, I’ll call Gallo,” Mr. Smith said.

Thomas Murphy took possession of a stool at the bar.
Augie Sena, from the opposite side of the bar, set a bottle of Samuel Adams Boston Lager within Murphy’s reach a moment later.
“I haven’t seen you move that fast since the last visit from the Health Department,” Murphy said. “How did you know I wanted a beer?”
“Wild guess. It’s on me.”
“My birthday is not for another five months.”
“I might not live that long,” Augie said. “The beer, my friend, is meant in way of congratulations.”
“You heard I won two bucks on a ten dollar lottery ticket?”
“I heard you’re up for lieutenant.”
“Bad news travels fast,” said Murphy. “Thanks for the beer anyway.”
“I’ll bet you the two bucks you would love the fried calamari over linguini for dinner.”
“Wild guess?”
“Just call me Sena the Psychic, but the calamari is not on the house.”
“That, my clairvoyant friend, even I could have guessed. I’ll take it with the hot sauce.”

Angie Salerno gave her brother Vincent all of the cash she had on hand.
Seventy-seven dollars.
Vinnie thanked her with a bear hug.
“Okay, Vincent. You’ll ruin my makeup. And what’s with the gym bag? Did Mom’s washing machine break down or are you planning a trip to Monte Carlo?”
“Cute. I have to run. By the way, you do look great.”
“Thanks. Go, before Eddie gets here and I beg him to slap some sense into you,” Angie said. “Be careful.”
Vinnie ran down the two flights of stairs and was about to exit through the front door when he suddenly decided against it.
He continued down to the basement instead, opened the metal door at the rear of the house, skipped up the concrete steps and slipped out to the back alley.
He headed down the alley toward Avenue U, turned east on the avenue, and hurried over to the elevated train station on McDonald Avenue.
He rushed up the stairs and anxiously waited for an F Train.

A man in a gray suit slipped into the front passenger seat of a black Lincoln sedan on the opposite side of the street from the house entrance.
“Are you sure he’s in there?” he asked the man behind the wheel.
“I watched him go in and I called you, I haven’t seen him come out. I checked the mailboxes. His sister lives on the top floor.”
“I would rather deal with him out here.”
“We can wait.”
“Who is that?”
They watched a young man walk into the building.
“How the fuck should I know?”
“On second thought, let’s not wait.”

“There’s a kid in a hurry,” Augie Sena said, seeing a young man with a green gym bag race past the front window of Joe’s Bar and Grill. “Maybe you should go after the kid. He may have knocked off the Jerusalem Pizzeria.”
“He’d deserve a medal. The pizza there tastes like soaked cardboard.”
“How is the linguini?”
“Not bad,” Murphy said. “How did you get it delivered here so fast?”
“Anyone ever tell you you’re a laugh a minute, Tommy?”
“I hear it every sixty seconds,” Murphy said, slipping a forkful of calamari past his smile.
“My sister’s boy is popping the question.”
“What question is that? Why is the eggplant always greasy?”
“He bought a ring for his girlfriend.”
“Jesus, Augie, what kind of uncle are you? Couldn’t you talk him out of it?”
“You’re a hopeless cynic, Tommy. I haven’t met her, but my sister says she seems likes a very nice girl.”
“They all seem like nice girls, and then they grow into their mothers. Which sister?”
“The sister who married Cicero? I’m not too sure about her judgment.”
Murphy shook his head and let out a deep sigh.“What?” asked Augie Sena.“The cynic and the psychic,” Murphy said. “We’re quite a pair.”

It was all Eddie Cicero could manage to say when Angie opened the apartment door wearing the short black spaghetti string dress.“Wow.”
“Not bad, right?”
“How am I supposed to give the osso buco at New Corners the attention it deserves with you sitting across the table in that thing?”
“Chew slowly,” Angie said, beaming.
Eddie handed her a dozen red roses.
Then there was a rapping at the door.
“Expecting your other boyfriend?” Eddie said.
“Everyone is a comedian. It’s probably my worthless brother. He was just here for another handout.”
Angie opened the door half way.
The two men in the doorway did not look friendly.
“We’re looking for Vincent Salerno,” said the shorter man.
He was well groomed and he wore a gray business suit. An expensive suit. He could have passed for a banker.
His companion wore a blue jogging suit and looked like something she might have seen in a zoo.
“Vincent is not here,” Angie said, Eddie close at her side.
“We saw him come in.”
“He was here, he left. I don’t know where he ran off to.”
“Mind if we take a look?”
“Yes. I do mind.”
The ape violently shoved the door open, knocking Angie and the flowers to the floor. Eddie reacted and went after the big man. The gorilla laid Eddie out cold with a roundhouse punch. The two men walked into the apartment. The well-dressed man shut the door while the big man kept an eye on Angie.
“We can do this the easy way or the hard way,” the banker said.
“Very original. God, you really hurt him,” Angie said, looking over at Eddie.
The big man kicked her in the side.
“Where is Vincent?”
“I told you I have no idea where my brother went,” Angela screamed from the floor. “Keep that animal away from us.”
The big man kicked her again. Then he pulled a gun out of his jacket and pointed it down at Eddie. Eddie was still unconscious.
“Please, don’t,” Angie said, terrified. “Take whatever you want. I swear, I won’t say anything to anyone.”
“Where is your brother?” the man in the business suit said.
“I don’t know.”
“I am not going to ask you again.”
“Please, I don’t know.”
“Fine. I believe you.”
Suddenly the big man made it official and then Mr. Smith made it absolutely final.

Vincent Salerno hopped off the F Train at 42nd Street and he walked the two blocks to the Port Authority Bus Terminal. Vinnie used most of the money he had scored from his sister, his girlfriend and the man in the restaurant for a one-way bus ticket to Chicago. The bus was scheduled to leave in less than an hour. He walked into Casa Java, located an empty chair at a small table near the rear exit, placed the gym bag under his seat and held it between his feet.
Vinnie nearly jumped out of his skin when he finally noticed the waitress standing beside him.
“Can I help you?” she asked.
“I doubt it.”
“Excuse me?”
“Coffee,” Vincent said. “Light. Lots of sugar.”

Mary Valenti had been attending evening Mass at Sts. Simon and Jude every Wednesday since losing her husband to a massive heart attack fourteen months earlier. As Mary crossed Avenue T on her way home from the church she could hear her dog barking.
“Hold your horses,” she mumbled as she picked up her pace. When Mary reached the house she found the front door wide open. Unusual.
She rushed to her apartment door to let the pooch out before he put a new design on her living room rug. The dog raced right past Mary when she opened the door and headed straight up the stairs.
Mary followed.
“What in God’s name has gotten into you, Prince?” she said as she reached the third floor landing. The door to the top floor apartment was opened. Prince had disappeared inside and continued to bark wildly.
Mary called out her tenant’s name. When she received no answer she entered the apartment. She found the dog and saw what he was yapping about.
Mary held back a scream, quickly made the sign of the cross, scooped up the animal and ran down the stairs to call 9-1-1.

“I have to say, Augie, the garlic bread was particularly good this evening,” Murphy said after polishing off the last morsel.
“Tell your friends at the precinct.”
“Unless I swallow an entire bottle of Listerine before I head back, I won’t need to tell anyone anything.”
The siren turned both their heads toward the front window.
The patrol car raced up Avenue U and turned sharply onto Lake Street.
“One of yours?” Augie asked.
“Are you going to check it out?”
“Not unless I have to.”
The siren went silent.
“It’s close,” Murphy said.
“Are you going to check it out?”
“Not unless I have to.”

Vincent Salerno stepped up onto the bus.
He showed his ticket to the bus driver, made his way to the back of the coach and put the bag under his seat.
He would be arriving in Chicago the following day, late in the afternoon. Carmine Brigati would be meeting him at the end of the trip and then he and Carmine could argue about how Vinnie was going to get out from under the mountain of trouble he found himself in.
Vinnie thought about his big sister. As often as he had disappointed Angie, she had always come through for him. He wondered when he would see her again.
Vinnie was determined to stay awake. To protect the bag. To guard the tape recording that was causing all the turmoil.
When the bus pulled out of the Port Authority Terminal ten minutes later and entered the Lincoln Tunnel, Vinnie was asleep.

Officers Landis and Mendez were first on the scene. They were greeted by a woman who was nearly hysterical. Trembling, sobbing, babbling. She clutched a small, wiry-haired dog tightly to her chest like it was a life raft.
Landis gently eased her into a chair at the kitchen table. Mendez scared up a glass and filled it with water from the kitchen sink. When he placed the glass on the table the woman reacted to it as if it had eight legs.
Landis finally managed to calm her down somewhat by assuring her she would not have to accompany them to the third floor. Landis asked her to wait and the two officers headed up.
When they reached the second floor landing they both pulled out their weapons.
At the third floor landing, they found the door to the apartment opened wide. Landis entered first, slowly, holding his weapon out in front of him with both hands. Mendez followed suit.
“Jesus,” Mendez said.
“Check if either victim is alive, nothing more,” Landis said, fairly certain about the answer. “I’ll make sure there is no one else in the rooms.”
A few moments later Landis was back.
“Clear,” he said.
“Both dead,” Mendez said. “Should we check for identification?”
“We call it in and leave it to the guys making the big bucks. But I can tell you who the boy is. That’s John Cicero’s kid.”
“Detective Cicero from the Sixty-eighth?”
“Fuck,” said Mendez.
“Pretty dress,” Landis said.

 Excerpted from Coney Island Avenue — Copyright © 2017 by J.L. Abramo.
Reprinted with permission by Down & Out Books. All rights reserved.