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There are words that seem to have no redeemable value and if, is at the top of the list. With all due respect and deference to Rudyard Kipling;

IF-Sheldon's ex-wife hadn't asked him to wait for her drug dealer because she was busy in court.

IF-Frank hadn't lost his nose to cancer

IF-Sheldon hadn't dropped out of law school

IF-Freddy hadn't joined his fellow Boy Scout Camp pals to form a drug ring

IF-Tiny hadn't opened the door with the gun in his hand

IF-Vivian and Laura hadn't died

IF-Bobby had stricter parents

IF-Sheldon's grandfather hadn't tried to be funny on Ellis Island

IF-Donald didn't have sons so unfit to work in the family business

IF-Angelique hadn't answered the text

IF-Yancy wasn't the marksmen he was

IF-Siri was not touch sensitive

IF-Sheldon didn't get a Private Detective license

IF-Sheldon Naviverock hadn't retired from teaching


But it did, and this is the story of Sheldon Naviverock, Retired teacher and Private Eye.


For the last twenty years Sheldon Naviverock started off every first day of school attendance taking with a story. He thought it might be edifying for the parents gathered for Open School Night to get a taste of what went on in his room. Most rooms were overly decorated for this night as were the teachers. Many wore suits or party dresses with make-up never seen during the regular school day. There was, however, nothing regular about Open School Night. It was a show akin to the one most probably put on by any given warden in any given prison, to show the inspectors what a delightful environment the miscreants were enjoying.

Sheldon had been doing this for too long and enjoyed telling and showing it like it is. He wore his traditionally jeans and since there was a chill in the air on this late September evening, he wore a Steve Jobs tribute turtle neck. The room was decorated in Sheldon's  memorabilia: a lava lamp, an Austen Powers' bubble head, microphones and cords, a rubber doll he called "The Zombie Baby," an oversized prop turkey, and papers and books protecting and blocking him from direct view when seated at his desk. The shades were drawn from a video he had shown during the day and Sheldon thought it weird to be here at night. After thirty-five years plus, he felt it was weird to be in any classroom either night or day.

The room was packed, with some of the bolder parents sitting on the room radiator and he started his story thus:

"It was the first day of school at Yonkers High School, a diversely populated lower Westchester School; put non-euphemistically it was a ghetto school and plenty tough. My whiteness stood out in the classroom full of ethnic students, clearly not ready for class or school to begin. It was Junior English and I brought the class to attention with a shrill cab-calling whistle I had learned from my father. My whistle talent had even surpassed my dad's for I needed no fingers in my mouth to accomplice a piercing tone. I learned the mouth/finger method quickly but reasoned it would do me no good in dire emergencies like being tied up in a barn while gasoline was being poured around my chair by some evil-doer. So, I practiced night and day and perfected the method which proved effective even with a room full of kids who clearly wanted to be anywhere else.

I called 25 of the 26 names on my attendance roster, gleefully butchering every one of them and came to the last one which was Edguardo Rodriguez. There was only one student left and he had caught my eye as he sauntered into the room holding a clearly not needed cane with a gold scull handle. The other thing that caught my eye, actually grabbed my eye and held it, was a huge license plate size lettered jewel hung around his neck with a thick gold chain. Back in the eighties such things were called bling and the bling over time got more subtle and smaller, probably due to back and neck injuries.

So I called the name Edguardo Rodriguez again and getting no answer I said,

"Aren't you Edguardo Rodriguez?

"I used to be" was the deep voiced defiant reply.

"Well, who are you now? And he pointed to the oversized glittering thing with glittering letters hanging on his check as he said,

"Supreme Justice."

"You want me to call you Supreme Justice?

"If you want me to answer." There was a hush in the room as the class waited to see what I would do. I quickly made my decision and answered, smiling,

"Okay, you're Supreme Justice.". He smiled, the class tittered, and I went on with a lesson which I do not remember. In the faculty room later that day, I mentioned the incident and was told that Supreme Justice was a high ranking leader in the infamous Latin Kings. The more senior teachers warned me to watch out for him, but he kind of interested me.

Supreme, as I came to call him affectionately, turned out to be an excellent student and a pseudo body guard for me. He repaid my respect for him by maintaining order at the Rap Concerts that I ran periodically."

Sheldon had always been fascinated by words in general and names specifically.

Sheldon Naviverock did not need a genealogy website to know where his name came from; it was made up by his fraternal grandfather. To be more precise, Sheldon's  grandfather left his old name, Pinchus Polokovskivitz, and most of his early history back in the Poland he loathed and left. He was a carpenter in Poland and with nerve and will, he declared himself an architect in America and proved it with two building on 32nd  street nestled in the heart of the textile district of Manhattan. When told at Ellis Island that Polokovskivitz was too hard to pronounce, his sense of humor kicked in and instead of Smith or Baron or King or Polo, he came up with Ben Naviverock.

Sheldon was born with an inquisitive mind and always wondered about his name. Grandpa Ben explained it to him simply:

"When I was a little boy just like you, my father told me a story about a little kid named Schmendrick Naviverock who was chased up a tree by a snake. Little Schemndrick was so scared when the snake chased him up the tree that he numbered two-ed in his pants, preferring not to say shit. Sheldon loved the explanation, the story, and his Grandfather.

Sheldon always felt safe and powerful when he walked with Grandpa Ben for it seemed that everyone either loved or feared him. Sheldon suspected but never found out if what Grandpa Ben did was legal or not, but he knew it was exciting and secretly he hoped that there was a mob connection.

Grandpa Ben was big in personality but not big in size, just like Sheldon. Sadly Sheldon missed his grandfather's hay day due to the stock market crash but even though he lost everything, cars, a boat, fancy houses, etc. he acted as if he was still loaded, even in the cramped apartment in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. Sheldon loved the apartment for two reasons. The first one was that it had wall sized mirrors on both sides of the living room which gave it the infinity effect ( Sheldon entertained himself by trying to see the last reflection of his waving hand) And the other reason was there was a window seat that allowed him to look out over Bay Parkway and watch the world coming and going. He was intensely curious and wondered where these cars and people were going. He was a watcher, an opened-mouth gazer and starer.

He was also an avid reader. He lost himself in books and early on, in movies. He was the only one in his house who had a tv in his room. Even his older sister didn't have one or want one for that matter. His genre of choice was film noir/detective stories; Cagney, Edward G., Bogie, Widmark, Mitchum; all men he wanted to talk like, be like and look like. The looking like, of course, was the hard part. He was on the short, slight side, good body for a jewish kid athlete, but not competitive with his gentile brethren. He held his own in middle school basketball, but his team mates and his opponents grew incrementally taller and stronger bringing about the revelation, that his strength lay in his brains not brawn.

His look and power came in that he could fit into most situations. He looked jewish enough around fellow jews, but also seemed Italian when with them. Although bereft of black blood, he was welcomed by his black friends because he was cool. He liked hanging out with the guys and did very well with women even though they generally confused him.

His major flaw was also one of his strengths. He called himself an existentialist. He explained his Satre-like views as that he was satisfied by what he was, where he was, and who he was with. If he ate, it was the best food ever, if he was in love, there was no love like that one, and whatever he had was what he needed and wanted. Although calming, this attitude didn't allow for much striving.

He began teaching because his mother had taught and he went to law school because the family gathered around the TV to watch Perry Mason and his mother thought Sheldon's natural acting ability would serve he well as an attorney.  As bad luck would have it, his first day of  law school was on his birthday, and after driving around for 30 minutes plus in his yellow and black camaro to find a space, he listened to the dean's speech, welcoming the new law students.  The only thing he heard was ; "Look to your left and look to your right, they won't be graduating." Law school at night was tough but made tougher while working a teaching that his teacher mother had gotten for him. It turned out that the dean was right, and Sheldon was one of the people on the right or left that he was talking about. But once he started teaching and he realized he had an affinity for it, there was never a thought of being an administrator, He was satisfied being satisfied. The only reason why he became a professional actor for a time was because he was laid off from teaching. And the only reason he married his eventual ex-wife, was because she wanted to get married and it seemed like an okay thing to do at the time.  And just like that 37 years passes leading to  the last open school night he would have to attend as a teacher.

He periodically wished for something different but waited for the feeling to pass and it always did. Lately however, at reunions and on Facebook, many of the people he knew were retiring, or more aptly changing what they had always done and doing something different. This made him disquiet. an unusually and disturbing feeling for him. 

The parents laughed and nodded when the story ended and Sheldon explained that from that day on, he invited his students to tell him their name of preference and within reason, that was what he would call them. Of course, he added that some pushed the envelop and wished to be called God, but he had to draw the line there.

He then asked the parents in the room to put themselves in their offsprings' shoes and when he called on them he would enjoy hearing what they preferred being called.

Parents were often very much like their kids and Sheldon got the expected "The Big Kahunas, Mr. Fabulous, Heavenly, and Countess, but was surprised by one women who he hadn't noticed come into the room. Sheldon became immediately flustered by her presence and forgot what he was saying as he mind wandered to their first meeting.

It was in the about a year ago in the school auditorium and he was sitting in the director's seat. That's 7th row center. The seat most directors sit in during rehearsal. He sat with his Dunkin Doughnut Coffee Coolata on the flat board resting on the seats in front of him, Ipad 2 and script in hand, in total concentration, focused on the seven minute fight scene between Helen and Annie Sullivan in The Miracle Worker, when he felt hands gently massaging his neck. It felt good but interruptive and he couldn't imagine who would be interrupting so important a scene. He turned and saw an attractive 40ish women who he had never seen before. She had muddy electric blue eyes an angular face framed by unruly dirty blonde hair. He squirmed away from her touch as she said,

"You seemed so tense, I thought you needed a little back rub." She extended her hand and told him she was Bob's mom and that Bob loved Sheldon's class and that Sheldon was the only teacher who 'got' her son. Sheldon thought that he got her son more than he got her. Bob had a good mind that thought nothing of school, except for the opportunity to play and think about football. He was a natural leader, charismatic, good looking, with long hair that fell well over the front of his face, to hide him when he felt like it, which was often. He got into trouble constantly and his teachers both feared him and loathed him. Sheldon, the contrarian,  had a soft place in his heart for him and gave him some time and an occasional pep talk. Sheldon guessed from the mother's kind words that the talks had been heard by the kid.

Bob's mom, Valerie, explained, but didn't really have to, that she had had a few drinks and was on her way to a weekly prayer meeting. She laughed self consciously explaining that having a few drinks was the only way she could get through the prayer meeting. Sheldon wondered why she went if she needed drinks to get her there, but religion just like women, confused him. Sheldon politely said he really had to get back to the rehearsal. Leaning in close enough for Sheldon to detect the liquor on her breath, she whispered, "See you around sport." He didn't peg her as a reader, but maybe she had been reading The Great Gatsby.  She left as quickly and mysteriously as she entered.

Sheldon came back to the stark reality of Open School Night, He waited for her to decide what she would want to be called if she was in his class, she thought for a minute smiled sadly and said,

"Desperate." He stammered an okay and went on to the next person. Thankfully, the night was winding down, and he was glad to hear the intercom announcing  that the evening was over. Everyone filed out as Sheldon bid adieu to everyone at the door, as he smiled and listened to; "You're my daughter's favorite teacher," or "My son talks about you all the time," or "He never read a book before you" or "Thank you for teaching my Sally how to walk."

Valerie, to Sheldon's chagrin, hovered so as to be last out, and held, more than shook his hand, while staring significantly in his eyes. Since they were near the door, she had only to lean a little to close it and still holding his hand she led him to a seat next to the front table.

"I'm sure you're busy but I have a proposition that you might find interesting."

Valerie had not always been a whiskeyed voice sad eyed 'desperate' open house attendee.

She was born into New York real estate money and enjoyed an idyllic early New York kid childhood. Since life is never a straight line, there were bumps in her road, and her parent's divorcing in a semi-civilized manner when she was 8, was softened by the almost immediate re-marriage of her doting father. Through it all the one constant was her baby sister. They were more like twins; looking alike, speaking their own made up language, running in the same crowd, everything that people hope their children would be to each other, but rarely are. Nothing could separate them, not boyfriends, or girlfriends, or rumors, or parents, or divorce, nothing except for a 19 year old junkie who decided that shooting up under his fingernails could be accomplished as he drove his parent's Beemer the wrong way on Fifth Ave. hitting two cars and finally coming to rest on top of Valerie's little sister.

There was no solace in the fact that the driver died as instantly as Laura did, and life would be dated from then on by the with Laura years and the without.

Perhaps, just like Sophia Lauren in "Two Women," her beauty was enhanced by her pain. Dropping her devil may care attitude as one would drop baby fat, Samantha adopted an aloof unfeeling vapid look (much like what the model's affect to sell perfume or clothing in fashion magazines) that many find irresistible. One such person was her high school musical director, Frank Richards, some 20 years her senior


Frank Richards ate drank and slept theatre, it was all he cared about and all he was good at. Sadly it was not his destiny. He was destined to take over his family's cheese business and everything he did, he did to avoid what he considered a slow death by pasteurization. That's why he worked so hard to win a dramatic scholarship to Yale, that's why he periodically stopped talking to his parents, and that's why when confronted with the sobering fact that he couldn't make it as a full time actor, he got a teaching degree and took his first job as a drama teacher in a ritzy Long Island elementary school. His dissatisfaction with directing 3rd graders in plays about the planets led him to apply and eventually get the prestigious job of Director of Musicals at the number one high school on Long Island.

The job was a godsend allowing him to concentrate on something other than what he called "the divorce of the century." He met his ex-beloved in college and everyone around him was surprised when he announced that he was marrying Carolyn, or anyone else for the matter, in that as much as he loved theatre, he loved women more. He had a best friend Brent and they would ravage whole sororities together. Carolyn saved him from his wicked ways for awhile at least, until they developed 'irreconcilable differences.' According to Frank the difference that couldn't be 'conciled" was performance based; he wanted her to perform oral sex and she, not so much.    Unlucky in love and unlucky in life, Frank developed skin cancer and beat it by a nose, his.  Although Carolyn denied it, the fact that Frank refused to get any kind of cosmetic surgery to mitigate his noseless face, seemed to make the divorce go relatively smoothly.  The only explanation Frank could give to anyone who had the nerve to ask him about his decision to as he put it: "leave it alone," was that he was a pirate and this was one of the scars of the adventure which he called life.   Perhaps it was this take me or leave me attitude that made him attractive to the opposite sex despite his impediment .   And now that the obligatory first marriage was out of the way, he was free act out whatever fantasies would pop up in his fertile director's mind.  The image that he searched for as he leered at every attractive young women who crossed his path, had been seared into his brain as he waited for a light on a busy New York City street.  There, waiting for a bus, was a raven-haired, black-eyed 17 year old in a rolled up plaid dangerously short parochial school skirt, starched white shirt three buttons open revealing ample breasts, alternately licking a heart shaped lollipop with her left hand and taking a drag on a cigarette with her right.  The multiple horn honking behind him brought him back to reality as his dream girl got smaller and smaller in his rear view mirror.

And there as he auditioned Kate's for Kiss Me Kate for his first musical at his new high school was a girl who  was a live ringer for the girl  at the light. He  knew  this girl with the okay voice,  and mysterious eyes would be his Kate  and that she would kiss him.  After the opening night party, they made love in his apartment and although they vowed to keep their love a secret, she wasn't that good an actress and the whispers spread like wild fire about their friendship.  His lack of nose may have been a factor in their decision, and the Bd. of Ed. allowed him to quit rather than face chargers.  


So back to the cheese business he unhappily went and even though they were unlikely candidates for a long relationship, they soon married and settled into a life of cheese and ease. There was plenty of money and Valerie's beauty may have even taken some attention away from his disfigurement. 

Frank's depression over the  loss of a beloved profession led him to his basement where he spent most of his time smoking weed and writing a play.  Some artist's do their best work stoned, but this was not the case for Frank.  Everyone around him knew the putrid  smell his play gave off, except for him and he mounted a vanity production anyway with some of his cheese money. The show  opened and closed in one night.  Pounds and pounds of pot, and years and years went by and just as Valerie was about to kick his sorry ass out of their unhappy home, she got pregnant.

 In the best of circumstances, their combined selfishness left little room for caring for anybody else, and this was not the best of all circumstances. Frank, as miserable as a man with no nose could be, had only two interests; locking himself in his basement lair to get stoned, and working on a play about a place and people of which he had no knowledge. His favorite author was Tennessee Williams and he strove to write about people that Tennessee Williams would have known.

Valerie's lackluster life attitude and her husband's illness caused their son to be left to his own devises and those included developing some bad habits; lying, stealing, and drug taking at an early age. By the time he arrived in Sheldon's 7th grade Language Arts class, Bobby Richards had quite the rep.

After teaching in a tough school, the roughest suburban kids were absolutely no problem for Sheldon and Bobby was no exception. It's like how they train the Clydesdales in the Budweiser commercial. The reason they step so high is because they train with weights on their hooves which are removed when they perform. The high stepping is not joy, it's just a weight lifted. When knives in book bags and razors in hair wasn't the norm, Sheldon found kids like Bobby not much of a problem.

Sheldon , from a very early age had been interested in crime. Perhaps it was because his grandfather often railed against authority. Sheldon thought it made sense when his grandpa lectured him on the reasons so many Italians and Jews were involved in organized and often disorganized crime. Sheldon had not assumed that the 'chosen' people thad chosen to  work in the mob, but his grandfather always answered with "you would be surprised," and a little wink. It made sense to Sheldon that a people abused by a government would lose respect for authority and take matters into their own hands. At least that's what Sheldon's grandfathers said, every chance he got.

While other kids were reading fairytales, Sheldon was reading biographies of Ma Barker, or Al Capone, or Clyde Barrow. All his favorite movies were crime drama and mysteries which carried over into his teaching style. Therein lies the beauty of Language Arts teaching or at least the way Sheldon taught Language Arts. As long as you got the curriculum stuff done, you could use any literature in an artistic way to make a point about writing or deconstructing literature. So more often than not, Sheldon would introduce his favorite crime films and books into his lectures snd assignments and was considered somewhat of an authority on the criminal mind.

Sheldon's interest didn't stop at fiction; he also liked hanging out with people on the fringe of polite society. Enrolling in law school was a move designed to satisfy his interest in underworld life, but other than some colorful trouble practice lawyers, most legal subjects bored him. He liked people like his grandfather, those who took the bull by the horns, who weren't afraid to break a rule or two. And that's why his plan was always to pick the right time to retire and get his private eye license and talk tough with other people who had learned how to turn a phrase from going to the movies.

Sheldon had always said that when teaching stopped being fun, he would get out, and lately it stopped being fun. To be fair, it wasn't the teaching per se that was the problem, it was all the crap around it. New laws sprung up every day redefining bullying, giving outsiders including the two p's: parents and politicians, amazing power over things they knew little about. Every meeting brought new terms and words that seemed invented to confuse and Sheldon was growing more sick it all by the minute. So after a meeting with a retirement counselor, Sheldon was informed that he would lose money by continuing to teach and all that was left to figure out was what else he would do. The first Baby Boomers, of which Sheldon was a charter member, didn't retire in the traditional sense, they just did something else. Sheldon wasn't the sit around, move to florida, play golf type, and an idea began to take shape in his head.

As if by magic, on Open School night, his future was being mapped out for him by, of all people, Valerie, the drunken, desperate, prayer meeting attendee.

"The word on the street is that you are about to retire and I would like to hire you to homeschool Robert. He and school are not a good mix, and you're the only teacher who seems to tolerate him. All he talks about are the crime novels you recommended to get him to read. Money is no object."

The last line about money being no object got Sheldon's attention as did the check she handed him with all the zeros.

Even though he  looked good for a 65 year old,  he assumed that people would not be running to hire him. For the passed few months he been taking a online course in detective work and was about to get his license. After some attempts at a software program for a party business, and a Pass the Pigs clothing franchise, the roulette wheel landed on Private Detective. He was smart, curious and always asked follow up questions. He also knew his way around guns. When Sheldon and his now Ex lived upstate on a farm, he had several rifles and occasionally when company came over for the weekend, they did some target practice on the lower part of the property. When his then lawyer wife was prosecuting a particularly nasty murder case, he got a pistol carry permit when she was repeatedly threatened. He was still in touch with some friends from that former life and easily got the carry permit renewed.. There was something empowering about carrying a hand gun, and it was something he liked. Just knowing it's there must be a similar feeling that imposingly big men must feel. The only thing imposingly big about Sheldon was his mouth.

This homeschooling gig would be a perfect transition and Sheldon Naviverock, Private Detective/Homeschool Professional was written in bold on his new business cards which he carried in a metal case, much like the one Bogie carried his cigarettes in.

On his first day of work, he was surprised at Valerie's greeting as she opened the door to her beautiful home.

"Try not to react to the fact that my husband has no nose and whatever you do, don't stare at where it should be."

Ironically this was not the first non-nose person Sheldon had come in contact with. Years ago he had worked as a go-for, for a team of moderately famous, actually, infamous theatrical producers. Their specialty was overselling the angel points to  their shows and hoping the shows would close early, thus keeping the oversold profits and having no one the wiser. The backers would be told  that all was lost because of the early closing, reminding that in show business there's always a chance that money could be lost, much like Zero and Gene in the movie The Producers.

The backers auditions, a series of party/performances, designed to get angels or investors to put up money for the shows would be held in their penthouse suite at Benny and Bernie's beautiful Adam's Tower apartment on the upper East side. The marks/investors were plied with the best liqueur, food and drugs that money could by and that, plus the leggy showgirls and boys, made the purposefully mediocre material seem Broadway worthy. Sheldon had been to three of these backer's auditions and the last one was the most lavish. The penthouse was surrounded by glass and at night the skyline twinkled like you were wearing refraction lenses in your Beatle/hippie sunglasses. He couldn't recall the name of the show but it eventually opened and closed in one week. The image of the gorgeous boys, and stunning women dancing and singing their hearts out as the old besotted socialites whipped their checkbooks was indelibly etched in his memory.

Toward the end of their career Benny and Bernie were getting worried that the scam would be discovered as the properties they bought became lousier and lousier. After deciding to go legit, they were approached by a neophyte playwright who came with a deal so good it was impossible for them to refuse.  The writer of "My Cousin's Toupee" would put  up 75%  of the money needed out of his own pocket.  After reading it, they  decided it was so bad that without some revisions, it would be obvious that the play was being produced as a scam.

Sheldon's old friend and fraternity brother, Stanley, explained things as they took a cab uptown for the first meeting of author and play doctor. Sheldon was a natural choice because he was a language arts teacher and would work relatively cheaply. Stanley was a good friend of Benny and had brokered the deal and suggested Sheldon as the right man for the job. The details were worked out and Stanley was about to give Sheldon the low-down.

Stanley was bald and big mustached like the guy from the Village People and to put it in his own words as gay as Christmas. Sheldon and Stanley had gone to college together and solidified their friendship when they did a USO show in Germany as part of their Drama Major Program. They were roommates, and Stanley's philosophical treatise was that all people were gay in the right circumstance and felt that this particular night in Munich was the right circumstance. After he put "Michael," the name he had affectionately given his toupee, on the foam head, he came up from behind Sheldon seated at the desk and started rubbing his shoulders. Was their something especially appealing about Sheldon's shoulders that made both men and women alike want to massage them? Another of life's unanswerable questions.

One thing did not lead to another and Stanley, trying to prove his everyone's gay theory, would not leave well enough alone, leaving Sheldon with no choice but to punch him hard and in the face, no less. A year before Sheldon had come to school, Stanley was in a Corvair, the car with the rear engine spin-out problem, and was severely injured as a passenger in a deadly accident. The driver was killed and Stanley barely survived. His outgoing spirit and tenacity saved him and after months of rehab, he seemed non the worse for wear, except for his teeth, which had to be replaced. Immediately Sheldon wished he had punched him in the stomach or kicked him in the balls, when he saw all the bridge work and subsequent teeth on the floor. Stanley spent hours in the post dental infirmary and Sheldon tried to concentrate on his bowling in the bowlarama next to the PX at the Munich American Army Base. The day went day hill from there.

When Stanley finally came out they met up with other cast members who dragged them out for a bite, which Stanley could only think about, at the restaurant in the Hotel Columbia lobby. The cast as usual was somewhat boisterous and as they were leaving some old man grabbed Sheldon's arm and asked rhetorically,

"Why do you punks have to be so loud?" Sheldon's answer was equally rhetorical,

"Why do you have to be such an asshole? In what seemed like the time it took for Sheldon to extricate his arm from the old man's grasp, he had two M.P.s regrasping him, but this time there was no extrication. As bad luck would have it, the old man was the Adjutant General of American forces in Europe, and subsequently placed the entire cast under house arrest in their hotel pending a written apology from the young punk who had asked him about his asshole status.

It should have come as no surprise to Sheldon that there was some resentment of college age young men who were not in the military in 1966. On a number of occasions in the different army bases where they entertained, some of the soldiers made some remarks about how the fags, referring to actors in general and the ones in front of them specifically, got out of the draft, often accompanied by witty bon mots like,

"I'll bet you look good in your mother's dress." On one occasion, Sheldon's answer led to a minor scuffle, which had to be broken up.

"Your mother's dress looked good as I unbuttoned it." Sheldon refused to apologize and Stanley was the only one who stood up for Sheldon  and after two days holed up in the hotel, the incident fizzled away. They never again spoke of the toothy incident, but it defined and strengthened their friendship.

As the cab road up town to the author's apartment, Stanley got Sheldon up to speed on the job.

"Where were we? Oh yeah, Frank has no nose, so don't pay attention to it. He won't mention it either. There's just these nostril holes and for whatever reason he refuses to get it fixed cosmetically, although God knows he has the money. He's putting up a load of money for the piece of crap he's written and he won't blink an eye if he loses it."

"I can't work with people who don't have noses, ask anyone, it's a long standing policy I have.". They continued to argue until they got to the apartment on 76th with the Original Ray's Pizza on the corner. Of course, there were several Original Ray's, but this one had the distinction of having "the real" on the sign.

Sheldon was uncomfortable all way up in the elevator and seemed panicked standing waiting for the door to open. This anxiety reminded him of his first open casket funeral. Growing up Jewish, he didn't know from viewing dead bodies at those quaint events incorrectly titled wakes (few if any woke up during one). A teacher friend's husband had died in a horrific car accident and as Sheldon and some other teachers drove to it, a discussion ensued whether or not the casket would be open because of how terrible he must have looked. Sheldon started to freak out and it manifested itself in maniacal laughter. Not only was it impossible for him to stop, he feared the laughter would continue or worsen while viewing the body. It was akin to have a mouthful of potato chips or even worse, creamed corn, and knowing you were about to sneeze.

That's how he felt as he waited for the door to open on his new playwriting partner . It seemed to take forever and when it opened,it seemed too soon. Frank, indeed, had no nose, but did have a nice smile, Sheldon knew full well, that the nose or lack of one, could not be ignored. And he thought of the song from Porgy and Bess which begins with

"Nobody knows the trouble I've seen.". And as if magically, that song and that line was coming out of his mouth with special emphasis on the word 'knows.'

There was a deafening silence as Stanley stood mortified, Sheldon stood frozen, and Frank stood contemplating until the silence was broken by Frank's high pitched belly laugh. After what seemed like minutes Frank spoke to Stanley as if Sheldon wasn't there,

"Where did you get this guy, he's a real piece of work." and then to Sheldon

"Let's get to work.". And they did.

Working on "My Cousin's Toupee" was not easy. It took place in the deep south, a place where coonskin caps were made from leftovers after  meal preps. Working on material this bad was like helping your kid with his homework, but not wanting to make it too good so that it no longer seemed like the average kid's work, but not making it bad so the kid got no credit for it.

During the so called creative process, Sheldon's conscience got the better of him and he tried subtlely to bring up the possibility that the play might fail and that Frank stood to lose a load of money. Actually Sheldon knew it was not a possibility, but a certainty. Frank's flip answer was that he had plenty of money to lose and more where that came from. In subsequent conversations it came out that his family ran a highly successful Cheese business, tritely named "Say Cheese," with a logo of a cow taking a picture of a chunk of Limburger.

He was next in line to become the CEO and he enjoyed two passions, Theatre and Cheese. Which didn't seem that much of a stretch to Sheldon. He had been married to his college sweetheart, but was now happily divorced and married to his play.

The play was somewhat fixed and it opened to opened-mouthed shock. People probably would have walked out had they not been more interested in seeing if it could get any worse. They were not disappointed in that regard. The reviews were vicious with one stating definitively that,

"With so many starving children in the world to waste money on a play of this caliber is probably lawsuit-worthy and a remedy might be pursued against everyone involved." How close they came to the truth will never be known. The play closed the same night it opened and Benny and Bernie looked solemn like everyone else at the official cast party, but celebrated mightily at the after party and toasted another successful bomb.

Benny's story did not end well. He was shot and killed during an alleged robbery gone bad, but no one was ever caught and it was widely suspected that the robbery was staged and it was a hit ordered by a backer who lost money and had connections.

It was a sad end for such a smart talented guy. Sheldon first met Benny at Stanley's 35th birthday party at the notorious Riverside Club. For whatever reason, thirty-five was a significant age for both Stanley and Sheldon. Each reacted to it in a different way. Sheldon feared that age and began running from it. Four months before his thirty-fifth September birthday he began training for what would become the two marathons he would run in his thirty-fifth year.

Stanley on the other hand threw himself a huge party with two hundred of his closest friends including Sheldon, Benny and Bernie. Sheldon was one of the only two straight people at the party. The other was a skinny blond named Gail, a temporary roommate of Benny and Bernie, who hoped to make it, with their help, on Broadway. Sheldon and Gail went home together from the party and enjoyed a relationship for a few weeks until she gave up and went back to Florida, once again nestled in the bosom of her family.

The most interesting thing about the party other than the periodic gratuitous acts of public displays of affection, were the buzzing conversations regarding the new sickness visiting the gay community. It was the first time Sheldon had heard about it, but it certainly wouldn't be the last.

As a periodic actor and director he knew plenty of gay people and just like the saying goes, many of his best friends were gay. The only time he ever felt isolated from the gay community was one summer during the most radical gay pride period when invited to Stanley's Fire Island the Pine's house, with his eventual ex- wife. They had just had a great time at a tea dance at the Boatel where Sheldon had enjoyed some attention and dance invitations from some of Stanley's gay neighbors. Sheldon had even enjoyed a dance or two and they left and walked out to the beach. Sheldon's big mistake was that he brought up how hard it was to sleep with the noise from the 'meat rack.' The meat rack was a a place where people could come with the understanding that they would be having anonymous sex with multiple partners in the dunes near Stanley's house. Benny and Bernie led by Stanley, informed him that they and their friends didn't need to be gawked at or judged by straight people invading their world. Sheldon was clearly taken aback and felt the attack was unwarranted and soon made an excuse that they had to get back to New York earlier than expected. No one argued and there was a strain on the relationship that lasted for about six months. Eventually Stanley called and without apology on anybody's part, they resumed their friendship.

Although Stanley and Sheldon repaired their relationship, such was not the case for Sheldon and his wife.

Sadly there's a point in a failing marriage when husband and wife are living in the same space but are world's apart. That was how it was when Carol asked Sheldon to wait in the apartment because she was expecting a delivery. Of course she had to add insult to injury with "since you don't have anything else to do anyway." Sheldon had been laid off from his teaching and was between acting jobs. Her being right didn't make the barb any less sharp and he reluctantly promised to hang out at home. It was to be a day to remember. The West 4th Street apartment had a tiny back yard, but in the West Village that was a major apartment selling point. Sheldon loved to sit at the little wrought iron table which almost filled the space and listen to opera with a glass of Beaujoulie 65. His favorite arias were sung by women and they had to be woeful  and quietly dramatic. It was a beautiful day and a delightful respite from the tension that filled the apartment when Carol was home. His revelry was interrupted by the buzzer and he assumed that it was the delivery that Carol had spoke of. He hit the buzzer and opened the door, waiting for whoever to walk down the stairs of the basement floor through. And there filing the doorway was a strange alien-like hairless, powerful man. A leather Pony Express-like saddle bag slung over his shoulder and as he entered he opened it to reveal the pound of thai sticks Sheldon's wife, the now Assistant District Attorney had ordered. Sheldon and Freddy, the drug dealer, struck up an immediate friendship over the weed and some wine as the afternoon flew by. This led to an invite to Freddy's 18th street loft and an intro to Freddy's girlfriend and crew.

Freddy's favorite response to "I beg your pardon," was "Don't beg, you're old enough to steal." he said it casually but that summed up his view of the world. Maybe it was because he got dealt a bad hand, what with his eight year old hair suddenly falling out and all, or having a nut job for a mother, but for whatever the reason, he could care less about what people thought of him and even less about what people thought of what he did. At around the same time as Sheldon's marriage was ending, Freddy's drug smuggling life was beginning.

It was fascinating to Sheldon how casually the whole thing started and quickly it grew. Just like Stanley's birthday party when Sheldon first heard about Aids, it was at Freddy's birthday party that Sheldon heard about the gang. The party was at Freddy's loft and there were about fifty people all over the loft space. The loft could handle them easily, as a matter of fact, it was built for partying. Typical of the other living lofts in Chelsea, you hit a buzzer and waited in the street for the owner to throw down the key. You then entered a freight type elevator and hit the floor button. The elevator door opened directly into the loft. Once inside Freddy's was mostly open space. The kitchen, living room, drafting table area, were all in one section with the bedroom having the only wall and door. There was a huge wooden table in the middle of the open space, and it may or may not have been distressed when he bought, but it sure was distressed now. It was reminiscent of Medieval times when a central table was where all the action was. Freddy didn't think twice, when eating dinner, to stab his steak knife into the table leaving it there until he needed it again. Near the table were two pinball machines. Freddy felt compelled to get the second one because Manny, a close friend,  had gotten one, for his Bank St. loft,  and Freddy wanted his place to be the place that boasted the most fun per square inch. He called his new pinball machine Flubbadub, after the Howdy Doody character, even though it had nothing to do with the show. Most of the guest worked at a custom guitar making company which Freddy had done some graphic design for. Most of them were from Brooklyn and some knew each other as early as  Boy Scout camp. There was a long night of good drink, some drugs, and plenty of good music. In a lull in the celebration, Lorenzo, nee Brian Herstberg, brought up the idea that he was getting tired of paying so much for weed and thought about growing his own. The discussion fluctuated between how hard that was especially in the city with hydroponics and light and stuff and veered into buying the weed wholesale and selling it retail. Sheldon felt a little uncomfortable  with the talk, but dismissed it as mere stoned rambling.

The party continued with many of the attendees taking cabs to Studio 54. Friend Manny had a VIP card and their party of ten breezed passed the velvet rope as those who waited online sent them daggered looks as they went in. It was a typical night at 54, around 2 a.m. and the place was packed and jumping. Rollerrina was there, the guy dressed as a women with the fairy wand on roller skates, the guy who always dressed as a french bard of avon, and the usual mix of stunning models dressed in skimpy outfits, their escort sugar daddy's getting drinks from the shirtless waiters.

The guitar crew found themselves up stairs in the balcony seats watching the action and yelling over the pumping sound system, Freddy asked Sheldon if he wanted in.

"In what" Sheldon yelled. Freddy told the shocked Sheldon that the guitar boys were indeed setting up a little drug business and even though he wasn't really one of them, they liked him and if he wanted in, he could be. He further explained that there was a load of money to be had and he knew that Sheldon was having a hard time with the divorce financially. They would use the custom made guitar business as a front, dress up in suits, have business cards, buy a fleet of boring looking cars and pick up the product down in Florida and drive it up to New York where they would distribute it. They would hire mechanics to keep the cars in good condition and had some sketchy people in the police departments in New York and Florida who would protect them if it ever came to that.

So it hadn't been idol chatter. The prediction was that they would be making something like 15 to 20 thousand dollars a run from Florida to New York. The money was much better than anything he made as a teacher.

Freddy went on to describe the life philosophy that made this illegal enterprise logical and even sensible for him. He analogized that his sister became a doctor after about 8 years of schooling which included monetary and physical sacrifice. She endured brutal hours locked up in a hospital in long shifts and amassed huge student loans that had to be paid back. In exchange for this, she made a very healthy salary as a physician making it all worthwhile. On the other hand, a drug dealer made his money first and then went through a possible sacrificial stage if the authorities caught him and put him in jail. The sacrifice to the physician was a certainty. In fact, he figured (without any searchable data available) that plenty of drug dealers got away with it and kept their money, retiring to a life of leisure in a condo in Del Ray Beach, Fla.

Sheldon admitted he had a good point, but demurred simply because he was claustrophobic. The thought of being locked up made him sweat.

He didn't know about this problem until he was an adult and was taking his 5 year old nephew to the car wash in his little Honda Civic, when Honda Civics were little way back when. David, his then wife's sister's kid, was his little buddy and since David loved to go through the drive through car wash and since the maroon Honda was filthy, off they went. It was a scorching hot summer day with the temperature in the low hundreds and as luck would have it, the air conditioning in the car was on the fritz. Sheldon didn't get the full significance of the problem until he reached the starting point of the car wash, paid the guy, put the car in neutral and starting rolling his windows up. There was no air in the car and as the car moved slowly forward and the foam and huge vertical blind like wipers hit the car, it hit him. He couldn't breath and he couldn't get out. That's when he realized exactly what his particular brand of claustrophobia was like. It wasn't just tight places, it was places he couldn't get out of when he wanted to. In the few seconds of knuckle white terror he realized that he preferred stairs to elevators, buses to subways, and car rides to cruises.

He looked over at little David and the kid was having a ball, giggling and pointed to the soap and foam and became beside himself with the the wind machine drying apparatus. So as to not freak out his little companion, Sheldon just gripped the wheel and prayed for the ordeal to be over. And when it was, he realized what he was.

The claustrophobia that Sheldon thought of when Freddy invited him to a life of crime was his fear of handcuffs and/or jail. He just didn't think he could deal with it, so he opted out and wished Freddy well. Freddy's theory was flawed and he did end up going to jail and repaying the feds with 18 months of his life. Although Sheldon visited and accepted his collect calls, and bought him and sent him whatever he wanted while in prison, their relationship was strained when Freddy out. Freddy's adopted a new theory in prison:  "only a con could understand a con and thus only a con could be friends with a con."

Right after his first meeting with Freddy, Sheldon  moved out of the basement and into a brick walled studio on 11th off 5th. A divorce and continued teaching and acting unemployment led him to a cab company on Hudson Street. The show Taxi used the facade for its opening shot, swapping the Sunshine Company Sign for the actual Dover Cab Company sign.   On the day he went for the job, there was an African American man showing up at the same time and after a pleasant conversation they both went to ask the dispatcher for work.  Sadly, they were told that there was none, and they parted company.  As a social experiment Sheldon went the next day, this time alone and lo and behold work had appeared and he got the conveted position of taxi cab driver pending getting his hack license. Most days were subsequently spent taxi driving and most nights were spent at Freddy's loft, hanging with him and his eclectic mix of friends

Taxi driving was not the job he had always dreamed of, but he was writing and working on his Masters in Understanding Media at the new school. The thought that there would be rich material in the stories he would hear behind the wheel excited him.   He felt immediately like a fish out of water even while taking the Hack Test to get a license. He was the only english speaking person in the room other than the so called proctor. There were about 15 test takers and the moment that the proctor announced that the test had begun he  began reading his Daily News as all the other people in the room got up, surrounded Sheldon's desk and began copying his answers.

Sheldon raised his hand to bring this breach of test etiquette to the proctor's attention attention, but the proctor signaled  it was okay and continue to read.

Taxi driving and he were not a perfect fit. He woke up at six in the morning, got the cab, parked it and went back to sleep until 11. He then picked up a customer going up town, dropped them off and took the chit  he had gotten at the garage and went and got the cab washed. After that he had a leisurely lunch at the Cherokee Dinner on 9th and 32nd and then looked for someone to drive downtown. He then waited on line to return his cab to the garage, and proceeded to walk the block and a half to his apartment to recover from his exhausting day. This went on for 14 days and on the 15th, his last, he knew he was not destined to make this his lifelong career.

It was summer and he was counting money at a light with the cab window open in front of Lincoln Center. It was afternoon so of course he was headed down town. One of the 20s was clearly a counterfeit and he hadn't noticed that when he was handed it by this guy with very long nails who told him to keep the change on a $4 fair. He should have known something was up, but he was finally excited about something connected with driving this stupid cab. In mid money count, a knife wielder appeared on his left while a colleague stood on the passenger side in the street. The knife was a stiletto like the ones used in West Side Story and it was held close to, but not touching Sheldon's neck. Little did they know that they were robbing the least hard working cab driver in New York City.

Aside from the bad twenty, he had forty bucks and a gym bag with an extra tee shirt and a banana in it by the bench seat to his right in front of the meter.

He had seen the older cab guys with similar gym bags and in an effort to fit in, he had gotten one, not really sure what he would use it for. That all changed with his next move; he reached into the gym bag, clutching the hidden banana, yelling;

"This gun trumps your knife'" while turning the wheel and hitting the gas at the same time. Ever evaluating his behavior, he wished he had cursed and not used a bridge term to a lowlife scum robber who most assuredly did not play bridge. His choice of words became a moot point, because as the tires screeched and Sheldon headed south, he looked in his rear view mirror and found it's true that things looked smaller, but small or not the knife-wielder was laying in the street and the other miscreant was helping his partner to get to the side walk.

Sheldon went through red lights all the way down to twenty third street before he stopped and pulled over. He was freaked but proud that he had saved the cab company's money, but especially happy that he had saved his banana.

When he turned in the cab and checked out with the Louie look a like from Taxi, the TV series, he mentioned that he had gotten a fake twenty and asked the dispatcher what he should do with it.

"Pass it off to another idiot like yourself. And by the way, don"t come in anymore. You're wasting the company's gas money. You are the record holder for the least amount of money brought in by a cab driver in the company's history." Sheldon thanked the fake Louie and was relieved that his career as a hack was over.

Grateful that he and the cab company were not the fit either had hoped for, he was free to spend more time at the loft and became close to a few of the regulars. Manny was an anomaly compared to the young, music playing crowd in that: one, he was middle-aged, married, and two, he looked like a shoe salesman.

Manny  Rabinowitz had been a regular middle-age guy with a suburban home, a Winnabego, a pudgy wife and a married son until he discovered cocaine and eventually was left with only the cocaine. While the money lasted, the cocaine introduced him to young girls, drug dealers, and Studio 54, not necessarily in that order. Lucky, at least at first, for Sheldon, was Manny's propensity for being surrounded by hot young girls.

Manny was a natural people person and had done very well in business both legal and otherwise. His legal persona was  the guy who did bank promotions when you got a gift for opening a bank account. Now, he mused, the only thing you got when you opened up a bank account was screwed. His loft apartment in the far West Village was full of toasters, and small TVs, and electric coffee makers. People loved to invite Manny to parties. While Freddy would go to The Pink Tea Cup, the famous transplanted southern diner on West 4th street, and buy an apple pie for a host or hostess, Manny would bring a Mr. Coffee Maker. Marty had another thing going for him, that would be Tiny. Tiny was 6'5" and as muscular as he was tall. He was hispanic, jovial, and scary. Manny hardly went any place without him. On special occasions, he would lend Tiny out to Freddy, if Freddy needed some extra muscle.

Freddy had plenty of muscle of his own. He had Popeye arms and a huge barrel chest with a protruding belly which was deceptively hard. He was not tall, yet he exuded power. His bald head seemed to blend into her shoulders without benefit of a neck and he was perfect as an extra in a semi-hardcore/soft-core porn film (half full, half empty)in which he portrayed a loin-clothed Eunich fanner of a fine Roman Lady enjoying her pretty slave boys. He met the film makers as an art director and was asked to do a bit in the movie. Shy, by nature, he was convinced by the fact that he would meet a lot of women and most of them would be without clothes.

The movie connected him to this little film community appropriately dubbed, the Rooftop People due to the fact that all their apartments surrounded a rooftop on West 21st. You could be in the kitchen of one apartment, open the window climb out on to the common roof, walk across it and climb into a friends apartment to visit. In the summer there was a beach atmosphere to the roof, with the winter somewhat quieter except for Halloween when there was a huge party hosted by everyone who lived there.

It was a real coup to get an invite, and literally hundreds showed up every year and since Freddy and Sheldon met and started their bromance after the pot deliver, Sheldon was introduced and welcomed into the world of the Rooftop People.  Sheldon's friendship with Freddy had opened him up to two new groups of people; a guitar making drug smuggling gang, and a group of  communal-living independent filmmakers. Sheldon couldn't decide which group was more dangerous or exciting.  It was Sheldon's first Halloween party with such creative people and he like a kid in a candy store.   As the door opened to Little MIkey, the special effects guy's apartment, a giant robotic rat greated them with blinking red eyes.  The rat probably appeared even bigger next to its creator who was a member of the little people group. Drugs, food, costumes, and mask were everywhere you looked as Freddy introduced Shedon around to everyone.  But just like any cool New York party, there were people who shouldn't have been there, and one of them, clearly drunk came up Freddy, touched his head and mumbled,

"Nice mask."  Ironically was not wearing a mask.

It was unclear what the drunk was hit or kicked with but Freddy dispatched him to the floor without missing a beat and one of the apartment owners helped the interloper to the door and out of it. 


They walked to a huge stone-walled den and there by the fireplace sat a man in a wheelchair working intently at his desk.  As if adding insult to injury, the years after his playwriting days were not kind to him.  It was at the 2nd Ave. Deli that Parkinsons reared its ugly head.  Frand had made a date to meet with some fraternity brothers in the city and after a girl-reveiwing, how bad were we in our frat days dinner, the 4 of them put in money for the check and got up to leave.  His 3 friends were at the door by the time that they realized that Frank was not coming.  His legs had frozen and he literally couldn't move.   He and they laughed it off as a charley horse, but Frank knew better.  He was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.   Funny word disease; dis meaning not, and ease meaning ease.   And Frank was definitely not at ease with this.  In the early stages his symptoms were sporadic, but his speech, walking, shaking, etc, were rapidly more pronounced.  He was convinced this was karma for wedding his child bride and for getting special seating for TDF tickets.    Theatre Development Funds tickets were discounted to members and special seats were available if you had a disability.  He avowed that he was hard of hearing (which he was not) even before he was nasally disabled, and received front row discounted tickets to everything.   Having heard that Adolph Hitler had Parkinsons in the latter part of his life also convinced him that he was being visited by the hand of God for his evil deeds.  All this went up in smoke when he heard that one of the best guys ever, and his idol, Michael J. Fox had his problem and he proceeded to follow Michael's progress intently.  Being an avid reader, he also learned that smoking weed was good for Parkinsons victims, so he redoubled his marijuana intake.  Valerie's grandfather was super rich and had a wing named after him at his favorite Long Island hospital and arranged for the operation that had done so well for Michael J. Fox.   All went well for a while, but eventually the operation only put off on the inevitable, and went from a can to a walker, and finally a state of the art wheel hair.  Frank had installed those old-people electric seats that take you up the stairs all over his house and his usual day was spent going to the basement to get stoned and hanging out in the den by the fireplace.  The den doubled as his office since he was no longer well enough to go to work.   These were especially difficult times in the family business because of rival company breathing down his neck and pushing for a buyout.  Angelello and company needed a company to make theirs seem more legitmate and Frank was under a load of pressure to sell.   When everything got too much for him he worked on his followup drama; Fat Fran's Bay Window.  

Sheldon gasped when he turned around, not because the man's nose or lack of it was so hideous , but that it was the same man who he had written the lousy play with. It was like old home week and the three of them laughed at the smallness of the universe.  

Sheldon didn’t know if a special license was needed to home school a kid who wasn't your own, but the money was excellent and he had a teacher’s license and if they didn't care, he sure didn't. He was set up in the area above the garage, which had been built as a basketball court back when Frank had a nose, friends and the athletic ability of a much younger man. The only reminder of the basketball court was the hard wood flooring and the “paint;” basketballeeze for where the foul lines, etc. were drawn.

The space had been converted to a full 2 bedroom apartment, replete with full kitchen and den. The den would be used for the classroom.


As he moved into his new digs, he thought of one of his favorite films, Sunset Blvd, and wondered if the money was blinding him too, as it did Joe Gillis played so knowingly by William Holden.

Since his expertise was Language Arts, he started his homeschooling career with “The Ransom of Red Chief” by O.Henry.

“ Today we’re going to start a short story by a guy I think you’ll find interesting. O'Henry was not his real name and he didn’t change it because he thought it sounded better. He changed it because he was a convicted felon, embezzlement, to be more specific. He stole money from the bank he worked at and fled, successfully to South America.”

Thinking of himself as a future embezzler, Bobby, showed more interest in this story than he had ever shown in real school and lifted his head off the table. He even pushed his massive hair away from his face, so his eyes were actually exposed.

“He would have gotten away with it, but his wife became ill, and he decided to return to the United States. His unselfish return bought him some time in jail.“What a jerk.” Bobby chimed in with a look of total incredulity with a dash of disdain.

“Some might have thought him a romantic, anyway, the only prison guard who was kind to him was named Henry and as a tribute to him , William Sydney Porter was reborn as O' Henry. Alright begin reading aloud until I tell you to stop.”

The main story line concerned the kidnapping of the ten year old son of the wealthiest man in a town ‘as flat as a flannel-cake, and called Summit,.’ The story has an irony that was lost on Bobby, but he did like the line when the kidnappers see their potential victim for the first time:

‘The kid was in the street, throwing rocks at a kitten on the opposite fence.’

Bobby’s reaction to the ten year old was adoration and later that day, not finding a kitten, he emulated him by 

throwing big rocks at little squirrels. And that’s when reality leaped from the pages of the first thing he ever read that he enjoyed.

Bobby did not like tight spaces. On the few occasion when his way too liberal parents sent him to his room, they knew not to the close the door. He would accept the punishment as long as the door remained even slightly open. He was a classic control freak claustrophobic;

He did not like the feeling of not being able to leave whenever he wanted or needed to.

Bobby did not like being locked in the trunk of even a cool car like a Camaro. The minute the lid clicked he began kicking and screaming so much so that the car rocked, which quieted the brothers gleeful celebration.

When they heard the police sirens, that shut them up completely and caused them to abandon the car and their ever so brief kidnapping victim.

Unknowingly, Bobby had done what law enforcement experts deemed the move to make when locked in the trunk of a car; punch or kick out the tale lights and stick your hand through and wave like crazy. On one of his kicks his foot went clean through and to the driver of the car behind presented a size 13 Michael Jordan air with some blood on it where the left tail light had formally been. Being an upright citizen the insurance salesmen asked Siri (with hand's free bluetooth or course) to dial 911 and continued to follow the white Camaro until the sirens were heard and left stopping at Dunkin Doughnuts to calm down.

The Angelillo brothers walked home hurriedly blaming, discussing, and lamenting the loss of 50 percent of their cool cars and wondering what their father would have to say about their botched improvisation.


Don Angelillo was a first generation American and proud of it. Born and bred in Brooklyn spending his early youth helping his Italian immigrant father sell the produce from his fruit stand on 86th st. and Bay Parkway in Brooklyn, New York.

He was a sweet sensitive kid until he reached his 11th birthday. Donald remembers everything about the day, especially the helpless look on the face of a man who he had previously thought was anything but. As an adult he mused that all children come to a sobering realization that their idols have feet of clay, but this was more sudden and dramatic.

Donald never liked the cop who swaggered over periodically to take some fruit without paying, but his father explained it as the price of doing business. Lately the cop and his father dropped the pretended politeness and Donald sensed that there was more then apples that the fat cop wanted. In a nutshell, Donald's father had a prime location for his cart which the cop thought would be better used by his own first cousin.

The cop started his campaign with citations, fines, and "accidentally" knocking easily bruised fruit over, but it all came to a head when he handed Donald's father a notice of trespass and waited for him to take the glasses from his breast pocket to read it.

Yelling with great melodrama "don't pull that weapon on me." The cop's nightstick flew across his face, eye level, splattering blood, flesh and glass on Donald and the fruit.

Donald screamed for help as the cop wiped off nightstick, walking away mumbling,

"I could've sworn it was a weapon."

Donald took off his shirt and pressed it against what formally had been his father's eyes, not so much for first aid, but so he wouldn't see the extent of the damage.

Blind fruit sellers may be viable in fiction, but in Donald's family's reality, everything changed with the swing of a night stick, especially Donald.

Hatred and hunger fueled Donald's every decision, leading him to steal, and to steel himself from feeling any other emotion. His first relationship with the court system came when the fat cop approached him in the street and asked Donald to;

"Give my regards to your father."

When another cop finally pulled the wily 11 year old off, Donald had broken two of the cop's teeth with his own night stick. Looking back, as an adult Donald, enjoyed the irony in that act.

Highjacking a fine cheese delivery led him to the cheese business he would eventually own and make him into  wealthy business man.

He married one chief competitor's princess daughter and a cheese dynasty was formed. His life and wife seemed perfect until the birth of their triplets. The pregnancy was troubled, the birth was worse, and his beloved wife, died in child birth. The triplets, two boys, and a girl, were healthy but his thoughts about them were not.

He hated all three for what he perceived as murdering his wife. As they grew his feelings softened for the girl: she looked and was so much like his wife. But the boys were vain, and wild, and all he saw in them was the cause of his pain.

He put all his energy into work and his daughter, and the twin sons were left to their own troublesome devises.


Angelique had little to do with her twin brothers but was very close to her father, who loved her with all the love he would've shown his wife, had she lived. He protected her from the dirty side of his business and she lived the easy life of a wealthy Long Island princess. She was fiercely independent and unlike most of her Long Island princess acquaintences who  had little  interested in doing anything more than their  nails. She graduated from NYU Cum Laud and was getting a master in media studies at the New School. Her focus was film studies and she met Sheldon in a course taught by Arnold Eagle, famous for working on the seminal "Nanook of the North," classic documentary. Sheldon was immediately  smitten by her short black hair, Ann Taylor clothes and her ubiquitous colorful and useless silk scarf adorning her lovely long neck. They were assigned a silent film project and teamed up to write a script. They worked around an old joke about a guy who jumps off a building, survives unhurt, and says, "I'll never do that trick again." It wasn't terribly funny, but it appealed to their shared existential natures. The script had an easy birth as did their relationship. One of Angelique's particularly short friend was to walk by a film being shot at the Empire State Building with a shiny new garbage can (no explanation given as to why). The film within their film was one in which a director was having trouble getting a couple to give each other a short kiss, they kept kissing too long. The little guy watching this interrupts and explains that he too, can be entertaining and brags that he can jump off the Empire State Building and land unhurt in his shiny new garbage can.

Over the weeks of course, Sheldon and Angelique fell quietly or more accurately, secretly in love. Sheldon's hebraic background and Angelique's aggressively Italian family, necessitated candor and they spent most of their alone time on Angelique's sailboat.

Emboldened by their love and tired of sneaking around, they decided that Sheldon would meet the family at Angelique's 21st birthday party.

"Was this a 19th century Virginia Debutant ball?"; he asked himself as the Valet parked his beat up Buick Regal in between two S Class Mercedes?

Sheldon was glad to get rid of the car. He was dressed well in his new brown suit bought with his birthday Banana Republic gift card and stopped feeling out of place the minute he handed the keys to the parking attendant.

He had never met any of her family before and she had offhandedly mentioned her family was into cheese. Well cheese was very good to them.

The estate was on the water, the Manse was huge with naked Greek statues spitting water back into the water in which they stood. It may not have been sanitary, but it did bespeak of wealth.

The party was outside, on what the butler had described as The Great Lawn. Central Park had nothing on this greenery.

There was a green and white striped tent probably acquired from the circus and the table had enough flora and fauna to hide some VietCong from view. When he picked up his place card and saw table number one on it, he thought it was a mistake. He would soon wish it was a mistake.

Angelique's eye color and intensity was shared by her brothers, but it so didn't work on them. For all the money, there was no hiding the fact that the 23 year old brothers were goons.

Sheldon sat between them at the head table waiting for Angelique to be presented by the Orchestra leader who incidentally had replaced Guy Lombardo as Mr. New Year's Eve. While everyone waited, the goon brothers stared dramatically at Sheldon. Sheldon was happy when their father came over, but thought the kissing of the ring was a bit much. All that was missing was a horse's head, but the message was clear, he was at a mob party and were not happy at his presence

After a significant pause, the father leaning close in, in perfect Godfather whisper rasp began,

"My daughter is the most precious jewel in the world to me."

"What about us, Pop," chimed in the boys. Their father's answer was a slap to both their heads and he continued.

" Every year since her birth, I give her a diamond, and this year she'll have her

twenty first, too bad you won't see that beautiful necklace as she walks into the party, because you've been called away suddenly, and you'll be busy for a long time, or forever, that my boy is up to you."

"Yeah" added the brothers.

Was it because he wasn't mob, or because he was Jewish or too young, or because a proper "made man" had been chosen for Angelique at birth, whatever the reason, he was not suitable as a suitor. Sheldon's inner wise guy trumped his fear and he replied,

" Don, I am honored and grateful that you have invited me to your daughter's wedding, I mean, debutant ball, And I hope our first child will be a masculine one."

Just as the goon brothers grabbed him and started shoving him toward the parking area, Angelique came out and before they could make him disappear, she stopped her

grand entrance and ran over to the disturbance. Her brother stopped her by saying,

"Your friend has an emergency and has to leave suddenly."

"I know your brand of emergency Tino and if he goes, I go."

Her father, the Godfather of cheese, trying to placate her, took her hand and looked pleadingly in her eyes,

"He's no good for you, you're my little jewel, it's your party, everybody is waiting for you.

Without another word, she pushed Tino and Tony out of the way, grabbed Sheldon's hand and dragged him to parking lot.

"Give the guy your ticket and we are out of here."

Sheldon fumbled but found the card and just as the "family" reached them, they got into the muffler-less car with Angelique yelling,

"I've had it up to here with cheese, I've become lactose intolerant."

They sped off. Why she had to answer the text, he'll never know. She knew it would be from her father. She looked at it and with all the strength a hot tempered Sicilian could muster, she threw it. It cracked the windshield, Sheldon  swerved and even with a series of expert maneuvers, only one mistake negates all the rest. They hit a suddenly appearing tree.

The blood, the ambulance, her lack of seat belt, the swerve, all seemed a blur until he sat frozen, staring by her bed in the hospital watching her struggle to hang on.

He was literally caught in a race against time. He needed to help her, be with her, to have her forgive him, but he also needed to get lost and fast. Her family would be looking for him and he needed not to be found.

Sheldon took her hand and as if God was a DJ, Blue Oyster Cult's "Don't fear the Reaper" came on the radio and as it ended Angelique smiled looked at him with those darkchocolate eyes and whispered,

" Go."

He kissed her eyes as they closed and left.

Sheldon hoped she pulled through as he hurriedly packed and left town, and began thinking of new names and how to set up his new identity. He wouldn't regret getting rid of Sheldon, though. What was his mother thinking.

Time, the great equalizer, calmed Sheldon and the situation down enough so he stayed where he was and did what he had always done; he kept keeping on. Whenever fear reared its' ugly head he told himself that Angelique probably convinced them that it wasn't his fault. But the bottom line was that he thought it prudent to forget about her, even though the time he had with her was probably the best time he had or would ever have.


It was ironic that not only did Frank come back into his life out of nowhere, but that Frank was in the Cheese import business, just like the family of his star crossed love, Angellique.  Every time he thought of her, a Gordeon Knot formed in his stomached and the guilt he felt on leaving her, not fighting for her, not finding her again, washed over him like an overflowing washing machine would on an I Love Lucy episode.

There was one other time when the guilt hit him so bad that  he thought he'd never recover and of course it involved a girl he cared about, loved even. The first time he saw her was in Manny's city apartment when Manny's money bought useful things that didn't go up his nose. Freddy needed a new toaster, so he called Manny and was invited over. Sheldon and Freddy needed a break from what was a truly terrible afternoon.


Freddy's mother and father had been long divorced, accordingly to Freddy, over him. When Freddy at eight had all his hair fallout, he turned from a gregarious happy boy, to an angry, petulant, mostly silent child. Some families respond well to problems, theirs did not. Freddy's father left and in short order, Freddy's mom was becoming less and less mentally stable. Freddy hardly ever saw her and his father and he stayed fairly close as he approached his adult years.

After not seeing his mother for over a decade, he got a call from her irate landlord, that she had fallen and died in the roach infested flat t and somebody had to come and clean up the apartment. Without any tact or kindness the landlord remarked that the body was taken out and whatever crap she had left had to be cleaned out post haste. Freddy immediately called Sheldon and asked him to come help him, making it clear he couldn't do this on his own. When they got there the delightful super just about threw the keys and shouted,

"I have people coming in tomorrow, so you have to be finished today." Freddy was uncharacteristically docile, the super should have considered himself lucky. The kitchen was the worst room for two reasons, it's where she fell and hit her head, leaving a pool of dried blood and also because the food was rancid, rotten, roach infested, and the smell matched the look. Of course everything in the kitchen had to be thrown out, and the living and bedroom were no better. The woman seemed to have truly lost her mind, there was a single chaise lounge found in most drug stores in the summer in the living room, near a lamp and a table covered completely with unopened mail and circulars, there was a chest of drawers that Freddy remembered from his childhood home and a military styled cot, covered with ill-used stuffed animals. The bathroom had one of those drying trees broken and weighted by stiffened bloomers and bras. It was in this melange of sadness that Freddy found something remarkable. There were three bank books under stocking and jewelry that totaled $330,000. How someone could live like she did and have that kind of money laying around was a true testament to mental defect.

The bank books looked and were eventually found to be legitimate, which made the terror of the day more bearable. Since Freddy's illegal enterprises were very lucrative, he was not exactly hurting for money, but there was nothing wrong with this windfall. Sadly, he never really got to use any of it owing to his fatal mistake of telling his then girlfriend about it.

It was after this exhausting day that they went up town to Manny's high rise. On entering they found Manny on the terrace dropping egg from his 15th floor apartment on a black Rolls Royce which for some reason he resented. Luckily, he didn't hit anything or anyone other than the sidewalk and he soon forget about his Royce envy. He informed Sheldon that he wouldn't be staying long, because he and some girls he knew were going to a Boz Scags Concert, but they were welcome to stay, when he left.

There was some chatter and giggling in the bedroom and out walked two girls. The first one was typical for Manny, mid-thirty's not overly pretty, but passable. But the second one, dressed only in one of Manny's tailored shirt had obviously just come out of the shower and made Sheldon's heart stop.

She was a L.A. Girl who worked although, she didn't have to, as a make-up artist for punk bands. Her father had something to do with heart shaped sun glasses and sent her checks wherever and whenever she needed them.

She was petite, had jet black hair, big brown eyes and a stunning body. She was definitely his type and as trite as it may seem, their eyes did actually lock.

She had come in from California and didn't really have a place to live and a mutual friend had introduced her to Manny and he had put her up, but only for the weekend.

Eventually she moved in with a rock and roll couple on Gay Street in the West Village. It was ironic, even back in the day, that a tiny street off of Christopher Street would be called Gay Street. And when Sheldon visited her in her new digs, he was appalled at how tiny the room was; it seemed like a converted closet.

His first reaction, for better or worse, was to invite her to move in with him. Which she accepted without hesitation. Thus began a romance that seemed destined for the ages. Sadly the tenor of the times reared it's ugly head, and although love was mutual and in the air, so were drugs and plenty of them. When she was good she was very good, but when she was bad she was worse.

Sheldon could never tell when or if the drugs she was secretly taking, would kick in. On a trip to his parents for Passover Seder, he would look over in the car and see her beautiful black eyes staring with a glaze over them and listen to her speech begin to get blurry and and watch the drool fall from the corner of her lips. He would have to get off at the nearest turnpike exit and head back to the city. A ripped girlfriend was not a good seder participant.

On her frequent forays into the outside world, he never knew what she was going to come back with or without. She had begged him for this fox-tale coat and he bought it for her. One day she came home without it with a gash on her head. Her story was she was mugged. Sheldon figured she sold it, got high and fell. Another time she came home with an adorable Shitzu puppy she named Slugger. Sheldon just never knew, and although surprises are sometimes fun, he began to fear what would happen next.

At first her drugs of choice were Tuinals and Seconals, which would turn her and her smiling black eyes, really mean. Then sadly, heroin came into the picture, and when he found needles under the sink behind the sponges, he knew things were coming to a head. Fights denials, tears, promises,and sadness, became the norm.

He wanted to have a life with her and in her lucid moments, she cried that she would stop, and he promised her if she did, they would get married and raise a family, but only if the drugs were out of the picture. But alas, drugs sometimes trump love.

When he couldn't take it anymore, he knew he could no longer live with her, but he also knew that she couldn't live by herself, literally. He had met her parents a few times, when they came in from California, but didn't know them well. Even so, he called her mother and told her that Vivian was out of control and he could no longer be with her, and that she had to come out to New York and take care of her daughter. Her mother agreed.

Sheldon, didn't tell Vivian what was going to happen, for fear she would take off, so he waited and dreaded the day the mother would come.

 Vivian was especially ripped when her mother showed up and started screaming wildly when Sheldon told her what was about to happen. It was a terrible scene, enough to alert the super, the police, and eventually get Sheldon kicked out of the apartment. As she left, she calmed down enough to tell Sheldon he had killed her and that he should die.

Over the next year she called periodically and sounded great to Sheldon and told him she was in therapy and was clean and had a job. Sheldon felt less guilty about what he had done and even thought that things might work out for her and maybe even for her and him.

He was taking a 5 mile run on Christmas Eve Day and passed a junked-up women slide down the wall she had been leaning against. He stopped and went to help her up,she just smiled and shook her head no,

"Don't trouble yourself, I'm only going to slide back down anyway." He couldn't have known at the time it would be prophetic. When he got back from the run, there was a message on his answering machine, to call Freddy. Freddy's info was short and bitter, not sweet,

"They found Vivian in a garbage bag by the side of the rode. She must have overdosed and whoever she was with panicked and dumped her. Sorry man."

Sheldon was surprised that he didn't cry, but wasn't surprised that she was gone. Sometimes the brightest flames, burned the quickest. He was afraid to go to the funeral, for fear the family would blame him for abandoning her, he knew he blamed himself. He went anyway and ironically the family seemed to appreciate what he had done, reasoning that at least he cared enough to call for help, rather than leaving her on her own.

Days passed and Sheldon walked around zombie-like not knowing where to put his grief and finally found a place while watching a movie called "The Kid From Nowhere." It starred Susan St.James as the mother of a down syndrome kid who was overly protective of him. A Special Olympic's coach tries to convince her to let the kid participate and finally wins her over.

In the big race scene toward the end of the movie, there's a kid who has won the race before and is predicted to win again. He's ahead of Susan St. James' kid, played by a real down syndrome actor named Ricky Whitman, who did some other movies in the eighties as well. The front runner trips and falls about twenty feet from the finish line. Seeing he's about to win, "the kid from nowhere" smiles broadway, passing the fallen kid and heads for the finish line. Suddenly just feet from victory, he stops, turns, and goes back to pick up the fallen kid. They cross the finish line together.

Sheldon turned off the movie, went into the shower clothed, turned on the water and sobbed for what seemed like hours. He thought,

"That kid, who is mentally challenged figured out how to help someone, and me with all that I have, couldn't." He was distraught and guilt washed over him like a shower, literally.




Fake tans, blown-out hair and tweezed eyebrows; these were a few of their favorite things. The identical 2/3 of the Angelillo triplets  entrance into the world caused death and sorrow; their mother’s, and their father never missed an opportunity to remind them of what they had done.

If they were even a little bit smarter, this might have bothered them, but their diminished capacities allowed them to grow into vain, ignorantly blissful man-children whose only worries were how they looked in their skin tight tee shirts and white work-out headbands. They were men of steel, mostly in their brains and upper bodies who advanced from petty crimes, to misdemeanors, to short time prison stays. Being a mob boss’s sons, their prison time, even in State lock-ups weren’t terribly unpleasant and they got to meet a lot of like-minded people.

Their father, Donald Angelillo threw them only jobs that he believed no one could screw up and was always unpleasantly surprised when they did.

They were always together and their twin souped-up white Camaros, were fully loaded, as was the piece their glove compartment's housed. They argued over whose car they would take whenever they went out, even though they were as identical as their owners, and after their father’s intervention, they decided on odd days, for Dee and even days for Dumb. They were not nice to each other and particularly nasty to anyone who wasn’t them.

A typical night on the Million Dollar Mile, in L.I. might be spent cruising up and down the strip yelling out of the car and looking for trouble, that was easily found. If someone stared, or God forbid, cut them off, odd or even night’s passenger would get out the Louisville Slugger; ever ready in the back seat, and beat either the car or the passenger with it and throw a fistful of 100s at the victim, so the incident would be forgotten. That night’s driver would burn rubber leaving and they would giggle like school girls recounting the incident on their way home.

Reluctantly, due to a man-power shortage, they were assigned a simple strong-arm job.

“There’s this cheese business and the guy who owns it is being a hard ass and won’t sell it. I want you two numbskulls to loosen his ass (they of course giggled hearing this). It should be easy; the guy’s in a wheelchair and he has no nose.”

“What do you mean no nose, that’s just gross. Send somebody else.”

“Dee’s right, that’s disgusting, we’re not good with deformity.”

Don stood up menacingly and even though they were twice his size, they feared their father, as well they should, and they left mumbling all kind of shit about noses.

Though they loved roughing people up and marveled at the different sounds of bones breaking and cracking, they did not like to be near handicapped people of any type and a guy with no nose was specially abhorrent to them. But when their father got that look in his eyes, they dared not disobey him. So off they went to Frank’s mansion.

As they pulled up, Bobby was playing, actually maiming squirrels with rocks and on the spur of the moment they came up with a plan that would accomplish their father’s goal, and allow them not have to deal with the dreaded deformity. They would kidnap the kid and hold him until his father agreed to sell the business to their father.

As Dumb was getting out of the car, a large rock with a squirrel’s name on it came hurtling at him and caught him in the forehead. More infuriated than usual, the twins grabbed Bobby and shoved him into the trunk of their car. Screeching off, as was their M.O. they congratulated each other on their brilliant plan during breaks in Dee’s rant about Dumb bleeding on his leather seats.

Thinking that he was off-duty during Bob's recess time, Sheldon had his Bose noise canceling ear-buds in and was lost  in the soothing piano stylings of Dustin O'Halloran. He eventually heard a pounding on the door (there must of have some gentler rings and knocks that he hadn't heard) and a shouted;

"Open up, police business."

This request got his attention and his heart beating. There was a short but intense light skinned bearded sun glass wearing look-alike for Stubbs in Miami Vice guy who held a gun so close to Sheldon's head that he literally saw nothing but the barrel and a blur behind it. He introduced himself as Detective Bosdick and slammed Sheldon's head into the wall.

The image of the gun being pointed at him, or in common detective speak, 'looking down the barrel of a gun,' is something you probably never get used to, but He postulated that it gets wore as you get older. The barrel and he had stared at each other only one other time in his life and he had reacted very differently.

He had been working at the Tivoli Terrace for about a year as a waiter with his uncle the chef and things were going well except with the boss's son. Sheldon had always had a problem with bosses sons. His theory was that they were spoiled brats who benefitted from their father's hard work and had no need to develop talent or work ethic on their own. Out of the three bosses' sons or princes as he liked to call them, there were no exceptions.

Lenny, his exe's brother was a typical ne'er do well. His office was large with the window always kept open in all weather so as to mask the smell of burning marijuana and hash . HIs main function was to make clients happy by taking them out when they came into town, and he would blow that easy gig usually by getting too loaded and screwing reservations, or limos, or getting nasty with people around them. His father always had to field complaints about him.

And then there was Barney, the Camp director's son. Sheldon had gone to a fancy tennis camp after he outgrew Boy Scout camp, And went free as a camper/waiter. There was always an underlying condescension toward these 'freeloaders,' but never as pronounced as with the Barney, the camp director's son. His picture was next to jerk in the dictionary. Some might say Sheldon brought the trouble on himself by flirting with and eventually wooing Bethany, Barney's girlfriend away from him, leading to bad blood between the two.

The culminating moment as in other trite stories, was the big tennis finals. A few paid campers resented the fact that Sheldon's tennis prowess had led him to the camp championship, but most either were rooting for Sheldon or against Barney because he was such a jerk.

The championship match was the last day of regular camp with parents invited to the farewell luncheon followed by the biggest tennis match of the season. Barney's behavior was innate and could not be adjusted by him just because adults were watching.He argued every close point, screamed at the little midi ball girls and boys, threw his racket, cried a few times, and even yelled for his mother, calling her mommy. Sheldon kept his cool and the match was decided on the last point of the last set. Sheldon gave it everything he had, but as he lay stretched out on the clay he saw a really nice kill shot go by him.

Barney,of course, threw his racket high in the air, and it's landing knocked over the cooler of water on the bench. Barney's celebration was of the ilk that prompted the NFL to ban touch down celebrations, and even though jumping over the net was outlawed by his mother, Barney knew that that law and all others in camp didn't apply to him. He ran and leaped over the net, most probably to continue to show off and taunt Sheldon for the loss. Barney did not judge the net height as well as he should have, caught his back foot as he went over, landed and lay in a pile crying and screaming. The crowd, not knowing he had broken his arm, laughed and some even clapped. His mother ran to his side, as did the nurse, and in a fit of pique, the Camp director ordered the stands immediately cleared.

His full right arm cast was a reminder to everyone but Barney that Karma was alive and well in Camp Wachonah Potomac nestled in the heart of the Berkshires.

And then there was Sean the son of the retired police captain, owner of the Tivolo Terrace. He was strong and good-looking and longed to be like his father. A goal which could never be attained. His father liked to be called Captain, and was a natural leader. He was tough but fair and enjoyed Sheldon's work ethic and sense of humor. This was evident to the ever jealous and petulant Junior and he had an immediate hatred for Sheldon.

Everyone except Junior worked hard at Tivoli terrace, The average weekend ran two jobs on Saturday and two on Sunday. That meant getting to work at 9 a.m. for setup and staying until breakdown on Saturday night/ Sunday morning at 2 a.m. Then the whole thing started again on Sunday around 10 and went to Sunday night around 11:30. Sometimes the waiters and kitchen help slept over. The party's were intense but often fun and Sheldon got a lot of tips from drunken guys trying to impress their dates and even sometimes, if they were drunk enough, some married guys even trying  to impress their wives. That often backfired with some of the more intimidating women who chided their husband with,

"The kid gets paid to do this, big shot,"

It was around 2 a.m. on a typical Saturday night and Sheldon was especially tired. The parties that day had been crazy, he was even asked to cover the lox cutting station. He was not adept at it but after mangling what was probably some very expensive pieces, he managed to get the hang of it, and covered any lack of talent with some spirited  interchanges with those who came to him for their lox needs.

He had finished cleanup and was in the hallway passing the hat check booth when Junior approached him and told hime that Hat Betty, the hat check girl, also Junior's sometimes girlfriend, wasn't feeling well and that Sheldon should take over in the coat room.

Not liking him anyway, and not liking being bossed around by the boss's son, being dog tired, and not enjoying covering for Sean's girlfriend who notoriously announced she wasn't feeling well whenever she didn't feel like doing something, Sheldon refused.

Junior became red faced quickly and repeated his request,

"You better get your ass in the coat room now."

"Or? Just give me my options, so I can make an intelligent decision."

"I'm not playing Sheldon." In a rage that came on quicker than a drunk will accept a free drink, Junior pulled the licensed gun his father allowed him to use when handling payroll, from his back waste band holster and pointed it at Sheldon.

"Now, get into the Goddam coat room." The absurdity of the situation outweighed the danger of it, even though Sheldon understood the danger was great, knowing, how nuts Junior was, and how far the veins in his neck and head were sticking out. But in that frozen moment he wondered a few things; would the bullet hurt before he passed out, would he pass out or would the pain keep him conscious, would it sound louder because the bullets were coming at him, what would he do while waiting for the ambulance, and finally was there a shot that this idiot could miss at such a close range.

He didn't have to wait for very long because Captain appeared, as if out of nowhere, just like the cars people hit when they're not paying attention. The Captain raised his hand and came down on Junior's head as if hammering him into the ground like a roustabout uses a sledgehammer to hit a spike.

Sheldon appreciated the move, but thought how that act could have caused the gun to go off even if Junior had not meant it to. But alas Junior was on the ground not Sheldon, so it was a good thing. The Captain took the gun away from him telling him he could kiss this thing goodbye, and sadly told Sheldon,

"Maybe it's not a good idea for you to work here anymore, If he (gesturing toward his whimpering son rubbing his head) wasn't my kid, he'd be going, sorry." Boss's sons, they're all alike.

As Sheldon turned to see who was frisking him, his eyes lit up as did the frisker. Was Sheldon lucky or was it really that small a world. Just like the man with no nose came suddenly back into his life so did the man/boy with no understanding of nature roof tops and horses. Yancy had grown up and was laughing much like he laughed when they lay in the ditch during the Gold Rush game. With him was Bobby with his pants rolled up and a bandage on his leg.

Sheldon explained that his gun had a permit, that Bobby was his home-school student, and that he was allowed to go out for recess. Yancy explained that Sheldon was a lousy home-school teacher and a worse Private Eye and that his only student had been kidnapped and was found by a concerned citizen with his foot sticking out of a tail light bleeding.


He was, just like the night he crossed the Mason-Dixon Line, a sight for sore eyes. Here was one cop Sheldon was happy to see. Since he only knew him as  Yancy, he didn't even recall what his full name was, or if Yancy was his first or last. They had been friends in high school, but their friendship had blossomed after the big Nature Shack incident. The most popular event in the Boy Scout Camp season was "the gold rush game." The staff spent days painting rocks gold to represent golden nugget and roped off areas of the far fields to represent claim areas. On a starter's pistol signal the campers raced up the hill on the dirt road passed the infirmary, nature shack, rifle range, and finally passed the stables to get to stake their claim. There was no time to search out the golden rocks; campers arbitrarily picked an area, stuck their sticks with the claim flag in the ground and hoped for the best. The run was frenzied and fun and people scrambled to get what they thought was the better claim. Of course, the heavier, slower kids found little choice when they got there, and maybe they were better off, since they had no choice and therefore couldn't blame themselves if they came up empty-handed.

Actually everyone had some gold rocks on their claim. The game was designed for fun, and the camp director wanted every kid to have something to bring to the assayer's office. Harold, the camp director, or the world's oldest living Boy Scout, as he was known to the campers, was in his 80s, a little bent over, but full of energy and loved kids, camp, but most of all, the game he had invented. He was dressed in full cowboy regalia replete with a ridiculously large 10 gallon hat. In his case it was probably about 15. He sat at his desk with a scale and as the boys came in with their gunny sacks of 'gold,' he weighed what they had and with some magical calculations, which only he understood, handed the boys fake paper money to be used that night in the Old Stream Saloon (the converted Mess Hall). After that the boys went back to the fields and checked other unclaimed areas and some dedicated minors amassed small fortunes, while others more laid back, tended to chat and enjoy the camaraderie of the day.

But the piece de resistance added to this briny mix was the Grimsby Gang. Paul Grimsby was the retired Marine stable master. He was rough and tall and strong and the idol of all the boys in camp, and Sheldon was no exception. Sheldon had learned to ride when he was small at the ranch next to his grandparent's chicken farm in South Jersey and by the time he got to Boy Scout Camp he was an accomplished rider. This put him in tight with the coolest guy at camp and Sheldon started hanging out and helping at the stables. Eventually he was even assigned a horse that became his responsibility and the one he would be riding. This talent would serve him well, because as part of The Gold Rush Game, The Grimsby gang were robbers on horseback who chased the kids down and if the robber could tag the miner without getting off his horse, the camper had to give up his bag of gold. No fake money could be robbed, it had to be gold.

There were seven riders in all and it was an honor when a camper was chosen. This particular year, Sheldon was the only non-staff member to ride. They all of course wore bandannas over their noses and faces and set out 20 minutes after the starting gun to maraud and amass ill-gotten gains. Sheldon was loving every minute and would have been perfectly happy just riding around for the afternoon, but freaking kids out, was just so much icing on the cake.

He had made several runs back and forth along the road, and had done pretty well in the gold department. The gang had been instructed to drop off the gold at the stables periodically so as not to be carrying around to many heavy bags of rocks. Later one of the gang would doff his bandana and make several trips to the assayer's office and trade the gold for cash for that night' gambling fun in the canteen. Sheldon was making a trip back up to the gold fields and passing the nature shack, when someone, or something knocked him off his horse and caused him to roll down the embankment on the side of the road in front of the nature shack. He couldn't immediately make out who, but he knew he was rolling down the hill with someone. When he got to the bottom of the embankment, he recognized Yancy, first by his deep laugh and then saw him, covered with dirt and branches, just like he was. Making a quick check to see if anything was broken, or if he was bleeding, on finding out that he was miraculously not hurt, he said,

"What the hell happened." Yancy couldn't answer because he was laughing too hard. And finally came up with;

"I surprised you huh." Yancy had decided to add a new wrinkle to the game and on having watched a lot of old westerns, he figured jumping off the roof onto a rider on a moving horse was the thing to do. As it turned out, he was athletic and crazy enough to do it, and to do it successfully. When Sheldon had finally grokked what had actually happened, he started to laugh too and they became 'the brothers from a different mother."

Mt. Vernon in the 1950's was a typical segregated town. There was a North and South side and two high schools, one for the academic side of town, and one  more technical vocationally oriented. Being an African American, or black or colored or worse, as they were called inthose days, Yancy lived over the 4th Avenue Street border. A border as clearly defined as the Berlin Wall used to be, even though there were no guards. During the day, whites could cross the border line to shop in happiness and safety, but at night, you were on your own. Black folks could cross the border to work in white homes and were often found walking happily around during the day, but a black male walking in the white neighborhood would prompt a call to the police, who would then question him and if the answers were not tinged with the proper amount of respect, a lesson with a little beating for emphasis would follow.

On the far end of the south side, there was a small enclave of brave white settlers, who either were too stubborn to move, or prided themselves on their tenacity.

Sheldon had a girlfriend who lived in the enclave. She was dimpled cute, a cheer leader and had an endearing little chip in her tooth. When they were apart in the summer, he, in Boy Scout Camp, and she a CIT at a city owned day camp, Lois, or Lowly, her nickname, would send him perfumed love letters, and on the back where you licked the envelope shot, she would plant a heavily lip-sticked kiss and write the initials, S.W.A.K, sealed with a kiss from the song with Sheldon's favorite lyric,

"Though we gotta say goodbye for the summer, darling I promise you this, I'm send you all my love in a letter, sealed with a kiss." And she did.

He had been dropped off by his father, at what ended up being a late party at Lowly's house and was told by his father to definitely call him when he wanted to be picked up.

Sheldon's father knew how independent Sheldon was, but wanted to make sure he got home all right being that to get home you had to go through the dangerous south side. Sheldon could have gotten a ride from a neighbor's dad, but he wanted to be the last one there so he could make out with Lowly. She was concerned for him getting home, but he assured her that he could call his dad later, and that his father wouldn't mind. Since she wanted to make out with him, she let it go and a good time was had by all. When her mother yelled and told her it was time for bed, it was 1 o'clock and Sheldon had no intention of disturbing his father.

He was second guessing his decision not knowing how late the buses ran, and decided after waiting a little while at the bus stop,to hoof it.

"The night was clear, the moon was yellow and the leaves came tumbling down' lyric ran through his head. Fear must have reminded him of the Lloyd

Price song about the murder of Stagger Lee. The fear became real as he heard first foot steps behind him then voices, voices that sounded taunting. He walked faster and so did they. He tried to be cool and walk fast with determination, not terror. He wasn't sure if he was pulling it off when the general taunts became more specific with rhetorical questions like,

"What you doing here, white boy?" or "Are you lost?" and exclamatory statements like,

"Boy did you make the wrong turn." and suppositions like,

"I bet you wish you were home in your little white bed." From the voices, he discerned that there were three of them and knew that although he was sprinter, he didn't have a lot of stamina, and even if he could out run one or two of them, the odds are that the third one could catch him. He steeled himself and turned around saying,

"Look, I'm just trying to get home, I'm not bothering you, so I'd appreciate...." The one who had been the loudest of the three interrupted him with,

"We don't give a shit what you'd appreciate you white...." The hate-fueled speech was interrupted by a huge sincere laugh; one that Sheldon recognized. It was crazy Nature Roof Yancy from Boy Scout Camp.

"Ease up, this is a friend of mine." and he introduced Sheldon to the other two who a second ago were about to show him what it meant to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. They walked him to the 4th Avenue Border talking and laughing about how scared he was and what the hell he was doing here at night and for that moment it was just 4 guys messing around in the middle of the night, not 3 of one and one of the other.

His father was up and mad that he hadn't called him and was dressed and about ready to come and pick him up. Sheldon did not share the story with his father, he feared he would never let him out of the house again, on his own. Yancy had almost killed him in camp and had saved him in the city.

Sheldon's father was dressed and about ready to come and pick him up.   Sheldon did not share the story with his father, he feared he would never let him out of the house again on his own. Yancy had saved him this night, and seeing him all grown up and a detective was truly a sight for some very sore eyes.


        Donald Angelinno was proud of his new television perhaps because it had been so hard to get.  At rest it was just a beautiful framed mirror hanging above the gas burning fireplace, but when turned on , it was an 50" LED Samsung Television with a gorgeous picture and great sound.  He had always been an early adopter and read tech magazines as others read "Sports Illustrated" or "In Touch."  In one of his mags he read about dielectric glass and a company that sold the glass, the frame and the TV and promised to turn mirror to tv and then back again.  There was a website and the hidden televisions did indeed look great.  Wanting to see this magic in person, he contacted the company and was told they had no showrooms, but would send a one foot square pane of dielectric glass and he could see how holding in front of a turned off set it would be mirror like and then when the set was turned on, a lossless image would come shining through the glass.  The glass worked and 3 weeks later, his TV arrived and was installed.   

    There are a lot of ironic parallels in the world and just like certain discoveries pop up inexplicably in different cultures, like Edison and motion pictures here, and the Lumineres brother in France, so did Vibrum 5 fingers pop up with Son number 1 at around the same time that they popped up with Sheldon Naviverock.  Both No. 1 and Sheldon were runners.  Number 2 thought running was stupid and spent most of his time lifting weights and staring at a mirror looking at the results of lifting weights.  In his down time, he talked about lifting weights.   But number one was a bit more cerebral.  While reading a runner's magazine he saw an add for Vibrums 5 fingers.   It seemed to him to be named incorrectly in that the  fingers mentioned in the brand name were actually toes.   On further reading, he learned that in Italian toes and fingers are described by the same word.  He bought a pair on line and eschewing the reading of instructions or warning, he woke up for his daily run, struggled to put them on, and proceeded to fracture a little bone in his foot.   Of course now he was interested in reading the material supplied and found that since barefoot running is something we are not used to, almost barefoot running, which the vibrums are, are in the same category. He read that although the human anatomy is designed to walk and run barefoot, we have weened ourselves away from that and because we are used to supportive shoes and sneakers, there is a period of adjustment necessary.  You are warned to not run in    them for the first week.  You are encouraged to have them on for an hour or two a day for a while and after a week of cautious break-in, you should run very low mileage until you feet adjust.  
 Tony  was hurting but determined to get used to them.  And he would do that by wearing them everywhere he went, although some might think he came out of the swamp.
Sheldon on the other hand was in a restaurant and a waitress was wearing something on her feet that he had never seen before.   She looked like a runner and he asked her what she was wearing and what she did with them.  She lit up as she talked about her Vibrum 5 fingers.   She explained she ran, and trekked, waited tables, and wore them around the house and as she spoke Shelby knew he had to have them.  
He went to a local shoe store and got a pair and became instantly as passionate as his waitress friend.  He payed attention to the instructed warnings and wore them infrequently at first then with greater frequency until he was running his usual mileage and enjoying the freedom of what was almost barefoot running.

     Donald Fiorentino loved four things; his wife, his job, his child, and movies.   Sadly his wife was dead, his job was in Racketeering and  he had three children and only loved one of them.

   But tonight, was a night off from everything.  He sat in his too  tight terry robe from the Mirage remembering when the damn thing fit, with a perfectly burning Cordoba Gorda cigar, the ones his wife had never let him  smoke in the house,  waiting for his favorite movie; "The Kiss of Death."   He knew the dialogue by heart and looked forward to the scene in which Richard Widmark (in his first film) brought the playing of a psychotic killer to a whole new level by  wrapping an old wheelchair bound women in a telephone chord pushing her, wheelchair and all down a flight of steep stairs, to her death.  

          He sat up straight  as Widmark  pulled up in the taxi, buzzed Rizzo the stoolie's apartment, climbed the steps, knocked, and was told by the old lady's voice that it was open.   He leaned forward as Widmark paced the apartment finding evidence that Rizzo had skipped town. He stayed statue-still, as Widmark told the old lady sitting like a wounded bird in her wheelchair, that he liked to shot stoolie's in the stomach because that way they died slow, and Donald held his breath as a cackling Richard Widmark ripped the phone chord out of the wall, tied her up with it and started pushing it toward the hallway which held the steep stairs that would soon be her tomb.

And he laughed out loud as the old lady told Widmark that she was too sick to go out.

           And just as he prepared himself for the most satisfying moment on screen, his idiot sons burst into the room laughing loudly and walked directly in front of him.

   "Jeez, get out of the God damn way.  Can't you see I'm watching something."   The boys continued their giggling as they looked at each other like their father had two heads.

        Tony, the two minutes older one, comes up with,

        "Calm down Dad, you'll bust a gut.  We left the guys address home.   What movie is this?   

          Wanting to share the excitement even with the stooges he called his sons, Donald gets them seated and rewinds to the beginning of the scene.

         "Now sit quiet and watch a real movie for two seconds."     They obey and are immediately taken by Widmark's performance and especially his crazy cackle, which they begin to imitate.

       "Will you two shut up and let me enjoy myself for once.   Go, and don't blow it tonight, it's important.  Rough him up, but leave his nose alone, I kinda feel bad for him." Like a lot of bosses sons, the twins did not inherent their fathers fleeting moments of humanity.   They didn't care that the mark's  nose had been worn away by cancer or that he was imprisoned in a wheelchair.  They just thought it was funny.

       Since the moment he had planned was ruined, Donald turned off the movie and stared off into space until his sons kissed him goodbye and cackled their way out of the house.  They were perfect for the business, he was not.  True, in the beginning there was a philosophy he had adopted;  do what you had to do to provide for the family.  When his wife was alive, he had done that.  But now, he wasn't providing, he was acquiring.  Did he really need to muscle 'no nose' or was it just his ego reacting to someone saying no.  His mind wandered to the one good thing left in his life, his precious daughter Celeste, and then as if by magic the live TV came on and all bad thoughts  left his head when he heard the announcer say,

       "This is Jeopardy."

      Tony and Tino were still cackling when they arrived at Franks's large estate.   It was almost as big as theirs, both having been  built with cheese money.  The company that  Frank had inherited had something their family didn't have, "Say Cheese" was a recognizable brand and one which their father wanted.  It looked like the deal was done and some Private Dick had come in and soured it.  

       After being buzzed in at the gate, Richie came up with the idea that it would be fun to scare the guy like that guy did in the movie they had just seen and as they walked up the staircase, they practiced the laugh and hoped he was alone.       

On seeing them, Frank knew he was in trouble and wheeled over to the corded phone.  He was one of the few people who still had a land line phone for emergency..  An electrician had touted him that you should have  one regular phone line in your house in case the power went out and the cell service was bad, so he had one and  reached for it to call for help.  Tino grabbed it from his hand and just like in the movies, he ripped it out of the wall.  His obsession  with lifting was paying off and a trunk of dry wall came off around the socket.  Tony  held Frank's arms and Tino began wrapping the cord around him and the wheelchair. .  Of course, since brains were not their strong suit, Tony got tangled up in the cord and it took   several tries to get it right. 

Once the job was done successfully, they smiled knowingly at each other, and told Frank he was going to take a little ride as they pushed his wheel chair slowly from the room, passed  the hallway railing to the top of the stairs.  

"Frank, our father made a deal with you and dead or alive, you're going to be true to your word.  All this garbage  with your 'consultant' Sheldon is confusing you.  He's a jerk  and you're going to tell himyou've changed your mind again, and that his services are no longer needed."   During the speech, Tino emphasized certain words by pushing the wheel chair dangerous close to the lip of the stairs; enough  to get Tony nervous enough to grab his arm.  Frank's fighting back surprised and angered both of them.  Frank's health decline might have made him braver, figuring that he had very little to lose, and  the line he came up me proved to be prophetic,

"God hurt me worse than you can, you miscreants and your Bum  father is not the boss of me." Tony turning  to his brother for a split second to say,

"Do you believe this guy?" 

caused him  to loosen his grip on the wheelchair handle which caused the wheelchair to begin to go over,  and the struggling Frank's weight sent it over the edge.  Both brothers leaped for the wheelchair to bring it back, and the wheelchair and Frank, and the two brothers went down the stairs.  The brothers lay on the stairs  flat on their faces, one on top of the other as they watched the wheelchair and Frank smash into the front door. 

 As they got up to check on their accidental handiwork, they saw the mangled wheelchair and the equally mangled Frank and knew without a pulse check that he was dead. Tino urged Tony to check to make sure, but neither was comfortable with the dead, so they did rock,paper,scissors whichTino lost and ever so tentatively checked his neck for life.  He shook his head, and whispered, as if dead Frank could hear him.

"Let's get out of here." The door opened inward and Frank's head was against it as the brothers scrambled three stooges style to get out.  After smashing his head with the door numerous times, they managed to get it open enough to slip through and out. As they left they heard Dr. Phil music and knew school was almost out and  once out  they started to run, but composed themselves as they walked brusquely to their car.  They of course blamed each other and accused the other of forcing the other into this stupid plan.  

He was, and they played the scene just like in the movies, except they were disappointed that there was no phone chord. Blah, blah blah, you better, blah blah blah, cheese company, and then they  started wheeling him toward the stairs.  When they got to the edge of the landing they  were so pleased with how close their portrayal was to the movie and how freaked Frank was, that they had to high five each other.  Their lapse in judgement caused the wheelchair to lurch forward and although they tried to catch it, they fell halfway down the steps and watched as Frank, Wheel chair and all, smashed into the front door.

       Their "Oh Shit" was in unison and even though they didn't know how to check, they knew without checking that he was dead.  As they scrambled to their feet, yelling "Dad's gonna be pissed," and "Why didn't you hold the thing, "Their attempt to get the wreck that was the mangled wheelchair and the mangled Frank from  blocking  the  door was straight out of a Three Stooges short.  The door opened inward, and as they tried to open the front door to get out, they kept hitting Frank's dead head with it . Finally they had enough room to squeeze through and just like the stooges they both tried at the same time and were momentarily stuck.  They were not cackling now as they ran down the street Tony with Tony in front, under the delusion that it was because of  his new 5 toe barely there running shoes. 

Like all other screwup criminals before them, they optimistically thought there was no way that the accidental murder could come back to them and were sure it would look like an accident.  Tino, the smarter one (at least at the moment), brought up the fact that the cord attaching Frank to the wheelchair, might shoot a large hole in the accident theory thesis. Tony countered with the ever plausible scenario that Frank had committed suicide due to his multiple medical conditions and that to make it look like murder, he deftly tied a phone cord around him and threw himself down the stairs.  

    Just as the boys left, Sheldon pulled up for a scheduled meeting with Frank.  Sheldon believed he had found a way to use some leverage to get Donald off Frank's back without resorting to more Second Avenue Deli Violence.  It is involved refrigeration or more accurately lack of refrigeration on Donald's interstate delivery trucks.  Sheldon knew something was up when he saw the front door ajar, and that fact was confirmed when it took a lot of strength push passed whatever was blocking it.   Sheldon felt bad when he used his foot to kick the door opened and felt sick when he realized it was Frank's body and wheelchair that was blocking it.   He didn't have much time for grief when he was grabbed from behind and handcuffed.  He thought he heard the word dirtbag as he was slammed into the wall probably breaking his nose to boot.  The broken nose was secondary to the re-dislocated shoulder resulting from the way he was cuffed; the old career-ending skiing accident that reared its ugly head now and again.

    He was in terrible pain as they threw him into the police car.  The Miranda Warning was mumbled at him and he did keep quiet except to say he wanted his lawyer Quentin Sussman. He met Quentin at the rooftop people's Halloween party.  Sheldon had complimented him on his English Barrister costume, replete with vested tweed pinched-back suit and gold watch fob, only to be informed that he always dressed like that.  Sheldon was even more impressed when Quentin explained he dressed like that for branding purposes.    

Ever since they were little, their mother dragged them to court like other people took their kids to church to watch their father defend his criminal behavior.  Their father was in court often, but miraculously never in jail.  The lawyer who worked exclusively for him, Brian Whitman, was as dirty as his client and enjoyed the benefits of a perfect acquittal record and more money than could be spent  in a lifetime. 

Quentin Sussman  and Brian Whitman went to high school together. Quentin was voted most popular in the year book superlative; Brian was not.  Quentin and Brian were one and two in their class ratings;  Quentin the Valedictorian and Brian the Salutatorian. Both went to Brooklyn Law School and while sitting together they listened as the Dean made his annual threat to the freshman: " Look to your left and right : they won't be graduating."

Brian, not able to hold it in, whispered loudly:  "that sure as hell is not going to be me."  The Dean on hearing this paused and said "That's  the go to attitude we're looking for here at BLS."

They both did well in their legal ethics class, but it didn't mean much to Brian and after brief careers in Legal Aide, they both set up separate private law practices and became well known in New York legal circles.  Quentin, once again, was most popular, and Brian could have been voted most likely to not give a shit about anything but winning cases and making an obscene amount of money.  Donald Angelino and Brian Whitman were a match made in heaven.    


          Yancy explained to Sheldon that he keep his fellow detectives away while they waited for bail to be set and advised Sheldon that he was in some deep trouble.  Yancy left and Sheldon was able to get a little sleep.
Bail was set, he was in a sling and his phone messages were off the hook.  He wanted to console the new widow Valerie and Bob , but was afraid that the police would be all over them and he needed a little time away from the cops.

The Don was sitting in his favorite seat staring at his magic mirror/Tv when a story came on that got his attention.  It was a homicide the press had started calling "The Kiss of Death Murder," because of it's similarity to the wheelchair scene in it.   And if that wasn't enough he knew the murdered man and the suspect that had just made bail.  Frank was dead and Sheldon was their only possibility.   He started laughing at the irony until he watched a witness tell her account.
"Well I was watching 'The People's Court"  that used to have Judge Wapner, but now has that nice Spanish women, and I heard this terrible crash sound, like when a bowling ball hits the side of a Camry, or when a kid on one of those battery operated SUV, would hit his father's garage door.   Anyway I put the show on pause with my Tivo clicker, and went to the window.   I would have run, but we're redoing the family room and all the boxes are in the TV room.  Anyway, I don't know if they had anything to do with the crash, which I now know was not just a crash but the murder of poor Frank, the guy in neighborhood with no nose.   But the strangest thing was that one of them seemed to be running down the street in his bare feet, but they seemed to be have been painted black for he was definitely of the non-black race.
  He leaped to his feet and began looking for the boys.  Tony had been walking around with black running shoes with toes and he had made fun of them and told him he looked like he was a thing that came out of the swamp.
 At the same time Sheldon watched the same news report and knew immediately that what the women thought were bare feet, were actually Vibrum 5 fingers like the ones he had.   And he knew he would be off the hook if he could find the guys that actually did it.   He also knew that the idiot brothers and father stood to gain from Frank's death and that they either had something directly to do with it, or hired someone to do their dirty work.  Vibrums were not yet terribly mainstream and since there were only two ways to buy them on line or in a store, he would do some footwork, and computer surfing.   This was not Sheldon's strong suit in his new profession, he preferred the social gamesmanship of it.  This was like math to him, but he knew it had to be done,   Finally after two days of intense research with an occasional phone call from Valerie, with a lot of crying and breathing with an occasional ,
"Why"   and some calls from Dominique, asking if she could bring him some pasta or sopressat, and how bad she felt for him.   He told her he was busy trying to find out who the real murderers were and after that he would have all the time in world to spend with her.   He couldn't tell her that he suspected her family was involved in the murder he had been accused of, and that the only way he could be free to hang out with her would be to prove that her family members were involved in the murder.  Finally the boring grunt like detective work he loathed paid off. Tony had bought a pair of Vibrums in Great Neck, and that he was getting his feet used to them by wearing them to work.  
                  "There is this girl. She makes me young again and foolish. And with her, I perform the impossible."   A line from the The Fantastics, the longest running musical in the history of musicals.  Sheldon thought of it as he sat on Angelique's boat and smelled the mix of her perfume, Shalimar, and the salt and the sea, and he knew that he was falling in love with her again, he could smell it.
       The little voice in his head said; "In order to be declared innocent, you have to prove her miscreant brothers guilty. " That done, you and she are history."
"But," his heart chimed in, "how many loves of your life do you think you're owed.  Maybe there's another way."
The battle went on with no resolution and Sheldon did what he usually did in a tough situation, nothing.
     As Don Angelino burst into Tony's  room, they were in the midst of a pow wow as to what to do next.  They sat on the bed next to each other and without a word he smacked them both on the sides of the heads.   Usually, they would have protested or at least asked what he did that for, but they sensed correctly, that it had something to do with a wheelchair and a front door. The Don pulled over the desk chair, sat in it roughly and leaned toward them and said,
"Let's hear it."  They started babbling amidst tears, just like they had when they were little and broke the $10,000 dollar marble coffee table by standing on it.  And the tears pissed him off now, just as much as it had then.  While they babbled on he took out his cell phone and called his lawyer who always answered on the second ring and told him to 'get over hear pronto.'  Again in another circumstance the sons would have made fun of their father for using the word pronto, but this was no time to be a wise guy.
    The Donald's  lawyer was dressed in a tailored made tuxedo probably worth almost as much of the long gone coffee tabled and after some questions and more tears and whining about 'wanting to make you proud of us Pop."  The plan was  calling in some favors from the dirty cops in the precinct  and Brian's  specialty, witness intimidation.  Although other people heard the noise and called the cops, only one had seen the back of two people running/race-walking away.   And she needed to be confused about what she saw.
    Sheldon, had always thought of himself as an interesting person, but now it was official, he was a 'person of interest.'  He could now empathize with people who were accused or charged with a crime that they did not commit.  Of course he felt, like they did, that the truth will out, but there was always the terrifying possibility that through some cosmic screw-up, he would be convicted and sentenced.  He could not sit back and rely on the police.   The only policeman he respected and liked was the  guy who jumped off roofs at passing riders.  But since Yancy was his only in, he called him with what he thought was some good info,
"If my hunch is correct, the witness is in danger.  I can't tell you who just yet, but I would send some people over to put a tap on her and do an invisible surveil."       "Sheldon, I need more. You are in enough trouble without withholding evidence, and friend or not, I'd have to bring you back in."
 "For the time being, I'm just going on the logic of the situation.  If the people who did this have a TV and that's pretty likely, then they've seen that whack job  woman talking about two men, one is stocking feet.  Since they have no moral objection to killing a helpless guy with no-nose stuck in a wheel chair, I think they might have no problem knocking off an annoying woman standing in their way.
"We've already got men watching the house."  They went back and forth for a while until Sheldon played the friendship card,
"Yancy, we go back.   I'm not asking for much.  Watch her, tape her and see what happens.   If something does, you're a big shot hero and you've broken the case, if not, you've just waisted a little time, which is par for the course in your profession."
    Their friendship certainly was worth that, thought Yancy as he arranged to send some of his best people over to the long-winded witness.
    Brian had been dirty for so many years, he thought that there was no other way to be. It wasn't always this way.  He grew up in a middle class world and came from a nice family, no trauma, no adversity, mom and dad were kind to him and each other, and his older brother was old enough to be a sibling but not a rival.  Still there was something missing.  Maybe it was the lisp, or perhaps his height, just shy of 5'5", or the  social ineptness, that prevented him from being picked first in games, or called only when other people had declined, that made him  angry and competitive, and serious, and eventually not anti-social, but more pointedly anti-society.  His personal philosophy was; people were put here to be manipulated by him.  In college, he joined a fraternity and during hazing, he noted what was being done to him and vowed to mete out legendary punishments unprecedented in the annals of the fraternity.  And he did, he became known as 'the butcher' and was often censured by his fraternity brothers for his cruelty.
He seemed to calm down somewhat during law school, but in actuality, he was soaking it in and biding his time.   He was smart enough to know what a good education the law was so he could become 'the butcher' once again but for money this time.  And as if by Kismet, he was recommended to Don Angelino and as was so pointedly expressed in the last line of "Casablanca,"
"This was the start of a beautiful friendship."  His career as Donald Angelino's lawyer included every shape and form of illegal behavior, and like other ego maniacs before him, he was above it all, the laws of regular people could not apply to someone as special as he.  
His thoughts on the ride to the late Frank's neighbor were how far would he have to go to break her. Brian had called ahead under the pretext that he was producing a police reality show and had seen her on TV and thought she would be perfect for it.
    Yancy was surprised at how cooperative his only witness was.  And how excited she was about the prospect of being on a TV show.  Yancy declined to say that he thought she was being played for fear she would act even weirder than she usually did.  So he told her, he wanted her to wear a wire in general, in case, anyone approached her.   She was enjoying the press and the notoriety and now felt like she was on a cop show. He was just afraid she would overplay her hand by being overly dramatic.  In most of the cases in which he needed a civilian to wear a wire, he feared the fear would be visible and screw up the deal, but this women just loved the action.  
The equipment was set with her hovering over the technicians, asking questions and generally having a really fun time.  Yancy told her that he and two other uniformed officers would be in a van on the street and that the code word  if at any time she felt like she was in trouble would be, "I'm just saying."   She didn't like that and insisted it should be "alrighty then" like in Ace Ventura.  Arguing with this women was senseless so he went with that and left her on her own.  
    She was the classic old school spinster replete with 4 cats and a need to involve herself in other's people's business simply because she didn't have a lot of business of her own. 
     In hindsight, which was often the most accurate sight, he shouldn't have involved himself in the Nike + system.  Nike + began as a sneaker implant that sent a message to an ipod nano and not only evaluated your run, but sent info to the Nike + website and showed you a graph of how you did that day.  The graph showed you where you slowed down in a run and you figured out why.  You could also compete with other runners and since Sheldon was an early adapter, he was the first on his block to buy the sneakers and since he already had a Nano he was set.  Almost immediately, there was a buzz about how tracking runs was dangerous, especially for females running alone  who had volatile relationships with physchotic boyfriends who were good at computing.  By hacking into the Nike + accounts said boyfriends, husbands, process servers, bail bondsmen, etc. could track and find people not only in vulnerable positions but in skimpy outfits.
Since Sheldon wasn't a female and didn't have a boyfriend,  he ignored those warning and had a great time with the system.
    Over the years the Nike + system evolved and you no longer needed special sneakers or a Nano.  Now all you needed was a smart phone and Sheldon's  Iphone and App was flawless.  He ran everyday and at the end of the run the lovely female told him his statistics. He was then asked to input how his run was and if you were feeling it, you could put in a smiley or sad face to edify how you felt about your experience.  Sheldon put in simple things like "nice warm day," or "getting colder," and eschewed putting in what he felt were goofy emoticons.   
       Having been arrested and confined, his runs took on a new importance for him and he appreciated getting his freedom more while anticipating that it might not last.It was  a particularly lovely pre-sun morning, which was his latest habit, when the boys leapt out from a particularly wooded section of the bike path he was running on.  He had finally broken in his Vibrums and had now worked up to his regular pace.  His speed and the way they grabbed him hurtled him to the ground with great force.  It was surprising that these two dimwits could have tracked him through his phone, but he figured they could easily hire someone to do that for them.  As he went down, he noticed that Tino was wearing the same pair of  Vibrums that he had on. As Sheldon got kicked in his side, his only solace was that   he knew  the idiots toes would hurt as much as his ribs. Tony had a bat and knew how to use it. Tino slowed up a little when he said,
"Heh look, we have the same Vibrums on, these are the KSOs they say that it means 'keep stuff out,' but I think it really means "keep shit out,"  and as he punched Sheldon again he said ,
"Right? What do you think."  Sheldon answered weakly but definitely,
"I think you're an asshole."  Tony was very focused on his batting practice and slowed only to yell at his brother to,
"Would you shut up about the damn shoes. We've got a job to do."   Whether it was on purpose or not, Tony gave his brother a good shot with the bat on the arm and that plus getting tired stopped the assault.  Tony after catching his breath for a moment yelled,
"Here are your options dirtbag; Either stay away from my sister, and my family's business or we won't  be so gentle next time."  His brother, rubbing his arm added,
"yeah," and mumbled "You know you really hurt me," as they walked away.
    Yancy did not have an easy life.  He grew up in the Schlobaum Projects in Yonkers.  Every day was a struggle to get to and from school.  There was always the drug dealers, bums, and perverts hanging outside in front and littered about the stairwells and hallways.  It amazed him how dedicated they all were, there was never a time, night or day, when there wasn't someone manning their own little outposts.  Of course, his father left right after he was born to live with  the other woman he had impregnated around the same time that Yancy was conceived.  Yancy's mom and dad had never married and  his mother was only 14 years older than her son.  
She became involved with a Latin Kings member and carried his gun in case there was trouble.  There was almost always trouble and the idea was that the girl fiends carried the guns because they were less likely to be searched.  Ironically it was at a dance at the local Jewish Center that her boyfriend got into a beef over someone stepping on his shoes, and the unsuspecting shoe stepper made the fatal mistake of staring the shoe wearer down.  Gang boy called for his gun, shot the guy, gave the gun back to Yancy's mom, and ran away.  She was arrested and was indicted and got 5 to 10 and got out in 2. 
Yancy stayed with his grandmother and only saw his mother on visiting days.  On some visiting days, his mother seemed out of it, and his grandmother seemed agitated on those days and usually cut the visit short.  It seems that although only a casual drug user when she went in, she was fast becoming a stone cold junkie, in the State facilities.  It seems that if you knew the right people. you could spend a big chunk of the time you owed the state in a drug induced stupor.
She continued her self medication when she got out with a little hooking on the side to supplement her welfare checks.  When he hit middle school, Yancy discovered acting and he was good at it.  He auditioned for and got the part of the Lion in "The Wiz," and was glad that the rehearsal kept him at school for long periods of time and out of his apartment.  But, as was everything in his life, it was a double edge sword.   The rehearsals meant that he would get home in the dark and having  to pass through the gauntlet of miscreants and reprobates at night was 10 times worse than the day.  
 Although as a cop, it was less dangerous finally getting home, it was definitely not pleasant.   There was yelling and strange men, and when as an adult he saw the movie "Precious," he cried through most of it.
His mother, although a sad, broken down statistic, was still his mother and she loved him.   At least she, when she went a way, unlike his father, had a reason.  Sometimes, she was even funny when she didn't even mean to be.  It was a great opening night for the him and The Wiz.   Toward the end of the first act the Lion had a big musical number and the crowd went crazy.  When he went backstage, the mic rider (the sound kid, whose job it was to turn on and off the body mics of the actors when they entered or left the stage, had become to engrossed in some skittles he was eating and forgot to turn off Yancy's mic and the audience heard the healthy stream of his urine hitting the toilet water, the load flush, and Yancy telling his fellow actors in the dressing room that,
"They love me out there, they really do."   The audience howled and applauded the screw up.   The Dorothy character has a big song in the second act called 'Home" and in this production she comes really close to the audience on what is called in the business a pasarall.   It's an extension of the stage built around the orchestra and in goes about 5 rows out into the auditorium.   You lose all those seats, but the intimacy is great and the audience really feels a part of the show. Also in the second act, The lion has a number of lines that refer to needed help .  He says 
"Help me Momma." several times in a row.  Every time he said that Yancy's mother stood up in the audience and in her best slur, yelled ,
"I'm here for you baby."  The show ended on a high note with Dorothy singing "Home" on the pasarall and the audience yelled and screamed in anticipation of her hitting the high notes as much as they yelled and screamed when she did.  Gospel church services had nothing on this play.  As he helped his mother home, she mumbled how proud she was of him and that he was going to be somebody someday, somebody not like her.  He thought he hoped she was right.
High School was a little better.  He could hang out with friends and stay away from home more.   He became involved in a lot of extra curricular activities, in part because of his home life, but also because the kids involved in plays were mostly type A personalities who were involved in other activities like choir, and band, and orchestra.   He also was an athlete and enjoyed wrestling and tumbling. However wrestling and tumbling didn't enjoy him.
His wrestling style was unorthodox and in one of his matching his opponent couldn't read his erratic moves and ended up with a busted nose and a broken ankle.   This accident gave more meaning to the next accident, which only served to solidly his reputation.
Yancy was at gymnastics practice and the couch had demonstrated how to do a standing flip.  Yancy loved the move and longed to do it.  You just stood there and threw yourself up into the air bending your knees toward your head and did a somersault landing on you feet again facing in the same position as when you started.  The learning process was interesting as well. there was a leather belt with loops into which ropes were attached.  Two spotters held the rope and the flippee wore the belt tight around his waist.  
When it was Yancy's turn. two of his friends and teammates were holding the ropes.  He had tried maybe 10 times and almost got over and although it was somebody else's turn, Yancy begged for one more try and they acquiesced.  As is often the case, one should try to stick with the original plan.  If he had done that everything would have been fine. But alas, that was not meant ot be.  On his last flip attempt, he veered to his left, the left in which his friend Jimmy stood holding the rope.  Yancy's sneakered foot hits Jimmy squarely in the head, and they both go down, dragging the right rope holder with them.  Yancy gets up apologizing, and Danny on the right rope, goes to help him up and Jimmy's not getting up so quickly.
The coach, came quickly over and did what he always did in a situation like this, he said,
"Shake it off, Jimmy."  And the trooper he was, Jimmy got up and said,
"I'm good coach."   Well he wasn't.   Jimmy went home that night and died.  The official cause wsa not what was talked about the next day in school or for quite a few days after that.   It was that Yancy had kicked Jimmy in the head and killed him.  Yancy was labeled 'the killer' and this accident brought out some anger directed toward him, but most of all ridicule.  He would walk down the hallway, and people would step out of his way, saying, 'please don't kill me."   He stayed home for several days and was afraid to go to the funeral and only the passage of time would bring a small amount of relief. 
In a normal household his parents would have helped him through this, but that was not his lot in life and he handled it by hardening himself to life and vowing to change his label.  
He had a high number in the Vietnam draft lottery system, but he told his friends Canada would have been his new home if he was called.  He vowed he was finished with killing and it was ironic that law enforcement seemed attractive to him.  He mused that in war he would be forced to kill and as a policeman it would be his choice, and he figured there would always be another way.  In the 20 plus years he had been on the force, he hadn't fired his gun other than at a target and that hadn't stopped him from becoming a highly decorated officer with an excellent arrest record.
The counselor  arrived at the witnesses address and knocked quietly on the door.  Unbeknownst to him, all eyes were faced in his direction.  With his manicured nails, and lotioned hand, self-winding his Rolex watch, and his strikingly well tailored charcoal grey pinstriped suit, he did not appear to be the usual visitor in this neighborhood.  The witness got excited on hearing the knock and ran around saying things to where she knew the mics had been placed.  She was like a bad actor in a B movie, announcing,
"I'm walking over to the door now, I just about to open it know, and finally I wonder who it could be."  Her immediate impression was that the man at the door was dreamy and rich and that she had nothing to fear from him.
His manners were impeccable, he had come a long way from the social inept lisper of his childhood.  His lisp was still there but he used it well and it hadn't stopped him from becoming an eloquent speaker. 
"I'm sorry to bother you, but I saw you on the news and I was interested in certain things you said.  Id'm finishing my Doctoral dissertation on Eye Witness Accuracy in the Twentieth Century and it would be very helpful to me if you'd answer some questions for my research."   As she listened to him she thought, "funny he doesn't look like the kind of guy that needed a doctorate,"  And it came out.
"Funny , you' don't look like a doctor."  He laughed and said he wasn't, it was for PHD work,"   And she invited him in.  He sat in a small living room inhabited by all things feline.   There were cat sculptures, paintings, at quotes, and 4 cats that immediately started sizing up the fresh meat in the room.
It wasn't just that he didn't want cat hairs on his suit, it  was also that he had an intense dislike of pets in general and cats specifically.  He, tried at first to ignore them, as he felt out how  amenable the women would be to the loaded questions he would be asking her. But cats, being cats, didn't care what he or anyone else wanted.  One wanted to rub up against his leg and one wanted to sit in his lap and they did.  
He almost immediately couldn't stand it and asked that the cats be put in another room.
"Are my little catty watties annoying the big man.  Come have a snack Beyonce, Shakira, Taylor, and Mary J. and she hit an empty can with a spoon which was obviously a signal that food was awaiting them.  The one on his lap dug her hind claws into his balls as she leapt off him leaving a twinge of pain and cat hairs on his lap.  He knew they be back after they finished feeding their sand papered tongue faces so he began immediately. 

"It is my thesis premise that when questioned people question what they were sure that they have seen.  And it is further my thesis that what people see is often colored by the questions asked of them.  In your experience, did the police ask you questions that might have confused your original thinking?"  Remembering the goals as laid out by Detective Yancy, she knew her purpose was in seeming very sure about what she saw so that the visitor would be prompted to make an incriminating statement."
"I would love to help you with your paper, but in my personal case, and in my opinion, I believe your idea or thesis or whatever you call it, has a lot of holes in it.  True, there are a load of people who are wishy washy.  Take my sister's kids.  They never get anything straight.  If they stared at you for an hour they would  know that you have slate blue eyes, and have a hairline scar near your right temple and that the shoes your wearing are from Johnstone and Murphy and that your cologne is Dangerous from Calvin Klein.  Other people maybe confused, but not me.  I saw what I saw and nothing or no one can change that.  I'm sorry to have wasted your time, but my soap opera is coming on and Mildrid is going to tell Mark to take a hike today." 
The cats had just finished their snack and the one who had been on his lap, was the first to return.   One could see an idea forming in his head as he seemed to accept his fate as a cat chair. He was even seeming to warm to the cat and held it with both hands and began to pet it as he spoke,
"Can I be frank with you," and she interrupted him with,
"I guess you can now that he's dead."  Yancy listening thought what a cool customer this women was being in this situation coming up with a line like that.
"Okay lady, here's the news.  I believe that you didn't see what you think you saw and that you got excited and wanted some attention paid to you other than these cats and I would personally appreciate it and would back that appreciation with a financial benefit to you, if you would contact the police and inform them that you misspoke."  Becoming agitated and realizing the situation she was in, she stammered with false bravado,
"Are you threatening me."  Yancy and the others were leaning in with their head sets ready to go in as he replied.
"I'm not threatening you, I'm threatening your cat."  And as if to emphasize his intent he held  the cats body firmly with one hand and the cats head with another."  She started to cry as her cat made weird gurgling sounds and struggle with all its might to get away from him.  The lawyer's grip was rock solid and the cat was going anywhere.  
"Leave Shakira out of this.  You wouldn't hurt an innocent cat.  I don't know  why you're doing this, and I don't believe your a doctor." As she moved toward him not knowing what she was going to do, and without taking her eyes off her, the lawyer turned the cats head almost completely around and the gurgling stopped and all nine lives were snuffed out at once.   She screamed and fell to the floor as he got up causing the dead cat to hit the floor with a thud.  As he opened the door to leave he turned and said,
"Isn't it nice that you have 3 cats to get  you through this difficult time.  If you don't change your tune, there will be no more cats and you'll be all alone."  He didn't even have to say that she'd be dead as well. Yancy and the uniforms were at the door waiting for him and cuffed him and read him his rights. He realized he had been set up, but seemed confident that he had mitigated the circumstance as he had always done.   He had even said that he was not threatening her, and he was sure there was no statute on the books for threatening a cat.  Cruelty to animals aside, he thought his troubles could be dealt with.
Loyalty among thieves is a crock.  When Freddy invited Shelby to join the gang, he bragged about how the people in the little drug gang were such bros and how close they were.   When they got busted in counting money in the apartment in Brooklyn and subsequently were protected by a dirty cop in the precinct, he again talked about how they would protect each other and no one would ever rat on a bro.   Well, as soon as the trial started all bets were off and it was rats on parade.  Freddy was the only one who kept quiet, and for his loyalty, his bros fingered him as one of the leaders and he tied with the real leader for the most time.
And after all that The Don had done for him was making noise to Yancy that he might be willing if the right deal could be made to give up who he knew to have set up Frank's murder.   
Yancy called Shelby to thank him and tell him the details of how successful he was except for the cat, the  witness was  not taking it for well.   She was spending some time in Bellevue hovered over by doctors, and police.  The doctors were working on her  diminished mental state.  Cat lovers really love their cats.  And the police were there to really protect her this time, not just use her to entrap, and also to keep her under raps.  It would not look good to the public to  know that if you helped the police your pets might get mangled and you might end up in an institution.
The second part of the call involved informing Sheldon that even with Bobby turning, Yancy would need what Sheldon had to corroborate.  Sheldon again put Yancy off , but said he needed a few days to work some things out.  Yancy reminded Sheldon that Frank was a good guy and didn't deserve to go the way he did.  
It was becoming clear to Sheldon that he had some decision to make and that one way or another, he was going to end up feeling bad.
Although putting things off were his specialty, he knew he couldn't put off the decision and conversation he knew he had to have and soon.  Yancy was pressuring him to come up with the other evidence that he alluded to.  Whether Bobby the lawyer blabbed or not, the nail in the coffin would be the Vibrums that the witness thought were stockened feet.  He knew that by this time the Angelique had destroyed them and the cops wouldn't figure out that that what she saw were Vibrums and he had the sales records that proved that number one had bought them.   Neither son had an arrest record so the finger prints all over Frank's wheelchair and house would not come up in a search, but Shelby knew they would match the boys.  How could explain his dilemma to her. Save himself and lose their relationship or protect her amoral family who he knew to be cold blooded murderers.  
Shelby knew that the cops had nothing on him, except for the show up at the house and maybe some finger prints on the wheelchair when he had moved it to check on Frank.
The next day brought another unlucky twist.  Frank had left a video will that had been recently revise.  Video wills or as some called them, 'News From the Grave' were designed to give a clearer picture of the mental state of the will maker.  In the passed when an older person had changed a will when they were near death, some disgruntled relative might have claimed that the deceased was non-compass mantes when revising the will.  In a video message one could at least get a usury sense of the state of mental fitness.  Frank certainly looked lucid when he faced the camera and stated,
"I Frank Fisher being of sound mind (he left out usual 'and body' probably with deference to his nose) do hereby bequeath the bulk of my fortune (specific percentage and holdings to be found at the law office of Frieri and Frieri of Westport, Conn.) to my beloved wife and devoted son.  I also bequeath on my death $200,000 to my friend and  colleague
 "Sheldon Naviverock who I know will continue to protect my family as he has been doing since he came back into our lives.' There was some money left to some minor relatives and charity organization with the bulk of the rest of the money going to THe Ear Nose And Throat Hospital in New York City."
Although the money was fabulous the news was not good for him.  Now, with this will, there was something that had been missing in the case against.   Up until the 200 gs there was no reason for Sheldon to have killed Frank, but now there was.  Plenty of people would commit a cardinal sin for a lot less.  Sheldon did what he often did in a tough spot, he put all his energy into trying to think of ways not to think about it.
He flashed on his mother's favorite phrase which was "only good things."   It was only part of the phrase, but she used it so often that everyone who knew her knew the first part and what she meant by it.  "We should hear only good things.  It was sort of a prayer directed to God and the people around her.  It's not that she wouldn't listen to anything bad, but she  was informing everyone that she'd rather hear the goods things and that she'd be happier if 'only good things happened to those who she cared about.  Her philosophy served her well.  They met at the Marina where the boat was docked and instead of heading out, he asked her to walk with him.  He had an ulterior motive for not wanting to get on the boat.   He recalled the terrible times he had with his ex-wife when their relationship was going south and they were trapped in a car together.  He felt so closed in, he actually wondered if at highway speeds, he could simply  jump out of the car.  He was surprised in retrospect why he never thought of pushing her out of the car.  He surmised that it was chivalry.  
She took his hand as they walked and it felt warm and right and he second guessed himself and his decision seemed foolish to him, balanced against the thought of never seeing her again or if when seeing her, he would not feel the warmth but the heat of hatred  His stomach was tied in a Gordeon styled  knots that would take a long time to untie. 
"I have something important to tell you."  He didn't like how that came out, he hoped that she didn't think that this was a proposal.  With great hesitation and regretting that he hadn't written down what he was about to say he continued.
"I don't know how to put this nicely, so I'm just going to blurt it out."  The fear in her eyes was overshadowed by how beautiful they were and she dropped his hand as she waited for whatever was coming knowing it would not be good.  The scene reminded Shelby how the Bachelor  felt on the final episode when they stood on the beautiful hill overlooking a crystal clear blue ocean in some exotic land and they had to tell the runner up that all the love that seemed to have propelled the two of them to this very spot was not enough and they had come in second.  At least on the show, once the runner-up left in distraught tears, there was the joy that the winner and the bachelor felt when they realized that their love, on the other hand, was really real and that it would last at least until the tabloids found out that one of them had a boyfriend or girlfriend who they really loved.
But for Sheldonthere was no upside.  He was there to break two hearts; his and hers. 
"The murder I am accused of committing was actually done by your brothers and is being covered up by your father.  He was killed because they wanted his business and he was being pressured to sell it to them.  Bobby will most likely turn State's evidence on them, but that might not be enough and I hold the evidence needed to convict them. I wanted you to know how sorry I am, but right is right and although I know this means the end of us,I have to do what I have to do."   There were tears in her eyes as she pulled the gun from her purse and pointed it at him. He sure didn't expect that.
"And I have to do what I have to do.   You should have left it alone.  We could have had a nice cushy life together.  There is nothing more important than family."  and with that she took out her IPhone 5S and told SIRI, the voice recognition system to;
"Call my father."  and she did and Angelique said,
" I have him by the boat."  She took his gun from him and there was silence between them as they waited for her family to arrive.  He had resigned himself to the fact that they would end badly, but he never thought it would be this bad.  
 But his mind filled with other things like the fact that they would now know he held evidence, that the cops did now what it was, and that they would soon try to beat out of him what and where it was.  He didn't have to wait long, their house was close to where they docked her boat and she handed her father the gun as he told her to go home. There seemed to Shelby to be a moment of regret as she looked at him before she turned away, but it faded quickly and he saw her father's eyes in hers as she turned and left.
The father directed his murdering sons to put Shedon in Angelique's boat.  He had such nice times on the boat and knew that this would not be one of them. He thought of how tenuous life was and how easy it had been for him up until Open School Night. It seemed a world away.   He thought of his mother lying helpless in the hospital bed gasping for breath and his father losing his mind in increments and finally losing his body, he thought of how Vivien must have looked when she felt that rush of heroin that would shut down her body, and he thought of his dogs, especially Poppi who had stiffened in his arms and went totally still, and he wondered if he would be seeing them all soon.  His religious life had been more social than practicing and he wasn't  sure if praying would help now, so he tried to concentrate on getting his head clear and work with  coming  up with something that would get him out of this. 
He assumed that he had some time before they killed him.  They would need to know if anyone else was privy to the information he held and that would take time to beat it out of him.  They also needed to know if what he ahd was physical and where it was located.  The further they got out to sea the more secure they would be so his play had to be soon.  
They hadn't taken away his cell phone and he thought about how a few times he had pushed the button for SIRI inadvertently in his pocket and she had asked what he wanted even though he hadn't wanted anything.  SIRI, was iffy at best, but it seemed now she was his only hope. He wasn't cuffed and he wasn't tied so he could easily move his had near his thigh and try to push the button.   He hope the sound was off, he usually turned it off and left it on vibrate.  But of course, now, in this direst of situations, he couldn't be sure.  His mind raced as they sat him roughly down on the same bench seating where he had first kissed Angelique and he thought that was ironic.  
He knew he had one shot and had to phrase what he said to Siri so that they would think he was just talking but Siri would do as he commanded.  The boat noise and the sea sounds were loud enough so him yelling something wouldn't seem as bizarre in another setting.  He turned to bhis side and put his knees close to his chest so the phone could hear him and acted like he was feeling sea sick.  Number 1 and his father sat opposite him with both guns pointing at him and Number two sailed the boat.  He was a good sailor, which Shelby appreciate, his ex had given him sailing lessons as a present one Christmas and he had taken to it.   When they vacationed in Maine at her parents house, Shelby would take her out in the little Sunfish which nobody but he used.  He had no interest in power boats, they too noisy and he was glad if he was going to die, it would be on a nice sailboat on a nice day.  He forced himself back to his plan and came up with what he thought was the least suspect phrase.  
He found himself thinking a prayer to himself that his mother used to say to him at night.  She called it the "S'Mai" and it had something to do with israel and having a peaceful sleep.  His secret search for the button began  and he found it and pushed it.  He looked straight at the men who could have been his father-in-law and brother-in-law respectively and said,
"So this guy you CALL YANCY is going to be breathing down your necks pretty good, huh."  He emphasized the call yancy and hoped that SIRI caught his drift. After what he thought was enough time and coughing when he thought Yancy might be saying hello, he continued,
"So can you tell a dying man where Angelique's boat is taking us."
"Shut up, until we need you to talk, and that'll be soon enough.
"Look asshole, you're going to kill me anyway, so I'd rather spend the last few minutes of my life chatting with the murderous Angilli family, if you don't mind." With that Number one gave him a nice shot to the head with his gun butt. Shelby reacted by giving him a kick to the balls what with his knee up and ready anyway.  Number one hopped up and down cursing for a moment and then pointed his gun for real at Shelby when his father screamed at him,
"Not yet." and it looked for a moment like he was going to defy his father, but with deference to his father's wishes, he relaxed a bit but had to throw in,
"I'm going to enjoy killing you."
"Just like you enjoyed killing Frank."
"That's right. I only wish I had a staircase shit head."  Shelby hoped that SIRI had come through for him, because if she had, this would be the most iron clad confession ever.  The ever cautious father shook his head and looked at his son with disdain, and mumbled,
"You talk too much." Time passed and Shelby embraced every extra minute he was alive.  The phrase "live every day as if it were your last," always seems wrong to him.  That would mean that you lived every day in fear.   He was eeking out time before what seemed like the end of time, so maybe this is what people were talking about.  Live every minute like you're on a boat with three murdering slobs who, when they reach their destination, will beat you senseless, kill you, and drop you in the water.  The Don yelled to number 2,
"This is far enough."  And as if there was an echo a voice on a bull horn yelled,
"That's far enough, your boat is surrounded.  Throw your weapons in the water and put your hands up."  Immediately, Number One grabbed Shelby in what a lifeguard would call a cross chest carry and put the gun to his head. Shelby saw Yancy aim and fire, catching Number One in the head and splattering some brains and blood on Shelby's face and shoulder.  Number One went limp, and dropped to the floor of the boat and Number 2 panicked and jumped in the water.  The Don stood perfectly still tears streaming down his face at the loss of his son, not needing to go over to him, knowing that no one could survive looking like that and with many arrests, knew the procedure and just stood there and took it like a man. Shelby even felt a little bit sorry for him because the moment his number one son died, he looked very much like an old broken man.   Number two started screaming for help the minute he hit the water and they fished him out and cuffed him.  Yancy boarded the boat and saw that the blood all over his face was Number ones , except for the gash from the gun but.  Yancy was either knocking off a horse, or saving his life and this was number two for lifesaving.  
Shelby thought it's good to have friend as they rode back in the police boat Yancy asked Shelby,
"How in God's name did you make the call?

"I simply asked SIRI to do it for me."
"Who's Siri?

"What are you Amish, SIRI is the voice recognition system of the new Iphone 4S.  They took my gun but not my phone and I was able to push the SIRI button in my pants and say an innocuous sentence that included the emphasized words 'call Yancy,' clever huh,
"Stupid clever, my friend.  If you weren't so old, I could use you on the force."
"And take a pay cut. I'm happy with being a Private Eye."  He thought about Angelique and debated involving her, but came up with,
"By the way, Angelique had nothing to do with any of this."  It was his parting gift to her.
"So not that I need it now, but what was the evidence you were withholding from me."
"The yenta witness didn't see number one running in stocking feet, he had on Vibrum Five Fingers.  They're running shoes with toes and it's basically like running in your bare feet, except there's a thin protective soul so that you don't get cut by glass or rocks.  I discovered them this summer, and I run in them everyday.  When the goon brothers were roughing me up to get me off the case, Number one was wearing them while kicking me around.  I checked the local stores and got a receipt record that he had bought them there.  I was sure that they would be destroyed and that anybody not familiar with them wouldn't have the socks together with those shoes.  Yancy dropped his friend off at an emergency room and took the rest of the gang off to jail.  
Shelby spent hours in the emergency room waiting, because he was low priority compared to the guy with three bullets in him.  Surprisingly, the guy was conscious and Shelby thought of asking how the bullets felt, but he thought it might be annoying.
When he got home, he did two thing before going to bed; he unfriended Angelique from his Facebook page, and left himself a note to call Pauly and start writing a novel



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Chapter 2


He was trolling Facebook as was his want and his eyes went big and his heart started pounding. There was Angelique staring back at him, none the worse for wear. Must have been some great plastic surgery, he mused.

Guilt washed over him like a country Contessa being bathed by a handmaiden in a scene from the toile wallpaper in his ex-mother-in-law's guest bathroom. Had he stayed home, had he not taken the old car, had he not been in traffic, had she not answered the text message, none of it would have happened.


So as he sat and stared at her profile picture his mind went back to that night in the hospital as she lay tubed up, ghostly pale, monitored, and barely hanging on. His stomach grabbed him like that German wrestler whose special move was "The Claw," and wouldn't let go.

Angelique may not have feared the reaper, but Shelby would use that fear to keep "Stayin Alive" in his new life.

All throughout his Masters and Doctoral programs Shelby argued with his professors about the constant need for improved technologies. Shelby's doctoral work was in Media Ecology, a great topic at dinner parties. When asked by somebody he wanted to be flip with about his NYU department, he would answer,

"We study how plants grow on television sets." But when respecting the questioner's intelligence, he confessed he wasn't quite sure, but launched into a diatribe about how Marshal Mcluen on his death bed begged his friend and the head of the NYU Communications Department, to continue s work. Thus Media Ecology was born to study how the media is like an environment and effects and lives with humongous-like qualities.

Although the film department was not technically a part of Media Ecology, courses could be taken that would satisfy certain requirements within film. And that was where he had met and fallen in love with Angelique. It hadn't ended well for them, and the last time he had seen her was in the hospital room, teetering between life and death. He was not proud of leaving her, but felt he had no choice.

The details were that Frank's business "Say Cheese," was thriving and the Long Island mob wanted in. Sheldon had had his own run in with Angelique's family business and was not proud of how he handled it. He ran away like a dog with his tale between his legs and a girl he cared about laying in a hospital room gasping for breath. The guilt came back to him like an old friend who you want desperately to avoid but ends up staring at you on an long express elevator ride.

There was one other time when the guilt hit him so bad, he thought he'd never recover and of course it involved a girl he cared about, loved even. The first time he saw her was in Manny's city apartment when Manny's money bought useful things that didn't go up his nose. Freddy needed a new toaster, so he called Manny and was invited over. Sheldon and Freddy needed a break from what was a truly terrible afternoon.

Freddy's mother and father had been long divorced, accordingly to Freddy, over him. When Freddy at eight had all his hair fallout, he turned from a gregarious open boy, to an angry, petulant, mostly silent child. Some families respond well to problems, theirs did not. Freddy's father left and in short order, Freddy's mom was becoming less and less mentally stable. Freddy hardly ever saw her and his father and he stayed fairly close as he approached his adult years.

After not seeing his mother for over a decade, he got a call from her irate landlord, that she had fallen and died in the roach infested apartment and somebody had to come and clean up the apartment. Without any tact or kindness the landlord remarked that the body was taken out and the rest had to be cleaned out. Freddy immediately called Shelby and asked him to come help him, making it clear he couldn't do this on his own. When they got there the delightful super just about through the keys and shouted,

"I have people coming in tomorrow, so you have to be finished today." Freddy was uncharacteristically docile, the super should have considered himself lucky. The kitchen was the worst room for two reasons, it's where she fell and hit her head, leaving a pool of dried blood and also because the food was rancid, rotten, roach infested, and the smell matched the look. Of course everything in the kitchen had to be thrown out, and the living and bedroom were no better. The women seemed to have truly lost her mind, there was a single chaise lounge found in most drug stores in the summer in the living room, near a lamp and a table covered completely with unopened mail and circulars, there was a chest of drawers that Freddy remembered from his childhood home and a military styled cot, covered with ill-used stuffed animals. The bathroom had one of those drying trees broken and weighted by stiffened bloomers and bras. It was in this melange of sadness that Freddy found something remarkable. There were three bank books under stocking and jewelry that totaled $330,000. How someone could live like she did and have that kind of money laying around was a true testament to mental defect.

The bank books looked and were eventually found to be legitimate, which made the terror of the day more bearable. Since Freddy's illegal enterprises were very lucrative, he was not exactly hurting for money, but there was nothing wrong with this windfall. Sadly, he never really got to use any of it owing to his fatal mistake of telling his then girlfriend about it.

It was after this exhausting day that they went up town to Manny's high rise. On entering they found Manny on the terrace dropping egg from his 15th floor apartment on a black Rolls Royce which for some reason he resented. Luckily, he didn't hit anything or anyone other than the sidewalk and he soon forget about his Royce envy. He informed Sheldon that he wouldn't be staying long, because he and some girls he knew were going to a Boz Scags Concert, but they were welcome to stay, when he left.

There was some chatter and giggling in the bedroom and out walked two girls. The first one was typical for Manny, mid-thirty's not overly pretty, but passable. But the second one, dressed only in one of Manny's tailored shirt had obviously just come out of the shower and made Shelby's heart stop.

She was a L.A. Girl who worked although, she didn't have to, as a make-up artist for punk bands. Her father had something to do with heart shaped sun glasses and sent her checks wherever and whenever she needed them.

She was petite, had jet black hair, big brown eyes and a stunning body. She was definitely his type and as trite as it may seem, their eyes did actually lock.

She had come in from California and didn't really have a place to live and a mutual friend had introduced her to Manny and he had put her up, but only for the weekend.

Eventually she moved in with a rock and roll couple on Gay Street in the West Village. It was ironic, even back in the day, that a tiny street off of Christopher Street would be called Gay Street. And when Sheldon visited her in her new digs, he was appalled at how tiny the room was; it seemed like a converted closet.

His first reaction, for better or worse, was to invite her to move in with him. Which she accepted without hesitation. Thus began a romance that seemed destined for the ages. Sadly the tenor of the times reared it's ugly head, and although love was mutual and in the air, so were drugs and plenty of them. When she was good she was very good, but when she was bad she was worse.

Sheldon could never tell when or if the drugs she was secretly taking, would kick in. On a trip to his parents for Passover Seder, he would look over in the car and see her beautiful black eyes staring with a glaze over them and her listen to her speech begin to get blurry an drooly. He would have to get off at the nearest turnpike exit and head back to the city. A ripped girlfriend was not a good seder participant.

On her frequent forays into the outside world, he never knew what she was going to come back with or without. She had begged him for this fox-tale coat and he bought it for her. One day she came home without it with a gash on her head. Her story was she was mugged. Sheldon figured she sold it, got high and fell. Another time she came home with an adorable Shitzu puppy she named Slugger. Sheldon just never knew, and although surprises are sometimes fun, he began to fear what would happen next.

At first her drugs of choice were tuinals and seconals, which would turn her and her smiling black eyes, really mean. Then sadly, heroin came into the picture, and when he found needles under the sink behind the sponges, he knew things were coming to a head. Fights denials, tears, promises,and sadness, became the norm.

He wanted to have a life with her and in her lucid moments, she cried that she would stop, and he promised her if she did, they would get married and raise a family, but only if the drugs were out of the picture. But alas, drugs sometimes trump love.

When he couldn't take it anymore, he knew he could no longer live with her, but he also knew that she couldn't live by herself, literally. He had met her parents a few times, when they came in from California, but didn't know them well. Even so, he called her mother and told her that Vivian was out of control and he could no longer be with her, and that she had to come out to New York and take care of her daughter. Her mother agreed.

Sheldon, didn't tell Vivian what was going to happen, for fear she would take off, so he waited and dreaded the day the mother would come.

As luck would not have it, Vivian was especially ripped when her mother showed up and started screaming wildly when Sheldon told her what was about to happen. It was a terrible scene, enough to alert the super, the police, and eventually get Sheldon kicked out of the apartment. As she left she calmed down enough to tell Sheldon he had killed her and that he should die.

Over the next year she called periodically and sounded great to Sheldon and told him she was in therapy and was clean and had a job. Sheldon felt less guilty about what he had done and even thought that things might work out for her and maybe even for her and him.

He was taking a 5 mile run on Christmas Eve Day and passed a junked-up women slide down the wall she had been leaning against. He stopped and went to help her up,she just smiled and shook her head no,

"Don't trouble yourself, I'm only going to slide back down anyway." He couldn't have known at the time it would be prophetic. When he got back from the run, there was a message on his answering machine, to call Freddy. Freddy's info was short and bitter, not sweet,

"They found Vivian in a garbage bag by the side of the rode. She must have overdosed and whoever she was with panicked and dumped her. Sorry man."

Sheldon was surprised that he didn't cry, but wasn't surprised that she was gone. Sometimes the brightest flames, burned the quickest. He was afraid to go to the funeral, for fear the family would blame him for abandoning, her, he knew he blamed himself. He went anyway and ironically the family seemed to appreciate what he had done, reasoning that at least he cared enough to call for help, rather than leaving her on her own.

Days passed and Sheldon walked around zombie-like not knowing where to put his grief and finally afound a place while watching a movie called "The Kid From Nowhere." It starred Susan St.James as the mother of a down syndrome kid who was overly protective of him. A Special Olympic's coach tries to convince her to let the kid participate and finally wins her over.

In the big race scene toward the end of the movie, there's a kid who has won the race before and is predicted to win again. He's ahead of Susan St. James' kid, played by a real down syndrome actor named Ricky Whitman, who did some other movies in the eighties as well. The front runner trips and falls about twenty feet from the finish line. Seeing he's about to win, "the kid from nowhere" smiles broadway, passing the fallen kid and heads for the finish line. Suddenly just feet from victory, he stops, turns, and goes back to pick up the fallen kid. They cross the finish line together.

Sheldon turned off the movie, went into the shower clothed, turned on the water and sobbed for what seemed like hours. He thought,

"That kid, who is mentally challenged figured out how to help someone, and me with all that I have, couldn't." He was distraught and guilt washed over him like a shower, literally.

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Chapter 4-The Visitor's Courtyard

The Iran Hostage Crisis caused different people to react in different ways. As he sat with Freddy in the visitor's courtyard of Allenwood Federal he definitely knew how the visitor sitting next to them felt. He could overhear that she was french not just because she was loud and had an accent, but also because she arrogant. She wore her reaction to the crisis on her sleeve, literally. She had a bomber jacket to which she had sewed a mink color and all over it were "Iran Sucks" buttons. She was beautiful and dark, about thirty spoke and sat with European confidence. Shelby did not even the prisoner she was visiting because she had a definite edge with the guards, which would not bode well for how they treated her friend. Her friend was a titled person, "The Qualude KIng of Queens." And she, Shelby learned from Freddy, she was check kiter, more commonly known as someone who bounced checks for a living. There was a pretty but non-descript blonde with her and they chatted with "The King."

Next to them was a Korean couple who Freddy explained was a high ranking politician in Korea who got swept into the Parks Administration scandal, a scandal that Shelby didn't understand, and didn't care about either. Korean Man's wife gave him a beautiful gold fabricated pillow to sit on to protect him from the harsh bench and she ceremoniously presented him with a leather-bound photo album. Shelby glanced over and could see that it was filled with paintings worth Millions. Most people long for their children or friends, this guy missed his paintings.

Freddy, just like so many prisoners in the movies Shelby loved so well, was worried about his girlfriend at home, not just about the fact of being locked up, he couldn't be there to protect her from all emergencies, but that he feared someone else was protecting her and making her lonely nights without him less lonely. When he breached this topic, Sheldon was not quick to quell his fears. He had never liked or trusted her and thought that letting her have access to Freddy's Mother's Money, was a huge mistake. Freddy took Shelby's silence to support his fears and asked him to go and check up on her. This was starting to get exciting. Shelby loved detective movies, and prison scenes, and people saying, "Follow that cab," and here is was in prison, well at least visiting, and now he was being asked to do detective work.

"You want, I should tail her." Came effortlessly out of Shelby mouth with his best gangster inflection, and he began to map out in his mind, how he would get the information his friend sought. The rest of the visit was very much the same as all the other. He and Freddy chatted. He watched couples try to be amorous whenever the guards turned their backs, and he couldn't take his eyes off the French hater of the Iranians.

In the parking lot, he saw her again, as he got into his car. His car, a beat up old Buick Regal that his parents no longer needed, wouldn't start and Lady French and her friend came over to see if they could help. He called AAA on a cell phone. She had one of the first and those came in a leather case and had a old school type receiver and a curly chord, it was more like an army field phone then the modern ones. She told him she needed it for business. Since she said they had nothing to do, they were staying over at the local motel, the one the prisoners used when they attempted escape and conjugal visits. Triple AAA needed to work on the car and it wouldn't be ready until the following day, and she, who introduced herself as Lola, invited Shelby to eat with them.

The dinner segued into an invitation to stay with them at their motel, and Shelby accepted. The manager got a cot for Shelby and only charged them an extra $10 and just like that, Shelby had a new friend, at least for a while.

Sheldon had dogs all his life beginning on his 8th birthday when he got a Scottish Terrier, he named Skipper. And sometimes he had two, one large and one small. He and his ex-wife bought a little poodle, on her insistence, while on vacation in Las Vegas. They were out some distant relative's house who had just had a litter of toy poodles and Carol fell instantly in love with one of them. The love was strong, and against Sheldon's objection about have the poor thing fly back to New York in a crate, she persevered.

When they got back to New York after cutting the vacation short, because Carol wanted to prepare for the dog's arrival, which included buying little doggy sweaters, a frou frou doggie bed, and little rubber boots for the snow, She sent Sheldon to the airport to pick up the dog. The vet in Vegas had given the dog a tranquilizer so it would freak on the plane and it took days for the dog to come out of it's stupor.

The love in Vegas was compromised almost immediately in New York, when Carol, who had never had a dog realized that the dog had to be actually cared for and wasn't just a fashion ,accessory. The dog ownership fell to Sheldon, who took it like a man. He and Poppi became inseparable and since Carol didn't like walking anyway, and since Sheldon liked to walk and meet people, an adorable dog was a good way to get out of the house and be social.

Poppi even had a moment of fame. Shelby played for Clairol in the central park flag football league. He had some friends in the ad division. He looked forward to the Sunday afternoons on the great lawn. The games were competitive, which he like, but also funny. One of the guys on the Clairol team, was a hemophiliac and the Clairol Stylists, as they were called, thought it funny to always throw or hand off to him, when in trouble. All the other teams were very social so everybody drank with and hung out with everybody else, so everyone one knew that Tommy was a bleeder. Whenever he got the ball, everyone on both teams got out of his way fearing they would hurt him. It wasn't fair, but it wa fun.

One of the ad guys needed a dog in a commercial with Sylvia Miles and Avery Shriver and they were stuck because all the pro dogs were busy. Thus, the job fell to Poppi. She had fun and Shelby made $500 for the two day shoot. Part of the divorce settlement, was for Carol to get everything, including the rights to the co-op sale, and Shelby would get Poppi. It seemed completely fair to Carol, but Shelby was sort of have to be done with the whole thing. There were no children, the marriage had only lasted for two years and he got a nice dog out of the deal.

Fearing that Poppi would be lonely and affected by horror stories about how dogs were euthanized after a grace period at even the best animal shelters, he went up to 92nd st. ASPCA and found Rocco. Rocco was a fat little Doberman Airedale, Rottweiler, cross and stayed little only until he left the shelter. The size of his paws and his puppy strength, signaled to Shelby that he would need to train this dog professional and hired a trainer from "The National Institute of Dog Training." He had scene interview with the founder on a talk show on Channel C, a cable station before the advent of HBO, and was impressed with him and that their T-shirt had a big "Woof" on the front. A serious young lady showed up at his apartment and after enjoying Poppi for a moment, started ordering both Rocco and Shelby around.

The classes were successful and both of them got graduated Doggy Cum Laud. It was a good thing because Rocco grew to be one hundred pounds of fiercely loyal dog to both Shelby and Poppi. Rocco had also been paying attention while Shelby watched cop shows which was obviously from an incident when Shelby walked him on an especially hot summer day. Sometime he would walk them separately, and on this occasion, it was Rocco's turn.

The temperature was topping 100 and that was part of what caused the problem. The Greenwich Village side streets can have a very small town feel, and Rocco has the propensity of doing his business symmetrically in the middle of the street. The often caused little problem, because his dog walking times were often not very car populated. On the particular occasion a cab zooming done the street thought it funny not to slow up to avoid the dog in mid squat and Shelby had to pull in out of the way.

Across the street was a heavily muscled, toothless, semi-derelict, drinking out of a large bottle not well hidden in a paper bag, with a slurring drawl he said,

"I'd like to pull your neck like that." If it had been one degree cooler, Shelby most probably would have ignored the guy, but he was hot and it was none of his blankety blankety business, and that he what he said but using the real explecatives. Without hesitation the man, took the bottle out of the bag, threw the bag on the floor (not caring, obviously that both drinking in public and littering are against NYC ordinances) holding the neck, not caring about spillage, and broke the bottle against a handy telephone pole right next to him, He then came at Shelby directly with the business end of the bottle in the lead.

Not knowing what to do, but knowing something had to be done, he dropped Rocco's leash so he could have his hands free, and as if in a movie, Rocco ran at the guy, hit him chest high, knocked him on his back and put his teeth on the guy's neck, but not biting, just poised to bite.

Shelby was shocked and delighted and thought that Rocco had been paying attention to the shows they been watching and marveled at his certified attack dog. He walked over to the pinned man and said with greta relish,

"I'm going to take my dog off you and then you're going to run away. Blink, if you agree with my plan."

He would have asked him in an other situation to nod, but Shelby feared, that nodding would have caused Rocco to kill him, and that would have entailed a load of paper work. The man blinked, Shelby pulled with all his might, for Rocco snarled and leaned in to make sure the guy knew how he felt, and away he did run.

Shaking his head in amazement, and shaking abit from the incident, Shelby returned to the apartment and told Poppi about the incident. Popppi listened politely as she always did, but typical for a dog, she liked the sound better than the meeting.

After a little while, Shelby felt a need for a diet soda and found, to his dismay, that the "cupboard was bare." He decided to go to his favorite Deli, La Parisienne on Hudson Street to get the soda and a few other things, and while in the back of the store, who should walk in, but the man no teeth and no shirt, but with a rage in his eyes when seeing Shelby san dog, trapped in the back of the store. Shelby thought quickly, which was always his strong suit, and grabbed a bottle and said,

"Now I have the bottle." In detective movies, the action is important but the dialogue, the bon mots, the repartee, is what separates the men from the boys. And although Shelby felt strongly that he was going to get his ass kicked, he was happy with his verbiage. Although he worked out and had attained a primary black belt in Tae Kwon Do, Shelby subscribed to the theory that an ugly person can most often beat an equally matched normal looking person in a fight. He felt that the ugly person had less to lose physically. The basis of his theory were two star basketball players who were brothers. One was really good looking and playing a forward with a great three point shot, and the other was not good looking and was a hulking guard who powered in and mainly shot layups. The good looking one always shot from the outside for fear of someone breaking his nose or blackening his eye if they got close to him. Both were good, but their styles illustrated his point.

Luckily, he was a regular at the La Parisiene and equally luckily the owner, his friend Sergio, had a gun under the counter which he brought up on hearing and seeing the incident in the back of the store. Once again the shirtless man was asked to leave a situation and thankfully Shelby never saw him again and swore off Diet Soda.

He did gain a great deal of respect for his Rocco and the three of them were quite the trio. Eventually Poppi went blind, and Rocco would act as her seeing eye dog. When the three would go to a park and the dogs were allowed to run, if Rocco saw Poppi heading for a tree or other danger, Rocco would run and cut her off so she would run into his stomach and not run into a solid dangerous objects.

Therefore, it was especially sad when they died a month apart from each other. Rocco went first during an operation for a stomach torsion, some stomach turning problem, which some times could be corrected,but not in Rocco's case, and Poppi died from what Sheldon assumed of a broken heart. He had them both cremated and put both their ashes in one urn, he thought that they would have wanted it that way.

It was one week after Poppi's death that Shelby sat grieving in his now deafeningly quiet apartment, that he got the phone call and invitation from Lola, the Iran hater, to go with her to the hamptons, her treat. He demurred explained that he was not in a vacation, party mood, but her French intractability overcame his need to grieve and he warned her he would be no fun and that he was bringing with him the urn which held his dead dogs.

After going through all Freddy’s dead mother’s money, Katie suddenly felt remorse for how she had abandoned Freddy in his time of need and wanted to make amends. How fortunate for her it was right before Passover and the prison was hosting a seder for all Jewish inmates and their immediate family and friends. All you had to do was declare a sudden interest in becoming Jewish and you were put on the Seder list.

Freddy became very popular with Italian, Muslim, Buddhist fellow convicts as they pumped him for ins and outs of a Passover Seder.

A quote from the short story "To build a Fire" by Jack London came to mind as he pulled up to the prison with Katie. The story was about a man in the Yukon who eventually died of the 75 below zero weather;

"The trouble with him was that he was without imagination. He was quick and alert in the things of life, but only in the things, and not in the significances."

On the road to the prison he thought of Freddy's lack of imagination with regard to never getting caught and his girlfriend's sincerity.

Sheldon looked over and saw a little drool on the side of her mouth and saw the familiar glassy eyed look that he had often seen in the late Vivian. He debated turning around but figured if she thought it was cool to walk into a federal prison stoned on God knows what, who was he to judge. He had begged Freddy when he first got busted not to even tell Katie about his mother's money, let alone give her access to it, but that was ignored.

He had begged Freddy not to forgive when there was clear evidence that she had cheated on him while he was away and had gone through the $500,000 before he had down half his 18 months, but Freddy wouldn't listen.

The only good thing Sheldon saw in Katie was that she was his first real P.I. triumph. When she wasn't around to accept Freddy's collect calls from prison and when she stopped visiting him, Freddy asked Sheldon to check out where she was going and what she was doing. At the time it seemed like a joke to Sheldon and he even put

on a trench coat to get into the Humphrey Bogart look when he went to surveil the seaside apartment Freddy had rented for her so she could be comfortable while he did his time.

Sheldon had a key and after a brief chat with the door man found that she had a guy periodically staying there who she introduced as her brother. There was no family resemblance and they seemed very physical to him for siblings. She wasn't around that day and after checking her computer he learned she had been and would be going on some rather exotic vacations for two. It's nice when a brother and sister get along well.

Long story short (too late) Freddy got mad on hearing the news, and then got unmad when she expressed remorse and vowed never to do it again. Since most of his assets were seized by the court and she had blown whatever he left her, she definitely would not be doing it again.

Katie leaned on Sheldon for support as they waited to be processed. Sheldon saw a shiny white Rolls Royce pull up carrying a gossip columnist and comedian husband, both of which were unknown to him, but the guards seemed to be pretty excited. He, the comedian Joey something, had a friend on the inside and was leading the seder. Katie, even though obviously stoned, had no problem getting in since her drugs were safely swimming in her bloodstream. They were ushered passed beeps and clanking doors to the prison cafeteria.

The ceremony was bizarre and Sheldon felt like a third wheel where ever he looked. All the inmates, anticipating their female loved ones arrival, cut out the pockets to their pants so their wives/ girlfriends/boyfriends, paid escorts, etc. could pleasure them by hand under the table. The matzah jumped and the grape juice (wine was a no no for the feds) spilled as the four questions were asked and answered by a room full of groans.

The pills that Katie had taken made her ostensibly immobile and Sheldon had to help her out explaining to the guards that the gefilte fish didn't agree with her.

The casting call

After the botched kidnapping, Frank spilled the beans about the pressure he had been under to sell to his competitor. Frank had thought a simple no would suffice, but pressure had increased and it was obvious from the kidnapping he couldn’t handle it on his own. Sheldon begged him to go to the police, but Frank was stubborn and naively thought that Sheldon’s new Private Eye training would be enough. Again, money talks, and with his totally undeserved title head of security and increase in salary, Sheldon needed to come up with a plan.

Much of what he learned about crime, crime prevention, and capers in general were from the movies so true to “The Dirty Dozen, The Sting, Ocean’s Eleven (and Twelve) and just about every movie made during the 30s and 40s, he began to put a crew together.

As bad as he was as a detective, that’s how good he was at casting. He had no plan whatsoever, but he did know the kinds of people he wanted behind him if there were tough guys in front of him.

He began to make a list in the notebook section of his iPhone.

1.Muscle-Freddy, if he’s talking to me

2. More Muscle-if Manny is not in a crack stupor and if he is, maybe he can lend Tiny to me.

3. Legal Counsel-, no problem

4. Police insider- Yancy or Detective Bosdick if we feel like being formal.

Frank had never met the owner of Angellilo Family Cheese Business, only their representative, an accountant in an Armani suit.

Sheldon’s plan was simply: Hand deliver an invitation to the Family and set up a meeting to persuade them to leave Frank alone. It was not the most original plan, but it's all Sheldon had, and Frank seemed to like it.

As Sheldon drove to the address given him by Frank, he thought about the goon brothers, and their threat, and Angelique's forgiveness, and his eyes watered. But he had a purpose and he wiped the tears away and felt for the solace of the gun he carried. The address looked vaguely familiar until he got into Rosyln and told himself it couldn't be. It couldn't be, yet it was. He was driving to Angelique's house and he had to stop the car to compose himself.

Regret, anger, fear, filled him as he wondered what to do and what would be greeting him. So he did what he usually did, he turned the car around and drove away.

At home that night he went on his facebook page and stared once again at her picture and found her. Her status was single. He found himself writing her a private message. It excited him to have found her. He debated whether to mention his upcoming business with her family. He wondered if she was still even in contact with them, but he briefly mentioned it, along with hoping she was well and that they should get together for old time sake. After he hit send, he wondered if contact was a smart move. She answered him that very night and seemed really excited about the prospect of seeing him.

Her email was very newsie including that she was now heavily into photography. During her recovery her mother bought her a good Digital SLR and she chronicled her hospital stay and everyone who came around to see her. One of her doctors was an amateur photography nerd and told her she had talent. She got into it in ernest and coupled it with her love of exotic travel. She declared herself a photographic archeologist and started gaining a rep selling high end photographs of enigmatic European customs. She was having a showing that weekend, she wrote him, and it would be great if he could come.

The prospect of him seeing her excited him, but complicated things. He would have to play just as rough with her family as they were playing with no-nose Frank if there was any possibility of him getting Frank out of their clutches. And to do that, he had to have some leverage. He would go to her show, pump her about her family and set up a meeting with Don and the boys. When the meeting was set he would definitely bring some backup with him like Freddy, and Tiny, and Manny if he insisted that he had to accompany Tiny. He was always happy when he made a decision and in this instance, he made two. And a third was on it's way.

On the train in from jersey to the city, he decided he needed Quentin, his childhood best friend and lawyer. Sheldon, at least up to this point, had never needed a lawyer, but had one of the best in Quentin. On the first day of first grade they walked home together (you could do that when Sheldon was a kid) and stopped in front of the fence surrounding Quentin's backyard. After chatting about this and that on the way home, Quentin, with childhood simplicity asked,

"You want to be my best friend?" and Sheldon's answered was,

"Sure, you seem nice." And that was that.

They did everything together and even though Sheldon was not a classic laugher (he smiled a lot and nodded recognizing humor) he rarely actually laughed. But Quentin made him laugh, sometimes uncontrollably. They both went to Brooklyn Law School, one during the day, one during the night (part time) and one graduated and one didn't. Quentin went on to have an incredibly lucrative trouble practice with a slew of high profile clients. He was brilliant in court using his talent as an amateur magician to misdirect and confuse juries and dazzle them with his handmade English Edwardian suits, bow ties and watch fobs. He was never home, working all hours and doing his client meetings well into the night.

Sheldon first realized Quentin's power during a talk they had outside Temple on Rosh Hashanah. Quentin and Sheldon spent a total of about 10 minutes in the actual synagogue and the rest of the time chatting outside. Even as kids, when they were in Hebrew School together and had to clock some Temple time they would sneak out during the Rabbis' sermon and have a couple of wine shots while awaiting the congregants at the Kiddush (sponge cake and wine served after the service).

On this particular Rosh Hashanah, Quentin invited Shelby and his then wife to accompany him and his wife to the San Genera Festival in Greenwich Village. Quentin had represented a family of Gypsies who worked the festival on gun charges the night before. The San Genera Festival is one of the biggest in New York and like all of them it featured, food, rides, and games, wrapped in a religious charity event. Gypsies control a lot of the traveling fairs and festivals and they were well represented at this one. One of the games is if you shoot out the red star on the paper target you win a prize. If you're not a sharpshooter, it's nearly impossible, and if you are a sharpshooter it becomes impossible when the guy running the booth checks the paper to see if all the red is gone. Traditionally, he, the checker, has some red dye or ink on his finger tips and puts a little on the paper to show that there is still some red, thus disqualifying the shooter from the prize for his best girl. Erev Rosh Hashana a shooter took umbrage with this breech and reached across and grabbed the checker. The checker then took out a the real, not bebe, pistol he had in his back holster and smacked the guy in the head with it. That breach of etiquette caused him to be arrested even though he claimed self defense along with many of his Gypsy friends for weapons violations. Among the booth workers over forty of them had been found to have illegal weapons. Only five workers were found to be clean, and it was later learned that they had forgotten their guns in their trailers.

Quentin got them all off on some flaw in the police search procedures and they as a group were very grateful to him. They invited him and anyone else he wanted to bring to the festival as their guests. It seemed like a perfect way to spend Rosh Hashanah night.

The night turned out to be both magically and unnerving at the same time. They were met by four men who were specially assigned to insure that they had a good time and everywhere they walked they were handed stuffed animals without having to win any of the crooked games as they strolled down the mid-way. They would have been offered food, but were told to save their appetites for the big dinner planned at a restaurant run by some of the Gypsy family members. All the Gypsies who Quentin saved were related to each other in one way or another.

Sheldon was pretty comfortable with Gypsies. When he lived on 76th street near Ray's Pizza (one of the many original Ray's) there was a family of Gypsies on the first floor and he became friendly with them even learning some of their classic scams. He was fascinated by the lifestyle and made sure he did laundry on Sunday nights, because the laundry room was on the first floor and so was their apartment. Every Sunday night, there was a big Gypsy party that he was not invited to, not being a Gypsy, but loved seeing the old white Cadillacs which double parked outside the building emptying their occupants.

As Quentin and the entourage entered the restaurant their arms full of giant stuffed pandas and giraffes, the atmosphere in the restaurant changed drastically. The 4 people assigned to them asked them to wait by the entrance and went over to the 3 or 4 tables full of people and announced that the restaurant was closed. These people were in mid-bite and all but one table got the message that leaving in a timely fashion was a better idea than arguing or eating. The one group stopped arguing quickly when the most vocal male at the table was set upon by two of our escorts and lifted physical up and out. As they were leaving, to add insult to injury, our stuffed animals were placed in their chairs.

These were people who exercised power effortlessly and backed it up with force. Sheldon, although not one of them, envied their black and white attitude toward the world, where everything to him had shades of grey. Sheldon always thought too long and hard about cause and effect. Sheldon's ex-wife spent the dinner noticeably uncomfortable, but Sheldon enjoyed the meal, the company, and the safety he felt. It was much the same feeling he felt whenever his gun was with him.

The next day Sheldon laid out the problem to Quentin over the phone and was supported in that a chink had to be found in the mob armor and it might be something really simple. Al Capone never got retribution for the murders he committed or ordered but did time for what was probably some trumped up tax evasion charges. Quentin advised Sheldon to meet with the family and make them aware that they should pick on someone else because although he might look vulnerable to them, the man with no-nose had friends and these friends could and would make trouble for them.

With that sage advice in mind he got off the train and headed for a reunion at some way west fancy schmancy gallery showing, with his old, risen from the dead girlfriend. The gallery was on 21st street nestled among other art spaces. The minute you made the right from 10th avenue to 21st, the street clientele immediately changed. Tweed jackets, native american jewelry, scarves that protected no one from the cold, and the buzz of pseudo intelligent talk, filled the air. Sheldon thought there might be time to catch a bite and collect his thoughts and asked his Iphone where there was a restaurant with WIFI in the neighborhood. SIRI directed him to a pretentious little bistro across 11th avenue and was seated by a very clean looking gentleman who couldn't have cared less if Sheldon lived or died. He was directed toward a window seat next to a women who had an excellent shopping day and did not see fit to move anything off the red cushioned window seat bench that she and Sheldon shared, even though the restaurant was ostensibly empty. After what seemed to Sheldon to be forever, and realizing that no one including the gaggle of waiters chatting in the corner cared whether he ate or starved, he left without any protest or questioning from anyone.

He figured, it might be good to go early and have a moment to chat with Angelique before all her potential customers showed up and took her attention. She had assured him in the e-mail that her family had no interest in what they felt were her silly pictures and wondered, with all their money, why she had to work at all. That meant none of them would be there. The Gallery was three flights up and on each floor there was another art space brimming with people even though it was only six o'clock at night. Angelique's family was at a huge Cheese Festival in Bra Italy. Don had taken his young family there when he first got into the business. On that same trip they went to Spain and stumbled on another festival, quite different, one that Angelique attended yearly and which was the subject matter of her Photographic Show.

Among her colorful pictures she hung an internet description of the event

" At around 11 am, the first event of the Tomatina begins. Many trucks haul the bounty of tomatoes into the center of the town, Plaza del Pueblo. The tomatoes come from Extremadura, where they are less expensive. Technically the festival does not begin until one brave soul has climbed to the top of a two-story high, greased-up wooden pole and reached the coveted ham at the top. In practice this process takes a long time and the festival starts despite no one reaching the meaty prize. The signal for the beginning of the fight is firing of water cannons, and the chaos begins. Once it begins, the battle is generally every man for himself.

Those who partake in this event are strongly encouraged to wear protective safety goggles and gloves. In addition, they must squish the tomatoes before throwing for safety precautions. Another rule is that no one is allowed to bring into this fight anything that may provoke someone into a more serious brawl, such as a glass bottle. Although it is forbidden to tear someone else's clothing, the crowd tends to ignore this and invariably will rip the shirt of any clothed person, man or woman.

After exactly one hour, the fighting ends when the water cannons are fired once more to signal the end. At this point, no more tomatoes can be thrown. The cleaning process involves the use of fire trucks to spray down the streets, with water provided from a Roman aqueduct. The authorities seem more concerned with cleaning the town than cleaning the visitors, so some people find water at the Bunol River to wash themselves, although some kind residents will hose passers-by down. Once the tomato pulp is flushed, the ground is clean due to the acidity of the tomatoes."

Sheldon was stunned at how beautiful she looked standing in front of her tomato soaked beautifully framed Photograph of thousands of shirtless men and women smiling through the red debri. He wondered if there would be scars from the accident, but obviously all you need is money to make almost anything go away. They awkwardly embraced, not knowing if they should kiss or not. He recalled how when last they saw each other, she intimated that she didn't blame him for the accident, and he now wondered if her family, her recuperation, and time had changed that. Her soft eyes staring at him told him that not only had she forgiven him, but still had feelings for him. As people trickled in, some who she knew, some she didn't, he watched her work the room with grace and charm, he realized that he still had feelings for her.

He left early realizing that her time would be taken up trying to sell her photos, which weren't cheap at $2500 a piece. As he walked out he realized that he was on a slippery slope. He had not been acceptable to her family when they first met, and he knew he would be much less acceptable when threatening them to leave his client alone. He wondered how loyal to her family she was now, and how she would react when she found out that he was going up against her loved ones.

He needed some advice from someone who understood the workings of a criminal mind, So naturally he called Freddy. Out of all his semi shady friends, Freddy was the only one who had actually gone to prison, and he wore it like a badge. And out of all Freddy's friends, Sheldon was the only one who had stuck by him when he went away.

Sheldon felt awkward calling him considering the way Freddy had so curtly ended their friendship, but he needn't have been. To Freddy, it was water under the bridge and his immediate reaction was;


"Let's get Tiny, get out there, and kick some ass."

Sheldon envied that simplicity, but he needed a higher level of planning before he made a move,and besides, Freddy's decision making skills had not proven his strongest suit. evidenced by his refusal to read the hand writing when caught along with his other guitar making friend in a Brooklyn motel with weapons and 850 thousand in cash. It was a flawless five year run until that night when Tiny opened the door gun in hand, to what would have been a simple noise complaint. Tiny and Freddy, and three others were booked on a weapons and trafficking charge. Calling from a pay phone he asked Sheldon to call his ex and give her the details. It seemed like their luck had run out, but by the next day, according to Freddy, he had all been "takin care of, by a cop they owned in the precinct." Sheldon strongly expressed to him that this was a great time to get out of the business. But like an old lady sitting on a slot stool loosing the rent money, he thought he stayed had some luck in him. 120 feds and locals proved him wrong a year later when they caught Freddy and 29 of his associates unloading a boat load of weed on the Maine coast.

The bros who would be forever loyal to each other, ratted each other out in a heart beat and Freddy tied for the most time with real leader of the gang, 18 months. He had 3 months after sentencing to get his affairs in order and that's when the fracture in Freddy and Grace's relationship started to show His first reaction was to his pending incarceration was sell the loft and move them out to a Luxe high rise in Coney Island, as he said,

"So I can get back to my roots," and his girlfriend's Grace's reaction was to buy two exotic and expensive African Parrots complete with garrulously ornate cages. Freddy flipped out completely when she brought them home and asked her to return them. The cages, to him, were too reminiscent of where he was going and he wanted them out. Not one to be ordered around the next day she bought two more.

Grace had a mean streak and although Freddy didn't take anything from anybody, he took plenty from her. And she knew how to give it out. When Sheldon came over to see the new apartment, he was naturally shocked at the cacophonous averiary he walked into. When Grace was out of ear shot and rFreddy whined to Sheldon about it, Sheldon replied as any concerned friend would, said,

"Get rid of the bitch." Sheldon had never warmed up to her, but an incident with her daughter left him cold. Grace's daughter from her terminated marriage was staying with her and Freddy for Christmas and Shelby had suggested looking at the Macy's store windows. It was a nice crisp day and incredibly crowded as they walked from 34th to Rockefeller Center and Linda, Grace's daughter accidentally stepped on the back of Grace's loafer and the shoe came off. Grace, in a rage turned around and kicked her hard in the shin. Kicking your 10 year old daughter for any reason is a no no, but for a simple mistake, ridiculous. Sadly, the daughter didn't protest, indicating that this behavior wasn't atypical. Snd all Shelby could do was say,

"Whoa." Which was one word more than Freddy came up with. Shelby was touchy about any kind of physical punishment. His parents, especially his mother, was an avid reader Dr. Benjamin Spock, and never spanked him; never spanked Shelby, that is, one can't be sure of her relationship with Spock. He had had an idyllic upbringing in the 50's style defined by "Father Knows Best," and "Leave it to Beaver," and couldn't imagine or understand the hell on earth it must have been for a a kid living with a parent who thought parenting gave them a license to abuse.

A TJ Max incident came immediately to Sheldon and bolstered his hope that he would make a good P.I. He was in a strip mall and had some time on his hands. And whenever he had time on his hands he filled it with reading or clothes shopping. His ex always made fun of him, remarking that he shopped like a girl. So there was a TJ Max and as he was locking the car, he saw a heavy set hispanic woman running in and out of the store screaming as if she was on fire. It was a mix of guttural sounds and spanish words including a lot of "Dios Mio." Being an aficionado of action, Shelby went over to see what was going on. The women had gone back into the store by the time Shelby got to the doorway, but her screaming did not subside. Shelby went to the store manager who was busy trying to calm her done, to no avail, and asked him what was wrong.

"She can't find her kid." Shelby decided immediately that the shopping could wait that a mission, a quest, was just what the doctor ordered. He said quietly out loud,

"I'm not leaving until I find this kid." The store manager went on the loud speaker and announced that a child was missing and that if anyone saw him, a little black haired boy answering to Mateo, 6 years old wearing a Super Mario shirt; As if someone found a lost 7 year old girl with a Yoshi tee shirt, the finder would leave them lost and keep searching for the announced kid. The mother's screaming ebbed and flowed but when it flowed it was heavy competition for the loud speaker.

Sheldon began his search as he marveled at the general reaction of the other customers in the store. Everyone kept shopping as if nothing was going on. But, he thought, you can't legislate kindness. He mapped out his strategy and began a hard target search of the store. He checked everything but the Ladies room, but was satisfied when a women came out with her claim that there was no little boy in there, her taut reply included,

"I think I would have noticed." After 15 minutes and about as many loops of the story, Shelby stopped at the shelves with the luggage. The luggage area was right by the front door of the store and although he had passed it before, this time he started taking the suitcases down and on the second shelf huddled in toward the back wall was the Super Mario fan himself. Sheldon reached his hand in and the boy gave him his hand and Sheldon helped him out. He stood there with the expressionless, silent, little boy, and yelled,

" I found him." The mother ran at Shelby and hugged him with the same hysteria she had reserved for screaming. She lifted him off the ground almost breaking some ribs. By that time the cops had arrived and both officers took information from the store manager who had acted as a translator for the women. The officers seemed annoyed to be there. The mother hugged the boy, but both she and the boy seemed a little off in their reaction to each other. If Sheldon was directing this scene, he would have found fault with both actors, in that there was not enough relief, to equal the screaming, and there was hardly any emotion from the boy at all.

Shelby had a theory and decided to share it with the officer who remained in the store. He indicated to the officer that he wanted to speak to him in private.

"I know it's none of my business, but the kid was literally right next to the mother listening to her screaming for at least the twenty minutes I was here, and stayed hiding. Maybe, just maybe, the kid didn't want to be found." The cop listened and replied while walking away,

"That's right, it is none of your business." So much for protect and serve. Sheldon left soon after hoping his theory was wrong.

He hadn't immediately realized it, but his first unofficial job as a private eye can be traced back to Grace. The parrots eventually went back and Freddy prepared as best he could for the 18 months away. Grace had bowed out of driving him to Allenwood Federal Prison stating it would be way too stressful and sad for her. Sheldon wondered if she was referring to the ride or to how much she would miss Freddy.

Sheldon got the job of taking Freddy to his new home and on a day that would have seemed gray even without the lousy weather, they headed off to deposit Freddy in prison. The ride was long and silent and when they got to the check-in point, it turned out that Freddy was a day early and could not be checked in. Contrary to traditional reasoning, this was not a relief, it was further torture. Freddy wanted this thing to start, but it was not up to him.

They decided not to go back to the city and looked for a motel. They had the whole day to themselves, and when asked what was there to do around here, the motel manager suggested the "Clyde Peeling Reptile Zoo." The sign outside defined the experience within. There was a huge cut-out sign of Clyde Peeling. He was dressed in riding boots, jodhpurs, held a riding crop, with kakis and a pith helmet. And there at the entrance taking tickets was the poster come to life dressed exactly as the poster depicted him.

Sadly, Clyde's outfit was the highlight of the experience. Snakes at their most active move a few times each day and Freddy and Sheldon must have hit them in between moves. In aquariumed room after room, either the snakes just lay there like sticks or could not be seen at all hiding under the rock/flora/forna displays. The day dragged on, the night followed slowly after that, with the only excitement when Freddy refused Sheldon's request to freeze his mother's assets from Grace, who Shelby thought would blow the whole things while he was away.

The next morning off they went to jail early, but not bright and Freddy was accepted with open arms. He was now officially a con. Allenwood Federal Prison was a largely fenceless facility. Most prisoners had the wherewithal to escape but didn't. It wasn't so much that they were having such a good time there, but that most of them were doing short time, under 2 years, and the penalty for attempted escape for 5 years. So it wasn't logical. That didn't prevent the occasional breakout, probably inspired by a problem at home usually with a wife or old lady, or an extra special need for a conjugal visit. Most escapees weren't caught in the swamps with the barking of bloodhounds sounding in the background, but in the motel within walking distance from the prison. It was impulsive behavior that trumped reason.

One guy didn't actually go anywhere on his escape, they found him stuck in the air conditioning ducts by the female guards dressing room. He liked to watch them dress and vice versa. The five years added on to his and others' sentences was spent at the less desirable place down the road apiece called Lewisberg and did not have a golf course, working farm and other such white collar amenities.

Sheldon had always been a runner and after listening to an extended phone call to Freddy's complaint about the dorm and the smell and the food and the people, suggested he take up running. The suggestion was not only taken, but embraced and by the time his sentence was up, Freddy had shed over one hundred pounds and was a hairless lean mean fighting machine.

It was good, Sheldon thought, that they were friends again, that only cons understand cons was a crock. The plan was to set up a meeting to try and persuade Angelique's family back out of the big cheese takeover and Manny and of course Tiny would attend for insurance purposes. Nobody, including Tiny had seen Manny for a few days and that was unusual, so they went off to his uptown apartment.

Sheldon was always sad when he went to Manny's apartment; he pictured seeing Vivian for the first time with her hair wet and her black eyes shining, the way they always did when she wasn't hanging out with her friends Tuinal and Seconal. Sheldon grew up in an era where almost everyone medicated themselves in one way or another and sadly some people were not good at balancing the doses. Vivian was one of the unlucky ones.

It took a long time for Manny to answer the doorman's call, and the doorman had a strange tilt of the head and significant eyebrow lift. Without saying it, they both wondered if everything was all right and found that their fears were justified when Manny opened the door.

He stood blear-eyed and naked with a desperate look on his face. Back in the day it was not unusual for people you knew to come to doors without cloths on, perhaps a flashback to the Commune days. Manny's apartment was decorated beautiful with wall to wall white shag carpet. And there in lay his problem. Coccaine ceased being enough for him and he had graduated or more accurately had degenerated to crack cocaine. He was now on all fours yelling,

"Don't just stand there, I dropped a huge rock on the rug." Shelby and Freddy looked at each other in the wordless agreement that only good friends enjoy, and realized that the only thing that Manny was now good for was smoking crack. They wished him luck and closed the door on the apartment and Manny as well.

Freddy was not the only confidant, that Sheldon had. He had gone to a professional during the divorce and periodically went to see Dr. Hans Kleinshmidt.

If there was a casting agent for clinical Frudian shrinks, Dr. Hans Kleinshmidt would be at the top of the list. The Fedora, the cane, the goatee, the clip German/Yiddish accnted speach, seemed like he was rehearsal for a SNL skit, but this was not a rehearsal, he was the real deal. His ex-wife in order to salve her guilt as stealing their soon to be coop, and leaving him virtual homeless (he was actually living in his 1963 impala covertable) suggested all he needed was some help and suggested Hans.

The first session did not go so well. His office was on 72nd Street between Lexington and Park in a stunning triplex townhouse. He was dark and woody and brassy and fireplacy. Obviously this guy knew what he was doing or had done well in an inheritance. He was made to wait in the the thickly wood walled waiting room surrounded by the most upscale magazines he had ever seen. Shelby mused about which Yacht would fit his immediate needs and moved deftly to what size personal jet would make him look rich but not showoffy. In the midst of this revelry, he wa told by the nurse/receptionist that,

"The Doctor will see you now." And off he went. He made the castistrophic mistake of smiling at and winking at Dr. Hans. Whenever Shelby was nervous, he winked. Obviously the thought of being snalyzed put him on edge. The first words out of his, what Shelby hoped would be his new best friend, was,

"You know, you don't have to wink at people to get them to like you." He stammered an "Okay" and was directed to a couch made of "fine Corintian leather." The Doctor pulled his desk chair close to the end of the couch where Shelby reclined his head. Shelby was not good at giving up control and being the only one in the room laying on a couch in the middle of a day when he wasn't tired added to his discomfort. Dr. Hans Kleinshmidt took a leather bound diarist type book and a beautiful Mount Blanc pen and sat poised to write.

"When you are ready, please say whatever is on you mind." After some hesitation, Shelby began with,

"I was born at a very early age, I was born in a hospital, not because I was sick, but because I wanted ot be near my mother, I would have been older, but I wa sick for two years, and when I was born, I was so ugly, the Doctor slapped my mother." Shelby waited for a reaction, and got none. This A material never missed and he used it a lot.

"So, you are in addition to a winker, a comedian." and he started writing. Shelby wished he could see what he was writing but knew Hans was not a sharer. Sine he didn't want to waste any time, he decided to at least get some things off his chest. His belief in the process was minimal, but if he didn't talk for real, the hour would be excruciatingly long.

"My failure to fit into my wife's father's business seemed to signal the end of my marriage," he began, quickly interrupted by,

"It seems interesting that you refer to your father-in-law as your wife's father." and then didn't say another word until he asked what seemed like a significant question. Shelby went on to babble about how he met Carol on a blind date but she wasn't the date, just the date's roommate. She had just returned from a California commune and called in and they soon moved in together. Shelby had been acting and Carol's father didn't feel that that was a lucrative enough career for his daughter's future husband. Shelby was always confused, fascinated, and controlled by women, and Carol convinced him to quit acing and go into the father's pen manufacturing business. As is most often the case, Shelby started in an entry level position to learn the business. His first job was on a pen scewer machine. He sat in front of a drill press with a box of unscrewed pen tops to his left and an empty box to be filled to his right.

Sheldon had been interested in Yoga and Eastern Spiritual and aside from some tantric positions, he learned that menial tasks freed the mind for higher thinking. He had been to quite a few gatherings where Swamis Mukdenanda and Sachichginanda implored ex-lawyers, Doctors, and other professional to free their minds by sweeping, doing dishes, and cooking for the Swamis ardent followers.

So he would sit and screw the pens all day in order to find that Zen like state that he been taught about by his idols. Eventually, he realized this particular meaningless task was just boring and that he hated it. He also realized that he was not suitable for a management position, because he felt bad for the mainly latino staff and tried to organize them to fight for better working conditions. The marriage limped along and Shelby explained that he felt less in control. When Carol wanted something, he got a raise. They had furnished their beautiful apartment on University PLace in stark modern black and white, and Carol's father had never enjoyed the look and didn't keep that fact a secret. On returning home one, Shelby found that his furniture was gone and replaced by rattan and fall leafed browns and bamboo shades. Carol's father had been to a designer center and had liked the look. Shelby brought a perfectly good Honda Civic to the marriage and Carol and her father thought it didn't speak well of the family's status, so a Jauguar XJ6 sowed up mysteriously one day. Shelby didn't even have a say about the color, which was forest gree. Green was his favorite color, but that wasn't the point. Shelby went on to say that he had the habit since film classes in college of going to movies by himself. He would go with others for a social evening, but for really enjoying, understanding, and analyzing, he preferred to go by himslef.

He had always liked Igmar Bergman films, and was excited to see "Scenes of a Marriage." He had read some great reviews and went uptown to the movie house on 3rd and 57th. As he sat with his plain popcorn sprinkled with plain M & Ms he heard the husband character say to the wife character,

"I feel like a money carrier between a father and a daughter." It was as if they were talking to him and about him. He couldn't even finish the movie. He left and went home to begin his letter of recommendation from the family business. He woke Carol and showed her the letter and told her that she would have to choose between their marriage and the family, sadly knowing what her choice would be. He was right and she chose her family and thought it would be a good idea if they had a trial separation. Shelby told the Doctor that he said,

"Trial's over." and left. The next day he got some cash from the bank and started tipping doormen to tell him if there were any apartment available in buildings that he like the look of. He found one on 22nd and 3rd and was able to move in almost immediately. It was a studio apartment on the second floor and it's one big asset was a 20foot by 30 foot terrace which overlooked a synagogue courtyard. There was a drug store on the corner and he bought a foldable chaise lounge to sleep on. He was there sort of illegally until the lease was signed so he lived in his car for about a week. It was a humbling experience, When he was buying a pair of shoes, they asked for an address, he told them "a marooon Honda Civic. The clerk asked if that was a street or avenue.

He did not know it at the time, but their apartment was to go coop and insiders could buy at a incredibly low price and stay or sell as they wished. He still cared for Carol and visited her in his old apartment when she needed some hanging a picture like stuff done. On one of these visits, she asked him to sign some papers, which he didn't bother reading and gave him his early birthday present, which was a rolex watch.

As it turned out, the paper he signed was given Carol legal ownership of the lease, thus allowing Carol to buy it and then sell it for $150,000 profit. And to add insult insult to injury, the watch was a lemon. Even so, he came when she needed him and gave him advise like go to a shrink and get help, and he listened to her.

Doctor Hans Kelinshmidt had listened silently to Shelby's tale of woe and finally leaned forward and said,

"I have one question." Shelby feared and looked forward to the question, thinking somehow it would hold the key to solving not only all his his problems, but the world's problems as well. But alas, that was an optimist's pipe dream.

"My question is, (the Doctor continued as he leaned even further in) how are you going to pay for this?" and then the timer rang and the session was over.

"That certainly was worth $150, next time I'll get a hooker and be done with it." he mumbled quietly as he winked goodbye to his new pal. The rest of the sessions went incrementally better and it felt good to edify some of his internal thought. And every once in a while, Hans came up with some actually useful advise, like when asked about his present situation with the cheese take over, he was in agreement with Freddy when he said with his thick accent,

"Go out there and do some ass kicking.


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Chapter 4-The Visitor's Courtyard

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