No Habitant, He

8

May 14, 2018, Prescott-

(This is Segment 4 of the Antonio Ribeiro saga.)

Antonio found his way to one of the few remaining public phones in Valleyfield.  He had made it away from the Palmieris. for the time being, by jumping on the back of a flatbed truck and staying prone, so quiet that the distracted operator of the vehicle didn’t know of his extra passenger until he drove into the small city, south of Montreal.

“Sacre Bleu!”, the discomfited truck farmer sputtered, once he did find a wayward Acoreno on his premises.  “Voulez-vous un grand battement, EH?”  Tony kind of, sort of, put the message together in his head and bolted down the street-not looking back at the still raging driver, who was now on the phone to the Provincial Police.  It took a good ten minutes of bobbing and weaving around the alleys, before he figured he had a shot at getting to Montreal.

So he rested in the shadows of a dumpster, before noticing about three Canadian dollars worth of coins, lying near a phone booth.  “God rules all!”, the former florist told himself, deciding to call the number that his late cousin had given him.

“Allo?”, Astrid Conejos answered, whilst lounging outside on her patio.

“Hey, my name is Tony R., from Massachusetts. I need to speak with Toro.”

“Voulez parler avec Arturo?”

“Yeah, ……I mean oui”, Tony said, using one of the five French words he actually retained from his high school class.

“Un moment”, the teenager sniffed, before bounding up to find her brother.

Arturo Conejos had come to New Bedford from Vigo, a Spanish city with a fair amount of traffic with Portugal.  He therefore fit in with the Azoreans, quite nicely.  The family moved to Montreal, after Toro had been arrested for drug trafficking, a few too many times.  They had kept a low profile, until Arturo came of age.  His sister had been born two years after the move, and mainly spoke French.

Arturo was a baggage handler, at Pierre Trudeau International Airport.  He would be an integral part of Antonio Ribeiro’s next move.  Toro was, at the moment, a bit tired. He was awake enough, though, to switch to the King’s English, once he got on the phone.

“Ya sumbitch, why call me here?  You come alla da way to Montreal, for what, exactly?”

Tony was flustered, but held his composure.  “Listen, Toro, there was a shootout, near the border.  My cousin, you remember him-the blond, blue-eyed Guanche?  He got blown away.  The border patrol nailed the Palmieri goons, but I took off.  The Italians, they don’t know where I am.”

“So, this involves me, how, exactly?”, the still-irritated Galician snapped.

“I got a card, a Visa, from my uncle.  Cuz gave it to me.  I need to get a flight out.  Please just get me to the airport.”

“A shootout, chaos, and you still have a Visa card?  Whattabout da passport?”

“I have that, too.  I just don’t have much cash, maybe two bucks, American though.”

“I didn’t think you were carrying Cuban pesos, El Tonto!”

“So, can you do this?”

“Yeah, and you get to experience life in a duffel bag, for the next seven hours.  Don’t worry, it’s cotton, it breeeeathes!”

“Hey, you mean I’m gonna be luggage?  I told you I have a Visa card.”

“That’s right, and you pay ME, instead of the airline.  C$ 300.00, all the way to Barcelona.”

“Aaaargh!”

“Antonio, take it or leave it.”

” Okay, I’ll do it.  But if the Catalunes flush a stiff from underneath the plane, guess who gets a visit from New Bedford.”

“No worries, I got this worked out.  Here’s my address.  I’m calling you a cab, right now.”

Two hours later, Arturo Conejos was putting a heavy duffel bag on an Iberian Airlines flight to Barcelona.

Mr. Ribeiro

15

April 16, 2018, Prescott-

The cicadas started early this year.  Spring Break is usually not a time for such serenades.  Truth be known, my Nonna wishes there were never such a festival della canzone. It keeps her awake, tossing and thrashing- so she puts on a CD of the late Pope John XXIII, talking about the saints.  That of course, sets her to crying, and brings Mama, ever ready to console, into her bedroom.  In short order, the rest of us are up and making plans to start the day.  It is 3 A.M.  Not even the bakers are awake, in Little Italy, at this hour.

Baltimore is ready for action, though, at any time that one chooses to get going.  Papa gets showered and dressed- and expects us boys to follow suit.  “I got some deliveries we can handle, Gennaro.  Santino, you go over to the Flower Mart, and drop off the bags of mulch.  Ribeiro ought to already be there.  He has nothing else to do, after all.”

Antonio Ribeiro had come to the Flower Mart from New Bedford, where he had been the odd duck in his south side neighbourhood, preferring to cultivate flowers, rather than run numbers, or crack cocaine for the Shower Posse, who were ubiquitous in southern New England, in the early ’80’s.  His boys protected “Simple Tony”, and besides, the girls were all over him- and would have not taken well to the Jamaicans mistreating him.

He’d been a fixture in Baltimore for ten years now.  Antonio lived in a small room, in the back of his Flower Mart stall.  “It saves capital”, he told his clients.  He needed no car, did not have any prevailing vices and slept on a woven mat.  His meals were obtained by barter- his flowers, gratis, to local restaurateurs, in exchange for small meals:  Simple Tony, simple diet.

My brother pulls into the Flower Mart, right around 4 A.M.  Mr. Ribeiro is up and at ’em, with the rows of pots and vases 2/3 full- ahead of the 5 o’clock opening.  “Buon giorno, young Castaldo”, he chirps at Sonny.  “Back at ya, signor”, brother responds, while plopping the sacks of mulch on their customary pallets, “Pop says it’ll be two and  a quarter.”

“Tell your father I’ll need to settle with him on the First, Santino.  Things are a bit tight, this third week of August.”  Sonny massages his chin, turning a flinty eye towards the flower vendor.  “Okay, Mr. Ribeiro, that’s what my Papa figured you’d say.  Guess there’s no mulch until September 1.”  Santino, my hulking brother, alley-oops the mulch back into his truck.

He doesn’t feel the cudgel that knocks him cold.  My hulking brother is found, unconscious, in the cab of his otherwise empty truck, at 7 A.M., at Pier 26, in the Inner Harbor.

Simple Tony Ribeiro is not quite so simple.