A Brand New Pair of Shoes

Branigan told Iacono to park a few blocks short of the house, and he’d walk there first. Check things out and make sure they weren’t driving into a trap. Branigan may have been a slob, but he had more street smarts than Falanga and Iacono put together. Neither one of the Kokomo Sicilians had realized Viscuso might already have his muscle out looking for them. 

Joey “the Bum” Branigan grew up in Cleveland, in the Irish immigrant neighborhoods clustered around the mouth of the Cuyahoga River. His parents had emigrated from Dublin in the early 1920s when jobs at the local steel mills were easy to come by. The economy was booming in the roaring twenties, and at first, his father was full of optimism. Branigan was the oldest of five kids. Born in Ireland, he was in high school when the Great Depression took hold in the early 1930s.  

By 1931, Branigan’s father had lost his job at the steel mill, and within a few months, the bank began foreclosure proceedings against the family’s house. Desperate for money, he wandered the streets looking for any job that might be available, no matter how low paying or demeaning, but found nothing.  

He began drinking heavily, and on a gloomy day in April, he put a handgun to his head and squeezed the trigger. Joey was on his way home from school when he found his father in the front seat of the Ford Model A, the gas gauge on E and his wallet close to empty. An unfinished bottle of hooch sat on the seat next to him. Branigan picked up the bottle and started drinking. Ten years later, he still hadn’t stopped. 

Somewhere along the way, he became detached from his emotions. If there was a defining moment in his personal decline, it was most likely the time when Father Callaghan asked him to stay after class at the Catholic school he attended. He was in his senior year, and when the priest began making sexual overtures and placed his hand on his thigh, Branigan hit him in the mouth, hard enough to knock out two of his teeth. 

The priest called the police, and when they came to investigate, he denied making advances. Instead, he told them he’d asked Branigan to stay late because he was concerned about his poor grades and obvious drinking. The cops sided with Callaghan; they were Irish too, and if the priest was a pedophile, it was the last thing they wanted to admit. It would be much easier to arrest the kid, an immigrant who smelled like bootleg whiskey.  

He was sentenced to six months in a dismal juvenile lock-up. The dishonesty and unfairness of the situation made a lasting impression on young Branigan that he would never lose. It may have been the moment when the last of his human empathy sailed away on the breeze.  

He met up with Oscar Duffy at the reform school where he did his time. Duffy was sixteen and had been arrested for running numbers. They were both tough kids and made an alliance, mostly in the interest of survival, because the Catholic reform school was a rough place with more hypocritical pedophiles lurking in the shadows.  

When Branigan was released, Duffy was already back on the street, and he introduced him to Dry Tom Sweeney, the leader of Cleveland’s Irish mob. Sweeney inducted him into a traveling armed robbery crew. With Thompson submachine guns in hand, they hit banks in towns like Akron and Columbus. Branigan gained a reputation as a fearless gunman—he murdered innocent people without hesitation or remorse.  

He went on to become a notorious button man in Cleveland, a .25 caliber pistol his weapon of choice. By the late 1930s, Branigan had lost count of the number of people he’d killed. He dressed in dirty, ill-fitting clothes and rarely bathed because he had no self-worth, he was a textbook psychopath. The Cleveland detectives liked him for more than one local homicide but lacked the evidence to prosecute. They dragged him downtown a couple of times and put him under the interrogation lights, but Branigan kept his cool. They had no material evidence and they had to spring him. After that, he was sure he was being watched and Sweeney told him he’d better leave town for a while. That was when Joey the Bum met up with Anthony Falanga and Angelo Iacono. In the same Kokomo pizzeria where Frankie Bianchi shot the retarded kid for trying to put ketchup on a pepperoni pie… 

Branigan stuck his handgun under his belt, in the small of his back, and asked Iacono for the binoculars. It was close to midnight, and he ducked into a back alley and cautiously walked towards the house. He stopped a block short and used a fire escape to climb up on the roof of an office building. When he peered over the parapet wall with the binoculars, he was able to pick out at least two carloads of Viscuso muscle watching the place. By the time they’d made it back to Vegas, Ray Amico and a crew of mobsters had already staked out the cheesy bungalow where they’d been staying. When Viscuso found out about the botched robbery, the first thing he did was call Amico. 

They should have been better prepared was what Branigan was thinking as he walked back towards the car. In case something went wrong. They should have had cash and clothes already in the car, because now they needed to leave town fast. The Mercury was stolen too, and that only made the situation worse.  

“We can’t get near the place,” said Branigan as he climbed in the back. “I saw two carloads of Viscuso’s wise guys, might be more.” 

“What do we do now, Tony?” said Iacono.  

“Head for L.A.”  

“And do what in L.A.?” said Branigan. “I got about ten bucks in my wallet, that’s it.”  

“I’ll call Adriano and get him to wire me some dough. We’ll buy train tickets and go back east.”  

The next morning, they found the Western Union office in downtown L.A. When Falanga called his brother, he didn’t tell him much, just that they had run into trouble and needed to get out of town.  

Adriano was living in Toledo, and after he wired Tony the money he’d asked for, he went to a previously scheduled meeting at Fat Chuck Rizzo’s Italian restaurant. “My brother called me this morning, Chuck. Said he needed money. Ran into some kind of trouble. Didn’t say much else.”  

“Yeah, well I don’t need to know nuthin’ about your dipshit brother, Adriano. Me and him, we’re not seeing eye-to-eye ever since he mouthed off to me on the telephone not too long ago.” 

“Tony was mouthing off to you?”  

“Yeah, I had to give him a little talking to about pecking order in the organization and he didn’t take it too well.”  

“He’s still learning, Chuck. Wants to be a major player, but he ain’t made it yet.” 

“He ain’t made shit yet, and he goes steppin’ on the Meatman’s toes, he’s gonna hear about it.” 

“Tony was steppin’ on the Meatman’s toes?” 

“Damn right he was. Trying to move in on the Meatman’s action. I received a personal call from Carmelo Viscuso. Told me somebody better set him straight.” 

“That don’t sound too good, Chuck. I’ll have a talk with him when he makes it back to Kokomo.” 

“He’s on his way back here right now?”  

“Yeah, he said something about needing to ditch a hot work car and buy train tickets.” 

“Well, he’s persona non grata in Toledo after that telephone conversation.”  

“That bad?”  

“Yeah, that bad. He can go talk to Sally Cucinotta in Detroit because I ain’t got no use for his mouth in Toledo. Tony “the Mouth” Falanga, that’s what I’ll tell Sally if he calls up askin’ about him.” 

An hour later, after Adriano had gone, Rizzo received word that Carmelo Viscuso wanted to have a few words with him. It was pouring rain and cold in Toledo, and he put on a heavy overcoat and grabbed an umbrella. He walked down the street to a favored telephone booth and at the prescribed time called the number in Vegas where Viscuso was awaiting his call.  

“I thought you had a talk with that Falanga coglione, Chuck.”  

“You better believe I did, Carmelo. Told him he was steppin’ on the Meatman’s toes and he better back off if he knew what was good for him.” 

“Well, he fucked things up good.”  

“What’d that dipshit do now?”  

“He hooked up with those micks out of Cleveland, Oscar Duffy and his boys. Tried to rob Javernick’s casino last night.”  

“That stupid motherfucker.”  

“Only thing was, me and Lou Civella were having a sit-down at the casino when they showed up.” 

“That ignorant sonofabitch!”  

“It was lucky for Javernick that we were there with our muscle, because they never made it through the front door. Falanga sent the micks in first and they had a shootout with Roselli and Scudari…And may they rest in peace because both went down.” 

“Jesus Christ, Carmelo. Please give Roselli’s wife my condolences.”  

“Duffy and two of his micks bought it too. Lou’s sharpshooter nailed another one when he was running for the boat…Not sure if he clipped his ticket or not. But Falanga, Big Ears, and Branigan all got away.” 

“I just talked to Falanga’s brother a few minutes ago. Tony called him from L.A. asking for money.”  

“He’s in L.A.?”  

“Said they needed to ditch a hot car and buy train tickets.”  

“He sent them money for train tickets?” 

“Yeah, up until now, neither one of us knew anything about the robbery.” 

“Lou Civella just got off the phone with New York. We’re putting bounties out on all three of them. Nationwide. Big payoff for whoever whacks ’em.” 

When Rizzo left the phone booth in Toledo, he was thinking maybe he should talk to Adriano, but by the time he reached the restaurant, he thought better of it. Adriano’s brother was in deep trouble, and it might be better if he was left out of it…At least until somebody clipped Tony. Because sooner or later all three of them were headed for their graves, and Adriano might have trouble dealing with it. 

When Viscuso left his booth in Vegas, he walked back to the Bocce Club where Lou Civella was waiting. The Meatman had delayed his return trip to L.A. until they had things hashed out with New York. Putting contracts out on made men was serious business in the Cosa Nostra, especially when they went nationwide.  

“Rizzo told me Falanga called his big brother from L.A. this morning. Asked him for money.”  

“Did he send it to him?” 

“Yeah, he said they were buying train tickets to go back east.” 

“Train tickets, huh? If they’re headed towards Kokomo that means they’re going right through Kansas City.” 

Two days later, Falanga and his crew were pulling into Kansas City on a passenger train. They were ahead of schedule, so the train would sit idle at the boarding station for forty-five minutes. They’d rented two berths in one of the sleeper cars. Falanga and Iacono in one of them and Branigan in the other.  

The forty-five-minute wait was making Branigan extremely anxious. He was sitting in the tiny room with the door locked, watching the activity outside the window closely.  

Falanga didn’t think there was much to worry about. After all, Adriano was the only one who knew they were taking a passenger train back east. (That was what he thought, anyway.) He was much more concerned with his survival back in Indiana, considering how badly things had turned out on the lake…Maybe they shouldn’t go anywhere near Kokomo. Maybe they should find somewhere out in the sticks to lay low for a while instead. 

“I’m gonna go buy some reading material before we pull out.” 

“You’re gonna leave the train?” said Iacono.  

“Yeah.” Falanga checked his watch. “We still have fifteen minutes. There’s a newsstand on the platform.” 

“Better be careful, Tony.” 

“Relax, Big Ears. We’re a thousand miles from Vegas. No one knows we’re on the train except Adriano and he ain’t sayin’ shit.” 

Falanga walked out to the newsstand. He was so busy looking through the magazines, he didn’t notice Civella’s crew closing in on him until it was too late. Branigan saw them coming because he was standing at the window craning his neck to see Falanga because he was wondering why he was getting off the train, especially in Kansas City.  

Art Lo Tauro, Cowboy Jim Pappalardo, and Sergio “the Hog” Impellizzeri, had just arrived at the station. Pappalardo was scanning the people on the platform and Falanga quickly caught his attention—because he fit the description and was dressed in an expensive black suit. When he pulled Falanga’s mug shot out of his pocket, he realized right away that they’d found him. A stroke of luck. 

They were on him in a heartbeat. Falanga had his nose buried in a magazine when they came up behind him. Never saw it coming. Lo Tauro had his hand wrapped around a .32 pistol. It was hidden in his sport jacket pocket, and he pushed the barrel against Falanga’s back so he could feel it. At the same time, Pappalardo reached around and stuffed a handkerchief in his mouth and grabbed one of his arms while Impellizzeri grabbed the other. They hustled him out of the station towards a waiting Lincoln-Zephyr. Gio Marino was behind the wheel. More than one bystander saw the abduction take place, but no one said a word. The police were never called. 

Lo Tauro pushed Falanga into the backseat and Pappalardo climbed in on the other side. Impellizzeri jumped in the front and Marino took off. Civella’s slaughterhouse was about a mile from the station.  

Falanga was terrified. He was thinking he might be able to talk his way out of it, but Pappalardo kept his hand over his mouth, and he couldn’t say a word. He could tell from how quiet they were that he was in deep trouble. There was no kidding around, no nothing, just dead serious expressions on all their faces. They never said a word to him, because he was a condemned man going on a one-way ride.  

They reached Civella’s slaughterhouse and dragged him inside. Once the door was shut, Lo Tauro put his pistol to the back of Falanga’s head. He pulled the trigger twice and Falanga’s body slumped to the floor. 

Disrespecting a disgraced mobster’s corpse was a tradition in the Sicilian underworld. An informer who’d broken the code of Omertá typically had his private parts cut off and stuffed in his mouth.  

Falanga’s offense was something different, and in many ways worse, because it had resulted in the deaths of two made men, so they came up with something unique: First, Marino and Impellizzeri dragged a galvanized feed container into one of the meat lockers, big enough to hold his corpse. Pappalardo and Lo Tauro used a step ladder to climb inside. Marino and Impellizzeri handed Falanga’s body down to them, and they propped up his corpse in a standing position. Then they dropped his pants and wrapped his hand around his penis like he was masturbating.  

The finishing touch was a pair of cement shoes, otherwise his corpse might float to the surface, so they put square wooden forms around his feet and mixed up enough concrete to fill them. Once the concrete had set, Pappalardo grabbed a hose and filled the container up with water. Marino stuck a couple of rebar brackets down through the top too, so they’d be able to move it with a forklift. Then they shut the meat locker door and waited for the water to freeze. 

It took a couple of days for it to freeze into a solid block. Once that was done, they used a forklift to remove it from the locker and drop it on the concrete floor. Then they used a power saw with an abrasive blade to peel off the galvanized steel. All that was left was an enormous block of ice with Falanga frozen inside it.   

They used the forklift to load the block inside a refrigerated boxcar and hid it under a shipment of beef bound for L.A. When it arrived at Civella’s Manhattan Beach meat locker, he called Nick Lococo and told him to come over and have a look. Lococo couldn’t help but laugh when he saw what they’d done. 

Falanga’s corpse was close to the edge of the block, so you could see it through the ice. Frozen solid, standing there with his pants around his ankles and his penis in his hand. You could see the bullet holes in his forehead too, where the slugs had exited his skull.  

“It was Lo Tauro and his guys that nailed him,” said Civella, admiring the macabre handiwork. 

“Cowboy Jim and Impellizzeri?”  

“Yeah, and Gio Marino. I’m giving all four of them a bonus.” 

“Great job with the ice,” said Lococo. 

“You think we should call Javernick and show him what they did?” 

“Nah, it would probably upset him.”  

“Yeah, you need the Sicilian sense of humor to appreciate it.”  

“Iacono and Branigan—still in the wind?” said Lococo.  

“As far as I know. Branigan’s probably in Cleveland by now.” 

Civella had his men cover the ice block with burlap and load it on a flatbed truck. Then they drove down to Long Beach and Jerry La Rosa craned it on to one of his fishing boats. La Rosa was another made man from Kansas City. He supplied Civella with bluefin tuna, halibut, and anchovies, and specialized in the disposal of corpses.  

They took the boat out past the continental shelf. Seventy miles or so where the depth gauge went over 12,000 feet. Then they jettisoned the ice block overboard. It sank to the bottom fast.    




A week and a half passed before the FBI investigators showed up at the casino. Javernick was surprised that it took so long, but in 1941, they’d yet to open a field office in Las Vegas.  

Within two hours of the botched robbery, several county sheriff’s deputies had arrived by boat. Shortly after making the call, Javernick talked with Nick Lococo about what to tell them when they showed up, and both agreed it would be best for Javernick to give them a statement while the mobsters remained downstairs in the casino.  

Javernick told the deputies he was having a business conference with Civella and Viscuso, and they’d brought along their own security. He also said that because the armed robbery crew had instigated the confrontation, he felt Di Stefano was justified in returning fire from the roof. He’d probably saved innocent lives, because things would have turned ugly if the robbers had made it into the casino with their submachine guns. 

The lead deputy didn’t question him on anything. He wasn’t a detective, just a patrolman, so he wrote everything down that Javernick said and left it at that. They took photographs, drew diagrams of the location, and waited for the county coroner. Javernick called for coffee and did everything he could do to help.  

Ten days later, Senior Special Agent Curtis Dudley called Javernick from the Federal Bureau of Investigation in downtown Los Angeles. He said he was planning on visiting the casino and wanted to talk to him about what had happened. Javernick said he would be available the next day. After concluding the call, Javernick telephoned his L.A. attorney, Dylan J. Cosgrove, for advice on how to handle the visit.  

“It seems odd that they’ve taken so long to investigate,” said Javernick.  

“Did any detectives from the sheriff’s office visit?” replied Cosgrove.  


“What’s the FBI agent’s name?”  

“Curtis Dudley.”  

“Dudley, eh? He’s a notorious G-man from New York. An anti-mob crusader. They transferred him out here last year. Why, I’m not sure, but my guess is he ruffled someone’s feathers in New York.”  

“How should I handle the visit, Dylan?”  

“Remain polite, but don’t answer any unwarranted questions.”  

“He’s liable to ask me about Civella and Viscuso.” 

“I would count on it.”  

“What should I say?” 

“Beyond a brief mention of your business relationship with Lou, don’t say anything. You’re a crime victim, don’t let him turn things around.” 

“What if he gets pushy?” 

“Ask him to leave.” 

Dudley arrived by seaplane the next day. He was dressed in a trendy pinstripe suit and a flashy fedora with a wide silk hatband. Javernick’s first impression of the man was one of mistrust. Something about his demeanor seemed deceitful, he had an air of sleaze, and Javernick quickly decided he wasn’t going to let him out of his sight. He was accompanied by Special Agent Lester Lightfoot, a younger man with round wire-rim glasses, not as extravagantly attired, and he carried a bulky attaché case.   

Javernick and Roland met them on the docks. The seaplane pilot remained with the craft, and they escorted the two FBI agents towards the entry. Dudley did the talking, Lightfoot remained silent throughout the meeting. 

“How was the flight?” said Javernick, attempting to make small talk.  

“Uneventful,” responded Dudley. He had a handlebar mustache, and a prominent beak-shaped nose. 

“Not much out there in the Mohave.”  

“You can say that again.” Dudley scrutinized his surroundings, looking this way and that, then he abruptly stopped walking. “Where exactly did the shooting incident take place?”  

“Fairly close to where you’re standing.”  

“Uh, huh. Just as I thought…Exactly where I’m standing?”  

“You’re probably standing close to where the robbery crew was situated when the shooting started.” 

“Probably? But you removed the evidence in the meantime?”  

“Well, we sure as hell weren’t going to leave it lay.” Javernick thought the G-man’s demeanor was awfully snippy and sarcastic.  

“The sheriff’s deputies picked up most of it,” said Roland. “And of course we washed the blood off the dock.”  

Dudley silently surveyed Roland with a look of disdain, like he was an unwanted guest that had crashed a party, then said, “We’d like to interview the two of you separately.”  

“Why?” said Javernick.  

“Our normal procedure. We interview witnesses one at a time.” 

“Well, you’re going to need to make an exception. Roland is my chief of security and he’s not going anywhere.” 

“All right, Mr. Javernick. Suit yourself.” Lightfoot handed Dudley a loose-leaf notebook. He opened it and continued, “Following the incident, you told Deputy Wheeler that you were involved in a business meeting with Lou Civella and Carmelo Viscuso when the shootings took place.”  

“That’s correct.”  

“What type of business relationship do you have with Mr. Civella and Mr. Viscuso?” 

“What does that have to do with the attempted robbery?”  

“I’m merely trying to establish the setting. Is there a reason why you don’t want to tell me about your relationship with Mr. Civella and Mr. Viscuso?”  

“I buy food products from Lou Civella for my restaurant,” said Javernick. 

“What about Carmelo Viscuso? What’s your business relationship with Mr. Viscuso, Mr. Javernick?” 

“Carmelo Viscuso buys food products from Lou Civella too.” 

“For his private club in Las Vegas.” Dudley looked down at his notebook, then back at Javernick, raising his eyebrows. “The Bocce Club.”  

“That’s correct.”  

“So, your business relationship with Mr. Viscuso is—” He paused to look down at his paperwork yet again. Then he looked back at Javernick with a look of apparent surprise. “You both buy food products from Lou Civella.”  

“Yes, we do.” Javernick continued to stare him down.  

“Are you aware that both Mr. Civella and Mr. Viscuso are suspected of being kingpins in the Cosa Nostra organized crime syndicate?” 

“Never heard of it,” replied Javernick, narrowing his eyes to regard Dudley with an expression of indignation. 

“You referred to the incident as an attempted robbery. How do you know it was, in fact, an attempted robbery?”  

“They sure as hell weren’t selling Girl Scout cookies,” replied Javernick sternly.  

Roland broke his silence: “Why else would five men show up at the casino with submachine guns in musical instrument cases?”  

“Maybe they had a beef with someone. There’s no evidence it was a robbery.”  

The snide federal agent’s impertinence was infuriating Javernick. He wasn’t going to put up with much more of it.  

Dudley checked his paperwork once again. “Mr. Javernick, did you authorize Mr. Di Stefano to go up on the roof with his .22-250 rifle?” 

“I did,” said Roland. “As chief of security, I authorized Mr. Civella’s personal security team to take any actions they thought were necessary to protect him.” 

“How many additional security men did Mr. Civella bring along with him? Besides Mr. Di Stefano and Mr. Scudari?” 

“All right, that will be quite enough,” said Javernick. “If you have any more questions, Mr. Dudley, please submit them in writing to my attorney, Dylan J. Cosgrove, his offices are in downtown L.A.” 

“Well, uh, we’d like to have a look around…If you wouldn’t mind.”  

“Yes, I would mind. Your denunciatory attitude is rather insulting, and I’m politely asking both of you gentlemen to please vacate the premises.” 

Javernick and Roland stayed put and watched the agents walk back to their seaplane. Once it had taken off, Roland went up the fire stairs to his office and Javernick rode the elevator down to the casino level. Eunice and Rose were sitting at the bar drinking tall glasses of iced tea. It was midday, and the place was close to empty. He took a seat next to Eunice. 

“What’ll you have, Claude?” said Lonnie from behind the bar.  

“Bourbon on the rocks.” 

“How’d it go with the G-man?” said Eunice.  

“An extremely rude and offensive individual. Hardly a surprise for a government bureaucrat.”  

“Rose and I are watching Melvin pick up the dead fish.”  

“They’re not really dead, Miss Adair. Their batteries are merely run down.”  

They could see Melvin in his deepwater diving suit through the glass behind the bar. The submarine was behind him, and they could see Maximino too, sitting at the pilot’s station inside the sub. 

When the electric marine life was initially installed, Melvin hadn’t realized the manufacturer had delivered them with cheap batteries that quickly ran down, so replacing them with higher quality batteries had become an ongoing chore. When he located a disabled fish, he carried it back inside the sub and replaced its batteries. Then he took it back outside, released it, and watched it swim away.  

“A process server came by the whorehouse this morning. Served Little Juanito with a criminal complaint. You should have seen his eyes bug out when he saw Little Juanito in his tight little undies.” 

“A criminal complaint? What in the world did he do?” 

“Little Juanito said he was in Vegas a few months ago, walking from his car to a hotel and a cop came up and accused him of indecent exposure. The complaint says the cop could see the distinctive outline of his private parts through his Speedos and that put him in violation of some local statute.” 

“But this happened a few months ago? Why’d they wait so long to charge him?”  

“Not sure, Claude. I thought it sounded kinda fishy too. Little Juanito said he thought the cop was just giving him a warning because he never wrote him a ticket or anything.” 

“They served him the same day that nosy G-man showed up. Seems awfully suspicious…Charging him with a criminal offense because some cop said he could see his private parts through his Speedos.” 

“Making a mountain out of a molehill if you ask me. Little Juanito’s afraid they’ll deport him when he shows up for court.” 

“For the love of Christ.  I’ll have Dylan Cosgrove look into it. My guess is, he can get it dismissed.”  

“Little Juanito said it’s so easy to sneak across the border it won’t make much difference anyway. Because he sure as hell ain’t staying in Los Mochis if they decide to deport him.”  

“Probably a good idea for him to wear some proper trousers to court,” said Rose.  

Outside the glass, Melvin found a disabled sea turtle lying in the faux coral. He carried it through the airlock and replaced its dead batteries inside the sub. With that done, he took it back outside, switched it on, and watched it swim away.  

The next day, Javernick was sitting in his penthouse residence reviewing paperwork. His desk faced a three-panel sliding door that led to an exterior deck and a commanding view of Bonelli Peak to the north-east. Mariska was outside, cleaning the windows.  

Javernick was listening to a Vegas news station on the radio. The British had launched massive air raids against Berlin and Cologne the night before, largely successful except for the sizeable number of British bombers that had been shot down by the Nazis. When the report came on, he noticed that Mariska abruptly stopped what she was doing and moved into the open doorway so she could listen in.  

“It’s only a matter of time before the United States gets drawn into the war,” said Javernick.  

“It looks that way, doesn’t it,” said Mariska, then quickly changing the subject, “Such a beautiful view of the mountains from here.” 

“That’s Bonelli Peak to the north-east.” Javernick rose out of his chair and walked outside to join her. “It was named for Daniel Bonelli, he was the first European to settle in Rioville.” 

“Very interesting. Was he Italian?”  

“No, he was Swiss. His surname was actually Bommeli, but he changed it when he emigrated to make it easier to pronounce in English. He met his wife Ann on the ship, she was from England. After arriving in New York, they joined a group of Mormon pioneers headed west and converted to the religion. 

“Fascinating, Claude. I’m impressed with your thorough knowledge.” 

“I’ve researched the region extensively. Daniel and Ann spent a couple of years in Salt Lake City, then in the mid 1860s, they joined a group of settlers bound for the Muddy River Valley, about twenty-five miles to the north of here. They built an extensive irrigation system and created Saint Thomas, Melvin’s hometown, presently under about seventy feet of water.” 

“Sounds like a tough group of settlers,” said Mariska.  

“I’ll say. They had a tenuous relationship with the local Paiutes. Technically friendly, but renegades often pillaged their crops and stole livestock.” 

Javernick produced a slim cigar, lit it, and continued: “When Saint Thomas was settled, they thought they were in Arizona Territory, but in 1870, surveyors decided the town was in Nevada, and they were hit with huge bills for back taxes that they lacked the money to pay. They contacted Brigham Young in Salt Lake and asked him what they should do. He told them to take a vote, and they chose to abandon the settlement. Daniel and Ann cast the only dissenting votes.  

“Most of the original settlers packed up their wagons and headed back into Utah, but Daniel and Ann were determined to stay, and they moved down here to Rioville. They had five children, grew vegetables, and raised cattle. They also operated a ferry, a steamboat landing, and a salt mine, putting other pioneers and Native Americans to work. After a couple of years, they managed to pay off the back taxes on their Saint Thomas spread, and helped newly arrived settlers repopulate the town.  

“Daniel passed away in 1903 and Ann moved to Kingman, Arizona. Rioville was abandoned, and Ann sold the land to a real estate investor from L.A.” 

“And you bought the land from the investor?” said Mariska. 

“I won it from him in a high stakes poker game in 1922. That was when I met Roland. He was operating a newly built ferry and steamboat landing about a mile downstream.” 

Javernick heard the telephone ring and went back inside his study to pick it up. “Hello,” he said, picking up the handset.  

“Hi, Claude. This is Kaylee.”  

“Always a pleasure, my dear.”  

“I have a long-distance call from Dylan Cosgrove in Los Angeles.” 

“Yes, please put him through.”  

He heard electronic switching sounds then Cosgrove came on. “Good morning, Claude.” 

“Hi, Dylan.” 

“I looked into Little Juanito’s legal difficulties, and I’m pleased to tell you the case has been dismissed.”  


“What happened, Claude, is Curtis Dudley showed up at the sheriff’s office looking for dirt on your casino. The only thing he was able to find was the minor indecent exposure contact with Little Juanito, because he gave the hotel as his address. Initially, the cop let him go with a warning, but when Dudley found out he was an undocumented male prostitute, he went over to the district attorney’s office and threw his weight around, insisting they prosecute it as a criminal offense.” 

“That sonofabitch.” 

“Yeah, I called the judge and told him it looked like a clear-cut case of malicious prosecution. He tore up the complaint and threw it in the trash.  

“Thanks for that, Dylan.”  

Curtis Dudley had certainly done nothing to change Javernick’s low opinion of federal bureaucrats, and it was obvious the casino was now under continued scrutiny by the FBI…But he wasn’t breaking any laws, so he could really care less.  





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