Literary Fiction Mystery Romance crime novel mystery/adventure

By Hook or By Crook

By Al Marsiglia
Jan 28, 2020 · 2,731 words · 10 minutes

Photo by Max Kleinen via Unsplash.

From the author: Resuming his life after prison, Frankie Fiore is unaware of the good and evil forces working diametrically behind the scenes. The good, seeking to enrich him, the evil, plotting to kill him. He doesn’t know it yet, but shortly he will either be rich or he will be dead --- or both.


It is amazing that a ringtone can sometimes be as alarming as a grenade

tossed through a window.

Frankie cracks an eye as his cell-phone insistently rings for the third

time. He checks the clock on the bed-stand. Three forty-nine. It is still

quite dark.

Who the hell is that?” he mutters to himself, as he props himself up

on an elbow and puts the phone to his ear.

Is this Frank Fiore?” a voice asks.

Who’s this?” asks Frankie suspiciously; not recognizing the voice.

Sorry to wake you so early. My name is Jim Vangall. I’m an orderly

at the Sing Sing Correctional Facility hospital in Ossining New York.”

I’m familiar with it,” Frankie says. “What’s this about, at four in the

morning?” he asks.

Mister Fiore, we have an inmate here by the name of Aloyisius Rollo

who’s been asking for you. He gave me your number to call.”

An alarm immediately goes off in Frankie’s head. He hadn’t heard

from or seen Biff since he got out of Rikers,

Biff, yeah I know Biff. He asked for me, huh? Something wrong? It’s

been a while since I talked tuh him, why did he ask for me?”

I don’t know all the details, but they told me he’s in a bad way, what

I mean is... it’s like a last request. The doctor here doesn’t think he’s going

to be around too much longer.”

Frankie swallows hard to overcome the lump in his throat. “Who else did you call?” he asks.

There is a moment of silence on the phone.                                                     

“Who else did I call?” asks Vangall.

Yeah, who else did he ask ya to call?” insists Frankie.

Nobody, he just asked for you.”

Frankie searches for his voice. “How long has he got?” he manages.

The doctor doesn’t know exactly, he said it could be any time,” says


If I come up there, how do I find him---Biff---mister Rollo?” asks


Just ask for him by name at the front reception desk and give them

this number. Do you have a pen?”

Yeah, hold on a second,” says Frankie as he scrambles for a pen.

Vangall then reads him Biff’s prison number and hangs up.

Frankie sits up on his bed and digests the content of the call. It has been

almost two years since he last talked to Biff, and truth be told, he hadn’t

thought very much about him in that time. He had too much going on in

his own life he tells himself, especially his eighteen months at Rikers. He

can’t control the visions racing through his head, though, visions of the

recent past, of his time with Biff and the strong impressions this man has

left on his life. Biff taught him more about life than even his own father,

not to mention that he saved Peggy and Jana’s lives, as well as his, in the

showdown with Sonny and Max.


Frankie logs onto his laptop and searches the airlines for a flight to an

airport near Sing Sing leaving from Raleigh. He decides the best he can do

is book to JFK and rent a car for the thirty-mile drive to Ossining. That being

taken care of, he books a Hampton Inn for four nights close to the facility.

He logs off, shuts down the computer and checks his watch--- almost five

o’clock. He punches in a number on his cell-phone---at the other end a

sleepy voice greets him.


Yeah. Good morning, Peg. Sorry tuh wake yuh so early, Hon, but

something important came up.”

Something wrong?” Peggy asks.

Yeah, but not something I didn’t expect,” Frankie says. “It’s Biff. It

sounds like he’s ready to check out.---I wanna be there before he does.”

I’m so sorry to hear that. Who called you?”

Some intern from the hospital up there. Biff asked him to call me.”

Who else is going to be there?”

Nobody.” says Frankie

Peggy sounds surprised. “Nobody?” she asks.

That’s right, he didn’t ask that anybody else be there,” says Frankie,

his voice cracking.

Oh, Frankie, I’m so sorry. Do you want me to go with you?”

Thanks, but no. This is something I need to do myself---besides you

have your job and Jana to worry about. I already made reservations. I’m

gonna leave for Raleigh around seven, the flight is at eight-fifty.”

How long will you be gone?”

I guess that’s up to Biff.”

Frankie checks his watch.

I’m gonna hafta run babe if I’m gonna make that flight. Tell Jana

goodbye for me.”

I will, Frankie.”

See you soon, babe... Love ya.”

Love you too,” says Peggy.


  The rush hour hasn’t yet begun, and the roads are empty as Frankie

gets on I-540 toward Raleigh’s RDU airport, as morning dawns. He

ponders the toll cancer has probably taken on Biff’s body. How will he

look? He recalls how he already looked drawn and thin when he last saw

him. Will he be able to hide his feelings?

Raleigh airport is relatively quiet when he arrives. He parks his Caddy

in the airport lot and takes the shuttle to terminal 2 for his Delta flight to

JFK. The line through security is short and goes quickly. His flight is

scheduled to take off on time.

Frankie buckles up for the one hour and ten-minute flight to Kennedy

airport in New York. He lays back on the headrest and closes his eyes,

trying to relax but the unconscious mind won’t let him. Scenes of his

time with Biff, when they both worked collections for Jimmy Provitera

permeates his thinking. Frankie quickly learned and it was Biff who

taught him, that in contemporary crime organizations, when money is

involved, there is no such thing as honor among thieves, although the

word honor is often thrown around. Frankie recalls how his father, Louie,

had warned him about Jimmy. He winces now when he thinks of the scars

that Louie bears for protecting him when he was on the run and Jimmy

was hunting for him. The only good thing that came out of his days with

Jimmy was finding Dunnville North Carolina, and the best of that was

finding Peggy and her daughter, Jana.

                                              CHAPTER 2

Frankie parks his rented Chevy in a lot up the hill from the prison and

trudges down toward the main gate reception area. From this vantage

point Frankie can see below him much of the expansive complex of

buildings that make up the Sing Sing Correctional Facility and beyond

that a fantastic view of the Hudson River.

I’m here to see a friend who’s in the hospital wing,” he tells the guard

at the front reception desk. He gives Biff’s name and number and is given

a form to fill out. He waits while his information is checked out and then

passes through a security check where he is thoroughly searched.

After waiting almost forty-five minutes he is told to enter the building,

where he is escorted through a maze of locked gates, doors, halls, and

buildings that date back to 1833. He is finally brought to the hospital wing

and taken to a ward where a row of beds line both walls. He is steered to

a bed located in a corner near a window.

Arriving at the bed, Frankie stifles a gasp as he views his once robust,

rotund, muscular friend, reduced to a living corpse by the ravages of his

lung disease. He is attached to several monitoring machines that beep

and bop. He has an oxygen tube gizmo stuck in his nose, through which

he inhales the life-extending oxygen.

Biff’s eyes are open and he looks over his visitors. He scans the face

of the guard with no reaction and then looks at Frankie and stops and

stares---and stares. Frankie can see the light of recognition slowly come

into his eyes.

Whattaya say, Biff,” says Frankie, bending close.

Frankie,” whispers Biff, barely able to be heard. He extends an

emaciated hand toward Frankie. Frankie takes the hand and bends down

to embrace his friend and mentor, kissing him on both cheeks.

You have about a half-hour, I’ll try to give you more,” says the guard

as he walks away.

Thanks,” says Frankie.

Frankie stands awkwardly by the bed several minutes not knowing

what to say.

Remember how you used to make me clean my shoes before I got

in your car? Well, I want ya to know I wiped my shoes before I came in

here,” says Frankie.

Biff looks quizzically at Frankie for a second before the trace of a grin

crosses his face.

You’re---funny---kid,” he whispers.

How are they treating you?” asks Frankie.

First class---top shelf---and it’s all on the state,” slowly manages Biff.

Is there anything I can get you?” asks Frankie.

No---they give me everything I need.”

Peggy, Jana, and my brother Ray send their best to you. They told

me to tell you they’re praying for you.” says Frankie.

I can use a lot of ‘em where I’m goin’” says Biff with a chuckle that

escalates into a prolonged coughing spell.

You want some water?” asks Frankie.

Biff nods and Frankie motions toward an attendant.

He needs water,” he calls out.

It takes several long minutes for an orderly to bring a pitcher of ice


Where did ya go, to the reservoir?” asks Frankie sarcastically as

he takes the pitcher and pours some water. Biff takes a drink and the

convulsive cough diminishes.

You okay?” asks Frankie.

Yeah---yeah,” says Biff, recovering.

For the next twenty minutes, Frankie continues the small talk,

highlighting some of the interesting or exciting incidents of the times they

spent together.

We had some good times together and some not so good times, but

never dull times, right Biff?” asks Frankie.

Biff, who has been listening intently, nods slowly as his eyes glisten

and a tear rolls slowly down his cheek. Frankie struggles to keep it together.

Frankie, there’s a big favor I gotta ask ya---Somethin’ important I

need ya to do for me,” weakly whispers Biff in his raspy voice.

Yeah, sure, Biff. What is it?” asks Frankie, leaning in.

Look, Kid---I don’t have the strength---and they’re gonna throw you

outta here soon---so I’m not gonna have the time to explain everything to


With great difficulty, Biff reaches over his head and removes a brown

manila envelope from among numerous papers under his pillow.

I made a copy for you, and I want ya to take it wit ya and read the

whole thing when you’re alone,” he says

Yeah, sure, Biff, but what’s it about?” Frankie is baffled.

Just read it, and when you do, I want ya to call me here and tell me if

you’ll do it.” says Biff.

Yeah, of course, I’ll do it, whatever it is,” says Frankie.

Don’t say that until you read it,” admonishes, Biff.

Okay, but I don’t think there’s anything you could ask me to do that’s

so bad that I would say no.”

Don’t count on it,” says Biff.

The guard signals that time is up.

I guess I gotta go,” says Frankie. “I’ll come back to see you soon.”

Do that,” says Biff “and don’t forget to call me after ya read that


Yeah, I will. Listen, Biff, you think it’s okay if I give you another

hug?” asks Frankie.

Do ya hafta?” asks Biff.

Well, if you don’t want to...” says Frankie.

No, I guess its okay,” says Biff.

Frankie embraces his friend, looks at him for a few moments and turns

to go

Biff’s eyes follow him from the room.

On the way out of the prison, Frankie stops into the administration

office and leaves his information with a staff member with instructions to

contact him if and when Biff’s time comes. He has them understand that

he will make all the necessary final arrangements.


Another pair of eyes follow Frankie as he leaves Biff’s side. These

eyes are located beneath a Sing Sing corrections officer’s hat, worn by a

man the inmates call, Strabismus, a formal term for the word “squinter”

or “Squinty,” which is a habit frequently employed by this individual.

Apparently some resourceful inmate found the word in an obscure thesaurus

and decided he could use it with impunity, telling Willie Maxwell (his

given name), that it was the name of a famous ancient Roman emperor.

Squinty, who has been standing close enough to overhear Biff and

Frankie’s conversation now moves quickly from the hospital area,

through several buildings and corridors, through checkpoints where he is

required to show his security ID, to the most secure and isolated area of

the prison, where the most dangerous and notorious prisoners are kept. A

guard, seated in his cubicle, looks up as Willie approaches and shows his ID.

What’s your business here,” he asks.

Delivering prisoner147862 his mail,” says Willie.

Okay leave it there on the table,” says the guard.

No, I’ve got to get his signature on some legal papers. Here, I got the

OK from Farley, the block captain,” Willie says, shoving a piece of paper

toward him. The guard examines the paper, and with a wave of the head

motions him toward the security door.

What cell is he in?” asks Willie.

Third cell on the right,” directs the guard. “I’ll buzz you in,” he says.

By hook or by crook cover
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By Hook or By Crook

Resuming his life after prison, Frankie Fiore is unaware of the good and evil forces working diametrically behind the scenes. The good, seeking to enrich him, the evil, plotting to kill him. He doesn't know it yet, but shortly he will either be rich or he will be dead --- or both.

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Al Marsiglia

I've written screenplays, crime/mystery, westerns, comedy, also a cookbook and two children's books.