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
“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.
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
“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
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.
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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