Twist of Fate
Author: Charles Salzberg
From Charles Salzberg comes a tale of deceit and unexpected consequences
Length: Novella - About 30,000 words
"Twist of Fate follows Trish Sullivan, an ambitious TV reporter working in a small upstate New York market. She receives a note from Meg Montgomery, a beautiful young woman convicted of murdering her husband and two children. Montgomery claims she's innocent and Sullivan, smelling a big story that may garner some national attention, investigates and turns up evidence that the woman has, indeed, been framed. What happens next changes the life of both women in unexpected ways."
Available in .mobi for Kindle, .epub for NOOK and most other e-readers, and .pdf.
Twist of Fate
It was cold. Cold enough for layers. Cold enough for me to wear the bright red wool overcoat I bought so I would stand out in a crowd. But I was wearing none of that. Instead, I was freezing my ass off wearing just a black wool skirt, black tights, knee-high black boots, and a heavy orange wool turtleneck sweater. Vanity. After all, I had to look good and impervious to the elements in front of the camera. This is the image I needed to project. An image of invincibility. An image that said, when duty calls there is no time to dress appropriately. When the news breaks, I am there. Anything for a story. Anything to keep the public informed.
I was standing in front of the Little Roma Social Club, a plain brick building in downtown Syracuse, New York. Syracuse, the fifth most populous city in the state, the home of the New York State Fair, a city roughly a five hour drive northwest of New York City. So near, yet so far. This was where I worked. This was where I’d worked for the past three and a half years. This was where I desperately wanted to get away from. But not yet. At least not before this or another story I dug up went national.
“Are you ready?” my cameraman, Mark asked.
“How’s the shot?”
“Don’t worry about the shot, okay. That’s my job.”
“Hold on.” I ran my tongue across the inside my mouth, then bared my teeth to Mark, who was looking at me through the camera lens.
“Anything on my teeth?”
“Your teeth look fine. You look fine. Will you hurry it up already? I’m freezing my ass off here.”
“And you think I’m not?”
“Who told you to take off your damn coat?”
“Vanity, thy name is woman.”
“Enough of this bullshit. Let’s get this done and get the hell out of here.”
“What’s the matter, Mark, scared?”
“Yes. I’m a chickenshit. Let’s just get this over with.”
“All right, all right, all right…”
“Rolling,” said Mark, as I cleared my throat and threw my best fake smile at the camera.
“This is Trish Sullivan and I’m standing in front of the Little Roma Social Club, hangout of Fat Tony Alcante, reputed head of the Conigliaro crime family. Fat Tony was recently installed after a brief but bloody power struggle, following the shotgun slaying of Carmine Salvatore. Damn it! Where’s the damn teleprompter?”
“You said you didn’t need it. Remember?”
“Why do you listen to anything I say? You know I’m crazy.”
“Yeah, the commitment papers are on my desk.”
I looked down at my script, silently moving my lips, fixing it in my memory, then looked back up at the camera.
“We’ll fix this in editing.”
“Okay…” I went back to my on-camera voice and picked up right before I fucked up. “After a brief but bloody power struggle, following the shotgun slaying of Carmine Salvatore. It’s here, behind this brick façade, that Fat Tony meets with other wiseguys to discuss such weighty matters as loan-sharking, arson, prostitution and murder. How long Fat Tony’s reign lasts largely depends on the loyalty of the people around him. For Fat Tony’s sake, let’s hope they’ll be more loyal to him than he was to his old friend, Carmine. Trish Sullivan, the I-Team, News 9.”
I put down the mike. “How was that?”
“You hit it out of the park, baby.”
Mark might be cute, if he weren’t such an asshole. Unlike me, he was dressed for the weather, wearing a heavy-duty blue parka and black watch cap. He’s in his mid- thirties, and he’s one of those guys who perpetually looks as if he hasn’t shaved in two days. I wonder, how do guys pull that off? Do they shave, then hibernate for two days before showing their face? Anyway, he’s not bad looking and he’s in pretty good shape, but after a few more years at this job, that’ll change. Devouring hoagies and beer and Big Macs will eventually find their way to his belly, like every other guy I’ve worked with through the years.
“Can we go now?” he asked, as he dropped the camera from his shoulder.
“Yes, Mark, we can go now,” I said in my most condescending Mama Bear tone, as I retrieved my coat and muffler and put them on before I got ready to get into the truck.
Just as I was about to step inside I heard the door of the social club open. I spun around to see a bunch of wiseguys tumble out. I recognized Sonny Palma, Fat Tony’s muscular young bodyguard, followed by none other than Fat Tony himself. He was in his mid-fifties, five-five on his best day, even with his shoes on, and probably close to three hundred and fifty pounds of pure blubber. I was sure the only exercise he got was pushing himself away from the table and he didn’t do that any too often.
I threw off my coat and turned to Mark. “My God, it’s him. Start filming!”
“Are you kidding?”
“Mark! Do what I say. Turn on the damn camera and start filming.”
I threw off my coat, grabbed my mike and ran back across the street. I heard the truck door slam shut and felt Mark right behind me. I rushed up to Fat Tony, but before I could reach him Sonny darted in front of him with his hand jerking inside his jacket pocket. I knew what was there and he knew I knew what was there. But it wasn’t going to stop me. What were they going to do, shoot me there in the street, with Mark filming the whole thing? Now that would have gone viral and gotten me national. If I survived my career would be on fast forward and yes, I would be out of Syracuse faster than you could say lake effect snow.
But no one was shooting anyone today, except for Mark.
“Mr. Alcante,” I said, half out of breath, as I snaked my arm around Sonny and stuck the microphone in his face. “Trish Sullivan, Channel 9 News. Is it true you’ve recently been named boss of the Conigliaro crime family?”
“I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about. I’m a businessman. Plumbing supplies. Wanna see my fuckin’ pay stub? And the only family I got is driving me the fuck crazy. You wanna talk to my wife.”
He looked at the others and laughed. He was smart. Smart enough to know not to say anything to a live camera. Smart enough to know the more he cursed the less would make it onscreen.
“Then maybe you can explain why someone selling plumbing supplies needs a bodyguard.”
“Ever had your toilet backed up, doll? You call a plumber and he don’t come, you wanna kill him, right? Sonny here, he’s my toilet plunger.” He laughed and poked Sonny in the ribs. Sonny did not seem amused.
I followed them as they headed toward a Lincoln Town Car, with Mark, his mouth wide open, always filming, following me.
“What if I were to tell you I’m in possession of certain information that suggests someone within your organization has a contract out on you?”
We reached the car. Sonny opened the back door and helped squeeze the Fat Man into the back seat.
Tony stuck his head out the door. “And who might that be?”
“Maybe if you’d agree to have an on camera sit-down interview with me I can…
“Do I look fucking stupid? C’mon, Sonny, get inna car and let’s get the fuck outta here.”
With the Fat Man securely tucked in the car, Sonny slammed the door shut and jogged over to the driver’s side and got in. As the car started to drive away I grabbed Mark by the arm and started pulling him toward the news van.
“Come on,” I yelled.
“Where are we going?”
“Just get in and…follow that car!”
Mark got in and stashed the camera between us as I got into the passenger’s seat.
“You’re gonna get us both killed,” he said, as he started up the engine.
“Consider this a Master Class in journalism, Mark. It’ll make a great shot for the news tonight—us tailing Fat Tony and his bodyguard.” I picked up the camera, turned it on, and aimed it out the front window.
“Hey, what the hell are you doing?” Mark screamed.
I turned to him, “you think you can shoot and drive at the same time?”
“Do you know what the fuck you’re doing?”
“I’ve used one of these before. Now just drive, will ya?”
“What the hell was that about a hit on him? You know something?”
“Of course not. I just wanted to see if I could get a rise out of him,” I said, as I filmed the traffic in front of us as Mark surprised me by keeping them in sight.
“Is that part of the Master Class—lying to get a story?”
“I’m sure someone has a contract out on him, I just don’t know who it is. But I might find out by talking to him.”
Sonny knew we were following him and he’d picked up speed, trying to lose us. That was fine with me. The tougher it was for us to follow the more dramatic it was on tape.
“Can you push this thing a little faster, Grandma?” I said.
“You may want to get yourself killed but I’ve got a hot date tonight I’d like to keep.”
We were approaching the train tracks and just as the Town Car began to fly through the intersection bells started clanging and the wooden bar dropped. Mark slammed on the brakes.
“Damn, that was close,” he said as he dropped his head to the steering wheel.
“It’s okay,” I said. “I got the shot.”