The Mark Hopkins hotel had always been special to them. The Top of The Mark bar had been their place. The incredible 360◦ degree view of San Francisco, from city to the bay and beyond, they found amazing.

Now, he sat brooding, recalling holding hands, and watching as the fog rolled, in engulfing the Golden Gate bridge and beyond. Now she was gone. He was alone. Saddened. He tossed back another Scotch, fighting to supress the tears. Slamming the glass onto the bar he stood, saying under his breath, ‘this is not over.’

Helen had been for a job interview at the Phillip Burton Federal Building on Golden Gate Avenue. She’d applied for a position as senior researcher for a law firm operating out of the building. The interview had gone well. As she was searching for her car in the huge underground carpark, she called him, sounding excited, telling him about the interview. They agreed to meet later. He was so proud of her.

The San Francisco Police Department were at a loss to explain her death, there was no robbery. Her car keys were still in her purse, along with $200, she still had her cell phone. A mystery. Shot and killed two metres from her car, in the carpark of a federal building.  Why?  

The police had confirmed the body as a Helen Lawson, 32 of Pasadena. She’d been formerly identified. Friends and relatives were being interviewed. He’d come forward and spoken to the police. They were satisfied with his statement. Refusing to speculate as to the motif for the killing.

 Two days later, reading the Chronicle, he noticed an article about a woman who’d gone to the D.A. the same day as Helen had been killed, saying she was prepared to give evidence against an Albanian, gangster in New York, a suspected drug trafficker and mafia boss, …. he stopped mid-sentence, ‘my God,’ he said aloud, not believing his eyes. The head and shoulders picture accompanying the article looked like Helen. ‘Can’t be,’ he said aloud, quickly opening his laptop, goggled the San Francisco Chronicle web page, searching for the article, and a clearer picture.  Hr looked, it was eerie, unnerving, she looked for all the world like Helen, except her hair was a little longer.    

He was devastated. Had she been murdered because she looked like someone else? No, this couldn’t be. He struggled to accept the possibility that it may be the reason.

After three days the police were no closer to solving the killing. He figured, if, the cops had made a connection between Helen’s murder and this witness, they weren’t saying. It became an ‘ongoing inquiry.’

The story had moved from the front page to half a column on page nine. Even bad news had a shelf life.

He couldn’t let this go; he wouldn’t. He loved her. Now she was gone. It wasn’t right. He felt betrayed. His emotions where all over the place.

After searching the NY Times web page found an article about an Albanian man,

Andar Shehu. Who was currently on bail, awaiting trial in Manhattan on serious drug charges. He had it, this had to be the connection. This Andar Shehu, whoever he was, must be behind the murder of Helen. Somehow, she’d been mistaken for this supposed witness. The article said he lived on Staten Island.   

He spent the next 24 hours searching the net for information on Albanian crime in the U.S. and the Staten Island connection.

In the U.S. Albanian gangs started to be active in the mid-80s, mostly participating in low-level crimes, such as burglaries and robberies. Later, they would become affiliated with Cosa Nostra crime families before eventually growing strong enough to operate their own organisations.

Social media showed an Ander Shehu was a regular at a club called the Tirana, in Dongan Hills, a popular Staten Island area for Albanians.  

The afternoon flight to New York was full. He was lucky to get a seat. All around him was noise from his fellow travellers. He heard nothing. His mind was concentrating on one thing, and one thing only.

He’d booked a room at the Double Tree Hilton on Stone Street, 300 meters from the Staten Island ferry.

The following morning, he took the ferry to Staten Island. Dongan Hills was on the eastern side of the island, deciding to walk. He wasn’t clear on what he would do, not yet. Still, he didn’t want some cab driver with a reliable memory remembering him. The walk took him close to an hour.

The Tiranna Club was on Richmond Avenue. Opposite was a bus shelter. Buying coffee and a bagel he sat and watched, it was 11.30. The club was more like a fortress. Small windows, barred, with a doorman, he figured was two metres tall and built like a tank. Fronting Richmond Avenue where a number of tables to take advantage of the mild weather. He watched as two tables were pushed together and separated from the others. They were set with flowers, obviously someone important.

At midday, people started arriving, entering the club.

At 1.30 two limousines arrived. The occupants exited and went to the specially laid tables. His heart raced. It was the man from the social media pages, Andar Shehu. He was accompanied by two men in dark suits, wearing sunglasses. Three other men joined him along with several scantily clad young women. Shehu was hugged and kissed, obviously someone important. Waiters appeared, fawning over their guests. Followed by wine, Champagne and beer.  

After 20 minutes Shehu took a call on his cell. He stood, turning his back to the tables. Then walked off, south on Richmond Avenue. Sixty meters on, out-front of an abandoned building he stopped. Turning back, ended the call, returning to the table.

At 2.30 he left; having seen enough, for now.  

He took the ferry and returned to his hotel, showered and changed. He was hungry. The Lobby bar was exactly what he needed. A cold beer a Rubin sandwich. Perfect.

That evening, he returned to Staten Island and the bus shelter, continuing his observation. At 8pm, two Town Cars slid to a halt outside the Tirana Club.  Ander Shehu was amongst the half dozen men that exited, seating themselves at the outside tables. More wine, food and laughter. He watched through his mini-binoculars as Shehu took a call on his cell. He looked worried, raising his hand to quieten the party.  Before standing, then walking down Richmond Avenue, some 60 metres.  Stopping outside the abandoned building for 60 seconds, before ending the call, then returning to the restaurant.  

He watched for a further 90 minutes. Twice he took calls, each time walking to abandoned building. Clearly a pattern. 

His mind started to turn over. A germ of an idea began to form.

The following morning, he took a cab to Chinatown. On Mott Street, he found what he was looking for, a junk shop that sold new and second-hand items. The place smelt of incense, sweat and food. An elderly Chinese man, reading a newspaper eyed him warily. He looked at the locked display case, tapping on the glass, the old man looked up, he beckoned, pointing to an object in the case. The man shuffled to the case, opening the back, withdrew the hunting knife, and passed it to him.  He withdrew the blade from the scabbard. Yes, it would do nicely. After paying the old man, returned to his hotel.

As the ferry approached St George he stood on the stern, watching as the skyline of Manhattan appeared to engulf the sky with its own light show. The night was chilly on the water, he wrapped his coat around him, as seagulls squawked overhead. He touched the knife in the overcoat inside pocket.

The bus shelter was deserted, he sat and waited.  At 8, he appeared with his entourage. They took their seats under huge portable heaters. He watched, patiently. Shehu took a call, he stood, his heart racing. Nothing, he continued sitting, ending the call. Food arrived, followed by more drink and raucous laughter. Another call, he picked up his cell, standing, turned his back on his fellow diners and walked south, as he had done previously. 

He stood and followed on the opposite side of the street.

Thirty metres on he crossed as Shehu approached the abandoned building. He stopped, speaking angrily into his cell in a foreign language, before ending the call. Shehu turned, he stepped to his side, grabbing his left arm, raising it vertically, before Shehu realised what was happening, plunged the 8-inch blade deep into his side. His eyes bulged. He tried to speak. Nothing. He went down on both knees, clutching at his side, before rolling onto his side. Silent.

He turned, and continued along Richmond Avenue. At the ferry terminal, dropped the knife into the inky black water of Upper Bay  

The Following morning, CNN breakfast news reported that a high-profile Albanian criminal had been found dead on Staten Island. Switching off the TV, pouring himself more coffee, thought of Helen.

November 10, 2022 22:43

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Loni Clarke
08:30 Apr 30, 2023

Great read Bill! Keep going. 👍


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Lacey Hill
21:18 Nov 16, 2022

Hi Bill! So, I liked this story a lot. It kept me engaged and I particularly loved the ending, a good avenging story always gets me. To make this flow better, I would suggest expanding a bit on your sentence structure. Most of the sentences and paragraphs felt stunted, which gave the writing a stop and go feel. I definitely enjoyed reading it!


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