Handcuffed and sitting in a red velvet chair, the suspect is bleeding from his mouth and nose, the top buttons of his white ruffled dress shirt are ripped with threads dangling, his bow tie hangs loosely around his thick neck like ratty socks.
Detective Sergeant Hope Mirabella paused her interrogation to give the suspect a chance to breathe. She looked again at the Tosca poster on the wall. The huge, vintage opera poster pictured a woman in a white dress holding a crucifix, standing over a dead man against a blood-red background. It was the focal point of the small banquet room in the back of the Italian restaurant. She normally wouldn’t have paid attention to it, however it is too similar to the crime scene she is investigating. The poster had something unusual about it, the shadows were different, the light coming from the perspective of the viewer. She did not have time to think about it, she had to get her suspect to confess. He sat in the corner of the room, in between DS Mirabella and her colleague, a beefy red-haired Irish cop named O’Malley.
“Admit you did it Flavio! You make Italians look bad! Cough it up, or we’ll beat it out of you!” DS Mirabella screamed, leaning into the prisoner's face.
O’Malley’s huge sleeveless forearm was pulled back about to swing again when an authoritative voice from the doorway made him pause mid-strike.
“Stop! Get him out of there!” yelled Captain Miles.
Police Captain Patrick Miles stood in the doorway, his thick blonde hair spiking in every direction. Wearing an unbuttoned uniform shirt over a tee shirt and jeans, he held his shoes in his hand. His gnarled toes poked out of pastel blue fuzzy house slippers. Several other uniform officers were behind him.
DS Mirabella looked back and with a disparaging glance, she said “uncuff him.”
O'Malley's knuckles were still bleeding as he slowly unlocked the handcuffs .
Flavio stood up rubbing his wrists and glaring at DS Mirabella as he left the room.
“We’ll see you again!”- DS Mirabella said at his back. Flavio just laughed.
Captain Miles looked at DS Mirabella with open hostility. “What the heck are you doing! Every federal agent in the damn state is standing outside here, you can't rough up witnesses!”
“But Captain- he is the guy! He is a hitman for the Golino's, and known for using a knife- He is the guy!”
“But has 30 witnesses saying he never left the room-” O’Malley adds.
“Captain, something smells fishy, and is not just the sardine pasta.“ DS Mirabella says.
Captain Miles sighed. “OK, he is not going anywhere, but we got to do this by the book. I got the call there was a murder here at Don Peppe's and that I needed to take over, no matter that it is 1 AM. Is everyone from the evening still here?”
“Yes, sir, we have everyone in the main room. No one has left, yet. We can only keep them for another couple hours though before we have to let them all go home.” DS Mirabella said. “Our only chance is to figure this out before then-”
Captain Miles looked around, a long table with upholstered dining chairs fills up most of the room, the decorative lighting glints off the wine bottles racked floor to ceiling. “OK this room is HQ. Get me coffee, and the rundown of the night. Coffee first.”
DS Mirabella pulled out a small notebook while O’Malley handed the Captain a cup. She flipped a few pages and began, “Ok -there was a wedding reception, they rented out the whole restaurant. It started at about 8. Not too big, about 25-30 people. An Angelo Colombo married Madeline Ricci. About 9, everyone gathered together for a group photo. Angelo, the groom, took a break to go to the bathroom while everyone waited in the main room setting up for the photo. This was the last time he was seen alive.”
DS Mirabella, looked up to see the Captain getting the rest of his uniform on.
“Keep going”, he said, tucking in his shirt.
“While the group was standing around for the photo, a few of the groom's family got too close to a few of the bride's family, and there was a fight. It was cleared up after a few minutes, but then the bride noticed Angelo hadn't come back from the bathroom. So the groom's dad and the bride's dad go together to the bathroom where they find him, Angelo, on the floor of the bathroom with a steak knife from Don Peppe's sticking out of his back. We got the call, and have had the place locked down since.”
Captain Miles looked at Mirabella, then at O’Malley. “I don't get it, I feel sorry for the families, but an Italian gets whacked all the time in New York. Why the Feds, why in the middle of the night do I get a call to come down here?”
“Here is the interesting part,” DS Mirabella says. “Both the families are connected, mafia. Angelo is a Capo in the Golino family and, we just found out, a key Federal witness against the head of the family, Elias Golino. Angelo and Madeline were going into witness protection right after the wedding. The Feds were waiting to pick them up and were running security for the night so there was no way anyone who wasn't on the guest list or on the staff could get in or out. And we’ve been checking the staff, each person here tonight has been with Don Peppe’s for years and has clean records. Everybody has an alibi, no one could get in or out, yet still, the Golino’ family’s most wanted gets skewered like a suckling pig.”
DS Mirabella folds up her book and leans in, “Captain, my money is on Flavio, he is Elias Golino’s number one hit man, and he is known for using knives, it's like his trademark. We were waiting for you to start the interviews. Flavio though, we were thinking we could get a head start on him-”
“-Mirabella, you are a DS- don’t think- just do.” Captain Miles snaps his fingers, “First- you said there was a group photo happening, maybe there is something on those photos that can help us solve this case. Where is the wedding photographer- he is the key to this!”
He turns toward the red-headed cop. “O’Malley, find the shutterbug!” O’Malley steps out of the room. ”DS Mirabella, let's start on the interviews folks, we'll begin with the bride's family.”
After a few moments O'Malley pops his head in, ”I have the photographer.”
The photographer’s nasal voice precedes him into the room. “Finally! Hey guys, I know someone died and all, but I gotta get going! I have another wedding to shoot this afternoon down in Jersey. Can we wrap this up?” A wiry man with a thin, scruffy mustache and beard, his hands are in constant motion, touching his worn electric blue suit, pulling on his open collar, patting the gold chains dangling in his chest hair. Although he couldn't be older than 30, he had a toupee partially loose, and it slid forward slightly as he sat down.
“This will take as long as it takes.” Captain Miles growled. “Your name is Maury? Where are the photos from the wedding?”
“Come on- I gave them to that guy already.” Maury nods at O’Malley. “Can I smoke in here?”
Captain Miles waves his hand, as he leans over to O’Malley “Where are these pictures?”
O’Malley nervously looked at his feet, “Well sir, we are working on that - the pictures are all ‘digital’ sir, so we are waiting on a computer to look at them-”
“Well hurry it up!” Captain Miles screams. O’Malley knocks a chair over running out of the room. The Captain turns back to Maury, “Did you notice anything unusual tonight”?
Maury laughs and waves his cigarette in the air. “Unusual! A fight broke out during the group shot! I was moving folks around to make the picture look good, you know, and then two guys started wailing on each other! I stayed out of the way until it calmed down and then, they couldn't find the groom. Until they did find him, and well, I doubt I am getting paid.” Maury shakes his head and Captain Miles can’t keep his eyes off the slipping toupee.
“It has been one hell of a night, but like I was saying- you can have the pictures, I just need to get out of here. After this is there anything you need from me?”
Captain Miles waved him off, “Once we get the pictures you can go, don't leave until then!“ he shouted after him.
He turns to DS Mirabella, what a pathetic excuse for-”
A patrol officer walks into the banquet room with a woman all in white.
DS Mirabella says, “Captain, let me introduce you to Madeline, the bride.”
Still wearing her wedding dress with her husband’s blood smeared across the front, her makeup streaked, Madeline is alternating between tears, and rage. DS Mirabella tries to give Madeline a napkin, but she ignores her.
“Captain, you need to find who did this!” Madeline screams. “This was not family, it was not Flavio, it couldn't have been him. It had to be the Golinos! You know Angel was getting out, he had a deal, we were so close! Ahh! She throws her face into her hands and sobs.”
“Why couldn't Flavio have done it? Captain Miles asks.
“Because I had my eye on him the whole time! Everything was fine, until-” Madeline gestured dramatically with her hands, throwing them up in exasperation.“
“...Until-” DS Mirabella prompts.
“Until the photographer told Angelo’s brothers to stand next to Flavio! Everyone knows they can not stand each other! I was trying to get Flavio to stay cool, but then Marco stepped on Flavio's shoes, and Flavio hit Marco, and ohhh!” Madeline puts her head in her hands again.
“My Angel is dead. Dead!”
Captain Miles says, “I'm so sorry for your loss- but did you see anyone leave, who could have killed Angelo?”
“No, I don't know. Once the fight started it was- poff!” And Madeline throws her hands up again.
“Ok, Madeline, we will get back to you.”
O’Malley walks in, and behind him is a teenage boy, holding a laptop computer. The thin, dark haired youth stares at the crying woman in the blood streaked wedding dress.
“Who is the kid?” DS Mirabella says.
“That is Owen, my girl's kid brother.” O’Malley says. ”He lives with us and knows his way around computers, so I had him come in to get the photos off the photographer’s card-”
“-I don't need to be any whiz, O’Malley is just a dumb-ass and doesn't know a computer from a rock.”
“Shuddap kid!” O’Malley yells.
”Anyway-”, Owen continues, “I just need to load the pictures from the memory card onto the computer, it should be quick.”
Captain Miles points the kid to the other end of the table. “Ok, set up there- don't talk.”
“O’Malley, compare the pictures with the list of the attendees and staff and go through every picture to see who is there, and importantly who is not there, got it?”
O'Malley and Owen sit down and huddle over the laptop computer.
DS Mirabella helps Madeline up, and says, “I’ll get the Bride's dad, Giuseppe Ricci.”
The Captain turns to Owen, “Kid, you know what you are doing?”
“I have the pictures up now, there are a lot! Many of them are of the back of someone's head, or their faces are blurred, but we can get started.“
“Good.” The Captain looks up to see an older man with slicked back gray hair enter the room. Giuseppe’s fitted tuxedo had a glossy sheen with oversized lapels from another era’s fashion. His blood shot eyes and pale skin showed the impact the night had on him. He slowly sat down at the table across from Captain Miles.
“Hello, Mister Ricci. Your daughter Madeline married Angelo today. I am sorry this happened. We have been told,” he reviews some notes on his desk, then looks Giuseppe in the eye, “you did not approve of the marriage.”
Giuseppe’s eyes got big, and his hands fly up, “Angelo, il giochi d'azzardo, Il disastro!”
“Giuseppe, English! Why did you disapprove of him?”
Giuseppe looked around, “Can I ask for a drink?” DS Mirabella handed him a glass and an open bottle of wine. He poured himself a glass, and downed it one gulp.
“Angelo needed to gamble like a fish needs water. He owed me 15 grand, and I wasn't alone, he owed everybody money. I thought anyone with that much baggage would make a bad husband. And, it turns out I was right.” Giuseppe poured another glass and picked up the glass, and held it up to the light.
“Madeline just told me about him turning rat. That is why he took the Federal deal, he didn't have to pay the Golino’s, and he got to skip town with my Madeline.” Giuseppe drank his glass of wine. “But if you asking me who got to him, I don’t know. Like I said he owed everybody money. Did Flavio do it? That makes sense, it has been said he has a thing for knives… but I don’t know.” Giuseppe ran his hands over his forehead.
“Il piccolo capo! That little photographer caused all the problems! He had his little clicker and was telling everyone to move around. I told him to keep the families separate, I don't know why he wanted to mix them up, I told him there would be trouble!”
“What do you mean little clicker?” DS Mirabella asked.
“For the camera, un telecomando- ” Giuseppe held up his hand and mimed pressing his thumb down on his closed fist, like he was clicking a ball point pen.
“He had a remote control for the camera?” DS Mirabella said.
“When you found Angelo, did you see anything out of the ordinary?” Captain Miles said.
“Some coward stabbed him in the back!” Giuseppe, half stood up, then fell back in the chair, worn out from the night. DS Mirabella helped him get out of the chair and he walked out of the banquet room and back to the main hall.
”Any luck?“ Captain Miles yelled over to O’Malley on the other side of the small room.
O’Malley looked up and shook his head. “The photographer has hundreds and hundreds of pictures. We narrowed down about 100 photos from the time in question, after Angelo leaves the room. The photographer was taking pictures the whole time, while they were setting up, during the fight, everything! We have documentation of the whole time that Angelo was killed in these photos- and no one is missing! Everybody on the list is here- we even see Flavio,” O’Malley pauses to nudge Owen, who pushes a few buttons, and then O'Malley points to the screen, “front and center the whole time, fighting. Everybody in the building is in these photos!”
“Well someone killed Angelo, we need to figure this out fast, we are going to have to let the people go home soon, ” Captain Miles said.
“No matter what the Feds say , someone must have snuck in, climbed through the roof or something.” O’Malley muses.
“That’s dumb, Owen says. This is a two-story building! No way could someone do that without getting caught- ”
“-Well explain how someone can be in this locked building, guarded from outside and not be in these photographs!” Captain Miles says, exasperated.
Owen lifts his head, inspired. “I think I got it, look at these, there is one person missing. I think I know the one person who could have killed Angelo-”
“-Tosca!” DS Mirabella points at the vintage opera poster on the wall.
Captain Miles, O’Malley and Owen look at the poster and then at DS Mirabella, confused.
“Look where the light is coming from! Our perspective on this case has been wrong the whole time.” DS Mirabella, says and stands up.
“Of course he is not in those pictures- I’ll go get him. You solved the case Owen!”