MURDER AT THE GALLIANO CLUB is my next release, set in upstate New York during Prohibition. The Galliano Club is an Italian social club for men, catering to mill workers producing the copper and iron to build America’s bridges, ship hulls, and power grids.
In this excerpt, workers from the Lido Premium copper mill celebrate at the club with bartender Luca Lombardo and owner Vito Bottini.
Luca wrestled the full kegs up the stairs and relocked the cellar door. Back in the saloon, he was greeted by a raucous chorus of English and Italian, along with a cloud of tobacco smoke and the heady scent of soot and sweaty wool.
The place was already packed. Almost all the workers at Lido Premium were Italian and members of the club. Hands gesticulated as war stories from the past 45 days were shared at freight train volume in both languages, with a little Calabrian or Sicilian thrown in for emphasis. Cheers of Bravo, bravo circled the
room. Luca barely had time to muscle a keg into place under the bar and pound in the tap before empty glasses were thrust at him. He swiftly poured drinks, made change, and handed out cheese and pickled eggs. In between, he wondered if his friend Karol Dombrowski was celebrating in similar fashion at the Warsaw Club, stamping ground for Polish workers.
The cash register trilled above the din as Vito rang up another sale. Luca grinned. His boss looked ten years younger as he shouted congratulations and rushed to fill glasses.
Guido gave a shout from the vestibule. A roar went up from the crowd. Luca joined in. Vito banged a hand on the bar top.
The acclaim was for Jimmy Destito, the mill foreman whose undisputed leadership put that prized 50 dollars in each man’s pocket. Jimmy generally came to the club on Saturday nights after supper at home but tonight he’d obviously come straight from the mill. Like the other men, he wore a wool mackinaw jacket and dirty
dungarees. Jimmy’s heavy leather work boots were famously splashed with pink stains from a chemical spill.
Jimmy made his way through the room, shaking hands like Governor Al Smith at a re-election rally. After a circuit of back slapping, Jimmy ended up at Luca’s end of the bar. Luca pumped the man’s work-hardened hand with real respect.
“Congratulations, Jimmy,” he said, raising his voice to be heard. “What can I get the man of the hour?”
“How about some real beer?” Jimmy shouted back. He was nearly 50, the same age as Vito, with a wiry build, a Roman nose, and closely cropped dark hair fading to gray above his ears.
Luca filled a glass, careful to keep the foam from cascading over the rim. “On the house,” he said.
Jimmy raised the glass in a salute, then drank down a third in a single thirsty swallow. When he put the glass down, he gestured for Luca to lean forward for a quiet word. “Good to see the boss behind the bar again,” Jimmy said. His eyes swiveled in Vito’s direction.
“He’s having a good day,” Luca replied, his mouth close to Jimmy’s ear.
“You run off the blue dog?”
Luca nodded. “As much as I can.”
Vito and Jimmy had been friends for a long time and Jimmy was one of the few club members who knew about blue dog days. That’s what Vito called it when he sat alone in his office with a picture of the soldier son who died in the war and drank anything that would dull the pain of loss. Luca covered for his boss as best as
he could, but blue dog days were becoming more and more frequent.
“You’re a good man, Luca,” Jimmy said and patted Luca’s cheek in fatherly approval.
“I owe Vito,” Luca said simply.
Read more about the upcoming Galliano Club series here: http://carmenamato.net/ galliano-club-mystery-series/