Edmundo Gupas lived in a hovel of an apartment on Seth Avenue in a Spanish community not far from Brooklyn Jewish Hospital. The neighborhood architecture was once fashionable at the turn of the last century. Connected Brownstone houses all had paisley-like wrought iron rails on concrete staircases rising at 30-degree angles to double-entry single solid doors. At one time this was an upper middle-income area. Over the decades as New York City blossomed skyward, Brooklyn Jewish Hospital was born to manage the ills of an insurance protected social stratum. Today it stood as the center pillar of an indigent welfare society. Seven streets away, the section Gupas inhabited looked like a failed endless garage sale of unwanted and un-sellable refuse. The curbs were lined with junk ranging from old eviscerated mattresses and ruptured plastic trash bags once full of fresh garbage to gutted cars of indeterminate manufacture. Each contiguous building had a least one window covered by graffiti plywood. No taxis sought or intentionally brought fares here. The police patrol of this part of Bedford Stuyvesant in Brooklyn was best described as deliberate avoidance.
The street was quiet on this Saturday morning. Petersen and Stinza surveyed the Seth Avenue scene as they searched a place free of trash to park their car. No doorknobs were visible on Gupas’s soot-stained brownstone. The black wrought iron rails were missing several segments on each side of the fractured concrete stairs. A wire protruded from the doorbell orifice in the doorframe and the outer door was missing. According to their information, Gupas lived on the second floor in one room of a two-bedroom apartment. He lived alone. Jiacomo Stinza left Petersen in the rented 1979 brown Pontiac Bonneville. He purposely rented the older vehicle from the “Rent-A-Wreck” agency to blend in with the other cars on the street, which were 10-or-more years old.
Stinza was dressed in indigo denim. He wore a denim jacket and jeans, a faded blue shirt with a red patterned neckerchief around his neck. No one was out on the streets or near the apartment building. His large weathered black engineer boots amazingly made no sound as he moved slowly up the staircase. He stepped onto the urine-stained entryway at the topmost stair and went up to the second floor. Stinza carried a small dark green zippered athletic bag by its two cloth handles. The atmosphere at the top of the second floor stairwell was formed by a combination of urine, mold, sewage and food aroma of fried-something. Five families and Gupas lived in this corroding structure. Stinza wondered why the whole street was not condemned. From different apartments voices, radios, TVs and one yelping dog from the fourth floor could now be heard as Stinza approached the door to Gupas’s place. A dark green painted-on number 5 was legible on the center vertical panel of the door. Peeling dark red paint from the door had deposited flakes on the entryway floor. Stinza’s boots made a crunching sound as he stepped on them. A tinny sounding radio playing Latino music behind the solid door masked his crispy noise. Jiacomo Stinza knocked loudly on the door with the gloved knuckles of his right hand.
“Gupas. Gupas.” Stinza shouted the name when there was no response to his pounding. He knocked louder shouting a “Gupas” between raps. More red-flaked dandruff fell from the door.
“Wha? Whooz there?” Gupas’s voice was wary.
“Hernandez sent me with your money from the last bust.” Stinza’s deep voice projected a non-threatening statement of fact. Prior to seeking Gupas in his slum, Petersen researched the last arrest. Jinko Hernandez was a local supplier to small action drug dealers like Gupas. With a minimum of persuasion and the loss of only one finger by a deft stroke of Petersen’s boot knife, Jinko defined the last cocaine-amphetamine supply to Gupas. Jinko owed Gupas $1100. The stipend was not collected because Gupas got arrested due to his addiction to the products he was also selling. Petersen held the severed member up to Hernandez’s eyes with the blood tipped boot knife at eye level. Even though Royce demanded no knives were to be carried by Petersen, the sacred blade was as much a part of his wardrobe as his underwear was. Besides, he told Stinza, it produced the desired result, which was the location of the apartment, and obtaining some ‘bait’ to dangle in front of Gupas. The bait was the $1100 in cash owed to Gupas.
Petersen looked at his green-faced Tag Heuer watch. Fifteen-minutes had gone by. It was time for him to follow Stinza to apartment number 5.
Gupas looked through a quarter-inch drilled peephole to see the owner of the non-Hispanic voice.
“Who choo?” Gupas shut his tinny boom box off.
“Jinko sent me with the $1100. I brought a quarter pound of snow and a shitload of blacks if you’re still in business?” If the money doesn’t get the door opened the drugs will.
“How I know choo no polees?” Gupas squeaked the question.
“The police don’t come down here. They don’t know Jinko. Look, I can go away with the money and the junk or you can just take the money. Jinko doesn’t want any bad rep about your arrest. It’s up to you. I’m not going to hang around here much longer.” Stinza made a motion to turn and leave.
Two things happened with Stinza’s turning movement. Gupas unlocked the three chains and opened the door. Simultaneously, Petersen dressed in a black trench coat, replaced Stinza in the doorway.
Gupas stared and locked onto Petersen’s steel gray eyes. Then his own eyes bulged with recognition. His greasy face became distorted like a roller-coaster rider in anticipation of a guaranteed scare. “Iss choo. Marco. I ‘member choo and the eyess bottel.” He tried to shut the door but Petersen and Stinza kept it from closing.
“We’re coming in, Gupas.” Petersen’s voice became Marco’s.
“Choo a crazy baste! Go ‘way.” The shout was an octave above soprano.
Petersen pushed him back into the room with a straight arm to the chest. Gupas tripped on the filthy rag of green shag carpeting on the floor and fell onto his back still looking bug-eyed at Petersen.
Stinza closed the door and dropped his gym bag beside the supine Gupas. Petersen sat on Gupas’s chest with his arms pinning the shoulders. Stinza knelt beside Gupas and placed three fingers of each hand on the right and left carotid arteries of Gupas’s neck just above and lateral to the Adam’s apple. There would be no marks and no hemorrhages in the brain tissue at autopsy. Gupas passed out immediately. Petersen switched his position to be ready to press on the neck again if Gupas started to move. They had less than 2-minutes before reflexes kicked in to re-establish the normal brain blood flow for Gupas to wake up.
Stinza created a mixture of the amphetamine from the contents of the “black beauty” capsules and the melted cocaine crystals with his Cricket lighter. After the drugs liquefied and were drawn up into the 3-cc syringe, he injected the lethal “speedball” into a vein in Gupas’s left antecubital fossa in front of the left elbow. He left the released tourniquet, which was Gupas’s belt, and the needled syringe in place. Gupas died within 20-seconds from an overdose of his favorite stimulants. Petersen and Stinza left additional evidence of drug supply and paraphernalia with Gupas. They turned on the boom box and the tinny Latino music filled the room. The duo left the apartment after making sure no indication of their presence remained.
There was still no one in the apartment hallways or out in the street. Stinza settled in the passenger seat and grabbed Petersen by the shoulder.
“We agreed there would be no knives.”
“I didn’t bring it with me today. It was needed for that other piece of shit drug dealer and he won’t be talking.” Petersen removed Stinza’s hand and started the car.
“How can you be so sure?” Stinza looked steely-eyed into Petersen’s’ orbits.
“Jinko Hernandez never saw me before 2-days ago. He didn’t know me. The guy is a wanted felon and is marked by other dealers for giving them a screwing in both product and price.” Petersen paused and Marco’s voice continued the reply. “And besides, how can a person talk without a tongue?”
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