Two Months Ago
Koning walked through the park with both hands wedged firmly in his pockets. A pleasant spring breeze through Koning’s hair and he took a momentary break from his vigilance to enjoy the scene. There were picnicking families eating lunch on the grass, people walking dogs, and what looked to be a pack of young toughs smoking cigarettes beside a bench. Somewhere a radio played an uptempo music number with Spanish singing. The Appian Way ran through the heart of the park. No cars could safely pass down the cracked and worn cobbles, but plenty of pedestrians and bicycles navigated down it at the moment. The same road Roman soldiers had marched down over two thousand years ago was still being used. It was a testament to the ancient world’s engineering prowess, and a reminder that Rome’s history stretched back several millennia.
A child’s loud and playful scream brought Koning back to reality. He pulled a hand out of his pocket and squared his glasses. It was almost time for his contact to show. He’d left his vestments back at the Vatican in an effort to blend in. A priest in a dowdy black frock walking through the park would get noticed. On top of that, emissaries of the Holy See were scrutinized once they stepped on Italian soil. Koning spent nearly two hours executing his tradecraft. He’d double back on his route and walk the wrong way on one-way streets, looking over his shoulder for familiar faces going the same way as he was. Normally archbishops in the Catholic Church weren’t experts in espionage tradecraft, but Koning was far from a normal archbishop.
He found Dončić sitting on a park bench eating a gelato. Koning sat beside the thin, mustached Slovenian man. Neither acknowledged the other’s existence as they continued to stare forward.
“You have some gelato in your mustache,” said Koning.
Dončić wiped his face with the back of his hand and grunted thanks before taking another bite.
“There is a packet under the bench,” said Dončić. “It includes some banking information my bosses in Belgrade need help with.”
Koning reached down and pulled a closed manila envelope from under the bench. He tucked it into his jacket for later reading.
“What is it related to?” asked Koning.
“A criminal group active in Yugoslavia. They are ostensibly a Muslim revolutionary organization, but they are little more than gangsters. They run guns, sell drugs, and pimp out women to fund their terrorism, but they have other donors who live abroad that do the heavy lifting. State Security found the information in your packet during a raid on one of their homes. Our theory is if we can identify and cut off their funding, then their revolutionary zeal will fade. ”
“‘One cannot serve both God and money. No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other’,” said Koning. “What do I seek to gain if I undertake this task for your country?”
Dončić shrugged. “The gratitude of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. In addition, you make me look good in the eyes of my bosses. I look good to them then I get promoted. That gives you a good Catholic friend deep inside the UDBA. A friend who will owe you a favor.”
“I’ll see what I can find,” said Koning. He stood and stretched. “Watch the wall outside the Yugoslav Embassy for the tic tac toe game. I’ll be in touch when I have something.”
Koning walked away from the bench without a look back at Dončić.
Koning looked up from his papers as the train PA announced they’d arrived as his stop. He placed the papers in a briefcase on the seat beside him before standing. He stepped out onto the T platform and started the climb up the station steps. Speers managed to come through with the information Koning needed and it, along with a few items provided by other sources at his disposal, was in his briefcase.
He came out of the station and into the heart of South Boston. Southie, as it was called among Boston locals, was a neighborhood with a reputation. Heavily working class and heavily Irish Catholic, it wasn’t a place a lot of Bostonians liked to find themselves in this late at night. Koning wasn’t too worried. He could handle himself in almost all physical situations he may find himself in. On top of that he was decked out in his cassock. Only the most hardened criminals in Southie dared to accost a priest.
Clapboard row houses with multiple families living within them were on both sides of the street. Hungry faces peered out the windows as Koning passed by. He expected more kids and youngsters on the street, but a strict curfew administered by Boston police was in effect. Despite the huge Irish Catholic population in Boston they were still second class citizens. The nicer parts of the city were proddy only, so the Catholics had to stay in neighborhoods like Southie and Dorchester. Too many poor people living on top of each other led to crime and squalor. The old Boston Brahmins still had their hooks in city hall and their machine ran the BPD. On their orders the mostly Protestant cops treated the Catholic neighborhoods like occupied territory. Years of abuse built up resentment and rage at the cops and the establishment they worked for. Koning could feel that unrest even simmering under the surface even in the warm summer night. It was only a matter of time.
His glasses reflected the bright neon glow off the bar’s side wall as he approached the entrance. A green neon sign declared the place JOE’S. A four leaf clover above the E blinked on and off in an infrequent pattern.
Koning entered the bar. It looked like a typical dive bar: A few sadsacks were bellied up to the bar with a glass of beer and an empty shot glass. People sat at a couple of tables scattered around the floor smoking just as much as they drank. The walls were covered in graffiti along with vintage posters of old time boxers and black and white photos of people Koning assumed were somehow connected to the bar’s history. A jukebox in the corner warbled some Irish jig:
“Then we turned and shook as we had a look in the room where the dead men lay. So big Jim Dwyer made his last trip to the shores where his father's laid.”
He received a few curious looks as he approached the bar, but nothing too severe. There was a good chance he wasn’t the first man of the cloth to walk through these doors. The bartender sized him up with a slightly raised eyebrow. The middle aged man was beefy with a ruddy face and a flattened nose. The nose along with the cauliflower ear on the right side made Koning guess the man had been a boxer in his younger days.
“Sunday’s priests get penny shots,” he said with a grin. “Every other night it’s full price, father.”
“I would like to see the proprietor of this fine establishment,” said Koning.
The bartender wrinkled his brow and scratched the side of his head. “Do what now?”
“The owner,” Koning said with a sigh. “The Joe in Joe’s.”
“Ain’t no Joe,” said the bartender. “Never was. It’s just a name someone liked so they named the bar Joe’s.”
“Curious,” Koning said, pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose. “I was under the impression this bar was owned by one Joseph Sullivan, at least it’s a de facto ownership. The actual deed of ownership and liquor board license is in the name of Colleen McDonough, Joseph’s aunt. Yet Boston Police Department intelligence indicates Mrs. McDonough is just a front because Joseph, a convicted felon, would be unable to get a liquor license on his own.”
“Get the fuck outta here,” the bartender said sharply. He started to reach for something behind the bar, a baseball bat Koning assumed. “Get out now, padre, before something bad happens to you.”
“Let your boss decide my fate,” said Koning. “I will have some tonic water while you tell him I’m here.”
The bartender eyed Koning sharply as the archbishop simply stood there. Finally, he moved slowly and deliberately towards one of the taps behind the bar. He poured a glass full of tonic water before spitting in it and putting it on the bar in front of Koning.
Koning watched him lumber away towards a door off to the side of the bar. All of the regulars at Joe’s were now all watching the priest as he put his briefcase on the bar and calmly waited.
“Word of advice, your holiness,” said one of the drinkers at the bar. Koning turned to look at him. His face was permanently flushed red from a lifetime of alcohol consumption and his eyes had a glazed over look that Koning was sure was permanently there all the time. “People who piss off Joe go in that backroom and they don’t come out upright. Run away while you can, Father. Not even that collar is gonna save you from Mink.”
The drunk hushed up and scurried back to his spot at the bar when he saw the side door open again. The bartender came out with a companion at this side. A short man with a sharp pointed nose and dark beady eyes stared intently at Koning. His red hair was slicked back by pomade and he wore a sports jacket even in the warm bar. Koning was able to make out the shape of a shoulder holstered gun beneath the jacket.
“This is Mink,” said the bartender. “He’s gonna take you back to meet Joe.”
The old drunk to Koning’s left looked and tried to flash a look with his eyes. Koning saw it, but the two other men remained oblivious. Koning nodded and grabbed the briefcase off the bar before he started to walk towards Mink. He gently patted the elderly drinker on the shoulder as he passed by. He wanted to reassure the man that whatever awaited him in the backroom, he could handle it.
Koning started down a short hallway with Mink behind him. The little man stayed closely behind Koning as they approached an open doorway.
“What’s with the get up?” Mink asked. “You work with Father Jamison and those other faggots at Gate of Heaven?”
“No,” Koning said shortly. He felt the hairs on the back of his neck prickle as his anger rose. “I know Father Jamison, but I am not here on simple parish business.”
They passed through the doorway and into an office. The heavyset man with dark hair and sunken eyes staring at him from across the desk had to be Joe Sullivan. Predictably, Koning felt Mink move swiftly behind him. Something hard and cold was placed on the back of Koning’s neck.
“What kind of fucking priest walks into my bar and asks to see me?” Sullivan asked in a thick Boston accent. “Not only that, the son of a bitch seems to intimately know details of my business.”
“One who seeks to find allies in unlikely places,” Koning said in a measured voice. “I was told you were a good Catholic once, Joe.”
“I was an altar boy for six years,” said Sullivan, just a hint of a smile on his face. “They kicked me out when I went to juvie.” The smile faded and he frowned. “But that was a long time ago. And I’ve already punched my ticket to Hell in the eyes of the church. So what’s one more murder, even if it’s of a priest?”
When Koning moved, he moved swiftly, driving the briefcase in his hand into Mink’s midsection. The sudden jolt made him step backwards and gasp. He pulled the gun away from Koning’s neck as he reeled. Koning spun and smacked Mink across the face with the briefcase. His free hand snatched the gun from Mink’s grasp as he fell to the floor. Koning delivered a hard kick to Mink’s face before spinning around again to train the barrel of the pistol on Sullivan. The fat man raised his hands in defense.
“He broke my fucking nose,” Mink cried from the floor.
“Your man said some very rude things about my fellow priests,” Koning said to Sullivan. He laid the briefcase on the desk in front of Sullivan. He stepped back and lowered the gun just enough to put Sullivan at some sort of ease.
“Now may we discuss business?”
“What the fuck do you want?!” Sullivan yelled. “Do you know who the fuck I am? You just waltz in here and attack my sister’s boy and train a gun on me like I’m some common hood.”
“You are,” Koning said impassively. “You are very much a small-time criminal living in a second class neighborhood. South Boston and all the Catholics in this city are just white negros in the eyes of the people in power. The Boston PD knows that you run a gambling and loansharking racket out of this bar, but yet they do nothing to stop it. It’s because you’re not worth the effort, Joseph. You do your part in keeping your own people down. You're an outlaw, but you still serve the state's purpose to a fault.”
Koning saw Sullivan flushing. He couldn’t tell if it was out of anger or embarrassment.
“What the fuck do you want?” Sullivan asked again.
“A partnership,” said Koning.
He heard Mink starting to get up from behind him, but a heel kick to the man’s chest kept him on the floor.
“In the briefcase in front of you are the details on a man named Oguz Özil. He lives in Brockton and is a very prosperous import-export merchant. He is also a financier of international crime and terrorism. Open the briefcase.”
Sullivan complied. He frowned when he looked inside. Koning knew he might. In addition to the information on Özil were manila packets numbered 1 through 22, along with stacks of hundred dollar bills. Over twenty-five thousand US dollars. A small fortune to someone like Sullivan.
“What’s all this?”
“Özil is a problem that needs to disappear,” said Koning. “Do not tell me the details, it is better if I do not know. The cash is your fee in advance for a job done well and discreetly, Joseph. There is more money where that comes from. The packets? That’s for after you take care of our Turkish friend. It’s thorough intelligence on all twenty-two ward members on Boston’s city councils, their dirty secrets and their innermost desires.”
Sullivan furrowed his brow.
“It’s an election year, Joseph,” said Koning. “And with the money and information at your disposal, you can become something more than a common criminal: You can become a kingmaker. I’ll be in touch.”
Koning pocketed the gun and stepped over the prone Mink. He walked through the bar, ignoring the shock on the bartender’s face. Koning winked at the old drunk as he walked out into the warm summer night.