Thursday, March 24, 2005

Devil's in the Details by Craig McDonald

Devil’s In The Details” by Craig McDonald, Philadelphia, March 17-23, 2005

Joey Grapelli, home from college because of an emergency, is finding out more about the family business first hand than he ever wanted to know. Angello Grapelli, Joey’s father, is in the process of torturing one Tommy Russo, a kid two years younger than Joey. Joey’s grandfather, Carmine, too old for this shit, is watching with a combination of disapproval and regret.

This is Sunday morning. Friday night Joey’s sister, Laura, was kidnapped in an escalation of a war between two crime families, the Russos and the Grapellis. A new restaurant opened in what the Grapelli family thought was their territory. One of the Grapelli lieutenants, not knowing that it was a Russo enterprise, shook it down for a $4,000 protection fee.

The Russo family was not pleased. In retaliation they snatched the Grapelli girl saying that they will free her when the Grapellis return the $4,000 along with a $10,000 fine. If the Russos don’t have the money by 11 a.m. Sunday, Laura will be gang-raped. If by noon they still don’t have the money, she gets a bullet in the back of the head.

Rather than give up the money, Angello decides to pull his own snatch and grabs the Russo kid at 1 a.m. Sunday. Ever since then Angello and his henchmen have been torturing the kid to get Laura’s location out of him.

They have a second deadline, too. Joey and Laura’s mother has been out of state visiting a sister. She doesn’t know anything about the kidnapping, and she is due to get home around noon or a little after.

Carmine keeps trying to convince Joey to take off, go back to school. He knows this thing won’t turn out well no matter what happens. It’s basically the opening shot of a war. Joey wants to leave, but he doesn’t seem to be able to make himself take off.

At 10:50 they check the webcam that the Russo’s have set up showing Laura tied to a chair. Now the chair is empty, turned over on the floor surrounded by the ropes that used to hold the girl. This can’t be good. The Russo kid still isn’t talking. Then just after 11, Mrs. Grapelli shows up. Things are going to hell in a handbasket.

This is a well-written story and the winner in the Crime Fiction portion of the City Paper’s 19th Annual Fiction Contest. Ken Bruen, the Pope of Galway Bay, judged this category of the contest and provides an intro to the story.

Mr. McDonald builds suspense through the course of the story very well. You have the torture on one side and old Carmine urging Joey to get out before this act contaminates him beyond redemption. And there is Joey’s inner conflict between family loyalty and disgust at what is happening.

In short, I’ll echo Mr. Bruen in saying that this story has one hell of an ending.


At 1:10 PM, Blogger Aldo said...

I have read this three times and each time I like it better. Craig has a nack for this and his style is cool. I'm looking forward to reading a longer piece where he has a chance to develop characters because I think the two short stories he has written are so well done.

At 3:28 AM, Blogger Ray said...

I'll second, third and fourth that. Craig's one of the finest short story writers knocking around these days and I itch for more like him. The boy's got balls.

At 7:54 AM, Blogger Dave White said...

I read this story the other day and loved it. I really enjoyed the twist at the end, something I hadn't seen before, but man, what really gets me is one paragraph. The paragraph where Joey realizes the last time he, his father, and his grandfather worked on a project together was when they worked on his soapbox derby car. Now they're tearing up a body.


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