Valentine Short from Kevin Thornton

by Kevin Thornton 

The bodies faced each other in the back of the alley. South-side Chicago. February. Cold.

Unless the Examiner came up with anything strange this looked very much like an old fashioned shootout, and Sergeant George Stone half expected the stiffs to be strapped with low slung holsters.

“Maybe this’ll be the end of it,” he said.

His partner, Detective Cronin, found a wallet. “Says his name's Antonio Vincenzo Gibaldi. He doesn’t look Italian, looks like regular black folk to me.”

“He’s not much Italian,” said Strong.

“You know this guy?” said Cronin.

“I know both of them. The other one is Adelard Cunin the fifth, and although both their mothers, grandmothers and likely several generations of womenfolk back were all hookers, Addie Five over here and Tony G over there come from gangster royalty. These two families have been killing each other off for nearly eighty-five years.”

“Are you serious? How come I never heard of them then?”

Strong thought for a moment. “Because they don’t look like their history. Tony G there, the far corpse, is about 27. He lived a lot longer than his Dad, Big Tony, who died at 15. They were the sixth and seventh generations to carry the name Gibaldi, either Vincenzo Antonio or the other way round. You can track them back to 1936, when Vincenzo Antonio Garibaldi the first was machine-gunned to death on the orders of Adelard Cunin the first.

Cronin still looked puzzled. “So these black guys had Italian great-umpty grandparents that nobody remembers, and every now and then a new generation tries to kill each other?”

“Exactly”, said Stone. “Except they are remembered. Back then it wasn’t always wise to use your real name.”

“Wait a minute”, said Cronin. He pulled out his smartphone and muttered as he typed. “Gibaldi, 1936, murder, Chicago.”  Then he stopped and muttered, “Holy crap.”

He turned to Stone and said, “Are you trying to tell me that this kid on the floor is the descendent of the ‘Antonio Vincenzo Gibaldi’ also known as Machine Gun Jack McGurn?”

“Got it in one kiddo,” said Stone.

“But he, he, he was killed by Bugs Moran?”

“Bugs ordered the killing, he didn’t do it himself. Bugs’ real name was Adelard Cunin, and he was French anyway, not Italian. He waited seven years to get his revenge, because Machine Gun Jack had been the hit leader of…”

“The Saint Valentine’s day massacre,” said Cronin, breathing slowly. He looked at the two blinged-out men in track pants, hoodies and Air Jordans, lying dead in their own blood. Then he tried to imagine them as their ancestors, with double-breasted suits, fedoras and tommy guns. He couldn’t. “It just doesn’t seem possible.”

“These two families have been murdering each other over a stupid Italian blood feud for nearly a century”, said Stone. “Capone ordered Machine Gun Jack to kill Bugsy Moran. Moran escaped and though he could never  get Capone he ordered McGurn killed and it took seven years. In the meantime, both of them fathered children by their black lovers and although Moran died in jail the stories did not. So they kept the feud going, the descendants. Until now. It’s all over. Today.”

“Why do you reckon that Sarge?”

“Because they both killed each other. They must have drawn and shot at the same time. It’s done now. The History of the Saint Valentine’s day massacres has finally run its course.” He turned to the coroner. “You can take them now. We’re done.”

Not ten yards away, quiet as a whisper, still in the derelict warehouse where he’d been hiding since he’d followed his Dad that morning, Little Tony G listened to everything the old cop had said. He hadn’t known what was going on and when he’d seen his Dad and the other guy face each other down like those badasses in that late night Clint Eastwood movie. He’d been scared, and then proud. Now he knew why it had happened.

He’d also recognized the other gunfighter, Addie Five, and he knew his son. They were both in sixth grade together.

But not for much longer. Wait till he caught up to Addie Six, pointed his Glock in his face, said “Happy Valentine’s day, sucker!”

And pulled the trigger.

A four time Arthur Ellis (Unhanged) Award Nominee, Kevin Thornton is a writer for the local Municipality, a columnist for the Fort McMurray Today and Your McMurray Magazine, a Director of the Crime Writers of Canada and a board Member of both the Northern Canada Collective Society for Writers and the Fort McMurray Public Library. He has never been known, willingly, to split an infinitve.

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