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The International Writers Magazine:Dreamscapes

Uncle Pringle and the Mob
Martin Green

My wife Ellen and I were having dinner at our favorite Manhattan restaurant, Mario’s.   I’m a science-fiction writer and my last book was a modest success so we’d been eating there more often recently and had gotten to know Mario fairly well.   He’d come to this country as a teen, started as a busboy and by hard work now owned his own place.   We’d finished and were about to leave when Mario came over to our table and asked if he could talk to us for a minute.
“Sure,” I said.   “Sit down.”

Mario sat.   I could see that he was agitated and when he told us his story I could understand why.   Since his restaurant had become well-known the mob had moved in and forced him to pay protection under threats of dire things happening to it if he refused.   “I hear you talk about your Uncle Pringle,” he said.   “He has many connections.   I wonder if maybe he can help me.”
Uncle Pringle is actually Ellen’s uncle.   He’d worked at a top-secret government agency for years and now was a “consultant,” although what he consulted at had never been very clear to me.   But, as Mario had said, he did seem to have many connections, extending even to the White House, and I’d known him to help out people in trouble in the past.   I asked Mario the obvious question.   “Why don’t you go to the police?”
“They say if I do that they will hurt my family.   These men, they hold nothing sacred.”
“I see,” I said.   “Well, I don’t know if Uncle Pringle can help you.   But I’ll give him a call and let you know.”
The next week Mario and I were on our way to see Uncle Pringle, who had no office but preferred to work on a bench in a mid-city park.   He said that, besides being out in the open air, it gave him an opportunity to observe people.    Uncle Pringle was on his usual bench.   As we approached, a young man who’d been sitting beside him stood up.   “If you hate it so much then quit,” Uncle Pringle said to him.   “Go for your dream.”
“I will,” said the young man.   “Thanks.”   Then he hurried away.
Claude Pringle had always reminded me of his actor namesake, whom older readers may remember, Claude Rains.   He was a small, neat-looking man with white hair.   It was hard to imagine him tangling with a bunch of gangsters.   I introduced him to Mario, who told him of his predicament.   “What’s the name of this hoodlum who’s threatening you?” asked Uncle Pringle.
“They call him Joey Marbles.”
“Ah, yes.   Joseph Marbelotti.   Longtime enforcer, just promoted to a captain in the Tony Baritonelli family.   Not much brains, but ambitious.   I think we can take care of him.”
“How?”  I asked.   “One of your old friends in the CIA?”
“Oh, I don’t think that will be necessary.   I’ve never understood the glorification of these mobsters in movies and television shows.   They’re really not very nice people.   But one of the things they do sometimes get right; the head of a mob family is paranoid, rightfully so.   They’re much more afraid that one of their underlings will overstep his bounds, even try to unseat them, than they are of any law enforcement agency.”
“So what do I do?”  asked Mario.
At this point, Uncle Pringle’s phone rang.   “Excuse me,” he said.   “Oh, hello, Hillary.   Yes, I know it can be difficult.   Just tell him you appreciate his help, but he has to stay in the background.   Be firm.”
“That wasn’t …”  I began.
“An old friend.   Now, where were we.   Ah, yes.  Mario,  you’ll call Tony Bsritonelli, at a number I will furnish you, and tell him that Joey Marbles has doubled the amount of protection he’s asking of you.   Tell Mr. Baritonelli  you can’t possibly afford to pay this.   Of course, this will come as news to him and when he grasps its implications, that Joey is getting money he didn’t  know about, nature, as it exists in gangster culture, will take its course.”
  “But,” I asked, “if Baritonelli has Joey Bottles whacked, won’t he just put another one of his mobsters in his place and keep on asking for protection money?” .
  “Good point,” said Uncle Pringle.   “We’ll deal with that later.   For now, let’s take it one step at a time.”
The next week an item appeared in the local newspapers.   Joey Marbles, longtime mobster and suspected member of the Tony Baritonelli family, was found dead in Long Island, shot execution-style.   It was clearly a gang-killing.   That night Uncle Pringle joined Ellen and I for dinner at Mario’s.   It was complementary and delicious.   Mario  told us that nobody had as yet contacted him about paying more protection money.
 “I don’t think you need worry about that any more,” said Uncle Pringle.
 “Why not?”  I asked.
 “I had a little chat with our Mr. Baritonelli the other day.   I suggested it was time for him to get out of the paltry restaurant protection business and move on to higher things.”
“What higher things?”
“The one thing a mob boss wants to achieve when he reaches a certain pinnacle is respectability.   So I made Mr. Baritone an offer he couldn’t refuse.”
“What’s that?”
 “An invitation to dinner at the White House.   That’s about as respectable as you can get.”
“But, a mob boss at the White House?   Somehow that doesn’t seem right.”
  “I can assure you,” said Uncle Pringle, “that nastier characters than Tony Baritonelli have been to the White House.   But I agree with you.   It wouldn’t be seemly for a known mob boss to have dinner with the President.   I said that Mr. Baritone had been invited.   That’s all.”
Uncle Pringle refused to say anything more.   We finished our dinner and Mario again expressed his profuse thanks.    A few weeks later the end to this story became known with another newspaper item.   Mobster Tony Baritonelli was found dead in a limousine at the Washington, D.C. airport.   Rumors were that he’d been on his way to a dinner at the White House but the President’s press secretary denied this absolutely.   Tony Baritonelli killed.   This made me look at Uncle Pringle in an entirely new light.

© Martin Green September 2007
"Collected Stories, Vol. II by Martin Green " is available online at Tesco for 8 Euros.  It's also available from iUniverse (publisher), Barnes & Noble, Amazon,

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