The release of the first part of Ben Venice has been a big success, so thank you to all of you who bought it, new fans and old. The image above was made by Jack Maxwell. It’s quite a feeling to see an image you described in prose come to life like this, and I can’t thank him enough.
The office was on the corner, but it wasn’t the good corner. When Martino looked out the window, he just saw the taller buildings of downtown Fairfax, the ones that towered over the mere twenty stories of the Tribune. When Old Man Gentro looked out the windows of his office, he saw the river. He would sit in there, gently nodding off, gazing at the water below, remembering past glories.
Gentro’s face stared out upon the empire he built from everywhere, from one frame after another after another, lining all the walls of the building. His portraits were omnipresent. He held himself in such high esteem, this crownless king, and everyone accepted his eccentricities. No one would be where they were if not for Gentro’s largesse, and Gentro would never let them forget it. Even for a second.
Gentro liked to surround himself with other old men, all of them in his debt. Avanti in particular, he had a rap sheet the length of your arm, zero convictions. Petty theft and a few assault charges. Lenzi had one charge, but it was a huge one: Murder, with a capital “M.” Never even went to trial. Ponti had stolen millions with his schemes, everyone seemed to know but the victims and the authorities- “Ponti’s Ponzis” were referred to in jest often around the water cooler, when the worker bees thought no one was listening. No one was sure what Roeg had done, but it was something, and it was ugly. Only Martino had avoided legal trouble, but he was young yet, and swinging for a crash, which would inevitably be forgiven. Gentro was a benevolent man indeed.
The Old Man projected respectability, but he had his hands in some horrid shit. What newspaper tycoon doesn’t? Especially going back over 50 years, as Gentro did. How many lives had he casually destroyed by directing his paper’s reporting in one way or another, molding the truth like clay in the public’s consciousness? Patsies and scapegoats sat in jail or laid in their graves, while evil men walked and pulled threads, jerked the strings that made the rank and file no ones dance down the streets like marionettes.
Martino wasn’t one of those men, but he wanted to be.
How he wanted to be.
The staff jokingly called the board of directors the Wise Men. They sat around the board room and talked about how things were better before, but they could never articulate quite before what. The Tribune had certainly seen better days. Martino, merely in his thirties, would sit through these meetings, listen to these men pushing their reporting plans around like a doddering game of dominoes, and barely keep himself from exploding.
Martino’s day would start with an espresso shot he’d send his secretary Rosemary out for, then a bump of Colombian. There was usually someone that needed their ass corrected before lunch, so he would get right on that. The blood lust would kick in, and someone had to be doing something wrong somewhere. One day he actually came down on a copy boy, just starting his first day, because he was holding the envelopes wrong. Someone had to consider quality control.
At Lunch, he would even out a bit with a variety of liquors. Wine on Monday, vodka on Tuesday, lager on Wednesday, scotch on Thursday. He would save the bourbon for the end of the week, as it fueled his rage in a way that only a Friday followed by a weekend could contain. By the end of any given day, he had inhaled enough cocaine that he rarely remembered exactly how he began the next morning.
Martino knew that the future was his.
He knew that Gentro would die, and it would be at his hands.
All he didn’t know was exactly how.
The staff of the Fairfax Tribune were created by Beau Kaelin for his sixth film, The Fated Assemblage Of Doctor Malvagio. I happen to be in it, as Martino. It premieres this Saturday at the Village 8 at 8 o’clock.