Cosmo Scalici hollered over the grunts and squeals of three thousand hogs rooting in his muddy outdoor pens. "Right here's where I found it, poking outta this pile of garbage. Gave me the creeps, the way the fingers curled like it wanted me to come closer."
"What did you do?" I hollered back.
"Jumped the fence and tried to snatch it, but one of the sows beat me to it."
"Couldn't get it away from her?"
"You shittin' me? Ever try to wrestle lunch from a six-hundred-pound hog? I whacked her on the snout with a shovel my guys use to muck the pens. She didn't even blink."
To mask the stink, we puffed on cigars, his a Royal Jamaica, mine a Cohiba.
"Jesus, Mary, and Joseph," he said. "The nails were painted pink, and it was so small. The little girl that arm came from couldn'ta been more than nine years old. The sow just wolfed it down. You could hear the bones crunch in her teeth."
"Where's the hog now, Cosmo?"
"State cops shot her in the head, loaded her in a van, and took off. Said they was gonna open her stomach, see what's left of the evidence. I told 'em, that's two hundred and fifty bucks' worth of chops and bacon wholesale, so you damn well better send me a check 'less you want me to sue your ass."
"Any other body parts turn up?"
"The cops spent a couple hours raking through the garbage. Didn't find nothin'. If there was any more, it's all pig shit by now."
We kept smoking as we slopped across his twelve acres to the sprawling white farmhouse with green shutters where I'd left my car. Once this was woodland and meadow, typical of the countryside in the little town of Pascoag in Rhode Island's sleepy northwest corner. But Cosmo had bulldozed his whole place into an ugly mess of stumps, mud, and stones.
"How do you suppose the arm got here?" I asked.
"The staties kept asking the same question, like I'm supposed to fuckin' know."
He scowled as I scrawled the quote in my reporter's notebook.
"Look, Mulligan," he said. "My company? Scalici Recycling? It's a three-mil-a-year operation. My twelve trucks collect garbage from schools, jails, and restaurants all over Rhode Island. That arm coulda been tossed in a Dumpster anywhere between Woonsocket and Westerly."
I knew it was true. Scalici Recycling was a fancy name for a company that picked up garbage so pigs could reprocess it into bacon, but there was big money in it. I'd written about the operation five years ago when the Mafia tried to muscle in. Cosmo drilled one hired thug through the temple with a bolt gun used to slaughter livestock and put another in a coma with his ham-size fists. He called it trash removal. The cops called it self-defense.
I'd parked my heap beside his new Ford pickup. Mine had a New England Patriots decal on the rear window. His had a bumper sticker that said: "If You Don't Like Manure, Move to the City."
"Getting along any better with the folks around here?" I asked as I jerked open my car door.
"Nah. They're still whining about the smell. Still complaining about the noise from the garbage trucks. That guy over there?" he said, pointing at a raised ranch across the road. "He's a real asshole. That one down there? Total jerk. This whole area's zoned agricultural. They build their houses out here and want to pretend they're in fuckin' Newport? Fuck them and the minivans they rode in on."
Excerpted from Cliff Walk by Bruce DeSilva. Copyright 2012 by Bruce DeSilva. Excerpted by permission of Forge Books.