Jack Kennedy and his family connections
Our risk-averse narrator may be related to an American dynasty, but as he explains in this instalment, he’ll never be welcome in the inner circle
By John Armstrong
I called down and told Ricco to requisition some of the armored money trucks from Receivables to carry the Commissioners back to the airfield for their flights home and select drivers, shotgun men, and bodyguards to accompany them. After the Waldorf, I was taking no chances. As we were escorting them to the elevator Bobby took me aside.
“I’m sorry we didn’t get any time to really talk while I was here, Jack. Mother asked me to tell you everyone misses you and wishes you’d come home. I’d like that, too. I could really use you.” He pronounced it “awsked” with that funny upper-crust accent the whole family has, Boston by way of no-one knows where.
I was both flattered and suspicious. It’s hard to know how to take Bobby. Even in his forties he’s still the same guy who taught me how to hit a sinking fastball and snuck me beer at family picnics, with the same floppy head of hair he’s forever pushing back off his forehead. He’s also the heir to one of the richest and most powerful families in America, trained from birth to wield power. (It should have been my namesake’s but the throne passed to Bobby when Jack flipped his speedboat over at Hyannisport. Kennedys and water just don’t mix; my oldest cousin, Joe Jr., went down in a plane over the English Channel and my other cousin, Teddy, got drunk, drove off a bridge and drowned himself and his girlfriend. Consequently, I stick with showers; even bathtubs make me nervous.)
So whatever genuine affection he may have for me, you have to take anything Bob says and turn it around this way and that, looking at all the angles. I can never be a threat to him but still, the Kennedys don’t like family members running around off the compound, where they can’t pull hard on the leash if necessary. I could make a nice living but no matter what, I could never be admitted into the inner circle. When all’s said and done, my grandfather long ago made it clear he didn’t approve of my father and would never consider me a true Kennedy, which is how I ended up with Frank in the first place. I couldn’t see Bobby ever crossing his father, even after death. And the old man shows no signs of ever dying anyway. The prevailing theory is he’s still here because the devil won’t take him.
“That’s very good to hear, Bob. I appreciate that a lot, but Frank needs me and I couldn’t leave him like that. But you never know, right? Stranger things happen.” I grasped his hand and it turned into a roughneck hug. “And make sure you give my love to Aunt Rose, too.”
He disengaged and stepped into the car, giving me that big display of teeth again and shook his head. “I should know better – never tell an Irishman what to do. We’re worse than mules. But come up for a visit, all right, at least?”
I said that I would and the doors closed. Then I looked at Meyer and Frank expectantly. I’d been taking the lead on a number of things lately but this time I didn’t know where to start. Frank already had his plan worked out.
“I’m going to take their advice but I’m going to do it my way. Meyer, I need you to make calls to the heads of the other New York families as my consigliere and tell them that an act of aggression against any of the other families will be considered an act of war against the Lucianos, and it will be dealt with as such. Tell them there’s going to be peace if I have level half of New York to get it. I’m declaring martial law.
“Jackie, I want you to go to Vegas. We’re taking Mickey up on his offer. You pick a couple hundred of his best guys and bring them back here, ready to enforce the peace.”
“And while we’re running around on your orders, what are you gonna be doing? Taking a shvitz?” Meyer’s eyes twinkled behind the big glass lenses. He liked seeing the old Frank, not the one who’d complained he was just a businessman. I liked it, too. We – I – needed him.
“I’m going to make a call to Vito and get some things straight between us. One way or the other.”
I caught Mickey Cohen in the lobby and told him we were accepting his offer of troops. When was he leaving?
“I got a couple of things to tend to since I’m here, won’t take more’n a few hours. Just personal stuff, put flowers on a couple of graves, show my respect. I promised Benny I’d bring back some soup from the Carnegie, a couple other things. You taking the plane with me?”
“If that’s all right with you. And if I can bring a guest?”
Cohen perked up some at that. “Sure. A blonde?”
“No, brunette. A nice girl.”
“Ahhh, they’re all nice. But blondes are nicer.”
It was Thursday night – actually early Friday morning now – and I was hoping Vanessa would consider skipping a few classes in the interest of a broader education. She was, once she’d woken up enough to consider the idea, although dubious about getting dressed at 2 a.m. to catch a plane.
“Just come in your pajamas and bathrobe and bring something to change into later in your overnight bag. Anything else, we can get in Vegas.”
She laughed loud enough to hurt my ear. “You really don’t know anything about women, do you? Unless I’m going as freight in a sealed box where no-one can see me, I’m not stepping one foot out of this door without my hair and makeup done and proper clothes on.”
“Wear whatever you like, then, but something comfortable so you can sleep on the plane if you want. We’ll get there in time for breakfast and then catch some real sleep in the room. See you in an hour or so.”
She was still laughing. “Fly to Las Vegas in the middle of the night in my slip, eat breakfast and then go to bed. My mother was right – you people really are barbarous.” She hesitated and then said, “when you say, ‘the room’, am I to infer …”
“You in your room, me in mine,” I said. “I swear on the Gangster’s Oath.”
“Is there such a thing?”
“Not until now,” I said.
Mob Rule continues in The Ex-Press. For past instalments, click here.
THE EX-PRESS, October 22, 2015