Sex in Vegas, Blood in New York
Jack and Vanessa get to know each other in a Biblical sense while an unholy gang war starts to ramp up on the streets of the big apple
By John Armstrong
Some time later I called the desk and asked them to tell Mr. Cohen we had been unavoidably detained. I lit a cigarette one-handed, as the other was trapped from the shoulder down beneath a large mound of hair snuggled into my chest and portions of a beautiful face peeking out here and there.
“This is exactly what I swore to my mother I would not do,” she said. “‘Mind you don’t get swept off your feet by some fancy hoodlum and wind up on your back’, she said, and here I am, on my back.” She tugged the sheet towards her. “My mother also believes the Catholics are taking over the world, through numbers. That’s why the Pope’s against birth control.”
“Absolutely true,” I told her. “We’re in a race with the Chinese for domination. It’s why the Earth tilts on its axis, you know – all those Chinamen at one end. But, the wops’re catching up, and we weigh more. Only a matter of time.”
“I thought ‘wop’ was an insult.”
“Not so much. We embrace it – it comes from guappo, Sicilian for a handsome, swaggering, tough guy. Can you imagine any of us being offended if you called us that?”
There was a knock at the door and I called “Come in” – it was room service with champagne and the dinner we’d never gotten around to. Vanessa pulled the sheets up over her head. I didn’t see what that accomplished – there was obviously someone in there with me and what did a hotel waiter care who it might be? A few years ago I might have asked what the point was but I’m older and wiser now. I popped the cork instead and spilled cold wine over us both when it fizzed.
“Now that you have me you where you want me I can see you’ve given up on the suave act.” She held out her glass.
I filled it and offered a shrimp the size of my big toe to go with it. “It’s not too late to see the show, you know. Sergio Franchi. Very good singer.”
She slurped cocktail sauce off her finger and weighed the choices.
“There’s a lounge out on the balcony,” she said. “Wine, moonlight. How much do you think we could hear from there?”
I told her, all things considered, I didn’t really care. She didn’t either, as it turned out.
We were on the runway tarmac at sunrise, a little short on sleep but happy in the way you can be only at the very beginning of a romance. We giggled and laughed, and the sillier it was the more we laughed…
We were on the runway tarmac at sunrise, a little short on sleep but happy in the way you can be only at the very beginning of a romance. We giggled and laughed, and the sillier it was the more we laughed. I realized this was probably not the impression you want to make on a couple of hundred gunmen you’re about to lead into battle and hurried Vanessa up to our seats where we’d be hidden behind the first class barrier.
When we were up, I excused myself and went back to talk to the men about what to expect in New York; an early call to Frank while Vanessa packed had filled me in on the situation back home. I sat on the armrest of a seat at the head of the compartment and lit a cigarette. They were a tough, professional-looking bunch. I imagine the Legionnaires looked very similar.
“You already know some of what’s going on in New York from your capos,” I said, “ but everything else you’ve heard is probably bullshit, so I want to tell you what the facts are. Someone, we still don’t know who, has been hitting the families with intent of starting a war.
“They’ve succeeded, to some extent.” That got the muttering started and I spoke quickly to kill it.
“The Luciano family has told the others there’s going to be peace, one way or the other. You’re the ‘other’ way.” They laughed and hooted at that. “You’ll be turned over to our lieutenants and assigned to peacekeeping duties with our soldiers. Any questions.”
“Yeah,” someone shouted from the crowd. “That’ll take us up to lunchtime. What do you want us to do after that?”
“Those who are about to die salute you – and it ain’t us!” someone else shouted. That got more laughter, and they cheered and stomped even louder when I gave them the Roman salute and went back up to first class. The gladiators who went into the Colosseum were just as brave, tough, and well-trained as any of the men behind me, and only half of them – at best – came back out. I wondered if that had occurred to them.
The gladiators who went into the Colosseum were just as brave, tough, and well-trained as any of the men behind me, and only half of them – at best – came back out. I wondered if that had occurred to them.
There’s not much to say about the rest of the flight. Vanessa and I slept most of the way and I only woke when I felt the plane beginning to descend to Idlewild. There was almost no time to talk to her except to say I’d call her when I could and arrange a ride home for her. I was preoccupied with the small army I had sitting in back of me and the last thing I wanted to do was give Vanessa the impression I was brushing her off, but I simply had to get to work.
The problem was she wasn’t just some woman I’d had a fling with. This was different, and while I knew things had changed between us I had no idea how and what it meant. I didn’t know what the new rules were and didn’t have time to find out.
When I tried to express this in a fumbling and hurried manner, she cut me off with a quick kiss and said, “I know. Just don’t get yourself killed. Officers are supposed to stay at the rear, you know.”
Then she was gone and I was busy again with getting the men into the vehicles I’d had commandeered from car dealerships. Do you know how many big, mercenary types fit into the average sedan? Neither did I, but the answer is ‘not many.’ The first five or six cars were told to stop on their way into the city and send back trucks from any lots they passed. That was when it occurred to me they had to sleep somewhere. I called Ricco and told him to expect guests, and to arrange to have one of the downtown hotels cleared out for them. Just feeding them was going to be a major operation. I suddenly had heartfelt sympathy for quartermasters throughout history.
While they were loading I called the office again and got Frank who told me the situation had deteriorated further while we in the air.
“Our peacekeeping patrols in Queens and Brooklyn were both hit, hard. There’s open fighting in the street both places now.
“Nah – he’s busy in Jersey. He’s got his own troubles. I had my talk with him and goddamned if I don’t believe him. He’s an old man, just as much a son of a bitch as he always was, but he doesn’t want to fight us. He wants to sit where it’s warm, look at his garden, drink some brandy and listen to his opera records. He’s such a prick that it’s easy to see him as the mastermind, but he ain’t. I told him he stays across the bridge, we’re fine.”
I didn’t want to bring it up but I had to. “The Commission was pretty clear Vito had to go.”
“I know, I know. We get this other shit settled, maybe they won’t care. We have to get it settled – collections are down over 60 per-cent. Nobody wants to go out to the track, to the bookie, even play the numbers, and the ones who do don’t trust if we’ll be around to pay off if they win. We had Molotov’s thrown at our books in midtown and someone ran a truck full of explosive through the front of Chase Manhattan, but it didn’t go off. It’s still there, until we find someone who can make sure it’s disarmed. It ain’t good.”
“Jesus,” was all I could say, not that I expected Him to be any help. Chase is our family bank and while the actual cash – many, many millions of it – was safe in fireproof underground vaults, the intent was plain: They would hit us where we lived, and where it hurt most: in the wallet. For us, bleeding money is the worst kind of injury and the most likely to be fatal. We had a much higher payroll than normal what with all the hired help we’d brought on and like any business, we depend on cash flow – what goes out is replaced by what comes in, hopefully enough that we use the black ink to write it down.
The Lucianos could survive for quite some time on our cash reserves but we’re staunch capitalists, after all, and Italian besides. To us – the American Way is simple: Honor the flag and don’t touch capital. Whoever said about the Sicilians that ‘we’d rather eat our children than lose money’ knew us well.
Whoever said about the Sicilians that ‘we’d rather eat our children than lose money’ knew us well.
I hung up and went back out to the runway. They were loading the last few soldiers into the trailer of a big Western Star 18-wheeler and I could have kicked myself for not thinking of big rigs earlier – it wouldn’t be comfortable but it would get a small army of men somewhere very fast, without anyone knowing they were inside, and if they got there in a bad mood, so much the better. That would be a good thing to remember. I had an idea I’d need it sooner rather than later. A bodyguard banged the side of the cab and the driver shifted into gear, black smoke pumping from the exhaust stacks.
I got into my own car and we pulled out, headed for the heart of a gang war. I had the driver pull over and open the trunk. I felt slightly better after I’d put my shoulder holster and guns back on, but not a lot.
Mob Rule continues regularly in The Ex-Press, to read past instalments, click here.
THE EX-PRESS, October 31, 2015