By Jack Heart and Orage for Veterans Today
Phil was a stone cold killer. Some of his resume is covered in my unpublished first book, but not all of it. He was still alive when I wrote it. Although he was of Polish and Italian descent, he’d made his bones in the South Bronx working as an enforcer for a woman called Ms. Iris who ran the Puerto Rican mafia and owned a string of topless bars which retailed cocaine all along Rosedale Avenue with the blessings of the NYC police department. He’d told me ten years ago that one day he would kill Richie and now he was back with a mandate from a powerful faction of the Italian mob to do just that…
After wallowing in self pity for almost a year over my failed marriage; crack pipe stuffed in my face and self-respect naught but a distant memory I had cleaned myself up, picked myself up by the bootstraps, as the limp dicked republicans like to say, just in time to be hired as Richie’s bodyguard. Without me, Richie was a dead man and so were all his make believe gangster friends. They were all terrified of Phil, whom long ago had been dubbed “Lurch” by the Long Island police, possibly because of his charming habit of playing with the severed heads of his friends.
I’d been sitting on Richie for weeks, sleeping on his couch with rounds chambered, safety’s off, in a twelve gauge pump shotgun and a semi-automatic forty caliber pistol. My only respite had been when the mostly Black bouncers from Richie’s flagship club, the Café Royale, had come over early one morning with a pile of coke and a couple of bottles of Hennessy. Since they were all armed, I allowed myself to drop my guard and party with them just that once. During those weeks, Richie and I had never left Richie’s palatial waterfront home.
About three weeks in, I was introduced to Larry, half Italian, half Black and two hundred and sixty pounds of muscle, with a resume almost as extensive as Phil’s. He had just gotten out of jail and I was told that he would now be my partner in babysitting Richie. Larry shunned the obligatory “nine” of the growing Black hip hop culture in favor of a German Luger, which was the first thing I noticed about him that made him stand out from the twenty or so Black tough guys who bounced Richie’s strip clubs. The second thing I noticed was Larry’s intelligence and his soft and articulate way of speaking, which was undermined by a steely coldness that served like the warning colors of a deadly snake…
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Richie was a very intelligent man, well read and highly educated, but he was like a man without a soul and his only real concern in life was what Richie was going to get out of it. Consequently, he would double cross anyone who got in his way, including his own father and anyone foolish enough to go in with him on a business deal, which was why there were those who wanted him dead. With only Richie to talk to, Larry and I soon became fast friends.
Phil for his part burned Richie’s make believe gangster partners car in his driveway, then using his experience as a linesman for cable TV he cut off the electric in the whole neighborhood, calling his house and telling his wife he was now coming to kill the whole family. When he wasn’t amusing himself like this, he would march into bars under Richie’s control with our old crew, all screwed by Richie, take them over and split the nights take with the legitimate owners, telling them they would now pay him instead of Richie or suffer the consequences.
When he wasn’t doing that, he was relentlessly stalking Richie, who with both me and Larry now at his side, got up the courage to go to his office in the Café Royale. I remember Phil calling the Café and telling Richie what he was wearing. When I was told this I was eating lunch in the back rooms with some of the girls and I pulled my piece right in front of them and went outside with Larry looking for him. Of course, Phil was nowhere to be found. We weren’t about to go after Phil, not for Richie, but we weren’t about to let Phil kill him either. I still considered Phil a friend, we’d been through a lot together, much of it making Richie his first few millions…
Phil was a real tough guy and so were the people he was with; the Murphy brothers and company, maybe the toughest in NY at the time, present company excluded. But they were no match for Richie and his Jewish lawyer, who practically ran Suffolk County. In the end, they set Phil and my old friends up with the FBI and I remember them both cheering like their football team had just won the Super Bowl when they got word they had all been arrested.
Now it was time for Larry and I to reap the benefits of our labor. We were put in charge of security for the Café Royale, money for nothing, free drugs and booze and the most beautiful women in NY at our disposal. I couldn’t help but notice this group of young Italian American men who were drinking for free and cluttering up the VIP room, making it unfit for the paying customers with their antics. When I inquired as to who they were I was told that was Tommy D and his crew. His father was a big shot captain, a “real killer,” for an Italian faction of the NYC mob.
Now I had my own reputation and I wasn’t about to, after dealing with Phil and company, allow it to be sullied by some punks living off daddy’s reputation. I stormed into the VIP room in a calculated rage and took a seat right next to Tommy D and bought him a drink. I told him to finish the drink and take his friends and get out and don’t come back. When he said to me “who the hell are you,” I pulled my pistol and slammed it down on the bar, telling him “I’m the guy whose gonna shoot you, you spill one drop of your drink, go on and test me. Let’s see you spill a drop.” I was just about frothing at the mouth and he turned a whiter shade of pale as they say, calling to his friends, about a half a dozen of them to get up and leave, which they did.
A few weeks went by with nothing more being heard from Tommy D. Only Richie’s semi hysterical pleading with me to let him back into the bar served as a reminder that he had ever even been there. It was after four in the morning, past closing time and I was leaning over the bar in the VIP room having a drink with Richie, when I got cracked from behind by somebody wearing brass knuckles. My ex wife had hit me harder with just her fist and I turned toward my assailant fully intending to beat them to death. Richie and a couple of the bouncers grabbed me and all I could do is watch as Tommy D and his hulking accomplice who I surmised was the one that threw the punch scurried out the VIP room door.
Larry had been working one of the satellite clubs and wasn’t there and I was mad at Richie and the other bouncers for holding me back. But they were just following Richie, their meal tickets lead. He had grabbed me first and they were now all openly remorseful that they had. All except Rodney, a hulking three hundred and fifty pound Black man, who had been Richie’s “#1” before Larry and I got there. Rodney had been working the door and had let them in on the pretext that they were going to talk to Richie and I about being allowed back in the club. He hadn’t seen the punch, just them running back out the front door and just figured the answer was no. He had let them go and now he was livid. There was no consoling him; me I had a little cut on my eye and kind of thought it was funny, the way they had run out of there.
Days went by and Richie, as he was wont to do, became more and more terrified. He swore there was a contract out on me and that we should arrange a “sit-down” with Tommy D and his father to try and straighten the whole thing out. I told him the guy had japed me from behind, then ran away when I didn’t fall down. There was nothing to talk about; anybody wants a piece of me I will be in the clubs waiting. Years of experience with these guys had taught me that they are very good at shooting their best friends in the back of the head when they ain’t looking, but when it comes to facing down an armed man who was ready for them they ain’t up to it.
Not only were Larry and I armed, so was Rodney who was just spoiling for payback, Roger Larry’s Cousin, Dave Richie’s nephew, and our doorman, an ex NYC cop and legendary tough guy in his own right who, because nobody who knew him had a bad word to say about him, acted as a go between for all the various factions of the Italian mob. Him I must call Bill and I knew he wasn’t going to let me down either.
I wasn’t worried in the least and figured they would have a better chance of assassinating President Clinton. But these guys were a little different. Tommy D’s father had a reputation as the most feared “shooter” in NYC. I was standing at the door when they came for me, three Lincoln Continentals, all black and filled with fifty something year old Sicilian Guineas from the city, liquored up on Anisette and chomping cigars like they just walked off a Martin Scorsese set. Bill was out there with me and for once I followed his advice and faded through the side door into the VIP room before they got out of their cars.
Inside the VIP room I unbuttoned my twelve hundred dollar black leather trench coat from Macys and the bottom button of my thousand dollar black Italian suit. I fingered the handle wrapped in rubber bands, as Bill had taught me to do, of my 357. snub nosed revolver stuffed in the front of my belt and turned to the barmaids. Heidi, a beautiful platinum blond no bleach required, was working the bar with some other girl. Heidi was part of our crew. I told her to pour me a Wild Turkey triple and take the other girl and go to the front bar and stay there. The dancers working the back rooms of the VIP were out of the line of fire and besides dancers are expendable. Stand up barmaids are not. Heidi was a smart girl. She didn’t ask any questions and did as she was told.
I was on the edge of forty at the time. Too old to be stupid and too young to be slow, I figured I had the advantage. They weren’t pulling their guns in the main bar in front of hundreds of witnesses and besides if they did, Bill, Larry and Dave would open up on them. Roger and Rodney were at other clubs. I knew if they came through that door, their guns would still be stashed in their belts just like mine and nobody fifteen years older than me was about beat me to the draw.
I was alone at VIP bar, larger than the bars in most neighborhood lounges. The big green wooden door swung open and I braced myself to kill or be killed, but it was Bill. There were eight of them at the main bar, mostly drunk and the old man wanted to talk, just me and him. I told Bill to send him in. He was about sixty-five, fit for his age and well dressed. We shook hands embracing as we did, belly to belly, each of us feeling the others weapon under our coats. He told me that I was needlessly creating a situation, when all I had to do was let his son and his friends back in the bar and I would have his personal guarantee they would behave themselves. I told him that I respected him for coming to me by himself and speaking his piece, but as far as I was concerned his son was a coward and a bully and if I was ever to see him again, I was obligated now, after he had his boy jap me from behind then run away, to break every bone in his face. It went back and forth like that for a few minutes, then when he saw my mind was made up he abruptly turned around and walked out.
I knew if he came back through that door it was going to be the twenty-first century’s version of shootout at the OK Corral, so much for partying like its 1999. I’d like to say my head was clear of any thought at the time. Because in a situation like I was in, that’s what it should be, blank and ready to react. But I couldn’t help but wonder if those other guys had backed out and I really was alone against this guy and his whole crew. That was the thing about having had Phil and the Murphy’s at my side; I knew they were never going to back out of anything. Maybe this was karmic payback for going against my old friends for a swindler like Richie…
The door swung open and in walked Larry. All he said was “they say they gotta kill you now.” He smiled and pulled out his Lugar putting it on the bar then sat down next to it on a stool facing the door. I took out my 357 and put it on the bar, standing next to it about ten feet back from him. He didn’t say another word. Neither did I…
After a few minutes Bill came in. His cooler head and law enforcement background motivated him, perhaps even obligated him to attempt to diffuse the situation. He told us that they were at the main bar drinking and screwing up their courage to come in. He wanted Larry and me to go downstairs in the basement where the beer was stored and we entertained ourselves with coke and dancers. But it had occurred to me that if they did come in all at the same time we’d have them bottled up in the hallway leading to the VIP trapped in crossfire; Dave and Bill on one side, Larry and me on the other. Their only way out would be through the steel plated front door of the Café which was in the middle of the hallway. If things did not go well for them initially they would use it. I told Bill “let them come” and Larry said “they come through that door and their getting sprayed.” Bill went back outside, looking a bit exasperated.
I went in back of the bar always mindful to keep my pistol within reach and poured us each a Hennessy; the Black guys all drank Hennessy. I thought about staying back there since it provided partial cover but that just wouldn’t be right with Larry planted right in front of the door, so I came back out and picked up my gun, sat next to him and we finished our drinks. It didn’t matter whether we were close together or not, these guys didn’t have shotguns, let alone machine guns and most of them knew shit about small arms, let alone how to use them in a fight. I knew we’d slaughter them; my only concern was the aftermath…
After a while Bill came back in, once again pleading his case, this time pointing out the obvious. Regardless of the outcome, we’d all be going to jail. He was the only one there even licensed to have his thousand dollar Beretta 92. The rest of us, particularly Larry and I who both had violent felony convictions, were going upstate probably for the rest of our lives. I finally relented and agreed to go down stairs with Larry, telling Bill “we’ll be waiting at the bottom of the stairs. That door opens up without you knocking; the guy that opens it is a dead man.” We waited at the foot of the stairs in total darkness for what felt like eternity.
I was holding my pistol pointed at the door when I realized then why you wrapped the handle with rubber bands. My palm was so sweaty the rubber bands were the only thing securing the grip. The door finally opened with no one knocking and we both held our fire just long enough to see the bald ghostly White head of our favorite bar back. He had no idea what had been going on and he nearly fainted dead away when he turned on the light to see us both pointing pistols at him. We told him now that he was there to get down the stairs and stay in the back with the beer.
Shortly after there was a knock and someone came down the stairs, either Bill or Dave and told us they were gone. Bill had told them I had left. He had even given them a tour of the bar and its labyrinth of back offices just to prove it to them. Stupid fucks must have walked right by the basement door, not knowing how close they had come to buying an early ticket to Hell. Shooting them in the back rooms would have been even better than the VIP. With the ear shattering music outside, no witnesses and a chance to get rid of the bodies we might have even gotten away with it…
Rodney and Roger came in after that, each having closed their respective bars down early because Richie wouldn’t let them leave the girls alone to do it. Rodney had missed the party again, he wasn’t about to let it happen a third time.
Maybe about a week or so later I was in the main bar, a converted bowling alley, which was packed to standing room only. I think the feature was Nikki Nova, the hottest soft porn star of her day, whom I was kind of sweet on, chauffeuring her about much to Dave’s amusement. He used to always tell me “why don’t you just fuck her. She’s just a whore like all the rest of these pigs.” He was right too, we partied with these Penthouse centerfolds and porn stars all the time, and it was getting them to put their clothes back on that was the hard part. I was standing at the front when from out of the VIP room came Rodney walking through the crowd toward the back like somebody had just slapped his mother. Nobody had said a word to me, and it was my job to know, so I was wondering what was going on when the crowd parted around the back stage where the features were exhibited and Rodney squared off with this muscle bound White dude.
The White dude couldn’t touch him. Rodney was supernaturally fast and light on his feet for a normal sized man, let alone a three hundred and fifty pound plus one. He hit the guy with every combination and flurry known to boxing but this guy could take one hell of a beating and he stayed on his feet. Finally Larry steps in front of Rodney and catches the guy with a right hook that sent blood flying a hundred feet away. This is no exaggeration. The feature’s stage was about that far from the fight and the feature had to go wash herself off later on. The guy collapsed in a heap and his friends, about a half dozen of them, picked him up, brought him outside, threw him on the back of a Harley and they all took off.
It was only then I found out that was the guy who had hit me in the VIP room. They wanted to handle it themselves, they felt obligated too. This was really the first time Black Gangstas had stood up to Italian ones in the topless industry and it would set a whole new precedent, one which Richie of course would make a fortune off of.
Tommy D had been exposed as a fraudulent mobster and his aging father couldn’t help him anymore. A few weeks later at another club under Richie’s control, Richie’s own fake mafia crew would break every bone in his face and I heard he was eating from a straw for months. Richie who was present for none of it would take credit for all of it and would soon come under FBI scrutiny as the only Topless Bar impresario who didn’t pay mob protection…