“So, we already have a buyer?” asked Tony “Taps” Tappio, a neighborhood tough guy who had grown up with King. “I mean, what the fuck we gonna do if we get stuck with ‘em?”
“King already has a buyer set up,” Joey answered, glancing at King. “One of the Windsor guys. Been with the Family for years.”
“But what about Malacci?” Tony asked. “Do we know this Windsor guy can be trusted to not tip off the Malacci crew to what we’re doing?”
Everyone looked at King.
“The guy is solid,” King answered. “He’s worked with my Uncle Sal and grandpa for years. He’s married to one of my aunts. He can be trusted. Why would he tip Malacci? Why would he give a shit where they are coming from? It’s about money. All we are gonna do is dump a bunch of money in his pocket. Some of it will make it back to my grandpa. Everyone will be happy. So, don’t worry about Malacci. If he finds out, my grandpa will handle him. He’s still the Boss.”
“But what about the Windsor guy’s buyers?” Joey asked, the smartest of the bunch and King’s second-in-command. “Are they connected to the Malacci guys in any way? What if Malacci notices there’s a sudden drop in demand? He could start asking questions.”
King nodded dogmatically. “Listen, I’m way ahead of you. I got this. Our guy in Canada is going to use a new broker so it can’t be traced back to us. I know you’re all worried about Malacci because he’s pissed at us about the other thing, but he can’t fuck with us over this, even if he does find out. My grandpa signed off on it and arranged the whole thing. This is now his operation. We’re just the…” He grinned and paused to find the right words. “…the facilitators.”
This made them all chuckle and eased their concerns about having yet another conflict with the Malacci crew, who already had it out for them. A few years earlier, they had gotten into it with Vince Malacci over infringing on various territories and rackets that the tenured capiregime felt were his. Only with the help of Don Falcone himself were they able to smooth things out. But, to say the least, the Malacci crew had no love for King and his motley crew of “mavericks.” Worse still, his Uncle Leoni and cousin Anthony worked hand-in-hand with the Malacci crew. And they had purposefully tried to sabotage any alliances King had been trying to build with the other capiregime.
As King sat is his garage listening to his guys discuss how they would approach this lucrative new racket, he found his mind drifting back to a much simpler time, a time when his younger cousins had looked up to him like he was a hero. But those days were long gone. Now all he had left were these guys, his crew, his lieutenants. At least that is how he saw them. Lieutenants. Together they led a small crew of young wiseguys who weren’t officially recognized by the rest of the Partnership as anything more than a group of nobody street hustlers. But thanks to the power of his grandfather, they were able to operate almost autonomously. Which did not sit well with the other Families, most of whom considered King to be nothing more than a maverick “difetto,” a disparaging term used to describe someone of not pure Sicilian blood. It literally meant “defective.” King hated the word, because he took great pride in his Sicilian ancestry, something that was instilled in him by his grandfather. But now he was realizing it didn’t matter to the others. His cousins, uncles, and various leaders of the other Families, they all looked down at him because he was a half-breed. And this would haunt him for the rest of his life, but right now he didn’t let it stop him. He was a born hustler and a born leader. He had Falcone blood running through his veins. Barely twenty-one years old, already he commanded a small crew of faithful soldiers who were loyal to a fault. Unlike him, though, most of them were not born into one of the Partnership’s five ruling Families. They were mavericks, lone wolves, just street hustlers who grew up in the same neighborhood. Which was fine with him. He liked it this way. It meant they had no blood ties or loyalties to anyone but him.
“What about security?” asked Paulie “Pal” Palazzlo, the eldest of the crew at 29, and their resident larcenist. “I’m sure these fuckin’ places got lock-down security.”
King gave him a look. “Paulie, leave that to me. I got us a small inflatable zodiac raft. If we can’t go in through the front, we go in through the back. At the Yacht Club, the security guard is already in my grandpa’s pocket.”
“Is that where Anthony keeps his boat?” Billy asked, his lazy eye making it hard to tell who he was talking to.
The mention of Anthony, King’s cousin, again made his mind drift. At first only back one week, to the night of his twenty-first birthday party. Anthony had been there, and he’d been in rare form, playing the role of bigshot Mafioso to the fullest. His father, Leoni Gianolla, had married King’s Aunt Patricia. But Leoni had never liked King because of some beef he had as a kid with King’s father. Something about King’s father not approving of his marriage to his sister, King’s aunt. But that was over twenty years ago. King’s father was dead and Leoni was now the Family underboss. Even worse, Don Falcone planned to name Leoni his successor, if only because Leoni had powerful political ties in the government. And with the Don facing another federal indictment, he needed all the political ties he could get. All of this made Anthony walk around like he was King Kong. Though he was the same age as King, Anthony was full Sicilian, and thus fully accepted by the Family. There were even rumors that he was slated to take the oath, although that was something their grandfather would have to sign off on, and he had not done so yet. This was just one more thing that irked King about Anthony. The strange thing was, they had been close when they were kids. Having lived only a few blocks apart, and being the same age, they hung around each other all the way into their early teens. They had led “La Quattro Ducati,” The Four Dukes, a little crew made up of them and their two other cousins, Johnny LaFatta and Joey Zirello. They had done everything together. They even worked their first hustle together, a bike “chop shop” they had run out of King’s garage when they were only fourteen years old.
Unfortunately, there had always been an underlying divide between Anthony and King. Part of it was because Anthony’s father, Leoni, had never liked King. Not because he had anything personal against him, but because Leoni once had some kind of beef with King’s deceased father. The other part was that King had always been bigger, stronger, and smarter than Anthony. Though they were both equally handsome and driven as hustlers, King was the one people always looked up to. He was the born leader between them, which made Anthony grow to resent him as they got older. With each passing year, they grew further and further apart. Now they barely even spoke to each other. And when they did, Anthony was always a cocky smart ass. This saddened King, because he genuinely loved his cousin, and considered him family. And for King, family was the most important thing in the world. That was the irony. While his family wanted nothing to do with him because of his mixed blood, all he wanted was for his family to love and accept him.
King now thought of their exchange last week at the surprise birthday party his grandfather had for him at Leoni’s club, “Leo’s On The Lake.” When he had come walking in with Vonni by his side (Vonni never left his side), they found Anthony and a small group of their other cousins seated at a table on the patio. Anthony was even more smug and cocky than usual. And right away King saw why. There was an unfamiliar girl amongst them. And not just any girl, but the most beautiful girl King had ever laid eyes on. Her name was Contessa. Short, athletically built, with jet black hair and the most incredible blue eyes he had ever seen—the color of the sky on a cloudless summer day. Bright blue, like a polished turquoise. The second he saw her, he froze in his tracks, awestruck by her beauty. This was not like him. Girls had always come easy to him. He was classically tall, dark, and handsome, with slicked black hair, broad shoulders, and brooding ebony eyes that most girls found mesmerizing. He had always keep a few girlfriends on the side, but he had never felt what he felt when he saw this girl. But she was more than just a pretty face. She was in fact a Mafia princess from Sicily, sent by her father to attend medical school at the University of Michigan, only a few short miles from Detroit. Not only was she beautiful, she was studying to be a neurologist! Her father in Sicily had asked Don Falcone, the local Boss of Bosses, to look after her while she was in America attending school. Right away, King was smitten by her. But it only took him a few minutes of sitting at the table to realize that Anthony had already laid claim to her. Anthony was naturally braggadocios and arrogant, but in front of Contessa he’d taken it to a whole new level. Nevertheless, as the night wore on, King still made a connection with her. Since he was the only one at the table fluent in Italian, they spent most of the evening laughing and covertly flirting back and forth in Italian, while Anthony, who barely spoke Italian, seethed and did everything he could to make King look bad while making himself look like a superstar. It didn’t matter. King knew she liked him. They had made an obvious connection. And that was enough for him. He would see her again, and when he did, he would make sure she knew exactly who the better man was.
“So how are we gonna get back from Canada?” asked Gino “The Machete” Mianchette, King’s primary street enforcer. “We still have to come back across the border with all that cash. I think it might be safer to come back across the lake…”
“That’s why we have King’s boat,” Joey said matter-of-factly. “Makes it easy for us to shoot right back. Whole job should take us only a few hours.”
King nodded, his mind still thinking back to his party. His grandfather had given him a boat for a birthday present. A re-tagged, 38-foot, offshore-racer named “Ominous Maximus.” King instantly fell in love with it, but he’d had no idea how to drive it. So as a sort of olive branch to Anthony, to make himself look like the bigger man in front of Contessa, he had asked Anthony if he would teach him how to drive it, as Anthony already had his own race boat. Anthony, eager to impress Contessa, had leapt at the opportunity. But all it did was give King more time to talk and flirt with Contessa. Anthony was too stupid to realize he had played right into King’s hand, same as it had been their whole life. King had constantly outsmarted Anthony, if just to prove he was the better man.
King now thought back to when the rift between him and Anthony first began. They were maybe 10-years-old. Anthony’s parents had recently moved them to Grosse Pointe, a wealthy neighborhood a few miles from the neighborhood they’d grown up in, an area loaded with money. Big money. All the main players in the Partnership lived in Grosse Pointe, which was separated from the old neighborhood by nothing but a fence along Alter Road. Crossing that border was like stepping into two different worlds. The old neighborhood was made primarily of lower-middle class Italians and Greeks, many of whom were from the old countries. But cross Alter Road was a world of opulence and money that could have been the backdrop for a Hollywood movie. As soon as Anthony moved there, he began acting like he was better than everyone, especially his friends from the old neighborhood. So, one day, King decided to play a joke on him, if just to put him in his place.
King and a few of his friends were hanging out on the stoop of a neighborhood convenience store owned by an old Greek named Gus. It was one of those sweltering hot summer days where the humidity was so thick that even young boys found themselves moving in slow motion. They were all sitting there, munching on penny candy, calling out to a group of cute Greek girls who lived across the street, when Anthony came riding up on his new bike. First thing he did was start bragging about how his bike was better than everyone else’s bike. Of course, this struck a nerve with King, since he was poor and rode an old junker of a bike. So, when Anthony went in the store to get some ice cream, King went to work.
King was already big for his age, bigger than all the other boys his age. But it still took all his strength to drag the bike some 20 feet up into a tree in front of the store. There he hung it from a limb hanging over the street, making it barely visible through the leaves. The other kids roared with laughter as he hurried back down the tree and returned to the stoop. He had barely sat down when Anthony walked out of the store carrying a small brown bag filled with candy in one hand, a double-scoop waffle cone in the other. When he saw his bike was missing, he immediately flew into a raging panic.
“Where’s my bike?!” he exclaimed.
Nobody said a word.
“Who the fuck took my bike?” Anthony demanded, dropping his ice cream on the hot cement. After dashing around the corner to see if someone had hid it there, he returned with his face flushed red and tears streaming down his cheeks. “Which one of you fuckers hid my bike?”
King simply grinned and glanced up in the tree. This triggered a simultaneous explosion of laugher as the rest of the boys followed his gaze up to Anthony’s bike. Even the Greek girls began giggling and cackling their amusement from across the street. When Anthony looked up and saw his bike dangling precariously from a limb up in the tree, his eyes went wide with outrage.
“I’m telling Nonno!” he yelled. “Wait till I tell Nonno what you did!”
Right away King knew he had made a mistake by publicly humiliating his cousin. He was young, yes, but he knew his grandfather was going to be upset about what he did. He tried to make Anthony laugh and play it off as he climbed the tree to retrieve the bike, but Anthony just glared at him, his too embarrassed to even look around at everyone laughing at him. A few minutes later, as he sped off on his new bike, King returned to his spot on the stoop and forgot all about it. But Anthony would never forget it, and in the ensuing years his resentment towards King would grow exponentially. Year after year, King grew bigger, stronger, smarter, and more athletic, while Anthony did terrible in school and was a bit of a runt for his age. This ate at Anthony and his father Leoni. Now, all these years later, King knew he had a mortal enemy in his cousin, and he had to tread lightly because of it. The last thing he wanted was a war with his uncle and cousin. At least not now. But someday… someday he would amass enough power and backing to put his repugnant cousin in his place once and for all.
“So where we gonna to start?” asked Georgio “Fats” Corado, a corpulent neighborhood tough guy who moved large quantities of wholesale pot for the crew.
King now stood and looked at each of them, wanting their full attention. “The plan is simple, boys. We steal the boats and take them across the lake to Canada. My grandpa has a buyer waiting for them. Now this is the Malacci’s racket so we have to make sure they don’t find out. The way I see it, there is too much cash to be made from this for us to not scab a little. But we can’t just start hitting the same marinas. The cops will catch on too fast. Even worse, the Malacci guys might catch on, because we don’t know if they got any of the security guys in their pocket. The Grosse Pointe Yacht Club’s security is run by one of my grandpa’s old paisans, so we can cherry pick that place a couple times. After that we will hit marinas up and down the coast. I figure a couple boats a month won’t get us too much attention. But again, the Malacci guys are doing the same thing, so I’m sure the cops are already investigating. Doesn’t matter. If we are careful, we can make a boatload…” He grinned at his own pun, wondering how many of them even got it.
It was nearly 4:00 AM when Vonni, Billy, and Gino walked up to the security gate at the Grosse Pointe Yacht Club, the largest and most opulent yacht club in Michigan. On the other side of the gate was a large marina, where over 200 boats were moored to various slips and quays, boats ranging size from small cabin cruisers, and offshore speed boats to multi-million dollar yachts. And they were all there for the taking.
“Peter Falcone sent us,” Vonni said nervously to the old man in the brick security shack. “Said you’d be expecting us.”
The old man nodded. His name was Alexander Smith, and had purposefully scheduled himself to work this night shift, so he could assist them with what was about to happen. It wasn’t something that he liked doing. He was not a criminal. But he had been working at the Yacht Club for almost thirty years, and had grown to hate the snobby, pretentious millionaires who came and went each day, always looking at him like he was nothing. He had been working his whole life and owned almost nothing. Even his home was nearly two decades from being paid off. So, when his old friend, Peter Falcone, asked him if he’d like to make some side money helping out his grandson, he agreed to help. “A favor to me,” the mob boss had said. Alexander knew better than to say no to someone like Peter Falcone, a man known to make people disappear for not granting him “favors.” And even though he knew it was wrong, it felt right. He was promised $20,000 for his assistance. All he had to do was let these kids in and not list them in the visitor manifest. That’s it, and $20,000 was his, free and clear. That was a lot of money to him, nearly half of what he owed on his mortgage.
“Go right in, boys,” he said, buzzing the gate open using a button in his gatehouse. “Be careful out there. The wind is picking up so it might be a little choppy out there on the lake.”
Vonni nodded and led them through the gate, feeling nervous about the old man’s warning. He had only recently learned to drive a boat by practicing on King’s offshore racer. And it was much more difficult than it looked, as there were things like multiple engine throttles and trim settings to consider. Even worse, tonight they were there to steal a large cabin cruiser, which was something Vonni had no experience in driving. But it didn’t matter now. King had chosen him to drive the boat, and so he would drive it. Still, though, his palms were sweaty and his heart was racing as they headed out to the docks to find it.
The boat was right where it was supposed to be. Pier #3, slip #19. Vonni quickly compared it to the picture the Canadian buyer had supplied them. It was their boat. A mid-sized, 58-foot Bridge Sail Sea Ray. List price, just over $400,000.
“Let’s do this,” Vonni whispered, moving quickly as he climbed onto the boat.
Billy was the crew’s resident car thief who ran a small chop shop with his father, a capo under the Falcone Family flag. He was exceptional when it came to hot-wiring cars, though he had never hot-wired a boat before. But it turned out to be even easier than stealing a car. A sliding door under the boat’s instrument panel allowed access to the fuses and wire harnesses. Within seconds he was able to disconnect the ignition and use a “jump kit” to start the boat. The engines sounded like thunderclaps as they roared to life in the quite marina. But there was nobody around to take notice. After several failed attempts, where he bounced off a number of dock-bumpers, Vonni was able to ease the huge boat out of its slip and into the marina. Carefully idling the massive twin engines, it took him less than a minute to guide the boat out into the open waters of Lake Saint Clair. As soon as he cleared the marina, he jammed the throttles forward and pointed the half-million-dollar yacht towards Canada, some twenty miles away on the opposite side of the lake.
Using the boat’s GPS navigation, it only took them only forty minutes to arrive at the Canadian Marina, where King and the buyer were waiting. The buyer, a man named Franco DeSantos, was in fact a highly-ranked Mafioso who managed the Windsor faction of Partnership. Among other things, one of his rackets was “re-tagging” cars and other high-end vehicles that had been stolen in America. The boat was now his to re-tag. And since it was officially in another country, there would be no police record of it having been stolen. He and his crew would use their connections in the Canadian Department of Motor Vehicles to fabricate a new title and records. Within a few days, the boat would be completely re-tagged with new VIN plates, title, owner history, even maintenance records. It would essentially be a new boat. At least from a legal standpoint. Then it would be sold on the open market for retail price. The irony was that it would likely end up being sold to an American buyer.
“Well, boys, I see you got her over in one piece,” King said, looking at the beautiful streamlined yacht. “Easy money.”
Vonni gave him a look. “Easy? You should try driving this beast. I didn’t think I was gonna make it out of the marina. Took me five tries just to back it out!”
King chuckled and helped the three of them up onto the dock. He then shook Franco’s hand and led the three of them over to his boat, which was moored to an empty dock a few slips down. Once they were on the boat, King grinned and pointed to a small handbag.
“A hundred-grand, boys, just like that. Split four ways. Not bad for a night’s work.”
For stories about Alan Lindbloom’s real life as a one-time Mob enforcer for the Detroit Partnership: See The Lindbloom Chronicles
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