“Just remember Lou, if your guys misses, or he just happens to survive the hit, that’s it. The hit is no longer sanctioned.
Sanctioned, what the heck does that mean?
“It means, don’t miss, but again I must remind you, if you do, then call in all your assets. It’s over.”
Over? You’re kidding me, right?
“I’m going to repeat myself since this your first time coming before me, don’t expect this kind of courtesy ever again. Since the beginning, back in the Old Country, this is the way it has always been done. Anyone who survives a sanctioned hit, must be allowed to live AND pay attention kid. The target may never, I mean never, be moved on, in connection with whatever the cause was for the hit originally. If your guy whack’s one of my guys so I but a bomb in his car as revenge. It goes boom, but he walks away! That’s it. The message was delivered. You miss and the right I am granting you expires. Lick your wounds and walk away with your honor in tact. This will never damage your reputation in the association, in fact, it will probably elevate your standing among the grandfathers. Men who honor the code of the Old World are men who climb the ladder. You understand?”
What if this tradition is ignored? What if someone feels compelled to proceed with another attempt?
“You’re killing us here kid! These guys will laugh about this all day! Hey Herb! Tell young Mr. DeFranco what happens, when someone egregiously and intentionally violates the code we all swore an oath to follow.”
It’s simple. The person doing the hit, AND the guy who called it, become public enemies number one and number two. I think it’s safe to say that this label of public enemy, means something entirely different in our world. Everyone on the street, and I mean everyone from the lowest level knuckle dragger, the whores and the pimps, the bartenders, and the drivers will know their names and their faces. Every lookout at the airports, train stations, and wharf will be on the lookout. Hackers, scammers, and cyberpunks will turn over ever rock to find them.
The reward for taking care of this unfinished business will be substantial. We’re talking, never have to work again, substantial. No drug house, flophouse, or dingy motel room will be left unchecked. None of the other families, the Russians, the Chinese, the Mexicans, the Arabs, or the street gangs will offer safety. It is one of the only things we all agreed on. There’s no price tag and no apology. They are dead men walking. If they’ve lucky, it will be an assassin’s bullet. If they aren’t, well, it would be legendary in the terms of gruesome.
Jim respectfully listened to Herb Amato, giving him the same respect as he gave the Boss. He had killed many men on his orders, but today was the first time he’d ever asked to take out a contract of his own. After Herb finished speaking, he bowed to the Boss, pledged his eternal loyalty and thanks for this great permission and then backed out of the room. The moment he heard the soft click of the door latched, he felt breathless. He exhaled deeply and tried his best to look the part of a top level guy as he slowly walked through the crowded room of gangsters, at the ready. Made men, bookies, working girls, and runners all just hanging out at the Boss’s mansion. Jim spotted several heavy hitters, but didn’t make eye contact. He was low on the totem pole and didn’t want to look like a suck-up. He preferred to let his reputation speak for him. A few guys on his same level nodded as he passed though without a sound and called for his car.
The Hitman Hires a Hitman
Small talk with the guards out front revealed the boss had this thing with car bombs. He always talked about them. No one knows why, but he takes every precaution possible to not get himself or anyone else blown up. Every car is inspected and then valet parked in a secure lot on the site. So far, he’s batting a thousand.
“Don’t miss.” The words of echoed in Lou’s mind. Not that he’d ever missed in the past. Seven requests, seven hits delivered. But it wasn’t how many kills that earned him his reputation. They were quiet, completely professional, no collateral damage, and no headlines. That was his story; from hit man to made man. It was a start. There were a lot of guys just like him in the organization, each had a crew and each tried to find that new source of income that would move them up the ladder. Lou made his contribution in a different way, at least up until now.
Today, however, things were different. Today, he would be the man paying the contract, instead of the one pulling the trigger. Now that the Boss has given his blessings, the word would spread quickly. The trigger men would seek him out. He knew some of them, more of them knew him. Mutual respect would show him the right one.
That bastard Pablo Pellagilosi, is a dead man!
Lou was just forming his crew when he met Pablo. He was as crafty as he was charming; a real ladies man, with the goods to back it up. Pablo was a swindler of the likes few have seen. His favorite mark was the old rich lady. He charmed more money from more ladies Coomi, and Stuart Weitzman combined. Lou saw potential in Pablo and brought him in as an inside guy; a confidence man that could soften up hard targets for the rest of his guys to blackmail, exploit, or both. Jim Tessoro, his second man, had warned him that they guy would have loyalty issues down the road, but he waved them off. Pablo had skills, and Lou had just been given permission from the organization to work in the city. He had needed to tap into some of his own regular income; enough for his crew, the Boss, and a healthy cut for himself.
For the first year, things went pretty good. Pablo followed orders, showed the right amount of loyalty to the crew, and kept off the radar. But in April of ’20, things started to go sour. With the whole virus-thing keeping most of the small businesses closed, profits were suffering. Card games were few and far between and the bars were empty. Everyone, including Lou, was looking for a new payday. But it was Jimmy T., who got the brass ring. Jim Tessoro had always been tight with the medical community. He skimmed prescription drugs, wheelchairs, and tons of other high-ticket therapy items. But the virus opened a whole new scheme; fake test kits.
He somehow got his hands on a shipping container of them. It just fell off the boat, while a Chinese cargo ship was sitting anchored, waiting for the port backlogs to be cleared. This one container had millions of kits in it. Since they were in short supply, the hospitals had ‘but at any price’ orders. After everyone got their share, it was still a twenty million net for the crew. Everything was going smoothly at first. Pablo would use his charm to secure sales, Jim would handle the logistics, and a computer guy would take care of the cash flow. No one asked or they just looked the other way when the paperwork didn’t exactly match up, they needed the tests. They’d pass the cost along to the government or the insurance company. It was a win-win situation.
In order to keep a low profile, the fake kits were distributed over a period of six months; a little here, a little there, nothing to see. When he started, Lou would send an envelope of cash, every week, without fail. Once the new racket was running, the envelopes became suitcases. This fact was not lost on management; it was one of the reasons the Boss agreed to see him.
Swindled by the Swindler
Pablo had buyers for three-quarters of the stuff within a few days. No one was sure how long the virus scare would be around, but reports seemed to indicate at least another year. Everyone was happy and it gave the crew some breathing room. Maybe even time to acquire a secondary source for more of the test kits, paper surgical masks, gloves, or any of another dozen products that were in high demand. It was almost like Prohibition, but with a lot less risk.
One night Pablo says he’s going to meet some big hospital executive. No one, including Lou was surprised; Pablo had been meeting with those kind of people for months. So, he leaves and no one thinks to ask him any details. Well, later we find out that Pablo has been double-dipping. He’s pouring on the charm to some of the ladies, and even slept with a few of them. The bastard was adding between ten and twenty-five percent to the cost and sealing the deal with dinner and a long nightcap. He made some kind of deal with a top woman for the County, and cut her in for five percent. He not only stole from the crew, but exposed their activities to a very powerful and dangerous woman.
But no one knew. No one even checked, and why would they? The cash was rolling in, things moved like clockwork, and no one, and I mean no one even hinted that anything wrong was happening. Everybody seemingly got what they wanted, but Pablo wanted so much more. Best guess is that he skimmed a cool million of more, right off the top; right in front of Lou DeFranco’s nose.
He would have probably gotten away with it too. He never got caught and no one in the organization was ever arrested, questioned, or even accused. It was when the general public started pushing back, is when things unfolded. With so many fake tests in the tri-state area, the Feds sent in a team to identify the good tests from the bad ones. Now mind you, most of the bogus tests had been cycled through the system already and Lou later learned that some other guys were doing the same thing as us.
But we still had inventory to move, so he took a risk and made a mistake. He put the rest of the tests in our local places so they could sell them right to customers. The bastard sweet-talked the owners of the pharmacies and markets, that this was a way we were giving back to them. They could charge as much as they wanted, over a fixed cost, which would be returned back to Pablo.
Word gets Around
So the tests are still really scarce, and word gets around. People are driving in from over a hundred miles away to buy as many of them as possible for whatever the price. Well, it didn’t take long for the Feds to jump on this too. Maybe the store owners got too greedy, or maybe too many people realized things just didn’t add up. A couple of undercover cops led to a couple of stings, and a couple people talked, but it wasn’t enough to positively I.D. Pablo. Now as you can imagine, things were a complete mess. The stores that got busted couldn’t pay, a lot of the others just refused to sell the fake kits. To top things off, the Feds were digging deeper into the sourcing many of the hospitals used.
Now Pablo had created a fake persona named Francisco Janek, an Argentinian import-export mogul, with, what he called, ‘connections.’ He had fake business cards, a website, and you name it; the guy was a master at his trade. But what he didn’t have, was the good sense to maintain his relationship with the County executive. To add insult to injury, the bastard screwed her out most of the five percent he promised; in for a penny, in for a pound, so to speak.
Since she would eventually be called on the carpet to explain where she got all the tests, she took an unexpected turn and went to the police herself. She fabricated a wonderful tale to the authorities, in which she and the County starred as the victims. She gave them everything, including forged paperwork, bills of lading, receipts, and more. The State Police took the information and left. No one was ever arrested and it never made the news. Lou had an inside guy in the office, who kindly passed a copy of everything to him, in exchange for an early retirement.
The guy also knew that the state boys were told by the Governor not to do anything. They were simply to file the evidence away, issue regular non-specific reports about the investigation, but never identify the culprit. If the general population discovered that most of the hospital in the state were buying and using fake test kits, they’d file a class-action and bankrupt the state. In this case, it was better to just ignore the evidence and hoped it went away; and it did.
Pablo had went into hiding in Mexico, until the heat died down. He had more than enough money to stay abroad for a year, if he wanted to. But unlucky for him, he just couldn’t get out of his own way. The bastard had somehow slipped though the border with a suitcase full of cash. He was Brazilian, fluent in Spanish, Portuguese, and English, so he could easily blend in. The only problem was that he couldn’t get out of his own way.
Instead of hiding, he partied. And when he got tired of partying, he went back to his old favorite contact sport, and began circulating in the highest circles. He kept in contact with Jimmy T., as ordered, not knowing that Lou knew everything. Lou left him there while he put together an elaborate plan. And when everything was in place, and money changed hands, he had Jim make the arrangements to bring Pablo back home.
By the time he got the call, Pablo was ready to come home anyway. He was bored of Mexican women and Tequila. Everyone in Mexico was involved in something illegal, so he felt just a nobody. And no one bothered to dress for the occasion. He never was a t-shirt and blue jeans kind of man.
As soon as he arrived home, Lou set his plan in motion. It was time to get back to work and clean up any of the loose ends that were still hanging, from the fake test kit racket. Some of the boys had quietly collected any unsold kits and a few undelivered lots for the medical centers. They were all being stored in an upstairs office of a warehouse down in the produce district. Lou wanted Pablo to personally pick them up and move them south, to Gulfport. He gave him an address in Mississippi to make the exchange. The fake kits would be moved to Panama, where they would be picked up by the World Health Organization for use in Africa.
Reluctantly Pablo agreed to handle this job personally. It wasn’t that he didn’t like getting his hands dirty. After months in Mexico, he was hungry to dive back into America; how he missed the booze, the women, and the extracurricular activities. Lou played it perfect, saying it would only be a few days, yada, yada, yada. Pablo swallowed the story hook, line and sinker.
Welcome to Mississippi
Pablo rented a moving truck for the job. Two others helped him load the fake test kits in the nose, and the rest they filled with old desks, chairs, and computers. If anyone looked inside, it was just another company relocating to somewhere warm. Like most other operations by the organization, nothing stood out. It was one of the things that Lou prided himself on. Every crime scene he left behind was sterile, and every hit was clean. He hated strings and everyone knew it, but Lou also liked money. From Pablo’s perspective, this job seemed to kill two birds with one stone. Actually, there was more truth to that than he knew.
He left the city at ten. He could cover the nine hundred miles in thirteen hours, drop the truck off and then head to the airport. If things went to plan, he’d be home before ten tomorrow night; a cool twenty-four hours later. The trip was uneventful, to say the least, no traffic, and no worries. He stopped a few times for gas and coffee, but kept to the schedule. He passed through Memphis at eight in the morning, and crossed the border in Mississippi twenty minutes later. That’s when the first shoe dropped.
Pablo was no more than ten miles into the state, when he saw flashing sirens in his side mirror. He wasn’t speeding and the truck was in good condition. So, he turned on his charm, and pulled over to the shoulder. He quickly pulled out his license and rental agreement, so as to expedite the process. A split second later, he heard a tapping on his window. He broke out in a big smile as he wound the window down. There on the side of the highway, stood a tall, blonde female State Patrol officer. She smiled in response to his smile, revealing a gorgeous set of pearly white teeth. Everything about her screamed sophistication, and she was wearing a uniform. The fantasy was literally creating itself in his head.
“So, what’s the charge officer?”
She put the tip of her tongue out and touched her lips, seductively.
“There’s no charge. I’m completely free.”
For a moment, Pablo’s entire being almost went into overload. He knew a proposition when he saw one.
“You wouldn’t happen to be moving a bed, now would you?”
Pablo’s heart rate quickened as the words dripped out of her mouth like honey.
“No ma’am, but I bet you know where we could find one.”
She glanced up and then back down the highway, and winked.
“Follow me, Sugar.”
He couldn’t believe his luck. Lou said he could deliver the fake test kits anytime he wanted to, so no rush. The police cruiser merged back onto the interstate, and he floored the moving truck to keep pace behind her. Who needs the big city anyway, he thought. She was a certified prime USA beauty; it was good to be home.
For the next ten minutes, he followed the police car, finally turning down a two-lane country road. At the end of the road was a small town. Not too small though, he counted three bars, two gas stations, and a few hotels along the main street. She continued through town, though. Finally about a mile past the last station, she pulled into a cozy-looking motel with no other vehicles in the parking lot. Pablo parked the truck near the door, while she moved her car around the corner, out of sight.
He quickly went inside and rented a room, asking the clerk where he should park his moving truck. He was tired and planned on sleeping all day, he said, and asked for the room furthest away from the road. She said he could leave it there, and handed him a key to room 216, it was around back, at the end.
Come Inside for Questioning
Pablo could not contain his excitement. He grabbed the key and jogged down the building’s long covered porch. As he turned the corner, the sexy police woman sat on the hood of her patrol car. She was playfully spinning a pair of handcuffs on her left index finger.
“I’m going to need you to come inside for questioning, sir”
Today might turn out to be the best day of my life, he thought
“I’ll be happy to come officer, inside, or where ever else you say.”
A deliciously wicked grin opened into a seductive giggle. She put her index finger over her mouth and strutted towards the door. Pablo unlocked it, and the two strode in as one. He kicked the door shut and the two collided in a frenzy of arms, legs, lips, and motion. He hungrily pawed and caressed her flesh. She scratched and gnawed on his skin in return. And the battle continued for hours, but neither would concede. As Pablo lay in the center of the bed, the officer jumped on his chest. Her hands ran up his arms and her lips went to his. She smiled, licked her lips and then produced her handcuffs.
Pablo let out a slight laugh, but one filled with naughty anticipation. She threaded the cuffs over the wooden portion of the headboard. She lifted his right hand and slowly clicked the cuffs on his wrist. Chills ran up his body and he was completely ready to anything at this point. She grabbed his left hand, kissed each of his fingertips and then suddenly thrust the hand to meet the other. She roughly clamped his other hand into the stainless steel bracelet.
“I heard you like it rough, trucker. Who’s your boss? I’m your boss.”
With eyes wide and a smile on his face, he just drank it in. He tried not to blink, in case he was dreaming.
She paced around the bed, finally picking up her black wooden nightstick. For a split second, Pablo got nervous. She started licking the round end and then rubbed it across her naked body. She was giving him quite the show. His breathing increased with every undulation. His heart pounded as she caressed her own flesh.
“Why don’t you bring that stage a little closer, darling?”
She didn’t walk, she glided across the room. Her long blonde hair seemed to flutter in a non-existent wind. And when the distance became no more, she gave up the nightstick for something else. The room erupted in a great diffusion of color, light, and sound, as the two became one. Then slowly, she collapsed in exhaustion, her ear resting on his chest.
“I don’t even know your name?”
“I don’t know yours either.”
“I’m Pablo, Pablo Pellagilosi”
“I’m Charon, not Sharon.”
She popped up off the bed and made a beeline to the bathroom.
“Unlock these when you get out, I need to go too!”
Several minutes passed. He heard a lot of noise from the bathroom.
“You sound like you’re up to something Charon. Something naughty.”
The door opened and she walked out completely dressed, but not in her uniform. She was in jeans and a blouse.
“Are you an undercover officer now Charon? Am I the suspect who you need to rough up a little, so I’ll put out the information you want?”
Charon walked right up to the bed. She had the handcuff key in her left hand.
“Most people don’t know that Charon was the name of the Boatman, you know, the Ferryman in Hades. It’s a Greek thing, from ancient myth. Charon’s job was to ferry the souls of the dead across the swamps of the river Acheron, but for a price of course. Funny that it sounds like a boys name, but it works for us girls too. Some people say that I’m a lot like Charon. I help people cross to the other side for a price”
He flinches as she slips the needle into his neck and depresses the plunger.
“Hey, what the hell was that! What are you doing to me?”
He starts feeling a heaviness in his eyelids and a loss of function. She slips a heavy bracelet around each of his wrists.
“Well sugar, you just got a lethal dose of Covid. I added a tranquilizer to it. You’ll fall asleep in about fifteen minutes. The concentrated virus is already racing through your system. But you won’t feel it. In, fact, you’ll never feel a thing, ever again. The cops will eventually find you here dead, but when they search your truck, inside will be a bunch of documents that tie you to the fake test kit scam. You’ll be the mastermind who died of the virus before they could ever bring you to trial.
That little gal at the front desk works for me. She’s gonna say how sick you looked when you came in, so no one will be suspicious. You are wearing two heavy silver bracelets, that you just bought a few days ago, the receipt is in your wallet, or will be. Hard on your wrists, like handcuffs would be. Lou says to tell you he knows what you did, but I guess you’ve already figured that out. As for me, I’m throwing in a pistol I used to make a hit in Saint Louis a few weeks ago. No loose ends, right?”
“But, we just slept together.”
“I know sugar, and it was beyond expectations, really. But that was pleasure and this is business. I just did them out of order.”
“Lou, there’s a call for you.”
“This is Lou, tell me some news.”
“I didn’t miss….”
I wrote most of this while sitting at the archery range, while my boy practiced. It’s filled with irony and stereotypes, but that’s what makes it interesting. I tried to keep the steamy part as mild as possible, but with a few creative plays on words.
Coomi makes some of the world’s most expensive handbags. Stuart Weitzman shoe designs sell for over 1 million dollars US per pair.
Ralph also manages and owns, The Gypsy Thread , a website focused on pagan history, the unexplained, magic, witchcraft, pagan rituals, full moon healing ceremonies, and the haunted.