Mob Rule: Part 48
An army of mafia foot soldiers file into semitrailers for a final shootout at the Kennedy corral
By John Armstrong
The car with Meyer, Frank and I drove up alongside the convoy on the wrong side of the road and pulled in at the head of our army. It was an impressive sight – I just hoped it was enough, and I said so.
“Don’t worry about that,” Meyer said. “I got a surprise for you, and for Old Joe, too.”
I looked at him, waiting for more and he just smiled back.
“Well, give. What is it?”
He just smiled some more and said, “Then it wouldn’t be a surprise. But don’t worry, you’re gonna like it.” Then he squeezed Frank’s knee and said, “Adoro I piani be risusciti, eh?” which means “I love it when a plan comes together” and started laughing to himself as if it was the funniest thing in the world.
Frank said, “Don’t look at me, Jackie. I stopped trying to figure this guy out before you were born.”
So down the highway we went, smoking and not really talking. Meyer leaned back and closed his eyes, still smiling, and Frank just looked out the window and flicked cigar ash now and then. I was busy going over my hand-drawn map of the Kennedy compound and looking for things I’d forgotten. There are three main buildings on the property, the big central house and two smaller ones, two guesthouses and sundry outbuildings, garages and such. It’s actually a cluster of separate lots the family bought up over the years, with regular municipal streets on three sides and the ocean on the fourth. To get in properly, you turn down a long diagonal lane leading to the big circular driveway at Joe’s.
I didn’t see any reason to stand on formality though – I was going to send some of the semis straight through the gardens and over the lawns, coming at the big house from three directions at once, laying down fire and throwing bombs as we went, making as much noise as humanly possible while doing it. Again, I’d drafted Beppe Benedetto as my chief tactician. He showed up with a stack of books, slips of paper marking his research. His advice: “Scare the hell out of them.
“Even if they’ve brought in an army of professional guns, an early morning terror attack is a proven way to catch your opponent unawares. Sentries have been up all night and all they want is to be relieved and head for their beds. Everyone else is asleep, except for maybe the cooks. See, most fights, the two sides get into position and then they start shooting about the same time, sort of gentlemanly, like a duel.”
Beppe had gotten excited at this point. “They say most fights go to whoever throws the first punch? This way you throw a bunch of them before the other guy even knows it’s started. Imagine coming out of your barracks, half-asleep and half-dressed, buildings are on fire, things blowing up, men are everywhere shooting at you? You don’t just have a tactical edge, you have a psychological advantage. Historically, a lot of them will just run, and those who stay will be too shocked to fight effectively.”
I liked it, it made sense, and it gave us an edge I was sure we’d need. And of course it didn’t go that way at all.
“They want to tear everything down and bring back cops, and courts and judges, and politicians.” I gave it a beat before I added, “And jails.”
We pulled the column over about ten miles out of Hyannis. Meyer said he had to make another call and I wanted to give final instructions to the drivers and the men.
(One group had to lay down on the grass at the side of the road. A leak in the exhaust had almost killed them all in the semi-trailer before someone was smart enough to shoot holes in the trailer walls for air.)
Each semi got a number and a copy of my map showing where they entered the property and where they were headed, sowing destruction as they went. Each man in the passenger seat of the cab had a Thompson and orders to spray the place, especially windows and vehicles. I had the capos pick out fifty of the best marksmen with grease guns and rifles and deployed them to the dump trucks; the automatic weapons would keep our enemies heads down and let the riflemen select targets – sentries, elevated guards, whatever they could find. I figured the heavy steel sides of the truck beds would give them protection.
The last thing to organize was the signal, which fit right into our plan to inflict terror: we synchronized watches for five a.m. and unloaded the dynamite packs from the Greyounds. They were already wrapped, a dozen sticks to a bomb but not yet wired.
A heavyset guy named Gino was our detonations expert by virtue of a side career in construction. He set his toolkit on the fender of our car and checked the black tape wrapping on each bundle, then carefully cut and inserted a length of fuse in each one. He was sweating when he finished. He pulled a handkerchief out, wiped his face and hands and said, “There you go. That’s a short fuse so once it’s lit, chuck it – and pick someone with an arm ‘cause it’s a lot of juice wrapped up there. And for God’s sake don’t light it and stand there deciding where you’re going to throw it. Pick your target before you light the fuse.”
The bombs were passed out and Gino’s instructions repeated to everyone who got one. They all carried them away cradled in both hands, walking as carefully as a husband coming in late at night.
“Are they safe to handle?” I asked Gino.
“Oh, hell yeah – you can play baseball with ‘em ‘til they’re lit.” He shook a cigarette out and then paused. “But you never know. Sometimes they just go off when they shouldn’t.” He lit it and took a deep drag. “But nothing I’d worry about. Safe as milk.”
I saw Meyer coming toward me through the crowd. He was still smiling, even broader than before. “You gonna give them a speech, Jackie? I think it’s customary before a battle.”
I nodded. I’d been thinking about it on the way down and I climbed up on the hood of the car and looked out at them, holding up my arms for quiet.
It didn’t take long and then I was standing up there in the glow of headlights, the only sound the idle of big engines and the shuffling of feet. It was still dark, the pink shimmer of dawn just forming and the moon still fat and yellow.
“Listen up! In a few minutes we’re going in and I think it’s right to tell you why we’re all here. I know you’re all professionals and you don’t need a reason but this is different.
“For longer than most of us have been alive there’s been peace and prosperity but the people we’re up against are against that. They want to take over and run things their way.” There was heavy muttering now, and a few shouts.
“They want to tear everything down and bring back cops, and courts and judges, and politicians.” I gave it a beat before I added, “And jails.” I’d learned a few things about giving speeches while I was on the campaign trail. They were howling now, screaming.
“So you’re fighting for yourselves just as much as you’re fighting for the Lucianos. Because you know who’ll be in those jails if they get their way?” I gave it another beat – “We will! You, and you, and you, all of us. If they don’t just execute us all.”
I could see every arm up in the air, guns and rifles shaking in fury.
“Are you ready?”
The answer was an inarticulate roar of hate and anger and I jumped on it.
“So be it. They wanted a fight, we’ll give them the last one they’ll ever get. Alla Morte!” Voices screamed back in answer, “To the death!” and I waved my arm over my head in a circle to signal the load-up. They ran for their trucks and I climbed back down.
Frank came to my side and hugged me. “That was beautiful, Jackie. Just beautiful. I’m so proud of you.”
We walked towards the car, arms over each others shoulders. I think we both knew there was a good chance we could both be dead in a few hours.
“So what was Meyer’s urgent phone call about?”
“I don’t know. It was all Yiddish and Spanish from what I heard. Maybe he was changing his will.”
Mob Rule is a work of fiction and continues exclusively in The Ex-Press. To read past instalments, click here.
Illustrations: Victor Bonderoff
THE EX-PRESS, February 8, 2016