Fiction: Mob Rule – Part 49
The family feud finally explodes in a hailstorm of bullets and foaming blood on the front lawns of Hyannis as Jack and his mob brothers storm the Kennedy castle
By John Armstrong
We got off the highway and headed toward Marchant Avenue, the road the compound lays on. Just before the turn for the long driveway I waved them to a halt again and got back out, standing in the street and directing the trucks down the road toward their respective “points of insertion”, as Beppe put it.
Then I stood there looking at my watch. At two minutes to five, in the first misty light of dawn and the fog off the Atlantic still swirling around us, I got back in and waved our own group forward and into position. Then we waited again, listening to birds chattering in the trees.
A car came down the road and slowed to see what was going on. Our driver pulled his gun from under his jacket and waved the driver through. Just as he passed, the first semi in our group shifted into gear and pulled out around us, a man hanging on the passenger door with a dynamite bomb in his hand. The big truck rumbled into the shrubs and picked up speed, then the next followed behind it, and the next.
Before the last had gone we heard the first explosion and clouds of birds flew up out of the trees, looking for a better neighborhood to roost in. Our driver gunned the accelerator and we followed through the hole our boys had made, bouncing in the ruts they’d left on the grass. The drivers were all laying on their horns and we could hear gunfire now, lots of it, and more explosions. We were headed straight for the big house and as we got closer there were men running everywhere, yelling, half-dressed, air horns blaring and smoke in the air.
It was a lovely plan and the only problem with it was they had a plan, too. I saw two of our semis dead on the lawn, their drivers taken out by machine guns mounted on the balconies of the house. They had sandbagged nests on the ground as well, set up so they had the lawns in a crossfire. I could see mounds of bodies where they’d cut down our men as they tried to exit the semi-trailers.
Then Joe’s dump truck brigade jounced onto the field and our riflemen began going after the house gunners. One man used their fire as cover and ran for the house, stopped to light his bomb and then fired it up onto the roof. He was dead before he could see how well he’d aimed it – half the roof disappeared and two gun positions with it.
“Get us to that truck”, I told the driver and he cut the wheel and floored the sedan, which did nothing except sink our wheels into the lawn just as shots stitched the hood. The engine died immediately and there we were, a nice, fat target. I was contemplating a run for it and wondering how to protect Frank and Meyer while doing it when I felt the car lurch forward and looked behind to see a dump truck pushing us. In the side mirror I could see Joe’s hat and his beautiful ugly face under it, grinning ear to ear. The truck geared down into bull-low and we made steady progress, still a bit leisurely given the circumstances, but Meyer, Frank and I kept up steady fire out the windows and we ended up shielded nicely by the big box of the semi.
I jumped out and ran back to Joe.
“I’m going to take this thing right through the front door. You swing around and give me cover, all right?”
He waved me on and I ran for the cab of the semi to find Frank and Meyer there and the driver’s body already out and on the ground.
“You ever drive one of these, kid”? Frank asked. “Then you better let me. I hijacked a few big rigs back in the old days.” Meyer and I scuttled up into the cab and Frank swung in behind the wheel.
“Where to”? he said, and I pointed to the house. “Right up the front steps and into the parlor.”
He jiggled the shifter and turned the key, pulling around in a tight circle and then building up speed as we came back headed for the house. As soon as we were straightened out he shifted again and put the pedal down.
“Here we go”, he said and Meyer laid on the air horn as we hit the concrete steps. The cab’s tires blew out on impact but momentum kept us going right through the porch and into the house itself, an avalanche of wood and plaster raining down on us.
Meyer shoved me to get out, and I pushed Frank and we all tumbled out into a storm of plaster dust and what was left of Uncle Joe’s foyer.
“Now what,” Frank asked, and Meyer answered: “Now we go hunting.”
The three of us headed through the rubble towards the kitchen expecting to be fired on, crouching and taking what cover we could. We could hear the fighting outside but the house itself was silent. I headed for the stairs, Meyer and Frank behind me. There was no-one upstairs, only a few bodies by the windows, snipers taken out by our men. In his office, I found Bobby slumped down on the carpet by a window, half his head blown away, loose papers scattered everywhere and an open attaché case by his hand. That was Bobby; in the middle of a gunfight he’d gone for his briefcase.
I looked around for something to cover him with and found a sweatshirt on the back of a chair. As soon as I laid it over him it began to soak through.
It was pure chaos on the lawn, trucks and buildings burning, men screaming. Even with the identifying paint it was hard to tell who was who and which side was winning. From the carnage it looked like we were both losing at about the same rate. Then an idea flashed and I ran for the back porch. Before I got to the rail I could see men out on the dock, and Joe’s wheelchair surrounded by gunmen. They were pulling out a ramp to get him onto the boat.
We all said “shit” at the same time and ran for the stairs again. I didn’t know how much Frank and Meyer had left in them. I was 30 years younger and I was sucking for air. When we got to the kitchen I held them up at the back door and said, “I’m going out there. You get as many men as you can and follow, okay”?
Frank nodded, wheezing too hard to speak. Meyer said, “What time is it”?
“Jesus”, I thought, “his mind’s gone.”
Frank gasped at him, “Why, you got someplace to be”?
Meyer said, “I’m waiting for the cavalry.” He looked up and saw the wall clock. “Okay Jackie, you go out there and see can you hold him up a bit. We’ll bring help.” He grabbed Frank’s arm and pulled him along and I stepped out onto the back patio. They were still milling on the dock. It was fairly choppy and I guessed they were having trouble loading Joe’s chair. That wouldn’t hold them long, though. Someone would just carry him on and bring the chair along behind. I ran for the dock waving my hands, straight into a wall of guns.
There was nothing to do but keep going so I slowed to a walk and held my gun out carefully by the trigger guard. When I got close, one of them stepped forward and took it from me.
I heard Joe yelling for them to get out of the way and as they cleared a path he rolled toward me.
“It looks like I was right about you the first time, doesn’t it Jack? Then I gave you another chance, brought you in and offered you the world, and you threw it away.” He looked at me with nothing in his pale eyes. “Well, blood will tell.”
I heard footsteps behind me and turned to see Frank and Meyer at the end of the long dock, and a crowd of armed men running toward us.
It was all salt-air and seagulls crying, the soft whump of the boat slapping up against the old tires ringing the dock bump and the sound of feet pounding the boards behind me. Joe’s men just stood there, waiting for them. The old man himself looked unconcerned.
When they reached me Frank said, “Let’s call this a standoff, Joe. We’re still willing to negotiate with you. You can’t stand against all the rest of the families, and Meyer’s already scotched your deal with the British.”
Joe laughed, a dusty cackle like someone crumpling paper, and wiped his lips.
“Has he? I wouldn’t count on it.
“Bring her out.”
I knew what he meant even before I saw her. A man in the cabin of the boat pushed her ahead of him and down the gangplank then stood beside Joe with a gun at Vanessa’s head.
I felt absolutely cold inside. It wasn’t that I was surprised so much as that I finally saw Joe for exactly who he was. It’s human nature to try and find the humanity in even the most evil of us, to remember, as my mother put it when she had reached her limit with someone, that he “was once someone’s little boy.” But Joe had exorcised humanity from his soul, burned it out with ambition and the love of power.
“Nothing to say, Jack?” He was enjoying this and I think it was the first time I ever truly knew what hate was.
“Now all of you drop your weapons. I don’t think there’s going to be any negotiating today.”
I heard the clatter of guns hitting the deck behind me. Vanessa was stock still. Now, in the movies or novels the hostage squirms her way free, or at least enough for the hero to get his shot in. But she wasn’t going anywhere. She was petrified, as she should be. We were done, all of us. We’d lost. If the situation were reversed Joe wouldn’t have even given it a second thought. If an innocent woman died, that was the cost of doing business. People didn’t matter to him, they were just things he moved around while trying to get what he wanted.
It was the difference between him and us and it was the reason he’d won.
“Hey Joe,” Meyer called out. “I know you don’t much like the Jews and the Wops, but how do you feel about Cubans”?
I was aware of a buzzing sound coming off the bay, the sort of irritation that’s just at the edge of your senses when you’re concentrating on something else. I couldn’t say how long it had been building in the background or when I’d even noticed it, but it was getting louder now, by the second.
“The reason I ask, you got about a thousand of them behind you and I don’t think they’re here to do the lawn.”
Almost before he’d finished speaking there was machine gun fire in the air and when I looked up from Vanessa and my grandfather I could see speedboats, dozens of them roaring toward us on either side of the dock, filled with gunmen. The bay was filled with them.
Joe’s men turned, too and Frank rushed the man holding Vanessa. There was a shot and Frank crumpled. Then Meyer pushed past me and shot her keeper. The boats were coasting up alongside now, smiling brown men with guns covering Joe’s mob from every angle and the rest of our guys picked up their guns again. Vanessa ran to me and I held her while she shook. I was shaking, too. The dam had broken. I knew what I was going to do and as I walked towards Joe my head felt like it was filled with burning tinfoil. It was as if I were outside myself, watching.
No one said a word. I grabbed the arms of his wheelchair, spun him around and kicked it as hard as I could toward the edge of the dock. The wheels hit the wooden cleat and threw him forward, into the ocean. I stepped to the edge and watched him go down, hands clutching at nothing for a few moments before they sank, too. It was only about six feet of water but it was plenty.
I turned to the others. Meyer was kneeling by Frank, his hands supporting him and I could see by the way his head lolled he was gone.
“As acting head of the Luciano family I’m confiscating this property and all Kennedy holdings as reparation for their actions.” I looked around, waited for argument, and got none. I hadn’t really expected any. Who’s going to quarrel with a man they’d just watched drown his crippled grandfather?
I put my arm around Vanessa and we walked down the dock and up the sand. By the time we reached edges of the grass men were running past us, yelling that the war was over and Joe was dead. By the time we rounded the house, what was left of it, soldiers were throwing their guns down and our guys were rounding them up and herding them into the semis.
I should have ordered them all shot but I’d had enough of killing for one day. I found Joe and told him he was in charge, that anyone who surrendered should be allowed to leave, but not before he put them to work. When they were done I wanted the place razed, “not one stone standing upon another nor a stick of wood unburned.”
Then we found a car and someone to drive it and left there.
I woke up the next morning in the Algonquin and spent my first minutes of consciousness trying to believe it was all really over, and I had a hard time doing it because, of course, of it wasn’t. The Luciano family was mess, Frank was dead and I felt nowhere near competent to take the reins. Our building needed to be rebuilt, the executive branch had to be reorganized and the vacant places filled, we needed to get the streets settled down so we could start earning again and I had to make a report to the council. Not to mention deciding what we were going to do about Wallace and the Dixie League in the South, and my promises to Lyndon. But first we needed to bury Frank.
It was too much to even think about and now that it was all on my plate, I wondered how Frank or Meyer ever managed. An hour later I was still sitting there in my underwear when he came by the room to see how I was, so I asked him.
“It’s easy,” he said, drinking coffee and dropping ash on the carpet. “You can’t. You just have to be right a little more often than you’re wrong. It’s like baseball – a few homeruns outweigh a lot of strikes.”
He stood up and brushed the legs of his slacks.
“Get dressed and come down. We’ll get started.”
And that’s what I did.
Remember: It’s a work of fiction
Author’s Note: As much as possible I’ve played fair with history but, in the interests of a better story, I’ve blithely changed geography and lives where it suited me. Both New York City and Boston have felt my delicate hand, as have the health and vigor of a number of players, e.g. Joe Gallo, here surviving the hit that took his life. Others were not so lucky; Lyndon Johnson’s father did, in fact, recover from his financial difficulties and became prosperous again but I required Lyndon to inherit his debts for my own purposes. Joseph Kennedy’s life and times have been also been chronologically jiggered for my purposes.
In other instances, it’s a 50/50 proposition as regards verity; Jack’s mother Rosemary did not in (our) reality run off and marry a low-level Sicilian mob soldier, though she was by all accounts a free spirit, fond of boys and bars, which led father Joe to have her institutionalized and then lobotomized to “calm her down.” (He did not inform his wife Rose of this until after the operation. You can look it up.)
But for the most part – this is a work of fiction, after all, and takes place in the land of pretend.
John Armstrong, 2016
THE EX-PRESS, February 22, 2016
To read all instalments of Mob Rule in The Ex-Press, please click here.
Illustrations: Victor Bonderoff
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