The Boss of Hampton Beach

By

Jed Power

 

 

Chapter One

Captain Bill McGee always said he wanted his ashes scattered off the coast of Hampton Beach. He’d never said anything about dying there and certainly not tonight. After all, he was in the prime of his life.

 

Still, that life had been a struggle recently, just like it was for every other party boat operator along the New Hampshire seacoast. The boom times of the 80’s were long over. Now it was the 90’s, and instead of having his charter boats overflowing with hopeful fishermen every morning when they left Hampton Harbor, he was lucky if the tubs were half full. Ditto for his whale watch and Wednesday night fireworks cruises.

 

Yeah, money was tight, real tight, and it had slowly dawned on him if he wasn’t creative, he’d lose the whole shebang–the business, the boats, his house, everything. The worst, by far, would be losing the business that had been in his family for three generations. That’s what he’d been thinking about–worrying about, really–for the past few months.

 

So when the well-dressed Hispanic had approached him with a proposition, it was like the man was reading McGee’s mind. Even though he wasn’t happy with the idea (in fact, it scared him to death), he didn’t hesitate in giving the man an answer right then and there. He didn’t even have to sleep on it. Yeah, he’d do it. For the right price. The man agreed to his price and told McGee not to worry. It’d be as easy as a bluefish run.

 

McGee had to admit everything had gone okay so far. He’d taken one of his best and oldest crew members, Harry, a guy who’d keep his mouth shut for a nice piece of change, and gone exactly where the Hispanic sent him–three miles out beyond the Isle of Shoals. The weather stayed good, calm seas and no moon. And the boat they were meeting had even shown up almost on time. When they’d gotten close enough to the larger vessel, somebody tossed the duffel bags one at a time over the side. McGee had caught them as best he could in the dark with the boat lurching. He’d passed them on to Harry, who’d stashed the bags below.

 

And so far, that had been that. It looked like everything was going to be all right. Easy money–real easy money.

 

At least so far.

 

Now they were on their way back from the pickup spot. McGee at the wheel, his grizzled face all screwed up, peered through the front cabin window as they came up to the mouth of Hampton Harbor. A long, rock jetty jutted out from the beach on their starboard side. Dead ahead loomed the Hampton Bridge. It was a drawbridge, but he was using the smallest of his boats tonight. Between the size of his boat and low tide he could pass beneath the bridge without the hassle of having it raised. In a few minutes they’d be in the harbor. A few more minutes and they’d tie up at his dock and be home free.

 

Not soon enough, McGee thought. He took his hands off the wheel and scrubbed at his sweaty palms. His heart was going at a good clip, too. He’d need more than a few cold ones when this was over.

 

He was thinking about how good those beers would make him feel when he heard an outboard motor starting up. Christ, it sounded like another boat was right on top of them. He tried to calm himself–sound tended to carry across the water on clear nights. A craft could be a lot further away than it sounded. At least that’s what he was hoping.

 

“Harry, see what the hell that is.” McGee scanned the darkness, seeing nothing but the black outline of the jetty and the lights of a few homes off to port.

 

He could hear Harry scrambling around the back of the boat. It sounded like the other craft was already in the boat with them, a fact he didn’t like one bit. The Hispanic had said he’d meet McGee when they tied up at the dock in the harbor. Could he have changed his plans and decided to hook up with them out here, just to keep McGee honest?

 

There was a loud thump against the starboard side of the boat. McGee glanced over his shoulder and shoved the throttle forward, wishing that he was already under that damn bridge and back at his dock drinking cold beer.

 

“Harry, what the hell’s going on?” he yelled, not surprised at the shakiness in his voice.

 

“Jesus, it’s a . . . ahhh . . .” Something banged hard, followed by shuffling and more banging. McGee let go of the wheel and spun around. He grabbed a metal fish gaffe and held it shoulder high.

 

Two figures moved toward him from the back of the boat. As they got closer he could see that they both wore masks and that his hook wasn’t going to scare anybody, because both men had pistols pointed directly at him. The first of the men was tall and powerfully built. The second man didn’t look as threatening, although he didn’t have to with that gun in his fist.

 

“Throw it over to the side, fuckhead,” the big man said.

 

McGee tossed the hook to his left. Then he held his breath, thinking of every terrible thing that might happen to him in the next few minutes. He didn’t have long to think. The big man walked right up to him and started swinging that gun for the side of his head . . .

 

. . . and that was the last thing Captain Bill McGee ever saw.

~*~*~

 

Chapter 2

Dan Marlowe had heard all about Bill McGee and his crewman, Harry Something or other. He’d heard little else since the news broke yesterday morning. Working where he did, all people did was talk. In between that, a little eating, and a lot of drinking.

 

He batted his lips just as much as anyone else on the beach. How the two men were found dead, both shot in the head, sprawled in McGee’s boat. The boat had cracked up on the jetty at the south end of the beach sometime during the night, and the police supposedly didn’t have a lead.

 

According to the news there were no known enemies or hints of anything shady. That didn’t keep Dan’s customers at the High Tide Restaurant and Saloon from speculating on possible motives. Everything had been tossed around–drugs, gambling debts, fooling with the wrong woman, and other theories so out there they weren’t worth repeating.

 

The incident was as hot a topic of bar conversation as Dan could remember. After all, double murders weren’t everyday occurrences at Happy Hampton Beach. So Dan engaged in the conversation as much as any of the customers, except when it veered toward names. He stayed away from dropping names, thank you. He’d been in the bar and restaurant business long enough to know it didn’t pay to bad-mouth people, especially local people, and especially when you didn’t know what the hell you were talking about.

 

And most of these people, including Dan, didn’t know their facts from their fiction. Still, it was part of his job, chatting customers up. He was interested, so it was easy, so he did. Just made sure to keep away from any name dropping.

 

Besides, it wouldn’t last. Not even a double murder was likely to hold a bar crowd’s attention for too long. Sooner or later the newspapers, radio, and TV would stop flogging the case, and then some other topic would become hot. That’s when most people would slowly forget about McGee and his buddy and the fact they’d been shot in the head. Dan would, too. After all, people had their own problems to think about. And so did he. Brother, did he.

 

That’s what Dan was trying not to think about now–his own problems. Easier to think about two guys getting their heads blown off a few blocks away than the unpleasant things going on in his life. Sure, McGee and his buddy had lost their lives, but at least they probably hadn’t suffered long. Dan had lost his family and his restaurant. That tormented him every day.

 

He stood behind the foot end of the L-shaped mahogany bar of the High Tide Restaurant, hands resting on the polished surface like he was having a manicure, staring out the big front picture window. Outside was Ocean Boulevard, the main thoroughfare through Hampton Beach. Just beyond the boulevard was the municipal parking lot, the beach, and then nothing but Atlantic Ocean. The ocean looked as black as he felt today.

 

It was nine o’clock on a summer morning and the humidity was already building. Dan frowned. No good dwelling on circumstances he couldn’t control. He came around the bar and flicked on the switches that controlled the two large wall air conditioners just like he did every summer morning.

 

Same routine every day, opening the bar and getting it ready for the day’s customers. If it was going to be a hot one, turn on the A/C; if not, open the windows. Then he’d do all the other little things that had to be done to get the bar ready for business. He’d do them one right after the other, the same way every day. In fact, he figured he could do them with a bag over his head. He’d been doing it that long–back when he’d owned the Tide and still now when he no longer did.

 

The routine used to be how he made sure everything stayed in order. Now the routine kept him sane.

 

He was the second one in every morning, right after Shamrock, the Irish dishwasher and the High Tide’s jack-of-all-trades. Shamrock came in at the ungodly hour of around 4 a.m. Dan wasn’t sure exactly. After all, he didn’t have to pay the man anymore. The only thing the new owner cared about was that no matter what crazy time he got in, Shamrock got all his work done. And he did. Always. The man was a workhorse. He’d clean the floors, do the rugs, empty all the trash, shovel snow in the winter, and do any of the handyman jobs that were always popping up. Then he’d do a shift, sometimes two, on the dishwasher.

 

And when they needed someone to go through one of the trap doors in the floor that led into the dark, dirty crawl space beneath the building, who’d they get?

 

Certainly not Dan–he definitely wasn’t paid enough to go down into that pest hole. Even the plumbers didn’t want to go down there. Shamrock was the man. He didn’t think anything of jumping in with whatever the hell crawled around down there.

 

Yeah, Shamrock did everything, and he’d been around quite a while now. He’d worked for Dan when he’d owned the business and stayed on with the new owner, just like Dan had. Most days when Dan came to work the first thing he’d hear was Shamrock greeting him with that County Cork brogue of his. Not this morning though; he wasn’t there. But Dan could tell he had been and that he’d probably be back soon. He could see the mop and bucket down at the kitchen end of the bar and the vacuum sitting in the middle of the dining room floor. The Irishman had most likely gone for coffee and donuts, Dan figured. Hell, the little guy lived on coffee and donuts. He’d be back. Shamrock spent more time in the High Tide than the beer barrels.

 

It wasn’t long before Dan looked up from the chrome beer chest he was restocking and there was Shamrock, looking just like a guy named Shamrock should, coming through the swinging doors from the kitchen, a box of donuts in his hands. He put the box down on a small bar table. “Will ya have a donut with me, Danny Boy?”

 

“No, thanks, Shamrock. I already ate.”

 

The routine used to be how he made sure everything stayed in order. Now the routine kept him sane.

 

He was the second one in every morning, right after Shamrock, the Irish dishwasher and the High Tide’s jack-of-all-trades. Shamrock came in at the ungodly hour of around 4 a.m. Dan wasn’t sure exactly. After all, he didn’t have to pay the man anymore. The only thing the new owner cared about was that no matter what crazy time he got in, Shamrock got all his work done. And he did. Always. The man was a workhorse.

 

He’d clean the floors, do the rugs, empty all the trash, shovel snow in the winter, and do any of the handyman jobs that were always popping up. Then he’d do a shift, sometimes two, on the dishwasher.

 

And when they needed someone to go through one of the trap doors in the floor that led into the dark, dirty crawl space beneath the building, who’d they get? Certainly not Dan–he definitely wasn’t paid enough to go down into that pest hole. Even the plumbers didn’t want to go down there. Shamrock was the man. He didn’t think anything of jumping in with whatever the hell crawled around down there.

 

Yeah, Shamrock did everything, and he’d been around quite a while now. He’d worked for Dan when he’d owned the business and stayed on with the new owner, just like Dan had. Most days when Dan came to work the first thing he’d hear was Shamrock greeting him with that County Cork brogue of his. Not this morning though; he wasn’t there. But Dan could tell he had been and that he’d probably be back soon. He could see the mop and bucket down at the kitchen end of the bar and the vacuum sitting in the middle of the dining room floor. The Irishman had most likely gone for coffee and donuts, Dan figured. Hell, the little guy lived on coffee and donuts. He’d be back. Shamrock spent more time in the High Tide than the beer barrels.

 

It wasn’t long before Dan looked up from the chrome beer chest he was restocking and there was Shamrock, looking just like a guy named Shamrock should, coming through the swinging doors from the kitchen, a box of donuts in his hands. He put the box down on a small bar table. “Will ya have a donut with me, Danny Boy?”

 

“No, thanks, Shamrock. I already ate.”

 

Dan didn’t stop to chat. He slid ashtrays out along the bar, made sure they were evenly spaced, then grabbed a large green bucket from under the bar and went back through the kitchen to the ice chest to fill it. He brought the filled bucket back behind the bar and dumped the ice into one of the bar sinks, making enough trips to fill both sinks, one at each end of the bar. All the while keeping an eye on the little Irishman.

 

Something was up with Shamrock. He usually had a big smile on that rosy mug of his. But not today. And talk? With Shamrock around no one had to worry about a lull in the conversation. But right now he wasn’t making a peep. He leaned against the shoulder-high wooden divider that separated the bar area from the restaurant section of the establishment, nibbled on one of his donuts, and peered at the fish tank on top of the divider.

 

It wasn’t until Dan was in the middle of slicing his lemons, limes, and oranges on a chopping block on the bar that Shamrock finally started talking. And he whispered it more than actually said it. “Danny, would you be knowin’ how much they get for that cocaine powder nowadays?”

 

Normally that question would have made Dan a little leery, but coming from Shamrock it was downright out of the blue. He would’ve guessed the Irishman didn’t even know what the stuff was, or at least, had never seen it.

 

Dan’s heart picked up its beat. “Why?”

 

“For the love of Jesus, Danny Boy. I’m just curious. That’s all. Nothin’ more.” The Irishman’s voice was shaky and he couldn’t meet Dan’s gaze.

 

Even though he’d known Shamrock quite a while and knew he was ok, Dan’s defenses went up as automatically as if he’d been asked the same question by a new bar customer. “I really . . . hmmm . . . don’t know anything about that stuff, Shamrock.” And even as he said it, he knew it wouldn’t go over. Not even with Shamrock.

 

And he was right; it didn’t.

 

“But Danny Boy, you must know something.” Shamrock’s voice cracked.

 

And there it was–Shamrock bringing up what most of the beach people knew: Dan Marlowe had a drug problem. The key word was “had.” That was all in the past.

 

So why would Shamrock, of all people, bring the past up now?

 

Maybe he was just curious. Or was there something more?

 

Dan didn’t know, but he wasn’t about to talk about something he’d rather forget. “I don’t know anything about that stuff.”

 

He must’ve sounded harder than he’d meant to, because the Irishman started to get real antsy and nervous. His face reddened.

 

“I . . . I got things to do in the kitchen.” Shamrock grabbed his box of donuts and walked off through the swinging doors.

 

Dan kept working on the fruit. Something was going on with Shamrock, though Dan didn’t have a clue what had gotten under the Irishman’s skin. Had Shamrock heard some gossip that he couldn’t resist following up? Or was he just trying to bust Dan’s balls?

 

Both scenarios were unlikely. Shamrock didn’t have a mean bone in his body. Besides, the little guy had been around during Dan’s bad times. He might not have known all the gory details, but he had to know the gist of Dan’s story.

 

Putting the past in a box didn’t make Dan feel any better. His heart was beating triple time, his palms were sweaty, and he was starting to think about . . . well, thinking about things he didn’t want to think about. Things that weren’t good to think about. Things he could force himself to forget about for a little while, until . . . bang! Something would happen and the memories would flood his mind. Not good memories. Damn bad ones, as a matter of fact.

 

Dan walked to the end of the bar and stared out the front window at the Atlantic Ocean, hoping the ocean would work its soothing magic and help him forget. It had worked before. And it did today too.

 

Eventually.

~*~*~

 

Chapter 3

Dominic Carpucci was in the office of his Lynnfield, Massachusetts, home and he was none too happy. In fact, he was pissed off. Real pissed off. So pissed off he wanted to jump right over the big oak desk he was sitting behind and strangle Jorge Rivera, the man sitting on the other side of the desk. But he knew that didn’t make any sense because it wasn’t the kid’s fault what had him so bullshit. No, it was just that Dominic wanted to take his pent-up anger out on someone. Anyone. Had to get hold of himself, though. After all, Jorge was his right-hand man. And besides, even though Dominic hated to admit it, the kid might be able to kick his ass. Still, even with the age difference, it’d probably be an interesting fight. Very bloody, for sure.

 

Dominic was short, hard, and built like a beer barrel. When he got his hands on someone they were in serious trouble. He’d proven that countless times growing up on the streets. Still the kid was about twenty years younger and a good half foot taller than Dominic. Solid, too. Not like a barrel–more like a middleweight fighter. If they were just a little closer in age, it would be a good go. But even a hardhead like Dominic had to admit time took its toll. The kid didn’t even have a gray hair in his head. All black, the lucky bastard. Dominic smiled for a second before starting back in again on the same thing he’d been railing about now for the last twenty-four hours.

 

“I wanna know who ripped off those fuckin’ hundred keys and I wanna know yesterday,” Dominic bellowed. Jorge didn’t even blink, just sat there cool and calm as ever. Why shouldn’t the kid be calm? After all, it wasn’t his stuff that’d been swiped. It was his, Dominic Carpucci’s. Nobody took anything from Dominic Carpucci and got away with it. Never had, never would. Especially not now. Not when he was counting big on this load. “Whattaya dead? Ya gonna just sit there, or ya gonna tell me ya got something for me?”

 

Jorge Rivera brushed his expensive slacks and spoke in perfect English. “I’ve got my people in Lawrence checking there. And in Lowell. And also the whole seacoast right up to Portland. I have feelers out in Boston too. Anyone tries to unload anything big, I’ll hear about it.”

 

That didn’t make Dominic feel much better. “What if they take it down the Apple? What if they do that? Take it down there or somewhere else? Then what? Huh? I wanna know where the fuck my product is. The longer that shit is out there, the harder it’ll be to get it all back.” He was shouting again and he could feel his face getting hot and he didn’t give a shit. “When I get those motherfuckers I’m gonna pop their fuckin’ heads off.”

 

Jorge, still cool, said, “We’re going to have to find out first who did the rip.”

 

Dominic glared. That was another thing he and the kid had been throwing back and forth and they still weren’t any closer to an idea. “Like I said already, who the hell could it have been? Not the Colombians. We give ’em too much business. Besides, I got a lot of it on the arm, so it wouldn’t make any sense for them to rip off what’s really still their load anyway. Not that they ain’t gonna want their money, cause they are. Once that boat captain you recruited picked it up, it was my responsibility. That’s the way it goes. You know that as good as me.”

 

Dominic drummed his thick fingers on the desk. “That leaves our end. And the only people that knew were me, you, and our dead Captain Gilligan. I didn’t swipe it, and I’m pretty sure you didn’t do it either. And our dead captain didn’t off himself. What about his brother? Ya told me the captain was gonna use his brother. According to my sources, the other stiff on the scow was one of the captain’s employees. I’m thinking maybe our Captain Gilligan was set up by his own damn brother. Whattaya think of that, kid? How’s it sound?”

 

For an instant Jorge looked like maybe he didn’t like something Dominic had said, but then the expression was gone. “I don’t know the brother. If he’d have the balls to whack two guys like that.”

 

Dominic let out a snort. “Where a few million bucks is concerned? Don’t kid yourself. You and I both know people do it for a lot less. He saw a chance to make a big score and he took it, that’s all. Don’t take no genius to kill two sailor boys and make off with some duffel bags, especially when ya know where and when they’re gonna be. Man, if that bastard boat captain wasn’t already dead, I’d kill him myself.”

 

Jorge looked squarely back at Dominic. “Maybe you’re right, Boss.”

 

“Bet your ass I’m right. Now go grab that asshole’s brother. And while you’re at it, get your people all over that fuckin’ beach just in case we’re missing the mark. Stay on top of it. I think we got a good chance of getting my product back, brother or not. If it turns out local amateurs pulled the heist, they won’t have any good outs for that much stuff. They’ll probably screw up trying to unload it. So I wanna know if anyone even moves a gram up there. Now get going. Shake some trees, break some heads if ya have to. I want that shit back yesterday.”

 

Jorge stood up. “We’ll find it, Boss. Don’t worry.” He turned and walked out of the room.

 

Don’t worry. Right. Dominic slammed his fist on the desk. This whole fiasco was really bothering him. He didn’t have a good feeling about this at all. And not even being called “Boss” was helping that. In fact, that was another thing that was starting to bother him lately–people calling him Boss. Kind of sounded like chalk on a blackboard all of a sudden. Like maybe they knew how he felt, and they were saying it now just to rub it in. Sure, he was the boss, the boss of his crew. No doubt about that. And yeah, that’s what he’d always wanted be–a Boss. Mr. Big. The Man.

 

But now, today, he had to ask himself what kind of a boss gets ripped off like this? And without a clue yet where the hell the product was? Of all the scams he’d done through the years it had to be this load they grabbed–the load. The load that was going to get him out of all this hustling, once and for all. Yeah, what kind of a boss loses that kind of load. No boss he’d ever known, that was for sure. And definitely not his old boss, the one he used to answer to, way back when he himself was called “Dom,” “Dominic,” or just plain “Kid.”

 

Twenty-five years ago, Filthy Phil Garrola had made the decision to jump on the cocaine express. It’d been just the two of them that day–just Dominic and Filthy Phil. He’d even had black hair back then, a full head of it. Not Phil though. Bald as a baby.

 

Phil had spoken to him in that deep guttural voice he had. “Dom, you been workin’ for me a long time now, no?” His thick hairy forearms rested on the brown table in front of him as he stared at Dominic sitting on the opposite side.

 

“Five years, Boss,” Dominic had answered, nodding his head proudly. It was 1970 and his hair was cut stylishly long. He wore jeans and a mod sport coat that was tailored to show off the muscles he’d worked so hard to build.

 

“Five years,” Phil said solemnly. “Five years and ya done a lot for me, kid. Ya watched over my books, handled some tough collections, and best of all ya kept your mouth shut. Ain’t caused me no problems either. I like that, Dom, and I like you. Ya ain’t like the other young punks out there. They either wanna get high all the time or they wanna move up too fast or both. These young guys today, they think they’re too good to have to pay their dues like the rest of us. That makes ’em greedy, and worse, unreliable. But you, kid, you’re different. You’re old school. Ya been good. And I want ya to know I appreciate it.”

 

Dominic held up his hands in protest. “No need, Boss.”

 

“Ah, but there is a need, kid,” Phil said, his voice turning graver. “I know you’re ambitious. Ya’d like to make more money. Ain’t nothin’ wrong with that. Long as you’re doin’ it the right way. And you can, kid. You’d like that, wouldn’t you? More money?”

 

Dominic smiled. “Everybody’d like to be makin’ more money, Boss. But I’m satisfied.”

 

“Sure ya are, kid. But I think ya deserve more money. And to tell ya the truth, so do I. I don’t wanna be hustlin’ forever. I wanna be able to afford to get outta this someday before I’m too old to enjoy it. And the only way I know to be able to do that is to make a lot of dough fast.” Phil looked slyly across the table at Dominic. “And I got a way,” he added softly.

 

“What’s that, Boss?” Dominic asked, fighting to keep the excitement from registering in his voice. This could be it, he knew instinctively. What he’d been working for these past five years. Something big. Something that would make him.

 

Filthy Phil gave Dominic a wide crocodile smile. “It’s a way where your bein’ reliable is gonna pay off. I know ya never tried to rip me off, and like I said, I like how ya always kept your mouth shut. And for what I got planned that’s the type of person I need. Someone like you, kid.”

 

“Whattaya got planned, Boss?” Dominic asked, struggling to keep his voice calm. This was it. He wasn’t sure what Phil was going to propose but he knew it was going to take him up the ladder. Make him a bigger man than he was. And that was what he wanted. What he’d been working for.

 

Phil reached into the inside pocket of his gaudy sport coat and pulled out a clear plastic sandwich bag. He dropped the baggie on the table between them. “This, kid. This is what I got in mind.”

 

Dominic reached over, lifted the baggie, and let it roll open. He could feel his hand shaking slightly. He moved his nose over the open bag, sniffed twice, then looked up at Phil and said, “Coke?”

 

Phil’s voice hardened. “Yeah, coke, kid. And nothin’–and I mean nothin’–about this is to ever leave this room. Not only are the cops down on this stuff, some of the boys don’t want anyone gettin’ involved with it either. Say it brings too much heat, period. And a couple of others got their own little setups and they don’t want any competition. Whatever, we can’t step on any toes. So for these reasons, nobody can ever hear about this little talk of ours. I don’t want it ever comin’ back to haunt me. Ya got it? If ya understand this, then we can continue.”

 

Dominic placed the baggie back gently on the table. “I got it, Boss. You never have to worry about me.”

 

“Good,” Phil said, nodding his big head. “Now here’s what I’m gonna propose, kid. First of all, I know ya been movin’ a little grass here and there.” Dominic shifted uncomfortably in his chair. Phil continued. “And I don’t mind that. Ya been makin’ a little extra on the side. Grass? That’s okay. ‘Bout as serious as booze was back in the twenties. Besides, ya kept it away from my thing and that’s good. And anyhow, I ain’t interested in grass–too bulky. But this,” Phil nodded toward the baggie of coke on the table. “This stuff. It’s gonna get big, believe me. I talked to some people who know the score. Gonna be a lot of money in it soon. A lot of heavy heat too. Ya follow me so far, kid?”

 

“I follow you, Boss,” Dominic answered. His gaze shifted back and forth between Phil and the coke on the table.

 

“Okay,” Phil said. He put his elbows on the table and folded his hands under his chin. “Now what I wanna know is–do ya think ya can get rid of any of this stuff?”

 

Dominic had no idea, but he wasn’t about to tell Phil that. Dominic’s people–the few he had–were just small-time pot dealers. Could they move cocaine? Was there even any demand for the stuff? He wasn’t sure. But what to tell Phil? This was his big chance; he could feel it. If he told the old man the wrong thing, he’d blow it. Phil’d just find someone else to move the coke for him. Maybe bullshit him? Tell him that he could sell a lot and hope that’s how it turned out? Or tell him the truth–that his outs were just small-time pot people, a couple of burned-out hippies, some blacks, some spics. Either way, he had to take the shot. “I’ll have to do a little research, Boss. Talk to my people.”

 

Phil waved the idea away. “Don’t bother. I’ll tell ya what they’d say. They’d say they can’t do nothin’ with it. You’d just be wastin’ your time, kid. Here’s what ya do. Take that bag and go see each of your people. Let ’em sniff a little. Go back a second and third time if ya have to, let ’em sniff more. Believe me, it won’t take no longer than that and your phone’ll be ringing off the hook with them wantin’ more. I know guys in the Apple and guys on the West Coast went the same route. Now they’re makin’ more dough than they know what to do with. I’m tellin’ ya, kid, it’s the comin’ thing. Lotta potential, but a lotta risk.”

 

How the hell could this old guinea know the coming thing in the drug business when he wouldn’t know what end of a joint to put between his fat lips? Still. Dominic glanced at the coke again. Not many things made him nervous, but this stuff did. This was heavy. Real heavy.

 

“They might be afraid of it, Boss,” he said.

 

“No might about it. They will be afraid of it. But not for long, believe me. The guys I know had the same problem. Their people were scared to death of it at first. Funny stuff though. After a while they couldn’t get enough of it. Then they started movin’ more and more. It snowballed. I’m tellin’ ya, kid, their business took off like a rocket. And it can for us too. It’s just gettin’ going around here. We’re right on the ground floor.”

 

“What’s it gonna cost me?” Dominic asked, tipping his head toward the coke.

 

“Zilch,” Phil answered, palms up. “That’s the best part for you, kid. I’ll get it. I got a top connection. The best stuff. Like I said, in the beginning we’ll give out some for free. Uncut. You don’t put up a dime. I put up the money and get the product. You’re gonna be in charge of distribution. Once it starts to move, we figure out a price structure and how much we’re gonna cut it. Then we split the profits–seventy-five me, twenty-five you. How’s that sound, kid?”

 

Dominic wasn’t sure how it sounded, but he wanted to move up and he wasn’t going to refuse anything that might take him there. “Sounds good, Boss. I’ll do the best I can.”

 

Phil reached over and patted the back of Dominic’s hand. “I know ya will, kid. I know ya will.”

 

“When do we start?” Dominic asked, and he noticed there was a slight quiver in his voice. He hoped the old man didn’t notice it too.

 

“Today,” Phil said. “There’s your sample.” He pushed the baggie closer to Dominic. “Ya take it around, do like I said. Give ’em a little on the house. Leave ’em a little even. Tell ’em ya can get all they want. I don’t care if it’s just a gram or an ounce. They’ll build up; I’m tellin’ ya.” Phil was silent for a minute and Dominic could feel the older man’s eyes burning into him. “This is the one, Dominic. It’s gonna make us both rich. We just gotta play it cool and handle it right.”

 

The old man had been spot on. They’d caught the cocaine explosion when it hit Boston right on the ground floor. Rode that elevator to the top. And it had gotten both of them exactly what they’d wanted. So far.

 

Filthy Phil Garrola was in his twilight years now, retired in Florida with a penthouse, a yacht, and lots of dough stashed. Not to mention the nice chunk of change Dominic sent him every month as his cut of the business he’d let Dominic take over when he retired. The split wasn’t seventy-five/twenty-five anymore either. They’d long ago renegotiated that in Dominic’s favor, but still, the old man got fat, steady envelopes for doing nothing. Yeah, the old man had had his turn. And what a turn. Dominic could picture the old fart on the bridge of his yacht, bald head, shades, and lime-green polyester Bermudas high up on his big belly, with some sweet young cupcake hanging all over him. Nobody in a million years would ever believe that old man had made his pile as one of the pioneers of the cocaine trade.

 

But Dominic knew he’d gotten what he’d wanted too–to be the Boss. Just like Filthy Phil. And the money that came with the title wasn’t anything to sneeze at either. Only problem, he had something Phil hadn’t had back in the day–expenses. Not to say Phil hadn’t had any expenses back then. But everything cost more today, now that the “War on Drugs” was in high gear. Christ, back then there had been few problems and the old man had just raked it in.

 

Today everything was different. Just when it seemed to Dominic that he almost had enough to get out of the racket and live the high life like the old man, something would happen that cost him plenty. Either someone was getting popped and lawyers and bail had to be taken care of, or a load was stolen or seized. It was always something happening at the most inopportune times.

 

That was part of the reason he was sick of the whole shebang. Every day the life Phil lived in Florida looked better and better. Lying around in the warm sun all day, then relaxing to the sound of waves at night. Not having a care in the world. It sure had to be a lot better than the grief he was involved in.

 

Even being called “Boss” didn’t make him feel any better now. What kind of boss gets taken down by a bunch of stupid jerks? Especially at his age. Dominic needed this like he needed a hole in the head.

 

Yes, it was definitely time to get out. The only thing standing between him and Phil in Florida was money–lots of it–and someone he could trust to send him his sweet little cut every month.

 

The hundred keys, along with what he already had stashed, would’ve given him enough to retire very comfortably, thank you. And as far as someone taking over his action, he had his eye on someone for that too–the kid, Jorge Rivera. Sure, the kid was a spic and the boys might not like it, but he was honest, tough and loyal, and Dominic knew the kid could keep things together. Besides, having a spic running the operation would help keep it plugged into the Hispanic groups that were pushing out old Anglo organizations like his and Phil’s.

 

Yeah, letting Jorge take over was just smart business. Change with the times. Let the greasers stand up front; let them think they’re running the show. As long as those fat envelopes kept flying south every month, why should he care if they were sent by a guy named Jorge or one named Tony? Either way the drinks would be just as cold, the sun just as warm, and the broads just as hot. Amen.

 

But right now the laugh would be on him if he didn’t get those damn duffel bags back. Dominic didn’t doubt he’d get the bags back along with every last stinking football that was in them. He’d get the guys who swiped them too. Make himself sick watching what he did to those assholes.

 

Good thing the doc wasn’t taking his blood pressure right about now. And he’d been doing so good too.

~*~*~

 

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