Friday, November 30, 2012
DISORGANIZED CRIME, Fighting Well and Driving Badly
This was the same bar where my partner, Jerry, beat up one of the toughest guys in the neighborhood, who was a well-regarded up-and-coming professional middleweight boxer Vinny Ferguson.
Many nights there was either a crap game or barbooth (an Italian dice game) in the 29th Street social club. Tony Butch's corner fruit stand was next to the club, and there was a red alarm light in the club, warning of some emergency, usually that the bulls [cops] were coming. The alarm was activated by a switch at the all-night fruit stand.
About 3 a.m., Nicky came out of the club, got into the car and went for coffee for the players. I was sitting on a milk crate, manning the alarm, when I saw Nicky stop for the light at the corner before making the turn up 29th Street. It was a quiet summer night, so I could hear Nicky arguing with the guys in the car next to him. I heard him tell them to, "pull over here," pointing towards the fruit stand.
When the light changed, Nicky pulled up just ahead of where I was sitting and they pulled up right in front of me. I stepped on the alarm and grabbed the crowbar. The calm, quiet summer night was shattered, along with their back window, when I smashed it with the crowbar and about forty guys, lookin' like wild men, came running outta' the club and were directed by Nicky to their targets.
Heads in the car were frantically turning like Linda Blair's in The Exorcist. The driver first drove forward into Nicky's car, then grinded the gears for a few seconds (which must've seemed like minutes to them), then backed up fast, losing control, and went into parked cars across the Street. Finally, the driver gained control and sped off down Second Avenue.
Billy LeBrecht was a decent sort. He was a strong, hard-working guy who dealt straight with you. We called him "LaBreca the Wrecker.” He liked both my partner, Jerry, and I, and for some reason he thought I could do almost anything. He called me "the Hawk.” Before I had my license, I was driving his Nash Rambler on the East River Drive. I was in the middle lane and was reluctant to go between two cars in the lanes on either side of me. LaBrecka the Wrecker says, "go head Hawk, you could do it!" I hit both cars and sped off.
Another time he took me down Greenwich Village to see if we could pick up some girls. I met this one girl from Jersey and while I took her to one of the "clubhouses,", he sat in the kitchen drinking beer. It was about 2 a.m., and I promised her we would drive her back to Jersey. Well, the "Wrecker" is wrecked, so I drove, despite not having a license. It was a cold winter morning and she lived way out in Jersey.
After I dropped her off at her parent's house, she told me to make sure not to miss the turn at the second light or it'll be a long way before I can get on the Jersey Turnpike back to the city. Having no idea where I was, I started the trip back. As I was driving, I realized I just missed the second turn. Looking to my left, I saw what I thought was a gas station with what appeared to be a gas pump in it. There was snow on the ground ,so I couldn’t see a curb and make a quick decision to cut across the gas station onto the road I just missed. Going pretty fast, I bounced over a curb and about 20 feet into the "gas station" the car started sinking.
In a matter of minutes, the dark night was illuminated by flashing lights and the quiet was shattered by sirens blaring. Cops in brown mountie uniforms with fuckin' strings on their guns were running at the car from three directions. I exited the car with my hands held high and when they yelled, "Get on the car!" I replied, "Where do you want me - on the hood, on the roof, in the trunk, where?"
They asked me what I was doing there and anxious to cop out to an illegal turn, I answered, "I made an illegal turn thru this gas station.”
They said, "Gas station...boy, you on the mayor's memorial grounds!" Then they shined their flashlights on what I thought was a gas pump, which read, "in honor of Mayor....” His tombstone! I knew I was in trouble because instead of to a precinct, they took me to the "barracks," which is up on stilts.
After talking my ass off for a half an hour, they were just about to let me go when I heard a ruckus outside and one trooper came up the wooden stairs holding LeBrecht by the collar, saying, "I caught this prick taking the air out of C-3's tires!"
Another 20 minutes of cajoling ensued, ending with my handing the chief honcho LeBrecht's license and saying, "Whatever it is, just send me the bill.” About a month later, LeBrecht tells me he got a bill for $800....I suggested he pay it.
DISORGANIZED CRIME is privately published. Contact Sonny Patini