From the author: I’m not sure yet if I’m keeping this chapter, or even going down this road with Gun Moll. I wanted to mix Brian up with some real wiseguys, but it may be too distractign from the central story. Check it out and tell me what you think … especially if you’ve read The Factory. I’d love to get your thoughts.
Chapter Preview – Meeting The Mob
It’s easy to play leader when everything goes right from your instructions. People came to me, I gave them my thoughts, and they took it seriously. That kind of influence made a lot of people sing my praises, but some of these praises were to people outside of the circle, and it got them into a lot of trouble.
My words made people a lot of money so my influence grew—I always had a hustle up my sleeve. Before I knew it I was at the table with people that I had only known by name when I was a crumb, bussing gigs for a five-figure salary. Crumbs couldn’t eat and drink what I was eating and drinking though.
We were deep at a large table at the back of an Italian restaurant in downtown Tampa. The steak in front of me cost $227.10, the wine that I paired it with was close in price, and the extra tastes that were scattered about the table could pay the rent or mortgage for a person of humble means. Don’t get it twisted though, we weren’t living it up, hood rich, like a rapper with an opaque record deal. This wasn’t my money that I was blowing, this was Antonio Algo’s money.
Ex (what he told us to call him) was the real thing. He came up robbing, killing, and hustling in Queens, New York for a local captain of an old crime family. He came to Tampa to freelance and do his thing. Now he ran a series of valet businesses across Florida, and had his hooks into several strip clubs whose girls brought him in a lot of money.
This “sit-down” came about when our businesses collided due to the girls we rented for “Mingle Nights”. One of his girls had come out to work for us without squaring it with him first, so it looked as if I was poaching, even though I knew nothing about it.
Both Tony and I smelled opportunity when we saw each other’s portfolio. We decided to sit down and work something out instead of killing each other over a misunderstanding. I sat at the table with Jimmy—the right hand of the throne, if you saw me as king—he was my best friend since childhood and the most likely person to put a bullet into you if you came at me sideways, like a crab. Next to Jimmy was Steve—the left hand of the throne, and my adviser—this was also a childhood friend, but the more financially focused of the pair.
Ex had three goons that tried their best to look important, but I could see right through them—they were muscle, and not very smart. We broke bread and swapped bad, sexist jokes into the night, and once we were unto espresso and cigars, we closed the doors to the big room that we were eating in and began to talk business.
“So, from what I hear, you boys are the most creative, modern-age pimps that Tampa Bay ever seen,” Ex said as he walked back to his chair, lit up another cigar and sat down. He was an older cat, probably about ten years older than I was, and dangerous. If there’s one thing I didn’t like about mob cats—and we had run into our fair share of them throughout the years—they were slimy, and they eyed you up like food.
Being a black dude making the type of money that I was making confused the hell out of them too. They thought about money and success in this odd silo of singularity. To them, people like me normally pushed drugs, or girls, for small money. We weren’t supposed to be intelligent and enterprising. So when this uneducated piece of shit threw the pimp word at me, as if he was above me, I thought it was funny, but appearances disallowed me from laughing at it.
“I ain’t no fucking pimp. That’s below me and you know it. We here to measure dick sizes, or we here to do business, Ex? You wouldn’t be breaking bread with a pimp, or a dude that made the sort of chump change that pimps make. Come on man, don’t insult me.” I popped my collar.
“Relax, I’m just breaking your balls, hip-hop. I like what you got going on. Your operation is clean, and everybody respects you. What I got going on—as you know—is something similar, but I got people I answer to, capiche? They make sure that I stay safe down here, and I make sure that they stay fat, up there. They can’t know about this, about you—I need to keep you as my best kept secret. Damn shame that none of yous is Italian, or we’d be having a different conversation.”
“Trust me Ex, no disrespect, but I’ve tried that working for others thing and it’s not for guys like me. God made me black for a reason. People underestimate my ass at every corner, and it keeps me on my toes if you know what I mean. Me and the boys don’t slip, we don’t shine, we don’t get into any of that dumb shit that you’re about to ask me to see if I pose you any risks. What we do, and what we are here for is to come up. Money, that’s the point we stick to. Everything else is bullshit. So let’s get to it.”
Ex was obviously a New Yorker, it was all over him and he seemed like a fish out of water in the South. We sent the guys outside of the room to talk candidly and he confided with me that his dealings with me would be outside of his crime family unit. The mafia taxed the hell out of independent hustlers like Tony, it was a real racket. I thought about it as a son paying his father an allowance in order for the father to keep his cousins from killing him to take his toys. It was the world’s oldest pyramid scheme, and Tony—being a smarter hoodlum—was looking out for himself.
“Do you want me to start using your girls at Mingle Nights, Ex?” I asked after a whole lot of circular conversation that stemmed from him trying to screw me into a bad business opportunity.
“That would be a nice start, but don’t you have your own girls for that?”
“Only a few of ‘em are ours. I got a stake in The Villa, a nice sized stake, but the girls come from all over. That’s how we keep the guys coming back and buying lifetime memberships to the club. Coming to Mingle Nights means that you get a chance to lay a bad ass chick that you haven’t seen before. Sure, there are girls that are regulars, but we rotate in exotic talent, and it works. I couldn’t tell you the amount of repeat business we run outta there. Adding your girls to the mix means a couple grand floating your way monthly. We can start there and see if we can do even more business together.”
“I’d like that, plus I got other interests that your boys would be helpful with in the future. Looking forward to it, you impress me Brian.”
I got that standard feedback when I got into bed with my elders. They all expected me to be some stupid-ass stereotype from a BET movie, like Beanie on State Property or something; but I wasn’t a rapper, or a wannabe that idolized rappers, I was a gangster, and if my motives weren’t for money, they were for self-preservation.
When we were about to leave the restaurant, I noticed that Steve came out of the bathroom with his shirt hanging out from beneath his sports coat. As he walked towards us—without making eye contact—the cute Italian waitress that had served us, slipped out of the men’s bathroom and walked over to the bar, trying her best not to look our way. I watched them go through the motions as we filed out of the door, and I took Steve to the side, where she couldn’t see us.
“Couldn’t help yourself, huh?” I asked, as he squirmed visibly in front of me.
“She was flirting hard, B. When you all went back inside, and I went to take a piss, she came in after me. What you expect me to do?”
“I expect you to do what you just did, but you got to be smarter about it, baby. We just met with the Tampa mafia. We met with them for hours, and you go and fuck a waitress that saw all of our faces. We get pinched and she knows your every detail to sing to the cops now. Plus, she now has leverage on you from different angles. She can fuck you up with your wife, your work, and you don’t know if she’s Tony’s niece, cousin, daughter, whatever. I bet you didn’t even wear a strap did you? No, of course you didn’t, where’d you put it man?”
“What you mean, B?”
“You know exactly what I mean, man. You bust inside of that girl?”
“Naw man, you know I pull out—I’m an ace at that shit. I know I fucked up. Brian, look—“
“Get rid of her, or take her ass home and make sure you all handle that in the morning. I don’t want no baby mama drama in our unit, Steve. Happy families are number one. You know the rules. When she’s good, you gotta make a choice. Either she goes personally, or she’s your semi-permanent on the side. I don’t want a situation with this girl showing up out of nowhere, salty because you did her dirty. She wanted to fuck a gangster to get ahead in life, well you grant her fucking wish. Either with a bullet, or some constant attention. Your decision. You get one mistress, no more. Quit with this random pussy business before you fuck everything up.”
I motioned the girl over when we walked out, and she came over slowly, not knowing what to expect from me.
“What’s your name sweetheart?”
“Calandra,” she announced boldly in a strong Italian accent that made me smile. I looked over at Steve, who looked as if he wanted to shrink into a ball.
“Calandra, you know that this man is married right?” She got quiet and began to caress her arm while looking down as if I was a parent scolding a child. “No, no, it’s fine and you’re beautiful, I understand. I just want you to know that you’re his girl now. Do you understand?”
“His girl, you mean like a girlfriend?”
“Yes baby, you’re his girlfriend.” She began to smile as if she had hit the lottery, and she stared at him the whole time. “He’s to take care of you. He’s to make sure you live comfortably, and that you’re happy. If he doesn’t, you come and tell me. All I ask is that you stay away from his wife, and that you don’t make business hard for him. Do you understand?”
I turned to Steve with a smile on my face and left them to talk it over. Steve was always fucking up when it came to women. It was as if he had some sort of demon that wasn’t satisfied unless the boy was doing dirt behind his wife’s back. Two strippers had gotten pregnant because of Steve. I had given him the same speech back then. One of the girls ended up losing the baby—real tragic shit the way it messed her up—and the other one was now on his payroll. Nothing sucks more than being tied down to a chick who you simply wanted to sleep with. It would help if Steve would wear a condom during these brief lapses of judgment, but he was an emotional guy, so he took it too far periodically and I had to check him.
Jimmy had been quiet all night, and I wondered what was on his mind. It wasn’t like him to bite his tongue when it came to business, so when I entered the Escalade and we drove off, I looked over at him to see if he was okay.
“Why are we fucking with these dudes, B?” he asked.
“This is how we protect what we have, Doc. We did a solid job making our business flourish, and taking over the factory. Nobody can touch us now that we have the money and the muscle to back it up in our operations. But Tony is the mafia. They don’t like niggas playing in the same sandbox with them, especially paid niggas like us. Doing business with Ex lets us in on some of their shit. It lets them think we work for them, and it lets us keep an eye on what they have going on, so that if they move on us we have a chance.”
“You saw how that motherfucker talked to us? I bet I got more money than that—“
“We can’t afford to be emotional and personal about this shit, Jimmy. Emotions is what made stupid-ass Steve raw dog that waitress in the damn bathroom. Right Steve?”
We both started laughing at him when I said this and Jimmy’s mind was put to ease. As I said, it’s easy to play leader when everything is going well. I found that the majority of what I did those days was to manage my two knuckle-headed friends. Steve was always horny, and Jimmy was a hot-head.
Like this style of writing? Check out a sample of the first book, The Factory, and follow Brian Jackson’s rise to the top.