THIS IS A STORY BASED ON THE TRUTH. THE NAMES OF THE CHARACTERS, THE LOCALE AND THE CIRCUMSTANCES ARE HISTORICAL AND FACTUAL. I HAVE TAKEN LIBERTY WITH SOME INCIDENTALS AND THE DIALOGUE, BASING THEM ON THE ERA, THE SITUATION AND THE CHARACTERS INVOLVED
It doesn’t take long to get accustomed to a little more butter on your toast, a little more cream in your coffee. Allan Drake was no different in this regard.
He had just settled into his new digs–and by his standards they were nice: a kitchenette, a firm settee, a soft mattress–when he ran into a bit of a snag. He couldn’t pay his rent.
At first he was perplexed by trickling cab fares, though the old-timers had warned him. He was young, mesmerized by the sun–and two-piece swimsuits, especially.
To him, winter in Miami was summer in Miami.
His landlord gave him a week to get right, otherwise he’d be out on his ass. His things, on the other hand, they could–would–stay.
That’s why he got back into the ring. But it wasn’t the fear of being out on the street that drove him there. It was the fear of ending up back in Boston.
He promised himself it was just for a season, that he would squirrel away more tips, that he wouldn’t buy as many clothes.
“You can’t drive my cabs looking like a palooka,” his boss told him when he showed up with a swollen face.
He promised himself he had learned his lesson as he shifted from practitioner to mauler, intent on beating his opponent first to the punch and then to a pulp. For the most part, he succeeded.
“You’re getting noticed, kid,” his decrepit manger said one day after a sparring session with Lighting Leroy Jones. The rummy nodded toward a little old man with a shallow face and lantern jaw.
“That’s Little Augie.”
And that’s when Drake first felt it, before he even recognized the name, an uppercut of revulsion that bled into fear, that bled into dread as cold and dull as an end-swell.
“I don’t want that kind of attention,” he said.
The rummy chuckled. “Sure, kid. Whatever you say.”
The winter faded fast and so did his fear. The comics and the showgirls climbed back into his cab. He tripled his fares.
He cleaned out his locker and paid off his manager.
“You like being a hacky, huh kid.”
“No. I like being a hackey in Miami,” Drake said. He waited for the man to laugh.
“See you around,” the rummy said.
True to his word, he put ten percent of his tips in a stew pot under the sink of his kitchenette.
True, Little Augie didn’t trust Sally Giadinello. Then again, Little Augie didn’t trust anyone.
So, yeah, there was that. But it was more than that. It was his hair–thick and wavy, strawberry blonde, the girls said–that really set Little Augie’s teeth on edge.
That and his coal black eyes…and his faint Palermitano dialect…and his smarts. More than anything, it was Sally G’s smarts. And his ambition, though he hid it well.
Ordinarily, when Little Augie had those feelings about someone, that someone wasn’t long above ground. But Sally had a golden ticket–he was married to Lucky Luciano’s favorite niece. That’s why he was Little Augie’s driver in the first place.
So there was that.
Fortunately, Frank Costello understood. Little Augie and Frank were best friends. And since Lucky had been deported, Frank was the de facto boss. Sally G was transferred back to Brooklyn.
That was that.
But that left Little Augie without a permanent driver.
Of course he could have filled that spot with a snap of his fingers, but he had something very specific, if not a little unorthodox, in mind. He wanted someone supremely loyal to him and him only, someone smart enough, but not too smart.
He wanted a soft touch who was a bruiser, with no connections to “the life”.
To be cont’d…