For the next few decades, Tony B’s work address was somewhere in the smelly confines of the Fulton Fish Market. The Fulton Fish Market was controlled by the mob since the 1920’s, when men were men and a bottle of booze was always empty.
The Fish Market Mob, as they were called, made their best score, and it involved no cash, or exchange of commodities, during World War 2, when the French Luxury liner The Normandie was suspiciously sunk at it’s berth on a West Side pier. New York politicians and lawmakers were aghast.
“How could German spies possible infiltrate our great city and bomb a ship resting in our fine harbors?” the pols screamed.
Only it really didn’t go down that way. Not even close.
It seemed that a couple of the downtown guys got a great idea, while playing cards one night in an after hour joint on South Street. Their big boss Big Bobby Braggadocio was cooling his heels in an upstate prison and not likely to get out in his lifetime, or maybe anyone’s lifetime, presently living.
So they came up with the perfect plan.
Just imagine if someone had blown up a big boat anchored in New York harbor. What a shame that would be. What could we, the Fish Market Mob, do to make sure this could never happen again?
We, as patriotic Italian/American, honest, hard-working citizens, could offer our services, free of charge, to the NY City District attorney, to help police and Naval Intelligence — two oxymorons if there ever was one, protect the fish market and the docks all over the city, from enemy saboteurs.
We could help the law set up listening and communication devices in fishing boats, waterfront bars and restaurant and any other places the DA wanted us to bug.
And if we did this, what would the law do for us in return?
We wouldn’t ask for much, now would we? We wouldn’t ask for money? Or ask the heat to look the other way when we did what we do, to make a tough buck in an even tougher town?
No indeed. All we would like is to ask for one very small favor. Just a tiny example of their good will, in return for us making the New York City docks safe from any more war-related treachery.
All they had to do to satisfy our wants, was to give Bobby Braggadocio a “get out of jail free card” you know, like the ones used in that Monopoly game all the kids were playing.
So after the Normandie went down like a rock on a west side pier, with a little help from Big Bobby’s crew, arrangements were made with the law to protect the entire New York City waterfront. Soon afterwards, Bobby Braggadocio flew the coop, and things were nice and snuggly down on the New York City waterfront for the rest of that annoying freakin’ war.
Ain’t that a miracle?
Springing the boss aside, you had to give the mob credit, for always figuring out a way to make an illegal dime, when it was probably easier and definite safer, to make a totally legal dollar.
Say you were an out of town fish company, who needed to have their fish unloaded in the Fulton Fish Market.
No problem, right?
No problem, as long as you paid what the mob ingeniously called “parking fees” for your truck. If you refused to ante up, at worse, terrible things could happen to your truck. At best, your fish stood unloaded on the truck and eventually smelled like ammonia capsules that cornermen snapped between rounds under their wretched fighter’s noses.
So the mob came up with the ingenious idea of forming it’s own “security force”, which would protect the trucks of the people who paid and un-protect the trucks of people who didn’t pay.
Woe to the fish monger who decided not to play by mob rules. If he dare park his truck anywhere near the Fulton Fish Market and not pay the proper tribute, when he returned he might find a few flat tires, a couple of windows busted and sugar in his gas tank. Or maybe no truck at all.
In addition, under mob rules, none of the crew members of the fishing vessels docked near the fish market were allowed to unload their own catches.
“We do all the unloading of fish, otherwise there could be trouble,” Sally Boy told Tony B.
Sally Boy said he charged each boat 10 bucks a pop for his union’s “benevolent fund.” If the 10 bucks was not paid on time, the waters around the fish market could be downright un-benevolent for certain seafaring simpletons who forgot, most likely on purpose, to pay the damn 10 bucks.
Of course, Mob employees and Mob controlled companies received special privileges. But that’s why it’s always a great idea to have good friends in the right places. Especially when these friends were more than willing and certainly capable, of cracking a few skulls for the good of the common cause.
Right off the bat, Sally Boy figured the parking concession in the Fulton Fish market was a good way to get Tony B started in the family business.
When he first started in the fish business, cobbled Peck Slip, a wide, 2-way street in the heart of the Fish Market, was Tony B. base of operation. During the daytime business hours, Peck Slip and the surround fish market streets were basically a ghost town. There were a few landmark restaurant, like Sloppy Louie’s and Sweets, that financial district workers frequented for lunch and dinner. The Paris Bar and Grill, which former clients included everyone from Thomas Edison, to Diamond Jim Brady, to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, had stragglers staggering in and out at all times of the day and night.
But right about 11pm, the entire dynamics of Peck Slip changed. Men with grappling hooks hung over husky shoulders started trickling in for work. In the winter, fires were started in dirty garbage cans, so that the workers could warm their mitts between trips to and from trucks and cold storage lockers.
Tony B usually arrived at work about midnight, with a crew of about 10 guys. He immediately pitched a tent on Peck Street, 20 feet from the intersection of South Street. This was Tony B’s base of operations.
All workers who shaped up for work, meaning showed up in hope of finding work and sometimes got it, carried bailing hooks, which they used to hook the boxes of fish and flip them onto carts for transportation. Tony B felt he looked much tougher if he lugged around a bailing hook too. But he never needed to use that hook, except for one small time and it wasn’t for hooking a box of fish.
Manny the Mook was a small time gambler who had gotten in the hole bigtime with Tony B, first as a gambling customer and then as the recipient of a loan from Tony B to cover his gambling debts. Tony B charged Manny the Mook the customary 3 points a week, which meant, on his loan of 500 bucks, Manny the Mook had to cough up 15 clams a week, the vig, or vigorish, just to stay straight and up to date. That $15 a week was not deducted off the $500 principal, so Manny the Mook still owed Tony B the $500 ad infinitum, until he made a score and came up with the 500 bucks all at once.
This was the standard operating procedure in all mob transactions, betting, borrowing, or otherwise.
Which was fine for everyone involved, until Manny the Mook decided, or someone gave him the idea, which was more likely since Manny the Mook was dumber than a rock, to tell Tony B to take a hike about the loan, or Manny the Mook would tell his cousin, a freaking rat cop, that Tony B was guilty of the criminal offense of usury.
Tony B knew right off the bat that Manny the Mook didn’t have the slightest idea what the word usury meant, and had certainly had never uttered that word before in his entire life.
Many the Mook was threatening to become a canary; a cheese-eating, rat bastard and Tony B, according to the code of the streets, could not let that go unpunished. That’s when the bailing hook finally came in handy for Tony B.
Tony B had a few of the boys get Manny the Mook involved in a craps game in the hallway of a tenement on Front Street. Manny the Mook was rolling hot dice, when Tony B entered the tenement, bailing hook hung on his shoulder. Manny the Mook was on his knees facing the wall. He picked up the two rocks, shook them in his right hand, behind his right ear, and yelled, “Come on pretty momma. Come to papa.”
The rocks hit the wall and a second later the two rocks formed four dots and three dots, lucky seven. But things got real unlucky for Manny the Mook. Real fast.
Before Manny the Mook could scoop up his cash, Tony B smashed the bailing hook on top of his melon head and the crooked spike dug three inches deep into Manny the Mook’s skull.
After the rest of the dice players rushed out of the building, Tony B picked up Manny the Mook’s winnings, then casual strode out of the building, like he had nary a care in the world.
Amazingly, Manny the Mook lived to gamble another day.
He was spotted a few weeks later in a wheelchair on west 14th Street, with a turban around his head. Manny the Mook was none too bright to begin with, so whatever brain damage he suffered, would hardly be noticed by anyone who actually knew him.
Manny the Mook never set foot in the Fulton Fish Market again. Nor was he ever seen anywhere near the 4th, or 6th Wards.
But from that point on, for some mysterious reason, Tony B had a much easier time collecting money that was owed him. Whenever he was in the fish market, he religiously carried the bailing hook on his shoulder, as a sign to all, “Screw with Tony B and I’ll split your freakin’ skull.”