I was in deep with the mob, once. Real deep. We'd scoped out a soft target, a young grifter named Vinnie (The Comb) Vinnicombe. Vinnie was eager to get some street cred and work his way up the ladder.
But he wasn't the shiniest Gucci in the closet. Didn't have the smarts to make it as a made guy
Vinnie was small potatoes. Started out stealing flippers on the harbourfront, but couldn't move them fast enough. And oh mama, did they stink.
I started hanging out at Vinnie's favourite watering hole, the old Capital Lounge. One day, he showed up boasting about a necklace he swiped for his girl.
He didn't have a girl.
"Let me see that," I said.
He looked at me sitting in the green neon glow. "Who the frick are you?"
"Donnie," I said. "Donnie Basho. Give it here."
He handed me the jewelry. I gave it a quick once-over.
"It's a fugesi," I said. "Looks like Woolco."
We hit it off right away.
A few days later, he came bursting into the lounge. "Donnie! You gotta see this. This is our ticket, Donnie. This is going to be big."
He pulled me into a back room. A single lightbulb hung from the ceiling.
Three housewives and a businessman sat in high stools staring at what looked like cigarette machines.
"Video lotto, Donnie. VLTs. That's where the money is."
I looked at the flashing lights. "You sure about this, Vinnie?"
By the next day, Vinnie had scored a meeting with the man himself, Paul (Pointy Gills) Geomatty. When we we got to his office, Geomatty turned a lazy eye towards us.
"What's wrong, son? Someone put a moose head in your sleeping bag?" He laughed hysterically. His henchman joined in nervously.
"Don Geomatty," said Vinnie, bending to kiss his ring.
"This is going to be huge. I'm talking millions here. Maybe more."
"Yes. I've seen your plan. You've done good, Vinnie," said Geomatty. "But it's not enough. I want in on the bingos and the garden parties, too. I want it all. Just do it."
"But Godfaddah. What about the bishop?"
"I'll look after the bishop. You just do what you're told."
Vinnie glanced at me and then back at the Don.
"Don Geomatty," he said. "There's one little problem."
"Well, there's some private dick or something nosing around lately, pretending he's looking for some action."
"What's his name?"
"Jake. Jake Doyle."
I let out a deep breath.
Geomatty turned to one of his men.
"Jimmy. This Jake guy. Ice him."
Jimmy looked confused. "Getting low on ice, boss. We gots plenty of salt, though."
"No, ice him, ice him ... you know what I mean."
"Oh, oh yeah. Sure, I got ya."
Suddenly, the doors burst open and policemen filled the room. They slapped cuffs on Geomatty and his thugs. Vinnie and I slipped into the background.
A big man with a silk-lined cape strode into the room.
"It's Marshall," Vinnie whispered. "Tommy (The Shrimp Fork) Marshall."
The man sat down and winked at the Don.
"You're out of business, Paul, my boy. The government's taking over. Your gambling empire is over before it even started."
"You don't get it, Tommy," he said.
"I wasn't interested in those VLTs anyway. They're too addictive and the odds suck. We gots principles here. We may be racketeers and murderers, but we don't like to cheat our customers."
"Yeah, you're a regular citizen's rep," Marshall snorted. "Sergeant, get this scum out of here."
As the police pushed Geomatty and his men out the door, Marshall turned to an aide.
"Tony, when we get back to the office, get the bishop on the phone. I think we'll be wanting a piece of that action, too."
Peter Jackson is The Telegram's commentary editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.