I Think There Has Been a MistakeStarted by Albert Brazaga at Jun 28, 2020 12:25 PM
March 4, 1924
The place didn't look like much from the outside but then that wasn't what was important. Within the doors was a lively speak easy. The owner was a long time businessman who also loved to fish - he named his joint The Blue Marlin. It had openly been a tavern until Prohibition arrived and now officially was a diner of sorts, specializing in fish fries. But the reality was most customers came there for the bootleg drinks. He had been raided twice, paid some fines for it, but wised up and greased the right pockets in City Hall. The cops ignored the place now. So life was good.
That didn't mean there weren't some issues and now the man found himself caught up in the highly competitive bootleg distribution rivalries. He had been getting his alcoholic products from one of Gagliano's distributors. His customers were satisfied, he was making decent profits. Then just recently he had a couple of visitors to his back office.
Two grim looking sorts with southern not Italian accents announced to him that from here on in he was going to be buying from them or ...........well, bad things would happen. He tried to explain he already was locked into a contract with his current supplier. They only ramped up their threats. As if to back up the seriousness of all this, one of the men sucker punched him right to the floor. The poor old gent withered right then and there, agreeing on the spot to buy their stuff.
Sure enough the very next morning a truck pulled up in back and both beer and hard liquor was unloaded from it to his storeroom. As for the Gagliano stock he had already purchased, well it seemed his new 'business partners' would take it off hands for him.....free! He did not even try to argue.
It was early evening and yet another healthy crowd were enjoying themselves as conversation, laughter, and tobacco smoke all swirled together. A piano plinked in the corner, the place wasn't big enough for a band. Most everyone ignored what was even being played.
The door opened and a large well dressed man sauntered on in, pausing to scan the place. Right behind him were two men that if you wanted to use one word to describe them, it would be THUGS.
"Hmmm, ain't been here in quite a while, boys. The place ain't got any better I see," he declared with a wolfish smile.
Alberto Brazaga had arrived, here on business for Freddie Gagliano. Those in the joint who glanced at the trio and had any knowledge of the man in front suddenly grew a bit skittish or looked away, minding their own business. People in the know realized this was one man you never wanted to mess with.
Having scanned the place and the crowd within, Alberto now moved past the various tables and headed straight for the bar counter parked up in front of the far wall. A small balding fellow with wire frame glasses was behind the bar and wearing an apron, plainly he was one of the bartenders. The employee saw who was approaching and the smile he had was now vanished.
"Mr. Brazaga, good evening. What would you like? It's on the house of course," the fellow greeted the newcomer nervously.
Alberto grinned, "So ya recognize me then? That's real good a youse. I don't remember yer name but then I don't really care. Just gimme a scotch...make that gimme a whole damn bottle of it. I got my friends here."
The two thugs behind him displayed their own wolfish smiles. They didn't say anything though because they knew their place. This wasn't a social occasion, they were there on business and to do whatever their boss told them to do. That's how it worked. Still, it paid well.
"Sure...sure thing, Mr. Brazaga," the bartender reached down and fished out a bottle from the shelf below the countertop then placed it in front of Alberto.
"And glasses too, pisano," snapped the gangster as he now examined the bottle, turning it to study the label on it.
Just as the bartender brought up three glasses, Alberto spoke again.
"Say....I see dis here bottle.... it ain't one of ours. I know what we sell ya and this ain't one of our labels, I can tell," he sounded irritated suddenly, there was no smile.
The bartender swallowed, "Umm, I don't know. I mean I just serve what we have. You'd have to talk to my boss."
"Oh? So I would , huh? Well, tell ya what, you go get yer boss. Tell 'im I wanna talk ta him. Now. And no fuckin' excuses, got it?" Alberto glared.
The bartender paled and nodded then spun about and hustled into a back room.
About ten feet down a slightly inebriated man blurted out, "Hey! Bartend! Don't go, I need another drink! Where ya' all goin'?"
Alberto turned his baleful stare at the customer, "He'll be back. Keep yer pants on."
The man turned to face him, a bit unsteadily, "He shoulda never left is all. I need a drink, dammit."
Alberto now approached up close, the look in his eyes warned of real danger, barely controlled anger though the drunk might not have seen it. His mistake.
"Is that yer dollar on the bar?" Alberto suddenly asked.
The man turned to his left to check the bar. And took his eyes off Brazaga. Second mistake. Alberto suddenly lunged out and grabbed the man by the back of the neck and slammed him hard face first into the hard countertop. Once, twice, and a third time before letting go. The drunk crumbled to the floor.
Alberto's associates only chuckled but many of the patrons who witnessed the unprovoked attack were suitably shocked and even more intimidated. Just as Brazaga wanted.
The owner, Myron Lowe, had the misfortune to come into the main room of the bar just at that moment, witnessing the hapless customer's face first meeting with the hardwood of the bartop. He blanched and hesitated. He recognized the burly well dressed fellow who had inflicted that pain. Freddy Gagliano's top man. He swallowed.
"Oh, hey... umm, Mr. Brazaga, good ta see ya," he forced out the words followed up with a see thru nervous smile.
It was the norm to shake hands with a business associate but Myron did not wish to risk it. This brute would probably crush his. Alberto smiled right back, his was no more sincere than Lund's.
"Just was in the neighborhood, thought I'd drop in and see how one of my customers was doin. We value our customers cuz we value loyalty... unlike some people. I got no respect for people who ain't loyal. Dat the same with you, Myron?"
"Of course, I agree, I agree," Myron nodded furiously.
"So then why is it I come in here and see you servin' products we didn't sell youse?" Alberto's smile faded as he now got to the point.
A few customers were already leaving the joint, lest they witness something they would later on not want to repeat to the authorities. Testifying against the mob was not good for one's health. Myron's forehead was glistening with perspiration.
"No, no, I always bought whatever you brung me. You know me, I paid in cash," Myron protested.
"All our customers pay in cash," Alberto pointed out with a smirk.
"Look, I'll level with ya, Mr. Brazaga. Just lemme explain, you'll see what happened. I had no choice," Myron was now reduced to pleading, he knew this man's infamous temper.
"I'm listenin' and it better be da truth. I know a lie when I hear one, pisano," Brazaga now glared.