'Ndrangheta by Eugene Lloyd MacRae by Eugene Lloyd MacRae - Read Online

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Summary

The intention of American prohibition in the 1920s was to reduce crime. Instead it led to an era of bootleggers, speakeasies, rum-runners and death on a daily basis as organized mobsters across the country fought for every piece of turf in the lucrative alcohol trade. Rocco and Besha DeLuca rose from poverty to feed alcohol to the organizations of those ruthless gangsters. But there is no honor among vicious, greedy criminals and each day for Rocco and Besha sees death and violence visit their doorstep as these outlaws of crime attack to rip the growing whiskey empire from their cold, dead hands.

Published: Eugene Lloyd MacRae on
ISBN: 9781927767498
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'Ndrangheta - Eugene Lloyd MacRae

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MacRae

Chapter 1

Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

ROCCO DELUCA DROVE his black Ford Model-T away from the apartment building. With black, wavy hair and Valentino good looks, Rocco looked like a choir boy. But his eyes burned with intensity and danger. Like all the men coming back from WW1, he had found little to come home to. The promised jobs were never there. After a temporary job working on the Welland Canal, Rocco turned to a life of crime in order to survive. It was a natural fit. Rocco's family had been Ndràngheta, the extended crime organization centered in Calabria, Italy. At first, he had simply offered protection to local businesses - for a fee. And they paid without question, out of fear. But then came prohibition. The law said you couldn't drink alcohol. But millions across North America wanted to. That offered Rocco a different line of work. He became a bootlegger, a rumrunner, and a smuggler, moving alcohol across the border into the United States, where a thirsty nation was begging for the hard stuff. It was a hard and dangerous world, filled with gangsters and mobsters, a world in which Rocco thrived as he built his whiskey empire, side by side with his partners Tommy Giachetti and Tony Genovese.

As Rocco shifted gears, he glanced across at his wife, sitting in the passenger seat. The truth was, Rocco and his partners were the muscle, she was the catalyst for their success.

Besha DeLuca was blonde, blue-eyed and beautiful. She was also Jewish. Growing up in an era filled with bigotry against her 'kind', she had suffered the stings of racial hatred. Rocco had stood by her side and helped her to fight back. Now, Besha DeLuca was the brains behind the growing whiskey empire, working side by side with her husband to carve out a life for themselves. And a life for others from the same ugly, mean, poverty-stricken streets of the north-end of the city and beyond.

Rocco DeLuca drove through the intersection and glanced across at Besha again. She was dressed in a white blouse, a blue top, and a blue skirt with matching blue stockings and low-heeled black shoes. He slowed for a few pedestrians crossing the street up ahead and then glanced back at her.

We're not stopping anywhere on the way to work, Besha said. Her eyes twinkled.

Rocco shrugged, I didn't say we were.

No, but your eyes were on my legs and I know you, Mr. DeLuca.

Driving on for a few moments, Rocco glanced at her again, "We could always drive into that little park with the trees we pass every morning...."

We could, Besha agreed. But we won't. And pay attention to the road. You missed our turn.

Maybe I did and maybe I didn't.

Besha shook her head with amusement, The girls will be waiting for me, Rocco. I'm already late.

The boss can't be late, Rocco said.

But there are a lot of orders to get out. Black Sam Todaro doubled his last two shipments to Cleveland. And the boys from Detroit want nearly three times as much.

Rocco whistled.

It won't be long before we have to find more equipment, Besha said.

Rocco's eyebrows knit together, I thought we had enough with the equipment you and Maria bought from that closed distillery down in Kentucky? And then there's the stuff you got out of Milwaukee.

Besha's eyes fluttered with the mention of Milwaukee. A potential customer had tried to rape her up there and she had shot him dead with the derringer she carried. Rocco didn't know and she cleared her throat, trying to hide any hint of emotion, I thought we had enough equipment as well, but I guess not. And I'm going to have to increase the rum shipments coming out of Martinique too. Apparently, there's an even bigger thirst for booze than we imagined.

Rocco nodded, We have someone coming up tomorrow from New York.

We do? Who is it?

It's that Waxy Gordon guy.

I remember him. His name is like something from the funny pages, Besha said. He's the one who showed up at the Glen Gael Distillery with...what was his name? Big Maxie Greenberg?

That's the one, Rocco said. This time Gordon is actually bringing up the guy he's working for now, Arnold Rothstein.

Besha's eyebrows rose, Another Jew in the business.

A smile played on Rocco's lips, Rothstein was the guy who foot the bill for Gordon and Greenberg to move alcohol into the St. Louis and Kansas City areas.

So he's got money, Besha said approvingly.

Don't all Jews?

Besha looked over at him, one eyebrow raised. Then she winked, This one does...now.

Rocco grew serious again, I told Gordon I'd meet them at the Paradise Club. I want you there.

Done, Besha said, a smile lingering on her lips. But stop driving and turn around. You're not taking me down to one of our boats in the harbor and rocking over me all day long.

It won't take that long.

Your usual thirty seconds is still too long.

Rocco laughed, Just sit still. He turned a corner and accelerated down the street. They were in an old industrial area now, a section of the city lined with old wooden and brick buildings, many of them empty, their war-time business now gone. Rocco turned one last corner, sped along the street and turned into the dirt driveway of an old, two-story wooden-frame warehouse, home to the Acme Motor Carriage and Machinery Company.

What are we doing here? Besha asked. Are you buying more trucks? You don't need me here for that.

Just hold on, Rocco said. He parked and got out. Before closing his door, he saw Besha wasn't moving, anxious to get to work.

She gave him a 'Please let's get going look'.

Rocco held up two fingers, Just give me two minutes and we'll get you there.

A large, barrel-chested man with a full beard and a friendly smile stepped out the front doors of the building, releasing the sound and steady racket of hammering and the buzz of machinery pounding on metal. This was Anton Caden, the owner of Acme, and he modified cars and trucks he brought in from companies like the Ford Motor Company in Detroit. Most of his work was now for Rocco and his fleet of cars and trucks moving alcohol to his customers in Southern Ontario. Anton lifted a meaty hand in greeting, Hey Rocco.

Rocco closed his door, Morning, Anton.

Besha DeLuca stepped out her side of the Ford and walked towards the building. Her nose wrinkled at the ever-present smell of oil and gasoline.

Anton laughed, Good morning, Mrs. DeLuca. Sorry about the smells around here.

Besha waived a hand in front of her nose, Hi Anton. I should have brought you a barrel of perfume. She looked at Rocco, Why are we here? Do we owe Anton money?

No, no, every thing's fine, Anton said.

Then why...?

Rocco put an arm around her waist, Patience, Mrs. DeLuca. He looked at Anton, a questioning look on his face.

Anton smiled broadly, This way, He turned and walked towards the far edge of the building.

Rocco escorted Besha behind the big man, a smile on his own face.

What exactly are you up to, DeLuca? Besha asked.

Rocco stayed silent as they turned the corner.

Anton Caden walked along the side of the building towards a large object covered with a tarp.

Rocco took her to the side of the tarp-covered object and stopped within ten feet, Close your eyes.

Rocco–

Like I said, just humor me and we'll get you down to Starkman Import & Exports, I promise.

Besha closed her eyes.

Anton Caden peeled the tarp off and rolled it up before moving away.

Okay, Rocco said, open your eyes.

Besha opened her eyes. She looked for a minute and then she blinked. She glanced sideways at Rocco and then back at the object.

Sitting there beside the building was a gleaming Hudson Super 6 Touring car. The body was a gleaming yellow with yellow spoke-wheels, accented with white as was the roof line.

What do you think? Rocco asked.

It's...it's beautiful, Besha said in a hushed voice. Anton, you did a great job for your wife. She will–

It's not for my wife.

Besha looked at him, What do you mean? This is Tommy's? Or Tony's? She looked at Rocco, You bought yourself a new motor car?

Rocco shook his head, No. It's yours. Anton did this for you.

I hope you like it, Mrs. DeLuca. I thought, with your blonde hair, the yellow would–

Are you serious? said an astonished Besha. She looked back at the Touring car, her jaw dropping. Then she turned and threw her arms around Rocco, Thank you, thank you, thank you. She broke off the hug and rushed over to Anton, giving the man a big hug and kissing him on the cheek, It's beautiful, Anton. Just beautiful. She broke off the hug and looked back at the car. Then she grew serious as she looked at Rocco, "But...I've never really driven...."

Then I guess you start now, Rocco said, I just want you to be careful because this is one of those cars with the six-cylinder engines we bought for Tommy to make his booze runs. This lollapalooza can hit 100 mph–

Besha rushed for the car and shot straight to the driver's side to climb in.

Rocco shook hands with Caden, Thanks, Anton, you did a great job.

I got one for me and for the wife, Anton said, "just like you told me to. So thank you, Rocco."

Rocco slapped him on the shoulder, My pleasure, big man.

The Hudson roared to life as Besha found the start button.

Oh, oh, Rocco said, I better get going before the train leaves the station. He ran for the Hudson.

I'll have the boys take care of your car, Anton yelled as he watched Rocco climb into the passenger side.

Besha was all smiles as she looked over the rich wood interior. I can't believe this.

Just take it easy at first, Rocco said as he pulled the passenger-side door closed. He explained how the gears worked and within a moment Besha had the car moving slowly.

Anton Caden put his hands to his mouth and called out, If you dent a fender, Mrs. DeLuca, just come back and I'll fix it–

Suddenly the car shot ahead as Besha pressed too hard on the accelerator. She squealed in delight as the car bounced and wove its way towards the street.

Rocco laughed, hanging on for dear life as his wife turned into the street and accelerated.

Anton Caden laughed and shook his head, Look out world, here comes Mrs. DeLuca.

Chapter 2

Cootes Paradise, Hamilton , Ontario, Canada

ARNOLD ROTHSTEIN WAS CALLED THE BRAIN. With his dark hair, sparkling, dark-brown eyes, smooth complexion, dark Homburg, gold bow tie and a calm and polite demeanor, he looked more like a banker than a gangster. His mannerisms even came across as graceful. But Rothstein was deep into running drugs and gambling from his location in Manhattan, New York. In 1919, Rothstein allegedly paid members of the Chicago White Sox ball club to deliberately lose the World Series to the Cincinnati Reds. Whether he did or not, Rothstein bet against the Sox and made a significant profit in what was called the Black Sox Scandal. Another business opportunity for men like Rothstein sprang into life on January 17, 1920. That day the United States of America went dry. Prohibition was in effect, banning the sale, production, importation, and transportation of alcoholic beverages. But Americans were still thirsty and gangsters like Rothstein acted to fill that thirst. Hidden speakeasies and blind pigs sprang up by the thousands across the country where an American could buy a drink. But product was needed. That's why Arnold Rothstein walked through the reinforced door of the Paradise Club, a raucous placed filled with jazz music, gambling, and drinking. He was here to meet with Rocco and Besha DeLuca, the couple who headed a growing whiskey empire dedicated to feeding alcohol to the bootleggers of America.

Inside the club, Big Gianni Reppucci watched intently as Rothstein and his two men were frisked for weapons by two guards. Reppucci had been a childhood friend of Rocco DeLuca and known in the old neighborhood as 'skinny'. Then he had joined the army and became a mass of muscle. He was a dedicated and loyal member of the DeLuca organization. When the men nodded that the visitors were clean, Gianni stepped forward, Which of you gentlemen is Mr. Rothstein?

That would be me, Rothstein said as he took a step forward.

I'm Gianni Reppucci. I manage the Paradise club along with my wife for the DeLucas. He looked at the other men with Rothstein.

Rothstein gestured to each man in turn, This is Waxy Gordon. And this is Lucky Luciano.

Gianni size them both up quickly. Luciano looked like the dangerous one and his eyes were constantly sweeping the crowd around him, looking for possible trouble.

Rothstein looked around, "You have a nice place here, Mr. Reppucci. Nice and busy. His eyebrow raised as two of the hostesses walked by, wearing nothing but a black collar and black high heeled shoes. He glanced at Luciano with a smile on his face, I'm not sure if that's good or bad. That could distract the customers from gambling. Right, Lucky?"

Luciano didn't reply. His eyes followed their bare bottoms for a moment and then resumed their watch for trouble.

The girls have several...purposes, Gianni said.

I see, Rothstein said.

Bruno Gagliano, a tall, heavy-set man, appeared beside Gianni and stood still as he looked down at the visitors. Gagliano had once worked for Roman Provenzano, the boss in Hess Village and Little Racalmuto in the center of Hamilton. When Rocco eliminated Provenzano and usurped his territory, Gagliano went to work for Rocco as his man in Little Racalmuto. He was also a bodyguard for Besha when it was needed. He was iron-tough but had an old world loyalty about him.

Gianni glanced towards Gagliano, They're ready?

Bruno nodded once.

Okay gentlemen, Gianni said, this way." He led them through the crowd to the stairs leading up to the second floor.

Big Bruno followed behind as they all climbed their way upstairs.

Arnold Rothstein slowed his pace, getting an overall view of the packed gambling den. Waxy Gordon and Lucky Luciano looked out over the club as well. Gordon was especially interested in the naked hostesses.

At the top of the stairs, Gianni stopped and waited. When the visitors reached the landing, he led them straight ahead and opened a door. Stepping inside, Gianni held the door open for the others.

Arnold Rothstein, Waxy Gordon, and Lucky Luciano stepped through the doorway and found in a spacious office with a large, dark desk on the far side. A woman sat behind the desk while a man stood, looking out the window over the bay at the back of the club.

Bruno Gagliano stepped in behind the others and moved to the side of the door to stand guard.

Gianni Reppucci closed the door and walked across the floor, They're here, Rocco.

Rocco DeLuca turned from the window, his eyes keenly appraising each man.

Gianni jerked a thumb at each visitor in turn, This is Arnold Rothstein. That's Waxy Gordon and Lucky Luciano.

Waxy Gordon stepped forward, a big smile on his face as he held his hand out, Mr. DeLuca. We met before. When I was up to see you with Big Maxie Greenberg from St. Louis...remember?

Yeah, Rocco said as he shook Gordon's hand, I remember.

Gordon turned to the others and jerked a thumb over his shoulder, This is Rocco DeLuca, the whiskey man I was telling you about.

Arnold Rothstein removed his Homburg and stepped forward, holding his hand out to Rocco, Very pleased to meet you, Mr. DeLuca. Thanks for taking the time to see us.

No problem. And call me Rocco, he said as he shook Rothstein's hand. He nodded a greeting to Lucky Luciano, both men looking each other in the eye, neither afraid. Rocco turned, This is my wife Besha.

Besha stood up behind the desk.

Rothstein raised an eyebrow in appraisal as he approached the beautiful, blue-eyed blonde in the jade-green dress to shake her hand, Pleased to meet you, Mrs. DeLuca. I've seen your picture in the newspapers from the bootlegging trial against your husband. That picture certainly didn't do you justice.

Only giving him a half smile, Besha said, I hope the newspapers in New York didn't say anything bad about me.

"I'm afraid I don't pay much attention to what the newspapers say," Rothstein said in reply.

Gordon stepped up beside Rothstein quickly, a huge grin on his face as he extended his hand, I'm Waxy Gordon. Pleased to meet you, Mrs. DeLuca. I did a deal with your husband a while back.

Besha shook his hand, Yes, we ship our product to the shore near Sandusky, Ohio for you and your friend, Mr. Greenberg.

"Yea, that's right, Gordon said. He glanced at Rocco as he stepped back, looking impressed that she knew who he was.

Besha looked towards Lucky Luciana and he just nodded a greeting in her direction, his face remaining impassive. Besha looked at Rothstein and indicated the chairs on the other side of the desk, If you gentlemen would like to take a seat, we can talk. She sat down and crossed her legs.

Arnold Rothstein and Waxy Gordon sat down in two of the three chairs. Rothstein crossed his legs as well, placing the Homburg on his knee. His face showed mild surprise that Besha was staying for the meeting.

Luciana remained standing, moving over and off to the side of Rothstein, where he could see Gianni and Bruno back by the door.

Rocco moved to stand beside Besha, slipping his hands into his pockets.

You have a nice club here, Arnold Rothstein said.

Thank you, Besha said, Gianni and his wife do a good job of making things run smoothly.

Arnold Rothstein glanced around at Gianni nodding his head, Good help makes things run smoothly. He looked back at Besha, I have part ownership in a number of nightclubs and cabarets down in New York. He looked up at Rocco, You should come down sometime. As my guest, of course.

Besha and Rocco glanced at each other, neither saying a word.

Rothstein's face took on a more serious demeanor as he got down to business, I also own a number of speakeasies. I'm a capitalist and look on prohibition as a business opportunity. People want to drink and I want to supply what they want. New York isn't exactly the easiest place to get product to sell, however. Right now, I'm getting some alcohol off the Atlantic seaboard and some of it comes down the Hudson River from Canada. Waxy here tells me that you've done a great job supplying Max Greenberg for the St. Louis and Kansas City areas. He looked at Rocco, To get right down to brass tacks, I'm here to make a deal to bring your product into New York City. I think I can do a great job for you down there.

Rocco glanced at Besha and asked, What exactly are you looking for?

Whatever you have, Rothstein said slowly. "I understand you're shipping whiskey, beer, and rum to Greenberg...."

Rocco nodded in confirmation, We run whiskey in cases, beer and rum in barrels.

I see, Rothstein said, pleased at the confirmation of product available.

Besha spoke up, Whiskey is $50 per case, beer is $35.00 per barrel and rum is $12.50 per barrel.

Rothstein raised an eyebrow at her quickness with the figures. He looked up at Rocco and asked slowly, Any room for negotiations–?

No need to, interjected Besha with a firm face. It's not like we're having a hard time finding customers, Mr. Rothstein.

Rothstein was taken off guard for a moment and then he said, Call me Arnold, please.

Besha acknowledged the request with a brief nod, It's still the same answer...Arnold.

A smile creased Rothstein's face as he glanced up at Rocco. He looked back at Besha, Those figures sound just fine, Mrs. DeLuca. Mr. Gordon here will be handling all the details of ordering and getting the whiskey down to New York.

Besha leaned forward and pushed a business card across the desk towards Gordon, You send your orders by telegram to this company and they send it on to us.

Waxy Gordon picked up the business card.

Arnold leaned a bit and looked at the card as well, Seriously? Cuba? We send our orders to Cuba? I don't get it–

And you won't if you don't send the orders to Cuba, Besha said.

Gordon looked at Rothstein and shrugged, That's what Big Maxie had to do.

You send a purchase order for the goods to that company in Cuba and they send it on to us, Besha explained. It makes everything nice and legal.

Rothstein sat back and nodded in understanding as he glanced up at Rocco, "So that's how you beat that bootlegging charge?"

Yeah. It was my wife's idea, Rocco said.

Rothstein nodded his head thoughtfully, I like the way you do business. All nice and simple.

Besha looked at Gordon again, There's a telephone number on the back of that card for Starkman Imports & Exports here in the city, Mr. Gordon. We can help you work out all the details with our Cuban company.

Waxy Gordon flipped the card over as he shifted in his chair, But the stuff still comes from here, right? Out of Canada?

Correct, Besha said. Everything but the rum is made here in the province.

Gordon nodded, Will you send it all the way to New York in this case?

No, Rocco said, we send it across one of the great lakes on a boat and drop it off on-shore to your trucks.

Okay, Gordon said, thinking, If you just send it across to the Buffalo area, I can take it from there–

I have an arrangement to ship product to someone in Buffalo, interjected Rocco. I don't want to end up confusing the situation. Can you pick a spot somewhere south of Buffalo?

Gordon glanced at Rothstein for a moment, thinking and then nodded his head, Yeah, there's a nice port at Dunkirk, New York. It's not a big place and we can arrange to have one of the docks set aside for our own use. We just line the trucks up, take the stuff off your boats and load it on the trucks for the run back to New York City.

You also pay cash on delivery when you meet the boat, added Rocco. We prefer hundred or thousand dollar bills.

Gordon glanced back at Rothstein, both of them looking happy with the arrangements and terms.

Rothstein looked at Besha and then Rocco, nodding, I think that settles this part of the deal, then. Looking back at Gordon, he said, Waxy, why don't you take Lucky with you and go enjoy yourselves downstairs. I have some other matters to take up with Mr. And Mrs. Deluca.

Waxy Gordon got up immediately, Of course, boss. He shook hands with Rocco and Besha and then headed for the door, C'mon Lucky, let's me and you go see if we can break the bank.

Luciano left reluctantly, leaving the door open behind him.

Rocco took out a pack of smokes, offering one to Rothstein.

No thanks, I don't indulge, Rothstein said. Funny thing is...I don't drink either. Yet, here I am supplying others and making money at it.

Rocco gestured with his head to Gianni.

Gianni gave him a nod in return and left along with Bruno, closing the door behind them.

Once they were alone Arnold Rothstein turned the Homburg on his knee, thinking for a moment. Then he looked up at Rocco, I understand you own a professional hockey team.

Yeah. The Hamilton Tigers in the National Hockey Association.

Rothstein gave that some thought and then broached the subject, "Gambling is one of my passions. My father tried to get me to stop when I was young, but I enjoyed it too much. From time to time I like to...let's say...tweak the odds a little in my favor? Do you ever do that...with your team?"

Rocco blew a stream of smoke in the air, No. It's more a play toy for my partner, Tony Genovese.

I see, Rothstein said. He paused a moment and then said, I got involved in a race track down a Maryland. The Havre de Grace racetrack. He shrugged, I love just watching the horses race...but I still like to make money at it.

The hockey team was more a gift from my wife to Tony, Rocco said.

Very generous of you, Mrs. DeLuca.

It actually turned out to be very generous on the part of someone else, Besha said with a smile, I just turned out to be the intermediary.

I see. Do you own the arena where your team plays?

Yeah, we do, Rocco said.

How about boxing? Rothstein asked.

Rocco glanced at Besha as he took a drag and a cigarette, We brought in a few boxers from time to time.

I have to say I've found some exciting things happening in the ring when Rocco put on a few matches, Besha said with a twinkle in her eye.

I tried to get my wife to attend, but she's never been interested, Rothstein said. He looked up at Rocco again, Maybe we could work together on arranging a few matches for your arena.

I'll talk to my partner about it. I'm sure he'd be interested. Especially if it could involve some big-name fighters.

Arnold Rothstein nodded, That could be arranged. Then he added, One other thing. Are you interested in a reciprocal agreement? I bring in heroin, morphine, and cocaine in shipments of $1 million at a time. Perhaps...?

Rocco looked at Besha. Both felt the same way. Right now, I don't think we're interested, Arnold, Rocco said. Right now we have our hands full with the alcohol.

I understand perfectly. Arnold Rothstein stood up and held his hand out to Rocco, I appreciate your seeing me. He then shook hands with Besha who stood up, And it's been a real pleasure to meet you, Mrs. DeLuca.

A pleasure to meet you as well, Arnold, Besha said warmly. "Now, how about if Rocco takes you downstairs and we'll see if you can break the bank before your men do?"

Arnold Rothstein put on his Homburg and tapped the top with his hand, If they do, I'll shoot them both for you.