The Violators - Harry Einstein

Harry Einstein 

Harry Einstein had heard about the The Diamond Exchange.  And he mentioned it to us.  That’s how it works.  A jeweler in town was putting together a world-class necklace for his best customer, Arial Winblad.  You know the Winblads.  They’re the ones who mingle with royalty, mug for the paparazzi, and make a general nuisance of themselves for the hired help.  Her husband, Eli, is the guy who engineered the takeover of Philip Morris or R.J.R. - one of the big tobacco companies - a few years back.

Anyhow, the jeweler had ordered something like fifty rocks for the necklace.  The jeweler had shopped around the major wholesalers in the area and, through superior salesmanship - or probably just brutal margin-cutting - TDE had gotten the business.

Since this kind of news is precious info in the rock business, Harry Einstein had turned us on to it.  We went to school with Harry.  One thing: Harry’s not dumb.  The information can't be traced back to him.  He knows who the players are in that business.  And he knows how to wiretap phones.  We don’t ask how he hears these things.  Let’s just say he's always been fond of electronnic gadgets.

And it’s the kind of score where everyone wins.  Harry's our fence.  He buys the diamonds.  He sells them -- at a premium margin for himself -- back to the Israelis for less than what they sell them.  They come back clean - new laser micro-marks, or whatever.  Like I said, everyone wins.  Except The Diamond Exchange.  But, hell, they got insurance.  I don’t see too many people crying about that.

Me, Mule and Cal went to high school together in Belmont, Mass.  That’s where we met Harry.  He was the bookmaker for grades 10 through 12.  Harry was a year older and, since he was running the biggest book in school, we thought he was a god.  I mean, he was half-ass connected to Solly Rosen, who controlled the bookmaking in the western suburbs of Boston.  Harry was a big, dark, good-looking kid who had a ready smile for everyone.  But if you screwed him, he was like a demon.  He would do anything - I mean anything - to get you back.

When some kid tried to stiff him for $400 on some bad bets, Harry waited for him in his car next to the kid's two-family house.  When he walked by, Harry jumped out and grabbed the nearest thing he could find. He cracked the kid's head wide open with a garbage can lid and it was only after the neighbors pulled him off that he stopped.  They said he needed fifty-two stitches.  So the recommendation was not to walk on these bets.

Harry always had money, a beautiful set of wheels - a customized, gold Chevy Impala convertible at the time - and was the player in the social scene.  Not to mention, he hung out with the finest women available - including a couple of college girls.  Now that was impressive.

One story:  when we were in high school, the Super Bowl had the Steelers matched up against the Cowboys.  The ‘boys were favored initially by 6 and a half, but during the week of the game, the number moved to seven, then seven and a half… and ended up at eight.  So the ‘boys had gotten a lot more expensive as the betting public leaned towards them.

By that time in the school year, Harry had taken us under his wing.  So on this game, he gave us some advice.  “Look, there’s three things you gotta know about this game.  The number started at six and a half.  When it starts there, it’s a sucker number.  Two times out of three on a six-and-a-half start, I’ll win with the dog.  They’re trying to get every sucker in the world to cough up dough, saying ‘Shit, the ‘boys’ll win by a TD, at least!’ “.

“Second, the number’s moved more than a point.  See, it started at six and a half.  Now it’s at eight.  All the money went to the ‘boys.  So Vegas keeps moving the number up.  They’ve gotta try to get some money on the other side.  You know, to cover their asses.  Bottom line - they’ve gotta have the Steelers or they’re gonna get shit on.  And Vegas doesn’t like to get shit on for this game.  Way too much money riding on it.”

“Last, I heard the Dallas cornerbacks were both dinged up in practice.  They ran into each other covering a crossing route.  Neither one is going to be a hundred percent for this game.  And don’t repeat that, please.  You got eight points to work with.  I’d say it’s a good number.”

We believed.  Cal didn’t have much extra money, but Mule and I coughed up $100 apiece.  That was a lot for us in the tenth grade.  Hell, that was everything we had, and more.  You better believe we watched that Superbowl.  You couldn’t peel us off the TV set.  We didn’t even take a piss.  Although, we did almost shit our pants when the ‘boys tied it up in the Fourth.  But the Steelers, bless their hearts, mounted a long, bone-crunching drive and finally punched it in from the five with a minute and a half left.  Then they kick some insurance - a field-goal after a Dallas turnover.  So, not only do they make the number, but they win outright.  We were jumping up and down, laughing and slapping each other.  Our parents thought we’d gone nuts.

I’ll never forget how good it felt to show up to school on Monday morning.  We waited for Harry outside his home-room and spotted him just before the bell rang.  He had a really big grin on his face.  He pulled out a bankroll - had to be four inches across, rolled tight - and peeled off twenty twenties, ten for Mule and ten for me.  I asked him how he’d made out.  He just grinned and wouldn’t say, but Debbie Rand - his part-time squeeze - told us later he cleared more than ten grand.  Ten grand - in one day - for an eleventh grader.  We were hooked.

Our first job for Harry took place a little after that.  You should know that Mule and I were getting into lifting at the time.  After school, we went to a place called Paramount Fitness off Trapelo Road.  It’s moved and called something else now, but at the time it was basically a house that had been converted into a real muscle-head gym.

Lot of ‘roid-users and various other iron junkies, most of whom were quite large.  But we were just kids, didn’t know anything, and started hitting the weights.  We had both read a book by Schwarzenegger that described his life and how he built himself into a Mr. Universe by age 19.  The second half of the book was his workout routine and showed how to lift weights.

We must have read that book a hundred times.  It was like our bible for a couple of years.  We did the exact routines that he described (bench presses, militaries, squats, all the basics) and we grew like a couple of weeds.  The other patrons of Paramount took note and helped us out with advice, spots and some constructive criticism.

We never hit the juice… we wanted to do it, but were afraid our balls were going to shrivel into marbles.  But we did everything else that we thought would help.  Protein powder, smilax, chromium picolinate, you name it.  All of that shit was a rip-off, except maybe for protein.  The protein seemed to help.  Nowadays, there’s creatine and andro - but we didn’t have those then.

In about a year, we were breaking the 300 barrier on the bench (me, at 6'2" and 190 lbs., Mule was 5’10” and 215).  Mule had played nose tackle until he got into high school and we met Harry.  Mule had a much stronger lower body than me and was squatting close to 500.  I was happy doing about 350 on the squat.  But it was great working out together and we would run a few miles afterwards to loosen up.  Mule also had a heavy bag in his basement and we would hit that on the weekends.

Harry must have noticed the changes.  We were walking around school like a couple of wannabes, with our arms out and chests puffed, but we really had gained some size.  He poked his finger at us in the hallway one day.  “You guys have gotten bigger!”  He grabbed my upper arm and squeezed it, “…I got something you might be interested in, Boog.  Follow me.”.

We trailed him into the bottom-floor bathroom, which was virtually a clubhouse for the gambling crowd.  It was dark, never really clean and peppered with brown and white tile that had probably been rejected by the local prison system.  All of the fixtures had been painted a gunmetal gray - but that had been in about 1930.  Since then, a rust color dominated the room’s interior decorating scheme.  Given the condition, faculty and janitorial staff made only rare appearances.

Harry leaned against one of the sinks and began his pitch.  “You guys know Jimmy Rossi, right?”  We both nodded.  Rossi was a senior, popular with the ladies, who had a reputation as a petty thief.  You couldn’t leave anything around him unprotected, or it would disappear.  “He ripped me off for a grand I had in my locker,” he looked at us expectantly, but we both waited.

“One of my buddies saw him near the locker yesterday afternoon, but I can’t prove he did it.  It’s just a hunch.  Then, according to my sister, he shows up at the lunch truck flashing a bunch of hundred-dollar bills.  And I’m missing ten hundreds.”

Mule spoke up, voicing the question that had popped into my head, “So why don’t you just step on him and take the money back?”

He looked back at us with clear black eyes.  “I’d love to.  But Jimmy’s dating my sister.  If I smack him around, there’s gonna be hell to pay with her and my parents.  But what I was thinking… was maybe you two could pop him for me.  You guys take half of anything you recover.  If you don’t get the entire grand back, take the stereo out of his car, whatever, it’s yours.  But I want half of the cash… and to teach this scumbag a lesson .”

Rash.  No forethought.  Flat stupid.  These were but a few of the terms you could apply to our first professional venture with Harry Einstein.  Come three o’clock, Mule and I were waiting in the alley a block from school.  Rossi had been known to cut through the alley on his way home.  It was slightly worse-than-middle-class neighborhood, where crumbling, twenties-era garages and overgrown backyards backed into rows of clapboard two-families.  It was not a neighborhood where one would usually find two high-school sophomores hiding baseball bats behind their legs.

Since we had ditched our last class to fetch the bats, we had a while to wait.  So we sat with our back to a waist-high chain-link fence, our bats next to us on the ground.  I wanted to know what were going to say.  Mule - in typical succinct fashion - replied, “What?  To give us the fuggin’ money.”  I thought we should tell him that Harry owed us… and Harry had told us he would pay up.  Mule thought that sounded okay.  Buried in our conversation, we hardly noticed when Rossi walked right by us, his hands in his pockets, peering at us with a confused stare.

We bounced up - and promptly forgot our bats.  “Jimmy, wait up,” I said, “we got a question for you.”  Rossi stopped and turned around.  Mule’s voice rumbled as he approached the mark.  “I think you owe us something.  Harry E. owes us and he said you would pay us off.  It’s a grand.”

Rossi backpedaled awkwardly.  “What the hell you talking about?”  His face flushed and his fists balled up on their own accord.  Before I knew it, Mule had bum-rushed him and landed a straight right on Rossi’s chest.  I ended up grabbing him as he fell… his momentum pulled me down on top of him and I took full advantage.  I landed on him with an audible thud and pinned his arms down.  He must have had the wind knocked out of him.

Mule went through his wallet while I sat on his belly.  “Well, lookee here… six, seven, eight hundreds and a bunch of twenties…”  I took my eyes off Rossi for a moment - a tactical mistake, because he freed an arm and swung a wild punch at my head.  From his back, he had no leverage.  I barely felt it.  I raised up and put an elbow on his head.  That shut him up.

“Shit!”  Mule was looking east down the alley.  An old Plymouth was heading toward us - presumably to pull into one of the decrepit garages.  I fixed Rossi with my fiercest glare and spoke in an even voice.  “You fuck with Harry again… or give us up… you die.  The choice is yours.”

I jumped up and turned my back on the Plymouth.  We bolted, leaving Jimmy Rossi in the alley with blood trickling from a nasty cut on his cheekbone.

After that, Harry looked at us differently.  Maybe we weren't just a bunch of all-talk wannabes.  The next day we met him in his traditional bathroom haunt.  You should have seen the way his eyebrows raised as we counted out the four hundred and forty one dollars.  Mule and I pocketed two-twenty apiece.  It seemed like it was the easiest money you could ever make.

After that, the business relationship between us and Harry intensified.  A little later he had a real job for us as couriers.  We had met him on Saturday for lunch at Colonial Lanes, a pretty nice bowling alley and restaurant west of Madison.  A lot of the league bowlers were using Harry because of the service.  He hung around Colonial a lot and they liked having easy access to their book.

Harry greeted us with a question.  “You guys ever shot a gun before?”  I looked at him and then Mule.  “Ummm, no.”  Mule volunteered the fact that he had shot his Dad’s .30 cal. Carbine which had been brought back from the Pacific Theater (“The Big One”, as WW II was always called in Mule’s household, “…killed a coupla’ Nips with it”).

“I’ve got some more work for you, if you’re still interested.”  We were, without having heard any description.  That’s how eager and stupid we were.  “In my trunk, there’s a package - a yellow 8 ½ by 11 mailing envelope.  There’s also a shoebox with a Colt .38 revolver in it, which is loaded.”

“And I’ll be honest, there’s two reasons I want you guys to deliver this package.  One, it’s too far out of my way, and I don’t want to lose the business to take the drive.  Two, I’m not real crazy about driving into the south side, where this package needs to go.  The two of you should have no problem.”  Which is how we ended up in Southie at the Projects trading one big yellow envelope for another big yellow envelope.

While there were a lot of observers in the neighborhood - all of whom were several shades darker than Mule and I - we didn’t get bothered.  My guess is a couple of white dudes crazy enough to do some business in the ‘hood at that hour were too crazy to fuck with.

So that was how we started working with Harry Einstein.