The Independent Contractor: 3


Chapter 1

Notice of Contract

The prosecutor approaches the stand for his cross-examination.
The only defense witness, a dignified woman who is noticeably nervous and shaking, is also the defendant.
The prosecutor glares at her before questioning.
Then he begins.
“Isn’t it true, Mrs. Andes, that your husband wanted to pick out the colors for the kitchen cabinet countertop, and you wouldn’t let him?
“Isn’t it also true, that you had to ask his permission to spend an extra $700 for puck lights, even though you worked full time?
“He wanted a ceramic tile floor in the kitchen, didn’t he, but you insisted on hardwood. Isn’t that right, Mrs. Andes?
“You thought he was trying to control you, didn’t you?
“You resented it, didn’t you? Answer me, Mrs. Andes, didn’t you? You killed him, didn’t you?”
“Objection! He’s badgering the witness.”
“Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes!” the witness sobbed hysterically. “I did. I admit it!” she said, as she broke down on the stand and had to be removed from the courtroom.
“I have no further questions,” the prosecutor said with disgust.
“The defense rests, Your Honor.”
Twenty minutes later, the jury returned with its verdict. “Not guilty, Your Honor, by reason of remodeling insanity.”
Karen Andes had made legal history with the Remodeling Defense.
The jury had been carefully selected: all had homes they remodeled. Even the victim’s family members sympathized. They had remodeled their homes, too.
Can you believe it? What’s next, the Personally Annoying Defense?


“Hey, Benjie. Is my car fixed yet?” the owner of the luxury, foreign and domestic car dealership in Hingham, MA called to his mechanic working in the bay.

“Yep. It’s all set. I swapped the flat for a new tire and changed the oil and filter. Anything else you want done?”

“No. That’s it. What was wrong with the tire?”
“Had a nail in it. Looked like a roofer.”

“A roofing nail? Where the fuck did a roofing nail come from? I haven’t been around any roofs.”
“It could have come from anywhere. Didn’t you have some work done on your house awhile ago?”

“Yeah, so what?”
“Could have come from there, was by the edge of the driveway near the lawn, and you didn’t see it.”

“I didn’t think of that. Maybe you’re right. Fuck it. I’ve got to go. Where are the keys?”
“In the ignition.”
“Great. Thanks for the help. Make sure you tell Gayle I went to the bank. I’ll be gone for a couple hours and should be back by two.”

Gayle Armstrong, the owner’s office assistant and a nice woman, was not too bright and hand-picked for the job by the boss himself. Her most obvious characteristic – her substantial breasts – would endanger all but a glass blower when caught in her loving embrace.

Still, she was pretty good on the state-of-the-art computer system installed at the dealership. Although a plodder in most things, Gayle displayed a good sense of humor and teased The Boss about his fumbling. “Too bad you don’t have an H&P key on your keyboard,” she said. “It would really help you.”

“No. I don’t have one. What is it?” he asked.
“A hunt and peck key,” she answered smartly.

The boss and owner, Anthony Romano, liked his women dumb but titillating, and Gayle filled the bill. He probably had her around for show, like the latest model car on the floor, and failed to notice her other qualities beyond the beautiful body and passable face. She had been with Tony Rome, as she liked to call him, since he purchased the dealership in the early 1990’s, when she was in her late twenties and had found the job through a classified ad.

Even though both were single – Gayle had not found the right guy and Tony was not searching for a mate – rumors about the Armstrong – Romano connection occasionally surfaced. No one had ever seen them together outside the dealership, and Gayle always went home on time.

Romano was a well-built man, nearly six feet tall, with a full head of thick, fairly straight black hair, dark brown eyes, an Italian complexion, thin legs, hairy back and chest, small ass, and weight appropriate to his height, as the personal ads would say. He shared Gayle’s love of jewelry and wore several rings on his fingers and a gold necklace with a dangling unicorn. Tony was no Adonis, but he did attract female attention.

He drove to do his banking in Cohasset, the rich, respectable, and Republican community he now called home and the opposite of its next-door neighbor, the seaside Town of Hull where his mother and father lived. It was only a short ride for Tony to visit them, which he did at least once a week, usually in the morning before work. Both were retired and living on Social Security and his father’s small pension.

Tony thought of himself as a man who never forgot his roots, which were tangled and not what one might expect of a man so financially successful before he was forty. Romano had grown up in Hull and would do anything for a buck, including running errands for neighbors, shoveling snow off sidewalks, delivering newspapers, mowing lawns, stocking shelves in a liquor store, clamming, or hauling lobsters with his uncle, a great guy who drank too much.

An only child who received considerable attention from his financially strapped parents, Tony could not concentrate in school, had failing grades, and longed to be elsewhere – on the beach, in the water, or behind a cash register.

For the most part, Romano’s school years were uneventful, except for the time in his sophomore year when he and a friend were accused of breaking into Hull High School and vandalizing the property. One of the kids Tony travelled with ratted him and the friend, but all the police did was question, fingerprint, and release them. It was quite a scare, which is what the police intended.

Romano was a poor student and definitely not college material. After he graduated from Hull High School in 1978, Tony found a job at an auto garage in nearby Cohasset. He quickly learned the automobile business and how to work on cars, saved a few bucks, and bought himself his first automobile, an older muscle car that needed minor bodywork.

Within a year, Romano changed jobs to work for a much larger dealership that sold new and used cars but also had a repair shop. He soon discovered in an age before computers that no one kept a close eye on the large tire and battery inventory, which afforded him the opportunity to sell a few on the side. He quickly and quietly developed an interesting and specialized clientele.

In no time at all, Tony had a nice little business, a rightful supplement for the many long hours and hard work he endured for the owner doing whatever was asked of him, always without question.

He still lived with his parents in their small home, helped them around the house, shopped for groceries, and never missed a room and board payment. By all accounts he was a good son or, as his mother liked to say, a good boy. He was also a good and loyal friend.

Ten years later, life at the dealership changed for Romano because he had advanced to a senior sales position and became intimately familiar with every facet of the company’s operation. Tony was the dealer’s jack-of-all-trades, a trusted, valued employee whose membership at the South Shore Country Club helped with sales.

One day while getting a haircut, Romano read in a 1982 magazine a rare article on Novi lobster boats, which was the closest thing to research Tony ever experienced in his life. An old salt Nova Scotian wrote the piece, but it was too technical for Tony to grasp.

He did discover, however, that the boat departed from many of the accepted, western world practices for powerboat design and construction and that some people thought the Novi had been thrown together, did not measure up, or was good only in sheltered water.

The author blew away these notions, but Tony liked the idea that the Novi had a reputation for being a maverick. He also loved the boat’s look with its nearly plumb stem and strong sheer line that rose sharply to a high bow.

That distinctive feature – the high bow – kept the ocean spray from the boat when it was moving windward in a chop or eliminated the likelihood that the nose would go under a wave in heavy seas. The high bow, along with a raised deck and trunk cabin, called a cuddy, afforded standing headroom in the forecastle.

Since time and tide wait for no man, a lobster boat’s speed greatly mattered. The wide stern of the boat and the narrow bow, both of which came under criticism, helped the Novi achieve speeds of 16 knots. It was a tradeoff of good bearing aft – and better sea worthiness – for speed.

Romano was surprised to learn that the frame of a lobster boat built in Nova Scotia would be made of softwood because there is little oak or cedar growing there. Oak, in fact, could be a disadvantage because its tannic acid would quickly rust the galvanized boat nails.

Nova Scotia boat builders incorporated spruce, hackmatack, yellow birch, and maple into their craft and made use of whatever materials were available. Softwood and hardwood were terms that applied to the cone or nut, respectively, from which the tree grew, not a quality or property of the wood itself.

Boats – like life – can be a series of compromises one accepts and learns to live with the ancient mariner of the article concluded. Romano would have no need to worry about the seaworthiness of a bargain he sought and soon found.

Shortly thereafter, Tony acquired from some Cohasset guy who was quitting the business a hardly used, 35 foot Novi with 175 traps, which he subsequently would set along the rocky coast between the towns of Hull and Scituate.

This venture was small enough for him to work it alone, part-time, while turning some hard-earned cash, which, like his other dealings, went unreported. When not using the boat, Tony allowed his cousin, the son of his heavy drinking uncle, to take it with a friend.

His agreement with Joey was never broken. “Make sure my parents get a few lobsters, take care of the boat and its equipment, don’t forget about your mom and dad, no drinking on board. You break, lose, or use anything, you replace it, including the fuel.”

The red and white lobster boat moored in picturesque Cohasset Harbor forced Tony to make one concession to honesty: his buoys, traps, and boat showed the last four digits of his social security number, 4622, which was legally required of all lobstermen in order to avoid friction over who owned the gear.

In addition to the number, his buoy had to be displayed prominently on the boat for all to see, and its colors were described on his lobstering license.

The distance from his home in Hull to Cohasset Harbor was not much more than four or five miles and a beautiful, fifteen-minute commute. The harbor was an especially serene place where pleasure craft and lobster boats intermingled.

In the middle of a winding road traversing the harbor sat a large restaurant with a magnificent view that included Scituate Lighthouse, best seen from the bar lounge. To its left was a small, fashionable hotel where many famous guests playing at the nearby South Shore Music Circus stayed during the summer months.

On the right, an old, weather beaten, decaying, former boat yard stood on a white water inlet. Its commercial boat building days were long since gone, but it was still being used for repairs and restorations. Its small entrance was fewer than five feet high, and to its left inside the building was a rectangular hole in the floor that had been patched. The hole had once been used during Prohibition to smuggle booze to and from the building.

Next to the boat yard building an ugly, rusting, out of place Quansett hut loaded to the brim with tools and equipment spoiled the view. A third, more recently built but equally tasteless structure was used as an office.

The magnificent location, despite its blight, had caught the attention of developers who were interested in building expensive condos. A counter movement was already underway to declare the boat yard shop an historical building, which would put an end to any further development but hasten a restoration project.

The foaming waters that alternately rushed into or from the harbor at high and low tides were a favorite place of kayakers who could be watched from a rocky ledge at the mouth of an inlet or an arched bridge over it.

The Harbormaster’s hut perched on this rocky cliff, at the base of which stood the pier and parking area for small trucks, vans, and cars. In good weather, you could sit on a bench in the lovely park fronting the water and gaze on the boats, the entrance to the harbor, the magnificent homes surrounding it, and the human or commercial traffic going by.

To reach his regular job, Tony needed no car because the dealership provided him with one, and the out of pocket savings were considerable. Anyone who knew Romano would admit that he worked hard, always hustling, helping a friend with his take-out restaurant on Nantasket Beach, painting a house or two in his spare time. As long as he was paid in cash, Tony could be counted to be there when you needed him.

Romano knew that he could go on as he had indefinitely but was itching to make his money more easily. His chance came one night after he delivered a new car and went to the pub at the ancient Red Lion Inn, located in Cohasset Center. Tony had a beer, talked to some guys he knew, grabbed a bite to eat, and expected to watch Monday night football alone.

A short time after the game started, a guy walked into the pub, sat down at the bar on a stool next to Romano, and ordered a beer. The stranger made a few comments about the high priced players, and he and Tony were soon in a conversation.

“What do you do for a living?” asked the stranger who was in his mid-forties and wearing an expensive, dark-blue pinned striped suit.

“A little bit of this; a little bit of that. Mostly cars. Fixing them, delivering them. Stuff like that,” Tony said guardedly. “How about yourself?”

“Me? I do importing and exporting. I have a container ship moored in South Boston. I’ll be here for about a week before heading back to the Caribbean.”

“Really? What are you hauling?”

“Well, it’s not sugar or molasses, I can tell you. No rum either, but other things,” the stranger added suggestively.

“I didn’t think so, but you can never tell. I know something about molasses,” Tony said with reservation.

“You do? What about it?” the stranger asked, apparently interested.

“There was a great flood of it in Boston, I think near the North End, and 21 people were smothered in it. Something like two million gallons poured from a wooden tank. My mother told me about it.”

“That is interesting. What a way to go. When did it happen?”

“Around 1919. I guess they originally thought it was sabotage by the Germans, but it was the wooden tank, which had thin walls that broke. They were under specifications.”

“Was your mother alive then?”

“Fuck no, but my grandmother was and told her. She remembered the Titanic, too. After each one, they changed the regs. Ah, getting back to this exporting thing, ever do any cars?”

“Yeah. I’ve done some cars but not many. I wouldn’t mind doing a few more.”

“Any money in it?”
“Oh, yeah. There’s money in it. Real money.”
“Real money? I mean, what are we looking at here?”
“Heavy markup. Very serious stuff.”
“Can I buy you a beer?”
“Yeah. I’d like that. By the way, the name’s Al.”
“Well, how do you do, Al? Pleased to meet you. Call me Tony,” Romano said while shaking Al’s hand. “Hey, Mike. Two Bud Lites at the table in the corner.”

Al and Tony picked up their cigarettes and half empty glasses and moved to the booth in the front right corner of the pub. Mike placed on the table two bottles of beer, each capped with a fresh glass. “Might as well drink up,” Tony suggested.

For the next two hours or so, the pair put down five beers between them, and both were in a mellow and less cautious mood. They talked mainly about sports and women, but every now and then raised the subject of cars.

“Look, Al. On this car thing. How serious are you about exporting cars – used cars, if I understand you right?” Tony finally asked.

“I’m very serious. From what you said, you’re in the car business, and maybe we can work out a little something together.” Each man looked the other carefully in the eyes, attempting to assess him or divine his secret thoughts.

“What kind of deal you got in mind?” Tony laid out for openers.

“I think somewhere around six cars for starters. We’ll see how it goes and take it from there.”

“I think I can handle that. What’s the arrangement?”

“Simple,” Al said while leaning forward on the table. He looked around the room before continuing. “You pick up the cars and deliver them to me at the Conley Pier in South Boston. You go through the entrance at the end of Farragut Road in your hauler and drive over to where the ship is moored.

“I issue a bill of lading for household merchandise, put two cars in one container, and bring it aboard. There’s nothing else for you to do once we’ve got all the cars in containers. No questions asked coming or going.”

“What about security?”

“No problem. I’ve got the best security money can buy,” Al said with knowing irony. “All you have to worry about is your take, which depends on what we ship.”

“What do you mean?”

“Let’s say we grab a car worth $40,000 here. Depending on where it goes in the Caribbean, we can sell it for $50,000. In Argentina, you can double it. Naturally, out of that, we have other payments to make, so it’s not all-pure profit. We have our overhead, you know.”

“I’ll probably have some expenses on my end, too,” Tony mentioned offhandedly.

“Of course you will, but there will be more than enough left over,” Al assured him. “Another thing. Boston’s perfect for what we’re doing. It’s the only port on the East Coast that does not have drive-on facilities. No one’s expecting exported used cars. A few here and there is no big deal.”

“Who handles the cars once they’re in a foreign port? How do you get them through customs?” Tony asked in rapid succession.

“You don’t really need to know, but I can tell you this much. Those countries down there are very poor, but there’s a lot of money at the top. It’s perfect. The people working in customs don’t have much, and a few extra dollars is a lot of money to them.

“All they do is read the bill of lading, which will say the container has household goods in it, you know, shoes, consumer electronics, general merchandize, or whatever. That way, we keep the customs tax down without drawing any attention.

“The containers are put on trailers and driven off. It’s nice and clean,” Al Sanderson explained. “Christ, we could slip the guy his own death warrant, and he would sign,” Sanderson said with a laugh.

“What about the missing cars? Won’t someone be looking for them at some point?”

“By the time the cars are reported missing, they’ll probably be on their way to the Caribbean. No state agency is interested in recovering stolen cars from a foreign country. There are, I guess, no investigative procedures in place. State and federal jurisdiction is, let’s say, a problem that works in our favor.

“Then there’s the manpower shortage, limited resources, the whole thing. The thinking is: let the insurance – not the government – take care of the claim. It’s that simple.”

Tony heard the “we” and “our” part of the bargain clearly. Al had already decided to include him in the deal. Romano tapped his fingers on the table, finished the beer in his glass, and thought to himself for a moment while dragging on his cigarette.

Stealing cars was new to him, but Tony foresaw no problem doing it. In fact, he was unintentionally well trained for the task by the dealership, routinely – and legally – broke into cars when their owners left the keys inside, and had access to the master keys for many different makes.

Romano had even had some tempting, lucrative offers to steal used cars for their parts but turned them down because the risk was too high. The many large malls that populated the South Shore were a handy resource. He could store the cars on the back end of the dealership lot where no one would notice or care.

“So what did you think? It’s all rum, mangoes, bananas, coconut, and spices in the Caribbean? There’s a lot of money down there, Mon,” Al said smiling broadly, “and guys who are dying to spend it.”

“I like your offer. Why don’t we get the fuck out of here and go visit some ladies I know.”

“Who’s driving?”

“It’s your call. I think I’m along for the ride.”

On the way to the lady friend’s house, Al filled in Tony on how to handle his transaction. “I suggest that you get your cars the day before or even the day they’re shipping. Be careful with the God damn plates and dispose of them one at a time in different places.”

“Sounds like you have some experience.”

“Let’s just say I done it once before. That’s the trick. You don’t do something like this every day, only every now and then. It’s better that way. Everything stays quiet. There’s nothing too big for someone to notice.”
Tony could certainly relate.

“Have you done any traveling?” Sanderson inquired.

“Not much. Vegas, Atlantic City. Detroit probably don’t count,” Tony answered dryly.

“I mean outside the country.”

“No, not at all. What’s it like?”

“Let me put it this way. Most Americans have no clue how good it is here. You go to the Caribbean or South America, and you can’t believe what you see. All them islands are beautiful but extremely poor by our standards. Corruption is a way of life, a means of survival. The begging is so bad on some of the islands, it’s hurting tourism.

“I’ve spent some time in Venezuela where everyone has his hands in your pockets, you know. You order a taxi at a hotel and the concierge gets a cut. The taxi takes you to a restaurant or a nice shop, and the driver and the concierge get another cut. Everyone’s on the take, but they don’t see it that way. It’s cultural and institutionalized.

“There are two groups: those who have everything, and those who have next to nothing. They live in one room shacks in the mountains with six to eight small kids to support.”

“It’s interesting, I suppose, but who really gives a fuck?” Tony asked.
“Right. Really. Anyway, most of the Caribbean islands have terrible roads they call white knucklers. They could use a few pricey sport utility vehicles, if you know what I mean.”

The two newly formed partners arrived at a small house in Stoughton sometime after twelve that night. The girls were miffed at the late hour, but they liked Tony and let him and his new found friend in. After some small talk and a few good laughs, Tony paired with Liz, a thirty-two year-old, divorced, Southern belle he met through the dealership several years ago.

Her bedroom was roomy, nicely decorated and furnished, and feminine. Liz liked a puffy bed with lots of odd size pillows, delicate perfumes, windows with lacy curtains hanging in swags, boarded wallpaper with tiny, colorful flowers on a dark background, and woodwork painted a glossy white.

Tony had given her the small oriental in front of the four poster bed and the brass candleholder with a base in the shape of a boat’s propeller on the bureau. Liz lit a fresh candle before turning off the lights and tightly closing the door.

If she had had her way, Liz would have seen Tony more often because he had been good to her, but she knew he preferred work to a deeper relationship. He never gave her money, always nice things she could use around the house. It was the respectful thing to do since he did not want risk making her feel cheap, and he really liked her as a woman and a friend.

Liz was petite but had exceptionally large breasts for a woman her size. Her hair was dyed a pretty reddish-brown and kept short, almost like a man who needs a good haircut. She also had large brown eyes with long lashes, thin eyebrows, a tiny nose, and a small mouth. Romano called her his little pixie who liked a little Dixie and laughed at his friends’ twist on the little Dixie part.

Tony removed his gold jewelry and placed it carefully on the dresser. From behind, Liz helped Tony remove everything else before taking him by the hand, pulling down the covers of the bed, sitting with him on the edge, then gently lying back waiting for Tony to kiss her. As he did, he untied her bathrobe, reached around to her back, and deftly drew Liz towards him.

It had been a while since Liz had been with a man – Tony was the last one – and her first gentle kiss of him quickly became more fervid. He loved the hushed sound she made, rhythmically, as they kissed, sensed her craving for more, but decided to take his time.

Tony undid her pajama top, slowly, subtly, one button at a time, and drew it aside. With the back of his hand, fingers spread, he traced from her neck to her waist and up again without fondling her breasts, breaking the sensuous kiss, or parting their barely touching, swirling tongues.

After a few minutes of pleasurable, anguished teasing, he proceeded past Liz’s middle and momentarily pressed the palm of his hand firmly between her legs, continuing until he felt the waist band of her pajamas, which he gently pulled and removed with a minimum of help from Liz.

Her deep moan was muted by Tony’s lingering kiss, but he could feel her fingernails digging into his arm. “I can always tell when you really want me,” Tony said softly, as he gently stroked her hair with his left hand. “You have this very pretty smile on your face. It’s almost invisible, but I can see it even with the candle.”

Liz stared at him with hazy eyes and became more inflamed, but it would be some time yet before they both slipped under the covers and Tony into her. Some things in life were worth waiting for and required patience, and lovemaking was one. Being around him or in his arms made her feel, for the first time, like a real woman.

Al had been left on his own and with the minor challenge of explaining his marital status. He and Liz’s older roommate got along just fine because they were both direct about their needs and intentions. They were lusting and thrusting before Liz and Tony.

Sanderson and Romano left the house just before 2 A.M., returned to Cohasset Center, and parted company shortly thereafter with a promise to stay in touch.

The next day at work Tony called Dazzie Clarke, his boyhood friend and a trusted member of his distinguished clientele. One week after their accidental meeting, Tony delivered his product to Al Sanderson as promised. The transaction went as smoothly as he had predicted, and one month later Tony’s ship came in.

The money was more than Romano had ever seen all at once, and he used it to fix up his parents’ home, which needed a new furnace, roof, insulation, and exterior paint job. Naturally, he paid cash for all the repairs, and the contractors took it without question.

Over the next two years, Romano and Sanderson did eight other deals, all as successful as the first, but Tony now had a major problem on his hands: what to do with all that cash. Incredibly, he kept it in a green garbage bag under his bed because, quite simply, he had nowhere else to put it.

Tony’s search for cars had taken him periodically to the back streets of South Boston where housing prices were falling after a recession started in 1990. There were several good buys to be had, especially in the more industrial area near the Gillette Razor Company corporate headquarters.

Southie had two sections: the upper and lower ends that came with accompanying attitudes. While the first extended, roughly, from Dorchester Street along Broadway, eastward to City Point, the latter demarcation went from the same streets, westward to Broadway Station.

Realtors favored the newer designations – East and West Side – to the older and grouped First, Second, and Third Streets of the lower end, West Side, into a new subdivision known as City Side because of its physical proximity to Boston. Townies sneered at the name.

Romano had no problem putting down the minimum required for a triple-decker on West Third Street in St. Vincent’s Parish. He planned to fix the three apartments with the money from the auto exporting adventure and turn them into condos, which he could rent until the real estate market turned better.

Tony hired all the subs directly rather than using a general contractor because he knew he could save money. More important, Romano did not want to meet a general contractor’s payment schedule, which would call for large payments most people would not make in cash. His new acquisition may have been in the lower end of South Boston – City Side – but even there one could not escape attention.

Once again, he paid cash for all the work, and, once again, the contractors took it with no questions asked. They were just as willing to set aside the old fashioned, metal window counterbalances, which he used to weight his lobster traps, and did not mind the increasingly frequent visits by Dazzie Clarke who had his own money and reasons for being at the site.

Clarke, like Romano, had the unmistakable look of someone who had grown up hard or in the city. Hull was much like South Boston in that respect, a place unto itself with many of its residents struggling to keep everything together.

Dazzie fit in but had a severe – almost perverse – look. Even so, the contractors liked Daz because they thought he was a funny bastard. One day he complained to them about his own boss. “I’ll tell you how much of a cheap prick this guy is. The fucking guy shits every other day to save money on toilet paper. I’m telling you the fucking truth.”

The subs soon directed Daz to certain bars on East and West Broadway where he could buy more than a beer and a good time.

Tony was now one year past The Big Three O and a little bit too old in his mind to be living with his parents. He purchased and financed in the traditional way a one bedroom, water view condo at Weymouthport, a complex that had Webb State Park as a front yard and the Back River in the rear. From the apartment, he saw the Hingham commuter boat pulling out after it had rounded the peninsula at the far end of Weymouth.

Romano also bought furniture for his condo at an expensive, higher-end store in Weymouth and relied on Liz’s good taste and sense to make the apartment comfortable, functional, and attractive. His mother would miss her good boy but not his money because Romano still payed rent and help out, even though he was no longer living there.

All Tony asked was that the door to his room remain locked. Without his help, his parents would have trouble getting by, and they thought it best not to inquire.

Tony liked his job at the dealership, especially since his side dealings had proven to be so lucrative. “Here I am,” he would muse, “this little guy who doesn’t know shit, and I’m worth over half a million on paper.” Not quite, but on the way.

The guiding principle in Tony Romano’s life was that you could never have enough money, and he was open to more opportunities. He did not have to wait long.

“Tony, Al Sanderson. Any chance we can meet later at the Venetian?”
“Yeah. What time?”
“Let’s say seven o’clock.”
“Done. See you then.”

The Venetian in Jackson Sq., a neighborhood Weymouth eatery, specialized in great food at excellent prices. Although the regular clientele and most patrons knew or recognized each other, new faces arrived all the time.

Seven o’clock on a Thursday night meant a long wait and a drink or two at the bar. Al had arrived early and left his name for a booth in the smoking section in a rear corner near the kitchen and noisy swinging doors.

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