ROUGH DRAFT EXCERPT: MUGSY’S BACK

Jonathan Alexander had much respect for Mugsy Malone. He always thought of him as a loyal man. He knew that if Mugsy said he would do something, he would do it. The only way he wouldn’t would be if he couldn’t. Jonathan Alexander liked Mugsy; and, even though he knew that Mugsy wasn’t always courting the fondest feelings for him, he always held his friend in high regards.

Mugsy knew this, and it sometimes made him feel bad. He thought of Jonathan Alexander as brutish, domineering and vicious. But, he also thought of him as powerful and unafraid. He was a small man in stature, but big at heart with an iron spine. If you were his friend, you were safe. Jonathan Alexander stood by his men and Mugsy was his man. That’s why Mugsy always showed him respect and tried like hell to think highly of him. He knew he had no right to think less of him. The man had taken care of him many times. He paid generously and made sure his allies never went without what they needed. That’s why Mugsy was going to go to him.

They had never named themselves officially, but they came to be known as the Alexander Gang, or the A.G., or TAG. Jonathan was not fond of the last one. But, he was known as a small-time but solid hustler; and, his boys were known to be good boys with hard knuckles. They weren’t the type of gang that went around shooting people, robbing people, holding up liquor stores or ripping off cab drivers and pizza boys. They pushed marijuana, cocaine and meth, provided muscle and protection, helped protect their neighborhoods, primarily the Southside of Louisville, but also Kenwood Hill, Southland Park and Iroquois. Mugsy’s old job had always been Jonathan’s muscle. He made pretty good dough that way. It was always enough to get him by. He never went without an official job, but he always had that on the side. It wasn’t the most virtuous things that he could do, but he had to do what he had to do. There wasn’t much choice for guys like him out there. It was either crime or minimum wage.

These weren’t the guys from his old neighborhood that he rode bikes, read comics and played Nintendo with growing up. These were the hard cases he kept away from his parents’ home–not because he was ashamed of them, but because he didn’t want to put them at risk. These were the guys that Mugsy rode the nights with. These were the men that saw his other side–the side not so soft and quiet. They saw the Mugsy that split wigs and knocked out teeth. The saw the Mugsy that choked people with chains and threw them through glass doors. They saw the Mugsy that took knives from people and slammed their heads into brick walls. He had never killed anyone. He had always exercised some restraint; but, he hurt some people pretty bad. But, that was what Jonathan Alexander paid him to do.

They never meant to be a gang; they didn’t consider themselves a gang. What the little group was grew from Jonathan Alexander selling drugs and letting his friends in on it. Soon, as always in that walk of life, someone wanted to get what he got and tried to move in, so Jonathan gathered his peeps and stamped out the threat.

When the Mike McShane enterprise came into ultimate power in the 2000s, he was very cautious. He never wanted to step on that. A lot of small outfits got “bought out” or eliminated, but his had endured. He was careful and his friends were smart and loyal. In turn, he was loyal to them. They weren’t ever business associates, they were family. None of them had ever, on any occasion, crossed McShane territory and they had survived. They also avoided all other big gangs in the city. They kept to their own hoods and sold to a strict base of clientele. They were very careful who they took on as help and as a customer. They avoided infiltration; they avoided turf disputes; and, they avoided the law. They were careful and they were good.

Mugsy woke up late that evening, having comedown off his high. He still felt woozy and his knees slightly ached, but he was about his faculties fairly well. His phone was still in his pocket and no one had called. He scrolled the contacts to look up the old friend.

He hadn’t spoken to Jonathan in quite some time. Mugsy wasn’t trying to shun him or forget they were ever friends, he was just always busy. Jonathan would never make him do anything he didn’t want to. Nor would he put him at risk. Mugsy just felt that, for the time, their lines were better left apart.

Now, that had changed. Mugsy needed to talk to his old friend. He found his number and paused with his thumb on the call button. A phone call might be a bad idea. Calling him out of the blue may raise suspicion after having not spoken with him in some time. Mugsy knew it wouldn’t look good, him showing up back in town and asking the man to meet him somewhere. As innocent as it was from his end, Jonathan might read the situation wrong.

Mugsy decided to go for a visit.

Jonathan lived in a shiny white shotgun house on Hiawatha Avenue on the easternmost edge of Southside. It was only about two miles from Mugsy, less than a five minute drive. Jonathan’s old BMW from sometime back in the 90s was sitting rusted in his driveway. There were two Fords along the street. Jonathan kept the appearance as a man who owns a deli and a couple of bakeries in town pretty well. He wasn’t raking in millions, but he was keeping enough money laundered to get him by.

When Mugsy pulled up, parking his car at the curb on the other side of the street by some industrial building, two guys on the porch stood up.

“Oh shit,” one said. “Is that Mugsy?”

He was a short white kid with big ears and he always wore a leather beret like Mugsy. That was Tyler James–Mugsy’s biggest follower–they called him Bug, short for Bugsy because they thought of him as a mini-Mugsy; Bug always thought Mugsy was the coolest guy in the world because he was so tough and laid back.

There was a lanky drink of white water standing next to him. That was Jason Rivers, or Dipper, Bug’s cousin. He had a long chin and thick eyebrows. He was the one guy Mugsy knew that always wore suspenders.

“Hell’s Bell’s,” exclaimed Dipper, “it sure is!”

Mugsy walked up to the porch and was emphatically embraced.

“I’ll be damned,” said Dipper. “I can’t believe you’re here.”

“Welcome back, Mugsy!” greeted Bug.

“Hey guys. How’s it going?”

“Good, man,” Bug answered quickly. “Jonathan’s got some real good shit going. He’s made a very important connection and it’s opened him another bakery.”

“Who’s the connection?”

“Can’t say,” Dipper spoke up. “At least, not right now.”

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