You Didn't Hear It From Me: Part 2

Mafia: Organized Crime. Government: Disorganized Crime.

        We hadn't been in Italy more than a few weeks - just long enough to fall in love with that lovely country - before a situation arose in Giza that the don decided required our attention. You know how that turned out as well as I, Redbird - better, probably. Consider yourself fortunate that the old bird's not around anymore to question what really did happen to the bulk of his nephew's dig finds.

        Anyway, following the Egypt fiasco, the warmth of our welcome in Italy cooled considerably. Rather than stick around and wait for the old-school dons to decide my fellows and I were useless deadwood - which, as you might imagine, doesn't last very long before it's cut from the vine - I struck out across the Continent with the aim of bettering Don Peoci's standing (and holdings) amongst his peers. This experience proved invaluable in building those skills every successful businessman needs - initiative, recruitment, and spin control. Alone, a soldier can do very little - but with local street gangs leading the charge, one can not only conduct quite a lot of 'business', but also enjoy the safety of anonymity should said gangs be caught in the act.

        At some point in the months that followed, I parted ways with my fellows. Or, rather, *they* parted ways with *me*. They felt we had, hm..."exhausted our advancement opportunities" within the organization, and would thus fare better on our own. I disagreed, and while that decision earned me a pair of broken ribs as a parting gift while my compatriots disappeared with the holdings we had yet to ship back to the Family, what I didn't manage to reacquire on my own was generously returned by our business associates in the Czech Republic. I've never asked what became of my former associates; I have no doubts that whatever their fate was, it was painfully cruel. I myself fared quite well in their absence, honing my skills until I was, simple soldier by rank or no, a force to be reckoned with.

        At this point, partially in an attempt to rein me back in and under their control, the Family started taking a greater interest in my endeavors, sending observers or a company of goons to accompany and "assist" me. How very helpful of them, no? I needed these millstones like a trained monkey. But one does not refuse such things from the Family. Besides, it gave me scapegoats and patsies, which opened the door to more sophisticated trials.

        It was during this time that my path first crossed that of Double-Oh-Zero. You laugh, Redbird, but he was surprisingly effective as an agent, and a great hindrance to a number of my plans. After all, goons seldom have more than a handful of brain cells to rub together; even a nuisance like Zero could spot - and stop - them. They have the criminal finesse of a five-year-old, the short-term memory of goldfish, and attention spans shorter than most commercial adverts. Zero, on the other hand, had professional training, boundless luck, a steady supply of coffee, and an endless amount of high-tech gizmos. More often than not, he was skilled enough to upset whatever plan he bumbled into - but he could never match *me* in wits, and thus could neither catch me nor anticipate my moves. Still, he and his limitless funding were enough of an annoyance that when the offer came to move back stateside, I gladly accepted. I could run my operations just as well at that point in absentia - better, actually, as Zero would not be able to spot, and thus begin to suspect, me - and at the time, I felt it would be a relief to operate under the skillful guidance of Don Peoci once again.

        Sadly, this was not to be. Tensions between the Borough families were abnormally high at that point, due to some ambitious scheming of some of the lower-ranking captains. To this day, I remain convinced that the only reason potentially dangerous fringe operators like myself were invited back into the East Coast outfit was to boost the numbers of strong, proven bosses surrounding Don Peoci. Our Family had been hard-hit by police stings and local skirmishes during the years of my absence, and as our strength and numbers dwindled, our place in the organization slipped. Stronger Families started edging onto our turf, into our businesses, stealing our dough and roughing up our clients. People like myself were brought back in to subtly reclaim these areas of our territory, to re-establish Peoci's presence in the area. It was easy enough for me to get into the swing of things, put together a crew, and start clearing out the riffraff - after all, with the exception of said riffraff, setting myself up with a gig and a crew in strange territory was what I'd been doing overseas for years. Unfortunately, no sooner had us new bosses begun making headway than some mook shot Peoci. We never *did* find out who it was, but in truth that mattered little to most in the organization - the don's assassination was enough to escalate all the infighting and territorial skirmishes into an all-out war.

        Ever been in a gang war, Redbird? I somehow doubt it, but with you I am never sure. A war amongst the Families is a bit like that, only bloodier. No one knew who'd killed the don. Some said it was soldiers from one of the neighboring Families, citing their willingness to encroach upon our territories and their anger when we of Peoci's family began to push them back. Others thought it reeked of an inside job, fingering us newcomers as outsiders who could've easily earned the don's trust with our deeds while secretly coveting his position for ourselves. To make matters worse, the line of ascension wasn't clear. The don had never named a successor, never mentioned a favorite or groomed a boss or captain for the job. Those closest to Peoci argued over who should take his place, pointing fingers as accusations flew about who stood to gain the most from the don's death. While they argued, the rasher members of the Family took matters in their own hands, lashing out at whoever they thought was responsible - fellow bosses, captains, Families - and those they attacked responded in kind. We suffered a complete structural breakdown in the Family thanks to those that acted on their feelings of in-house betrayal - bosses killing bosses, soldiers killing soldiers, old friends whacking each other because neither wants to be seen as weak when it comes to dispensing justice to those in the Family who kill made men without permission. We even had a few crews fragment off into their own families in an attempt to surround themselves with people they could trust, only to be gunned down by those in the Family that saw such schisms as admissions of guilt. All of a sudden, you couldn't trust anybody. You couldn't go to high bosses or captains for advice without running the risk of someone with a grudge against that particular person seeing that as a declaration of sides and coming after you and your crew, but you couldn't keep to yourself without someone else seeing you as cowardly, hiding something, or working for the other side. And God help you if you went after members of the neighboring Families, because then you had *everyone* after you.

        The other Families, of course, saw how thoroughly our Family's organizational structure had crumbled, how exposed we were, and joined in the fray like wolves closing on a wounded deer. Our soldiers were killing theirs, a transgression that could not be excused as it was obvious that no one on Peoci's side was in a position to make informed decisions as to whether or not the crews being targeted actually had anything to do with the don's death. And we were so busy with infighting and trying to survive that we were uniformly neglecting our enterprises, losing profits and leaving territories wide open for anyone - even street gangs, the sewer rats of organized crime - to grab hold of. (Provided, of course, said individuals were willing to accept the risks of guilt by association such a move would entail in the midst of a gang war - which quite a few of them were, rest their souls.) The Family fell from grace like a dropped stone, dragging our neighbors down with us as those of our numbers not currently busy killing our brothers tried to meet the invading families' crews head-on.

        I lost track of the body count amidst all this carnage. Actually, I'd gone underground the instant news of the don's death reached me. It was easy enough, having done so countless times in Europe, where an ignorant misstep in a sister-Mafia's territory can have lethal consequences to anyone foolish enough to stick around long enough to apologize. I had hoped to pick a crew bright enough to do likewise, but in truth I didn't stay to find out, and haven't heard from them since. Perhaps they did the smart thing, and left town. Then again, perhaps they thought they'd stick around, in hopes of bettering themselves once the fighting subsided - in which case they're most likely dead.

        "Why San Viano," you ask? The time will come, Redbird, when I will ask you the same thing. Myself, I thought to put as much distance between myself and the East Coast families as possible. Europe was out of the question - it was far too crowded with wise guys, and starting to recognize me. Even without the petty annoyances of the police and Zero, I couldn't go back to the Continent without ultimately having to explain what I was doing there while a war raged amongst the families in New York. And there was *bound* to be someone in the Old Country that would take offense at the speed with which I cut and ran. Offending the Old World families tends to abbreviate one's lifespan, as does breaking ties with them once on-Continent. I am, as previously stated, rather addicted to living, so that ruled out the Eurasian market. Vegas was out - too many ties to the East Coast. I'd eventually find myself at gunpoint in the desert, trying in vain to explain my actions in New York. The same could be said for most of the big cities across the states; I may have survived the war by ducking out of it, but the minute I surfaced in a Mafia town, I was going to have to explain myself to some wise guy or another. No, it was time to part ways with the Italians. I'd learned more than enough from them over the years, and had hit the Mob equivalent of the glass ceiling. There's only so far up the Inner Circle an outsider can go, and I'd already been there. Striking out on my own seemed the logical course of action.

        Why San Viano? Because against all odds, this bustling metropolis had yet to attract the attention of the Mob. Of *any* mob. I'd heard it mentioned a few times on the news: a growing young city, plagued by gangs but devoid of any truly organized outfits. Honestly, when I first arrived it took over a week of recruitments before my activities caught the attention of the more powerful gangs. A week! In the Big Apple, if you hadn't noticed by the second day, you were in trouble - and in Europe, you'd best know within twelve hours. The gangs' responses were equally laughable: thugs were dispensed to "rough me up", with a few dealers sending cronies to "whack" me if that proved a more effective way of running me out. And this went on for *days*. I was amazed that anything so poorly run could even call itself a criminal enterprise. I truly was. Meanwhile, I was recruiting from the hit squads and training up my power base, weeding out those too thick-sculled to be of use even as thugs while setting up and taking over those various business endeavors that were to keep my enterprise afloat. By the time anyone thought to change tactics, I'd eroded away enough of their power and assets to be comfortably established - largely in territories they still thought they controlled.

        There were quite a few attempts at toppling me those first few months. After all, none of the old gang leaders were too keen on their lost positions - but such disorganized opponents were easily dealt with. The police even reported a downward criminal trend over that period, seeing as how few of those characters were missed once they disappeared. And as I've boosted the earnings of every last soul that signed on with me (well, those that survived training, at least), I've had no problems with dissention in the ranks. Or rather, what little dissention there is, doesn't linger there long.

        San Viano's grown quite a bit since I arrived - not that I had anything to do with that, mind you. It would have grown anyway. Perhaps a bit slower, but it would have grown nonetheless. The drop in random acts of violence, gang wars among drug lords, and the bumblings of hopelessly disorganized criminal syndicates has doubtlessly helped sway the more timid of investors - and I profit doubly from this, as I've often found ways to acquire quite cheaply the properties these urban renewers pay through the nose to buy and renovate. All this growth and wealth, however, finally caught the eye of my Italian compatriots - as well as other, less-laudable syndicates - but my power base and presence is so well established in this city's criminal underbelly that any colonization attempts by new organizations are easily rebuffed. It's nice being the undisputed boss of the town, and I plan to maintain my position as meticulously as I established it. No one asks for tribute, and I'm not about to offer. I do cooperate, on occasion, with visiting Families or out-of-town requests - a tactic, I'm sure, that makes me a valuable ally and thus helps keep me off the wise guys' short lists - but I'm largely left to myself. In theory, this leaves me exposed, unprotected from invasions and power struggles - but again, most of this I can keep at bay, safe within my city's limits. Besides, mainstream Mafia's taken a bit of a hit in recent years, so this casual disassociation has helped keep my nose clean and my activities all but unscrutinized. Except for my nagging habit of helping the local brass when they come calling at my door - an acquired taste, I assure you, but one that keeps me in the DA's good graces - I do as I please.

        And right now, Redbird, it would please me to prepare for a meeting I wish to attend. I trust this account sufficiently abates your curiosity? If not, you're more than welcome to a rematch - but this time it will be at *my* game, with *my* rules. And any wine you bring will be left safely corked in the kitchens.


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