In 1894 my mother said I was born in a place called Dungarvan where the waterfront borders the neighborhoods and the ships bring in goods, just as they do in New York.
Well, I don’t remember any of that.
On the ship manifest they shortened my name from Thomas, to Thos.
Now I’m Thos Carmody, Treasurer, New York.
Like other kids on the Chelsea docks, I had to fight to get noticed. But by the time I was ten, I was running envelopes for the Tammany and letting Dick Butler and King Joe Ryan fight over me.
Seems I had a brain that worked good.
Thing is, you don’t really have to fight if you have strong eyes and established men backing you.
On top of that, I had twenty kids on my pay that walked with me throughout the day, from pier to dock giving orders for Silent Charlie of Tammany and King Joe of the longshoremen union.
I was apparently so well-liked that those two big shots weren’t willing to risk the chance of fighting over me.
I sat smiling between them.
One day Owney Madden himself sent a tough named Tanner Smith to get me to pay tribute in his neighborhood.
Two weeks later, Owney was sent up Sing Sing way and I told Tanner Smith to fuck off.
Tanner didn’t like that much.
And I sent my mother to Poughkeepsie for good, just in case.
In the Hudson street saloons, I heard stories about Red Shay Meehan.
The Potashes, they called themselves. Greenwich Village bhoys. A motley bunch o’ West Ireland micks.
A big family, the Meehans, until they weren’t.
The Hudson Dusters had it out for the Meehans and within a year the whole gallop of’em died off except an eleven year-old cousin named Dinny, who crossed the ferry to Brooklyn on a stormy day with his dying father.
Landed on Bridge Street.
Times had changed on’em. And for some, time is a curse.
But what’s the difference between a curse and a prayer anyway?
Depends on the angle, if you ask me.
That’s what I’m good at, angles.
You see, things change and you gotta change with’em to stay on top.
What’s right one day, might be wrong the next.
The truth is a moveable feast in New York.
As long as you remember that.
Eventually I traded up from King Joe to T.V. O’Connor, President of the International Longshoremen’s Association. O’Connor noticed me and took me under his wing, showered me with promises.
Promises, that is, that were connected to his big plans for expansion of the ILA.
“I want you to take over Brooklyn, turn them hayseeds into red-blooded, card-holdin’ ILA men,” O’Connor said in his old country burr.
That was 1914, after the war started in Europe, but by the looks of them Brooklyn Irish bhoys, you’d think it was 1714.
Not a damn one of them had ever seen a lightbulb in his span, damn bunch of diddicoy mucks that named themselves the White Hand.
The Meehan child had grown up and re-appeared as leader of the Irish in the north Brooklyn docks, while Il Maschio, an Italian with a white streak in his hair, who worked for Frankie Yale, ran the Black Hand guinnea south.
I didn’t know where to start, so I went to Red Hook, right in the middle of them both.
Wasn’t long before Jonathan G. Wolcott himself put some big numbers on my head for trying to recruit longshoremen into the ILA.
$500 I heard, impressive.
But the New York Dock Co. has unlimited funds for keeping the union out of their territories.
No different than the gangs, really.
Even though they killed my partner Joe Garrity, I saw the hit as a compliment. You know you’re important when the bid’s that high.
But I admit, I was still learning about how they did things in Brooklyn.
In Manhattan where I dragged up, it was a bit more civilized.
In Brooklyn, the past informed the Irish in the north docks under the bridges, and their ways came from the old world.
I heard from an old fellow known as The Gas Drip Bard that Dinny Meehan was summoned by the prayers of the old famine survivors of Irishtown.
Well I don’t believe much in curses and prayers, as I mentioned, but the old timers in Irishtown sure do.
And to look in Dinny Meehan’s stone-green eyes, you’d know there was something of the ancient in him.
Apparently Wolcott paid Dinny to kill me.
But Dinny passed the job off to one of my old enemies, Tanner Smith.
Owney Madden, Tanner’s old boss, got sent up by then, so Tanner tapped Dinny for a way back in the game.
But it was the ILA Tanner was gaming for.
You see, Tanner knew what it took to move up, but at heart he was a laborer and success always eluded him.
Instead of killing me, Tanner asked me to put in a good word for him at the ILA and told me to disappear for six months.
But I knew that by backstabbing the gypsy leader Dinny Meehan, Tanner and I would tangle, if you look close enough at the angle.
Only one of us will survive.
In the meantime, I high-tailed it up to Poughkeepsie to visit my Ma, then up to Buffalo where my boss T.V. O’Connor was.
But after my six month banishment, O’Connor sent me back to Brooklyn.
I hated him for that.
O’Connor wanted nothing to do with Tanner Smith, of course, and now I was being sent back down into the afray.
For the first time in my life I hadn’t succeeded in what I’d set out to do. If I couldn’t turn Brooklyn to ILA, no one could.
And now O’Connor was rubbing my nose in it.
I showed up in Brooklyn again like an angry ghost. They all thought Tanner had killed me, so I put the fear of death in superstitious fools like The Swede, one of Dinny’s larrikins.
In the Navy Yard I planted one of my guys named Henry Browne to get on the good side of the White Hand’s dockboss there, Red Donnelly.
That was my way in.
But when Bill Lovett, backed by Wolcott and the NY Dock Co., killed one of Dinny’s
enforcers and proclaimed sovereignty in Red Hook, the game changed suddenly.
In chaos, I look for opportunity.
It’s the Stoics said that, if you were wondering.
Fuel to feed the fire.
I read that once.
I was determined to make the angles come together for me in Brooklyn this time. And so Brooklyn finally turned at my demand.
Here’s how I did it.
The Adonis Social Club is owned by father and son Jack and Sixto Stabile, associates of the Prince o’ Pals, Frankie Yale. I told them we needed to make Vincent Maher, an enforcer for the White Hand who frequents the bawdyhouse females, help us send an offer to Dinny Meehan to make a trinity (the Irish love references to God):
White Hand plus Black Hand plus ILA.
Together, we’d war against Lovett and his backer, Wolcott and the NY Dock Co.
You see, you don’t go to people with an offer, you go to them with a resolution.
But things don’t turn easy in Brooklyn.
And violence ruptured the waterfront labor racket.
Under my suggestion, so to have the Italian and the Irish to work together, Dinny Meehan allowed a dago hitman to kill Lovett in Red Hook.
When that didn’t work and Lovett survived, we got a deal done with the District Attorney to charge Lovett with the murder of Sammy de Angelo (the failed hitman).
Lovett bargained out though, and was sent to the French trenches and an assured death in the Great War.
By hook or by crook, Lovett was supplanted.
And to prove myself to both the Irish and the Italian, I set up a gimmick with Maher (in the Italian side of Gowanus) to kill some kike thug of Wolcott’s.
Silverman was his name. The third confirmed man I ever had to kill, at that point.
Wolcott resigned from the NY Dock Co. not long afterward.
And so, the angles came back in my favor.
Times were good after that, except they went bad.
I got sent to the war too, and upped my confirmed kills to sixty-eight.
I was winning against life, sixty-eight to nothing.
Makes you nervous, thinking of it that way.
Well, guess who I met in the blood trenches?
Wild Bill Lovett.
You’d think he’d try to kill me right then and there, but no, we were battle brothers, in the thick.
I watched that man butcher and cut Huns in half with a machine gun. Never saw a man so elated by the rush of murdering another.
No mortal man keeping count could tally Lovett’s confirmed kills.
Them Brooklyn bhoys, I’m telling you.
A shell or a grenade burst right next to me in the trench one day.
Next thing I knew I was back in the USA just as a great fever was breaking out.
An influenza that we veterans brought home with us, so it’s said.
What a life.
They brought me back among the living in a Carolina hospital, and once I got my bearings I craved the chaos of war again.
So I moved back to Brooklyn.
I found that T.V. O’Connor’s popularity was suffering.
O’Connor had made black-handed criminal Paul Vaccarelli a VP of the ILA.
That was dumb, the ILA was mostly Irish back then.
You can guess what the reaction was.
This made King Joe, one of my old mentors, eyeball the presidency.
Well he couldn’t do it alone, of course.
With bandages only recently removed, I stormed into King Joe’s office and told him that Bill Lovett was the future of Brooklyn labor.
I’d almost been killed twice, but I was still on the fucking job.
And the Irish always shut their mouths and open their ears when you speak of how the dead will influence the living.
“Bill Lovett ain’t dead,” I assured King Joe. “I don’t care what the Army says. He’s going right now to kill Mickey Kane in Red Hook and take it over again. He’s a crazy fuck.”
“Mickey Kane he’s gonna kill?” King Joe asked, standing up. “Dinny Meehan’s cousin?”
“That’s right,” I said.
“Right now?” King Joe hoarse-coughed.
I nodded my scarred face at him, “In chaos you will find opportunity. Fuel to feed the fire.”
He sat down, then smiled at me, “Treasurer, New York?”
Yeah, I’ve earned it.
Treasurer, New York.
But before I kick back behind a desk, there’s only one last thing to settle.
I need to get Tanner Smith.
Before Tanner Smith gets me.