Chapter Three: Jersey City Empire
Mancini- Hospitals scare me. I lived around gangsters and murderers and yet I was scared of the doctor with the needle in his pocket. I was getting too old for this shit. There was a time when the family was the empire of New York. Since the 1890s the Mancini name has been a name to respect. My grandfather, Alfredo Mancini, was the one that had organized the family and moved us to New Hampshire. He left Brooklyn to a street gang, Queens to his friend Vincenzo Caltabiano, and the Bronx to Giovanni Montecristo. And then there was Nicola Aurellio and Antonio Sorreno. They worked for grandfather until they went into business for themselves.
Antonio Sorreno was a small time bookie and Nicola was a businessman. I had much respect for them. Antonio was ten years older than me. He was like a brother to me. Then came Sonny Lombardi, he was a true gangster. The three went into business together in Jersey. Eventually Brooklyn and Hoboken gave rise to the Lilionis and the Aurellios. The five families were established and when my grandfather died, Nicola was made the godfather. This brought rise to the Sorreno Lombardi gang in Jersey City. Antonio took the rings of the gang and began to do business with the Russians and Chinese. But Sonny and Antonio didn’t really get along. Sonny wanted to be boss but Antonio was more respected because of his friendship with Nicola. And he also had a way of solving problems for the other families. Eventually the Sorreno Lombardi gang was made a part of ‘our thing’ and the Sorreno family was set in Jersey City. In the 1970s Sonny Lombardi had enough and separated from the Sorreno family. He made his own gang but it never gained as much respect as the Sorrenos. His brother Julius became the boss of the Aurellios which made friends of Hoboken, Brooklyn, and Queens.
Don Sorreno died in his sleep a legend. There were rumors that Sonny Lombardi and Antonio’s own son Jonny poisoned him. And Sonny was even arrested but the charges were dropped when the only witness to a conversation between the two mysteriously disappeared. That was business in Jersey. Fast, simple, and corrupted. Brooklyn and Queens slowly lost respect for Jonny and the Sorreno family following the death of Don Sorreno.
From Jersey City to Hoboken and Brooklyn to Queens, slowly the families became nothing more than gangsters. An old man like me didn’t need the aggravation. People came to me when they had a problem. They use to go to Antonio. I didn’t have to worry about anything except for problems about territories and business deals that didn’t fall through. But now every little issue that comes around becomes the ‘end of the world’ and I’m bothered about it. No wonder I was sitting in this torture chamber called a hospital. An old, bald man like me, wearing a gray sweater and looking like death himself... Here I was just sitting waiting and waiting. Why did I have to wait? Back when I was young no one ever made me wait. No one… Now all I did was wait… People always needed me for something, and I never made them wait. But everyone makes me wait. I’m 89 years old… I’m already waiting…
I stirred away from my day dreaming and deep thinking and looked up at a beautiful young nurse who spoke my name.
“Adriano Mancini?” -Mancini
Sorreno- “Michael,” April called out as I walked through the front door, “Come up here!”
“What is it?” I asked, running up the stairs. I reached the bedroom and found April standing in the room holding a piece of paper. “What’s that?”
“What’s this, Michael?” she replied sarcastically, “This is Tammy’s report card. She’s got a C in Physics and a D in Mathematics! You better talk to your daughter!”
“What!!!” I yelled. “Where is she?”
“At a friend’s,” she said crushing the report card in her fist, “When she comes home, you better talk to your daughter!”
“How come every time there’s a problem with her she’s my daughter all of a sudden?”
“She listens to you!” She yelled back. “Every time I talk to her she acts like it’s a sin for me to say one word! She hates me!”
“April, she doesn’t hate you. She’s a teenager.”
“She’s ungrateful, that’s what she is.”
“I’ll talk to her tonight. I gotta go meet Vincent at a coffee shop on Willow Avenue. So I’ll be home late.”
Tammy was a good girl. I knew that it was probably something else. Maybe a short talk with her teachers would make things better. Don’t get me wrong, I believed in education. I just didn’t believe in good teachers. And my daughter had her dreams set on Yale. I don’t get it. I wanted her to go to Princeton. Of course, she wasn’t going to either one with grades like the ones she had. It was July. She had passed the year but only barely. She was going into her third year in high school. All I had to do was take ten minutes to talk to someone and Tammy would be on her way to whatever university she wanted. Don’t judge me. If you could make your daughter’s life a little easier, wouldn’t you?
We owned four cars. The brown Cadillac, fully restored… and the dodge minivan family car… There was the Toyota Tundra, and April’s Camaro which I spent a fortune on. She never drove it. She preferred the Cadillac. And I drove my truck. It was stolen, but that was beside the point.
I was riding down 14th Street in my truck, wondering why Vincent had called for a meeting with me in the middle of the afternoon. I spotted the coffee shop around the corner and parked the car across the street. I looked across into the shop. I saw Tony Borta, Nicolas Cici, an associate of Arthur Lilioni, and another man who was laughing at something Tony had said to him.
From far away it looked like Vincent. So I stepped out the car and started walking towards the shop. Suddenly three cars turned the corner. I knew right away that it was a hit. I pulled out my gun and ran back to the truck. I looked back as the man I had thought was Vincent turned. It was. But he had a grin on his face and turned back to Tony and Nicolas who were looking out.
The shooting started before I reached the truck. They had automatics. One of them was leaning out the window. I managed to get one between his eyes. But a bullet hit me in the right leg. I jumped behind the truck. They kept shooting, I kept firing back.
“Come on! Is that all you got!?” I yelled at the top of my lungs, laughing hysterically. “I’m still breathing! I’m still breathing!!!”
The cars drove off, but not before kicking out the dead guy who fell to the floor like a stack of potatoes. I looked from under the truck and could barely recognize the bloody face from far away. But it was Sal “Scars” Devito, one of Lilioni’s men. Vincent and Tony had betrayed me. They had tried to hand me to the Lilionis on a silver platter.
I saw the three running out as a car came screeching to a stop in front of the coffee shop. Another so called friend of the family, Frankie Torro, was driving. Another trader… The three jumped in and drove off. I stayed still on the ground waiting.
The police were on their way. The truck was shot up. I pulled myself to my feet. I tore off a piece of my shirt and pulled out a small carton of gas, which I kept for emergencies, from the car. I opened the gas tank and poured gasoline on the torn sleeve and stuck it in the tank. I broke into the car behind it. If it wasn’t for Nicola, I wouldn’t know how to hotwire a car. Once I had moved the car a bit, I ran out to the truck and lit the torn sleeve on fire with a cigarette lighter. I ran back to the car as I saw a police car turn the corner.
I quickly drove off just as the truck exploded. The bastards would think I had died in the explosion. That was just fine with me.
I reached the Coffee shop. Paulie Santina and Vito were sitting outside. They ran to me when they saw me bleeding from my leg. They helped me in and closed the shop.
Five hours had passed. Everyone had gathered at the shop. Tammy and April were brought to the coffee shop by Charlie and were sitting beside me. Nicola and Mr. Mills sat playing a game of chess as always. Nicola’s bodyguard Giordano Cuzzo stood beside him. Santina and Valentino stood by the door talking about what to do about the Lilioni brothers. Jonny Sosa, Benny Dorelli, and Luigi Luciano, family enforcers, stood outside the shop guarding. Jimmy Cans and Bobby Ganza were out there too. I could hear them talking about Brooklyn and what they would do if Vincent showed his face around Jersey City or Hoboken again.
Vito sat across from me. Lorenzo and Franco stood behind him. Jackie Bones was on the phone talking to someone at the corner of the room. Everyone was there. I whispered to Charlie to take April and Tammy to the back room and have something to eat while we talked business. Once they had left, I turned to Vito and the planning began.
“You said you had it all ready.” I said quietly, feeling the now bandaged wound on my leg.
“I’m sorry, Mikie,” Vito replied, “We do. We had everything ready. But Vincent knew about the plan. He must have told the Lilionis and they tried to take you out.”
“Tony Borta was there too. My cousin and my nephew, working together against me…”
“We got Sonny Long and Patrick O’Reilly.” Jackie Bones said pulling away from the phone. A scream could be heard from the other end. “They were picked up in Jersey City two hours ago. Antonio Atioli and Christopher are working them down at the docks. Want me to tell them to put them out of their misery boss?”
“Long works for the Chinese,” Vito replied, “We can’t touch him. Tell them to let him go.”
“No, Long also works for Borta…” was my reply. “As for Patrick, He’s Lilioni’s man. The prick has been a stone in my shoe for years, fuck ‘um both!”
“Valentino, Paulie,” Vito called out, “Get over here.”
The two walked over as I heard Jackie say quietly into the phone “boss says fuck ‘um…”
“Yeah… What?” Paulie said as he sat beside Vito. Valentino stood next to Lorenzo.
“I hope I can speak for you Mikie,” Vito said, “when I say that this has to be resolved and it has to be resolved by this time tomorrow.”
“That’s right.” I replied to him.
“So what do you want to do?” Valentino asked.
“The Lilioni brothers made the first move. They were sloppy, I was lucky. I’ll tell you what we’re gonna do… Bones and Charlie are gonna call a meet with Vincent at Marci’s Breakfast Club in Jersey City. He doesn’t know I’m alive so just have a nice dinner. Then afterwards, two to the chest one in the head… Blow his head off. Got it?”
“Got it boss,” Franco replied, “When?”
“In the morning…” I said as I looked over at Jackie.
Jackie hung up the phone and said “Sonny Long and Patrick O’Reilly decided to take a permanent vow of silence…”
“Forget ‘about it… Valentino and Lorenzo here will go pay Santino Fiolio a visit. Cool him off... Tony Borta will probably be back in New Hampshire. Vito and his brother Bobby will fly over there with a few guys tomorrow morning and light a candle for my cousin. Borta has a street crew. Find out their names and make them disappear. Talk to Don Aurellio for plane tickets.”
“Okay boss.” Vito replied.
“What about the Lilioni brothers?” Santina asked. His rage was clearly visible on his face.
“Don’t worry. We’ll get them too Paulie. I want you and Franco to find Frankie Torro and put him to sleep. The Lilioni brothers are smart. They won’t be easy to get out in the open. But once we show them we mean business, they’ll slip up.”
“Nicola’s men Mr. Mills and Cuzzo will take care of them when the time comes. Vito, get some people to take care of April and Tammy. We’ll be staying here till this whole thing is blows over.”
Jackie handed me a cold beer. I looked at him and nodded in approval of the gesture.
“Get them…” I said loudly for everyone in the shop to hear. “Get them and kill them…”
I took a drink of my beer and placed it on the table in front of me. -Sorreno
Mancini- “I am here at the scene of yesterday afternoon’s apparent gangland massacre scene in Hoboken, New Jersey. The target was apparently Sal Devito, a gangster connected to the criminal organizations in New York. Sal Devito had apparently parked his car in front of a coffee shop on Willow Avenue when several cars surrounded the car and opened fire. He was shot in the head. Officers say his car was set to explode in an attempt to destroy evidence. Officers revealed that the car might have been turned on, igniting the explosion. Sorreno street boss Vincent Marsada was also killed early this morning outside a breakfast restaurant in Jersey City. Detective Benson says “This may be the beginning of a gang war between Brooklyn and Jersey City. Now for the 6am weather with…”
“Watch it,” I told my son, “I don’t need you stressing your mother with your fowl language.”
“But we all know it was Andrea and Tony trying to muscle in on the Sorrenos.”
“Andrea would never do that,” I replied, “He’s smarter than that.”
“He’s an idiot, papa,” He told me, “He’s got no respect for you. Michael Sorreno may not do things the way we like it. But he does things by the book. He has Don Aurellio on his side. If Andrea and Tony are working with the Lilioni brothers without your word, we gotta put a stop to it. Brooklyn has no claim in Jersey. First Lombardi and now this… Where’s the honor?”
“Leonardo Mancini, mostra un certo rispetto. Andrea è tuo fratello!”
“I’ll show him respect when he shows the family respect.” Leo replied. “He is my brother, and he is your son. But he disrespects the Mancini name.”
“Se Tony sta lavorando con i fratelli Lilioni, darò Tony Borta a Don Sorreno.” As I said this I looked out the window at the sunrise. Like a day, I would not last forever. I had cancer. Imagine, 89 years old and I never smoked. And I go to the doctor and Doc says I got cancer. Happy 90th Birthday Mr. Mancini. But what did it matter? How much time did I have left? Atleast I was already dying. Just thought I’d have maybe some good years left, not just five. I didn’t even know you could get cancer without smoking.
“Che dire di Andrea? Se lui sta andando contro la famiglia, egli deve essere messo a dormire.” Leo said. His own brother. He was willing to kill his own brother. He must be put to sleep? My son? His brother? Then again, who was I? Just an old man, a bald old man, who use to be the boss of this family... But I knew Leo was right. Andrea had been acting fishy the last eight months or so. He had been working with Tony alot. And when I asked him, he would tell me it was a business opportunity that was good for the family. He even proposed to me recently that I invest in him a piece of cake. I refused of course. I’m too old to take risks. Andrea had gone too far. He had worked with Lombardi and Borta in a deal that brought more harm than good to the five families. And the Lilioni brothers were a stone in my shoe for years. I was sick of dealing with them. What had the business come to? No respect, no respect at all.
“If Andrea is working with Tony and the Lilionis,” I said to Leo as I opened the window to get some of that nice summer air, “risolvere il problema.”
Tony Borta and Brooklyn wanted a war with Jersey City. But what they were doing was causing a war across state lines with our family. Adrianno Mancini was not going to stand for disrespect to his own family. Michael Sorreno would get all the support he needed from me. I am an old man. I wanted peace in my last years. But what I wanted more was peace with respect. Peace without respect was not peace, it was simply a cold war. I had ears in Jersey and New York. I knew what he planned to do. And I approved. And when he was done, I would ensure no other disturbances would occur. Not while I lived...
I turned to the bed across the room and saw my dear Julia, the love of my life for 72 years. There she was lying in bed sleeping the sleep she had sleep for twelve years. She had Alzheimers . She didn’t remember me anymore. But I loved Julia. As for my sons, I loved Donnie. Leonardo was a good leader. But he was a hot head. And he was cruel. Something that I never understood... I was never a cruel man. And Andrea was strong and at one point innocent. Always had been. I may not have ever said it. But I was ashamed of him. Maybe because he reminded me of myself. Innocent, yet pulled into a life of corruption... Maybe I was more ashamed of myself for letting him fall into this business. I wanted more for my children, but they all fell into the same darkness that I did. I envied Michael. His daughter would never fall into this pit of darkness. Tamara Sorreno was going to be a lawyer one day. She was destined for greatness. Donnie’s son Mario was the same way. Eventually the new generation would see the darkness ahead and turn away. For us old men, it’s too late. We are the darkness now... When all is said and done, I don’t regret my life... Just regret living it...
Leonardo had left the room. I didn’t notice him leave. I must have been so deep in my thoughts. This happened alot these days. But didn’t I have the right? My wife didn’t recognize me. My sons didn’t seem to love me. God had decided to give me cancer. Which didn’t matter too much... But it only added to the confusion I felt within. And Antonio’s son Michael was fighting a war he didn’t have to fight. One with a selfish Brooklyn family, a weak family in Queens that offers support to Brooklyn simply to not have problems. I would send some people to talk to the Montecristos in Bronx. Montecristo and I were going to give our full support to Jersey City. I walked out into the dark hallway. I heard Leo talking in the kitchen.
“Leonardo!” I called out. “Get me Don Montecristo!” -Mancini
Sorreno- Yesterday had gone and passed. And what had happened had changed the way I looked at things. I wasn’t angry. Infact I was quite calm. Not much could be said about April and Tammy, other than they were not speaking to me. They upset because we had to hide. But I had already told them they would be flying to April’s sister Lina’s in North Carolina. Nicola had done all the arrangements. Don Aurellio could get anything for you. But the women were still upset with me. They left early in the morning with Cuzzo. He returned an hour later and relieved my head of the worry. April and Tammy were on their way out.
Around the same time Bones and Charlie met with Vincent around 4 in the morning, outside the breakfast place. They paid off the cook and the waitress so that there wouldn’t be any witnesses. The place opened at 3am so Vincent didn’t find it too odd that Bones and Charlie wanted to eat an early breakfast. Bones and Charlie convinced Vincent that I was dead which made Vincent all the more comfortable. Vincent was a confident yet naive man.
My nephew stepped out the breakfast shop at 4:30am Saturday morning. Charlie and Bones followed closely behind. They were laughing, remembering the good times they had with me. As far as Vincent was concerned everything was going according to plan. He had a big smile on his face.
Then Charlie pulled out a silent pistol. Bones pulled out a hidden shot gun from a mail box on the street. Charlie spoke out, “Michael Sorreno says hello...”
And Vincent Marsada was no more. Twenty shots to back and a shot gun to the head.. A trader’s death...
Six hours later, Valentino and Lorenzo were walking up to Santino Fiolio’s home. The two guards outside his house were easy to get pass. Then again, once your necks are broken from behind by Lorenzo Santo, there isn’t much one can do. Valentino used a skeleton key to enter the house. Santino was in the kitchen watching a baseball game on the small tv set on the kitchen counter. Valentino and Lorenzo walked in carrying machine guns.
Santino heard the footsteps and turned around just as the two entered the kitchen. He went for a gun in the drawer across from him but the bullets from Valentino’s and Lorenzo’s guns were faster. They stuffed him in his industrial freezer that he used for special occasions. You could say this was a very special occasion for him. They threw him in and left him there to “cool off”.
Vito and Bobby were in New Hampshire’s country side around this time. Javier Dian, one of Tony’s associates, had told the Ganza brothers what they wanted to hear just before Vito put a screwdriver in his throat. The guys they brought with them were already hitting the other members of the Borta crew. Vito and Bobby were paying Borta a visit. He was at his friend’s wedding. The way I saw it, a wedding was like a funeral anyway. Only with musicians...
Meanwhile, my man Jimmy Cans was tossing Andy Garcia’s cold body into the Winnipesaukee lake.
Jonny Sosa was putting a bullet in Harry Breeze.
Benny “Ding” and Luigi Luciano were digging a grave for Johnny Crane.
Vito and Bobby were waiting in their car. Vito was in the back with an ak47 in his hands. About an hour passed until Tony Borta came out the front door of the cabin. As he walked to his car, the Ganza brothers came from behind and Vito put a few hundred bullets in his guts.
After his brother was done, Bobby pulled out a tank of gasoline and poured it all over Borta’s body and set him on fire. The candle was lit... The guests of the wedding were screaming inside. They had seen what had happened. The Ganza brothers left a note on Tony’s car that read “Uccelli morti non cantano.”
The two Paulies, Santina and Franco around this time had met on the road with Frankie Torro as he was on his way to Carrie’s place for a little one on one action. Frankie was driving the bridge when Santina and Franco drove up to the car and opened fire. Frankie had no chance. And as the blood hit the windows, the car swerved and fell into the waters below. Frankie Torro slept with the fishes.
At around lunch time, I got a few calls to let me know the tasks had been done. For lunch I enjoyed a nice steak and mashed potatoes. Giordano sat down across the table to have his lunch. Nicola and I sat talking when Mr. Mills came to us carrying a cell phone.
“Adrianno Mancini is on the line.” He said calmly. “He would like to speak to Mr. Sorreno.”
“Alright, thank you.” I replied as he handed me the phone. “Hello, friend.”
“Is that what we are Michael?” replied the voice on the other end. “You have not reached out to me...”
“We prefer to settle things our own way.” I said to him.
“Well,” Don Mancini spoke back with a cheerful tone, “I admire your independence. But even the best need help at times. After all, we’re all businessmen.”
“That we are Don Mancini.”
“I know what you are doing. I have many ears in Jersey. I would like to offer up my services if there is any need. Don Montecristo and I both feel that for peace to be made we must protect our friends. Jersey City is our friend. Therefore, we would like to offer our assistance if required.”
“Don Mancini,” I replied, “You are a wise man. Brooklyn, as you know, has been a stone in my family’s shoe for many years. If you could see it in your heart to look the other way as we try to put the Lilionis in their place, Jersey would be eternally grateful.”
“Ah, yes. I find Brooklyn to be troppo fastidioso. I assure you we will not cry if they should fall ill. Ray Caltabiano and several of his family are well known to have supplied or helped the Lombardis and the Lilionis at some point in time as well, however. I’m sure a few people could be sent to.. talk.. to some of these individuals... I only ask a small fee in exchange for my services... After all, we are businessmen...”
“Don Mancini, you make great friends of Jersey City. I am sure some payment of sorts can be arranged. Tell Don Montecristo we will be in touch.”
“Till we speak again, Michael Sorreno...” He hung up the phone before I could say another word.
I looked at Nicola and gave him a grin. We continued our conversation about the Lilionis and the old days when my father was boss of the family and Aurellios Coffee shop was the biggest thing on Willow Avenue. Times had changed since then. Nicola would tell me how bright everything seemed to be.
Jersey City was now dark from fire and corruption... but an empire was rising from the ashes...
“Vito and Bobby should be back tomorrow.” Nicola said quietly. “When they are back, have them send Christopher to make the hit on Joey Cash.”
“Just see what happens. I have a feeling the boy is not going to do it... I don’t trust him. He’ll only go so far before he starts having problems with loyalty. After all, family is family. And its better if you have your own in the family than having some gangster who shows loyalty to two families. Ha bisogno di scegliere tra di loro o noi. Non vi è alcun terza scelta.”
“You’re right. Its either them or us. The man has to choose.” I took a bite of my steak. I looked at Giordano and smiled. “Gio, sing us a song. Nicola tells me you have a beautiful singing voice, doesn’t he Don Aurellio?”
“Indeed he does.” Don Aurellio laughed. “Come Gio, sing us a song.”
Giordano put down his sandwich and wiped his mouth. “Which song?”
“Any song will do...” Don Aurellio replied.
Giordano began to sing.
L'ho lasciata per la Francia, l'ho lasciata per la Germania.
Non ho mai reso conto di quanto ho amato
la mia Sicilia!
Alcuni dicono che è la lussuria.
Altri dicono che è l'amore.
La Sicilia è mia figlia, mia madre e amico.
Ma io so dove appartengo. In Sicilia!
Nessuna meraviglia che ho pianto.
Nessuna meraviglia che sono morto.
Nessuna meraviglia che ho mentito...
a mia Sicilia, a mia Sicilia... -Sorreno