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One Pocket Man

A novel by Albert J. Betz


Part three of the exclusive serialized publication of One-Pocket Man, a new novel by member Al Betz.




Danny Bonto is a mid-level enforcer in the Chicago mob who has outlived his usefulness. He learns this when the Feds let him listen to an undercover tape of his boss arranging to have him killed. In exchange for his providing them with much damaging information, the Feds move him to Philadelphia and set him up in a poolroom where he quickly runs afoul of the Philadelphia mob. He hires a teen-ager to work in the poolroom whom he takes under his wing and teaches one-pocket, the crème de la crème of pocket billiard games. 



Albert J. Betz is a native Philadelphian and a veteran of the United States Army Intelligence Corps, deployed primarily in Japan. He also lived in Chicago for six years before returning to his Philadelphia roots where he is an avid poker and one-pocket player.


Kick to move, not to make.

                           One-Pocket Player's Credo


3. Off to Philadelphia

As things played themselves out between Joseph Maretti and the undercover agent, Danny Bonto worked out the details of his new identity and relocation with a federal marshal.

       “Have you thought about a new name?” the marshal, an agent named Gottlieb, asked.

       “Yeah, I kind of like the name Richard Nixon” Danny joked.

       “Funny, you don’t look Jewish” Gottlieb joked back.

       They both laughed.  “Well, I gotta admit, I am somewhat limited in my choices” Danny said.  “Nobody’d ever believe I’m anything but Italian, and I want to keep the same initials.  I know.  Everybody who assumes a new identity keeps their old initials, but I’d hate to throw out all my monogrammed shirts.”

       “You could always just cut the left cuff off” Gottlieb continued with the bantering.  “Nobody will ever notice.”

       “You think anyone would notice if I just cut your dick off?” Danny fired back.

       “Just leave me with a nine inch stub” Gottlieb retorted, and everybody laughed.

       “Let’s get serious” Baxter interjected.  “We’re running out of time.”

       “Okay” Danny said.  “What’s wrong with me keeping my first name?”

       “That’s probably a good idea” Baxter said.  “It could look awfully funny if people started calling you by a new name and you forgot to answer.  Besides, if some mob guy recognizes you, it wouldn’t do you any good even if your name was Richard Nixon.”

       “Then why change my name at all?” Danny asked.  “What the fuck difference does it make if my name’s Danny Bonto or Danny Bonano?”

       “Probably no difference, but what happens if somebody says something like ‘hey, guys while you’re in town, let’s go down to Danny Bonto’s bar and grill and get a cheese steak.’  And the other guy says ‘I knew of a guy in Chicago named Danny Bonto who was a pretty good pool shooter.  What’s this Danny Bonto look like?’  So, he comes back here and says to one of his connected acquaintances ‘I seen a guy named Danny Bonto running a bar back in Philly,’ and he describes you.  See what I mean?  At least if your name is Danny Bonano he never makes the connection” Baxter said.

       “You’re right” Danny said “But I ain’t gonna be Danny Bonano.”

       He fished the telephone directory out of the night stand and thumbed through to the Bs.  Running his finger down the page, he said “I’m gonna be Danny Barbone.”

       It was obvious to Danny, if not to the feds, that working for somebody else was out of the question.  His skills were not very marketable to legitimate businessmen and he felt much too old to go back to school to learn any new ones.

       “What about a business then?  Could you run a fast food franchise or open a restaurant?” Gottlieb asked.

       “What the fuck do I know about running a restaurant?  I wouldn’t even know where to buy napkins.  And could you see me running a burger joint or a pizza shop?  The first time some kid gave me any shit I’d slap his face and kick his ass out.”

       “How about a muffler shop or video store?” Gottlieb offered.

       “What about a bar?” Danny asked.  “You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to pour drinks.”

       “No can do” Gottlieb replied.  “We won’t give you a liquor license.  They’re too expensive.”

       “Bullshit” Danny said.  “You just don’t like the idea of a guy like me having one.  You’re too afraid of what I might do with all the illegal possibilities.”

       “That, plus convicted felons can’t obtain a license” Gottlieb said.

       “What convicted felon?  I was born yesterday, remember?” Danny said.

       “No liquor license.  What else?”

       “Look” Danny said, “Besides stick-ups and all the other shit, the only thing I ever did decently was shoot pool.”

       “Okay, then” Gottlieb said, “Why don’t you open up a pool hall?”

       “Hey.  That’s a pretty good idea” Danny said.  “The work’s easy, and besides the long hours, which I don’t think I’d mind, it’s something I’d enjoy.  At least if business is slow, I can do what I like best, which is shoot pool.”

       “We’ve never helped anyone open a pool hall before, but I see no reason why we couldn’t” Gottlieb said.  “Let me see what we can do.”

       Gottlieb left and Baxter looked at Danny.  “Let’s work on the details of your moving” he said.  “We can have your car back to you tomorrow, so you can leave as soon as you want.”  He handed Danny a small steel key and a typewritten card.  “Here is the key and an address to a furniture storage location in the Mayfair section of Philadelphia.  Mayfair is in the northeast just off Interstate 95.  You don’t have to live there of course, but one of our guys comes from there and thinks it’s a good place to get started.  There are a lot of apartments in the area and a fair amount of Catholics and Italians.  You should have no trouble fitting in and finding a place to stay.  Here’s a thousand bucks for transportation, food and a motel for a few weeks until you get settled in.  Assuming we can get you started running a pool hall, you should be in pretty good shape.”

       He handed Danny a thick envelope and another three by five card.

       “Here’s my phone number in case you have any problems” he said.  “And here’s the number of the Philadelphia office.  Your contact will be Frank Corvino.  I don’t anticipate anything unexpected, but he’ll help you if you need anything.  And oh, yeah.  This is yours.”  He tossed Danny’s signet ring on the bed.  “Maretti bought the story, so you can leave whenever you want.  Your house is empty, so you have no need to go anywhere but east.  Good luck.”  He reached out to shake Danny’s hand.  “According to our prosecutor, what you’ve given us should put a lot of Torino guys away for quite some time.”

       “What about my house?” Danny said.  “It’s almost paid for and ought to be worth about ninety grand.”

       “We have it up for sale for ninety six thousand five hundred” Baxter said.  “We’ll send you what’s left after expenses when we sell it.”  Baxter stood up and hitched up his pants.  “Nothing personal, but I never want to see you again.  But you can bet your ass I won’t be surprised if I do, or at least I read about you in the Sun Times.  You Outfit guys just don’t seem to be able to shake the old life.  Anyway, the room’s paid up till noon tomorrow.”  He grabbed his raincoat from the rack and left the motel room.

       The only federal agent left was the young guy, Scott Grevey.  “Baxter would have my ass if he knew this, but I copied something I thought might interest you.  Just do me a favor and destroy it after you listen to it.  I enjoyed meeting you and I wish you luck in your new life.”  He extended his hand.

       “Thanks” Danny said, shaking hands and accepting the cassette tape in puzzlement.  “I’ll listen to it in the car.”

       Later that day, Gottlieb called to say that the pool hall deal could be done and that Danny could leave as soon as he got his car.

       Early the following morning, two agents delivered Danny’s car, new identity and a map of Philadelphia.  Without saying a word, he tossed his few belongings in the trunk of the Cadillac and drove off from the motel.

       Danny turned south on River Road and made a left onto Grand Avenue.  He had one detail to take care of and needed to go back to his old neighborhood one last time.  He knew he was taking a slight chance on being spotted, but not too many mob guys were up and about at that hour.  He needed to empty a safe deposit box he had started renting ten or twelve years ago at Joanne’s suggestion.

       “You don’t get a pension working for the Torinos, so you’d better start looking out for our future however you can” she had said.  Danny had originally thought he would open a savings account, but he was afraid that if he ever got in trouble with the Feds, the first thing they would do is to seize it.  Stocks and bonds were out because he didn’t know shit about financial workings, and he wouldn’t trust anyone to advise him about it.

       “Some poor slob would get me into a stock that went down and I’d want to whack him” he’d told Joanne.  “Besides, I don’t know if the Feds can grab your stocks and bonds.  Real estate is out.  I can’t be running down to unstop a toilet every time a tenant calls.  Besides, real estate is too illiquid.  You like that word, illiquid?  I want something I can grab and run with if things get too hot to hang around.  Besides, if something happens to me, I don’t want you sitting around waiting for my will to clear.  I don’t care what Gilbert says.”

       Therefore, Danny rented a safe deposit box in the name of David Bono and carried the key taped on the inside of his wallet.  The box had originally held insurance policies and the titles to his various vehicles.  However, as time passed, he began to add to the stockpile.  First was a really well balanced nine millimeter automatic pistol he had picked up off a street punk who had tried to car jack his El Dorado down on lower Wacker Drive one night.  He had stopped at a red light and this would-be gangster ran up to the driver’s side of Danny’s car and waved the gun in his face.

       “Out of the car, motherfucker” he yelled.  “Right now.  Quick.”

       “Okay.  Okay.  Just don’t shoot” Danny said as he slid out of the car.  As he did so, he palmed the small Beretta .25 automatic he always kept on the seat beside him under the armrest.  As he cleared the car, he shot the carjacker through the right side of his chest.  The robber made a move with his gun hand and Danny shot him again, this time in the head.  He fell to the street like a straw filled scarecrow.  He was probably dead before he hit the ground.  Danny grabbed his gun, his wallet and his watch and was gone.  Everything happened in less than twenty seconds.  As far as Danny could tell, he had not been seen.  A glance in his rearview mirror showed a set of headlights over a hundred yards off.  By the time the other driver realized that the pile of rags lying in the middle of the road was a dead body, Danny would be long gone.

       After he got home, Danny went over what happened.  He had no idea whether the carjacker would have shot him, but he knew that the best thing to do was to never give the other person a chance.  Trying to turn the tables on your assailant by getting the drop on him is strictly movie bullshit.  While you’re saying “drop the gun” in real life, the other guy is pulling the trigger.  Besides, Danny only had a .25.  He sure as hell didn’t want to get into a gunfight with a nine millimeter from three feet away.

       The wallet was cheap plastic and contained six dollars in ones.  The identification was for a Lawrence Greenleaf, with an address on Augusta Street on the west side.  The watch was so junky Danny just threw it away.  The gun, on the other hand was something else.  Danny knew very little about guns because he seldom carried one.  He preferred to use .22s on contract work because they worked very nicely from up close without too much blood.  They were inexpensive and he always destroyed them by sawing off the barrels and crushing them with a vise before wiping them clean and throwing them in the Des Plaines River.  The .25 that he kept on his car seat disappeared when the Feds borrowed his car.  Both Danny and the agents pretended it never existed and nobody mentioned it.  This nine millimeter, however, was obviously expensive and very well made.  It had a nice feel to it.  Danny was sure it was stolen, but it didn’t matter.  It was certainly not traceable to him.  He put it in his safe deposit box.

       Over the years, Danny had managed to accumulate one hundred fifteen-thousand dollars in cash that went into the box along with a diamond pinky ring from a hit he did where the body would never be found.  What the hell, Danny thought, nobody will ever miss it.  The safe deposit box also contained a brand-new .22, just in case he had a job come up in a hurry.

            Danny emptied his safe deposit box, left the bank and got into his car.  Goodbye, Chicago, he thought as he pulled onto the Kennedy expressway.

To be continued...

Miss the last chapter? For a little while, you can still catch up with Chapter One here

Chapter Two is still here

Want to read the rest at your own pace?

You can purchase your own copy of One-Pocket Man directly from Al:

Copyright ©2006 Albert J. Betz All rights reserved.

The above excerpt is reprinted with the permission of the author.

"One-Pocket Player's Credo" is from Upscale One-Pocket by Jack H. Koehler, Sportology Publications.


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