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Gang Busters

(word count 1128, Reading time 7.5 minutes))

In the early 1960s, the teenage baby boomers were coming of age and starting to feel their oats.  Our small suburban town, of less than 10,000 population, had a reputation of being crime free.  The police even locked up the station and went home some nights.  New families, from a less peaceful section of the big city, were starting to move into the suburbs. Things started to change with the influx of different cultures, attitudes and environments.  This was helped with the G.I. bill and new houses, attracting buyers with no down payment and low monthly payments.

A few of these new high school kids in town started to hang out on the corner.  Their spot was in front of the major drug store and the bus stop, on the otherwise trouble free main street of our town. They did what teenage gangs did to make themselves feel “big time”. They acted tough, harassing shoppers and teenage high school girls as they disembarked the school bus. The gang even played pranks on storekeepers and shoppers.  The three-man police force had no effect in disbursing them.  It almost drove the local businessmen to close their shops. Shoppers disappeared, and a single teenage gang now ruled the town.

A special town meeting was called, but there was no legal solution. A few weeks later, it suddenly stopped and the kids disappeared from the sidewalks.  We never knew why, until a former, leading politician confessed his involvement in the solution, shortly before his death. Here’s what he told me:  After a town meeting, a resident named Dino, originally from downtown in the big city, privately advised this politician.  The politician used to be from the same neighborhood, downtown. Dino quietly proposed that these matters could be cleaned up quickly, if nipped in the bud, but he couldn’t mention it in the meeting. It’s one of those things you don’t discuss publicly.  Dino, the politician, and three or four shopkeepers, met privately at the town diner that night.  Dino was “connected” downtown and had friends who could handle such things.  All it would take was a grand ($1,000.00), he said.  Give it about 2 weeks, and it’s all over.  Nobody gets hurt but “nobody knows nuttin’ about nuttin’. Never. Including youse guys”, he admonished.  He instructed: “Youse get the grand, leave it where and when youse are told.  Youse will get a special phone.  Follow instructions and youse’ll get your streets back, safe and sound.”  A few desperate businessmen arranged a special collection. Here’s what happened, according to the dying politician confessing the story.

Joey, Mickey and Louey (phony monikers) cased the streets where the gang gathered.  After a few nights, the plan was ready.  At about 9 pm one night, the street corner gang broke up, and each wandered off to their respective homes.  As the leader of the gang walked to his home, several blocks from the main street, a car pulled up beside him.  The driver, wearing a pulled down hat and dark glasses, opened the window and asked directions to an address, flashing a piece of paper.  Meanwhile, two other passengers in the car quietly slipped out of the other side and came up behind the target.  They quickly grabbed him, duct taped his mouth, eyes, and hands, then shoved him onto the floor of the back seat, and drove off unobserved – all in less than 30 seconds.  The target kid struggled, but was subdued forcefully by the enforcers.

They drove away with the kid, now completely bound with tape. The destination was a lonely countryside. The conversation between the three enforcers went something like this:  “Hey Joey, it’s your turn.  You can make this hit tonight.”  Joey said, “ You nailed the last two, so I guess it’s my turn.” Meanwhile, the captive target (they called him the wise ass) is sweating bullets and can’t move.  The conversation continued in a similar vein but even more frightening, until the car finally stopped on a dark, lonely, unlighted, country, dirt farm road.  Orders were: “Everybody out.”  “Now you smart ass kid”, they said, “I guess youse know why youse are here.  But just in case you don’t, it’s because of the trouble youse made for storekeepers in town.  Our job is to make sure you are ‘wacked’ so say your prayers, it’s good-bye for you smart-ass.  Maybe you got something you want to say first?”  They removed a piece of the tape from his mouth, but not his hands or eyes.  The target screamed for mercy. “Youse ain’t gettin’ no more mercy from us than you gave them storekeepers downtown.”  The kid screamed crying and pleading for mercy.

Mickey, one member of the team, suggested maybe the kid should be given one more chance, since he was so young and still had lots to learn.  As Louey considered it, he reminded the kid that they knew where he lived, and he had a particular interest in his pretty sister Mary. They could pick her up too and give her the same treatment.  “And your mother is a good looker too.  Bruno downtown likes them older broads about her age”, Louey said.   After a conference, Mickey convinced the other enforcers, Joey and Louey, to cut the kid a break this one time only, but with conditions: The smart-ass gang will disappear as of tomorrow.  If ever the cops got wind of the story, he, the smart ass and the other members of his gang, would be history.  “We know all about youse and everyone else who hangs out witcha.” Louey recited their names, addresses, family names, particularly their sisters and mothers.

The enforcers reluctantly decided to go easy this time, but with a few parting memories.  The kid was stripped naked and duct taped to a tree.  Then Mickey said, “Hey Joey, Dis kid has gotta’ be hungry, and he’ll probably be out here all night.  Give him a couple bars of dat chocolate dat youse got in your pocket.”  They fed him a large piece of chocolate, special chocolate, called “ex-lax”.  The three enforcers departed from the scene, leaving the naked “wise ass kid” taped to a tree, to deal with the mosquitoes, bugs and animals, and a generous helping of ex-lax.  The “wise ass kid”, in a rather smelly and messy condition, was found several hours later in the morning.  He made his way home in the back of a pick-up truck, with help from a kind farmer, about 10 miles out into the country. This incident was referred to as the grand” cleanup!

Things are back to normal now.  There was never another incident. Everyone is happy.  No one got hurt, and no-body knows “nuttin’ about nuttin’.” That was civilized “downtown justice.”