The Concierge

The odd time when Umberto was on time he had nothing to talk of, nothing, not even the weather, and as per usual Umberto Agrò was late getting to the meeting. It was not something new, but still Ovide Desmarais expected the worst every time his contact didn’t show up and like always his hands shook. To kill time and settle himself Ovide had the radio playing on some oldies station that he had haphazardly tuned in and Come On Let’s Go by Richie Valens was currently playing. It was late, past midnight, and the road near Bun’s Creek Park on Rothesay Avenue was deserted like most times at this hour. Ovide turned to thoughts of his assignment. He was lead detective on a special task force to bust a Mob drug ring for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Eleven members of the Ciprielli Family including the boss, were under investigation for drug smuggling and Umberto had been doing some digging. Umberto was as connected to the Ciprielli Family through acquaintance of several Capos as Ovide was connected throughout the country to various other law enforcement agencies.

The primary suspects, the Ciprielli Family, had immigrated from Italy during the Great Depression and made their way west from the port of Halifax and had quickly embedded themselves into the rackets of the economically weakened Winnipeg. Things like cartage companies, agriculture supply companies, a bar, and even a bank were their legitimate sources of income, but that was just on the surface. Underneath the waterline was were they left their real mark with loan sharking, protection rackets, union busting, providing muscle to gangs they associated with, and in the modern days the drug trade. It would be nice to see what Umberto dug up this time.

Umberto was in the know and a good source to call on but it left Ovide wondering why he did it. Perhaps for the money? Maybe even his own crew’s benefit? Maybe righting social injustices? Maybe all the above? Chacun à son goût as his friends from St. Boniface would say. With fifty years of playing snakes and ladders on the police force he still could not understand all the motives of the criminal mind. What he did know was that on the behalf of other criminals, Umberto would negotiate deals for arms, sanctioned hits, government contracts for major construction projects, and when needed, would negotiate peace between warring families. Ovide thought Umberto sounded like the Concierge out of the Godfather, and wondered if it was punishment?

He had come through in the past with much needed information and helped bring about nine of the biggest busts in Canadian history and now claimed his information was as big as the Giancana Dope ring of the Nineties. He had said that he wasn’t on a secured line and wouldn’t give details, but it was rich enough to meet at the usual place at the usual time. Just then a car pulled up and flashed the lights, which reflected in Ovide’s rear view mirror causing his pupils to grow. Ovide hit his brakes a couple of times to signal back and a man got out of the car behind Ovide’s and proceeded to the area in between the vehicles. Ovide opened his car door hoping it was Umberto and not a hitman, climbed out wondering if he’d get shot tonight, and closed the door behind himself mentally drawing his gun and targeting a possible assailant’s center of mass. As he got closer to the other man in the gloomy night, he recognized Umberto’s face and relaxed.

Umberto was dressed in a designer black Armani business suit and was wearing a purple tie crosshatched with gray, contrasting Ovide’s stain proof bargain rack suit from the discount store and clip-on tie. Umberto’s black overcoat from the Cettina Bucca line that was hand-stitched and double breasted was unbuttoned. The shoes on his feet were designer Spazzolato Fume dress shoes detailed with perforated wing tips and constructed from high-shine Italian leather. He had a ring featuring an inset of a hundred and forty diamonds mounted on a white gold band on his right ring finger and by comparison Ovide’s fingers were bare and chronic drinking caused a slight tremor in his hands when he was sober. Umberto carried a gold capped walking stick that had multiple diamond insets, bah, Ovide would rather have the walking stick his father had carved from the Diamond Willow in the backyard. Umberto’s slicked-back hair was neatly combed and had streaks of silver flashing through it, while Ovide’s twenty dollar hair cut was not coiffed and was sorta unkempt at the moment. The differences didn’t stop there as Umberto’s pearly whites looked freshly whitened, while Ovide’s teeth were tobacco and coffee stained from his frequent trips to the coffee shop. Umberto was thin and athletic, even in his elderly years, and let’s face it, this close to retirement, what was a few extra pounds to Ovide? Umberto pulled out a silver flask and took a shot of the liquor it contained.

“Would you like a shot of Scotch to settle your nerves?” asked Umberto.

“No, I’m on duty.” lied Ovide as he craved a shot.

“Alright, down to business. I assume you brought the payment as required?”

“Yes.” said Ovide as he handed over an envelope spilling out hundred dollar bills.

“Here’s the information I said I had. Now I have to run. I’m supposed to meet my wife at the opera.” said Umberto as he handed over a manila envelope.

Before heading back to his car, Umberto asked, “ I assume we’ve never met as usual?”

“Yeah, yeah.”

Ovide watched Umberto walk away and wondered what his wife looked like. Umberto was a good looking man and was well established, so, he supposed that she would be some young bombshell of a looker with flowing hair and big heaving breasts that bulged out of one of those dresses that made your cleavage stand out. Umberto probably bought her a lot of jewelry and she would ware all the precious stones that he could afford. He turned to the envelope that Umberto had passed him, skeptical as he opened it, but that changed as he began to read. Umberto caught wind of the family’s distribution scheme after he was offered a perk for doing business on behalf of the Ciprielli Family. The family had control of the cocaine and heroine trade across most of the country and sold hundreds of kilograms to high level dealers who had their own distribution networks. Apparently the Ciprielli family had an import/export business that specialized in hard to obtain commodities that included rare spices, specialty nuts and other hard to find non-perishables. Typically the goods were brought in intermodal freight containers shipped from Europe to St. John’s, Newfoundland and taken up the St. Lawrence River to Quebec City, Montreal, and Thunder Bay. From those ports the goods were offloaded and shipped by truck to major urban centers in Canada like Ottawa, Toronto, Winnipeg, Regina, Calgary, and Edmonton. The goods ended up at several warehouses across the country and they were the top level distribution centers for the major players to buy from. The family also had a national distribution network of their own and sold ounces though a chain of grocery stores called Buster’s.

Buster’s was famous for the deli and bakery connected to it that sold specialty coffee based drinks, cold cut sandwiches, shawarmas, doughnuts, and pastries. This was the mid-level distribution point for cocaine and heroine and was sold through delivery. The gist was to get introduced through made family to the clerks, who were low-level associates, and then place orders though the phone. You had to phone a certain phone number a day ahead of time and place your food order, specify a time of delivery, delivery address, and quantity of drugs you would like. There was a cut-off time of 5pm the day before so the order could be processed and it would be made sure that one of the stores would have your drugs on hand the next day. The order was relayed to a random store and a random driver would deliver the product by the specified time. All the drivers were associates who knew the risk but would have no knowledge of what they carried and couldn’t even rat out the store clerks. Seemed neat enough an operation and you even got a sandwich or some pastries out of the deal. This would be hard to bust, as not just anyone could phone in and order drugs, but he supposed that with cleaver investigation, a few wire taps, and more of Umberto’s help he could take them down. It would be difficult, but what in life was easy with the Mob?

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