: : Waiting here was starting to get a little boring; he’d already counted every window of the Royal York hotel across the street and calculated the average number of taxis that pulled up to it per minute to pass the time. Now the thought of going back inside Union Station to place bets on arrivals and departures with some of the suckers waiting for their trains was starting to seem like a good idea. As he picked up his luggage to do just that, a little Volkswagen Beetle screeched up in front of him, mounting the curb and nearly taking him out. Startled, he thought for an instant that this was an ambush until he saw the porkpie hat get out from the driver’s side. : :

: : “Dag, you rat bastard, what’re you doing with your mouth hanging open… catching flies? Sorry I’m late, I had a thing to take care of.” : :

: : Dag put down his luggage and walked over to his friend. “I thought I was being whacked… then again, who gets whacked by a guy in a Volkswagen? What the fuck is this piece of shit; where’s your deVille?” : :

: : “At home… this is another guy’s, Dominic the Meatball down in Hamilton… you don’t know ‘im. It’s bran-bran new: 1970. We need it for the job… to be inconspicuous.” : :

: : “You got hippie wigs and sandals for us too?” Dag asked. “Then again, what am I thinking, you’re still wearing suits from 10 years ago, Popeye.” : :

: : ‘Popeye’ LeBlanc wasn’t Italian, but he ran things for the organization in Toronto. He didn’t get that name because his eyes popped out—even though they did a bit when he was angry or tired—but because his forearms were disproportionately large like Popeye the Sailor from the cartoons. With his horn-rimmed glasses and thinning hair, he looked more like an accountant than a hit man, but that worked to his advantage. And while it was true he was still wearing his tailor-made suits from the early 60’s, at least he didn’t use the Dean Martin Show as a sort of televised catalogue. It was almost as if Dag took notes while he was watching: salmon-coloured jacket, black shirt, silver tie, gold cufflinks… check, check, check, check. As the car turned into the driveway of the Harbour Castle, Dag asked the inevitable question. : :

: : “What’s the job? Another collection of an overdue account?” : :

: : “Yeah, and it’s over 20.” : :

: : Translated, that meant they had to kill a guy who owed the Montreal boss—‘Opera’ John—some money. Under 10 grand and it was a few cracked ribs and bruise his face up a bit; over 10 it was a broken arm or leg. Over 20 G’s and it was a bullet, with no exceptions. Popeye handed the keys to the valet and greased him a C-note. The valet looked down into the palm of his hand like it was a gold bar. : :

: : “Biggest tip you ever got from a Volkswagen driver, eh bub? Don’t park it too far in, we’re gonna need it in about two hours, okay pal?” The valet just nodded, speechless. : :


: : After a little R & R by the swimming pool and a few cocktails in the lobby bar, Dag and Popeye got to work. Nunzio ‘the Nun’ Ballistieri owned a swinging uptown nightclub called ‘The Ports of Call.’ It was one of those grass-and-bamboo joints that had been all the rage about 10 or 15 years ago in the States but had taken longer to catch on in Canada. With its big, phallic Tiki-god totems, thatched roof over the long curving bar and deceptively strong drinks served up in fake pineapples, it was the kind of place well-to-do executives took their wives on Saturday nights and their mistresses on Tuesday afternoons, when the place was dead. Since it was a Friday night, the place was packed; the hope was that Nunzio would be in the back, harassing the kitchen staff like he always did. After parking the car near a subway station two blocks away, Dag and Popeye found the alley that would lead them to the back door of the restaurant. When they were almost there, they heard a loud voice coming from the kitchen. “’King guy… I hire you because you’re a friend of Remo’s and I find this?!!? You’re fucking ripping me off… you fuckin’ prick, I oughta cut off your fingers!” It was Nunzio alright, and, by the sound of it, he was roughing up one of his cooks or waiters. Dag put his cigar out so the smell wouldn’t betray their arrival. With a quick nod of the head from Popeye, they both ducked over to the dumpster beside the restaurant. The open kitchen door threw a shaft of boxy yellow light onto the ground and made the puddles look like neon piss. A mangy looking cat was rolling around in some garbage with his paws in the air, like he was trying to walk but didn’t realize he was upside-down. With another nod from Popeye, the two hit men drew their guns and stepped out into the light. : :

: : “What the…? Holy shit!” The Nun let go of the waiter’s lapels and stood there, not knowing if he should run or grab a butcher’s knife. Then something strange happened.  Popeye immediately took two steps sideways, putting himself between Dag and their target, so Dag couldn’t get a clean shot. Then he walked right up to Nunzio and hit him with the butt of his pistol. Nunzio went down but wasn’t unconscious. Popeye carefully laid his gun down on the counter and then started kicking the shit out of Nunzio like he was really enjoying himself. The kitchen staff, incredibly, just went about their work, knowing that it was better to see and hear nothing. Since Dag still couldn’t get a clean shot, he just re-lit his cigar and stood there in the alley and watched. After about 2 minutes, Popeye stopped and bent down. He whispered something in Nunzio’s ear, put an envelope into his pocket and then motioned for Dag to come into the restaurant. Dag flipped his cigar butt at the mangy cat, who dodged it expertly and hissed, like it was used to having things thrown at it. : :

: : “Mingia, aren’t we gonna whack this guy?” Dag asked. : :

: : Popeye just stepped over The Nun’s trembling body and motioned Dag to follow. They went through the double-hinged doors and out into the smoke-filled dining room, already packed for the ‘Hawaiian’ floor show, which was really just young Italian girls from the old neighbourhood with orchids in their hair and grass skirts, pantomiming the dancing they’d seen on ‘Hawaii Five-0.’ Popeye led them to a little table in the shadows and they sat down. : :

: : Popeye finally spoke. “I went to elementary school with that guy. He’s a good guy. He didn’t mean to disrespect Opera John. Besides... the food is good here.” : :

: : “What did you put in his pocket?” : :

: : “25 Grand… now let’s get a couple of Pu-Pu Platters.” : :

Author’s note:  This story is a complete work of fiction. No members of The Montreal Tiki Appreciation Society work for the mob beating people up for a living. About the only thing we’re guilty of is watching too many Scorsese movies. Opera John is not the head of organized crime in Montreal. The only truth to this account is that Dag did once stay at the Harbour Castle while visiting Popeye, who once owned a 1970 Volkswagen Beetle. In addition, there was a Tiki joint in uptown Toronto called ‘The Ports of Call’ which is no longer there. It is not known if it was Mafia-owned (see “Tiki-less in Toronto” elsewhere in this issue).

Dave “Popeye” LeBlanc © 2000

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