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The happy numbers man

 

One of the most colouful denizens of sixties and seventies Nassau was a fat, bearded, middle aged man called Gene Toote. He was the main man in the numbers racket at the time, and one Christmas eve he was standing outside a shop he ran on Bay street, then and now the main tourist mecca. He had a bottle of XO brandy and a stack of plastic cups, which he was filling generously for his acquaintances and customers.

He was in a holiday mood, and he had many pleasant chats with the passers-by, at least until he spied an old man, almost a derelict, trying to slip past him. He made a grab for the poor guy, snarling, “Where you goin’, motherfucker, you owe me.” The guy was now down on the pavement with Gene holding him in an arm lock. “When am I gonna get paid?” he asked, giving the arm a vicious twist.

“Sorry, sorry, Mr. Toote, the man choked out. I’l have your money Friday.”

“See you do or I’ll break something.”

He let go and his face conjured up a happy smile for a friend he saw. The man scuttled away.

Gene, as you might have guessed, employed a little muscle to help him in his businesses. In fact he probably had more private muscle than anyone else, muscle that he found a use for when they were bored.

When the casino on Paradise Island opened in 1967, he saw an opportunity, and had the balls to come over and offered to ‘protect” the property for a fee. This didn’t work out.

The situation was handled very professionally and discretely. He was invited to dinner with the top men at the Cafe Martinique, their best restaurant. They enjoyed a very good meal, and nothing was said until the meal was over. “He was then told, “Gene, it’s not going to happen. You have taken on something that is way too much for you. It’s not only us, you know, do you seriously want to go up against Santos Traficanti and Meyer Lansky?”

Between them, they ran all the gambling on the East Coast of the US, and were not men to be trifled with. The unsaid threat was that, if he made a nuisance of himself, then he would be dealt with by them. The verbalized one was that if anything unpleasant happened, it might be assumed that he had become unhappy.

One of the others made a conciliatory gesture, telling him, “No hard feelings, Gene. We’re both in the same business. Come over now and then and enjoy a nice meal.”.

That was a precaution in case he went whacko and tried to burn the place down

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