Sam Sigliani was not a violent man. He would tell you this at the drop of a hat or the crack of a kneecap. Of course, in the pursuance of his calling he would sometimes have to break an arm or in some way limit the ambulation of some "late on his payment" unfortunate, but that was not Sam's fault. At the insistence of his parole officer, Sam had once read most of a book on self-improvement, and what stuck in his mind was that man must be responsible for his actions. In his mind, this meant that the stupid asshole should at least have come up with the vig, even if he couldn't pay off the nut.
This applied especially in the incident with Vinnie, who borrowed heavily to bet on a sure thing in order to pay for his wedding. The horse he bet on finished after the other nags were already relaxing in their stalls. To make things worse, word got back to his boss that he was a big spender at the track, so his employment became a thing of the past. His wedding was off, and he had to deal with the enforcer.
Sam, not being a violent man, would have settled for a clean, fast-to-heal broken arm. But Vinnie fought back, and the additional damage to his being was simply his own fault. Sam refused to admit any fault on his part, even though Vinnie was his kid brother.
When Sam was called on to administer to Leon Katz, the candy store/numbers drop owner, he had misgivings about the job. Leon had held out on numbers bets, and some of them had been hit. He could either renege and have the syndicate find out about his misdealing or cover the hits on his own. He borrowed the money from Bennie, intending to pay it off out of future numbers business. The numbers boys heard about his problem and took away his book. There wasn't enough profit in fountain sales to pay off the debt, so Sam was sent to call.
It wasn't Leon's age that bothered him.
"Anybody live in this neighborhood seventy-five years gotta know you don't mess with Bennie the Bank," he explained. What bothered him was memories of the times in his youth when Leon had staked him to a two-cents plain or chocolate egg cream that gave Sam pause. "He just let me hang 'em up until I had a jingle in my pocket again," he said. "I don't know if I ever paid him back for all of them."
The fact that Leon's ancient bones were brittle and that the lesson finished him off was no fault of Sam's. Leon should have thought of that when he was skimming the boss. And he should have been glad that Sam wasn't a violent man.
Sam's downfall came as the result of the good luck of Sollie the Schlemiel. Sollie was hit by a truck and ended up in a cast from neck to nozzle. The injuries were so severe that the insurance company paid off fast, before some ambulance chaser could get into the act. This timely intervention by Lady Luck enabled Sollie to hand over the five gees he owed Bennie when Sam arrived to collect. Since Sollie was in no condition to get to a bookie to put it on a horse, Sam got the money, along with a story. The fifth race at Hialeah was fixed, Sollie said. He had it straight from the horse's mouth. Bennie the Book and associates had arranged for a leisurely run by the other future dog-food suppliers and had put large sums on the head of Salacious Sal, an unknown filly from out of state.
Sam had never been a gambling man. He had paid too many visits to men who were gamblers to take the risk himself. But this was a sure thing since his own boss was behind it. He scattered the five big ones belonging to his boss around to keep from upsetting the odds, and even put a C note of his own on the nag for Sollie, to pay for the tip. Unknown to either of them, the arrangement for the fix fell apart and the fixers went elsewhere for their rake-off. Salacious Sal had a diet of dust from the fleeting hooves of the faster bangtails, and Sam was down for five and three zeroes.
Failing to show up with money belonging to the boss was far more serious than falling behind on a payment, so Bennie sent his toughest collector to see Sam.
Unfortunate for Sam, this new enforcer was a violent man. Sam Sigliani came out of the hospital with one leg in a cast and one arm in a sling. He held no grudge for the beating that had put him in medical manor, but he was concerned about how he was going to pay back the five thou that had been the reason for the beating. Five thousand plus the vig, which increased the amount daily. Sam had never been introduced to hard work, and it was doubtful that the pay would be sufficient to pay off the nut if he should arrange an introduction.
Once he healed, the boxing game seemed to be the most likely answer. So he talked "Punchy" Riley into giving him a go at a new heavyweight who was just getting a start. Sam was no stumbling block to the newcomer's career, since he ended up supine in the middle of the first round with a loud buzzing in his ears and the newly found knowledge that big muscles do not a boxer make.
Wrestling had to be easier, since the moves were all rehearsed and the pain and agony were mostly academy award material. But Sam wasn't good at remembering the scenario, so in his second outing he leapt forward when he should have fallen back. "Man Mountain" Wroblesky's foot-long foot caught him where his jewels hung and it was a long interval before they could stop his soprano wailing and get his face back to something resembling a human visage.
"He fouled me," Sam complained to the referee. "He shoulda kicked me in the head, like the script said."
"I wouldn't talk about it," the referee told him. "Ever since he married my sister, he's been a mean mother. He just might sue you for breaking his foot."
It looked like the only way Sam could get out from under his problems was to up his profession to hit man.
Sam was raised in the church and, while he could find no prohibition in their teachings against rearranging the anatomy of some scum-bag who failed to meet his payments, the commandments themselves said "Thou shalt not kill." He wasn't sure whether this applied to everybody, or just to those within the church. To be on the safe side, he decided to accept hits only on Protestants and other heathens. This turned out to be a problem, because he couldn't find many people worth offing outside the mother church.
A Swede named Vidkun Olsen had been nibbling around the edges of the local rackets, and, while not big enough to give them any worries, he was establishing a precedent that was could lead to more formidable intrusions. Don Mario decided to take care of the problem and put out a contract on him. Not a big one. That would have made him seem more important than he actually was. But a ten gee hit to a loser like Sam was manna from Heaven. He asked around for a price on a cold piece, and was told he could get one with no serial numbers for $450. If he had $450, he wouldn't have been so anxious to cop a job. He finally glommed a Saturday night special from a high school dropout on the way to juvie hall who didn't need it anymore. It was a real bargain at just fifteen bucks.
Sam cased the job well, getting down the facts on where the Swede was at all times and with whom. He finally decided that the best venue was in the park during Vidkun's daily jogging run. He positioned himself and waited in a remote spot where witnesses would be scarce. Unfortunately, the Swede had a sudden yen for some Scandinavian comforting and skipped jogging to go home to his wife.
The next day Sam was there again. When his target hove into view he sighted carefully, held his breath, and slowly squeezed the trigger. The gun barked and Sam screamed, holding up a thumb that was half an inch shorter that it had been before and trying to stop the flow of blood with a dirty handkerchief. Olsen, unaware that he was supposed to be the one bleeding, ran over and offered help.
"You gonna shoot targets," he advised, "don't trust them cheap pieces. They blow up all the time."
Sam decided that Murder, Inc. didn't need another partner. He had to find some foolproof way to pay off his debt or else get out of town. He decided the latter was the wiser and hitched a ride on a truck headed for New Orleans. There he would change his name, wipe out his previous identity, and start all over. Maybe this time he, wouldn't be such a loser.
There were many loan sharks in New Orleans, and Sam easily found a job.
"I'm really a lucky guy," he told a new friend. "I got a job, I got new friends, and I don't have to keep looking over my shoulder. I never had it so good."
Two weeks later, Gino Garibaldi was still looking all over Sam's previous haunts, trying to find the missing Sigliani. His friend had dropped completely out of sight.
"I can't understand it," Gino told anyone in hearing. "That's ain't like Sam. He give me a sweepstakes ticket to hold for him, and it hit. All he has to do is take it in and take home five mil. I can't cash it because his name is on it. Poor bastard sure could use the money. He didn't have bad luck, he wouldn't have no luck at all."