Chapter 7 “The Last Midnight” a novel by Gary Wenkle Smith

Junior Garfano was the boss at the Eros Club. He began as a bouncer days after his release from prison. He was tough and fearless. He served two terms for robbery and until he met Shelley he wasn’t the least bit concerned about what was coming next, provided he had a chance to run in the face of a possible return to prison. He learned a great deal in prison and rose fast within the Brotherhood, a very close-knit and powerful white prison gang.

He remained true to what he learned inside and therefore created alliances with people well positioned. He did not expect to have another legal problem. He performed his duties with great pleasure and on occasion got to hurt someone who deserved it. He was the king of his realm.

The horrible brutality of his mother sent him into a world of crime. During one of her drunken and drugged binges she brought two men home and partied most of the night. She locked the six-year-old Junior, then known as Mikey, in the closet until she woke the next day. After she made some coffee and realized just how much she hated life, she angrily went to the closet to get some clothes for the day and found her son huddled in the corner. He had wet himself, and the closet smelled of urine. She dragged him into the kitchen by his hair. There were at least six cups of steaming coffee left in the pot on the counter. She screamed at her son about pissing in the closet and smelling up her clothes while she poured the scalding coffee on his neck and back. He ran out of the apartment screaming and was caught by a neighbor who immediately called the authorities.

He spent the next ten years in the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles. He had dozens of skin grafts and endured immense pain. By the time his back and neck turned to scar tissue, he was hard and mean. He hated everything and everyone, except a nurse named Marge who had been kind and tender with him, occasionally extending her services to a more personal need.

He was nineteen when he went to prison for the first time. He had become a drug addict, which was the only way he could deal with the memories of his childhood and the agony of his scarred flesh. He had begun getting his skin tattooed wherever it would stay, and running with some much older guys who respected his fearlessness.

When he met Papa Garfano in Folsom that first term, he found the father he never had. He was given the name “Junior Garfano” and treated like family.

His old name and everything about his past was gone. It would take someone with skills, connections, and time to discover Junior’s birth name. He would never think of himself as the boy who was abused by his mother, the boy who spent so much time in the hospital. His pain would give him determination and will power. His new name would open the door to a new life.

He gained status quickly since he was an excellent fighter and would do as he was told. After his six-year term ended, he was released but quickly re- offended. He’d found his home in prison and there was nothing on the outside but strangers. Because of whom he knew and who he had become he was quickly transferred back to Folsom.

During his second term, he became a gladiator. He and most of his crew were willingly shipped to Corcoran Prison. An arrangement with the guards made it possible for the races to settle disputes by way of gladiator-style combat. The California State Prison system was just coming out of the race wars of the seventies and early eighties. Something had to be done to keep the peace. The guards and inmates made a great deal of money betting on the fights and placing bets for the Mob, which almost always ended with one of the combatants dying. Junior was an undefeated champion often boasting a challenge to fight more than one man, and on occasion he did. By the time he was ready to be released a second time he had killed several men in combat and others under contract. He was skilled in the martial arts, particularly close-in fighting with a specialty in bone breaking.

His second term in prison went fast even though it was longer because of his prior conviction. He fought often and commanded a crew of four, who commanded others and so on. His measure of power was rarely seen as his crew did what they were told. Papa was aging and passed the torch to Junior.

There were others who had been in power for a very long time and they had their successors. Junior knew the rules and was an unwavering soldier. There was never a question of his loyalty or willingness. These characteristics were never taken as weakness as they might have been in the world outside the walls. He did not know much about life other than how he had been schooled inside. He was always taught what rules inside would rule on the outside. The world was made up of wolves and sheep. The flock was very large, and the pack was most powerful when kept small and orderly.

He was scheduled to be released before his thirty-fifth birthday, and he felt different. The Three Strikes Law had been passed in California, which meant prior convictions for serious or dangerous felonies—such as robbery—were retroactive. He now had two strikes and a conviction of any felony could result in a life sentence.

He no longer wanted to stay in prison. He wanted a taste of the world.

He had become a legend in the Brotherhood. Once out he could go wherever he chose and there would always be work. He chose to return to southern California because Papa had many associates there.

He walked into the gig at the Eros Club and in a short period became king of the club. The owners let him set the rules and enforce them. They shared a piece of the action with him. The Brotherhood was his back up and he honored them in return.

His wife, Shelley Long, was a dancer at the Club and managed the ladies of the dance. The two had been together since Junior took over bouncing duties. It was love at first sight. That is how she described it, and he agreed. He had never loved a woman. He had sex with a couple of hookers but nothing involving love or even tenderness. There was the nurse when he was a teen in a hospital, but

never had he loved a woman.

When he first saw Shelley, he felt like he had been punched in the heart. He lost his breath and had strange feeling in his stomach too. It was confusing at first but very clearly a powerful reaction to that magnificent looking woman.

She was tall, very fit, well endowed, yet not stuffy about it. She was lithe in her movements, like a dancer on water. She saw him the same moment he saw her. Her look was bright and alert. There was something compelling in the depths of her dark green eyes, something between wild beauty and cultured sophistication. He’d never had a woman look at him that way, never felt like that before. He found himself moving toward her. There was silence all around them even though the music was blaring.

As he drew near her not knowing what to do or say he took a deep breath and she glided across the floor as if she was floating into him. Her scent was overpowering and she spoke gently.

“I know,” were her first words to him. He did not speak but he knew too. She took his hand and walked him up the stairs and into a room that seemed an office. They were alone. She told him her name, and he his. They stood and stared at one another.

She asked him if he was going to stay.

“Forever,” was all he could manage.

She leaned up toward him. He knew she was going to kiss him. He had never kissed a woman and wasn’t sure what to do. He waited for her to make the move. When she did, her mouth was wet and warm. It was open, and he felt her tongue on his lips. He opened his mouth, and she stuck her tongue in and his world was changed forever. Time stopped, and their kiss was his every sensation.

When she withdrew, he stood there like a statue. He couldn’t move, uncertain whether he could keep his balance. She smiled. He was in awe.

“I have never been the first for any man. Maybe I can be your last too. I must work now. Can we have a drink later?” Junior nodded. Shelley reached for his hand. She held it, stroked it, then let go and walked away. He watched her walk out of the room. He was shaking from head to toe. They had become one from that day forward.

Junior and Shelley both loved women. On an occasional Saturday night, they would invite one of the girls from the Club home for an all-nighter of fun and sex. It was during one of these lovely evenings with Melissa Aker that Junior saw a chance to make a big score.

Ecstasy, or “X” as it is known on the streets, is the love drug. It is often used by Raver’s to get the sex going during a Rave, an all-night party for drug users who want to get high and engage in sex with anyone and everyone while the music plays at deafening decibels non-stop. Sometimes, Junior and Shelley used X with their lady friends for fun and pleasure.

X also has the effect of getting people to speak openly about their lives, an empathetic communication uncommon otherwise. Melissa Aker was no exception. After one of their home parties, Melissa told all she knew about the Martin Van Peltzer crew. Junior was a very good listener.

He devised a plan to extort money from Martin. He made some inquiries and learned that a man calling himself Dino Haworth was working for Martin.

He got a description of Dino, ran him up the grapevine and got some photos of him through one of the local law enforcement ladies who loved to party. The photos were part of an unreported sheriff ’s surveillance of Martin after his release from custody in the Troy Terry murder case. Junior sent out the photo to some associates and in less than a week received a copy of Dino’s prison jacket from a friend inside Pelican Bay State Prison. His real name was Brian Vanderlee. He was a known commodity and Junior felt certain Dino would accept new arrangements.

Dino had gone by the initials VL during his stays in prison and had been involved on the periphery of some of the same Brotherhood activities in Corcoran. Although they had not associated on a personal level, Junior remembered him, knew that Dino understood the score and would cooperate without any warnings about reprisals.

Because of Junior’s associates in the prison system he could get messages delivered. Once the message was conveyed to Dino, Junior would make his move.