The below short story originally appeared in American Crime Magazine, and Salvatore Lorino is chapter two of my upcoming crime novel.
By Paul Davis
I was standing at the bar in a South Philadelphia bar & grill drinking a glass of Sambuca and thinking about my time in Olongapo so long ago. I was waiting for an old Kitty Hawk shipmate to join me.
I knew Salvatore Lorino slightly before we served together in the U.S. Navy, as we were both raised in the same South Philadelphia neighborhood. Our row home neighborhood was clean and well-maintained back in the 1960s, as it remains today, but back in the 1960s there were a dozen or so troublesome teenage street corner gangs that kept the police busy. I ran with one of the teenage street corner gangs and Lorino ran with another corner gang a few blocks away.
Although the gangs rarely bothered the neighbors, other than with late night noise, the gangs were often in conflict – mostly over girls and perceived insults - and they fought one another in schoolyards, playgrounds and parks. The worst of these teenage gangs served as breeding grounds for future adult criminals. This was especially true of the street corner gang at Dalton Street and Oregon Avenue.
Called the “D&O,” the South Philly teenage gang spawned drug dealers, burglars, car thieves, gamblers, armed robbers, and an enterprising hoodlum named Salvatore Lorino.
As South Philadelphia was the hub of the Philadelphia-South Jersey Cosa Nostra organized crime family, the more criminally ambitious South Philly teenage gang members, like Lorino, graduated from the street corners to the bars and nightclubs owned and operated by the local mobsters.
I remember Lorino as being about six feet tall, lean, with black hair and rugged features. I recall that he had a long face and a perpetual lopsided grin that served to alternately charm and menace.
Although Lorino was more than five years older than I, we both coincidentally entered the Navy in 1970. I enlisted at age 17 in a patriotic fever, coupled with a strong desire to see the world. Lorino had a strong desire to avoid a term in the state penitentiary. So when a judge gave him a choice between prison and the military, he chose the Navy.
In February of 1970, Lorino and I reported to the Naval Recruit Training Center, informally called “Boot Camp,” in Great Lakes, Illinois. We were assigned to different recruit companies, but I saw him during our training from time to time and we exchanged greetings. After graduating from Boot Camp, Lorino and I received orders to report to the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk, CVA-63.
In November of 1970, we shoved off from San Diego and sailed to Southeast Asia for the Kitty Hawk’s fifth WESTPAC (Western Pacific) combat cruise.
Although I was assigned to the Communications Radio Division and Lorino was assigned to the Deck Department, he often stopped by our berthing compartment and visited me. My friends in the division got a kick out of Lorino’s engaging personality and roguish demeanor.
Lorino gained quite a reputation aboard the carrier. He was an aggressive predator. He conned naive and gullible sailors out of their pay. He gambled, cheated and hustled. A large ship like the Kitty Hawk allowed Lorino to be constantly on the move, like a shark.
Despite his criminal proclivities, he was a popular guy throughout the ship. Even the chiefs who failed to get much work out of him could not help but like him. He was gregarious and amusing, and most of the sailors on the ship reluctantly accepted his larcenous bent.
Salvatore Lorino’s short military career ended in 1971 when he left the USS Kitty Hawk in handcuffs, escorted by special agents from the Naval Investigative Service.
So when after all these years, I heard his rapid-fire, raspy voice on my voice mail, I was taken aback. His message said he happened to see my crime column in the local newspaper and called the telephone number listed. He suggested we meet somewhere for a drink, and he left his telephone number. I was curious, so I called him back and agreed to meet him.
I told Lorino to meet me at the Bomb Bomb bar and grill in South Philly. The bar was so named because after the corner taproom opened in 1936, local racketeers were not happy with a competing bar in the Italian American neighborhood. So they planted a bomb that exploded on a Sunday morning when the bar was closed. Despite the bombing, the owner was not scared off. A second bomb was later planted and exploded in the bar. But the bar remained open, and it is still operating today.
The Bomb Bomb was typical of a South Philly eatery; friendly and unpretentious, with relatively inexpensive and good Italian food.
As I was sipping my Sambuca and thinking of my time with my old shipmate, Lorino walked into the bar with his old swagger and oversize personality. He had not changed all that much, it seemed to me. His once dark hair was now gray, but he appeared to be the same old Lorino. Lorino hugged me and we took a table in the back of the bar. Like all predators, Lorino was keenly observant. He took noticed of my attire, a light gray sport jacket, an open collar black dress shirt, black slacks and black leather Italian loafers.
“I see you’re still a sharp dresser,” Lorino said. “For an old guy.”
Lorino was clad in what appeared to be an expensive sport shirt, jeans and white sneakers, and I replied that he looked good as well – for an old guy.
Lorino also noticed my Rolex Submariner watch held by a black leather band on my left wrist. He lightly tapped the crystal above the watch’s black dial and white dot hour markers with his finger.
“It’s my prized possession. A beautiful woman bought the watch for me on my 30th birthday,” I explained. “I married her a month later.”
We ordered a bottle of red wine and quickly dispensed with what we’ve done with our lives since our Navy days. After the Navy, I went to Penn State for a year; he did two at the state pen. I went to work for the Defense Department, doing security work as a federal civilian employee; he went to work for Federal Prison Industries as a federal inmate. I was happily married with grown children; he was happily divorced without children. I covered crime as a reporter and columnist for the local newspaper; he committed crime for the local mob.
We drank several glasses of wine and I eat a generous serving of Chicken Parmigiana with Ziti. Lorino had a large bowl of mussels with Linguini.
At the table next to us was a young couple who looked like tourists or newcomers to South Philadelphia. As our tables were close together, we overheard the young man say, “That was great Italian sauce.”
Lorino titled his head towards the couple, frowned, leaned over and poked the young man’s arm hard with his index finger. “You’re in South Philly, cuz,” Lorino informed him. “And in South Philly it’s called “gravy,” not sauce.”
“Sal,” I said in a low voice. “Leave them alone.”
The couple reared back in fright. They got up quickly, paid the waitress and hurried out.
“Fucking Medigans.” Lorino said, using the crude insult that some Italian Americans call non-Italians.
“You haven’t changed,” I said. “You’re still a fucking nut.” Lorino shrugged and sipped his wine.
After our fine and filling meal, we drank coffee and launched into swapping sea stories and reminiscing about our time in the Navy with boyish enthusiasm. We spoke mostly about Olongapo.
While most young American sailors saw Olongapo as a wide-open city to have fun in, Lorino saw Olongapo as the land of opportunity.
Lorino spoke fondly of his adventures in Olongapo. He told me he was introduced to Olongapo by Douglas Winston, a 2nd class Boatswain Mate that he worked for in the Kitty Hawk’s Deck Department.
“Winston was a miserable and annoying prick,” Lorino explained. “But you know me, I get along with everyone.”
Winston was thin but sported a pot belly that dropped over his belt. He was about 30 but looked much older with a craggy face and a bulbous nose. Lorino was one of the few sailors who would associate with Winston off duty.
As the Kitty Hawk sailed from Hawaii to Subic Bay, Winston regaled Lorino with tales of Olongapo. He told Lorino about the great bars where one could meet great girls. Winston also told Lorino that one could acquire anything that one could possibly want. Olongapo knew no limitations.
“If you can’t get your nut in Olongapo, you’re a real fucking pervert,” Winston told Lorino.
On Lorino’s first night in Olongapo, he and Winston were drinking beers with a couple of hostesses in the Ritz, which American sailors called the Ritz Cracker. As Lorino was searching for a connection to buy methamphetamine in bulk, he leaned over to one of the girls and flat out asked her where he could score some meth.
She got up from the table and walked away from Lorino without a word. Winston laughed. After a few minutes, a portly Filipino with shaggy black hair came over, sat down and said his name was Reeinald Bulan.
“Hey, Joe, you want to buy shabu?”
“Shabu? Ain’t that a killer whale in a zoo? I want to buy meth,” Lorino replied.
Bulan and Wilson laughed. “The famous whale is Shamu,” Winston said, chuckling. Lorino shrugged.
“Shabu is crystal meth,” Bulan informed Lorino. "How much you want?”
Lorino pulled out his wad of U.S. dollars. “This much.”
Bulan counted the cash in Lorino’s hand. “That’s a lot of shabu. You wait here.”
Ten minutes later, Bulan came back to the table and beckoned Lorino to follow him to the men’s room. As Lorino walked behind Bulan, he slipped his knife out of his back pocket and held it by his side. In the men’s room, Bulan handed Lorino a small U.S. Navy Exchange paper bag. Lorino dipped his finger in, placed a bit of the meth on his finger and snorted the meth. It was very good. Lorino handed over the money.
Bulan smiled and told Lorino to have a beer on him. “You want girl for the night?”
“No thanks, but I’ll take a beer.”
Lorino felt the stimulating effects of the meth, even though he had snorted only a small portion. Lorino drank the beer down, thanked Bulan, and said he’ll be back to do more business. Bulan shook his shaggy hair and grinned like a mad fool.
Lorino left Winston at the bar and walked happily down Magsaysay Drive. A Filipino in a short-sleeved shirt and jeans suddenly appeared before Lorino, blocking his path. The Filipino held up a badge in his left hand and a revolver in his right. Lorino stopped and looked the Filipino cop in the eye. A second officer came up behind Lorino and placed his firearm in the small of Lorino’s back.
“Hand over the shabu, sailor boy.”
Lorino frowned and then handed the Navy Exchange paper bag to the police officer in front of him.
“You cops are the same all over the world,” Lorino said disdainfully. “Bigger crooks than us.”
“You want to go to prison, sailor boy?”
“Then go back to ship and don’t come back here.”
The two police officers laughed, pocketed the paper bag, and walked into the Ritz. Fuck, Lorino muttered to himself. Bulan and these crooked cops didn’t even try to hide the rip-off. Lorino walked across Magsaysay Drive, dodging jeepneys, and went into another bar. He brushed off the girls who approached him and went directly to the bar. He beckoned the bartender to come over.
“Where can I buy a baseball bat?”
Lorino had a beer as the bartender produced a baseball bat from under the bar. Lorino paid him. He weighed the bat in his hands and smiled. Lorino planned to go all “South Philly” on the two crooked cops and Reeinald Bulan.
After he downed his drink, Lorino walked back across the street to the Ritz with the baseball bat in his hand. He didn’t see Winston or Bulan anywhere when he walked in, but he saw the two cops drinking at the bar with their backs to him.
Lorino walked up to them and struck the two officers repeatedly across their heads and shoulders with the baseball bat. The Filipino police officers dropped to the floor in blood puddles. They never had the chance to draw their weapons.
As the bar girls screamed and the American sailors backed away, Lorino leaned over and dug into the cops’ pockets, looking for his meth. He did not hear Bulan come up behind him, but he felt the sharp pain in his back from a knife.
The pain was sheering, but Lorino was able to turn around quickly, and he swung the bat at Bulan’s knees. The Filipino drug dealer fell to the floor. Lorino struck Bulan’s knees again and again as the drug dealer wiggled and screamed in pain on the floor. Lorino reached down and pulled the Navy Exchange bag from the Filipino’s pants pocket.
Lorino got up, dropped the baseball bat, and despite his knife wound, he walked calmly out of the bar and walked two blocks down to the Starlight, another bar that Winston told him about. He found Winston there and Lorino sat down, leaned over and told Winston that he would cut him in on his new drug trafficking enterprise on the carrier if the petty officer would store the shabu on the ship until he returned. Winston agreed happily.
Lorino passed the paper bag to Winston. He then asked Winston to hail a jeepney and take him to the base hospital.
Lorino missed the Kitty Hawk’s next Yankee Station line period, as he was recuperating from his knife wound in the Subic Bay base hospital. He told the investigating NIS special agent who visited him that he was drunk and no idea who stabbed him. Raised in South Philly’s Cosa Nostra organized crime culture, Lorino would never speak to cop, so he didn’t tell the special agent about Bulan.
After Lorino’s release from the hospital, he was temporarily assigned to the base until the Kitty Hawk returned to Subic Bay. In time, Lorino felt fit enough to go back into Olongapo. He ventured to the Americano bar and sat down with a hostess.
The waiter brought over a beer for Lorino and a whiskey for the girl. The Americano had an American Wild West motif and a band that played country & western music. Lorino didn’t care for country & western music – he was a Motown R&B fan – but he was in the Americano looking for a connection, not entertainment.
He asked the girl about the “Chief,” and she pointed to a nearly bald, hefty American in his 50s who stood behind the bar. Winston had assured Lorino that the Chief, an American expatriate and retired Navy chief petty officer, was a good guy to know in Olongapo.
Maxwell Walker, originally from Arizona, told everyone to call him “Chief” as he said he was a retired U.S. Navy chief petty officer. He also told people that he was the owner of the Americano. Neither was true.
Although he did in fact retired from the U.S. Navy after 20 years of service, he never achieved the rank of chief petty officer. He retired at the next lower grade, a 1st Class Boatswain Mate, but he liked being called chief, so he promoted himself in retirement. And he was not the owner of the Americano. He was an employee, hired to lure in American sailors. His Filipina wife, a former hostess, was the Americano’s mama-san.
Lorino went up to the bar and introduced himself to Walker. He told the chief that Winston told him that the chief could hook him up.
“So, you’re friend of Winston’s?”
“Yeah, we work in the Kitty Hawk’s Deck Department. He told me I could get a gun here.”
“Why do you want a gun?”
“If I sell you a gun, it becomes my business.”
Lorino told Walker the story of the rip-off and how he was stabbed by Bulan. He told Walker how he beat the cops and Bulan with a bat, but he now wanted payback for the stabbing.
“Yeah, I heard about that,” Walker said laughing. “Reeinald is a piece of shit. If you want good shabu, I can fix you up with some people here. Look, ya still looking to score good shabu?”
“Yeah. I got plans to go into business on the Kitty Hawk.”
“Tell ya what, I’ll give you a gun. Do what you have to do with it and then toss it in Shit River. Come back here and we can do shabu business.”
Lorino took the gun, a .38 Smith and Wesson revolver with a two-inch barrel. He hefted the firearm in his hand. Lorino thanked Walker and left the Americano. He walked down Magsaysay Drive to the Ritz. He brushed aside the girls who rushed up to him and looked around for Bulan.
He spotted Bulan sitting at a table with a pair of crutches leaning against his chair. Without a word, Lorino walked up to Bulan briskly, pulled out the .38 revolver from his waistband and shot the Filipino drug dealer once in the left foot and once in the right knee. As Bulan lay screaming in pain on the floor. the bar patrons and employees all backed away from the shots.
Lorino walked calmly out of the bar and onto Magsaysay Drive.
“Gotta love Olongapo,” Lorino said loudly and happily to two passing sailors.
© 2022 By Paul Davis
Note: You can read chapter one via the below link: