Thursday, June 6, 2024

My Crime Fiction: 'Moretti The Money Man'

 The below short story originally in American Crime Magazine. 

Moretti the Money Man

 By Paul Davis

I recall when some years ago I was having dinner at a South Philadelphia restaurant with my wife and a man about my age yelled out my name and thrust out his hand to shake mine.

“It’s me, Billy Moretti,” the man said. “Do you remember me?”

I replied that I did in fact remember him, and I asked how he was doing.

Moretti told the buxom blonde he was with to go to the Ladies room, and he would join her at the restaurant’s door in a few minutes. She smiled at us and walked off. Moretti grabbed a chair from another table and placed it at our table and sat down.

I remembered Billy Moretti as a shy, skinny kid with thick coke bottle glasses who was from our South Philly neighborhood. He was what we called in the late 1960s a “square” kid - what would probably be called a nerd today. He didn’t drink beer or whiskey or smoke pot on the corner with us, but we all knew him, and we liked him. 

Moretti was from a poor family, so he worked two and often three jobs at the same time. He was a hustling kid back then, but despite his tough life, he was a happy-go-lucky kid.   

The man who now sat at our table was still skinny and still wore thick glasses, but I suspected the frames were expensive, as he wore an expensive suit and tie, and sported a diamond pinky ring and a Breitling watch.

He told me that he read my weekly crime column in the local newspaper, and he often told his friends that he grew up with me.

I mentioned that he looked good, and he appeared to be doing well. He grinned and complimented me on my beautiful wife and my Rolex Submariner diver’s watch.

“Looks like you’re doing good too. I’m into finance now and I work with Sal Sabatella,” Moretti said. “Do you remember him?”

I did indeed remember Salvatore Sabatella. Sabatella was a capo, a captain, in the Philadelphia-South Jersey Cosa Nostra crime family.

“Slippin’ Sal,” I said. "How is he?”

 “Well, he don't like being called that no more, but he’s good. I work with Sal at Reeder’s Real Estate in Center City. You heard of them? I’m the money man.”

We then spoke of some of the other guys from the neighborhood, many of whom had passed on. Moretti rose from his chair, shook my hand again and said it was good to see me again.

“You too.” I replied.

After Moretti left, I explained to my wife why Salvatore Sabatella, a beefy six-foot bruiser, was called “Slippin’ Sal.” He earned that nickname back in South Philly in the 1970s when he slipped on the wet sidewalk in the rain and fell and shot an innocent bystander rather than the actual target of a mob hit. The bystander survived, but Sabatella was sentenced to prison for some years. After he was released, he moved up in the mob.

“But he’ll always be “Slippin’ Sal” to me and a lot of other guys.”

I thought of this encounter with Moretti when I was called by an FBI special agent who told me of a forthcoming indictment of Sal Sabatella and a half-dozen others in a RICO racketeering case. He emailed the indictment to me the next day. I looked at the charges and the names, and I was saddened when I saw William Moretti was one of the indicted suspects.

I met with the FBI special agent at a local bar, and we talked about the indictment. He told me that Sal Sabatella was charged with extortion and other racketeering crimes, as he threatened Michael Reeder, the real estate tycoon, and demanded to be made a silent partner in Reeder’s firm. Sabatella also used the real estate firm to launder his ill-gotten money from his loan sharking, illegal gambling and other criminal activities.

Reeder, who was suitably frightened of Sabatella, gave in and made the mobster a partner. At first, he welcomed the infusion of Sabatella’s cash into the firm, which he invested in acquiring more property. And he welcomed Moretti into the firm. Although Moretti did not have an accounting degree, he was good with money, and he advised Reeder on how to launder Sabatella’s money and how to invest in profitable ventures.

But as time went on, Reeder regretted doing business with the mobster. Sabatella was more and more demanding of money and perks, including a luxurious private office at the firm’s headquarters. Sabatella did not exactly fit in. Sabatella was loud and obnoxious, and he made crude advances towards the female staffers, and he insulted Reeder and other senior members of the firm.

Reeder asked Moretti to speak with Sabatella about his bad behavior. Moretti warned Reeder that speaking to Sabatella would not be a wise or safe thing to do as the mobster had a vicious temper.

Things came to a head when Sabatella crashed a meeting Reeder was having with a property owner named Wallace Newly. Reeder was making the man an offer on his valuable property, but Newly was not interested in selling the property.

Sabatella stood over Newly and told Reeder the man needed a good incentive. With that, Sabatella punched Newly in his face. Newly fell out of his chair and Sabatella then delivered a couple of well-placed kicks to Newly as he lay on the carpeted floor.

Reeder tried to stop Sabatella and he received a severe smack across the face from Sabatella.

Sabatella walked out of the conference room, stating, “Now that’s how you do business.”

Moretti rushed in after Sabatella left and helped Reeder pick Newly up. Reeder apologized profusely for the attack. Newly pushed him away and walked out of the conference room.

Newly called for an Uber and asked the driver to take him to the federal building. He rode an elevator up to the FBI’s office and reported his attack by the notorious gangster.

The FBI special agents fanned out and arrested Sabatella, several members of his Cosa Nostra crew and Moretti.

I wrote about the indictment and the arrests in my column in the local paper.

The day after my column ran, I received a call from the FBI special agent who had informed me about the indictment. He told me that Billy Moretti had been found dead. His body was discovered in his parked car outside of a South Philly dinner.

Apparently, Sabatella didn’t think his soft money manager would be able to do a prison stretch, and fearing that he would cooperate against him, Sabatella ordered a hit on Moretti. He was found with three shots to his head.

I felt bad for Billy Moretti. He made money with Slippin' Sal and lived a good life, but he took a chance with his life when he decided to work with the viscous and heartless mobster.  

The FBI special agent said to me, “I hope Moretti the Money Man has enough money to pay for his own funeral.”

© 2024 By Paul Davis 

Note: You can also read my other short crime fiction via the below link: 

Paul Davis On Crime: My Crime Fiction Stories 

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