I nodded, and he began my briefing.
My temple began to throb as Toker jammed the revolver against it. Toker was a predator, an animal who enjoyed terrorizing the helpless, and at that moment I knew that he would love nothing better then to pull the trigger. All he needed was the slightest excuse and I decided not to give it to him.
The first time I saw Toker in action, I had been working on a truck in the courtyard. I heard muffled voices coming from several rows behind me, and peering around the rear of my truck, I saw Jocko and Toker talking to one of the Hi-lo drivers. I tried to hear above the noise of revving engines, but all I caught was an occasional angry word.
John Vannelli’s smile was humorless as he walked up to Toker and me, his cousin Vinny standing to his right looking bored.
Jocko just stared, his smile constant. After what seemed like hours, though it was probably seconds, he asked, “ Are you a plant? ”
Jocko was a smooth operator and seemed to have total control over the group’s illegal activities. Much later in the investigation, I learned that Jocko ran a tight ship, taking a piece of the action from every illegal transaction that occurred at the plant. When I first met Jocko, I was working as a truck inspector, a job that gave me complete access to the entire loading and parking areas.
Jocko was understandably suspicious of newcomers and attempted to gain information by befriending me. In so doing, he saved me the energy and time of doing exactly the same thing to him. At first it was touch and go with Jocko. Sometimes he was quite friendly, joking and laughing like we knew each other for years; at other times he seem to watch my every move with deep suspicion. In time, he stopped asking questions and seemed to accept me as one of the guys. One of the things that really broke the ice was the fact that both of us played guitar.
When the client read my reports concerning Jocko's activities at the plant, he opted to obtain evidence for prosecution. Consequently, I started carrying a miniature tape recorder and began recording my conversations with Jocko. The recorder was cleverly hidden in a box of small cigars that I smoked during the entire operation. Half of the box contained cigars and the other half the recorder. As a matter of fact several times I offered Jocko a cigar and he didn't even realize that he was talking into the recorder as he took it from the box.
I contemplated diving into the East River and swimming for dear life, but the thought of getting hit with a bullet, bleeding into that dirty water and drowning was, to put it mildly quite unappealing. Instead, I summoned up all the courage I had left, which didn’t amount to much, and I shoved Toker’s hand with my arm, moving the revolver away from my head. “ Are you crazy I yelled, you could kill somebody with that damn thing.” The gamble worked and Toker, unsure of what to do next, looked at Jocko for direction.
After I reported the incident, it was decided that the next phase of the operation would begin. A surveillance team in a company van was parked at a strategic point just outside of the plant. A prearranged signal from me would tell the surveillance team to follow and videotape the movements of the trucks that were carrying extra product.The surveillance team successfully videotaped most of the trucks that I pointed out, and obtained evidence showing many of the subjects actually selling the product openly to stores and individuals not on their scheduled routes.
Once, toward the end of the trial, I had the unpleasant occasion of accidentally meeting Jocko just outside of the courthouse. He smiled coldly and through clenched teeth, informed me that he should have killed me when he had the chance.