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A Tall Short Man
Wednesday, September 11, 1974
A tall, thin man wearing dark sunglasses, a wide-brimmed hat, and a floor-length trench coat emerged from a cloud of smoke onto busy Hanover Street in Boston's North End. His face was hidden by a plain white mask with two eyeholes. The nose and mouth had been sculpted with no openings. Reaching under his coat with his right hand, the masked man removed a sawed-off shotgun, aimed, and fired twice. The first blast blew a hole in Jimmy "Gorgeous" Lopresti's chest and threw the Mafia capo against the brick wall of the European Restaurant. The second slug blew away his handsome face.
Bedlam erupted on Hanover Street: pedestrians ran and screamed; drivers ducked under dashboards, lost control of their cars, and crashed into each other.
"Goddamn," said Lopresti's mountainous bodyguard, Skinny Russo, as he reached for his gun under his suit jacket. The man with the shotgun calmly fired a third time. Skinny's fat face exploded like a watermelon hitting the pavement at the end of a long drop.
"Whoa," shouted Jello Damiano, a friend of Jimmy's. He reached for the gun in his belt, but a fourth blast blew away his hand, his belt, and his bowels.
Four shots, three dead, sixty seconds. Thick smoke enveloped the gunman and he was gone. Moments later sirens shrieked. Someone had called the cops. The panic ended and people filled the streets, walking, talking, and gawking at the dead.
Police detective Eddie Perlmutter and his partner, Mickey O'Toole, arrived on Hanover Street a half hour after the slaughter. Eddie was considered Boston's best cop, which is all he had ever wanted to be since he was a kid. He was twenty-nine years old, just six years on the force but already a legend. At five foot six and a hundred and sixty pounds he was small for an icon, but he was fearless, ferocious, unbeatable, and incorruptible. He had the analytical mind of a safecracker and the persistence to try every conceivable combination to unlock a mystery. Where others only saw chaos, he saw clues. His moral code was basic: protect the good, disable the bad, and screw the consequences. He had been promoted and demoted six times in six years, a department record.
Eddie and Mickey went straight to the dead bodies.
A cop guarding the crime scene said, "Hey Eddie, good to see you haven't been demoted again."
"The day's young, Jackson," Eddie said, thinking back to his first week at the police academy when he had knocked out the martial arts instructor and received his first official reprimand.
Monday, March 4, 1968
The instructor's name was Arvi Sgan. He was a former member of the Israeli Defense Force, a black belt in karate, a judo expert, and a Krav Maga master. He had selected Eddie as his opponent for the introductory self-defense demonstration.
"I heard you were an undefeated amateur boxer, Cadet Perlmutter," Sgan said. "Is that right?"
"Yes sir," Eddie said. "But I haven't boxed in years."
"Well, let's see if you have anything left."
Sgan ordered Eddie to attack him and not to pull his punches. Eddie obliged with a bull rush. Sgan avoided the charge and flipped Eddie easily. Eddie scrambled to his feet and threw a punch. Sgan sidestepped it and flipped him again. After being flipped three times and then being punched hard in the chest, Eddie was on his knees gasping for breath. "I quit," he said, hanging his head.
"That's it? I thought you were a tough guy," Sgan said.
"You thought wrong," Eddie said, rising to one knee.
Sgan looked at the other candidates. "Lesson one," he said, pointing down at Eddie. "No matter how tough you think you are, you need professional training."
From his kneeling position Eddie threw a perfect uppercut into Sgan's balls. Sgan grunted and bent over. Eddie stood up and punched down into Sgan's jaw, driving him face-first into the mat, unconscious.
"Lesson two," Eddie said. "Never underestimate your opponent."
The day after breaking his instructor's jaw and busting his balls, Eddie was ordered to appear before the academy disciplinary board. "Can you think of any reason you should not be dismissed from this program?" Captain Brian Sullivan asked.
Eddie stood, silent.
"Answer the question, Cadet Perlmutter," the Captain ordered.
"I'm thinking," Eddie said.
"I can think of a reason," Instructor Avi Sgan said through a wired jaw.
Everyone in the room turned toward Sgan. The captain nodded at the instructor to continue.
"Cadet Perlmutter's strategy was brilliant," Sgan mumbled through clenched teeth. "He lulled me into complacency. He should be complimented, not reprimanded. I have not been beaten since I became a master of Krav Maga."
"What the hell is Krav Maga?" the captain asked.
"Maximum damage in minimum time," Sgan said. "Taught only to the Israeli Defense Force."
"It sounds like it shouldn't be taught to anyone."
"I'd like to teach it to Perlmutter," Sgan said.
"Isn't he dangerous enough?" Captain Sullivan asked.
"Training him could determine if Krav Maga would work for the entire Boston Police Department," Sgan said.
Perlmutter received three weeks' probation for insubordination by the disciplinary board. At a separate meeting, it was decided that Sgan would be allowed to train Cadet Perlmutter in Krav Maga for six weeks.
At the end of his training, Cadet Perlmutter gave a Krav Maga demonstration. The board decided that this particular martial art was too aggressive for standard police work and that Eddie Perlmutter was the most dangerous man on the Boston police force.
Eddie ranked number two in his class when he graduated from the academy. He was number one with a gun, earning him the nickname "Eddie the Kid" for his marksmanship. He finished first in physical fitness, self-defense, and criminal investigation, but was last in discipline. He could control an angry mob better than he could control himself.
EDDIE THE KID Copyright 2011 by Steven M. Forman
Posted August 20, 2012