15 STEVE SKORSKY
They Came To Rob Las Vegas,1968, USA, Director Antonio Isasi
They were good times. Back then in the 60s there were more jobs than people and gasoline was cheap. The inflation came later. I was urged to quit my job in the Treasury and my friends said that I should move around. I have no regrets. I enjoyed the work and had a career. I had good people around me and, people don’t understand this, I could take risks. I was a Civil Servant and I worked in a job that had excitement. That day when the Skorsky truck blew up out of the desert and money and gold went up in the sky and everywhere, hot damn, the memory still puts a smile on my face. Even Tony Vincenzo, the guy who did the heist, went in the police wagon and laughed all his way to jail. I have never seen a man look so miserable as Steve Skorsky did that day. After his spell in the penitentiary, Tony Vincenzo disappeared from sight. I hope the man was all right, even if the robbery he pulled had made my job difficult. I’ll be honest. Tony Vincenzo had us baffled. His brother thought Tony was some kind of hippie but burying that armoured truck under the desert was hard work. And the one thing hippies didn’t like was physical effort.
I put my career on the line with Steve Skorsky. It went down to the last call, the trip where the armoured truck exploded out from under the desert. If we hadn’t nailed Skorsky then, I was off the case. What a sight. Before all that I had eased my way into the Storsky Corporation. After he found out I was a Treasury employee, Storsky called me a fake and a fink. I was both, I suppose. I enjoyed it, walking around Skorsky Security as if I were the insurance expert that his company needed. The truth is that I did not dislike the man. His employees liked him, and he had Mexicans, Afro-Americans and women on the payroll long before it was mandatory. Storsky paid his people decent wages. He two-timed his wife, of course, but with a secretary like Ann Bennett the men that would have resisted her would have been few.What happened to Steve Skorsky was terrible. But you don’t cross the Mob. I know from experience. After we collected the haul from the exploded armoured truck I had a couple of telephone calls telling me that something was going to happen to my family. My team rounded up Salvatore and a few of his henchmen. We all had a good long conversation. I mentioned that the United States Government did not take kindly to its officials being intimidated by hoods. I said we either let bygones be bygones or the Government would close down Vegas. It couldn’t have, of course, but a lot of damage could have been done to their gambling business. I had the support of this FBI guy called Dave Bannion. He was a big help. Not only did the Mob take him seriously, he was an ex-cop that had stood up to gangsters in LA. He was good at getting the local police to play ball. I even had office space in the police department. I also had desks in Skorsky Corporation and the insurance company Storsky employed. I was never at my own desk. They were good times.
The problem was that this crook Salvatore had Skorsky smuggling gold out of the country. Steve Storsky wanted out of the deal but Salvatore had the poor guy in his grip. Skorsky Corporation was the best security company in the business. Their trucks were built like tanks, and they used a computer monitoring system that would have helped a rocket ship to find the moon. All that, though, cost money, and the money to pay for it Skorsky had raised through not very nice people. They expected lifetime loyalty. I believed Storsky when he said he had told the Mob that this was the last trip he would smuggle gold. Skorsky was making enough money running cash and bail bonds for the banks and legitimate companies. Skorsky would have had more luck if he had stuck to the crooked but with all those computers he needed to employ regular people. Mixed in with them were the crooks that filtered the gold trips into the regular runs. That was how we knew which runs carried the gold. Skorsky always had to use the same three security guards to smuggle the gold.
Tony Vincenzo had a big grudge against Steve Skorsky. His older brother Gino was killed when he had tried to rob a Skorsky haul. There were a few years between Tony and Gino. Tony realised that his brother and the other old guys were past their prime. Between the security guards, defence systems on the truck that fired unforgiving bullets and the police that were on the scene in minutes, Gino and his friends had no chance. Not one survived. Tony pledged revenge and he succeeded. Skorsky lost his biggest haul and perhaps the one where Skorsky wanted to say quits. Hiding the truck under the desert was a cute trick but Tony and his men had to work on the truck and under the desert for four days. Tempers frayed, and there were arguments. Tony told me all about it. He had this pothead called Cooper. He was the impatient guy that not only blew up the truck, dollars and gold but the body parts that held Cooper together. Collecting all of him for a body bag was not so pleasant.Tony had worked right there in Vegas. He was a croupier on a blackjack table. Tony was good with cards, and he could spot cheats and card counters. He did a few card tricks for me. Tony was good fun. The casino owners in Vegas liked him. He should have stuck to the cards but Tony had that grudge. I asked him where and how he learnt the card tricks. Tony mentioned this guy called Sydney. Tony said that Sydney was not much older than him and a few inches shorter but he acted like a father to him. I met Sydney a couple of times. He was a wise guy but very polite. We talked about Tony but, if he knew anything, Sydney was not for telling. Sydney moved later to Reno. I do hope the Mob didn’t find Tony after he came out of the penitentiary. Maybe Sydney helped Tony to slip out of sight. Tony did a long stretch inside. He lost his good looks behind bars. But what happened to the man he robbed was much worse. What poor Skorsky suffered was terrible.
Even though the exploding truck ruined his business and he had spent time inside prison, Steve Skorsky was working and earning good money when the Mob found him. He had too much knowledge of the business not to be valuable to security firms. His wife had left him while he was inside. I found her to be friendly. Of course, she looked nothing like Ann Bennett. Without a wife to ask him where he’d been, Skorsky spent on the hookers too much of what he earned but, if you want to do that, there is no better place than Vegas. In his own way Stevie Skorsky also had a grudge. Tony Vincenzo knew what was happening inside the Skorsky company, and more important which truck carried what where. Skorsky’s secretary, Ann Bennett, was also hopping into bed with Tony Vincenzo. Skorsky spent a lot of money on Ann, and because of her he lost his business and went to prison. After something like that happens to a man the hookers in Vegas can be very tempting.
Skorsky was with a hooker when Salvatore found him. They dragged Skorsky and the hooker out to Death Valley and buried the poor guy in the desert and up to his head in sand. The hooker was hysterical, and I heard that Salvatore and the others slapped her around. They may have done other things. If they did, Skorsky would have had to watch. The Mob has a strong sense of poetic justice. The truck of Skorsky was buried under the ground and exploded, so why not do the same to Steve Skorsky, thought Salvatore. Just when Skorsky thought the only thing he needed was a drop of water, a moment’s respite perhaps, Salvatore bent down and put a stick of dynamite into the mouth of Skorsky. Salvatore lit the fuse, and Skorsky, whose arms and legs were trapped under the desert, watched the fuse burn all the way down to his mouth. The agony ended when his head was blown off his shoulders. I suppose having the hooker along added to the humiliation. She was the only one watching that was not smoking a cigar. The cigars were for comic effect I was told. Salvatore was convicted for the crime but not until years later when FBI man Dave Bannion recruited a Mob informer who told the tale and all its gory details. I haven’t seen Dave Bannion since he retired. I did hear that he was doing some investigatory work for a writer who had this theory about the Black Dahlia murder.
Howard Jackson has had ten books published by Red Rattle Books including novels, short stories, travel books and collections of film criticism. His latest travel book No Tall Heels To Tango is now available here.