The Goon Squad

By Ray Schultz

Business took me to Boston recently, and as usual I sprang for the Acela train because I insist on luxury when a client is paying the bill. I was in the club car enjoying coffee and a danish when Sonny Taylor, the simian cyber criminal, came in and ordered three vodkas. 

Now nobody would mistake Sonny for a teenager, but the server asked for ID, and Sonny exploded in a rage, hurling threats and foul language. 

I snuck back to my seat, thankful he hadn’t seen me. At length, Sonny came in with three Diet Cokes and sat down next to two men I hadn’t noticed before: his brother, the formerly late Sid Taylor, and the gravel-voiced attorney and fixer Erwin Forrest. How did I end up on a train with this trio? 

I tried to bury my face in my laptop, but somewhere around New Haven, Sid noticed me and called out, “Scoop,” his unaffectionate nickname for me.

“You thought old Sid was dead didn’t you?” he chortled. “Another factual error by the man who invented them.”

That riled me up. 

“I reported you were believed to be dead,” I said. “I always thought it was a trick to get the FBI off your trail. How come you’re not in jail right now?” 

Sonny glared at me menacingly, and Erwin said, “I have instructed my client not to answer that question.” 

“Your own brother said you were killed by crocodiles,” I reminded Sid. 

“I was bitten by a lizard,” Sid said.  “But let’s forget the past. We’re all older now. I have a new product, and I’ll give you the exclusive story on it.”

I didn’t know why I deserved this honor. But before I could refuse it, Sid handed me an announcement promoting the new Undesirables database of boozers, scofflaws, slot machine addicts and other unfortunates.

“This looks just like Mo Moss’s Proclivities database,” I observed. “Did you steal this from Mo?”

Sonny glared at me again, and I was afraid he would throw me through the train window. But Sid acted like he was impressed.  

“You’ve gotten smarter in your old age,” he said. “Did you go back to college or something?”

He explained that he was licensing the Proclivities list from Mo and repackaging it for his own clientele.

 “In that case, Mo is ripping you off,” I said. “Most of the people on it are dead.” 

“I take back what I said about you being smarter. Some of them are still alive, and I have NFT opportunities to offer them.”

“And you’re planning to amortize the cost by renting out the email names?” I asked. 

“Very good,” Sid said, clapping his hands. “You are smart after all. How would you like to come and work for me?”

“I’d rather starve to death on the street.”

The conversation lagged as I read the incomprehensible announcement. Finally, I asked, “Why are you going to Boston?” 

“I have instructed my client not to answer that question,” Erwin said. 

The rest of the ride was tense, and I was glad to get off the train at Back Bay. 

Ace reporter that I am, though, I soon solved two mysteries: 

  1. The Gang of Three was in Boston to negotiate a plea deal with the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Massachusetts. Sid somehow escaped jail, but Sonny will have to do time once they’ve settled cases with nine other jurisdictions, including two in foreign countries. 
  2. As I suspected, Sid had hacked and stolen the entire Proclivities database. Mo Moss said, “I’m suing those bastards.” 

Days later, I received a letter from the “law” offices of Erwin Forrest, threatening me with a defamation suit if I wrote anything derogatory about the Taylor family.

I am not planning any other train trips at this time. 

(Note: Thankfully, there is no resemblance between these characters and real persons, living or dead.)

Lunch With The Old Gang In Boca

By Ray Schultz

Earlier this fall, braving my first plane ride since the pandemic: I flew to Boca Raton to help Mo Moss with his futile annual effort to get into the Inc 500. In lieu of payment, Mo treated me to lunch in an outdoor place in Boca, and pointed out various celebrity criminals who were eating there, like the one who invented automatic debiting that you can never stop as long as you live. 

Suddenly one of them came over to us: A bear of a man I recognized as Sonny Taylor. Mo introduced us, but fortunately Sonny did not remember my name or face. The last time I saw him, he threatened to break my back over something I wrote about him. 

“You owe me $40,000,” he said gruffly to Mo. 

“What for?” Mo asked. 

“I’m being sued by Walmart for breach of contract, and they were once a client of yours. Somebody’s got to pay.”

“Go fuck yourself,” Mo said. 

“You could end up in a swamp,” Sonny said. 

I was ready to leave at this point, but instead Mo and Sonny started talking business. Sonny needed the emails of 1 million chain smokers, preferably hooked  on opioids.

“I’ve got them,” Mo said. 

They negotiated a price on the spot. And when it ended, Mo said, “I’ll have my lawyer contact you about the Walmart suit.”

“Why are you caving in to this extortion attempt?” I asked Mo when Sonny had left.

“I need the list order. I’ll pay him $10,000. It’s a cost of doing business.”    

“Do you really have that many smokers?”

“No, but he won’t know the difference.” 

I watched Sonny return to his table, then noticed a desiccated-looking man wearing a knit cap, sunglasses and an inhaler, seated in a wheel chair. It couldn’t have been his father, because I wrote the old man’s obituary 15 years ago. 

“Who is that man in the wheelchair?” I asked Mo. 

“I don’t know. Probably a client.”

“Who wheels his client around in a wheelchair?”

“It doesn’t pay to ask questions,” Mo said. 

We had dessert, and I typed up the flawed Inc 500 data. Then I flew back to New York (at my own expense), and Mo returned to Tampa. 

A couple of weeks later, Mo emailed me a link to this local story:

Man Busted In Florida For Digital Fraud

A Florida man was arrested Wednesday for his alleged role in an international conspiracy to sell fraudulent pennystocks online. 

Sonny Taylor, age 65, of Boca Raton, was booked after a brief armed standoff outside his home at the Luxuria condominiums. 

Police are also looking for an unidentified man in a wheelchair, who fled on foot. They believe he may be Taylor’s brother Sidney, age 70, long thought to be dead but still on the wanted lists of the FBI  and Interpol.”

I nearly choked on my Starbucks Americano. Sid Taylor was reported dead 20 years ago, believed to be eaten by crocodiles in Central America. 

 “Is this true? I emailed Mo. 

“It’s him,” he replied. 

Well, it figures: There’s no way Sonny could have come up with an online scam on his own, especially one that pulled in $100 million, as the story said. But he was clearly going to take the rap for it. Sid was still missing, the last I heard.   

As for Mo, he failed to make the Inc 500, the Inc 1000, or even the Inc 100,000, as far as that goes. 

Note: Any resemblance between these characters and living persons is strictly coincidental.