By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
He paid serious dues to reach this point — some 20 years of survival in the California prison system. His gang designation meant that his most recent jail time wasn’t in the main compound, where he helped rule the roost, but confined within a Security Housing Unit — 23 hours a day of lockdown in a 7-by-10-foot pen.
His last stretch at Pelican Bay State Prison pretty much snuffed out his remaining humanity. A medium-size, black-haired, head-to-toe tattooed, and goatee-faced terror, Matty stares out at the world with eyes that are little black dots of dead space, although this soulless and soul-chilling stare should not be confused with a lack of cunning or nerve. And though Matty has no legit career, he’s got the job skills he needs.
As it turned out, Boy Toy was an easy job, but you never know, comments Matty, as we sit chatting in his living room, where the damp ocean breeze is wafting into the apartment along with his neighbor’s barbecue.
"When they don’t get the message, it’s really pretty bad," he says. "I’ll shake their hand and tell them, ‘Okay, have a nice day,’ and then make like all is forgotten for a month or so. Then I’ll turn up at their house with a goon or two to back me. Sometimes I’ll stick a broken bottle into their mouths and smack them six times hard in the jaw. Well, that’ll bust the crowns off Superman. I’ve had to do that and Dodger-bat the knees more than once."
He pauses. "Frankly, I don’t get off on it; the guys who do are bound to fuck up."
If the job requires a hit, Matty prefers to subcontract: "For the 10 grand on a bigger hit, I can sub it out to some kid for 500 and pocket the rest. They want to make their rep; mine’s made already."
He never inclines toward murder: "That’s childish. I like to work things out between people so that everybody is satisfied. That takes brains. My old partners from the pen can’t believe that; they think you’re soft if you don’t kill."
Intimidation is his preferred weapon. "Let them know through their friends that I’m a made man, and that’s usually enough. In my line of work, your reputation is everything. Appear soft or stupid and you’re through."
But there are always hard-asses. Last year, a gentleman refused to stop stalking one of Betsy’s girls. The dude was breaking into her house, and she was petrified, so Matty moved fast and confronted him. When the fellow told Matty to buzz off, he whipped a bolt cutter from his coat pocket and performed a quick amputation of the man’s pinkie. "Handed him a bandana and told him his play time was over."
There’s a market for what Matty does, something he figured out after departing Pelican Bay in 1993. He’d taken a job as muscle for a madam, and quickly noticed that the girls were always getting into jams, mostly with boyfriends. So Matty began to work these things out on the side. Eventually, the word of mouth was that Matty was an evil, but cool-headed, dude who could avoid blood spill.
His range of clients is varied, such as the person who is being blackmailed but can’t call in the police. Or the sugar daddy who wants to make sure no one is messing with his mistress. His fee can be a flat sum, say $2,500 for "discouraging" a stalker, or, for debts, three times (or more) the cost of purchasing the debt. The price is steep because of his "reputation," as he’ll say.
Or let’s say a gang has a problem with another gang. "Blacks in L.A. don’t trust each other at all," he says, "so they will come to the Salvadorans or to a Chicano like me. They can’t use their own kind or it could escalate into war." In this scenario, Matty’s an unblushing mercenary. "Bloods and Crips, I play those fools off on each other all the time," he says. "If one bids higher than the other, they got me."
When those kinds of clients ask him to settle turf disputes, he’ll even make use of the hated Los Angeles Police Department, helping bust rival gangs to undermine their market share, as it were.
He stands, spits out the doorway and stares angrily straight ahead. "I’ll get the cops to do my dirty work. Like I care about the blacks. They ain’t my people anyway."
With his skill and pay scale, life would be better if he hadn’t spent so much dough on drugs. And right now, his ass is getting kicked by hepatitis C, which he’s had for at least 10 years. Pallid and listless, he’s already had two naps, and it’s barely noon. He’s hardly eaten more than a doughnut.
"I’m going in for a liver biopsy in a month or so, to see how bad it is," he confides. "Best thing about it is the Demerol IV — hey, legal dope is okay, right?"
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