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How would a crime boss live?

Caged Maiden

Article Team
Hi folks!

So I've been writing a story about a crime boss' mistress, and through the first couple chapters, I didn't feel the need to detail WHERE they lived, only what the house was like and some general details about the town itself, like that it was a port town founded on trade, and that imports and exports were the main foundation of the economy.

If I had to compare the town to one in history, i'd say it's sort of like Renaissance Venice in some ways (though it has a mayor rather than a doge, and there is a civilian guild council, rather than a noble senate). It's independent of any king or local nobility (no one owns it, but trade guilds govern commerce). There are wealthy, middle class, and lower class families, and it's a populous town, one of the biggest in the country.

I guess my question is how would a crime boss live, and I'm looking for ideas that will hopefully fit into what I've already created. I'm worried that in the first draft, critiques indicated that some of what I have planned seems unlikely because I didn't plan it out in a manner that's convincing, so i'm trying to remedy that in this rewrite.

In The Lies of Locke Lamora, Capa Barsavi lived in a shabby dwelling in the lower-class part of town. He was surrounded by criminals and therefore had a sort of buffer against the outside world, functioning among the lower rungs of society.

In Borgias, the conniving and criminal members of the family were wealthy and lived a lavish lifestyle, yet weren't guarded from the outside world, really. They had reputations that kept them safe, and allies that supported them, and since their patriarch was the pope...well, there were assassination attempts and plenty of folks trying to do away with the corruption, but the family functioned separate from the government itself for the most part.

I was watching Wolf of Wall Street a couple nights ago, and in the ending, after learning all about this loud character and his outrageous behavior, I was left wondering where his house was, because there were no neighbors, and seemingly no one cared what he was up to. No protestors or angry visitors complaining about how he was ripping them off (at least not in the movie), and there was very little security shown (I can't remember any at all).

So, in my story, a few chapters from now, some people barge into the crime boss' manor and take my MC forcibly from the house. The early comments from feedback were questions of whether that could even happen?

What do you guys think? If my crime boss lives in a mansion, and it's set within the town, is it unlikely that someone could force their way into his house? I envision his home being rather similar to the brothel in Assassin's Creed II, where it's a lone house that takes up the block. Three stories, with a fenced garden and trees surrounding it for privacy. No adjoining neighbors, and not too much foot traffic. I feel like he lives in the garden district, among wealthy families, but then it made me think about how his neighbors view his loud parties and the kind of folks he invites over, like Wolf of Wall Street.

I have not established a city guard in this city, and I don't know whether Renaissance Venice had one or not. I have hired security in this home for parties, to keep things calm in the case of conflicts, but I didn't know whether he'd have permanent security in place. Again, referencing those examples above. Is permanent security necessary? Indicated? Desirable?

How can I feasibly have an intruder defeat whatever security measures are in place? The tech level is like late Renaissance, where most people carry swords for personal protection, but guns exist and are expensive and rare.

Any thoughts would be great. I'm probably missing some of the questions I should be asking, as well.

Thanks in advance!


toujours gai, archie
How would a crime boss live?

Sorry, couldn't pass that up.

First, an easy answer: yes, Venice had police. I can't remember the Italian, but it translates to something like Night Patrol. They carried symbols of office and were, if I recall correctly, the only ones allowed to carry swords at night. Most medieval towns tended to lock up tight after sunset, with the assumption being that folks out after dark were probably up to no good or else walked with an entourage. They would even chain off streets at night.

Anyway, few crime bosses would pass up the chance to look respectable. Your guy could have layers of crime around him, with those closest and most public being "regular" folk who just happened to be on the take. Judges, notaries, bankers. Beyond them would be a network of smugglers, enforcers, and others who could move readily between the surface to the under world. Then there would be the full-on criminal element--assassins, thieves, drug dealers, etc.

Our "hero" would rarely need to come in contact with the lower elements of his criminal empire. Therefore, you can readily place him in a respectable part of town, as lavish or as modest as you wish (he'd likely have at least one residence in the country, and would control various buildings in the city to which he could repair at need).

Most great men, regardless of reputation and occupation, rarely went about town alone. The old Roman term was the corona--a nimbus of petitioners, dependents, servants, relatives and, of course, bodyguards. These would mobilize at a word and arm themselves nearly as quickly.

If the crime boss is at home, I see two ways in: stealth or subterfuge. The latter is the easier. Come in as a friend, then spring an ambush. A tale as old as time, as the saying goes.


Troglodytic Trouvère
Article Team
Often organized criminal networks would set up compounds where the bosses lived if they lived a public life in the city or on the countryside. Your crimeboss' mansion could contain a number of bedrooms for his guards. You could also have your crimeboss' closest comrads live in the same neighborhood as him.This would ofcourse make people more suspicious of him, as it is difficult to keep this large amount of armed men living near eachother a secret. But because there is no modern post-napoleon policeforce in your city, he could get away with it. Night patrols and the like are not quite like our modern policeforces. They existed to keep the streets safe and orderly, not to do investigative research. They were usually bound to an individual lord instead of the state itself. A number of bribes here and there and the lord of crime is as safe as can be from the law and fellow criminals.

How can an intruder get in? Stealth and subterfuge as skip said. Or you could simply besiege the mansion with a bigger force, or shoot cannons at it. Crimebosses usually aren't prepared for an open war with anyone.


Crime bosses have an entourage. Think of Pablo Escobar, any of the men from Goodfellas (best movie EVER), the Godfather, etc. They all had people around them to protect their businesses, interests, and family. They set up fortresses and many houses sometimes to evade the law. Now, if they're Italian mafia they will also have legitimate businesses for obvious reasons.

Intruders would risk their lives trying to enter one of their homes. Infiltration isn't something that happens simply. If you're trying to keep this more realistic, then think of how cops surround the homes in mass, how they hunt these crimes bosses down like animals sometimes, how they have men infiltrate like undercover FBI trying to make friends with the boss' cronies and work their way up to the top. Never a direct confrontation unless they catch boss off guard which is REALLY hard btw. These guys are always protected, always surrounded. I suggest thinking of an infiltrator, a woman, or magic, or poison.

You could seriously have some fun with this and watch some crime boss movies. Do you need a list? Because I've seen them all. :D!
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R.H. Smith

Excellent question. I think before we could get down to the nitty gritty we would have to see what type of char is your crime boss. Is he the quiet type? Doesn't need to make noise, doesn't like to call attention to himself, or is he a show-off? If he's the quiet type, then maybe something like what you described from Assassins Creed. If he's a show-off loudmouth, then he'd have this opulent home that would probably shine from miles away. Being a crime boss, he will get paranoid and have guards out the wazoo to protect him. This means people cannot just stroll, or even fight/force their way in. One would have to be an elite, some type of training in non-detection, military like, or a group of people like that. Other than that, I really don't see how anyone could get in, unless it was an inside job where one of his guards is dissatisfied and gets bribed to allow someone in.


I am with Mr. Smith.

I would need to know a lot more about your crime boss (not a crime boss) before I could give you any ideas for the problem.

It would help to know about a) his personality b) the nature of the crime or his criminal enterprises or empire and c) a little bit about how much competition there is and how that competition tends to express itself.

Caged Maiden

Article Team
So, he's a show-off. He holds elaborate parties and invites his rival dons to play cards and gamble and drink and carouse with whores from his parlor. The thing about this crime network is that while they're all rivals in business, they are a sort of family, or more like the mob, competing families that have a mutual respect and peace until something goes wrong.

He's loud and obnoxious, and has a pretty good group of entourage. He doesn't go out in the town in the course of the story, but he'd be escorted by his entourage if he did, I suppose. His business is importing drugs from another land, and he owns two ships that do his transport, and he's building a third. He also runs a protection racket with some other business owners. Money-lenders, trade guilds, and small business owners who work in his neighborhoods. His rival dons are in their own businesses. One of them runs a protection racket in another part of town and has mercenaries who he sends to work as security, and he runs smugglers. Another has a bunch of small legitimate-ish businesses he owns, and he's the subject don's drinking and drug buddy. And the last one is dealing drugs, too, but doesn't have the market cornered like the subject don, and he runs thieves who recently started to steal magic stuff and they sell it in on a black market in other cities.

As far as security, I think of these guys like senators. Their reputations keep them pretty safe, they each have their own business and there's relatively little infighting. They cut deals with each other and trade things all the time, so usually the deals go smoothly. Except, the lower ranking drug dealer is trying to take some territory away from the subject don, with the help of the MC mistress, who is really pulling a con over on the low-ranking guy, but she's doing it for her benefactor, the subject don. Out about in the town, they'd all have armed escorts around them, but their battle is not with the townsfolk, because common people don't mess with them, and the dons don't really have much to gain from the poor anyways. They go after the middle class, receiving money from their drugs and whores, and the wealthy people in town steer clear of the dons and their businesses because they value their own lives, and people who step on the dons' toes tend to disappear quietly and surface in the bay.

His home is a mansion, extravagant and ostentatious. He'd have a gate in the front drive to keep out the uninvited, but the gates are open for parties and during the day. The parlor out back is usually open all the time because night is when the whores do their business. I suppose it could make sense if they weren't connected buildings, but the way the story is laid out, I already settled on this being a really big house that has a parlor and garden out back for this purpose and it would cause a lot of issues to change it now. However, the parlor isn't meant to attract street traffic. There's plenty of brothels in the city that cater to everyday sorts of folks. The guests are all upper-class and mostly the women in the parlor work the parties and gambling tournaments, getting paid for affection they show at the table (more like high-paid escorts) and they invite certain preferred clientele around on the nights there isn't an event happening at the house.

The current staff living the home (that I've detailed) is my MC, his mistress. A young girl in her care. Some servants (mostly young women and boys) who cook and clean and set up the tables for parties and generally take care of the household. Parlor girls (about 8 of them) who work the parties and make half of their earnings, with the don taking the other half for room and board in the parlor. A few agents that are entourage. That's it. There might be visitors staying from time to time, but I didn't put them into the story, and since the MC is not invested in the house, I don't go into a lot of details about it, other than calling it "the kind of house that attracts middle-aged crime bosses like flies to shit" and "stupidly rich for a man who came from meager beginnings" and so on. She isn't impressed, but enjoys the luxury nonetheless.

The dons don't meet in public, probably of the same reason mob bosses tend to not all get together in one building...it's too easy to take them all out at one, I suppose. However, they get together at parties, holidays, and for their sports (like coursing and hunting) away from the city, in private. Again, the unwritten rule is that they each bring one agent, and that's it. NO fights have ever broken out at tone of those gatherings. They set aside pettiness to talk business for everyone's mutual benefit.


toujours gai, archie
I still have to wonder about just barging in and taking your MC by force. I will assume a frontal assault is required by the story (but if not, you might consider alternatives).

The scene that springs to mind, of course, is from Scarface, the final assault on his home. In that case, the attackers were heavily armed, but the scene also depends on Scarface being somewhat betrayed, so that his defenses were not as strong as he thought they would be.

How else might attackers carry the day? One would be to attack during or after a drunken revel. The defenders would be incapacitated.

Another would be a Trojan Horse scenario. One or a few key players on the inside leave one or a few key avenues unguarded. Surprise will be everything.

The neighbors, I should think, would largely hide in their homes, waiting to see who emerges triumphant (hurray for the victor, he's our man!). So you won't need to take much notice of them. Any police would likewise stay well away, the stakes being very high.

You might put some thought to the aftermath. Would there be a pursuit? Where will the rescuers stash the MC? Think of the Pazzi conspirators in the wake of their attempt to take over Florence. Many of this sort would have rural villas, but of course those locations would be known to all. But they would also have the support of the rural peasantry, support not to be sneezed at.


Troglodytic Trouvère
Article Team

Just poison their drinking water or their food. Because he's a rich man in the renaissance, he probably has a private well.
So step 1: Get someone in his mansion
Step 2: Poison the well inconspicuously
Step 3: Profit

Guards dead, don dead, morality non-existent.

Caged Maiden

Article Team
Oh man, I really have some more thinking to do, don't I? HA! I planned the don to survive, but it's not important to th story for him to live. I just don't want to mow everyone down like GRRM. :)