Sunday, February 20, 2011

Sunday rerun: He was the only one of us who "knew too much"

This is a real true story about a real guy. That's as far as the facts go. I know only this - and I 'm going to be as vague as Sarah Palin on a geography final exam, because, well, because.

This guy came to work with us in the early 80's. He had been some sort of bookkeeper for some wise guys, and he knew too much. It's never wise to know too much about wise guys. He went over to the Feds and testified about what he knew. Then the Feds put him in the Witness Protection program, and called our boss to say that he would be starting work with us on midnight shift the following Monday, and had been given a new name and Social Security number.

We could tell they were real FBI guys from out of town because they said "Social Security" number, instead of the way people from here say it ("Soshacurity") with a trail of expletives preceding it when they try to drive through the traffic jam engendered by that federal behemoth on the west side. ("Wesside").

I also wondered if there was a Federal office in charge of making up new names for these protectees. Did some guy in a fedora look at them for a while and say, " 'Joe.' You look like a 'Joe' to me."

Anyway. The guy shows up for work, does pretty well at it, and every now and again the Feds would call the boss and say that he would be picked up at such-and-such a time, to be transported to some distant city to testify against men with flamboyant nicknames. Oh, and he was to be marked "present" for any days he missed, and paid just as if he were at work.

And every now and again he would leave work at 7 AM and drive straight up to New York to get his bagel on, or however they say that sort of thing now. He went up there to get bagels, because they make the best ones up there; how's that sound? And that night he would present his shift with a dazzling array of bagels, bialys, schmears with the cream cheese, lox, whitefish, pickled herring...the only way it could have been more New York would have been if he had taken everyone to Central Park and had them mugged.

Then one day he got sick and then sicker and eventually died. Or not. There still exists a lively debate about that. No one actually saw him; all contact came from phone calls toward the end, and then someone got a message that he was gone and had left instructions about who was to get what of his personal effects. I don't know and I guess I never will. I did once ask him if he thought it was ok for me to go by the mob nickname of "Marky the Existentialist" and he said he'd have to check with Paulie Bananas or Vinny Bagodonuts or one of his other contacts.

And that's all I know, Your Honor.

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