Tell us about a time when someone had you completely fooled, where the wool was pulled right over your eyes and you got hoodwinked, but good. Was it a humorous experience or one you’d rather forget? What was the outcome?
Dinner one night last month at Tonio’s on 16th Street was a meal that I would like to forget but, probably never will.
I was dining alone. Staring at a big plate of antipasto that had just been set in front of me and I was preparing to dig in when the front door opened. I felt the cold air blast the back of my neck. A wave of silence followed the chill. The silence started with the tables closest to the door and worked its way towards the kitchen. I felt the silence and the stillness, so alien in this busy Italian eatery. It was palpable, everything stopped. Everyone stopped. I swiveled my head towards the entrance and there stood Rico the Reaper. The most feared enforcer for the Mezzanotte Family. Don Mezzanotte controlled all the gambling, booze, and prostitution in Shelby County. Rico the Reaper was his right hand man. Most people never saw Rico twice.
Rico the Reaper was well known. I had seen his photo in the paper but never seen him in person. Despite this, I recognized him right away. He didn’t look like a “hit man”. He looked more like a high school football coach. Like he had once been athletic but had gotten soft. Rico was about 50-55 years old. His once black hair was going gray and was noticeably absent on the top. I guessed he was about 6 feet tall. He wore bifocals, and sported a noticeable paunch, evidence of “la bella vida” and an affection for the good things. He wore black trousers, paired with a pastel green golf shirt under an olive tweed sports coat – the jacket, cut loose beneath the arms. His outfit was accessorized by a gold chain around his neck and a matching gold bracelet.
Rico stood in the doorway and surveyed the main dining room with wide eyes. He must not have seen what, or who, he was looking for so he moved towards the hallway at the back of the room and disappeared into the gloom. A brief commotion ensued from a back room. Phht, Phht; and it was still again. The Reaper reappeared and once again looked around the room. His eyes met mine and he paused, interrupted his surveillance. Slowly a smile spread across his face, he closed one eye (his left one), raised his hand and pointed his index finger directly at me. Then he moved to the door and disappeared into the night.
I almost wet my pants. Oh shit, what does it mean when a hit man points and winks at you? Am I next? Who’s dead in the other room? Does a silenced pistol really make that noise? I thought that was just in the movies?
I lived in mortal terror and constant fear for the next two weeks then it dawned on me. I had been so stupid. I hadn’t been targeted. I’d just been hoodwinked.
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