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The Danger in Talking to Strangers
by Donna M. Carbone

As any Italian will tell you, we tend to gravitate to each other. Italian doctors, Italian lawyers (well, maybe not lawyers) Italian contractors, Italian restaurants -- we just feel more comfortable among our own kind. So, it is no surprise that a percentage of my husband's patients were Italian businessmen....the "family" business, that is.

Now, to be honest, you would not know what career these men had chosen just by looking at them. Oh sure, there were a few -- DA haircut, tight fitting rolled sleeve tee shirt, cigarette dangling from their lips and a hunk of wire and a handgun hanging at the waist -- those might be dead giveaways. For the most part, though, they looked just like everyone else.

Nicknames told a different story if you were privy to them. The capo di tutti capi in our county was Blackie, named for the color of his unrepentant soul (or the god-awful toupee he always wore). His two body guards were named The Hammer and Nick the Knuckle. A less fear inducing member of the group was the adorable Red Richie -- tall, thin, handsome face, blue eyes – really angelic looking. Unfortunately, any further association with angels happened only in the hereafter.

The one and only time I met Red, he was standing in our driveway smoking a cigarette. I was just returning home from walking, Sheikira, our wolf, and he stopped me to comment on what an unusual and beautiful animal she was. We talked for a while, and, when I finally went into the house, I did so with thoughts of "what a nice guy" in my head. After office hours, I mentioned him to my husband.

"Oh, shit, please don't get into any more conversations with him."

"Why? He was so nice."

"Yeah, nice for a hit man."


I was fascinated and, of course, hoping that Red Richie would need another appointment very soon.  Each day, I watched from the living room window hoping to see his car parked in the driveway. Having a home office definitely has its pros and cons (pun intended).

A few weeks passed with no sign of RR. Then, one night on the evening news, his face filled the screen.  According to the report, Red had entered a bar and used a shotgun to blow the heads off a few of the patrons. He was caught by the police a few days later and, at his arraignment, despite handcuffs and shackles, managed to jump through a second story window at the courthouse and escape.  The police were asking for help in finding him and a reward was being offered. Needless to say, the last we heard, no one had turned him in.

Two brothers, soldiers in Blackie’s army, were also patients. One brother, Joe Joe, was more volatile than the other. Joe Joe had gotten injured on the job (no, not that job) and his lower back, neck and shoulders were hurting badly. He wanted to file a workman's comp case and needed a lawyer. Our receptionist gave him the names of a few attorneys we trusted, showing no preference for any one man. The lawyer he choose, however, happened to be our best friend.

The case proceeded to the point of arbitration, but Joe Joe was not satisfied with the amount of money offered. He insisted on going to court and totally disregarded his attorney's warning that the insurance company would waste no effort in proving his injuries less severe than he claimed. Came the day of the trial and, sure enough, the lawyers for the insurance company produced a video of Joe Joe carrying heavy wooden crates of soda bottles and kegs of beer. Bye, bye settlement. He was angry, but he was angry with the lawyer, not himself.

In a fit of temper, Joe Joe came to our office and threatened to kill our friend. My husband kept him calm, offered him a drink and, while getting that drink, called Blackie, advising him of the situation. At his request, Joe Joe was kept occupied until he arrived.

Watching someone get the shit kicked out of him in the movies is nothing like watching in real life. There's no slow motion. Everything happens so quick that you can neither prepare yourself nor get out of the way. Just as Joe Joe was about to take a sip of his drink, Blackie walked up behind him and hit him so hard in the back of the head that the glass broke and cut into his nose. With blood streaming down Joe Joe’s face, Blackie lifted him out of the chair and delivered a few well-placed punches to his stomach and chin.

Then, with Joe Joe dazed and bleeding, Blackie instructed him, "If one hair on that attorney's head is mussed, this is nothing compared to what I will do to you. You're a f***ing idiot. Get the hell out of my sight."

The Hammer escorted Joe Joe out of the office; Blackie extended a hand in thanks to my husband and was gone. We never saw Joe Joe again, but we did hear stories -- scary stories that I won't repeat just in case he's still alive and able to read.

Now, just so you don't get the wrong impression, we had many more average patients than we did strange characters. Side by side in the waiting room, they shared stories of spouses, kids, pets and everyday life. Anyone listening would never know the difference between them.

YOU would never know the difference. Makes you think twice about talking to strangers, doesn't it?

Married for thirty five years and the mother of the two grown children, I began writing at the age of ten. My first success was winning a poetry contest in grammar school. From that moment forward, I realized that the written word was as vital to my survival as food and air. I am presently working on two books, one of which I hope to finish before I die. A number of my poems have graced A Long Story Short, and I have been published in the Lucidity Journal. Each day inspires me...what I see, hear and experience.... if it stays in my mind, I write about it.  Contact Donna.