Waiter: Who Ordered Rat?
The last meal Mikey Cheese ever enjoyed happened to be in an Italian restaurant in Naples. For those that knew him, the choice was about as shocking as finding out the Pope was Catholic.
We had arranged the interview shortly before his indictment by the tribunale for the murders of Johnathan and Mary Russo. The case was expected to be a slam dunk, thanks to the overwhelming DNA evidence that had since proved Mike’s presence the night they were killed. The only reason my newspaper was involved at all was because of his dual-citizenship and the close proximity to the Amanda Knox case.
Plus, Mike promised a whopper of a tale that would increase our sales.
As far as I know, my recording of his side of the story is the only one in existence. He was murdered that same night.
Umberto was bustling. Mike had picked the best place in Naples for what was sure to be his final meal outside of prison. Truthfully, I was thankful for it, because the food was delicious and the wait gave us more time to talk; without interruptions.
Strategic planning paid off, because as soon as we sat down in the uncomfortable wooden seats, Mike started in.
“John was a fucking child, in every sense of the word. He didn’t know squat about business. A forty-five year-old nobody who stumbled onto the inheritance of his fat drunk father, and his fat drunk father’s father, and fuck knows how many before that.“
“His casa was somewhere out in the hills of rural Italy, and the heat was so bad that this stupid guinea from Jersey had to sit under a tarp every day and watch people make money off of HIS crop. Can you believe that shit? He paid employees to harvest the vino while he sat on his ass. These fuckin’ farmhands got a cut out of every. Fuckin’. Sale this this loser ever made.”
He paused there, staring thoughtfully at the Camel hanging from my mouth.
“You got anymore of those cigarettes? I don’t like the menthol in ’em. What’s the fuckin’ point right?“
I nodded and push over my spare pack of Reds. Placating was an easy way to score points.
“Anyway. Italy bred cowards like this. And they shipped them out to Jersey, or Brooklyn, or the Bronx, or New Haven; or any of these shit-holes half a world away when it was clear they could not cut the mustard. It was Darwin.“
“And then, some of these little punks, they get lucky. They crawl out of the muck and mire of America and they wanna bring it on home, baby. Back to Italy. But they don’t pay us any respect when they do. Johnny Boy changes his fuckin’ name to Gennaro, pays a couple employees, and he thinks he’s a native… immune to a little local protection. And what’s worse is he does this off the sweat of your land. Of your people.“
“So what do we do with a man like this. Tell me.“
He stopped again, eyeing me up and down as if preparing for an impromptu fight. I said nothing. It helped, growing up in an Italian-American family. I knew at some point that Mike would test resolve like a pit bull.
“Fine, I’ll fuckin’ tell you. We watch his habits for a couple days. Watch when he leaves his little post under the tarp. Watch when he goes inside to fuck his fat little wife. Watch how long it takes him to squeak out one of those last little tastes of ecstasy when the sun’s beatin’ down on you and the air conditioner doesn’t work.“
“He was in bed by nine, no later every night. The hussy would read a Cosmo, or whatever the fuck they have over there in Europe and she would conk out by 9:30. They slept like fuckin’ logs, the two of them.“
“So we do the works on the electricity, and we go in. We… we weren’t even trying to be quiet, was the thing. Dooley is all about pocketing stuff, taking valuables and making a profit out of a calamity. He’s actually askin’ me if he thinks we can fit the big screen in the back of my trunk. I admired Dooley for that, all the time, it was smart. He was a better businessman.“
Mike was stalling. “What did you see when you got in the house?” I asked.
“Patience princess,” he spit back ruefully. Mike was sweating at this point. It was subtle at first, but after dabbing his napkin to his forehead I could see it come back soaked. For a moment, it seemed like he actually felt bad about the murders.
“In Italy, taking guns places is usually more of a problem than a solution with the local government. So I got an ax. I got Dooley futzing around in the kitchen asking about sterling silver knives, or pottery structures, or delicate lilies, or fuck knows. I got two silent hippopotamus layin’ in the other room sleepin’ and askin’ for an axin’. I was ready to go to town.“
Mike learned forward, looking right into my eyes. When he spoke next, it was only after pausing and searching around us for a few full moments. His voice was so low it was hard to hear him right.
“So I go into the bedroom… and they were laying in bed… but their faces… there was something wrong with their faces.“
The waiter stepped over and took our orders at that point. He was patient with me, as I gave the menu another glance and asked about a few options. Finally, I settled on the chicken Parmesan. Mikey asked for the veal without looking up.
He gave the waiter a couple moments to walk away, and then pressed his arms on the table before continuing his story in a mumble that lacked all of the confidence of the previous five minutes.
“This is the part… I don’t know how I am going to explain this shit to a jury, God help me, their faces were peeling.“
He was nervous now, and those unflattering beads of sweat had filled his forehead.
“I do not… if you print this, wait until after the trial. Please do me that courtesy.“
I nodded, suddenly infatuated with what I was hearing. “Why were their faces peeling?“
“How the fuck should I know why? We had just gotten there. We never did anything to them like that. And they were still MOVING, for fuck’s sake. They sat up in bed, like a couple of string puppets. I screamed out to Dooley, and he came running in the room. Their eyes were black at that point, like two pairs of tiny little beads. They stood up, and Mary the cow grabbed poor Dooley by the throat.“
“Then, hand on my heart, she squeezed his Adam’s Apple like it was an orange. Right up until the thing popped in her hand.“
The sweat was suddenly a problem. Mikey’s clothes were drenched in it, and thin lines had formed at his collar and underarms. I was starting to worry. Was there something in his whiskey? Was it my cigarettes? But Mike kept talking, and for some reason he was raising his voice louder, and louder.
“So then Johnny turns to me, with those black fuckin’ eyes. And when he walks up, it’s like this weird shuffle. Like he ain’t never used legs before. One leg forward, then the other one, then the other one. Like a fuckin’ Frankenstein or somethin’. I’ve got the ax in my hand, and I swing it at one of those legs. It hits home, getting lodged in part of Johnny’s fuckin’ knee bone. But he keeps walking.“
“When he lifts his arms up, he rests them on my shoulder and stares at me with those black fuckin’ eyes. There’s still a fuckin ax in his knee bone, okay?“
Mikey sobbed, softly, and composed himself silently by wiping his brow with a napkin and steadying his voice.
“Finally, I got the blade free with my arms, and whacked it against John’s head. He went down like a sack of potatoes from that. I moved onto Mary, who still had her hands on poor fuckin’ Dooley. I swung the ax right into those black fuckin’ eyes.“
So there it was, a confession. He killed them.
Mike seemed to sense my lack of surprise. “The whole thing was shocking… but in my line of work… I had to compose myself. There were three bodies, and I knew it was my responsibility to scrub the place for evidence. I went back out into the car, got the bleach and the rest of my gear, and came back.“
He took another sip of his whiskey.
“The jury is never going to believe this shit. You won’t either, so I might as well tell you the whole thing while I can.“
I nodded, encouraging him to finish.
“When I came back, there was water all over the walls. It was like they sprung a leak somewhere in the ceilings. I checked the rooms, looked at every single wall and found water falling down all of them. But the floor was still dry. It wasn’t pooling anywhere that I could see.“
“I had just about had enough of this shit. Dooley and me brought gasoline. I hated to send him out that way, but it had to be done. I moved the three of them together in the center of the room and started to drip the gas on them…“
Suddenly, the waiter was beside us again and setting down our plates. I was annoyed. Not only had he interrupted our conversation, but the food he brought was obviously not chicken Parmesan and Veal.
“Uh, excuse me, this is not what we ordered,” I offered, in my best poor Italian.
The waiter smiled, and replied in perfect English.
“Isn’t it? Two rats. One for Mikey, and one for me. Did he not get to that part of the story yet?“
The color ran out of Mike’s face. I stared at him, completely unprepared for the scenario. Journalists had backup, sure, but my escape route was to call someone from the bathroom if I felt unsafe. There was nowhere to run.
For a second, I could have sworn the middle-aged man’s eyes turned black. Mike saw it too, because he stood up to leave. But the waiter quietly pushed him back down, and continued in a cold voice.
“The rats came, and swallowed up all of poor Dooley’s face. Sad thing. Tut tut. Mike could not stand the site of it. He ran out of the house, out to his car, and nearly out of our reach. Ain’t that right, Mikey?“
Mike tried to run, to scream. But nobody in the restaurant seemed to notice or care what happened next. The waiter leaned forward and grabbed hold of his sweaty Adam’s Apple and popped it like a cherry.
Blood covered the table in a squirting paste as Mike slumped forward. I was paralyzed. The waiter gestured graciously to me and turned to walk away.
“Bon apetite,” was all he said.
I actually had to go up to the stand and notify them that Mike had been murdered. No one had noticed. By the time I returned to the table, the blood was gone. But the mafia-man was still dead.
After an extensive autopsy, it was ruled he died from a heart-attack. There were no wounds to the Adam’s Apple and his throat was found to be fully intact. The waiter we met was never found. The staff claimed that nobody there fit his description.
After six months of lobbying, there wasn’t a single publication interested in my story. The police didn’t care.
Hell, you probably won’t be either.
But I know what happened, that night in Naples. And it’s past time somebody else should too.