A boy from Wildwood New Jersey is obsessed with gaining a place in the South Jersey Mob. Terrorists, the mob, good food, a meteor, a dog named clover and an explosive climax
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This story starts and ends in Wildwood, New Jersey and revolves around a boy named Frankie. From childhood, Frankie Merlino hatched one moneymaking scheme after another, schemes that were not always legal. Some boys dream of being a rock star, some a doctor, Frankie had a different dream altogether. As an adult, while experiencing a dry spell, he stumbled upon an idea of epic proportions. Watching a report on CNN, Frankie came up with a plan that he was certain would help him fulfill his dream. Aided by his best friend, Joey Vitolo who is a minor functionary in the aforementioned organization, Frankie meets with the boss, Mr. Benecasa and sells him on the project.
I'll share with you my knowledge of trade unions, the mob's interplay in Atlantic City and political life along with its consequences here in South Jersey.
Along the way you'll come to love two wise-guys (Sal and Nino) who were dispatched by Mr. B to convince a brilliant physicist, Dr. MacDonald, that it is in his best interest to work on the project.
Dr. MacDonald, though gifted, has his own demons. He is a compulsive gambler as well as a shameless philanderer.
I have often asked why God places gifted minds in defective bodies, a true paradox of life. We'll visit Paris, Naples, Pakistan and Rio. I'll take you to other locations on the Jersey Shore and just maybe I can change your perception of the 'Garden State." On a lighter note, how would you like to be able to smell the wonderful food at Maria's, the restaurant where much of the planning takes place? I'll help you visualize the largest boardwalk in the western hemisphere right here in Wildwood. We'll stroll down wide clean beaches and quite possibly I can take you back to your childhood with memories of amusement rides.
This tale has a dark side however with intrigue, corruption, terrorists and... well for the rest you'll just have to read this book.
By the way, if the terms "towel head" or "camel jockey" offend you I suggest you move along to the romance section.
Father Michael Kelly
What ’s up, Rob?” Elena did not look up, but rather she
sensed his presence. Rob was standing in front of her, it was
probably his cologne.
Rob said, “We just got a call from a family member in A.C.”
“Yeah, so what?” Elena responded.
“Well, he says there are a couple of Middle Eastern types, who are
“Like what?” asked Elena.
“Dunno,” Rob responded, “but I got a hunch about this one, boss.”
“Fuck you, Rob, and don’t call me boss,” said Elena.
“Uh, right, chief.”
“A hunch and that’s it? Get out, Rob.”
Rob went to the door. Without looking up, Elena said, “Follow it up
and give me something really hard.”
Rob smiled. Actually, it was more of a snicker. Elena’s black eyes
glowed red. She looked up slightly and said slowly in a deepened voice
working up toward a crescendo, “If you are thinking what I think you are
thinking, you’re going to be doing surveillance at the fuckin’ city morgue
on the second shift for a few years, got it?”
“God,” he said to himself. “She is gorgeous.”
She knew that sometimes you had to play the odds, follow your gut and
she gave her staff enough room to be savvy cops. Besides she wanted
to see that fat load Benecasa in an orange jump suit and chains. At the
moment, this was her only credible lead.
Later that morning, Agent Miller posted teams at the Atlantic City
Airport, on a hunch and another phone tip. Sure enough at eleven a.m.,
two swarthy looking types got in line at the Continental counter. They
were nervous, glancing to the sides and to the rear. They stood out like
a couple of thumbs that had recently been struck by a sixteen-pound
sledgehammer. When they reached the counter, four agents walked
up to them. One directed the passengers behind them to move away
and the remaining agents asked Tariq and Ahmed to accompany them
to a room behind the counter. Ahmed, ever the diplomat, resisted of
course. Tariq tried and failed to calm him and a major scuffle ensued.
Airport police joined the fray. Without warning, Ahmed pulled out a
50 cal cannon and pointed it at Dave Smith who was standing to the
left of Rob and fired, missing him but blowing out a glass wall behind
the counter. Ahmed should have paid more attention in target practice
class; this made a total of four shots since he arrived on U.S. soil with
no hits. The struggle escalated to a major cluster fuck when Rashid the
Rabid entered the terminal and spotted the scuffle with his cohorts. He
too pulled a gun and started firing at any uniform or suit. All the FBI
and airport cops had guns drawn and blazing. Tariq who tried to stop
Ahmed was the first to hit the floor bleeding from several locations,
probably hit by one of Rashid’s stray shots. Ahmed who started this
mess ran for the door. He might have made it to the exterior and
smelled fresh air, but he made a big mistake by turning and getting
off a few shots. All the good guys trained weapons on him and as the
coroner’s report stated, “The cause of death is attributed to thirteen
bullet entry and nine exit wounds, seven of which caused trauma to
vital organs.” Rashid was no luckier. One well-placed headshot dropped
him. Two were dead at the scene; Rashid almost made it to Atlantic
City Memorial but was DOA.
Frankie and the Big Bang Theory
While the area was being secured and passengers directed to a different
area of the terminal, Agent Miller started going through their luggage.
Nothing he found surprised him except for a small cardboard box, which
bore a wrapper with the picture of a Swiss chalet nestled in a snow
“Dave, check this out.” Rob held the box up for him to see.
Dave said, “Why the hell would these guys have a Swiss snow
Agent Miller said half mockingly, “A gift for his kid?”
With his Swiss Army knife, Rob opened the box and found not a snow
globe but a sphere of some indistinguishable dark grey matter. He turned
it and looked at it closely, then sniffed it. “What the fuck is that?” Dave
looked at Rob.
“Beats the hell out of me.” He sniffed it, too. “Take this back to the
office. We’ll get SSU to look at it.”
Two guys were standing near the main entrance and took in the entire
event. They were far enough away from the action to not be noticed.
After the dust had settled, the larger of the two punched a few numbers
into his cell phone and said, “The problem with our three friends has
been resolved. The package is being examined now.”
The voice on the other end responded, “Good job. Get back to the
office and give me the details.” The smaller of the two guys casually
dropped a key from a nearby motel near the entrance and left.
Two hours later an FBI technician placed the snow globe on a worktable
illuminated by a combination light/magnifying glass. He cautiously opened
the box, looked inside and examined the contents. In an astonished voice
he said, “Jesus H. Christ!”
Rob asked, “What?”
“You’re not going to believe this, guys.” The SSU tech looked up,
removed his glasses and said, “Gentlemen, what you have here is
Agents Miller and Smith who had just taken part in a major shootout
where more than a hundred rounds had been fired, took a few fearful
steps back. This stuff had that kind of an effect on people.
“You’re fuckin’ kidding, right?” said Rob.
“Nope,” said the tech. “I’ll do a few more tests, but I am absolutely sure.”
Rob looked at Dave, “Let’s go see Elena.”
Bless me Father
Exc use me while I take the last bite of this hot dog.
Hiedel’s has the best dogs on the shore, so I don’t want to
waste the last bite. Mmmmm, washed down with a frosty mug of
Dortmunders lager and you’ve got a well-rounded lunch.
I placed a five-dollar bill on the table, wiped my mouth with the paper
napkin, stood up and said goodbye to Günter, who was in partnership
with a well-fed, red-cheeked, very affable wife named Lyse. She manned
the cash register and sang Richard Wagner’s operas with such feeling that
it could bring tears to a grown man’s eyes. Half the patrons waved to me
and shouted goodbye over the tinny speakers playing oompah band music.
Old Günter would always yell at the top of his lungs “Zee you in church,
Fader,” to which I would respond, “Eight a.m. Sunday, my son.” The
regulars would laugh knowing that Old Günter would no more cross the
threshold of a Catholic Church than let a domestic beer cross his lips.
Now that I have replenished myself, let’s have some introductions. I am
Fr. Kelly, Michael James Kelly O.S.F. to be exact. The O.S.F. stands for
Order of Saint Francis. I have been pastor at St. Theresa’s for well, let’s
say a long time. I have been truly blessed; this parish has all the things
that any priest could ever wish or pray for. Good, generous parishioners,
great local restaurants, and a full house at Wednesday night bingo.
The story I am about to relate to you is a compilation of my personal
first-hand knowledge, gossip that has reached me, individuals’ direct
testimony and, God forgive me, what I have heard in the confessional. I
will elaborate on this transgression a little later.
Everything I am about to relate actually took place. I may have gotten
some dates and sequences wrong, but that will not alter the outcome or
detract from the story.
It’s probably best if I start at the beginning.
About thirty years ago, a certain family moved here to Wildwood. I
was in the seminary at the time, but soon after taking my vows, I was
assigned as the associate Pastor at St Theresa’s. I had grown up outside
of Philadelphia, and for as long as I can remember my parents would
load up the station wagon and take my brothers, sisters, and me to
Cape May, Atlantic City or Wildwood for two weeks every summer. I am
the third of five children; I love the Jersey shore.
As I walk out of Hiedel’s, I stroll casually down the boardwalk stopping
here, giving directions to a tourist or two, and bending down to say hello
to a couple of kids from St. T’s grammar school. All these years later,
Wildwood looks just about the same as it did when I was here as a boy. I
am fascinated by the herringbone pattern of the wood plank boardwalk.
Laid out in a diagonal, alternating pattern, it produces the optical illusion
of the boards’ being different shades of grey. My senses detect the smell
of French fries cooking at an open-front stand on the boardwalk, the
honky-tonk sound of the amusement rides, and barkers enticing you
to spin the wheel and take a chance. “One win takes the choice of the
stand,” they say. The little kids pull on their parents’ clothing imploring
them to win the stuffed rabbit or the plate with a cartoon figure painted
on it. Some find this type of amusement, for the lack of a better term,
“low brow.” As a child, I found it fascinating and still do.
Wildwood has several claims to fame; the many motels are designed
in what is recognized as the “doo wop” style, meaning they date from
Frankie and the Big Bang Theory
the 50s. In fact, the song that is generally recognized as the first rock
and roll tune, “Rock around the Clock” was debuted here by Bill H aley
and the Comets in 1954, “Rock Around the Clock.” Bobby Rydell also
recorded a song about our town named, “Wildwood Days.”
When I am sitting in my study at the rectory, I can see the top half
of the Ferris wheel. At night, instead of concentrating on the next day’s
homily, I find myself staring at the wheel, mesmerized by the motion
and the lights. With a breeze off the water, the sounds of the boardwalk
carry; music, a bell ringing now and then and the low rumble of the
numerous rides finds its way west to my room. When I started going to
the boardwalk, it was actually several boardwalks and piers separated by
some land owned by the city. The beach was, and still is, wide and very
clean. In the fifties and sixties, the Morey brothers purchased parts of
the pier. One brother already operated several amusements, and the other
was a builder and developer. They soon realized that they could grow this
pier into something much larger, so when sections became available, they
invested. One of the best acquisitions was Playland, and by the time the
city was ready to sell the land between the two holdings of the Moreys,
they were in a position to bid on it. They paid $345,000 dollars, which
was a lot of money in those days, but these two guys who I have met
many times in the past thirty or so years, were true visionaries. Now
that the pier was united under their banner, they went about the task of
making it the best it could be. They imported rides and amusements from
afar; the result is the largest amusement pier in the western hemisphere.
I haven’t taken a real vacation in more than thirty years; I live on a
perpetual vacation right here in Wildwood.
I love Wednesday nights—bingo night at St. Theresa’s, or “Saint T’s”
as most of the locals call it. Maria, who is the owner and the cook at
“Maria’s Restaurant,” always brings me something on Wednesday nights.
Last Wednesday it was baked manicotti with homemade sausage. The two
hundred or so that pack the school gym often scream at me to slow
down when I call the numbers. I can’t help it, my mind is not entirely on
the game, and it often wanders to a place in heaven where I sit eating an
endless tray of Maria’s baked manicotti. I long to wrap my lips around
the feast Maria has brought, so I tend to rush through the game. I like
calling the numbers. I even make up little biblical shorts such as “B” for
Beelzebub or “I” for Israel. The few new players get a kick out of it; the
regulars usually groan.
I digress. Two of the principal players in this saga are Anthony and
Celeste Merlino; they have two grown kids now, Angela and Frankie.
Celeste is one of my favorite people; she is caring, kind and a phenomenal
cook. If it sounds like I am obsessed with cooking and eating, then God
forgive me, I am. Man does not live by bingo alone.
On any given day, Celeste can be found in the kitchen for a good part
of the day. She takes real pride in providing meals for her family and
friends. Celeste is also one of the pillars of our church.
I made my way back to the church; this afternoon I hear confessions.
The line was not that long. Usually only the regulars came during the
week. Saturday before vigil mass is the big day; however, like clockwork
on any given Wednesday, the regulars line up.
“Bless me, Father, for I have sinned, it’s been five days since my last
confession. I have lied, taken the Lord’s name in vain three times and
argued with my sister-in-law seven times.” I must have told Celeste fifty
times that arguing with her sister-in-law does not necessarily constitute a
sin unless it was done with malice. Celeste would say, “Yes, Father” and
at her next confession, she would include arguing, and I would mentally
“Is that all, Celeste?”
“Yes, Father,” the voice came from the other side of the screen.
“Say five Hail Marys and two Our Fathers. Now make a good act of
While Celeste made her act of contrition, my mind wandered. Celeste
was a good woman, a good wife, a good mother, a good Catholic, but a
Frankie and the Big Bang Theory
real pain in the. . . . Well, she was fastidious in her devotion to keeping
her soul cleansed, although nothing she ever confessed could be construed
as being much more than a minor infraction of God’s laws. If she could
only hear her sister-in-law Dolores’ confession, she would fall face first
into her linguini. I often thought that the absolute confidentiality of the
confessional was taking a good thing to its most extreme degree. God,
save my soul, but what I am about to tell you is made up of about
twenty-five percent of what people have confessed to me, the remainder,
as I have said, is what I could piece together from conversations outside
of that sacrosanct box in which I have spent my Wednesday and Saturday
afternoons for close to thirty years and some first-hand observations. A
small percentage is what I imagine happened.
In order for the reader to gain a full appreciation of this narrative,
some “steamy” subjects must be discussed. When they occur, I will let
the participating parties relate the events and I will turn my back and
figuratively close my eyes and ears.
Having been pastor in this parish for these many years, I, like most
of my colleagues, am able to tell who is on the other side of the sliding
screen by various methods. A few of the giveaways are of course that
you get to know the sound of someone’s voice, some penitents use real
names of people they have transgressed and sometimes, I admit, I can
tell who it is by their silhouette through the screen. Although it is known
today as the act of reconciliation and is performed face to face at a table or
just two chairs, most of the old timers prefer the confessional in order to
hold on to some semblance of anonymity.
Celeste was easy, her voice was distinctive; she kept her hair
meticulously cared for and just off the shoulder. The final give-away
was that she always smelled of fresh basil and garlic, better than cologne
in my book. Being Irish, Italian food is obviously my favorite cuisine.
Unlike her sister-in-law, Celeste never tried to alter her voice in order to
remain anonymous. Come to think of it, that in itself is very funny. In
the thirty years I have known her, Celeste never missed mass on Sunday
or any of the holy days, which carry with them the punishment of a
mortal sin if they are missed. Celeste is old-school Catholic. No Saturday
afternoon mass for her. Celeste never confessed a mortal sin to me in all
For those of you who find this Catholic dogma and jargon hard to
follow, let me explain. A mortal sin is a sin that, if not confessed and
forgiven, will keep you from eternal life in heaven; simply put you are
damned to hell for all eternity. Venial sins are the small ones—lying,
cursing, evil thoughts and the like fall into this category. Catholics are
required to attend church on Sunday and holy days of obligation. If you
do not attend, a mortal sin is registered in heaven alongside your name on
the Holy spreadsheet, and the only way to expunge it from your record
is to see me on Wednesday or Saturday in the confessional. I myself go
to St. Vincent’s in Cape May for my own confession. Monsignor Denning
is the pastor. He was ordained the same year that I began seminary. A
great priest and a good guy—I consider him a friend. Yes, priests do go
to confession. We are human, so therefore we are not perfect. We are not
Let me switch gears to get to my story. In order to continue, I need to
bring you up to speed about the inner workings, as I understand them, in
Atlantic City, New Jersey. The reason I am going to relate this to you will
become apparent later in this narrative.
If you think there is no longer any mob involvement in the casino
industry, you are sorely mistaken. My friends from out of state often
ask me questions about Atlantic City or AC as we locals call it. So I
did some informal research. The most often asked question is “Does the
mob own AC?” Next, they ask if the mob runs AC. A bit of New Jersey
history, if I may.
At the inception of legalized gambling in New Jersey in the early 1970s,
the mob had a huge role in the gaming industry. Even with massive
oversight from the state as well as federal governments, they found their
way in. This is, after all, New Jersey. As the years went by, that ownership
Frankie and the Big Bang Theory
interest diminished; the mob found itself getting out of the regulated
end of gambling and sought out more lucrative adventures with less
scrutiny from Big Brother. They invested in real estate and politicians.
In New Jersey, crooked politicians are considered a renewable resource. In a
sense, the mob became the rainmakers; men with names ending in vowels
decided who got into local office and, as an intended consequence, who
ultimately gets gaming licenses.
Unlike Las Vegas, Atlantic City never became a “destination” vacation
spot. The state and local leaders locked arms and got in step behind the
party line that legalized gambling would return AC to its former glory
as a family vacationland. Atlantic City was, of course, a major vacation
spot that had reached its zenith at the end of the 1800s, and then slowly
spiraled down to the depths of a black hole whose only claim to fame
by the tumultuous sixties was as home of the “Miss America Pageant.”
Most of us in New Jersey have either never been to Atlantic City or have
only been there for seminars or organizational conferences. In my own
case, I have been there twice for educator conferences and did not stay
overnight. The horrible fact for Atlantic City is that in order to own a
casino in AC, you need to build hotel rooms. These hotel rooms lag well
behind Las Vegas’ occupancy rate and are therefore a financial albatross.
AC enjoys almost five miles of wide beaches, beaches that are primarily
used by travelers from Philadelphia and Northern New Jersey, tourists
who come with a blanket, a cooler filled with the family’s lunch, and who
spend the day but not a lot of money. Most tourists walk the boardwalk,
drop a few dollars there and walk into the lobby of a casino or two, but
rarely do more than throw a few quarters into a slot machine.
Las Vegas on the other hand has many high rollers who drop a ton of
cash at each visit. AC, by contrast, makes its money from retired folks
dropping ten dollars at a clip, and these bluehairs come by the busload
from a one hundred-mile radius. AC on any given weekday looks like the
Greyhound bus terminal in Chicago. Spilling out of these buses are little
old ladies dressed in synthetic leisure suits waddling with walkers and
old men, some in wheel-chairs, dressed in white rayon slacks and white
One may ask oneself how the mob cashes in with this type of dynamic
at work. Like I said, a portion of their money is derived from real estate,
but the big money is in providing the things casinos run on—food, liquor,
cleaning and maintenance services and the biggy, unionized workers.
C&L Development is a quiet yet well-known entity in AC. It has
its tentacles into every facet of making the casinos run. If you are a
developer and are interested in starting a new casino, your best bet, no
pun intended, would be to first approach C&L. For a handsome fee,
they will guide you through the maze of licensing, planning and zoning
approvals and more to the point, put you in touch with those who sit
in judgment. Besides earning a fee and selling you the real estate, they
will set you up with the services to run your establishment. They can
assist in bidding the food and liquor service contracts or the service
staff, and they will make it look as though it was done on a competitive
bid basis. Welcome to New Jersey! In local parlance, it is called bid
rigging. Here is how it works. Let’s say you need a liquor supplier. C&L
will on the surface appear to ask three or four distributors to provide
a price in accordance with the Gaming Commissions regulations. C&L
will, of course, set the bid price for their hand-selected distributor, and
then advise the other “unsuccessful” bidders what their price should be.
As a perk for following the rules, these other bidders would then be
placed on the list to receive subsequent contracts. C&L would take their
“management fee” and receive a monthly stipend from the successful
bidder over the life of the contract. All the bids would be published in
accordance with a state regulation known as, and this you are going to
love, “The Sunshine Law,” no kidding! All would be happy. Occasionally,
a wild card company will try to break into the system and not too often
will secure a contract. Before long, this company realizes its mistake due
to a series of unfortunate occurrences. Their trucks will break down for
no apparent reason or become the victim of vandals, their workforce will
Frankie and the Big Bang Theory
be persuaded to unionize, and if they still did not get the picture, one of
their warehouses would suddenly catch fire, keeping them from providing
the service thus making it impossible to fulfill their contract. C&L would
then step in and provide temporary services at a great price; the casino
would enjoy the new arrangement and find a way to kill the contract with
the rogue supplier.
In the end, the company learns the rules and falls into lockstep or
decides it is not cost effective to do business in AC. If I were forced to
make a moral judgment of this procedure, I would have to condemn it.
On a positive note, however, the system works. There have been very
few strikes and many jobs are created. I like to say, “Jobs rhymes with
mobs,” God save my soul.
It was after five a.m. when Andy finished correcting his last paper from
the previous week’s midterm exam. He thought he heard the knob of the
office door click, but he had been up for twenty hours so it could just be
his mind playing tricks on him. He really wanted to catch a few hours of
sleep. Professor Tom Ryan, his office mate was sleeping on the couch, so
Andy was thinking about the sleeping bag he kept in his closet; I need
not elaborate on how much use this item received and for what purpose.
The sound he heard was for real; two gentlemen dressed in two thousand
dollar suits let themselves in. Even through his bloodshot eyes he could
see the bulges under their armpits. His first thought was that these guys
Frankie and the Big Bang Theory
were sent by his bookmaker who held about twenty thousand in overdue
markers. Andy expressed himself with an “Oh, fuck.” Dr. Tom awoke to
see the two unsavory characters looming over him.
Both members of the brain trust looked at Dr. Tom and the taller of
the two said, “Hey, buddy, would you please leave us with the doctor for
a few minutes?”
Professor Tom half asleep said, “Listen, buddy,” emphasis on buddy.
“This is my office, too, so say your piece and be gone.” Tom had seen
several tough guys visiting Andy before, some to collect bad gambling
debts, some to collect on loans; he recognized the types, and these two
really fit the his mental picture of mob goons.
Nino, the shorter of the two stepped closer to Tom, bent down and
pinched his ear saying, “I’m asking you nice.” As he pinched a little
harder, Tom let out a yelp. Nino continued, “Now give us a few minutes
alone wit da doc; we ain’t here to hurt ’em, just to aks a few questions
see, and we don’t want your jelly ass in here so beat it.”
Andy said, “Tom, please do what they say; I’ll be fine.” Tom got up
slowly and left the office, looking back at Andy and mouthed “Security?”
Andy shook his head indicating that he did not need Tom to notify the
The largest of his visitors said, “Relax, Dr. MacDonald. We’re here to
make you an offer, not to break your legs.”
The smaller guy with the crew cut, gnawing on a wooden toothpick
said, “Personally, I would rather break your legs but my associate, Sal, is
a real nice guy. Youse could even say he is diplomatic.” With that remark,
Andy realized who was going to act out the role of the bad guy in this
“good guy bad guy” duo.
Andy opened his mouth again but he shouldn’t have. “You gorillas have
names, or should I refer to you as short and fat and tall and ugly?”
The little thug turned to his partner and said, “I told you dat dis little
asshole was gonna be a prob’m.”
He took three aggressive steps toward Andy, but the big guy said, “Not
yet, Nino. The doctor just doesn’t understand that we are about to make
his life a whole lot easier.”
Once again, Andy opened his big mouth and said, “You could shoot
me and that would be a big help.” Nino reacted to this by pulling a fifty
caliber cannon from his suit and sticking the business end in the mouth
of the good doctor who immediately recognized Nino as a serious
“You’ll have to excuse Nino, doctor; he had a very bad relationship
with a teacher in high school and never recovered. In fact, Nino, why
don’t you put that thing away for now and tell the good doctor about
your high school situation.”
Nino holstered the 50 cal and said, “Ya see, doc, der was dis girl I
liked a ho lot, I tawt dat we might get married after high school. Der was
also dis teacher who liked her, he had a shiny sports car and used to give
her rides home. Den one day he didn’t go straight home but took her to
da woods and made her do tings I don’t want to talk bout. Tree munts
layder she tells me she is pregnant, two days after dat she trows herself
in front of da train. I hate fuckin’ teachas.”
Andy broke out in moderate perspiration and gulped. Sal let that piece
of info sink in and finished Nino’s story, “When the fire company finally
extinguished the flames of the teacher’s automobile barbecue, the teacher
was about the size of a pygmy and looked a lot like a hot dog that had
been grilled for a month at a 7-Eleven. The bullet hole in his temple was
of course not apparent.”
Nino interjected, “I hate fuckin’ teachas.”
Sal walked over to and sat on the corner of Andy’s desk. “Doctor, your
life is now and, from what we have learned, has always been fucked-up
big time. Wouldn’t you agree?” Andy started to say something. Sal said,
“Not yet. Now, let’s see. Where was I? Oh yeah.” He paused. “Your wife
is about to leave you, one of your students may be pregnant, you owe
Frankie and the Big Bang Theory
thousands in old bets, you keep at least two bottles of Johnny Walker
Red in your desk.”
Andy said, “Both unopened . . . .”
He wanted to continue but he saw Sal purse his lips and say “A
temporary situation I would bet. Now if I may continue, you want to be
working in a research environment rather than working here correcting
Physics 101 papers for snot nosed kids. Correct so far?”
Andy nodded and asked, “Why are you interested in me and how do
you know all this.”
Nino pulled out the 50 cal again and said, “No fuckin’ questions till
Sal says it’s question time, got it?”
Again the big guy apologized for Nino’s crass interjections and said,
“Nino hates teachers.” The big guy put his arm around Nino. “Now,
Doc, if you will let us do the talking we can end this episode in your
miserable fucked-up life in about five minutes and make the next phase
of your life so much better. If you agree, shake your head carefully.”
Andy did what he was told because he had seen enough gangster movies
to know that the 50 cal blue barrel that was at this point pressed firmly
against his cheek was cocked, and Nino had one jittery looking finger
on the trigger looking a lot more than nervous. His head went up and
down slowly three times and the big guy said, “Good. Now that we
have cleared that hurdle, Nino, give the good doctor a chance to take a
breath.” Nino removed the weapon from the good doctor’s cheek, but
redirected it in the general direction of Andy’s nether region. “Doctor,
please don’t interrupt until I’m finished.” Sal walked across the room
toward the window and casually raised one of the mini blinds looking
outside and apparently speaking to no one in particular said, “I represent
a group that is in need of your expertise and is willing to pay handsomely
Andy was about to say he wasn’t going to work for a terrorist
organization but thought the better of it. He didn’t have to because the
little gorilla was one-step of him when he said, “We ain’t no terrorist
group if dat’s wat you’re thinkin.”
“Thank you, Nino,” Sal continued, “Our group is planning an
endeavor that will take no lives, except yours if you cross us,” he added
Andy let out a “Ha!” That was a mistake; Nino hit him on the side of
his face with the 9" barrel, which caused the doctor to believe he was
in the college planetarium because of all the pretty stars, planets and
constellations he now saw. He picked himself off the floor and wiped
the blood from his cheek with the sleeve of his shirt.
“This fucker ain’t going to work wit us,” Nino growled. “Let me hurt
Andy yelled out, “Cut the crap and tell me what you assholes want!”
Sal looked at Nino, “The doc has a way with words, don’t he, Nino?
Maybe he should be teaching poetry or creative writing.” Sal continued,
“My group wants you to create a nuclear device.” He paused letting this
revelation sink in. “This device will be used solely for demonstration
purposes. No one will get hurt and you get a chance to do what you
have always wanted, to put theory to the test, and in the bargain be
richly rewarded for your trouble.” Andy listened attentively as the big guy
outlined the entire program.
“We will supply you with all you need to complete your work; you will
tell your wife that you have been chosen by the CIA to work on a hush
hush project for say six months. Here’s the best part, Doc. The moment
you agree to work with us, your gambling debt becomes a non-problem,
and we will arrange for you to acquire approximately one million dollars
and it will look like you acquired it legitimately. In return, you will
keep your mouth shut forever, and Doc, one way or another, we mean
There was a long pause, as Andy looked at Nino. Nino said, “Okay,
doctor fuckin brains, now you can tawk.”
Frankie and the Big Bang Theory
“What if I don’t want to be part of this project?”
Nino glared at him, “Did we ask if you wanted to be part of it,
dickweed? You are part of it, or you are fuckin’ dead.”
Andy looked at the big guy and asked, “Is he serious?”
The big guy nodded yes and said, “I am afraid so doctor, and the
device better work, no screw ups.”
Andy retorted, “Count me in.” A wise decision. There was a short
silence as Andy thought and then said, “I can create the detonation
device but without high grade fissionable material . . . .”
Sal held up one hand stopping Andy and said, “That’s not for you to
be concerned with, doctor. You just make this thing go bang. We will
take care of the rest.”
“How about the timing”? I have six more weeks of classes,” Andy
“You finish this semester and then I suggest you take a little vacation.
Do you like the beach? Ever been to Atlantic City?” Sal asked.
Andy didn’t catch on immediately so his large visitor elaborated. “You
will book yourself on a flight the day after school ends, stay at the Cove
in Atlantic City and play the slots for a few days. Who knows? You may
Andy’s left eyebrow raised just a little “I’d rather go to Las Vegas and
let me guess, I get one million dollars lucky?”
Nino who had been staring at Andy during this last exchange said,
“The teach is catchin on.”
Sal turned away and took a few steps toward the door then, doing
his best Colombo routine, turned back and said, “Oh, one more thing.
Before the end of the semester we will have a gentleman contact you and
your lovely bride. He will convince her that he is from a certain branch
of the government. You will let her know that you will be away for a few
months, the school will give you—what do they call it?—a sambatica?”
Andy said, “A sabbatical, moron.”
Sal smiled, “Right, a sabbatical to work for the government.” There
was a long, quiet pause. The only sound that could be heard was Andy’s
heart thumping and Nino clicking the 50 cal’s safety on and off.
Andy’s office door opened without a knock. A five feet nine inch tall,
drop dead gorgeous young woman walked in, “Am I disturbing anything
here?” Nino walked toward her and reached out with a handful of stubby
fingers and attempted to stroke her hair. She must have taken offense to
this because before he could remove his hand, she grabbed it and put
him on his knees yelping in excruciating pain. To make matters worse
for poor Nino, on the way down to his knees she put the stiletto point
of her Armani shoes square into his nuts. Nino let out a sound, which
sounded like a cross between a tire being deflated and a catfight. The
professor gave out a laugh, Nino continued groaning and writhing in
pain. “Gentlemen, meet my daughter Lauren.”
Lauren said, “Dad, do you want this . . ., she looked at Sal and Nino,
“this trash taken out to the dumpster? I think today is garbage collection
day.” Lauren was used to her dad being bullied by goons. With his
gambling debts always a few dollars beyond his paycheck, she was used
to this type of pond scum visiting the MacDonald residence. That was
part of the reason she was a third degree martial artist. Andy said, “No,
sweetheart, I believe we are about finished here.”
The two goons, Nino rubbing his privates, left Andy to ponder the
future, “Consider your options, doc, then call us.” Sal handed him
a 7-Eleven receipt with a number written on the back. Nino leered at
Lauren, licked his lower lip and walked out.