I live in South Philadelphia, an area that’s steeped in mob history. Just a few blocks from my apartment, Angelo Bruno, the “Gentle Don” who ruled the Philly mob for twenty years, was gunned down in front of his home. His successor, Philip Testa was blown to bits by a nail bomb planted on his front porch just a few blocks further south. A neighbor grew up with Nicky Scarfo.
In spite of this, in all my years here I’ve never personally witnessed anything mob related. Sure, like everyone else I've seen lots of news reports and grisly photos depicting the depravities of the gangsters in my neighborhood, but nothing of that sort had ever occurred before my eyes.
But I think I overheard a couple of mobsters the other night. I was out for a walk when it started raining. In order to avoid getting soaked, I ducked into a tiny bar, ordered a drink and went to a booth at the back of the barroom to wait out the cloudburst.
I hadn’t been there long when two men entered. They were both big, tough looking guys dressed in expensive suits. I suspected they were there for the same reason I was, to escape the storm. As they squeezed into a booth near the entrance, I thought I saw the outline of pistols under their jackets.
They both looked like some Serious People, but I didn’t figure I was in any danger. I mean, if they were there to whack someone, they would’ve come in with guns blazing and besides, the bartender and I were the only other people there. So I felt safe in assuming they were there for mundane reasons. Like I said, probably just waiting out the storm.
Soon after they sat down, one of them stood up and took a long, slow look around the narrow barroom. He saw the bartender who was standing at the back of the bar but he looked right past me. Because I was in the shadows, I don’t think he saw me.
He sat back down and right away began talking. Even though they barely spoke above a whisper, due to some acoustic peculiarity of the room, I could clearly hear every word they said. It was only a few words into their exchange when I realized I was overhearing a meeting of gangsters. They were obviously plotting some horrible crime.
You be the judge. Here’s how it went:
“So why’d ya call me here?”
“The Boss wants us for a very important job.”
“OK. I’m listening.”
“He wants us to find someone for him and he’s got the entire Organization working on it. He's pulling out all the stops and calling in all favors to catch this guy. Nobody's to rest for a minute until it's done”
“Hmm. And when we find the guy he wants us to, ahem, paint his house?”
“No! This time he wants him alive. I think he wants to make an example of him and a bullet would be merciful compared to what the Boss has planned for him!”
“So what’s this guy done that’s got the Boss so pissed off? He some kind of rat?”
“Oh yeah! He’s the worst kind of rat. The king of the rats! He knows where all the bodies are buried and he’s singin’ like a canary. He’s already said all kinds of things that could get Our Friends into a lot of trouble. And I don’t just mean Our Friends here at home, but Our Friends around the world. Thousands of 'em! Worse than that, he’s ratting out our methods as well as our names and if he keeps it up, it’ll be a lot harder for the Organization to do business. This man needs to be Dealt With and it needs to be done quickly. If we don't make an example of him, pretty soon all kinds of squealers will be coming out of the woodwork. We can't have John Q. Citizen meddling in our Business."
“Man, I see what you mean. We gotta get that guy before he ruins Our Thing! Does the Boss think he’s in Philly?”
“No, we know where he is. Right now, he’s holed up overseas, but he can’t stay there long. He’s gonna have to jump outta there soon and when he does, the Boss wants everybody to be ready to grab his ass and make him pay. He’s got all the other Bosses around the world keeping their people on the lookout. The second he sets foot on their turf, they’ll bounce him over to us so the Boss can fix his wagon. I almost pity the poor sap! They’re gonna make him curse his momma for ever giving him life. Gonna rock his world and make his platters twirl! The Boss is gonna see to that...So ya got it?”
“Yep. Oh, I almost forgot. What’s the rat’s name?”
“Snowden. Edward Snowden.”