“And that’s the movie.” At least that’s the way he put it. Although I can’t remember how we got to this point, that punch line will remain with me until my own set of credits roll. His name was Randy, and he was a cowboy from Dallas. We had confined ourselves to the corner of a shitty bar named Shady’s. A nice hole-in-the-wall down the street from the Hilton I was staying at in Dealey Plaza. Randy was a regular at this place and I was passing through on my way to California.
The bartender passes by dropping off another round of drinks, something we needn’t ask for, as they knew what Randy drank, how much he drank, and least importantly, when to cut him off. Irish whiskey was his drink of choice. “A man’s drink kid,” he’d say to me as he shot his double shot. That poison went down too smooth for that old cowboy. The clock struck 2am and time had passed without skipping a beat. I’d sat and listened to Randy jabber on for almost 4 hours now, and now that I look back, a lot had changed in those 4 hours. Not just because of the copious amounts of poison flowing through my veins but because Randy reminded me of a guy I once knew. Although this old man wasn’t a cowboy, Randy and he shared similar qualities. Randy said, “Enough about me. You got any stories kid?” I had one, a good one. One with no closure, something I figure I’d spend the rest of my life trying to end.
It all started back when I was a young boy…
November 20, 1963
I guess I was about 10 or 11 years old. My old man, a six foot tall Italian looking fellow dressed in all black had yanked me into a classy bar by the back of my collar, at about 10 o’clock at night. A place my mother had forbidden me to be, but a place I insisted on going. I loved it there; I was one of the guys there. Robert was his name but he preferred Mr. Iacopetti, as in “Yako-pety”, Bobby for those of them that knew him well. We were in Chicago and fall was in full swing in 1963 and JFK was in office. In pop’s line of work there were two big movements going on that did not affect the way we lived our lives; the Vietnam war and the Civil Rights Movement seemed like distant attractions only the loonies liked to take part in. For us, the two things that mattered were alcohol and consumption. I don’t mean consumption in the first person sense, although there was plenty of that to go around and more about that later. I’m talking about consumption on a broader scope, in which people would resort to this consumption in good times and in bad times. The shit sold, regardless of whether people were making money or losing money.
Bob was a hell of a pool shark, and many times business meetings would take place during a game of 9-ball. A game in which the only input allowed was when it was your turn. When pop broke, it rarely wasn’t his turn. The beauty of it? He wouldn’t say much. He didn’t have to. This old W.O.P. would look at you and you knew he meant exactly one thing, business. “Crack!” The cue ball smacks into the set at the other end of the table. “There’s two,” Bob mumbles to himself, as he uses the tail end of his unfiltered Lucky Strike to light up another.
The man at the other end of the pool table needed no introduction. Short in stature, and always wearing some peculiar bifocals, this old man controlled everyone from the Teamsters to Richard Daley, the mayor of our great city. “Momo,” as pop called him, was the new found leader of the Chicago Outfit. Momo and my old man had grown up together. They had worked their way out of the Forty-Two, and their influence on the others around them was like nothing I had ever seen. Momo needed my old man for one thing, “Booze.” That’s what all the old fellas at Sal’s always called that stuff that made them laugh and act weird. The only drawback to it, though, it seemed to make my old man angry and violent on occasion. Nonetheless this thing called booze, kept many people functioning and the most important thing, according to pop was, “It keeps our world moving.”
Pop was the biggest supplier of whiskey from here all the way east to New York City, a place I hear we have relatives in a similar business…
My father and Momo went at it for quite sometime that night. One game Momo wouldn’t let my father have a shot and other games, my father wouldn’t let Momo have a shot. I never really understood what they were talking about though. I glanced over at the clock, the shorter of the two hands was at the top, right around the 12, the longer of the two hands was pointed close to the “6.” It was 12:06 in the night time. Usually I got tired around this point, but the lingering cigarette smoke, and the tension filled the air tonight, it was something of a different color.
Pop says sternly, “9 ball corner pocket.” Smack! The nine ball sinks home, cue ball is left spinning on the table. Momo wasn’t even looking, the sawed off WOP was at the other end of the bar, talking to someone else, he hears the ball go in and says, “FUCK YOURSELF BOBBY!” Pop replies, “I bet you’d like to see that!” I swear to you, sometimes when they spoke, it seemed like they were speaking a different language.
With the game over, my father and Momo retreated to a small back office room. I never did figure out what they discussed that night. Every time Pop went in there he’d always call out to me, “Hey Kid, keep an eye on the fort.” I’d always nod and follow that up with a simple, “Yes sir.” You see, with my old man it was always, “Yes sir,” or “No sir.” There was one time when I responded with a simple, “Yeah.” He gave me one chance to correct my mistake, and I did. He always told me that something wasn’t a mistake until you did it again. My father believed you get one chance or one shot to make your mark, so growing up we’d better learn how to do things the right way, the first time around.
Anyway, Pop was usually back in that office for a while, so I figured I’d put myself to work a little bit. I walked up to the side of the bar, I couldn’t see over so I walked around behind it. A fat Italian chunk of Salami named Sal always ran things behind the bar. He was slow but he was good at it. Always wore a pasta stained white tee, a gold cross chain, and a white apron. I popped my head behind that bar, “Hey Sal.” Sal always with a good smile on his face, yells out, “Hey Kid! Come on back here!” I walked the long row of the bar, it wasn’t an uncommon thing for me, but it was uncommon for everyone but the regulars to see. It gets a bit intimidating when everyone stares at you like that. Sal starts teaching me the ins and outs, how to properly tend the bar. I could do what they call a well drink, which is your basic liquor over the ice, and some sort of mixture, whether it be cola or juice. My thought, how could these idiots ruin the taste of a good Coca-Cola Classic with that poison.
Sal put me to work, he’d sit behind the bar and eat a pizza pie, the more pepperoni’s the better for this guy. Things were going smooth until Tommy Two Times walked into the bar. This sawed off little Irishman was a pain in my rear, he always had a problem with me. Me of all people, the kid. I mean the guts on this Irishman, coming into our neighborhood, an Italian neighborhood and drinking at our bar. Why they called him Two-Time I never understood, Pop said it was something about the way he did business. He was just that, a two-timing degenerate, somebody we weren’t to do business with. Later I’d come to find out the only reason he came here is because we had the best Irish Whiskey in town. We were the only people that carried it.
“Hey pissant, give me some of that famous whiskey.” Sal interjects, asking if I’m going to take that from some “Mick.” It took a long time for me to muster up the courage to say this, but all of a sudden it just came out…”STICK IT UP YOUR ASS TWO TIME!” Everyone in the bar went crazy. They shouted things like, “You tell ’em kid!” “Thatta’ Boy!” etc…
Sal started given me orders, letting me run drinks out to the guys and girls at the tables. They’d give me a buck here and there just for dropping off something they paid for. It was awesome.
Finally Pop came out of the office. Him and Momo would always hug and shake hands as they walked out. “Hey Son, come over here and say goodbye to your Uncle Sam,” my old man called out. I’d walk over, hug him and say goodbye. He’d always ask me how well I held down the fort… I always did my best.
We left the bar that night and there was an uneasiness with Pop. Smoking was supposed to be relaxing, but it seemed to have the opposite effect tonight. “Everything all right Pop?” He didn’t answer. He just told me to get in the car. A model sixty-two hardtop Cadillac. The most prestigious of all cars, and it was ours. The bar wasn’t in a good neighborhood, so Pop usually held me by the back of collar walking to the car. One hand on my collar, the other inside his coat. We reached the car and Pop opened the door for me. The fall had come late this year, which meant my allergies were still acting up. Pop closed the passenger door once I entered and I popped open the glove box. Two things lay there. My father’s .357 magnum, something he forbid me to touch unless it was under his supervision. The other item? My savior that came in 90 puffs at a time. My Inhaler! See I had asthma, and when the night came the problems came with it, and a lot of times I needed a bigger dose after leaving the bar. Pop said it was a weakness, a major weakness, and the Iacopetti men didn’t have any weaknesses. In his eyes, and mine, I had some work to do in order to call myself a Iacopetti. That’s all right, I welcomed the challenge.
I pulled out my inhaler, popped off the cap and squeezed the pump three times as fast as I could and inhaled as deep as I could. Relief came a dose at a time. Pop hopped into the driver side of the car. He always took a moment, a deep breath, before he started the car. Never understood why, but it was something I noticed all the men in my father’s line of work did. Maybe it was tough to drive in those days. Deep breath, and a sigh. He went to stick the key in the ignition, and he stopped. He held the key in the air, turned and looked at me. He sort of mumbled, but to this day I can hear those words like they were yesterday. He said, “Hey boy…you know I love you right?” I didn’t know what to say, he’d never said anything like that to me before. Ma’ was the only one that said that, and she said it often. “Yes, sir. I know that.” He replied, “That’s my boy.” He stuck the key in the ignition, the car started and we drove off.
This time, the car ride home wasn’t as thrilling as it usually was. Pop was telling me about going away. He was saying that Uncle Sam had asked him to take care of business for him down in Texas the next few days. He said he had to do some work for the government. I understood why Pop was upset that night, he hated working for them.
You see, around this time last year, my old man and Uncle Sam were down in Cuba trying to directly deal with the Cuban Missile Crisis. Over a span of six months, they were contracted by a government agency for one reason, abdicate Castro from his throne. My old man and his boys out of the Forty-Two specialized in that. I figured the G-men would do that, the law enforcers, but they insisted Pop and Uncle Sam do it. They couldn’t talk Mr. Castro into stepping down, and Pop said they had tried multiple times. The problem with this was that Pop said they never got paid, and he had been pissed about it ever since. So I can understand why he hated doing government work.
“Texas,” he said, “Dallas, Texas. God damn it I hate dealing with those fucking yokels.” We arrived home and all the lights in the house were off except on the front porch. Home was a modest house with 3 bedrooms and 1 bathroom in the Lincoln Park area. We pulled into the garage and Pop asked me if I liked the .357 in the glove box. I nodded and said it was the coolest thing I had ever seen. He explained to me about the fact that if I don’t respect it, it won’t respect me or anyone else. He told me he would like me to have it, if anything happens to him while he’s in Texas. He carried the pistol inside with him, and tucked it away in a secret compartment in my room I never knew existed. He instructed me to never tell my mother, and if she ever needed any money, there was plenty in there to last us forever. There was a lot! All this talk was weird coming from him, but I nodded and said, “Yes sir,” and didn’t ask any questions.
I went to bed that night and just laid there with my eyes open for quite sometime. When I finally woke in the morning, Pop was gone. I never saw him again.
November 21, 1963
The plane ride took a long time that trip. Usually flying from Chicago to Dallas was about 3 hours. Oddly, it seemed much longer. Turbulence was worse than usual, as well. I didn’t mind that part though because I was in first class. First time in my life I had ever been in first class. Momo usually told me to ride in coach, keep our name off the fed’s and IRS’ watch list. I know why he insisted on me riding first though. I had a feeling this was a one way ticket. I understood though. I asked Uncle Sam to watch over my family. I knew my son would always be all right, even though he was young, he fit in just fine amongst the Outfit. I left him my favorite .357 and plenty of money to take care of Linda for the rest of their lives.
Touchdown. “Welcome to Dallas-Forth Worth International Airport. The temperature is 62 degrees, and the current time is 5:30pm. We want to thank you for flying Pan American Airways. And we look forward to your continued loyal business. Please put out your cigarettes and leave them in the ashtrays…” And she went on and on. Though I had to hand it to them, they did give good service on that airline, real personable. I walked outside to flag a cab. The air was a little thick but it was pleasant. Sure beats the hell out of the weather in Chicago this time of year.
I walked passed the baggage claim, only had a carryon. Few changes of clothes, was all I needed. My supplies were waiting for me in Texas. I was there to do a job. I walked to the taxi line, and in the midst of flagging a cab I heard someone call my name. “Mr. Iacopetti?” I turned to see an old friend who came up with me and Momo in the Forty-Two. “Hey Jack, good to see you,” I said. Jack was a good guy, ran a few nightclubs for us down in Dallas. His nightclubs provided a major gateway for us to smuggle in booze under the table and pass customs and the IRS. We would distill the shit in Mexico, for the cheap labor, and transport it up to Dallas into his club. Great plan, and without Jack none of it would have been possible.
We were cordial as old friends are and Jack took me to my hotel. They got me a top floor room at the Hilton in Dealey Plaza. Room 1003. I could oversee much of the town, including the book depository. A wonderful view.
The evening was in full swing. It was about 9:30 or so. I was throwing on a tie when the phone rang. I answered, “Yeah.” It was Jack. “I’ll be down in a second,” I said. Finished tying my tie. I Grabbed my .38 snub nose, tucked it inside my coat, and was out the door. Out front of the hotel Jack was waiting inside his brand new black Lincoln Town Car. It was a slick looking car. I sat down in the front seat and asked, “Where we goin’?” Jack responded, “Campisi’s.”
I liked the Campisi brothers. Nice guys, anytime we went to eat at their Italian joint we were always well taken care of. Food wasn’t bad either.
We got to Campisi’s sometime later. Valet’s standing out front. It’s the real deal here. First class service all the way. The valet opens my door and says, “Welcome to Campisi’s Mr. Iacopetti.” And guess who’s waiting at the front door for our arrival? Joey Campisi himself. I exited the Lincoln, lit a Lucky Strike as Joey approached, “Bobby good to see you again, sir.” I replied, “Nice to see you too, Joey.” Old friends, like I said before, Jack came up with us in the Forty-Two and the Campisi brothers were old friends of his. From the same neighborhood, they were good people, people you could trust. With the job I was there for, you had to trust everyone with your life. That’s what the principals of business were founded upon, trust. It’s a rare quality today, you gotta watch your ass. There’s a lot of yokels out there that’ll try to get one over on you, but no one fuck’s with the Outfit, I don’t care where you’re from. You know us, and if you’re somebody, we know you.
After greeting Joey, we entered the restaurant. A classy joint this guy ran. A major spot for celebrities to eat at when they were in Dallas. We walked past the center of the restaurant, Franky S. is sitting at the main table, some colleagues and leeches surrounding him. As we approached, Frank turned and caught a glimpse of us walking, he stood up and said, “Mr. Iacopetti, Mr. Ruby, a pleasure gentlemen.” I said, “Good to see you again, Frank,” Jack was cordial as always. We continued when Joey said, “What am I, chop liver?” Frank replied, “You’re lucky those guys are here tonight and I’m performing for free. Two songs and that’s it.” Joey replied, “Yes, sir of course Mr.–” Cut off by Jack saying, “Hey Frank, make it three uh? Bobby really likes that new song of yours, ‘This Town’.” Frank replied, “Anything for you gentlemen.”
We passed most of the tables and found our way to a booth all the way in the corner. Almost secluded from the rest of the restaurant. Dinner wasn’t all fun and games, there was business to be discussed. We all sat down, I ordered a Johnny Walker Black on the rocks, as usual. We got our drinks, everyone had been through a half a pack of smokes before the meal even came. There was tension in the air. I don’t know why they felt it, everything was going to be on me, and I was cool hand Luke. Business was to be settled and carried out tomorrow. One chance that’s all we had. You only get one shot at most things in life, better make it count.
Jack spoke most of the time. He knew the town the best and was the lead guy on this. He was our eyes on the ground from the get go. “Tomorrow is the big day guys,” Jack says, “we will have one shot at this.” Jack pulls out a map of Dealey Plaza. There’s two marks on the map. He points to the first dot and says, “The first guy is going to be here Bobby. He’s going to be in the North end of the sixth floor. Now, his name is–” I cut Jack off right there. I didn’t want to know the son of a bitch’s name. I didn’t care. “I don’t give a shit,” I said, “where’s the next position.” He pointed on the map and said, “Here.” I asked what time and he responded, “Approximately 11:30.” About that time, Frank got on the stage and spoke into the microphone, “I want to thank everyone for coming to Mr. Campisi’s restaurant tonight. We have some very special guests with us tonight, and I’m gonna sing a favorite song of theirs to start us off.” The band begun to play and before Frank started to sing, he raised his glass of whiskey towards our table and said, “To the future.” The music picked up then, “This town, is a lonely town, not the only town, like-a this town…” I loved that song. After Frank was finished. I went home. Jack offered to drive but I told him I’d take a cab. I thanked Joey for everything, and asked Jack to walk out with me while I flagged down a cab.
We got outside and each lit up a smoke. Jack knew how important tomorrow was for us. I asked him, “You know this other guy?” He said he did. “Is he reliable?” I asked. Jack said, “He’s good. Got some military training, should be a sure thing.” I liked the military, served in the Marine Corps myself in WWII. Problem was, most of the guys that got out now days were all fucked up in the head, they were loose cannons and you had to keep a close eye on them. I said to Jack, “He fucks up, you know what to do right?” He said yes. I told Jack, “Make sure he don’t say one fuckin’ word they reprimand him, this shit gets back to Momo the whole Outfit is fucked.” Jack understood, tomorrow was the biggest day of our careers. The cab pulled up and I gave Jack a hug and he said, “Good luck, I’ll see you later.”…
I got back to my hotel room. Had another drink and another smoke. Sat at the edge of the bed and looked at the clock. It was 1:30 in the morning. I went to bed that night and just laid there with my eyes open for some time.
November 22, 1963
Six o’clock in the morning, my alarm is buzzing. The phone rings, I answer. It’s the concierge on the other side, “Mr. Smith this is your 6a.m. wake up call.” I said thanks and hung up the phone. I dropped some alka-seltzer into a glass full of scotch and drank. Lit up a cigarette, drank some more, and went to my closet. Inside my closet lay a long black case. I opened it to check the contents. Everything was in order. I turned on the morning news and the anchor is talking about the President’s arrival into Dallas today. The motorcade was going to leave the airport around 10:30 and into Dealey Plaza around 11:30 or so. Hell if I got to the right place maybe I could catch them on their way through Dealey Plaza. I got my shit together, got dressed, grabbed the black case and left. I left everything else in the room, including the keys.
People were beginning to gather on the streets of Dealey plaza, waiting for Jack and Jackie to arrive in the motorcade. The guy was like a movie star in the states and the people loved him. The sun was high in the sky and it was set to be a beautiful day. It was hard to find a good spot to see the motorcade, but I found a decent spot up on a grassy knoll. No one was standing there because there were better places, closer to the road to see the president. I got to a wooden fence up there on the hill, the view was perfect. Couldn’t have asked for a better vantage point. I looked to the left and on the bottom of the fence there was a small deficiency. Baddabing. I laid my case down and opened it up. Looked at my watch. The time, 11:15. I pulled out the contents of my case. My favorite medium range rifle. An M14, specially modified with a scope on top. The assembly was quick and easy. In the prone position I lay there. I doped my scope. A good distance, only about 200 yards out. I scanned different sectors of Dealey Plaza. Looked up to the North end of the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository building. There he is. A small statured fella. Sticking his ugly fucking face out of the window for the whole world to see. By this time I can hear the roar from the crowd in the distance. JFK is on his way. Now maybe I didn’t mention if before but I’m not strictly in the booze business. My job is also to ensure that we can continue the free enterprise we have come to love and enjoy. Now some folks are cracking down on us. It’s my job to ensure that America stays a free country. Especially if this small Marxist up on the sixth floor fucks up.
11:45, our commander in chief is late. I trained my scope back up to the sixth floor. The mother fucker is getting antsy. He’s sitting in the window smoking a cigarette. And what do you know, the mick flicks it out of the window. Real inconspicuous. The roars get louder, he’s getting closer. Now, when you have two snipers fixed on one objective, it is imperative that you do one of two things. Either fire the rifles simultaneously, so the enemy doesn’t know which direction the shot(s) came from, or as in my case, the second shot is fired only if the first misses, so I am merely a backup option if this guy on the sixth floor fails. Chaos and confusion is key here.
12:15: He’s getting closer. I can see him now in the distance. The motorcade weaving around. Again I check the sixth floor and now this guy has his rifle at the ready. What a piece of a shit this guy was wielding. I came across them when I was fighting the Nazi’s in Europe. The fascists used them. It was an Italian Carcano rifle. This thing was a piece of shit. It was only good if you were an expert shot and had one objective to take down. If you had to quickly cycle that bolt action, forget about it.
12:29: It’s coming now. The president is on his way. He’s passing the book depository building now. If we’re going to hit him, we’re going to have to do it immediately. I’ve doped the scope and it’s trained center mass. Right at his chest. The car is rolling, the whole words slows, time stops. My left hand is now slightly squeezing the trigger. POW! A shot is fired. It misses. I squeeze the trigger the bullet rips through Governor Connelly’s shoulder and proceeds right through JFK’s chest. Kill shot. About a second later another shot strikes Kennedy in the head. So quick and precise Jackie didn’t know what happened. Chaos. Mission accomplished. I packed up my rifle and exited.
I exited toward Bowers Street and Jack is there waiting to pick me up. I threw the rifle case in an already popped trunk. Closed the trunk and entered the car. Jack’s asking me how it went. I say all is well, but you’ll need to take care of the guy in the book depository building. No way he’s getting out of there clean. I told him I delivered the initial kill shot to the chest, center mass. We came to a stop light, and Jack hadn’t said a word since I told him the job was done. He pulled out a snub nose .357 stuck it to my head and pulled back the hammer and said, “I’m sorry Bobby.” I said, “No you’re not.”…I guess this is how conspiracies work…
“That’s the dumbest fucking story I ever heard,” says Randy. There’s no use in telling him where I came up with that story. He’s so far gone by now, he won’t remember any of this tomorrow. The bartender breezes by dropping off another round of shots. I don’t know if I can take anymore. I might puke. Randy says, “Keep drinking this shit kid, it’ll make you tell the truth.” Believe me I tried, but it’s all relative. People only believe the things they want to hear. Problem is, I didn’t even want to believe it, but it’s written there, black and white. You see that story I just told you wasn’t fabricated, it was verbatim, taken right out of someone’s diary. Mr. Iacopetti’s diary.
I told Randy goodbye, and it was a pleasure meeting him. I stumbled back to my room at the Hilton, Room 1003. I walked to the closet where I found his diary in a secret compartment inside the wall. I knew right then and there the old man was still alive somewhere.
I remember the first time he showed me the secret compartment up in my bedroom when I was a young boy. It must have been there since I was born. He had a knack for leaving clues, a trail for someone to follow. One night in June 1975 I went and saw my Uncle Sam. I was older and thought that was the right time to go ask him about my dad. He was frying sausage and peppers when I walked in. I asked him if he had any idea of the whereabouts of my dad. The only information he gave me was the hotel and room number my old man was staying at that fateful day. I’ll catch up to my old man someday, and let him know I took care of that rat, Uncle Sam. Put that .357 to good use finally.