(The story continued below begins in the previous post. If you’d like to read what will make this second installment clearer, click here.)
It wasn’t the first time, and it certainly wasn’t the last. The FBI “visited” our house on Dewey Avenue a number of times while I was growing up. And when they didn’t, we, at least, lived with the constant expectation that they might.
So much so that my father posted us kids regularly at windows on our third floor during times when raids seemed most likely, especially on weekends during football season, always on Super Bowl Sunday. My sisters and I acted as look-outs. Braided and skinned knee-ed, I was expected to spot government cars approaching and notify my dad.
The FBI always knocked down the door, but this advanced warning would have afforded him the time to flush offending documents down the drain before agents actually entered the house—had they ever chosen to come when we were actually watching. Ironically, we were always caught off guard.
Don’t ask me how my dad ended up in organized crime. Quite frankly, I don’t know. My father was Irish, not a single strand of Italian DNA wound its way through the twists and turns of his crime-inclined double helix. But it’s what Daddy “did for a living” for as far back as I can remember. I don’t recall ever knowing any other life. I don’t know what he may or may not have done besides “book-making,” but he was indicted by a number of Grand Juries while I was a kid and convicted of conspiracy by a federal court a year or two before he died. I frankly can’t imagine what Daddy might have done that threatened our government so seriously, but maybe it’s best that way—a whole new Mafia spin on ignorance being bliss.
But blissfully unaware is what I was. To me this man was simply my dad, and it was my daddy-adoring duty to do as I was told. Sometimes this meant watching for the FBI on weekends—other times, retrieving a metal money-box he kept hidden in the basement. To reach the latter, I had to climb on boxes of Christmas decorations—ornaments, tinsel, and special stars to top the tree. There in a cob-webbed corner above some heating ducts were tens of thousands of dollars, rubber-banded in dime-sized (thousand dollar) stacks.
This stash of cash Daddy earned “working” for a man who is currently the under-boss of the Pittsburgh crime family. That man and his brothers functioned as uncles in my life. Daddy didn’t have a father he ever really knew, so it seemed he found a family to belong to. That family just happened to be linked to the Gambinos. It always seemed to me that Daddy was one of those brothers—as Irish as they come. But it’s only the “I” in Irish that seemed to matter.
I, myself, only wanted to please my dad—do as he expected and what I could to help. I was an on-guard-girl—well-trained in the duties Daddy needed done. If watching from an upstairs window was what mattered, then window-watching was what I did.
It was a room with a view, at least, a view of the Pittsburgh underworld, as seen by one girl, pony-tailed among the Mafia.