Family Court Chronicles (Las Vegas): Sleeping with the Fishes

Sleeping with the Fishes

(A Parable)

Last night I had this dream.

I am an undercover FBI agent who has infiltrated the Mafia. After months of ingratiating myself with the mobsters, I am now attending a secret conference of all the heads of all the Families. It is held in the penthouse suite of a Mafia-owned building on the waterfront, and security is incredibly tight. Everyone was searched when they came in, so I can't carry a gun or a wire, and none of my support agents can be anywhere nearby. I am totally alone on this mission.

The meeting is only just starting, and the conversation still consists of the sort of small talk you get at the beginning of any meeting. You know, we are talking about our wives and girlfriends, old acquaintances, baseball scores, who killed who lately. I have become pretty good at this kind of Wiseguy chit-chat, and I feel comfortable.

As we gather around the big conference table, the meeting is called to order, and it turns out that I am the first item on the agenda.

Someone says: "So where did you get the suit, Joey?"

Suddenly, all eyes are focussed on me, and there is total silence in the room.

My mind is racing. I am not wearing a suit, only an open-neck shirt. I don't know what they are talking about.

"What suit?" I say.

"Don't fuck with us, Joey," the guy says, now deadly serious. "Where did you get the suit?"

"I hardly ever wear suits," I say. "I got one suit in my closet, and I think it came from Goodwill."

Someone else says: "That's not the suit we're talking about. Tell us about the suit."

I am trying to remain calm, but I can feel the sweat dripping down my face. They know something that I don't, and it is clear they have found me out. My only thoughts now are how to get out of this building alive.

"What suit?" I say again, trying to act confused but not afraid. "A lawsuit? A suit of cards? You guys know I don't wear suits. Maybe for weddings or funerals, that's it. You remember Jimmy's niece's wedding last month. I didn't even wear a suit then."

I look at them, and they all look at me, and nobody says anything. I can tell the jig is up. I obviously haven't provided an acceptable answer to their question. I can't even lie, because I don't know what I am being asked. For me, the game is over. I have been exposed as a mole, and I am probably not going to live to the end of the day.

Given that all my other options are blocked, I resort to the truth.

"Okay, you have me," I say. "I am an undercover FBI agent. I have been recording you for months, and indictments will be coming soon."

Then I add, lying my head off: "You should know that there is a team of FBI agents waiting outside ready to storm this place. If anything happens to me, it will be added to the indictments."

Someone looks out the window. "There is no one outside, Joey."

"My name is not Joey," I say. "My name is Glenn Campbell."

"You mean, like the 'Rhinestone Cowboy' Glen Campbell?" someone says, and they all laugh.

Someone else starts singing, "Like a Rhinestone Cowboy..."

"Yeah, yeah," I say, brushing it off.

"What are you telling us, Joey?" someone says. Again, there is silence in the room.

"My real name is Glenn Campbell. I am an FBI agent out of the Sacramento office. I have infiltrated your organization, and I have been recording you for months. I have recorded all of your meetings except this one, and those tapes are now in the hands of the Attorney General."

"I thought you were Joey Sorentino, Adolfo's cousin," says one incredulous mobster.

"No, I am not Adolfo's cousin. Adolfo has turned state's evidence."

"I saw Adolfo last week," says another mafioso, "just before he went on vacation. Our families go way back."

"Guess what?" I say, "Adolfo's not coming back from vacation."

Clearly, not everyone in the room comprehends what I am saying, so I repeat myself.

"I am not Joey Sorentino. I am Glenn Campbell, an FBI agent out of the Sacramento office. I have a wife and two kids in Sacramento who I am probably never going to see again, because I know you are going to kill me."

Awkward silence.

Nobody knows what to say.

All eyes slowly turn from me to the figure at the other end of the table: The Big Cheese, the Capo of Capos. He doesn't say anything either. He looks back at the others, searching the faces of his associates for clues about what it means. Then he looks directly at me, and I stare back at him, straight in the eyes, trying not to show even a hint of weakness.

Then, the big guy starts laughing.

"Love that Joey!" he says, "He's such a cut-up."

Soon, everyone in the room is laughing, including me.

"So, are going to kill me, or what?" I ask, with a smirk on my face.

The room quiets down, and the Capo turns to the guy on his right. He's Jimmy, the enforcer from New Jersey, who has killed maybe a hundred men.

"Take care of it," says the Capo.

Slowly, deliberately, Jimmy reaches into his pocket. He pulls out his finger, points it at me, and fires.

"Bang!" he says, "You're dead. Now you'll be sleeping with the fishes."

The room explodes! Everybody thinks it's hilarious, especially the "sleeping with the fishes" part. If there is anything real mobsters love to do, it is imitate mobsters in the movies.

Tommy from the East Side launches into his Marlon Brando impression: "We'll make him an offer he can't refuse." Tommy is really good with impressions, and his Brando cracks everyone up even more.

I have gotten into it myself, and I can't stop laughing. "No, it's true," I blurt out, "I really am an FBI agent. Look, I even have an I.D. card."

I take out my I.D. and pass it down the table. Everyone looks at it in turn. It has my photo on it along with my real name and the big insignia of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

"This is really well done, Joey," someone says, "Where did you get it?"

"FROM THE FBI!" I say loudly, trying to break through.

"This is fantastic!" another mobster says. "Can I get one?"

I throw up my hands. "Sure, I'll get all of you FBI  I.D. cards. Just give me your name and inmate number and I'll send it to whatever prison you happen to be in."

"Love that Joey!" they say, everyone in stitches.

I am drumming my fingers on the table now. Everyone else is still laughing, but to me it has become tedious.

"If you don't mind, I have to go now," I say. "I have to brief my FBI handlers. You know, I have INDICTMENTS to prepare."

"Yeah, Joey, you go prepare your indictments. Be sure to send us copies when you are done."

"Fine, I'll do that," I say, and I storm out of the room in a make-believe rage. I go downstairs, passing all of the heavily armed thugs, each of whom says, "Bye, Joey!" as I pass. I walk out the front door and into the street. I am free!

There is just one problem. I left my I.D. card behind.

Should I go back for it?

—Glenn Campbell, 11/3/05

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Written and Released: 11/3/05