With the sauce for the Sunday dinner prepared, Caterina suggested to her girls that all three go outside and sit on the stoop to take advantage of the sunny weather.
They engaged in small talk about food and friends until a loud argument commenced across the street, interrupting them. Looking in the direction of the unwelcome noise, all three watched a young woman get backhanded and cursed out by a slightly older man who seemed to be her boyfriend. Caterina took the scene as her cue to teach her girls an important lesson.
“Girls, do you see what’s happening across the street? Never allow anyone to abuse you like that. Not from any man or anyone, for that matter.”
Their eyes stayed glued to the scene as it unfolded before them, their ears perked, listening.
“You’re each getting older now. You must be careful who you speak to and with whom you make friends. Do you hear me, girls?!” Caterina repeated a bit more energetically, intending that they look at her.
The girls nodded and turned toward her.
“A lot goes on in this neighborhood that I’m sure you’re aware of, so, at all times, you must watch out for yourselves and each other, okay?”
Angie brazenly responded, “Don’t worry, mom. I can take care of myself and will protect my sister!”
Caterina reacted by reminding them that there was good and bad in everyone and that even though they lived in a safe neighborhood, they still had to be careful, “... Because, sometimes, people you know can be your worst enemies.”
* * *
Any adult in WB could casually observe the American Mafia's obvious presence. Because of their ages, Angie and JJ were only now coming to some understanding of its organized nature. Throughout the few years of their lives, there had been signs. Residents, relatives, friends, and guests of all ages, sitting on WB stoops, often watched the familiar pattern of Mob-related activities unfold right before their eyes. Mafia bosses reserved every Wednesday night for business meetings at Chichi’s, their anointed gathering spot a mere three row houses away from Angie’s stoop. On those evenings, a veritable parade of Cadillacs appeared at sunset and continued through the night. Their occupants parked them on Conselyea Street, Lorimer Street, or Chichi’s reserved lot next to the Chinese laundry.
Mafia business gatherings were, for the most part, routine and quiet affairs. However, one or two wise guys stood watch without fail outside any night that key personnel gathered. Participants in the meetings usually sat with their backs to the interior wall at the dining room's largest corner table. These conclaves consisted of capos with major social and influence status within the organization.
The mid-week gatherings complemented regular Friday-night dinners when made-men accompanied their mistresses. On Saturday nights, their wives sat next to them!
That was the way it was at Chichi’s.
* * *
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