The young FBI agent flashed his badge to the maître d' and said, “I’m looking for Tony Collazo. You may know him as Tony Swimsuits. He here tonight?” He’d been out of the Academy for just three weeks and he still got a thrill every time he got to pull his badge and show it to somebody.
The maître d' smiled, nodded and remarked in a cursory manner, “You’ve got your Tony’s mixed up, Agent Wilburn. Anthony Collazo is Tony Tennis Shoes. And Mr. Collazo is here tonight. Tony Swimsuits is Anthony Cilurzo. He lives in Jersey, not New York, and never dines here. I'll have you escorted to his table. We always like to be on good terms with the government.”
Wilburn put away his badge, straightened his tie and followed a waiter through the crowded restaurant until they got to a large booth in a far corner. A heavyset man in a cheap suit sat in the middle. He had a large cigar in one hand, and on either side of him sat a beautiful woman. On the outside seat sat a big, rough looking character whose face needed some work. The big character stood up as Wilburn approached and put his hand on the agent’s chest.
“That’s okay, Vito. Let him through, for Christ’s sake, will ya! Don’t you know an FBI agent when you see one? ” Collazo bellowed. “C’mon, kid, sit down. Waiter, bring this man a glass!”
Wilburn flashed his badge again just so everybody could see it and so he could get that good feeling again. As he slid into the other outside seat of the booth, the buxom young woman slid over closer to Tony Tennis Shoes. Wilburn was impressed by her jewelry, among other things, which jingled as she moved.
“So, Agent Wilburn, what brings you to my humble table this evening?” Collazo wondered, waving his big cigar in the air. Just then the waiter brought an empty glass for Wilburn and poured some wine in it.
Wilburn had grown up in Iowa on a farm in a big family. He was taught to be polite, follow the rules, and work hard. The situation he found himself in tonight was completely alien to him. Sitting at a table with a powerful mob boss, his bodyguard, and two knockouts was not what he was expecting when he was sent out this afternoon from the New York office.
They had not told him much. He didn’t even know the agent who gave him his instructions. They’d just lifted him from a seminar on fingerprints and gave him some questions to ask of one Tony Collazo. He was told that Mr. Collazo would be a good source. Nice guy, they said. Chatty.
Clearing his throat, Wilburn brought out a small notebook from his suit pocket and flipped to a certain page. Looking up, he said, “Well, sir, Mr. Collazo, I’ve been sent out to ask you to answer three questions about your, uh, organization. Nothing invasive, just trying to clear up some misunderstandings we at the Bureau have about your chain of command, as it were. Sound like something you could help us with, sir?”
“Shoot, kid,” Collazo said in a gravelly voice.
“We’ll, first, I guess I need to apologize to you for getting your name wrong with the maitre d’. I called you Tony Swimsuits. He set me straight,” Wilburn confessed. “I’m on the right page now, Mr. Tennis Shoes, sir.”
Collazo’s demeanor changed as he heard what Wilburn had just explained. He indicated with a flick of his head for his bodyguard to have a little talk with the maitre d’ and then turned his attention back to Wilburn. “I don’t use that moniker no more, Wilburn. In fact, none of us use our old nicknames anymore. We find it unseemly. Capice?”
The bodyguard returned, sat down and nodded to Collazo whose demeanor now resumed its previous pleasantness. “So, what three questions you got, Wilburn?” Collazo asked.
“Okay, here goes, sir. Does Tony ‘The Backhoe’ still run the crew on the lower East Side? That’s the first question, and I’m sorry to have to use the man’s nickname, but that’s all they gave me. I apologize. I’ll clear this all up when I get back to headquarters, sir,” Wilburn replied.
“Anthony Crimoli is no longer with the organization, Wilburn,” Collazo explained. “He did run that crew until he met with an unfortunate accident a while back. And his name wasn’t Tony ‘The Backhoe’. It was Tony ‘No Thumbs’. So, that should clear up that. We good?”
Wilburn nodded, jotted something down, and moved on to the second question. “Again with apologies, sir, we would like to know where Tony ‘Big Ears’ fits into your org chart. We didn’t have a current last name. Sorry about that, sir.”
Collazo didn’t say anything. He just shook his head, indicating that Wilburn should move on to the third question. Wilburn took this to mean that the man in question was no longer functioning in the organization in any capacity.
“Right, sir,” Wilburn continued. “Just one last question and I’ll leave you folks to your supper.” He looked around the table, but no one except Collazo was paying any attention to him. “We’d like to know if Tony ‘Horseshoes’ Milano will resume his former position in the organization once he’s released from Federal custody later this year.”
Collazo laughed and waved to the waiter for another bottle of wine. “My old friend, Anthony Milano, will definitely not be resuming his former duties, Wilburn. In fact, I’d be surprised if he survives long enough to even get out. He was a rat, Wilburn. You do know what a rat is, right?”
Wilburn nodded as he wrote something in his notepad, put it away in his suit pocket and said, “Well, thanks for the information you’ve given me, sir. I’ll straighten out my superiors at headquarters about not using nicknames anymore and we’ll make changes in our understanding of your organization based upon your answers tonight. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to get back and type up my report, sir.”
“Sure, kid. Nice talking with you. Pass on my regards downtown. I’ll send you a ham for Christmas. I got your name and stuff on your card, kid,” Collazo replied as Wilburn got up and headed for the front door.
Once out of Wilburn’s earshot, Collazo shook his head and said, “What a friggin’ idiot. Shit-for-brains kid comes in here and believes anything I tell him. Jesus, what’s the world coming to, anyway?” He then threw his arm around the knockout on his left and laughed as hard as he could.
Once back in his car, Wilburn sat in the dark and said nothing for a few moments. Then, he handed something to the agent sitting in the front seat.
“How’d she seem?” the agent in the front seat asked.
“Cool as a cucumber, sir,” Wilburn replied.
The agent in the front seat replied, “Well, this thumb drive you got from her tonight should give us enough to indict Collazo’s entire organization. She’s been at his side every day for months now. Every conversation he’s had, every deal he’s made, every contract he’s put out. It’s all on there, Agent Wilburn.”
Wilburn smiled and relaxed for the first time in hours.
“And did he believe your little act, Agent Wilburn?” the agent in the front seat asked, adjusting his earpiece.
“Just call me Agent ‘shit-for-brains’ from now on, sir,” Wilburn replied as they both burst out laughing.