It had been two weeks since I accidentally killed the accountant. Annette and her son, Little Carlo, had been staying at The Palazzo with Uncle Carlo. Annette was beginning to settle in to her new home. She seemed to enjoy her daily activities as a confidential secretary for her Uncle.
Maybe she would stay on at The Palazzo and manage it’s personnel permanently. My cousin, Annette, had notified me that a training session would be held early this morning. The way I looked at it was I was attending a university: MIT. Mafiosi In Training.
7:00 am August 6, 1968
I stayed over the night before since he was partial to early morning meetings, and I could sleep later if I was here the night before. I guess I could suffer through my luxurious second floor suite of rooms in my new home here in The Palazzo.
And the wardrobe was befitting of a Baron! It felt good to be attired in Gucci dress clothes instead of Sears cargo shorts and a guinea tee.The soft leather Italian loafers were a great improvement over work boots.
I navigated my way from my Palatial suite of rooms down the butterfly marble stairs past the twelve foot fountain that presided over a foyer the size of the entire home I grew up in.
I made my way into the small private dining room. There I had a big bowl of Cheerios with fresh strawberries. Some things never change.
Being a New Mafiosi required training, I figured. At 7:15 sharp, Annette & Little Carlo joined me for breakfast.
We made small talk while waiting for the chef to prepare her bacon and eggs. Little Carlo was all smiles; much the opposite from our first meeting. He happily slurped his Froot Loops.
Annette thanked me again for saving her and her baby and related how happy and safe they felt here in this new life of service to our community.
At Command Central, I thought, but didn’t fully realize how true that was right then. But I would very soon. This was about to be a very interesting Friday!
Carlo entered the private dining room just as Annette’s plate was served by a uniformed chef. “We’ll let my niece finish her breakfast. Come with me now, Son.”
Alone in the hallway, outside the dining room, Carlo said, “We are going to expand your horizons this morning, Ben.”
First stop was a peek in to the commercial kitchen where uniformed staff prepared meals. Quite an operation. Smelled great too.
The kitchen in The Palazzo was not like one found in any home I had ever seen: a commercial setup like one might find at the banquet hall at Bowling Green in The City.
But then The Palazzo was more like A grand hotel than a country home on a hill. Uniformed chefs and bussing staff hustled around the huge space.
I was happy to follow my new Father, in his sartorial splendor, probably Gucci’s; and was intrigued by our new adventure.
Until he went through a door that exited one hallway into another small hallway that lead seemingly to nowhere. Just a single door lay ahead down the dead end little hall.
Following him, I stepped through the door just as he flipped on the light switch illuminating a pantry of canned goods. Three full walls stocked with cans like in a supermarket, from floor to ceiling.
I guessed the old guy forgot where he was going and screwed up my tour and we ended up in the pantry by accident.
I was ready to laugh about it since this place was enormous. Maybe you start to forget things or get confused easily when you get that old! He should have a map made.
Carlo must have been amused by me because he laughed out loud and said, “Poor Ben, from the look on your face, you probably think I’m nuts,bringing you in here.”
I was beginning to wonder if we both weren’t a little ‘bots, as they say in Italian, when he walked right up close to one wall, reached up, smiled and said,
“There it is.” He pressed in on a can of Green Giant peas. Then the whole wall swiveled open like a big door and he disappeared.
I followed him through the looking glass of canned goods into an odd shaped room. He flipped a light switch then closed the door behind us.
“This is our secret spy room”, Carlo Peruzzi announced.
What bewildered me when we entered the secret room is if it was a secret, who knew about it? My father, The Don, had built this Palace on a hill, I supposed, for his sanity and safety.
Therefore, I deduced only those he trusted with his life could know about this room.
Only two of us know about it as far as I could see. Carlo,and myself now.
If The Boys knew, Carlo’s giant manservants, they never said anything. But, they never said anything except in whispers to Carlo.
Didn’t matter anyway, because I trusted them because my father trusted them with his life.
There were three high back leather burgundy chairs around a large polished cherry mahogany table in the center of the room. Carlo sat in one of them.
We had just gotten situated comfortably when the secret pantry door opened to reveal Pietro followed by Leonardo.
They set down a tray of pastries and a pot of coffee and breakfast ware on the table before us, then they went into sentry mode on our side of the doorway.
As Carlo poured the hot aromatic roast into gold rimmed fine China I surveyed my new surroundings.
The big observation room or Spy Room spanned about twenty feet across each vertex and was shaped like a pentagon. It was soundproof, had mirrors centered on each of the five walls.
Some kind of switches, maybe a control panel of some sort was located on the gleaming burgundy mahogany conference table. Actually five control panels that also shaped a pentagon corresponded in their positions on the table top in parallel with the walls of the room.
It seemed that whatever these switches controlled there was one for each wall. Maybe they opened and closed the drapes? I was confused until My new Dad, Don Carlo,seemed to read my thoughts again.
“Each of the five mirrors on each of the five walls are activated for sight and sound according to which control panels you choose.”
That was when the point of all this hit me like a ton of bricks. This really is a secret spy room!
Carlo flipped a switch on the conference table and the sight and sound came alive on one mirror on one wall.
On the other side of that mirror Annette sat behind a desk. It appeared to be an office.
“Your cousin has been taking meetings for us in our office for the past week.”
“Does she know she’s being watched?” I asked.
As he refilled the dark blend in our cups, Carlo explained that this was his secret observation room. We could see out but they could not see or hear us.
Two way mirrors in the center of each room appeared to be just a mirror hanging on the wall. One by one each room came alive as Carlo activated each switch, revealing four dining rooms and one office.
Then turned them off again and all we saw were five mirrors. We could see and hear what was going on in each room of the five walls of the pentagonal shaped room.
Not much was happening at 8:05 am on a Friday. My new Rolex told very accurate time. I had received it a few days after my first family service had been rendered two weeks ago.
Seemed like it might take a little while for the new guard to file in for breakfast at the beginning of their workday.
Round the clock buffets were stationed in the four dining rooms that served four score of soldiers three meals and continuous snack breaks. An army runs on its stomach , I guess.
Carlo narrated, “The gourmet food prepared by the world class chefs is an important company benefit to our men. Men will relax and talk freely on meal breaks. I like to watch breakfast since it is the end of one shift and the beginning of another.”
“Yes, Sir”, I said.
From the observatory or spy room, we could observe the rooms in that part of The Palazzo reserved for outsiders. Less security for one in his position if anyone ever found out about these rooms, but balanced out by a first-hand look at all who profess their loyalty and services to our cause.
Carlo’s men, his staff and any visitors to the fortress could be observed without their knowledge. He said, “This way we know first-hand of their true intentions.”
Caesar could have used a Spy Room. Et Tu, Brute?
While we were waiting for the Mafiosi army to enter for breakfast, and for Annette’s meeting to begin, I relaxed a bit and noticed the details of the room itself.
In the center of the pentagon at the point where the radii would intersect, sat the large mahogany conference table with three executive leather swivels where we sat in two of them, sipping our fresh roast.
The impressive custom built conference table presided atop an imported Persian rug that was centered over mahogany floor boards. The silk Oriental paisley tapestry of bright blue, gold and silver matched the color scheme of the blue velvet drapes that presided above Doric columns at each corner vertex.
The box of pastries lay before us untouched as they had in the den. Maybe he had them brought in fresh daily just to test his will power. Maybe The Boys eat them. Or they just get thrown away.
Recessed lighting placed throughout the coiffured ceiling and gold electric wall sconces illuminated the spy room. The wall mirrors looked just like regular mirrors until the two way switch activated the scene happening in each adjacent room.
We were relaxing at the conference table in The Secret Spy Room: drinking coffee and not eating pastries. I guessed the show was about to begin.
All mirrors were left activated so we could watch without sound. Shifts changed. Night shift men exited their dinner as day men filed in for breakfast.
Chefs switched out silver buffet trays of bacon, eggs, french toast suspended in wire frames over propane flames just like I had seen at an “all you can eat” buffet.
Used glasses and silverware and plates were replaced by clean ones by a staff of bus boys. Probably neighborhood family kids working on their summer break from high school.
Annette sat patiently behind her desk in the office, idly reading a magazine.
At that moment the secret door opened again and through The Spy Room door, my Dad,Tony Baron. took the third chair, and said, “I’m running a little late today.”
He turned to me and said, “Today is the day the kids are returning home from summer camp and your Mom was very excited. I couldn’t get out of there.”
My little brother, Vito, and my baby sister, Mary went away to St. Rita’s Camp every summer for 6 weeks. It would be good to see them.
I was thinking of how I would divide my time between my two lives.
Ten- Baron Construction Company
Carlo filled a cup of coffee for my other Dad who joined us at the table. I remembered that Carlo told me that Anthony Baron was one of his closest friends and how he replaced Carlo as my Mom’s husband and my Dad to save her sanity and raise me.
Carlo said, “Good morning, Eduardo”, to Anthony.
“Who is Eduardo?” I said.
Anthony said, “I am Carlo’s brother, Eduardo. I am your Uncle and Annette’s father.” He pointed at Annette in the office behind the mirror.
Carlo spoke next. “My brother, Eduardo, has been my partner this whole time. He assumed the fictional role of ‘Anthony Baron’, much as you are ‘Ben Baron”.”
Eduardo responded, “Rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”
“I do not understand,” I said.
“Then, we did our jobs, Son”, Carlo said. “This whole scheme was put in place 20 years ago. Eduardo lost his first wife, Annette’s mother, from a rare blood disease some years prior after she needed a transfusion from childbirth.”
Eduardo picked up the explanation. “You were the only male heir for our family business, Ben. We had to put a plan into place to protect you and your mother.”
“After all,” Carlo said, with hands raised. “You must lead this business into the future. We are getting old. And this thing we started is growing exponentially.“
My edification continued in stereo. Eduardo said, “Since our company was called Baron Construction Company we created two fictional characters.
Carlo had a big funeral for his brother, Eduardo. Now dead, I took the name, Anthony Baron, to take Carlo’s place as your father and Rose’s husband. We worked together to raise you properly. You were already named Benedetto Carlo Peruzzi. We called you Ben Baron.”
Wow, my head was swimming. I had just been told I don’t really exist. Talk about an identity crisis!
“But why did you keep this secret from me for so long?” I said.
Carlo said,” Not only to let you grow up in a happy, normal childhood but to establish your identity as a regular person. I cannot even go out without bodyguards and a bulletproof vehicle.I am a prisoner to my position. And I didn’t want that for you or Eduardo.”
Eduardo said, “Carlo made a great sacrifice for us, Son. He took it all on himself, to be the figurehead, The Don.”
“Our people expect a figure head: leader they can count on. Carlo had become famous, a celebrity, if you will. A true leader.”
Admiration and respect for his older brother exuded from Eduardo as he concluded.
“Carlo’s sacrifices allowed us to enjoy our lives of anonymity. No one mobs us like they do my brother when in public.”
My real Dad was like Elvis in many respects.
“We can go out to movies, restaurants, ball games, wherever we want like normal people without being bothered. And we can work for our cause without fear of reprisals because no one knows who we are or what we’re doing.”
Carlo said, “You can hide in plain sight. Just a couple of construction workers.”
I was beginning to see how organized these two brothers and Mafiosi partners had been in their plans to allow me to live a great life as Ben Baron. And the sacrifices they both make for that to happen.
Carlo said, “Ben and Anthony Baron are free to work undercover in service to our community and they and their family are safe without fear of reprisals.”
Cool. We are undercover double agents, like James Bond!
At 9 am sharp a clergyman wearing a black suit and a priest’s collar entered Annette’s office. The three of us watched through the one way mirror as salutations were made and coffee and pastries were served.
I recognized Msgr. Murphy from my high school. He was the principal of St. Benedict’s.
“Thank you for seeing me this morning, Ms. Peruzzi. Thank Don Carlo for his continued generosity. Daily benedictions are included for The Don. He is in our prayers.”
“Our young men at St. Benedict’s are receiving a great education thanks to your Family. And our sports teams are among the best in The City. Playing sports enriches the lives of our young men. Mind, body and soul”.
Eduardo turned, swivelled in his chair, and faced me, “That’s another thing your father did for you, Ben. He opened St. Benedict’s Catholic High School for you. We both wanted you to have the best education possible like our parents did for us.”
Carlo said, “Education is vital today, Son. And thanks to the education my brother and I earned at New York University, Eduardo designed the building and campass and oversaw its construction.”
“Yes, and my big brother, here, got it all approved and financed.”
Carlo smiled modestly. “This town needed a great Catholic High School.”
“We made it difficult to gain admission. Only the best and brightest were accepted,” Eduardo said.
Carlo chimed in, “And we kept tuition low so all families could afford to send their smartest young men.”
“Oh, so I got in to St. Benedict’s because my two Dads built it…I see!” I said, thinking aloud.
Carlo said, “No, that is not so. Ben Baron got in on his own. St. Benedict’s would have had no way to know who you or Anthony Baron really were.”
Eduardo said, “That’s right, Ben. You did everything on your own. We just provided the arena. You were the gladiator.”
I felt much better. Knowing what was real was complicated. After all, this whole situation was complex but I began to realize and understand. I actually had two fathers. I never knew that until now. They spent their lives doing good works for our people first. They did so much for me.
At that moment, I decided I would also do good works for our people too. I became resolved to live my life in service to The Mafiosi community. Ben Baron could move about freely in society to take care of business!
I would work with Anthony Baron and Carlo Peruzzi as their agent in the service of The Mafiosi Family Business under the cover of a construction worker at Baron Construction Company.