My name is Richie. Richie Ampola and this is the god’s honest true story of how I almost got hooked into the rackets and how, thank god, it didn’t exactly work out that way. Thank god.
Well to begin with I come from a good family. My Mother, Grace, god bless her gentle soul, she’s an absolute saint. And my pop, Lou, god rest his soul, he died of a heart attack quite a few years back—when I was only eight. He was a hard working mechanic for the City of New York, and I absolutely idolized him. He always called me “The Bambino” on account I was the youngest of three. The other two—they’re my sisters Elaine and Marian, and even though the both of them can be absolute pains in the you-know-whattocks at times, all in all they’re basically all right. But getting back to my nickname, I didn’t mind being called “The Bambino” on account it was coming from my pop. He was a good and decent man. And you know, I never recall ever hearing him swear. He never swore, at least not ever in front of Ma or us kids. And god forbid if my mother ever swore. Forget about it. None of us really did.
So anyway we all lived in Queens in a plain looking little house near Middle Village just off Metropolitan Avenue and it was all right—I guess. And so when I was old enough I got myself a job at the local supermarket and I had these two friends from there, Sal and Gino, that I always palled around with and they were identical twins—and you know, they really did look alike. Well, to make a longer story somewhat shorter, they had this uncle Nicky, Nicky Napoli, in Brooklyn—Sheepshead Bay in fact—who they would go to visit with their family from time to time. Well, after I turned seventeen, I got a car of my own, a nice fire engine red 1953 two door Studebaker Starlight coupe—and in case you don’t already know, it’s the good looking five seater—and then me and Sal and Gino would drive out to Brooklyn on our own to visit with their uncle Nicky. Well one thing leads to another and the next thing you know Sal and Gino ask me one afternoon if I would mind driving them out to Bayonne that night so they could pick something up. They said it was to help out their uncle. All the way to Bayonne. You know—Bayonne, New Jersey. So I wasn’t particularly doing anything that night so I said, “Yeh—sure, I’ll help ya’s out. What time you need me?”
Well—I kinda had a feeling all along that their uncle Nicky was somewhat in the mob and all, but I really thought that this job was only like a moving job or something like that. Well it was a moving job all right. Right out the back door of a store and into my car. The next thing I know this alarm goes off, lights are flashing and turning on, and then there was Sal, with a couple of swear words thrown in, saying, “Go, go, go Richie.” So I put the car in gear then I start to pull away—you know—like normal. That’s when Gino yells, along with two or three swear words of his own, “Come on Richie, push that gas pedal to the floor—we gotta get outta here!” Well after I took a look down and saw that both Sal and Gino were each carrying four small black velvet bags, I finally put two and two together and realized they must’ve just robbed that place, and so that was when I floored it and we made our way back under the Hudson River and then over the East River to Brooklyn. Well naturally it did turn out that it was absolutely a robbery and that store was in fact a jewelry shop and in those eight small black velvet bags was an assorted bunch of cut diamonds, diamond rings, diamond bracelets, and a single—big—cut ruby. I know this because when we drove back to Brooklyn and into this garage there, Sal and Gino showed me the stuff. So I’m like, “Ok—now I’m a criminal. Great. Now I’m gonna wind up in jail or something like that”, and so Sal and Gino are trying to calm me down saying things like, “It’s a piece of cake, Richie,” and “There’s nothin’ to worry about, Richie,” and “Everything’s gonna turn out just fine, Richie.” And I’m like still all worked up, and so after they made a couple of phone calls they took me out to this nice restaurant called Giovanni’s just down the street, and so I figured since I was hungry and all, and since I could order whatever I wanted—well what the heck. And so we all ate a nice dinner and even had some red wine. And get this—it turns out the owner Giovanni owed Nicky Napoli big time so when we went to leave he tore up the bill and gave us each a ten spot for cab fare home. Not too shabby.
But now here’s the kicker. My car, which was still back in the garage where we parked it, well it seems that some punk kids from that neighborhood had been eyeing that particular garage for about a week and then they saw us drive in and then a short while later walk out, so they figured what the heck, we’ll get ourselves a nice car and all. But what they didn’t know was that the cops had the make and model and license plate number of the car involved in the robbery in Bayonne—my car. Well the three punks took my car and before you know it the cops in Jersey City caught up with them and made the arrest. Of all the places for them to go—Jersey City. It’s just up the way from Bayonne! And guess what Sal and Gino had stashed there in the glove box—two unregistered .38 Special snub nose revolvers. Oh and guess what was stuffed under the front seat—the eight small black velvet bags with the jewels in them. About $150,000 worth—That is, if they had been real. Turns out, for whatever the reason, they weren’t. But that ruby—that one big cut ruby—that turned out to be the genuine $100,000 real deal. And lucky for Sal and Gino that Gino liked that ruby so much that he took it out of one of the bags and stuffed it in his pants pocket—you know, so he could admire it later.
Now as for those other boys, the three punks, oh my god. Did they ever get nailed to the cross. They did time for not only the jewel robbery, but they also got popped for possession of those two illegal guns and stealing my car as well—which it seems happened to be in that garage in Brooklyn having just been repaired and serviced at the time they took it. That’s what the service record said anyway.
Well Nicky Napoli got his big ruby. Sal and Gino got a pat on the back for a job well done and a couple hundred bucks each. And me—well I got my car back. But here’s the best part. When I went to the police impound in Jersey City the very next morning to pick up my car, there was this NYPD detective waiting there. So anyway he takes me aside and says, “Funny thing Mr. Ampola—there was a snapshot from the camera at the back of that jewelry shop in Bayonne of the driver who was in your car at the time of the robbery and well—that picture just sort of disappeared. You see, I’m the only one to have actually seen that snapshot Mr. Ampola and therefore I’m the only one who actually knows who was really driving your car, and so providing you can keep your nose clean from now on—well—that’s the way it’s going to stay—that no one else will ever know who was actually driving your car. And as for the other two, let’s just say I couldn’t make out their faces. As far as I’m concerned for the time being your off the hook. And I’m a man of my word. Do I make myself clear, Mr. Ampola?”
So I says, “Yeh, yeh officer. Absolutely clear.” And then I was all polite to him and thanking him and all. But wait—then when he goes to leave he stops and turns and says, “And oh—by the way, say hello to your mother Grace for me Richie. It’s been a long time—we went to high school together. Just tell her you ran into Charlie Falcone in the supermarket where you’re going to continue to work. Right Richie?”
“Yes sir,” I said. “Yes sir. I will most definitely do that. On both accounts. And thank you again officer Falcone.”
And so at that point I’m thanking my lucky stars as I get into my car and drive directly back to Queens. Well I went straight to work just as scheduled, and that night when I finally got home I told my ma that I ran into an old classmate of hers and I told her his name.
“That bum,” she says. “He never gave me back my corsage from one of the wonderful sophomore dances he took me to. That good looking, good for nothing bum! And just for your peace of mind Richie, that was before I met your father—god rest your sweet soul, Louie.”
No disrespect intended against my mother but Ma, you’re wrong about Charlie Falcone being a good for nothing bum. At least in my book he’s A Okay. And thank god Ma you don’t know all the facts behind it all. Thank god you don’t know the half of it. And thank you Pop for looking down over me. I know that you know the half of it and more. Because Pop, you know what? As you already know—things could’ve turned out to be a lot different for me if I got hooked into the rackets. A lot different. Oh, and and I just gotta say hello to you Nanna Rose. I know your watching down and listening from your window up there.
So I guess all that’s left for me to say now is—thank god I’m now the manager of that supermarket that I was working for then. That’s a good enough job for me!
PER LA VITA BUONA
by John Patrick Seekamp______________________July 11th, 2014