“What did I tell you Roxie? We’re the good guys!” Mo reached over me and dropped a newspaper on my desk, the Washington Post for March 1,1987. A featured story by Nancy Lewis announced that “With the Mob Muscling In, We May Soon Long For the Bad Old Days.”
“I’ll look at it later.” I folded the Post, stuck it in my Louise Vuitton bag and motioned Mo down for a whisper.
Mo rolled his shoulders and came close with a wink. “What’s up?”
I looked behind me to make sure we were alone then spoke in a whisper. “Mr. Nesborn seems a little jumpy this morning. Any idea why?”
“Yeah I do, but don’t worry about it.” Mo stood back with a grin and buttoned his suit coat. “He’s a little on edge because your momma and her fine new husband Izzy are jetting back from Vegas as we speak and Izzy’s brother back there is putting together a celebration to welcome the newlyweds.”
“But that’s wonderful.” I frowned. “Momma didn’t tell me when they were coming back.”
“Big boss Izzy just decided, but you just relax. Ray just gets nervous because he wants to do a good job for his brother. I’m here to get orders from Ray now. I hear we’re going to have a little business planning session this evening, then we party hearty.” Mo winked.
“What kind of planning—”
“Thank God for America.” Mo pointed at me. “Those who work hard and shoot straight have a right to get ahead; am I right?”
Before I could respond, Mo pushed through the double doors and headed for Mr. Nesborn’s office. I went back to work, wondering about what was really planned for the evening. A so-called “business planning session” sounded straightforward but I had learned my lesson the hard way. Business planning with these guys could be like a trip to the firing range where the clay pigeons talked back. Last month I was asked to have a drink with a guy who “disappeared“ later that night. Nobody ever mentioned him or that night again, and I followed course. At the time, Mo told me that, if asked, I should apply the business principle of I don’t know nuttin ’bout nuttin. That was fine with me because it was true. Other than what I tracked on paper at my job during the day, I really didn’t know anything when it came to what really went on at Nesborn & Associates. Since that night, I resolved to do my job, keep my head down, put my generous paycheck in the bank, and play it by ear.
My job was to maintain spreadsheets for the food, drink and other deliveries to the restaurants, night clubs and other establishments serviced by Nesborn Associates. I came to the company right out of college and had a lot of responsibility. I loved my work but was constantly surprised. Momma encouraged me to apply at the time and just told me she was friends with the head guy. I originally thought that was the man Mo had just gone back to see, Ray Nesborn. Turned out the big cheese in charge was Ray’s older brother Izzy, who my mother had just married in Las Vegas! In light of this and a few other jaw droppers, I had to wonder what was next. I soon found out.
“You’re invited to a homecoming celebration this evening at the Nesborn Family compound.” Mo spoke to me minutes later after his meeting with Ray Nesborn. He smiled and adjusted his red silk tie. “As I told you, Izzy and your momma are flying back as we speak. Tonight, we are going to celebrate good times, oh yeah we are.”
“But I don’t know how to get—”
“Don’t you worry, Roxie-Doxie.” Mo winked. “I think that–“
“Isn’t the compound out in Chevy Chase?” I looked at his slicked black hair and sparkling face, wondering how Mo was able to just never stop smiling. “I don’t know how to get there.”
“You’re going out with us after work, and by the way.” Mo raised his square chin. “There’s something else.”
“Isn’t there always something else?” I exhaled slowly through pursed lips, waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Mo flashed his biggest grin at me. “Not to fret, beautiful. Mr. Nesborn–I mean that the guy back there Mr. Nesborn–says you’re done with your probation period, Capiche? So, you should have your own office in back because you earned it! You get to do more now, and we don’t want our serious business on the desk out front.”
“Well, that’s great news!” I hoped. What serious business? I felt excited and suspicious.
“You know what that means, right?” Mo leaned in close, and I could smell his sweet cologne. “Do you know?”
“I get the feeling you’re going to tell me.” Hopefully it meant nothing illegal.
“It means more dinero for the Roxie-Doxie.” He held up his hand and rubbed his thumb and forefinger together then pivoted to the door. “Seeya later, doll!”
“That’s great!” This helped the career plans of the doll. I wasn’t telling anyone, especially not momma, but my plan was to become a CPA, get away from whatever they were doing here, and go to work for a bigger company. I’d need every dime for tuition.
Mo called back to me as the thick door swung shut, saying that he and Ray Nesborn would pick me up later at my condo. With that, Igot back to work.
In truth, I was happy and encouraged both by the news that I was moving ahead at work and that Momma was coming home with her new husband. Still, I had to be careful. I didn’t want my career tainted by anything in this job.
I slipped home a little early to our place in Northwest DC and did my best to dress up in a festive royal blue party dress and my best fall coat. At about 6:30, Mo, his assistant Charlie and Mr. Nesborn showed up at the condo building. Mo called from the car’s telephone up to the unit I shared with Momma. Stepping out of the high-rise in my blue dress and heels, I was amazed. Mo was driving a gorgeous late model Rolls Royce with dazzling curves and elaborate polished chrome, like something out of the movies. Turns out it was Ray Nesborn’s car and I was seated in back with him.
The Rolls turned heads as we breezed out of the drive-up circle. Soon, I was in heaven. I’m here to tell you that the world looks different from the back seat of a Rolls Royce. I sat back happy with the start of my career, chatting. Beside me, the ever quiet Ray Nesborn rode with his constant companion, a cat name named Alan Dulles. This feline fellow wore a microphone in his jeweled collar so others could listen in on company business when necessary.
In the back seat of that Rolls, my world looked full of promise. We drove past the private dining club where Momma used to work, the place where she met Izzy Nesborn. She met Izzy and now here I was, riding in high fashion with Izzy’s brother. Funny how Momma’s meeting one person changed her whole life and mine too!
I was curious about what the Nesborn family compound was like. Chevy Chase was straight ahead, north up Connecticut Avenue just over the District of Columbia line into Maryland. Because of this I was soon surprised when we took a turn right at Dupont Circle. Where were we going? I bided my time, waiting to ask Mo in private. My thoughts were interrupted when the back seat car phone rang.
Ray answered the telephone and soon started shaking his head, saying nothing for several minutes. Then he seemed to shapeshift into a fiery devil of a man I’d never seen before, growing animated as he hissed in Italian. I had no idea what he was saying and I had to wonder what part of Italy produced men named Nesborn. Probably none. But finally, Mr. Nesbron hung up the phone and gently smiled at me. Then opened the slot in the clear divider to the front seat occupants.
“We have a problem with the New York interlopers.” Ray spoke to Mo and Charlie. “They followed Izzy and Florence from the Washington National Airport to their home. Two cars. One followed them to the compound and is parked down the street. We have men following the followers and we need to deal with the man threatening our home.”
“Okay.” Mo called back. “We discussed that before, and I have people in place and a plan.”
Ray shut the slot, smiled at me, and said no more. He petted Alan Dulles and seemed lost in thought as we continued on. We turned south on 9th Street, drove past D.C.’s Chinatown and then on Constitution Avenue towards the Capitol’s dome shining in the distance. Passing Union Station and some congressional buildings, we headed into an old residential neighborhood off of Pennsylvania Avenue.
Mo swung the Rolls onto a cobblestone drive that led to a four-story stone and brick mansion framed on either side by tall black wrought iron fencing. He slowed to a stop by a thick glass window station set into the left side of the drive up. Lowering his window, Mo spoke into a microphone to a muscular fellow inside that looked like Arnold Schwarzenegger. They had an exchange in very low tones for a minute then part of the wrought iron swung open into a hinged gate. We drove through. Schwarzenegger tipped his hat to me as we passed by, and I hoped my blush didn’t show.
We swung in and stopped under a portico in front of a huge old house. I wanted rib Mo and ask what part of Chevy Chase we were in. But things felt too tense for this now. We were ushered into a foyer replete with beautiful old tapestries and gilded trim. Mo and I exchanged glances and he looked as nervous as I felt.
We were ushed into a jaw-dropping Grand Salon. The room had beautiful marble floors done in Roman designs, high walls with gold vermillion trim, several large paintings, statues and three huge crystal chandeliers hanging from two story ceilings. It seemed more like a formal ballroom than a private home. But Momma and Izzy soon came out to greet us, relaxed and understated as ever. It was wonderful to see Momma so very happy and to feel her warm embrace.
After a few minutes, Mo took me aside and said he needed to “borrow me” for a few minutes. Surprised, I met with Mo and Charlie back in the foyer. Mo made an unusual request of me but explained that I would be protected by trained men at all times. He told me to think about his request and said he’d be right back. Think about it? As if I had much of a choice. Of course, Mo was acting on instructions from my employer. For all intents and purposes, I was on the clock with the people who paid my salary and could help launch my career–or stain it forever.
A few minutes later when Mo picked me up by portico of the mansion. He came back in a big black van and took me to a garage several blocks away on the same street. We were met by an Asian man waiting in a small American car. After he explained my task in detail, Mo assured me that I would be watched by several people and protected if necessary the whole time.
Mo man handed me the keys to the small car. The Asian man put on a blond wig and got into the car with Mo. A few minutes later, I left the garage and followed behind Mo back to the Nesborn compound. When we reached turned onto the road several blocks from the Nesborn compound I stayed back, waiting for Mo and my imitat turned in but I kept going and drove straight over to the dark car parked across from the cobble stone entry road.
“Pardon me sir.” I used my best ditzy blonde voice as I lowered my window and waved at the man. He had baggy eyelids and a droopy lower lip and it occurred to me that he looked like a blow toad. He ignored me for several seconds. I was annoyed and on guard, but repeated my story a few times, wondering if this creature had a long fast tongue capable of snatching flies or hurting me. After several moments he lowered his window and made a noise that wasn’t quite a word.
“Pardon me sir.” I persisted and ignored his sneer. Without a better plan, I tried to affect the “ditzy blonde” persona and repeated my words again and again.
“What’s it?” Blowtoad wheezed. Looking at me straight on he was even more frightening. I wondered if the fellow had thick green skin and webbed toes.
Ignoring my fears, I smiled and began gushing words at the man, waving as I spoke, prattling on about being late for a bridal shower. I asked if he knew the way to Flower Avenue in Takoma Park. He shook his head and squinted at me as though I spoke Mandarin. I repeated my question and launched into a story about how hard it was to find Takoma Park and my friend was a 7th Day Adventist and this was her parent’s home.
While I blabbed on, I saw Mo leave the Nesborn Mansion again. At the same time, the small Asian man in black crawled out of between bushes and rushed to the back of Blowtoad’s car. On this queue I brought my greatest thespian skills to the forefront and started to cry. This distraction worked and Blowtoad missed the unseen fellow crouched at the back of his car. I repeated my story line again, wondering how much longer before this fellow suspected me of something.
After a few minutes the small Asian man in black crawled away to the bushes. Distraction accomplished, I made a doleful wave goodbye. I drove out of neighborhood and skedaddled back to meet Mo at the garage.
As we drove toward the compound, a parade of police cars came out of nowhere and rushed past us up Pennsylvania Avenue. A few minutes later I saw them stopped with lights still flashing and Blowtoad lying face down on the sidewalk with his hands cuffed. Mo told me to ignore the scene. We turned into the compound and headed toward the wrought iron gate.
Mo parked the car and told me to go on inside and enjoy myself. He stayed outside the mansion then came in later, announcing that the police had just arrested a man outside. He said they found him with a large quantity of both crack and powder cocaine secreted inside his back bumper.
Everyone gasped including me. But then came a collective shrug, and we got back to our evening. After all this was a night of celebration. I knew enough to keep smiling, especially at both Mr. Nesborns.
Later on, I grabbed Mo and pulled him aside for a talk. I was mad.
“I want to be on your team and protect this business.” I whispered to him and smiled at him and waved off Momma’s inquiring eyes. “But where did you guys get a large supply of cocaine to plant on that ugly man’s car? I won’t be–“
“Hold on Roxie-Doxie.” Mo rubbed his chin, smiled, and winked at me as he leaned in close to talk. “First things first. When somebody is trying to pick a fight with you, you got to be firm if you don’t want a fight. Understand?”
“Well, how do you know that–“
“This is the same bunch that killed your father, and that chump is getting off light.” Mo raised his chin and twirled a cufflink, saluting over Momma as he continued to speak. “The truth is that if I sat outside the Gambino’s place in New York with a car like that, they’d put me through a crop shedder or load me with chains and toss me off a bridge alive to go feed the fishies. Don’t you understand that?”
I strained to understand him, to understand the world I had entered into. I liked Mo, liked my job, loved my mother. “So instead of killing him, you set him up with drugs?”
“Let him argue that to the court–argue he was set up, make a motion to repress what-you-call-it and stuff like that. They’ll get him some high-priced suit who will tie everybody up in knots with delays and testing the drugs, having the bags fingerprinted and who knows? Maybe somebody will lose them. Maybe its cornstarch–that ain’t my department, you know?”
“No, I don’t know. I don’t–“
“Well, if you don’t, let me be blunt.” Mo smiled like a clown in the moonlight. “A bust is better than a bullet! That bum got off easy.”
“Got off easy?” I tried not to raise my voice.
“He was one of two cars following Mr. Nesborn around and I don’t know what happened to the guy in the other car–and I don’t want to know! Orders are nobody gets whacked, and our New York consigliere is filing a protest on Monday.”
“Filing a protest?” I did a double take. “Do you have your own court?”
“Something like that.” Mo winked. “But when it comes to this business, it’s like I told you. We’re the good guys!”