Handing off the Problem


    It was the last week of January in 1994, and the remnants of the previous week's snow storm had turned to sagging piles of dirty slush along the curbs in this ethnic neighborhood in Hoboken. What little had passed for daylight under leaden skies faded two hours before. The streets were wet from a light rain that had just started, and a taxi hissed on the wet pavement to a stop before an Italian restaurant. There was a conference inside the cab while the occupants settled up with the driver before venturing out into the cold and the wet. They were two men, and just from the sight of their overcoats and the briefcases that each of them carried you could see that the one with the streak of white in his hair was much more stylish than the other. As the cab pulled away, they trudged carefully toward the door, avoiding puddles, and reassured by the aroma of rich Italian food that hung over the sidewalk.

    It was an authentic place where the waiters were grown men, not boys. They did not have illusions that they would ever be anything but waiters, and were content to do that well. They had that peculiar combination of showing deference to every guest, but understood that they were in charge. They had heard it all, but never let on. After a brief conversation with the maitre d' the guests followed him to a booth set for three, at which Tony was already sitting, snacking from a basket of cheese bread. The newcomers set their briefcases in front of the table and shucked their coats to lay them over.

    "Took you long enough," Tony said, looking up.
    "Aw, we got stuck in traffic coming over from JFK," said the one like him named Jerry. "I remember when you could get a good flight from L.A. to Newark direct. The airlines are screwed up."
    "Yeah? What isn't screwed up? This is Bobby?" Tony said. He reached across the table to shake hands with the newcomer, and noticed without comment the streak of white arching back from his forehead into a thick dark mass of hair. "Glad you could make it Bobby."
    "Thanks for inviting me," Bobby said, a little worried. "I want to do whatever I can to straighten out this misunderstanding."
    Tony frowned and nodded. "Yeah. It's a mess, alright." He looked at the other man critically. "You're booked into a Manhattan hotel? Got some business over there tomorrow? You never went to Jersey tonight?"
    Bobby nodded.

    A waiter appeared, pad at the ready. Tony offered a menu to Bobby and said, "I'm gonna have the rigatoni, no salad. Order what you like."
    "Sounds good to me," Bobby said. "I'll have the same."
Jerry nodded his agreement, too.
    "And, a bottle of Chianti," Tony added. He threw open his hands in a gesture of futility, and admitted, "I know it's old fashioned, but you get a gold star around here for doin' things the old fashioned way. Garlic and chianti."
    The waiter retired.

    "First off," Tony said, "I want you to understand that I got nothin' whatsoever to do with enforcement. I am strictly on the sports wire. Nothin' more. So, whatever happens is in somebody else's shop. But this, uh, 'misunderstanding' as you call it, did come outta my shop, and so I gotta settle the accounts. Huh?"
    Bobby nodded. "I understand."
    "Good," Tony said. "Now there's two problems. One is the 'misunderstanding,' and that caused some losses. The guys upstairs are willing to write that off under certain conditions. They think it was the other guy that caused that, and it's not your fault."
    "Thank you," Bobby said with some relief.
    "Yeah. Well, you're not off the hook completely," Tony continued. "The other problem is good will. And, you did connect us with the other guy." He looked to Jerry. "Did you talk to the other guy?"

    The waiter came back, set down three wine glasses, opened a bottle of wine, and poured. As he worked, Tony said, "They got the best damned cheese bread. Bring us another basket of cheese bread, huh? You gotta try this. The crazy thing is, you'd think some old guy from Sicily brought his family recipe over here for it. But, naw. It's some Vietnamese kid in the kitchen makes it. Can you believe it? The best Italian cheese bread in the world, by a Vietnamese kid."
    The waiter retired, with a barely perceptible smile.

    "So, the other guy. He's the problem," Tony said.
    "I tried to talk to him," Jerry shrugged. "I told him that his pullin' out like that, 'Bam,' was not acceptable. He said he decided it wasn't his kind of thing, after all. I told him there were losses; he said, 'Tough, sue me.' I told him we wanted to talk, he said his ex-wife didn't want him to come, and if we leaned on him, the ex- was goin' to the authorities."
    Tony shook his head in disbelief. "Who could have believed it? A big black sports hero and he says, 'my ex-wife won't let me.' What a mess. See Bobby, this is where the good will kicks in; this is just flat out impossible. It'd be bad enough if the word among our friends was that we got screwed by some dumb black jock. But people say that we got stiffed by the dumb black jock's ex-wife. Now, how're you gonna get any respect from your friends if they think your dancin' to the tune of some woman on the other side of the country?
    Tony looked Bobby square in the eye and gravely said, "This woman doesn't have a stake. She really could talk. A whole lot of very expensive things could come undone. You understand that, don't you?"
    Bobby nodded. "I know. I tried to tell him how serious this was. I even tried to take care of it myself..."
    Tony snorted. "Yeah. If you don't mind my sayin' that was some half-assed plan." He looked at Bobby for a moment with suspicion. "If you weren't an amateur, I'd say you weren't really tryin'. But you are." He considered for a moment whether to continue, then did. "The first rule is -- the very first rule is -- you don't do that kind of business with a stranger. And, an independent, to boot. You never know what an independent is gonna do. They got no loyalty to anything. Well, you saw."
    Bobby nodded ruefully. "Yeah. I saw. I tried..."
    Tony sighed. "Yeah. Shoulda left it to us in the first place. Amateurs. Now we gotta do somethin' before we're a joke on the streets, or that dumb broad talks. That loss is water under the bridge now, but some people say we shoulda never tried to get somethin' goin' in L.A. The place is full of lunatics and dreamers... No offense."
    "No. I know what you mean," Bobby agreed.
    Tony continued with a theme he felt strongly about, "I guess it must be the movies or somethin'. People there just don't understand the way things really are. They don't understand about respect. They don't understand about consequences. They just don't understand."
    Bobby nodded, "Uh huh."
    Tony shook his head with disdain. "Nowadays it's courts, and lawyers, and contracts. It's trickery and disrespect. You know what I'm saying'?"
    "I know," Bobby assured him.
    "But you had the right idea about the ex-wife," Tony said. "She can't get away with this; people gotta see. It's a standoff right now. She's been told that if she keeps absolutely quiet about this, we'll let bygones be bygones. But, of course you know..." he let his palms fall upward.
    "You just can't risk it, after she threatened to talk," Bobby said.
    "Yeah," Tony agreed. With his elbows on the table he made the apex of an A-frame with his chin and talked more to himself than to the other. "A lotta operators have tried to go to the coast, but nobody made it. I don't know why we tried. It's the people -- the goofy people out there. They just don't get it; they're livin' on a cloud or somethin', I guess. Maybe it's the climate."

    Conversation stopped while the water delivered the cheese bread. The diners sampled it until the waiter disappeared again.

    Tony seemed to consider his words carefully now. "Uh. Getting back the good will. That's gonna take some time, and it's gonna be expensive. They figure that since you led us into it, you and the jock should be good for it."
    "Uh huh," Bobby said.
    "They put a figure of sixty grand on it. That's just their cost... There'll be travel. A couple of L.A. people have to be relocated, after. Some people here have to be sidetracked to it... If it was a contract from an outsider it would cost at least twice that. Because of the names involved, it's gonna have to be world class."
    "Okay," Bobby agreed.
    Tony took a scrap of paper from his pocket and gave it to Bobby. "There's a name to make two checks out to, one for 30 grand from you and one for 30 grand from the jock, an address to mail them to. By February 15th. Okay?"
    "Uh..." Bobby worried, "Couldn't we do it with cash? Checks are so ... traceable."
    Tony looked at him reproachfully for a moment. "That's the idea. In this business you learn that everybody involved has got to have a stake. Our stake is that we did the action. Your stake is that you paid. That way nobody has to worry about somebody sayin' something they shouldn't, after... No matter what. You're not dealing with some LA two-bit junkie this time. We're professionals and we're in this together. Nobody talks, no matter what."
    "Okay." Bobby swallowed uncomfortably and said, "Is there anything else you need from us? Anything we should do to help?"
    "Naw," Tony relaxed and said. "The guys will take care of it. They'll make sure the jock out of the action when it happens, and you guys will be real surprised. I don't know what they'll plan -- probably somethin' classic. They probably started thinkin' about it as soon as your little plan blew up in your face. You just stay in the clear, and when it happens, you just act natural, whatever that is. Frankly, the less you know, the better for everybody."
    Bobby nodded seriously. "Okay. I know this is going to be hard on O.J. I think he just doesn't understand."
    Tony seemed surprised, "O.J.? Is that the black jock? We supposed to go easy on him or somethin' because he's black? Like we're the government or somethin'?"
    Bobby shrugged slightly. "No. Just... He doesn't understand some things..."
    Tony considered it for a moment, then, "Well, I'll tell you. A lot of unfortunate things happen. Innocent kids get killed in drive-by shootings, priests go blind, and saintly old virgins get sick and die. That's the way it is in the real world. Maybe not in Hollywood, but in the real world. Maybe your pal just doesn't understand. Maybe he doesn't deserve what's gonna happen to his ex-. Well, we gotta straighten out the mess she's made. We've given up on L.A., but she's screwed this up so bad we don't even get the respect we deserve on the streets here. And, she's got some very important people nervous. Sorry. No hard feelings, huh?"
    Bobby nodded with resignation. "I understand."
    "Good." Tony said with finality. "We gave her every chance. She shouldn't 'a threatened us. And the jock? He'll get over it; I hear he has no problem gettin' women. Think of the TV: Old jock is shocked, flies home in tears to be with kid."

    Tony munched on the cheese bread, adding to the pattern of crumbs on the tablecloth.

    After a minute, Bobby said tentatively, "The thing I don't get is... if you do something so that everybody know you got even with Nicole -- the ex-wife -- won't the authorities know, too, and come after you?"
    Tony smiled with amusement. "No offense, but you think like an amateur. We don't care what the L.A. cops think, we don't care what the world thinks. We just care what the people here think. Anybody who knows how this O.J. person stiffed us, and about how his ex-wife runs things, is gonna start to hear that somethin' unfortunate is about to happen. And, when it happens, they will understand. That's all we care. What the L.A. dreamers think... We could care less."
    "Oh," Bobby said.
    "By the way," Tony continued, "I hear that the L.A. cops are pretty stupid. They're dreamers, too; they don't believe in organizations. You can do anything you want in L.A. and they will blame it on the 'Colombian drug lords'." He laughed at the idea. "That's one of the reasons they thought L.A. would be a pushover. But, we can't re-educate four million dreamers."
    "Yeah," Bobby agreed. "Well, like you say, I'm an amateur."
    The waiter came back with their dinners, and cautioned in a barely audible voice as he began to serve, "Hot plates, gentlemen."

    Tony brightened at the sight of his meal, and said, "So. Tell me about that damned earthquake you had out there. Some fun, huh? Here I am havin' dinner with a guy who lived through it, and I'm talkin' about kid stuff. What'd you see?"

_____________________________________________
NOTES:

    BILL WASZ: A small time crook, and now a California prison convict, claims in a series of internet articles (http://www.worldnetdaily.com) by David Besnahan, that in January of 1994 he was hired by Robert Kardashian to murder Nicole, but that he double crossed Kardashian and stole half the payment. Part of his story is independently verifiable, the other part is not. Reduced to its essentials, he claims that 1) in the fall of 1993, he met Simpson and Kardashian when he sold them cocaine in a West Hollywood nightclub; subsequently he supplied drugs to both men privately, had visited Rockingham in this way, and had met Nicole as well as Simpson there. 2) On the first weekend of 1994 (January 6, 7) Kardashian hired Wasz to follow Nicole, make notes of her activities, and photograph her with other men, if such meetings occurred. 3) He did, and took pictures of her after lunch with Marcus Allan in Encino. 4) Shortly later, Kardashian invited Wasz to his home, and there told him that Nicole was a problem for several reason, one of which was that she had disrupted Kardashian's relationship with Simpson. 5) Kardashian also said that he and Simpson were in business with the "Russian Mafia" doing money laundering, sports betting, and point shaving.

    6) Wasz says that in that meeting, Kardashian proposed a plan to kill Nicole, for which he would pay Wasz $15,000. It was a bizarre scheme, and Wasz suspected that he was being hired to be the fall guy, but he played along to get what money from the deal he could without actually pulling the trigger. 7) On January 24th he stole Barbieri's car while she was at the hair dresser, according to Kardashian's instructions. 8) Later that day he met Kardashian to receive a $7,500 down payment for the contract to kill Nicole, and instead stole the money from Kardashian at gunpoint. 9) Wasz then lost the Kardashian money, went on a brief crime spree with Barbieri's car, and was caught in it a few days later by the police.

    CONFIRMATION: The confirmed parts of the story are that Wasz was a small time crook, and (1) was seen at the nightclub where the initial meeting with Simpson and Kardashian occurred. A "stalking diary," apparently in Wasz handwriting and containing credible notations was recovered, giving credence to his claim of stalking Nicole (2). One of the notations in the diary is of a lunch meeting in Encino, which is consistent with, but does not prove Nicole's meeting with Marcus Allan (3). There is no independent support for the claims of Wasz meeting Kardashian and learning of connections to the Russian Mafia (5), or a plan to murder Nicole (6). However, there is independent indication that Kardashian was not as close to Simpson at the end of 1993 as he had been for the previous 25 years (4). Wasz did steal Barbiri's car (7), and notations in the stalking diary of Barbieri's phone number as well as Simpson's and Kardashian's suggest that he might have had an understanding with these people. There is no independent evidence that Wasz double crossed Kardashian (8), but he was arrested in Barbieri's car (9) a few days after it was stolen.

    CONCLUSION: From this, I am led to believe that there was some problem in the fall of 1993 that had caused a partial estrangement between Kardashian and Simpson, which Kardashian tried to solve by collaborating with Wasz (whether by the plan Wasz describes or some other.) The failure of the Kardashian plan was obvious with the January 24 double cross, and the problem at that point still existed, but was without a prospect of a solution. The ultimate solution to this problem was implemented by someone other than Kardashian, and was the murder of Nicole and the framing of Simpson in June 1994. Even when Kardashian was involved in January, it was contemplated that Nicole would be murdered, so when his plan blew up on the 24th of that month, the successor plan also included the murder of Nicole.

Dick Wagner • Van Nuys, CA (7/04/99) RESPECT3.TXT

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