Friday, July 16, 2010
Skeletons always have a way of coming out of the closet. Somehow, someway those precious secrets carried around in a person's deepest recesses surface like a two century old woolly mammoth rises in the ice of Siberia. Talman Trimunna had a few things he never told anyone. And he had no intention of ever telling. Ever.
Tallie, as he was known on Hudson Street, was a guy you easily pass without noticing. He was what you could call a generic human. Average was his middle name. Not short nor tall, 5-8, not fat nor skinny, 160#, he had some salt and pepper with temporal recession and bland brown eyes. Being featureless was the key to his expertise. Up until three weeks ago, he still made his weekly fun run on the Trenton to Penn Station local. Times Square always had a good crop of stooges on Saturdays. It was these stooges, with their thick wallets and chubby wads, who were Tallie's marks. Talman Average Trimunna was the best pickpocket New York had never seen. No one knew that Tal's hobby was pickpocketing.
Charles Dickens wrote with a kind pen, in Oliver Twist, about the fictional pickpockets, The Artful Dodger and Fagin. Perhaps the best and most well known real life picker is James Freedman. Freedman, aka The Man of Steal, did the pickpocketing sequences in Roman Polanski's 2005 film, Oliver Twist. Of course, it must be said that the best pickpockets are the ones, who never become known. Not only must the crime be profitable, but it must be unsolved.
The Trimunnas, going back to Talman's grandfather, Drake Trimunna, were know for their hands. Although no Trimunna was ever taller than 5-8, they all had the hands of giants. Raymond, Tal's father, and Della, his aunt and Ray's sister had like sized mega mitts. Oddly none of the Trimunnas had big feet, just big hands. When Talman played Little League baseball, he had to use an extra large Enos Slaughter fielding glove. And he was one slick short stop. Not only were his hands an advantage, he had the smooth coordination of a cat. The other curious feature of the Trimunnas' hands was that they were delicate and soft with long thin, nimble fingers. Too bad none of the group ever took up the piano.
Born in '42, Talman led a good life. His wife, the serviceable Maria Costa Trimunna, did the dutiful. Meals, laundry, a weekly mission shot, and two kids were Maria's life. Paul Trimunna and Barbara Trimunna Mason did Tal and Ree proud. They were both chiropracters in Robbinsville, NJ. Curiously, neither got the Trimunna hands. Both were as boring as white paint inasmuch as they seemed to be more like Ree than Tal.
Talman Trimunna's had another life, a life distinct from Ree, Paul, and Babs. William Hopper, known as Pez because of his affinity for the sour candies, was Tal's boss.
Hopper ran an import business dealing in coffee. While the business was legitimate, with real coffee importation and distribution, the real money was in the packaging. The beans came in large containers, which came off the Philadelphia ships and directly loaded onto trailer bases. The containers were then taken by semis to the Trenton warehouse. The liners of the containers appeared to be styrofoam and, indeed, there was a thin styrofoam coating over two inches of solidly packed cocaine. The styrofoam shell was an ingenius way to smuggle cocaine, the dogs couldn't even pick up the scent.
Much like an insurance company, which puts its smarter employees on the investment side of the business, Tallie worked the drug distribution side of Hopper's business. So while everybody thought Tal was a coffee man, he had them all fooled. Well everybody but Pez and a few others. But since everybody on that side of the business was in the same boat, nobody knew nothing. Capisce?
When Tallie turned 50, the cocaine boys threw him a party. To their credit, none of the guys actually used coke. Perhaps that was the secret of their success. Seven middle aged guys, the private back room of Club Casaverde and seven A#1 hookers were the ingredients of a hell of a bash. Mena Petrolunga, a twenty-two year old half Pakastani and half Italian girl ended up with the birthday boy. Neither ever knew how it happened, but it did. Some say love is fate, others say destiny and others point to hormones, but it is a force of Einsteinian complexity.
At first Tal and Mena had a professional relationship. He paid and she did things, things he didn't know existed. After about two months, they started to kiss. Kissing, well, that's seems like small potatoes after you've been down to the farm, but in the business, you don't kiss. Not only did Tal kiss, but Mena kissed back. They kissed before and then the kissing moved into the actual act and then they kissed and kissed some more. Sometimes they went on with the kissing long after they were spent.
Mena couldn't help herself and neither could Tal. They fell in love. Tal, who had way more money than anybody knew about, set Mena up in style. And quite a life they had. Sometimes it's better not to see your lover every day. There is some truth about absence and the fonder heart. Perry Petrolunga Trimunna was was born in 1999 and Hamilton Petrolunga Trimunna in 2001. Both boys got the Trimunna hands. That made Tal happy.
Maybe it was the clam pizza. Ree hated clam pizzas, but Tal loved DeLorenzo's white clam pie. It was a Friday in July, a hot, muggy night. As was the Timunna family tradition, Friday meant pizza for dinner. Neither Paul or Babs could make it, since the office had been closed the preceding Monday to celebrate the 4th. The out of whack back business was booming and they both were cracking people into shape. Just as Tal was going for a third slice, it hit. Like two woolly mammoths on his chest, the vice grip overpowered him. His eyes rolled back, he slumped forward and he died. Right there in DeLorenzo's on a busy Friday night.
A couple of Trenton EMT's were there and they jumped right on Tal. They did a Heimlich, but his coronary was not due to aspiration. They rushed him down Hamilton Avenue to St. Francis, but he was gone when he hit the ER.
Sad, sad sad. Tal was only sixty-eight. His smoking, his untreated hypertension and his uncontrolled cholesterol caught up with him. His will was generous to Ree and Paul and Babs. After the funeral, when all of the friends and secondary family members had left, the three of them sat around the familiar formica kitchen table. They marveled at the stocks and bonds Tal had accumulated. All told, he left them over $4 million. One odd thing, that none of them could explain were the nine shoe boxes, chock full of various credit cards. Visa, Mastercard, Sears, Discover, Exxon and every other possible plastic you could imagine were in these boxes. And the cards all had names on them, names none of them ever heard of. Some criminals like to keep crime trophies. Ree thought that Tal may have bought them at a flea market. Ree was simple like that.
Lots of people, hundreds, paid their respects to Tal and the Trimunna family earlier that day. The church viewing was held right before the funeral service. It was a nice Italo-Trenton kind of ceremony. The cool, shiny green and white marble of "The Immaculate" made the hot July day bearable. Not Ree, not Paul and not Babs paid much attention to the attractive, dark complexioned woman with the two small boys. As the trio went through the receiving line, the exotic looking Mena was drawn and upset, more than you might expect from a friend or an acquaintance. With red, puffy and teary eyes, Mena half smiled when she shook Ree's hand. Mena wanted to to say something. Her lips moved to form some words, but all she could muster was, "So sorry, soo sorry..."
Tal's secrets remained safe. Mena knew he would have wanted it that way. Tomorrow, Ree will remember Mena and wonder who she was and wonder why she was there. She will recall that the little boys looked cute in their little blue blazers, with their white shirts and red and black rep ties. Ree will have a flashback and the boys' big hands will look disproportionate to their arms, as those mani protruded through the sleeves of the blue coats. Being curious, she will check the attendance log. But no unusual names will be found. She will let it go. Ree was smart like that.
Speaking of shoe boxes, attorney Erle Street, visited Mena and the boys a few days after the funeral. Tal had instructed Erle to drop in on Mena, if anything ever happened to him. Tal met Erle through Pez and the business. And Mena and Erle had known one another since the birthday bash, so many years ago. You might say they were all partners. The legal beagle brought three shoe boxes, duct taped shut and filled tight with hundreds. In addition to the boxes, Tal had arranged for Mena and the boys to have the deed to their house. Both boys had their educations pre-funded and Mena, Perry and Hamilton were told of their trust funds. To assure that everything would be well managed, Erle was instructed "to take care of things" for Mena and the boys. In all, Tal provided between $2 and $3 million for his other family. Several mutual funds are market sensitive so the ultimate bequeathal could be even higher. And so it goes.