Justice Bob Baddecision of the Ontario Inferior Court was feeling pretty good about himself. After many years of hearing defamation cases, property disputes, and the like, he had finally achieved his life’s ambition and been reassigned to the court of criminal justice where all the important – and interesting – cases were heard. Murder, rape, robbery, extortion – Judge Baddecision licked his lips at the thought of it all.
His full enjoyment of his success was marred only by the disturbing possibility that his promotion might be due less to his merits as a judge than to the influence of a powerful entity in whose favour he had ruled years before. (1) Every three months or so he would receive a postcard from Lucy, on one side of which would be a colourful depiction of a picturesque scene from the landscape of the netherworld in which the souls of the damned were being tortured and a printed caption, which the judge always felt to be in bad taste, saying “Wishing you were here”. On the back was a handwritten message expressing Lucy’s heartfelt gratitude and vowing to repay him.
Despite the nagging thought that he owed his new position to some sort of tacit Faustian bargain, Judge Baddecision still felt a strong sense of satisfaction as he took his place on the bench that morning. The case he was about to hear was the Fettuccine case and the newspapers had been talking about nothing else for months. He sat back and reflected on the facts of the case as they had been reported.
Don Alfredo Fettuccine was the head of the largest organized crime syndicate in Ontario – unless one counted the governing Liberal Party. The Ontario Provincial Police had been after him for years but without much success. Time after time they had nabbed his smugglers, drug dealers, thugs, pimps, and loan sharks, but without being able to pin anything on Don Alfredo or any ranking member of the Fettuccine family. Then one day Minnie Stroney had disappeared.
Minnie Stroney was a waitress who worked in the Casa Delle Teste di Zucca, which gave every appearance of being an ordinary club and restaurant, but was owned by the Fettuccine family and suspected of being a front for their criminal activities. When Minnie did not return home after working the closing shift, one night, her family at first thought little of it. They assumed that, as on many previous occasions, she had been picked up by her boyfriend Jimmy the Creep, a muscle-man for the Fettuccines, and had stayed the night with him. When she did not come home the next day, however, her mother called Jimmy’s apartment but got no answer. That evening she tried the Casa Delle Teste di Zucca at seven in the evening, knowing that Minnie was supposed to have started a shift there at six, but was told that her daughter had not shown up. Worried, she called the police and notified them of the disappearance.
Constable Jones had duly been dispatched to investigate. After interviewing Minnie’s parent, and the staff at the Casa Delle Teste di Zucca, he went to Jimmy’s apartment and knocked on the door. While he was standing there knocking and demanding that Jimmy open the door, Jimmy himself showed up with a suitcase in hand. It turned out – and the American and Canadian border authorities both later confirmed his story – that he had gone down to Detroit to see his brother the previous Friday and had only now returned home.
This left the police, who had been operating under the assumption that if there had been any foul play in Minnie’s disappearance Jimmy would be behind it as their relationship had been known to be volatile, stumped, without a suspect, or any idea, for that matter, of what had happened to Minnie. They plastered her picture in “Missing” posters all over the province but for weeks no lead turned up.
Then came the discovery of the body. A young father, taking his son out fishing for the first time on Lake Ontario, to his horror and his son’s permanent trauma, landed more than a chinook or a rainbow trout, or even one of the more usual unwelcome catches such as a hypodermic needle or a chunk of industrial waste. His hook latched on to something heavy which, when finally reeled in, proved to be what was left of the body of Minnie Stroney.
Forensic analysis quickly showed that Minnie had not just decided to go out swimming in the middle of the night on a lark and ended up drowned. She had been shot, in what looked to be a very professional execution, and her corpse had been chained to weights, and tossed into the lake. It was now a case for the homicide department.
The homicide detectives went back over the facts of the case. Every employee and all the regular clientèle of the Casa Delle Teste di Zucca were interviewed and Jimmy the Creep was hauled in for questioning three times. The detectives had a hard time accepting his innocence, although his alibi was rock solid and, as Inspector Johnson reasonably argued, if Jimmy had wanted her dead he was the type to have done it himself.
It was Vinnie Formaggio Macaroni who finally, albeit inadvertently, gave them the clue they needed. A frequent patron of the club and a friend of its owner, Don Alfredo, when questioned, he said that he could think of no one, except perhaps that boyfriend of hers, who would have wanted to harm Minnie. She was very popular at the club and a very efficient waitress. There was only one time, Vinnie could recall, that she had ever gotten an order wrong. This was about a month prior to her disappearance. He was dining as the guest of Don Alfredo that night, and Minnie was serving their table as usual. After she had brought their pre-dinner drinks, Don Alfredo happened to mention that she had gotten his order wrong and had put the wrong brand of vermouth in his martini.
“I guess there is no such thing as a perfect waitress after all”, Vinnie remembered having said to the Don, “if even Minnie makes mistakes”, and the two laughed over it and went on to enjoy the rest of their dinner.
Well, it turned out, as the homicide detectives discovered, that Don Alfredo had not taken the matter as lightly as Vinnie had supposed. Later that night, in a meeting with his son and heir Sanguino and his consigliere Luigi Ravioli, he declared that Minnie would have to be rubbed out.
“Do you want me to get one of our boys to do the job?” Sanguino had asked.
“No”, Don Alfredo had answered, “I don’t want trouble in the family. It had better be an outsider”.
“I know just the man”, Ravioli then interjected. “They call him ‘The Doctor’. He specializes in the removal of unwanted human life and he is very professional. He has been at this work for decades. His hits last year alone amounted to almost one hundred thousand.”
“He sounds like just the guy we are looking for, “Don Alfredo replied. “Make it happen”.
So it happened that Ravioli contacted The Doctor on behalf of the Fettuccine family and arranged for the death of Minnie Stroney.
That the homicide detectives had been able to put together what had happened was nothing short of miraculous. Vinnie Macaroni’s anecdote about how Minnie had messed up Don Alfredo’s drink had set them wondering whether the Fettuccines had been involved, even though the motivation seemed rather weak. They started questioning known Fettuccine thugs, and eventually one, who had stood guard outside the secret meeting where Minnie’s murder had been arranged, told them what he had overheard, which had not been the entire conversation, but enough for the detectives to fill in the rest. They asked the forensics lab and what they had found matched what was known of The Doctor’s modus operandi. After this all the remaining pieces of the puzzle began to fall into place and soon they had enough evidence to persuade the Crown attorney to charge Don Alfredo Fettuccine with the murder of Minnie Stroney.
Reflecting on all of this, Judge Baddecision thought that this would be the simplest case he had ever had to hear and rule on. A quick conviction, a quick sentence, his picture in the papers, and he would be lauded for having serviced justice on that murderous villain Don Alfredo Fettuccine.
What he had not foreseen was the way in which the case was about to be politicized. Outside the courtroom crowds had gathered with picket signs, denouncing contract killings and mob hits, and demanding justice for Minnie Stroney. Wealthy Ontario entrepreneur Ronald Jump, the former host of the much watched TV reality show The Journeyman, who was at that time seeking the leadership of the provincial Progressive Conservative party in the hopes of ousting the Liberals in the next election, weighed in on the matter, declaring that a government led by him would be tough on mob hits. In an interview with the CBC he was asked whether this meant harsh penalties for those, like Don Alfredo, who ordered the hits, or just those like The Doctor who carried them out. A man of common sense and plain speech, Jump answered that of course there would be penalties for both. He was surprised to see a smug look of “I gotcha” come over the interviewer’s face.
When the picketeers and protesters outside Judge Baddecision’s courtroom heard about his answer they were quick to turn on Jump.
“He doesn’t speak for us”, said one individual wearing a t-shirt sporting the slogan “mob hits are murder”, with accompanying button and baseball cap and carrying a placard that read “Justice for Minnie!”
Another individual, similarly attired, insisted that “Don Alfredo is a victim here too!”
A reporter, covering the demonstration and not quite able to follow this protestor’s train of reasoning asked for clarification.
“Don Alfredo is in many ways the real victim here. He had given his goddaughter, Minnie Stroney a job in his nightclub, and she repaid him by serving him an inferior martini. That’s gratitude for you. Granted, it was not exactly a crime worthy of death, but can Don Alfredo be blamed for what he did when there are monsters like The Doctor out there dangling the temptation before his eyes? If it were not for contract killers like The Doctor, there would be no mob hits. The supply creates the demand. Furthermore, Don Alfredo is the victim of a cultural stereotype. Society has generated this unfair image of the Mafia Godfather as a violent and sinister figure, who orders the death of anyone who crosses him. Having forced him into this mold of our own creation, how can we then turn around and punish him for acting accordingly. We are the true villains here. Don Alfredo is as much a victim as Minnie Stroney!”
The other demonstrators applauded this speech and several of them adjusted their signs to include the message “Don Alfredo is a victim too!”
Within his courtroom, Judge Baddecision, having been informed of all that was occurring, felt his sense of satisfaction wane. What he had hoped would be an easy and interesting case was now looking to be a huge headache. Calling a recess, he retired to his chambers to think things over.
As he reclined back in his chair, poured himself a glass of Scotch, and began to massage his temples, he caught a whiff of sulfur in the air.
“Hello Lucy”, he said.
“Judge Baddecision, my old friend”, remarked the man in an expensive looking suit, with a goatee, and a set of horns on his forehead, who stepped forth out of the shadows, “It is wonderful to see you again. I understand you are having a rough day.”
“I’m sure you know all about it”, the judge replied, “Bur for the life of me I don’t know what to do about it. Luigi Ravioli has retained Ima Lyon Shyster to represent the Don in court. Not only is he the best criminal defense attorney in Ontario, if not all of Canada, he is an expert at trying politically charged cases, as this has now become, in the media as well. He has already indicated that he will be making this ‘Don Alfredo is a victim too’ business part of his defense.”
“Yes, I have followed everything that has happened with close attention. That is why I am here, to offer you some good advice – go along with it.”
“What? You mean let Fettuccine walk?”
“Of course. He is the victim after all.”
“Don’t tell me you’ve bought into that…”
“Bought into it? My dear judge, I’m the one peddling. Surely you didn’t think that protestor could have come up with that on his own without my influence. Don Alfredo, like yourself, is an old friend of mine, and I like my friends to be friends of each other. I can’t have my house divided against itself, after all. Let him off on this silly charge, and I’ll see to it that one day he’ll return the favour.”
“I don’t know….”
“My dear judge”, Lucy said, as he leaned closer to Baddecision, giving the judge another whiff of brimstone and a dangerous glance of a flash of dark fire in his eyes, “Do you think you have a choice?”
Judge Baddecision sighed, shook his head, gulped down his Scotch, poured himself another one, and then offered what remained in the bottle to the devil.
“I suppose not. Here’s to Don Alfredo.”
“I knew you would come around to seeing things my way,” Lucy replied, accepting the proffered drink. “You always do.”
(1) These events are told in “Lucy’s Day in Court”