by Kevin Dicciani

Part Three

Two months into my telemarketing job, things got even more bizarre.

I came in one morning and found The Kingpin and his business partner from London soundproofing his office. “We’re turning this into a recording studio, mate,” The Kingpin said with a nail gun in one hand, insulation foam in the other.

“Oh,” I said, never more perplexed in my life. “For who?”

He dropped the foam and gripped the nail gun, his beady eyes darting through me as if I had asked a nonsensical question. “For me.”

I nodded my head, and then The Kingpin began to sing. He had this peculiar habit of listening to the same song over and over again for hours while singing in a voice that can only be described as a mix between fingernails screeching on a chalkboard and the cries from a dying animal. There were days where I had to listen to him croon to “Saving All My Love For You” by Whitney Houston for over 10 hours. I realized in those moments how much a person will endure to feed themselves.

Then there was an afternoon where The Kingpin spoke to a private, luxury watch salesman on the phone for over three hours, bargaining about some expensive watch he kept calling “Superman.”

I turned to Claire who was, as usual, beyond aggravated. Because of this watch purchase, she had to run to one of The Kingpin’s banks, withdraw a large amount of cash, drive back to office and drop it off and then drive back to the bank to withdraw more money.

“I’m guessing he collects watches?” I said to her.

“No,” she said. “He collects watches that used to belong to celebrities.”

The next day, a man in a suit carrying a briefcase came in and walked into The Kingpin’s office. For the next hour they sat talking. What they were talking about — solar powered watches, diamond faces, the inevitability of time — who knows?

The man in the suit eventually left, and then, happier than I’ve ever seen him, The Kingpin strolled out of his office wearing a monstrosity on his wrist. “Check it out,” he said. He held his hand out, and the watch almost slid off his skinny wrist. “Shaquille O’Neal’s old watch, mate.” He unsnapped the watch and handed it me. My arm almost hit the ground. “It’s a heavy sucker, ain’t it?” The next week The Kingpin sold the watch to a Peruvian businessman.

And then there was the one particular Friday afternoon I was working alone. Claire had been on auditions all week, and the boss was elsewhere, so I had been enjoying a quiet day in the office. And then, a knock at the door. I opened it to find The Kingpin, as pale as can be and drenched in sweat, hunched over and lugging some sort of attache case.

“Kevin,” he said, “I don’t think you want to see me when I get angry, so why don’t you pack up, leave and enjoy the weekend.” I grabbed my things and walked home. I didn’t want to know what was in that attache case.

On Monday, there was no sign of The Kingpin. I figured he must have been arrested for laundering drug money. Only that wasn’t it.

“How was your Friday night, Claire?” I asked.

“Well,” she said, “I was in the middle of an audition when The Kingpin called me. He asked me if I knew the combination to his safe. I told him of course not. Then, the freak started screaming at me through the phone. I said, ‘Look, you better lower you’re voice, or I’m going to hang up and embarrass you in front of whoever you’re with.’ So, whispering like a schoolgirl, he said there were two Russians in his office trying to negotiate some deal that was botched months ago.

“Anyway, he told me he’s going to fire me unless I come down and find a slip of paper with a combination written on it. So I rushed right over, and there was a sketchy-looking guy sitting in one of the recliners. Then it turned out The Kingpin forgot he had written down the combination to the safe in his iPhone. And judging from The Kingpin’s posture, it looked like he got chewed out by the Russians. He was whiter than snow. So it was a complete waste of my time. I expected shots to ring out.”

I was at my desk at the end of another long week. The Kingpin was in Brazil for a month long vacation, and Claire was in and out of the office, tying up any loose ends the boss forgot before he left. At that moment Claire appeared in front of me and proceeded to tell me, “I completely disagree with The Kingpin on this one, but he just emailed me and said, verbatim, ‘Make sure that my funds are allocated in the right places. And cut Kevin.’”

So I grabbed my things and gave Claire a hug goodbye. She told me to be careful out there in the world. I told her to break a leg. I threw my bag over my shoulder and walked home, numb over what had just happened.

The next day I received a phone call from Claire; she quit Company Y. She was at a hospital with a friend who had just been injured in a car accident, and The Kingpin wouldn’t stop calling her. When she didn’t answer, The Kingpin left threatening voicemails and said he was going to come to her other job and see that she got fired. She called him back and told him off. “He’s going to call you and offer you my job,” Claire said. “I know it. Just watch. It’s just like him. He’s panicking right now.”

An hour later my phone rang. The Kingpin. Sure enough, he went on to offer me Claire’s job, although he didn’t put it that way. He fumbled his words, a complete shell of the man I first met, and said something about “more room to climb up the ladder.” I declined and thanked him for the opportunity, the experience and his time. He hung up without saying a word. It’s okay — I was used to it by then.

Kevin Dicciani is the I.T. specialist for the Chestnut Hill Local.