“Macho Mob Boss Dies Yellow” the headline read in the Post, the picture of Frank Rosselli fully revealing the ghost-like jaundiced tinge in his normally Miami-suntanned face. “Mafia Decision Maker Dies Confused,” across the top of the Daily News, demonstrating its point with a picture of Frankie ‘the boss’ aimlessly wandering the streets in front of the NYU Medical Center in his hospital gown. “Funder of Hospital Dies Outside Psych Ward He Funded”, read the New York Times in the black and white ink which was its trademark which, according to the reader of the article, smelled all too familiar.
“They lie to us with their ink, you know,” ‘Conspiracy Carlos’ warned newly arrived Newfoundlander Medical Examiner Seana Ryan. The four foot-six wrinkle-faced Hispanic custodial engineer took another puff on his bootleg Cuban cigar as he leaned back on the table in the morgue, filling the room with smoke. He watched the newbie clear-complexioned blue-eyed, blonde ME with the cheerleader-Barbie hairdo suspend her breath, hold her tongue and keep her hands occupied with carefully cutting open a body which had been rendered lifeless by someone who didn’t value life, or proper surgical technique.
“There is something in the ink of the New York Times that makes us believe the lies they put into print,” the Latino janitor with the history no one was quite sure about continued as he heard someone official walking down the hallway. He crushed his cigar in the Pepsi that had gone flat hours ago, took up his broom and swept up the debris on the floor of the morgue that grossed out everyone else on his shift. “Print that sends something to the brain that makes us believe that bullshit is gospel fact. It’s a secret formula that Castro had in Cuba, and Stalin had in Russia. How else do you think those bastards kept good people doing whatever they could to do bad things to each other? That is why so many of the idiots who believe those assholes have big noses.”
“You recon so, Carlos?” Seana asked in the Newfie lilt which passed as ‘colorful Irish’ to newly met American guys, though it was he most uneducated brand of Canadian diction possible to any potential mates in Toronto. Preparing for another Carlos rant, she brought the edges of her thin lips up a pleasant smile which was neither closed nor open, but always polite.
“When you read the words, the smell goes to your brain through the olfactory nerve to the limbic system,” the Cuban-born elder related to the newbie medico, as if he was the voice of Ramon y Cajal himself. The Hispanic founder of modern American, Russian, Canadian and German neuroscience. “You know what made me figure that out?” he continued as he swept the corners of the white room which always seemed to have a tinge of grey to it, no matter how many lights were on or how fresh the coats of ‘virgin amber’ paint. “The olfactory nerve goes directly to the cerbalocortics, to the part of the brain where we think. Every other sense goes though the thymus, ya know, the part of the medulla that gets information from the eyes, ears, fingers, toes, and…parts of the anatomy which respectable young ladies like you never talk about, unless it’s with your girlfriends or your priest.” He demonstrated his point by sniffing a long whiff from a freshly open page of the paper that contained ‘all the news fit to print’, and breathed out verses of ‘What a Wonderful World’ in Spanish like a brain dead flower child on the best acid trip of his life.
Seana’s Newfie grin turned into a gentle laugh. She knew enough to not correct Carlos’ diction regarding the anatomical names of the structures in his ‘bullshit goes to brains through the nostrils’ theory, but … Maybe it was true. No other newspaper smelled so authoritative as the New York Times, of course. Until you read the print, particularly on stories that were written from information that you gave the reporter.
Carlos invited Seana to dance to the tunes emanating from his hallitotic cigar-stenched mouth. She put down the scalpel and accepted his offer. The old janitor who always smelled of three day old locker room no matter how much he showered needed someone to look at him like he was a man of value, even though under all of his boasts he didn’t value himself. This Latino patient, the only live one in the room, needed her. And Doctor Seana knew that she needed a break from slicing open John Doe #52D.
After the ten second dance was over, and Carlos was called back to work by his supervisor in the hallway. Seana took a closer look at the ‘best bullshit in print’ NY Times, a journal she was also using to absorb the detritus emerging from John Doe #52D’s bowels. According to the today’s paper, Frank Rosselli, a previous guest on her cutting table barely a week ago, had been doped up on LSD or some other kind of mind altering drug. According to the printed word, mixed booze with dope. He ‘ironically, got what he deserved, as a member of a branch of the Italian Mafia that continues to make multimillion dollar profits from the billion dollar illegal drug trade.’ The reporter also noted that ‘Mister Rosselli had thoughts of suicide before running in front of the truck that ran him over, and the driver of the truck was still unidentified, having been cleared of all possible criminal charges.’
“You know, the Mob hates Castro more than even I do,” Carlos boasted, popping his head back into the door while Seana was in the middle of another one of those ‘so this is how the world really works’ mini-realizations that she would not be able to do anything about. “And me and Frank Roselli talked about how to get Uncle Fidel, that Son of the Devil, out of office for good,” the singing Latino prophet of doom continued. “And that Frank told me that—”
“—I know what he told you,” Seana said, not wanting to hear the Frank Rosselli story from Carlos again. Thankfully, she didn’t have to endure it. A clearing of Carlos’ boss in the hall summoned his body, mind and perspective back to work cleaning the floor near the elevator. Seana smiled a pleasant farewell to the old man who reminded her of her father, then closed the door behind her. She felt a blast of cold air from places she could not identify blowing up her grey, polyester knee-length skirt.
In front of Seana’s face was death. Walls without pictures or windows. Cold, steel tables which were designed to be cleaned. They reflected her face, and dying soul, every time she looked into them. Rather than deal with another view of her least favorite person in the mirror again, she decided to look at the articles about Frank Rosselli again, and the compartment which was emptied of his body within minutes of her having delivered her preliminary report upstairs. She found herself looking to the spinner of legends as a source for facts once again.
According to Carlos, Frank was a God-fearing man who went to Mass and took Communion on Sunday. As he always did, two days before he was admitted to the hospital with stomach cramps and bloody diarrhea. Four days before his liver and kidney enzymes went up off the roof. And five days before the most even keeled member of the Roselli family went crazy, even by Carlos’ standards. Frank died on Friday with a picture of an unidentified young, blonde woman in his pocket. The same unidentified woman whose picture found its way into that of his cousin, and, according to some, distant brother when the end came for him in the isolation ward. And the other ‘Good Friday’ victims who were attended to by the Roselli’s, their personal Catholic Chaplin, and Cops who came in with more questions about other mob members than concern for finding out why they were dying .
Tox screens came back as ‘loaded with alcohol’ on three of the cases, but nothing else that was identified. The microbiology lab couldn’t find any reason for the enlargement of the spleen or destroyed liver and necrotic kidneys. Nothing of significance evident in the white blood count, differential or characteristics of the cells under the highest power microscopes Seana had at her disposal. Maybe the demise of the Roselli’s, once the most powerful mob families in Brooklyn, was just bad luck, or, as Carlos said ‘God’s Justice’.
Seana’s brain and eyes were tired, both infused with too much formalin from the corpses and from the fumes of the other agents required to preserve the parts derived from them. She opened up the refrigerator marked ‘Medical Samples Only’, retrieved her daily ration and treat of strawberry yogurt, and sat down on the foamy swivel chair which was reserved for her legs only, or Carlos’ when he decided to come in and give her ‘Canadian niece’ a lesson in world politics. She picked up the paper, thumbing through the articles for something to take her mind off the tensions of her new position, and the fear of anyone finding out what she really did and was during the ten months between jobs four years ago.
As for today…another escalation in the War in Iraq. Another domestic killing in Brooklyn which was about to be investigated. Another Russian mobster slipping away from the ‘justice’ system in Moscow, then Interpol somewhere in Poland. Another game the New York Giants blew by forfeiting a two touchdown lead during the last two minutes of regulation. And back home in ‘Mountie Land’, another dispute between the Yanks and the Canuks about fishing rights in the North Atlantic, amnesty for American Army deserters and Duty Christmas shoppers should have to pay when they cross the longest virtually unguarded international border in the world.