Trouble At The Hilltop

Originally Published 05/09/2011 05:39:57 AM

SteakHouse

Photo Source: Jessica Beebe

Rico Da Capo always fancied himself equal parts brutal wise guy and cold-as-ice Old West gunslinger. Actually he was a dishwasher at the Hilltop Steak House and a part-time errand guy: a go-to if somebody was a little behind on the vig and needed to be roughed up a bit, or to toss the match if a building needed to be torched. Strictly low level. But Rico Da Capo’s vision of himself often raced ahead of his actual talents.

He certainly looked the part. At 5’6” on a good day, Rico wasn’t going to tower over anybody unless he was standing on a step-stool. But he had huge biceps from lifting and carrying slabs of beef in his father’s butcher shop growing up, and his balding head, when suddenly and briefly liberated from under its usual driving cap or ski hat, looked like a boulder.

On the other hand, he had an ample gut from constantly nabbing leftover fried clams, steak tips and baked potatoes before the other dishwashers could clear the plates into the trash. And he also liberated many a bottle of Narragansett from the bar every night. The bus boys called him “’Gansett Gut” behind his back. It’s hard to say that somebody has lost a step when they never really had one, but Rico Da Capo was not the guy to hire if your job demanded swift moves and quick instincts.

But shaking down an account executive who made dumb bets on the horses at Suffolk on the weekend was easy work, and Rico was good enough to pick up plenty of it. He always carried a little .22 snub. A pea shooter, really. He got it cheap from another slugger on the docks in Charlestown, and it probably wouldn’t break skin. But an account executive with a running tab and the muzzle of that .22 aimed at the bridge of his nose wouldn’t know that.

Rico was tough when and where he needed to be, and under the radar enough where he could run his errands without getting himself noticed. It was a good place to be. Unfortunately, Rico had a fantastic talent for making a bad situation infinitely worse. His inner wise guy often got the better of him, and he was likely to snap and bite off more than he could chew. Especially when faced with a hard shift of scrubbing dishes and sucking down plate leftovers and pilfered beers.

It was a steaming Friday afternoon, and the Hilltop was packed for the lunch rush. Rico was off that day, but another dishwasher called in sick, so he came in. The big floor fan by Rico’s sink station was broken, and the whole kitchen was a sopping mess. Cranky at being called in and miserable in the heat, he made a bar run and swiped way more Narragansetts than usual, and he started in early.

There was no shortage of recreational opportunities during a shift at the Hilltop. The line cooks were all notorious thieving degenerates, punching out with hundreds of dollars of stolen meat and produce daily and dealing bennies, greenies, hash, coke and anything else they could make a buck off of. Half of the bar supply seemed to migrate to the prep stations, and the dry-goods walk-in often resembled a brothel. Rico could often be found smoking a joint and/or taking a toot by the dumpsters. On this Friday, already pissed off at the sub-tropical conditions, he made several more trips to the dumpster than usual.

Rico had also dropped a half-tab of acid the night before. He didn’t do that often, and never the night before a shift. But with a rare free Friday awaiting and the payoff from a shake-down weighing down his pockets, he figured he’d be able to take a nice, relaxing Thursday-into-Friday trip with no damage.

It was a perfect storm.

The shift dragged on and on and the plates kept coming and coming; an endless deluge of half-eaten prime rib and porterhouse, rib eye and tips, baked stuffed haddock and clam strips. Rico kept up his pace and rhythm, both with the dishwashing and with his sampling of the dishes before washing. And he kept up his pace and rhythm with a bottle of ‘gansett in both hands and runs to the dumpster with his hash pipe.

By mid afternoon, everything in Rico’s system, all the beer, the coke, the hash and the acid, started to kick in.

Since the beginning of the shift, all the bus boys had an informal poll going as to when and how Gansett Gut would go off. It just seemed inevitable, and something they could make some extra dough off of. By 12:30, Rico was already five beers and two dumpster runs in, and it could only go downhill from there. 

Little did they know.

Rico Da Capo, self-styled brutal wise guy, always wondered about the little sign furthest down on the huge cactus sign in front of the restaurant, the one stating “Frank Giuffrida”. He knew that Frank Giuffrida was the original owner of the Hilltop and, by all accounts, a lovely, generous guy. But with all those vowels in his name, and owning a restaurant dead on Rt. 1 – the greatest smuggling route in the northeast – he must have been a made guy…right? Well, what was this made son-of-a-bitch doing making him work in a fucking sweltering kitchen on a off day? Didn’t have enough goddamn money in the bank, the bastard? Couldn’t afford a fan, fachrissakes?!?

Frank Giuffrida was a mysterious figure to everybody in the kitchen of the Hilltop. But to Rico he was now the made man that was making him work without a fan. The thought of that sign on the cactus kept coming, and, with the acid kicking in, mocking him with a “Made you work! Made you work!” taunt. And Rico Da Capo, brutal wise guy, wasn’t about to take that.

He staggered away from his station, just as the boss came in to the kitchen. Rico slurred “fuckin’ made BAStard!” and stumbled past the boss and out of the kitchen. By the time he got to the hostess podium, he was clutching his .22 and muttering “I’ll get that bastard!” as a full dining room stared and gasped.

Rico stumbled out the front door of the Hilltop and leaned against one of the fiberglass cows that grazed the lawn in front of the restaurant, .22 aimed at the Frank Giuffrida sign. “Sun’a’BICH made man!” he yelled at the sign and fired off a shot. The bullet hit the bottom right corner of the Frank Giuffrida sign and smashed a tiny corner of plastic away. With the acid now in full effect, though, Rico saw the sign exploding into a blast of fireworks and Frank Giuffrida with an oozing bullet hole between his eyes.

As the shot went off, a Brinks truck pulled into the Hilltop. After the fireworks in Rico’s vision cleared, he noticed the truck and, fresh off the kill of the made bastard Frank Giuffrida, moved in for his just reward. He approached the passenger door of the Brinks truck and slurred “I jus’ killed a made guy, gimme money!”

The Brinks guard tightened his grip on his revolver, but stared ahead with the window rolled up. This was not the reaction that Rico Da Capo, assassin and soon to be made guy, expected. He assumed rifle range position on the guard with his .22, staggering backward with the effort.

By now the driver was around the back of the truck, revolver drawn. He yelled at Rico “Drop it!” Rico, still blown away by his broad daylight execution of Frank Giuffrida, ran behind the fiberglass cow he was leaning on, ducked behind its rear flank and fired off a shot at the truck. The bullet wedged into the side of the Brinks truck, a testament to a go-to guy gone too far.

Being fired upon, the driver was behooved to shoot back. The .38 bullet ricocheted off the head of the cow Rico was slumping behind, blowing off a cow ear and all of the head up to the right eye in a cloud of dust. Rico had a distant suspicion that he had taken things too far, but now committed, he had to follow through.  

He leapt to his feet, leaned on the rear cow flank and fired off another shot with his pea shooter, the bullet wedging somewhere between the Round and Hind Steak of the cow grazing on the lawn ahead of his, dust spurting out like a fart.

He fired off another shot in rapid succession. But this shot ricocheted off of the metal of the Frank Giuffrida sign and hit Rico in the leg. The .22 bullet barely broke the skin of his left thigh, and bounced off immediately after hitting. But it was enough to slow down the forward momentum of Gansett Gut for good.

With Rico on the ground writhing, the Brinks guards were able to move in and arrest their perp without a struggle.

The judge gave Gansett Gut 4-20 at Walpole. His court-appointed lawyer tried to plead it down, since Rico was out of his mind on hash and, unexpectedly and totally out of character, LSD. But Judge Cartarelli was unmoved, and threw the book at Rico Da Capo, self-styled cold-as-ice Old West Assassin/Made Wise Guy.

And so the esteemed career of self-styled wise guy Rico Da Capo came to an end.

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