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Stake Out at the Plaza
Ann Silber, Primavera

I remember a day, during the 1980s racing season. I was filling our tank at the Mobil gas station on the corner of 15th and 101. My eye caught two well-dressed men walking north near Carlos and Annie’s, across the street from me. They were dressed in suits - strange - more New York than California. But the fact that one of them was using a walkie-talkie was stranger still. The only walkie-talkies I’d ever seen were the toys our boys used when they played Cops and Robbers (pre-cell-phone days). I noticed the man they were talking to, also well-dressed, waiting on my side of the street, near the intersection. He had a walkie-talkie. I thought, “This town sure gets weird in the summer.”

Needing groceries, I drove to the Plaza. As I parked in that wonderful, open-air, plenty-of-space-for-everyone lot, I saw a man crouched behind a parked car. He had a walkie-talkie. What was going on? What was the guy looking at? I turned to see a tall, blonde man, well-dressed in sport clothes. He wasn’t one of them. He didn’t have a walkie-talkie. He crossed the parking lot and entered the bank.

Should I follow him into the bank and alert him that he was being followed? Were these guys Mafia? Maybe they were going to stick him up after he got some money. Maybe he was on their hit list. Did they have guns? Forget the groceries, get home, call the cops.

As I turned the corner at Luneta, I saw another suited guy with a walkie-talkie. Better get home before I got shot! Two blocks later I was safely home. John said I was imagining things. “Stay out of it. No, don’t call the fire station and tell Captain Baker. He’ll think you’re crazy.”

The Sunday headlines told the story: “FBI Captures Mobster Chris Petti!” I stared at the picture. There was the tall blonde man I had seen going into the bank. The FBI agent who had him by the elbow was one of the walkie-talkie guys. The article said that they’d been working on the case for years. He was sentenced to Forever. I could have been hauled to jail for interfering with the pursuit of law and justice in Olde Del Mar.

POSTSCRIPT Jan. 14, 2006: Headline: “Mob figure dies, taking “a lot of secrets” with him. At age 78, Chris Petti dies in Chula Vista following release from prison.” Well, well.


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