By Jim Colombo (USA)
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Tuesday May 3, 1964
“Joe Steckle, please……. Hello, Joe. This is Ron De Luca. Do you have a
couple of minutes to spare?”
“Hello, Ron. Yeah, sure. Whata got?”
“Milan is considering using Barker Associates to construct the plating and
screening departments for his printed circuit shop. He’s thinking of buying three
Excellon Mark II drilling machines…..”
Joe interrupted, “Did you hear about Barker Associates from the Belmont
“You’ve heard of them?”
“Hell, yes. You don’t want to get involved with them. They will intimidate you
to sign a one year lease agreement for more equipment than you need. They will take
most of your working capital for a down payment and the first time you miss a progress
payment they’ll take all of their equipment and you’ll lose your down payment. It’s in the
fine print. They don’t want you to succeed.”
“How do they get away with it?”
“There’s always a fool with not enough money willing to take the chance who
thinks he’ll outsmart them. You should lease drilling machines with four turrets instead
of two. You can start with refurbished machines, then later upgrade”
“We were going to buy them.”
“If you lease, they pay for repair and maintenance. Before you’ll write-off half of
the depreciation for the Mark II, a Mark III will be on the market that will be twice as fast.
You should lease for three years, then trade up for the next generation of hardware.
The granite table won’t need to be replaced if you take good care of it. You’ll be
replacing the pneumatics and the software. You want to go to Dorne’s for screening
equipment and Charlie Ogesek for plating equipment and installation. Tell Charlie I
“Thanks for the information, Joe. Milan will appreciate it. Are you available for
lunch next week, say Thursday?”
“Sure, but it has to be somewhere close by, like the Heidelberg Beer Garten at
Middlefield Road and Highway 237. I only have an hour for lunch.”
“Okay, I’ll meet you there at 11:30. Good-bye, Joe.”
“So long, Ron.
The following Thursday Ron waited for Joe at the Heidelberg Beer Garten.
“Hey, Joe. How are you doing?”
“Fine, Ron. Some place, huh.” Joe opened the door of the two-story home that
sat alone on the corner of Middlefield and 237. It was a weathered, brown wooden
home built at the turn of the century. A German family had owned the home and fifty
acres that once grew apricots and cherries. The land was declared public domain in
1951 and Highway 237 was constructed. Industry had moved in and surrounded the
home. The family sold the home to a friend who remodeled the interior as a German
beer garten and named it after the family. The first floor was the bar and kitchen with a
dining area. There were redwood picnic tables in the backyard and a ten-foot wooden
fence tried to block out the noise. The second floor had the walls and the roof removed
from the middle of the house to the rear, creating an outdoor eating area with a wooden
deck and a wooden railing that lined the outdoor eating area. The front half of the
second story remained enclosed for dining during the cool winter months. Joe and Ron
walked in and admired the collection of German beer steins on shelves that lined the
walls. The music was typical oom papa beer drinking songs and Dieter tended the bar.
Three part time waitresses wearing black skirts and white blouses were serving the
customers. The burgers and hot dogs sizzled on a gas grill. Dieter’s wife Hilda made
delicious soups, German potato salad, apple strudel, and the special of the day.
“What will you have, Ron?” The menu was a blackboard with daily specials
written in chalk: half pound cheese burgers with French fries, sauerkraut with
knockwurst, quarter pound hot dogs, and possibly the best tasting chili known to man.
Budweiser or Beck’s beer, and Coke was served. There were bowls of pretzels and
peanuts at the bar.
“Same as you, Joe.”
“Okay. Two cheeseburgers with fries, and two Buds.”
Dieter gave Joe a card with the number twelve on both sides. “Four-
fifty, gents,” said Dieter.
Ron placed a ten-dollar bill on the bar. Dieter took it and gave Ron the change.
Dieter handed each a beer. Joe took a bowl of pretzels.
They walked to the backyard and took a table in the corner under a shade tree
and munched on Pretzels and drank beer while waiting to be served.
“I spoke with Charlie Ogesek. He said to say hello, Joe. He seems like a fair
“When my mother died we sold the farm in Indiana because my Dad said that
every thing on the farm reminded him of her. My brother joined the Navy. My Dad and I
moved to Los Angeles and planned to live with my Dad's sister for a while until he found
an orange orchard for sale. Unfortunately, he died of a heart attack two months later. I
finished my senior year in high school and got a scholarship to Cal Poly at San Luis
Obispo. I worked for Charlie during the summers while attending Cal Poly. He helped
me get through college after my father died and taught me about life. How did you meet
Milan?” asked Joe.
“Just like you. You get a call one-day. He either heard about you from someone
or you meet on the soccer field. My wife’s brother is a defender. Every time Milan
approached the goal Greg stole the ball, upsetting Milan. My wife Gina gets emotional
watching her brother play. The game ended scoreless and Milan complimented Greg
for playing tough defense. I was just starting my CPA business, we made
introductions, and Milan asked if I had a business card. He called a week later and he
has been a client for three years.”
“I was introduced to Milan when he visited Sylvania’s proto shop. We make
single sided boards, and we’ve been experimenting with the plated through hole
process using Shipley’s Cu-Posit. It’s an immersion bath of palladium that coats the
hole wall by osmosis. Fiberglass is more porous and is a better base material than
plastic or phenolic. The palladium acts as an agent to achieve copper plating in the
hole wall. Tin-lead is plated in the copper hole and is fused when dipped in hot oil at
410F, creating solder. The solder is bonded to the copper, which is bonded to the hole
wall creating a plated-through hole and a double-sided board. Imagine the possibilities.”
Ron had finished the bowl of pretzels while listening to Joe and watching his
eyes fill with enthusiasm. The waitress arrived in time to save Ron from Joe’s
discussion of the evolution of the printed circuit board. She smiled and served each a
half pounder with cheese and two baskets of fries in the middle of the table. “Is
there anything else that I can get for you?” asked the waitress.
“We’re fine,” said Joe.
“You really like making boards. I rarely see someone who is consumed with his
work. I envy you, Joe.”
“You don’t like what you do?”
“Sure I do, Joe. I like watching a small business grow into a medium to large
business with my help.”
“It’s the same thing, Ron, we’re making something, cultivating it, like growing
cotton or corn. You know the feeling at harvest time.”
“Yeah, there’s satisfaction and reverence for the land each harvest.”
“Was Milan upset that I didn’t sign up?” asked Joe.
“No. He understands that you have responsibilities. He also understands that
some day you will be ready to make the jump from working for someone to working
“I’ll be working for him,” replied Joe.
“Milan gives ownership to key individuals. You’ll have an equity share in the
company and profit sharing. What would do if you could retire at fifty?”
“Refurbish model A’s and T’s. I like building and repairing stuff,” said Joe with a
momentary vision of fulfilling his dream.
“It can happen, Joe. It will happen.”
Joe sat silently and pondered the notion of financial independence, having
ownership in a shop, and early retirement. Joe was twenty-five. He had graduated
as a chemist and he could see the dawn of a dynamic industry with electronics and
printed circuit boards. It all hinged on the plated-through hole. Joe could see that he
was at a significant junction in technology and life.
“I’m still interested. Tell Milan that I need some time to think on it.”
“Today is May 12, 1964. The ride begins in two months. I hope you’re there
when we begin. It’ll be hard to catch a ride next year. I think you can always go back to
Sylvania. You’re a good chemist and you can get a job.”
“I’ll give it a lot of thought. Wow, that was a fast hour. Thanks for lunch, Ron.”
They stood and shook hands.
“Here’s my card, Joe. I hope to see you again.”
Joe waved goodbye, hopped in his truck, and sprayed loose dirt in the parking lot
as he turned onto highway 237 east. Ron waited for the dust to clear and got in his
silver Buick Riviera. He turned west on 237 and joined the flow of traffic.
It was Wednesday May 18, seven o'clock at night, and Milan arrived home from
entertaining prospective clients. He entered the kitchen and found a note on the kitchen
table from the maid that Paolo had called at six in the evening. He poured a glass of
orange juice and dialed Paolo's phone number. He took a sip of orange juice while the
“Paolo, it’s Milan. What’s wrong?”
“Thanks for returning my call, Milan. I screwed up.”
“This sweet young thing has lunch one day and I give her the eye and she
smiles, like a blush. A week later she comes by and tells me she's lost her job. Her
name is Ruth and wants to know if she can wash dishes for meals. With a body like
hers? We trade meals for primo snatch. She can't get enough, I'm getting worn out,
and we take showers often."
“Okay. I understand, Paolo. What's the problem?"
“Last night she comes to say good-bye. She has an expensive attaché case
and leaves it by the bed. She says she's going back to Nebraska. It's farewell, so we
do it one last time, but all the time I'm thinking what is in the case? She takes a shower
and I tell her I'll join her in a minute. I'm sitting on the other side of the bed with my back
to the shower. It’s good leather, so I peek inside and there’s a black plastic pouch with a
lot of small bills, maybe three grand. Suddenly she comes out of the shower dripping
wet and wants me to join her. She scares the hell out of me, so I put the pouch on the
floor by the bed and with my foot I slid it under the bed, and I put the suitcase at the foot
of the bed. I join her and try to look interested, but she notices that I am tense so I tell
her that I'm sad to see her go. We have sex one more time, and then she dresses. She
says she’s going to get a pack of cigarettes and leaves. Suddenly, I feel stupid for
taking the money. What if she opens the briefcase and finds the money is gone. I'll
charm her and give it back to her, I'm thinking. No harm, no foul. She returned with a
pack of Salems but doesn't check for the money. She takes the attaché case, gives me
a kiss, and says, ‘Thanks for everything. I love you. Good bye.’ ”
“These guys are bad news, Paolo. What in the hell were you thinking of? Where
is the money?”
“It’s with Sophia. After she left I counted the money and there’s tens, then
twenties, then all these hundred dollar bills, there’s almost twenty grand. I thought she
rolled a john after a trick. I didn’t think she’d hit on a bagman.”
“This morning these guys come by and throw a book of our matches on the bar.
The older one has scares all over his face like he got hit with a shotgun blast. He tells
me that they want to speak to the owner. I tell them that he’s away on business. They
ask when will he be back? I say I don’t know. They say they found a book of our
matches at the flat she rents and show a picture of her. They asked about her. I tell
them she ate here a few times. She said she was from Nebraska looking to get a job at
one of the movie studios. I asked why. They say she took something that don't belong
“It’s a matter of time before they find her or she returns to get the money. You’re
in deep shit. Fly to New York, and stay with Franco. I’ll send someone to take your
place at the restaurant. I’ll tell the staff that you are taking a month off to visit your
parents. Have Franco drive you to Niagara Falls, walk into Canada, find a motel, and
give me a call. I have a friend in Ottawa and he'll take care of you. Get the hell out of
there. Hide our personal documents and the money with Sophia.”
“Okay, Milan. Thanks. I really screwed up. This is mob money. Shit, they’re
going to kill her and me.”
“Not if they find you. My friend will get you a Canadian passport, and from
Canada you can go anywhere, except Italy. Maybe in six months this will blow over.
Get the hell out of there, and call me from Franco's home tonight. ”
Paolo quickly packed a gym bag with his necessities, three days of underwear,
and two jogging outfits. He took on his sunglasses and looked at the apartment one last
time. He would have to sell his share of the restaurant and hide out in London. He
grabbed his key chain with the lucky number thirteen charm and locked the apartment
door. He ran down the back stairs to the garage and jogged to his car. When he got in
his car two large men, one with a shaved head and the other man with long hair, plus the
guy with the pock-marked face pointed guns at Paolo and motioned him to get out. He
stepped out of the car and the large men with long hair grabbed Paolo and carried him
on their shoulders to their car and threw him in the back seat. The other large man sat
alongside and wrapped gray duct tape around his hands behind his back and tore a
strip to cover his mouth. His worst fears were realized. The older man with the
buckshot face sat in the back with Paola and the two other men sat in front with the long -
haired man driving. The older pock marked man smiled at Paolo and said, "You
remember me. The girl told us about you... after a while... then she bought it.”
They drove to the docks of Los Angeles, and stopped at a rundown warehouse.
The older man unlocked the warehouse door and the car entered. There was a strong
smell of rotten food and defecation. The rats scampered into the bowels of the dank
building. Paolo was slammed on a chair, strapped in, and had the tape ripped off his
mouth. The older man wore his battle scars with pride. The two younger men had
wide, thick bodies like wrestlers and were eager to perform their task. They had
oily complexions and wore extra large suits that hung on their broad frames that
distinguished their poor taste in style and fabric.
“You got two choices, asshole. Tell us where the money is and you get a quick
death, or be a shit-head and die a slow, painful death.”
“I’m already dead, “said Paolo.
The two thugs displayed their tools of persuasion. Paolo began to say the Act of
Contrition to himself, and asked God for forgiveness. Twenty minutes later the task
was finished. They were tired but satisfied that they had administered as much pain as
possible before Paolo died. They removed their brass knuckles and hit them against
the table. Small chunks of Paolo’s face and blood splattered onto the table. They went to
the back, and washed their hands and equipment. Paolo sat slumped with his head
bowed. His sweatshirt was covered with blood. Milan would have never recognized
him. Most of the flesh on his mangled face was torn off, his ears were torn off, with his
head swollen to twice its normal size. His nose was split and flattened against his
face. One eyeball was hanging out of the socket and the other had bounced across the
room to become breakfast for the rats. The two thugs admired Paolo with artistic pride
while combing his hair. They folded Paolo's body in half with his chest and head resting
on his legs. A 55-gallon drum lay on its side against Paolo’s ass. He was scooped into
the drum and it was straightened up and sealed. The drum was placed
in the back corner with other sealed drums that had suffered a similar fate.
It was Wednesday evening 7:45 pm and it seemed like hours since
Milan had spoken to Paolo. He was getting worried about Paolo's safety, so he tried
watching television, but couldn’t concentrate. A news commercial flashed,”Woman’s
body found with head and hands chopped off. Film at eleven.”
Milan had a bad feeling. He made reservations from San Jose to Los Angeles on
flight 1566, departing at 9:25pm that night. His return flight was from San Diego to San
Jose on flight 179 departing at 6:40am the next morning.
He arrived in Los Angeles at 10:00pm and rented a car. He drove to Paolo’s
neighborhood and parked two blocks away from the apartment. It was about 11:00pm
when he arrived at the apartment. He climbed the five flights of stairs from the back
entrance and was careful looking for anything suspicious. The door had slight
indentations at the door jam and was left unlocked. He turned on his small flashlight
and slowly entered. Sophia greeted him at the door. He petted her and she purred.
She followed Milan to the cat litter box in the utility room. The apartment had been
ransacked and everything was out of place and tossed in a pile in the middle of each
room. Whoever had been there had taken all of the meat, cheese, and wines that Paolo
kept in the refrigerator. They had eaten chicken and left the bones and four empty beer
cans on the table. Milan put on a plastic glove and stuck his hand inside the kitty litter.
He pushed away some of the crap and piss that had clumped into clay balls. At the
bottom was a pouch. He removed it and examined the contents. There were two black
plastic bags inside. The personal documents of Milan and Paolo were in one bag and
the money was in the other. He put a bag in each pocket of his jogging pants, zipped
them up, and quickly ran down the stairs. He jumped the fence, and jogged two blocks
to the parked car. He drove to San Diego, arriving about two-thirty in the morning and
returned the car at the airport. Milan was hungry and tired. He drank several cups of
coffee while eating breakfast. He spent the remainder of the time reading the Los
It was Thursday morning and Milan had arrived in San Jose at 7:50. He paid the
parking attendant and drove home. When he entered the living room the phone was
ringing. It was Franco confirming his fears that Paolo hadn’t arrived in New York. Milan
told Franco that he had gone to Paolo’s apartment. He explained the circumstances
and asked Franco to call Paolo’s parents in Italy. Franco spoke their dialect better than
Milan and he would explain that Paolo was missing, not dead, and that the Los Angeles
police were investigating. Milan would hold the $20,000 in his safe deposit box and
hoped that Paolo would return some day. He took a shower to relax. Then he went to
the kitchen and opened two bottles of burgundy. He walked upstairs and sat on the
edge of the bed. He quickly finished the first bottle, and began taking long swigs of the
second bottle, trying to wash away his anxiety. He remembered the jokes they had played
on one another at the university. When they first started working at the pizzeria Paolo
flung the dough high to impress the young ladies. Sometimes it stuck to the ceiling.
Then it fell down and he caught it, and he continued tossing the dough. He could hear
Paolo’s laughter and see the mischievous gleam in his eyes. He was tired but couldn’t
sleep. The empty bottles took him halfway to his journey to oblivion. He was too tired
to go downstairs for a third bottle, so he lay on the bed. He could hear a voice saying
over and over in his mind that Paolo was dead, paralyzing him with remorse. Poor
Paolo had stolen the money only to become its victim. Why, Paolo? Why? The
burgundy began to soothe Milan’s troubled mind and he drifted away into a comfortable
It was about nine o’clock in the morning when the phone rang - loud atomic
explosions with each ring. A furious bumblebee was buzzing inside his head. His mouth
was dry arid and his tongue was a large wad of cotton. He grabbed for the phone but
knocked it to the floor.
“Hello. This is Milan.”
“Milan, this is Joey from the restaurant. Paolo didn't show up yesterday for work.
We called his apartment and there was no answer, so we figured that he spent the day
with Ruth. Today is Paolo's turn to open the restaurant and he is not here. I called his
apartment this morning and there’s no answer. It's nine and we’ve got two hours and a
half to get ready for lunch. Where is he?”
“I don’t know. Have someone go to the apartment. Maybe he’s sick.”
“Okay, Milan. I’ll send Dominic.”
“Have Dominic call me when he gets to the apartment, Joey. I’ll be here waiting
for his call. Give him this number.”
“Okay, Milan, Arrivederci.”
An hour passed when Dominic called Milan. He tried to explain the frightening
sight. “Calm down Dominic and get the manager of the apartment and have him call
the police. I’ll arrive at Los Angeles International at three in the afternoon and I will
need a ride.”
“I’ll be there,” said Dominic.
Milan called work and said that he would be in Los Angeles for a day attending to
family business. He would stop by the Honeywell office in Burbank before going home.
Later that night he would call Ron De Luca and explain Paolo’s misfortune. Milan
needed someone to take Paolo’s place, and he called Guido who offered to manage
the restaurant for a while. His son Marco could manage Guido’s restaurant while he
was gone. Milan told Guido that he owed him a debt from the heart. It was a high
compliment and appreciation from one Italian to another.
Milan’s head was pounding, his ears were sizzling, and his mouth was parched.
Any sudden movement sent a bowling ball crashing from one side of his head to the
other. He went to the bathroom and pissed away the remnants of the 1961 Napa Valley
burgundy. He stepped into the shower and let the water massage the back of his neck.
The doorbell rang and Francesca the maid answered the door. She explained to the
energetic salesman that they already had a set of encyclopedias and wished him good
An hour passed and Milan was ready to leave for Los Angeles. He told
Francesca that he would be back in a couple of days. Tomorrow would be her day off,
and he asked her to stay until he returned. Then she could have the weekend off. She
smiled and began to imagine what it would be like having two days off in a row. She
handed him his vitamins and a glass of orange juice. Milan gulped the vitamins and
juice and took a couple of bananas to eat on the way to the airport. He put his suitcase
in the truck of his gray Mercedes 280 coupe. The engine roared and Milan
accelerated down Sanborn Road. Francesca waved good-bye and closed the door.
Then Francesca entered the living room, sat in Milan’s big comfortable chair with her feet on
the ottoman, opened a bottle of imported beer, and continued watching her favorite soap