Dear Readers: Some of you followers may recognize this segment from previous versions.
It was the first time I could read the inscription.
To Smiley, from your pal, Ben. It was the same man in the “Green Felt Jungle.” The photograph placed next to it was of Harry Truman with a similar inscription dated 1963. The disparity of Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel alongside Harry Truman wouldn’t mean anything to me for another thirty years.
I opened the top drawer of his dresser, thinking I might find a gun. It was fastidiously organized with compartment trays for rolls of coins, a jewelry tray of diamond cuff-links, rings, and watches, and another tray of newspaper clippings. The next drawer was stacked with neatly folded shirts in tissue paper. Under that was a drawer with a lock on it.
“What are you doing in my bedroom?” I slammed the drawer muted by Dad’s abrupt appearance. He pulled a key from his pocket and locked the drawers. His hands shook, and the veins in his neck inflamed.
“HOW DARE YOU GO INTO MY THINGS? What is it you’re looking for? Speak up! What are you looking for?”
“I was looking for pictures?” I stammered.
“What kind of pictures?”
“You’re lying to me! Don’t think you can fool me, you can’t. You want to see photographs have a look at this one.” Then he pointed to the picture of Ben Siegel. He reminded me of a snarling wolf about to rip my head off. I looked down at the ground and held my breath.
“Now you listen to me and don’t forget this for the rest of your life. This is Benjamin Siegel! He was my dearest and closest friend. You’re going to hear a lot of lies and hearsay about him. They call him “Bugsy,” but don’t let me ever catch you using that term. He was our friend! The best friend I ever had.”
“What else do you want to know? Let’s discuss it right now! ”
“Daddy, what is the Mafia?”
He stared at me clenching and unclenching his fists; his eyes smoldering with rage.
“Who have you been talking to?”
“I heard it at school.”
“There is no such thing as, “THE MAFIA”! Don’t let me ever catch you using that term again! Have I made myself clear?”
I stepped back to the wall and he took me by the shoulders shaking me in tempo with his threats. I was frozen solid. His anger was his weapon and he scared me to death.
“Say it–there’s no such thing as the Mafia! I repeated it, and started to cry. He raised his arms as if he was going to hit me, then he implored.
“I’m not going to hit you! I’ve never laid a finger on you! If I ever catch you prying into my things, or discussing what goes on in our home, I’ll throw you out on the street. Now go to your room and think about what I’ve just said.”
Later that night confined to my bedroom, I took out the diary my mother had given me. This was when the diary became my best friend. I shoved it in my bureau drawer and covered it with lingerie. At thirteen my diary was safer than asking questions. The era of secrecy began.