|IN "SILENCE OF THE LAMBS," I. J. "MULTIPLE" MIGGS WAS A PATIENT AT THE BALTIMORE STATE HOSPITAL FOR THE CRIMINALLY INSANE. HE OCCUPIED THE CELL NEXT TO HANNIBAL LECTER.|
I met Mooks in May 1979. At first, I only knew him as Mike.
Before my friend Ciro the Hero became Ciro the Zero, he and I dealt craps (on different shifts) at the worst casino job in Vegas, SLOTS-A-FUN. When I finally emancipated myself to a better place, (the Western Casino), Ciro became motivated to improve himself and landed a job at the Holiday International. To celebrate stepping (narrowly) over the poverty line, we went to the bowling alley bar of the Showboat Casino. Whatever female companionship he was expecting to find there didn't materialize. On the way out, we bumped into two craps dealers from his new job.
Bobby and Mike (Mooks) were on a double-date so I didn't want to intrude but they were so welcoming that we hung out. Bobby and his fiance were about my age (23) and earthy so I gravitated to them. Mike was friendly too but in more subdued manner. He was eight years older, seemed forty and came off as unpolished. He proved it by interrupting Bobby, "I used to be a bouncer at a topless joint in Niagara, (New York)." Ciro said, "That's gotta be a great job!" Mike's face went limp, "I don't want to talk about it."
When Mike looked away, I noticed his thick five o'clock shadow couldn't hide his heavily scarred face. When he had trouble getting his fingers in the ball, I focused on his hairy, mangled hands and was reminded of NFL Hall-of-Famer Chuck Bednarik...whose fingers were twisted as a result of dirty tactics against him during his career, (1949-1962).
Ciro and I later found out from Bobby that Mike's broken, fingers, knuckles and hands were grim reminders of transgressions to the underworld. Bobby said of Mike, "He got in so deep in debt to those bloodsuckers that he didn't owe them...they owned him!"
We also found out that Mike's gorgeous but silent wife Maria was an illegal refugee from Estonia. This blond bombshell apparently spoke little English but I never heard her voice that night, (ever). And because she never bowled, clung to Mike and balled-up into a fetal position when left alone, it was obvious that something wasn't right. Even on our way out, Maria didn't acknowledge Ciro or me or give us eye-contact. When I did sneak a peek at her, I saw her deadened eyes and figured she was sick.
A week later I called Ciro and asked how the new job at the Holiday International was. Later, I asked about Bobby and Mike. Ciro said, "Bobby is cool but they made Mooks a pit boss and sent him to grave." "I said, "Mooks?" He said, "Oh yeah Mike's name is Mamoukian, he's Armenian." I was thinking; that explains the uni-brow as I said, "Did you say pit boss?"
On Ciro's suggestion I went to the Holiday, took a craps audition and was hired on swing shift. Before leaving Bobby spent his break with me. I asked about Mooks. He said, "Mooks couldn't add two and two. And his hands are so screwed up, he can't barely hold the chips. Then on the rare occasion that he knows a payoff, he makes a messy adventure out of the simplest shit. Now we know he's not a heavy thinker...but I guess the big shots see he's such a great guy with a warm heart. So they told him that his future was in management. To start, pit bosses get eighty a day." I mused, "That's like a million a year."
We were walking back to the craps pit when I asked, "What's the story with his wife?" "Mooks made it sound like he rescued her from the mob. The wiseguys took money from her family in the old country, smuggled her into America and got her hooked on heroine. They made her into like a slave or something? And to survive, she danced nude and turned tricks." I said, "Geez." "So Mooks has a soft spot for her. So to save her and himself, they split in the middle of the night. He's convinced they want her back and him dead." I couldn't believe my ears. Bobby continued, "Sometimes I think I'm a moron to be seen around him, in case whoever is after him has bad aim." I murmured, "Wow." "If that's all true, it won't be too hard to track him down...he tempts fate all the time...remember in the bowling alley how yelled out his was a bouncer from Niagara...well one time at work he told a customer from Toronto that they were like neighbors because he lived a mile from the Canadian border in western New York. Even though Einstein took the low-profile precaution of not listing his phone number, the dummy didn't change his name...or nickname...and we all know there aren't many Mamoukian's running around."
Bobby's game was standing dead so while he was on duty, he was able to whisper more info, "Maria never leaves the apartment without him. She can't read English or understand the shit on TV. Luckily he found a starving kitten drinking Jacuzzi water and brought it home. So together with the hairball, a radio and Mooks , Maria copes with pain and loneliness of going cold turkey.
Mooks took to being a big boss well. He ate like a king and loved the respect and rock star status of the position. On the graveyard shift there was little activity except when his under bosses handed him papers to sign. It seemed natural that during the wee hours that cleaning and other odd jobs were done. He felt important to meticulously sign for casino access authorization for the floor waxing unit, initialing the exterminator invoice or a memo concerning new dealer aprons.
By the third day, he was scribbling his name because he was bombarded with similar trivialities. But Mooks wasn't sharp enough to realize that a fill of casino chips, to replenish a craps table's bank would arrive when he was doing other things. On one occasion, his under boss said, "I see you're busy," as Mooks tried to decipher an intentionally obtuse memo about the over head light bulbs. Then the under boss generously said, "Just sign here and I'll put the money on the table for you."
He wasn't there a full two weeks when another fill came as he was signing his meal ticket, struggling to fill out the master attendance sheets and filling out a D. A. N. (Disciplinary Action Form) for a boxman who fell asleep on his break. His under boss extended the clip board with fill slip on it and said, "You take care of the important business, just put your John Hancock here and I'll take care of this nonsense."
At 5:00AM, Mooks was in the coffee shop basking in the sweet life. While inhaling a broiled veal chop, a double order of cottage fires and a squash medley, he decided to create his own memo to allow dealers to sit during lulls in the action. Suddenly a hippie-ish craps dealer with marginally long hair approached and said, "Gotta minute?" Mooks had always been indifferent towards this fellow so to avoid having his dinner disrupted, he tried to give the kid the bum's rush. Instead, the dealer plopped into the booth next to Mooks and whispered, "I might be wrong because I'm reading everything upside down..." Mooks looked away and called to the waitress, "More onion rolls."
Mooks acted surprised that the dealer was still there and said, "So?" In a lower tone the kid said, "Today was the third time..." He hesitated, looked cautiously around and added, "Today was the third time that a fill came for the wrong amount...a lesser amount." Something clicked in Mooks' mind and he said, "So, in other words..." The kid's voice was barely audible as he peeped, "Each of the last three days, a fill was short five hundred dollars...in nickels."
Mooks ripped the napkin that he had childishly stuffed into his shirt and over his tie. He marched into the shift boss' office and without comprehending the implication or scope of his accusation, he explained his discovery of the chip theft ring.
The shift boss arched his right eye brow as he thought; this imbecile is smarter than he looks. After Mooks disclosed his source, he was accused of being a co-conspirator and was fired. Mooks was shocked. He tried to defend himself but was repeatedly cut-off. While the shift boss was mulling how he, the floor person and cage manager were going to recruit another stooge for their money siphoning operation he said, "I am sincerely disappointed. Such a fine young man on the outside...if I didn't like you so well, I'd call the police and you'd serve time. And when you got out, you'd be black balled in every casino in the goddamned state. Now get the hell out of my sight. Or I'll have security throw your sorry ass out into the street!"
Mooks was out of work for months. He was such an awful craps dealer that he couldn't pass an audition. He also made the mistake of including his stint as a pit boss on applications. That strategy backfired because potential employers didn't want a jaded employee who might want their job or it resulted in a barrage of management questions that Mooks couldn't handle.
The Mamoukian's had their backs to the wall. Maria was physically, intellectually and emotionally unemployable so Mooks' meager life savings evaporated quickly. He feared betrayal from family and friends back home so he stubbornly sought to save himself.
On the same day that Bobby offered to take the Mamoukian's in, Mooks got hired at the Lady Luck Casino as a less intellectually challenging blackjack dealer.
|BACK IN THE DAY, THE LADY LUCK WAS ON PAR WITH SLOTS-A-FUN AS THE WORST TOILET TO WORK IN. THE DIFFERENCE WAS, WHEN I WAS GROSSING $150.00/WEEK IN MY SLICE OF HELL, I WASN'T WEIGHED DOWN BY THE ADDED EXPENSE OF A DETOXING ADDICT...AND A CAT.|
Bobby got married and moved back home in the summer of 1979. For Ciro and me, Bobby was our only source for gossip and neither of us ever saw or heard about the Mamoukian's after that.