A murderer in the Deli
I was chief dishwasher in the Delihaus on Massachusetts Avenue in Boston. Well actually I was one of two and we were both chief.
There were only so many plates and utensils. In order to keep everything flowing when it was full (which seemed to be between seven pm and two am.) the kitchen was dependent on me replenishing the plates, dishes and utensils at maximum speed.
It was summer and exceedingly hot and sweaty in the kitchen. That didn’t seem to bother the extended family of cockroaches that lived behind the dishwasher but it caused a lot of sweat to drip and run down my back.
The dirty dishes and cutlery would be dumped in big plastic containers. I rushed through, lugged them back to the dishwasher, scraped the food into the bin and loaded them up. I pulled the lid down and there was a lot of high pressure spraying and steam. It did it very quickly. I rushed the empty container back and brought in a new one. Unloaded the dishwasher and piled up the plates, crockery and dishes in a tray, separated out the cutlery, reloaded the dishwasher, took the clean things through, took the empty container back, collected the full one and thus it went on at pace all evening.
Throughout this process, which couldn’t possibly go any faster, I had the chef, a large swarthy man of Russian extraction called Boris, shouting at me to go faster and threatening to kick my ass and fire me.
When he wasn’t working I discovered Boris was almost human.
One night, sharing a beer at three in the morning after having shut down the place, swabbed the floors, wiped the tables and cleaned all the cooking area, he told me that he was out on bail. He said it as casual as anything.
I asked him what he’d done.
He told me he’d shot three people, killing two of them.
There was a bit of a silence. I don’t think I’d ever met a murderer before. What was most off-putting was that he was very casual about it.
I asked him, quite casually, what had happened.
He explained that he’d been in a bar having a drink with a friend and these three guys were sitting at this table and they started having a go at him, calling him names. He said that he hadn’t done anything to provoke them and ignored them. But they wouldn’t stop.
He looked me in the eye.
‘You can only take so much,’ he said. ‘I took my piece out and shot them.’
It was very matter-off-fact. I found it quite chilling.
I asked him how he came to be out on bail and not locked up already.
Boris told me that he was out on bail because he was a Vietnam vet and the army was looking after him. He’d been through the trial, found guilty and was awaiting sentence. He told me that the army was sorting out a couple of years in an open prison.
That sounded a bit lenient to me for killing two guys but I wasn’t about to say that to him.
Sure enough a couple of weeks later a shedload of police swarmed into the place with guns drawn, jumped behind the counter with much yelling, threw Boris on the floor, pinned him there, forced his hands violently behind his back and handcuffed him. They then dragged him off to the cars outside.
Boris was about to start his jail sentence.
The arrest was the American way of saying ‘Can you please accompany us to the station, sir.’
It left us in the Delihaus with a restaurant (I use the term lightly) of customers, who seemed to take it all in their stride and had watched the loud and violent arrest with interest and now were busy eating their meals or waiting to be served as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened, and no chef.
We all muddled through. One of the waitresses stood in until our other chef arrived.
I was discussing it with Little Wolf, the other dishwasher who just happened to be a Native American, and he told me he’d shot someone too. But that’s a different story.
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