zingmagazine10 autumn 1999







about zing


8 poets making it new
generation z
lutwidge finch
the back of beyond

The time was 11:30 am when Peter handed me the receiver.
“Good morning, STI Travel, may I help you?” There was no doubt about it, it was Mo on the line.

“Hi,” I said, feeling no need to identify myself. I know he has been waiting by the phone. “I just arrived at Newark.”

“Are the girls with you?”

“No, the doctors are going to keep Isabel another night and Maria was so upset over Isabel’s condition I decided to leave her in Chicago and come alone.”

“Do you want me to send a limo?”

“No, it will be quicker if I take a taxi.”


“See you in about an hour or so depending upon traffic.”

“Insha’ Allah.”

“Insha’ Allah.”

It was another Oscar-winning performance from me.

But before I could pat myself on the back, we are on the move again. This time the entire entourage, this whole traveling circus, me and the agents, were equipped and specifically prepped for this operation.

They outfitted me with the wire. It was a small portable transmitter, measuring three inches long by two inches wide. Attached to it was a thin, flexible wire aerial about two feet in length. The transmitter was placed in my jockey underwear, directly in front of my genitals, and then the aerial was attached to the front of my body with adhesive tape at six inch intervals. An additional smaller transmitter with an internal aerial was placed in the pocket of my winter jacket, to be used as a back-up in the event the body wire malfunctioned.

As I was being prepared for my part in this operation, the number of agents grew like runaway cancer. There were now fifteen agents in this party and they were putting on bulletproof vests. It gradually dawned on me that this operation was no joke, it was serious and dangerous business.

I began thinking that someone could get hurt—thinking that that someone could be Mel Mendelsohn.

“Don’t I get a vest?” I asked (and I wasn’t talking about the heroin vest). “The bulletproof one.”

“You told me that Pakistanis and their friends hug one another when they meet,” Peter reminded me. “You wouldn’t want him to hug you and feel a bulletproof vest, would you?”

“Of course not,” was my weak reply. “But what if someone fires a shot? All hell could break loose!”

“Mel, there’s nothing to worry about. We do this all the time. We’re professionals.”

That thing about “professionals” was supposed to calm me down; all it did was bring my discussion with Peter to a close.

When we got down to the garage, there were five vehicles waiting—three passenger cars, a yellow taxi, and a United States Parcel Service delivery van. I said nothing about the taxi or the UPS van, figuring that they’d tell me what I needed to know.

An agent dressed in a brown UPS uniform got into the van. The remaining agents, with the exception of Jack Conti, spread out into the three cars. Me and Jack got into the yellow cab.
Once everybody got settled in, Peter opened the driver’s side window of the lead car, waving his arm, and pointed forward.

I waited for somebody to yell, “Wagons ho!” No one dared to.

The five vehicle convoy proceeded uptown in the direction of 34th Street. Peter and Jack maintained communication throughout the trip, using walkie-talkies. Peter asked me to talk in order to check the viability of the wire and the pocket transmitter.

Being the good soldier, I comply. Everything is in good working order. MO won’t know what hit him.

We traveled up Tenth Avenue to 34th and then made a right turn. The travel office was slightly beyond Sixth Avenue and Macy’s Department Store, on the left hand side of the street, number 45.

Jack stopped the taxi between Seventh and Sixth Avenues. The remainder of the entourage continued east. Fifteen minutes went by before Peter came over the walkie-talkie.

“Our ‘UPS driver’ is going to deliver a package to the office. He’s going to check the floor plan. He’ll tell whomever is in the office that he delivered the package to the wrong floor.”

I sat, waiting. Another ten minutes passed, then there was another communication from Peter.

“Mel’s layout of the office checks out. There’s a woman and a man inside. From Mel’s description it’s Mohammed. Mel, are you ready?”

I shook off my lethargy, now ready for action. “Yes.”

“Then let’s do it! Everybody on their toes—and let’s all be careful. Jack, drive Mel across Sixth Avenue.”

“Roger,” Jack said into his walkie-talkie. “Ten four.”

Jack drove the cab across Sixth Avenue and stopped directly in front of the McAlpin Hotel.