We got back to adding songs to our repertoire late Sunday afternoon. Our combined energy level was low and we only picked up two songs, but they were both great tunes and also proved to be oddly prophetic. Irony struck a strange chord that day.
Black Is Black offered a simple, powerful organ riff; three notes much like 96 Tears but with a pounding energy, so raw and so real. It proved to be a Ted Anderson song. He found the heart and soul of that song. I got chills hearing him sing it.
Mitch Ryder had another great song climbing the chart – that featured a sizzling Hammond part – titled Devil With A Blue Dress On. It was also tailor made for Rock with lots of screaming emotion and plenty of room for drama.
Drama is exactly what I got shortly after I returned home that evening. The phone rang around 7:30pm. My mother answered. I could tell by her gasps and hushed conversation that something untoward had happened. Perhaps a relative had died, or was diagnosed with cancer, or some other dire circumstance. She asked me to accompany her. Her family was gathering at her sister Esther’s house. Their sister Camilla had been attacked the night before in her apartment. My father was deep in the woods at the hunting lodge where he could not be easily reached. Mother wanted a shoulder to lean on. I was willing to help out in a time of crisis, no matter my feelings for her crazy family.
We arrived at Esther’s house to observe the wringing of hands and rallying together that the Fischetti family did whenever an outsider dared offend one of their own. That was another weird thing that I didn’t understand about these people. They would snipe, rent, and tear at each other, but let an outsider bother one of them and they banded together like a Roman Legion.
There was no direct talk about the crime. An intruder had entered her apartment in the night and “attacked” her. I didn’t understand the circumstances at first. Why would anyone attack Camilla? She was a slight girl, unlike her rotund siblings – the runt of the litter. Her husband was a mix of Finnish and Ojibwa (making him a dark skinned, devastatingly handsome man) sailor who was at sea on an ore boat. They were nearly as poor as us in their humble little cold-water flat next to the fire station in East End. It didn’t make sense for an intruder to bother this woman. She had nothing worth stealing, neither possessions nor money.
There was much speculation as to whom the assailant could have been. Perhaps it was a neighbor or a random attack by a roaming vagabond, or a psycho on the loose. Alfred Hitchcock’s film “Psycho” had recently been released to TV and played in frequent rotation on the late, late show. The thoughts were disquieting for a small town. The horror of Ed Gein, Wisconsin’s serial killer and cannibal that inspired Robert Bloch’s novel that became the Hitchcock movie, was still fresh in local lore. Women hadn’t showered since the film was released.
Dour faces debated what to do. Who should clean and secure Camilla’s apartment? Who would call ship-to-shore to her husband to inform him of the crime against his wife? Should they insist that he return home immediately? Who would house Camilla until her husband returned once she was released from the hospital? Certainly she could not return home. There was a dangerous lunatic on the loose.
I detected that the people in that room were reveling in their sister’s misery. They loved the drama. They lived for drama and this moment provided high drama. Like pigs wallowing in mucky mire, they basked gloriously in this true life crime story. I wasn’t sure whether to be sad or sick. I felt queasy, like I needed to vomit the pity and sorrow that I couldn’t help but drink in. I also began to suspect that there was something more sinister about these people. They weren’t simply pitiable cretins as I first deduced. No, there was a deeper seated evil at the core of this clan.
When we finally left, I was emotionally exhausted. I wanted to cry. I wanted to scream. I wanted to run crying and screaming into the dark night.
Somehow, the hapless detectives of the Superior Police (more ironic naming) Department managed to solve the crime and arrest a suspect within a few days. The name of the man charged with the “attack” shocked me. He was a relative. He was married to Camilla’s sister, Francesca, and brother to the man married to Esther. That’s right, two brothers from the Steven’s family married two sisters from the Fischetti clan and one of them attacked a third sister.
The extreme plot twist that was the arrest caused a rift that split the four sisters into two factions, a fissure that would fester for years to come. My mother came to Francesca’s aid while Esther aligned herself with Camilla, the victim. The Fischetti family loved seeing themselves as victims and this Greek tragedy of a situation made victims of all the sisters, allowing them all revel in Machiavellian delight.
As usual, it took my dad to sort out what was actually going on. One day as my mother was off sitting beside Francesca in court, as she would through the entire trial, I asked dad what was really going on. He had had 5 or 9 beers by that time and was in a talkative mood.
“Camilla cried rape,” he stated simply.
“So, Frank Stevens raped Camilla?” I asked, trying to make sense of this new information.
Dad’s response was an emphatic no.
“But you said that Camilla cried rape?” I was confused.
“That’s right, she cried rape,” dad said. “But I doubt that’s what really happened. It doesn’t make any sense to my mind that Frank would do that.”
“Then, what actually happened.”
“Camilla and Frank were drinking Woody’s Bar,” he started. “They both got stinko drunk. At closing time Woody threw them out. Frank walked Camilla back to her apartment a few blocks away. She invited him to continue drinking with her. She was lonely. Her husband had been out to sea since the ice left the harbor in March.
“Camilla is the youngest girl. The girls in that family have always been hot to trot. You figured it out for yourself when you were six. You counted the months from November, when your mother and I were married, until June 1st when you were born. You realized that you weren’t born two months premature. Your mother had to have been two months pregnant when we snuck off to the reservation in Minnesota to get married.”
“Yeah, dad, I remember discovering that fact.”
“Well, the girls have never been one’s that could keep their slacks on for long. Camilla seduced Frank. They did what they did while blind drunk. In the afternoon while Camilla was nursing a whopper of a hangover remorse set in and then the reality that she may have become pregnant from the romp. She panicked, banged her head into the doorway a few times, ripped the dress she’d been wearing, and called Esther to report that she’d been attacked by a stranger in the night.
“Esther called the police and events quickly spun out of control. Camilla was trapped in the lie that she told but it was too late to recant. The cops quickly cut through her inconsistent bullshit story and she admitted that it was Frank, but that he’d taken her against her will. The cops loved that as did the district attorney.
“So, now Frank’s on trial and most certainly will be convicted. That’s why your mother sided with Francesca and why Esther sided against her brother-in-law and with Camilla.”
“That’s really messed up, dad.”
“No shit, son.”
“Why are they like that? Why aren’t they more like the Blackwater Tribe?”
“Because they are wasicu. Even worse, they are eye-talians,” he laughed.
Dad relished in tormenting members of my mother’s family. No matter how many times they corrected him he insisted on pronouncing the word as eye-talian, emphasizing the eye. They would counter with “it’s It-talian, it. The country is It-aly, not Eye-taly.” “That’s what I said, eye-talian. Don’t blame me because you’re a goddamn eye-talian.” It was a fun game for dad.
The wheels of justice ran over Frank. He was convicted of rape and sent to Waupun State Prison near Madison for a term of 5 to 10 years. Frank thought that he was fucking Camilla that night, but it turned out that she fucked him in the end, butt good. (Sorry, I can’t help myself most of the time)
I learned that the Fischetti family history was rife with dirty little secrets. Truth tasted bitter in their mouths. It would be another decade before I unraveled the dirtiest, darkest secret imaginable.
One fact that came out during the trial was that on the night that the supposed rape occurred, Camilla was wearing a blue dress.
Sing it with me.
“Devil with a blue dress, blue dress, blue dress. Devil with a blue dress on, alright.” – Mitch Ryder