Some years ago I covered a mob hit in Chicago. It was, how to put this gently, a bit messy.
The unfortunate victim had been remiss in turning over certain monies to the wise guys, whose feelings were understandably hurt. And thus they dispatched two exterminators to rid themselves of their all too sticky-fingered associate as he was getting into his car.
As I stood on a frigid, snowy Diversey Avenue looking into the recently departed victim's Lincoln Continental strewn with shattered glass and …well, the handiwork of the assassins, a Chicago homicide detective sidled up to me to observe what had be to an auto insurance claims adjuster's nightmare.
"I know this a serious crime," the cop observed. "But you still have to admire professionalism when you see it."
Too true, too true.
And that brings us to the currently incarcerated Edward Graziano, who is sitting in the Pinellas County hoosegow accused of trying to organize a murder-for-hire bargain basement plot to kill his estranged (perfect word, here) wife, Debra.
Uh, as alleged criminal masterminds go, Ed Graziano would fall somewhere between Otis, Mayberry's town drunk, and Woody Allen's hapless bank robber in Take the Money and Run, whose attempt at a heist fails miserably when the teller can't read his handwriting on the holdup note.
According to authorities, Graziano is charged with conspiring over the course of several months to retain the services of a contract killer to bump off Mrs. Graziano for the princely sum of $1,100 in cash, a $1,000 personal check and the piece de resistance to seal the deal — a $13.06 gift card from Westshore Pizza.
Are there no standards anymore?
In certain — ahem — circles, this would probably earn the central figure in our "Pulp Fiction Meets Papa John's" drama the dubious moniker of Eddie "Dollar Store" Graziano.
It took several months for this alleged plot to come together!?!? Several months!?!? Sheesh, what was the hang up here? Anchovies or pepperoni? Deep dish or thin crust? Westshore Pizza or Domino's?
The battling Grazianos have been at the epicenter of the tragic story involving their son John, a former Marine and Iraq war veteran, who has been severely incapacitated since 2007 when he was injured during a horrific car crash of a souped up Toyota Supra driven by Clearwater's village twit, Nick Bollea, the son of make-believe hero Hulk Hogan.
Indeed, the Grazianos have a long history of marital discord, which makes the Bickersons look like Ward and June Cleaver, with Eddie "The Scrooge" Graziano on the receiving end of numerous arrests for domestic violence, court injunctions, protective orders and other assorted stuff involving the reading of Miranda Rights.
Or put another way, this chap was the Vlad the Impaler of father figures.
It's merely a guess, but it would appear a reconciliation is problematic.
To be sure, Mrs. Graziano has to feel rather unnerved to have learned her husband has been accused of plotting to send her to that Pizza Hut in the sky. But in a sort of twisted, perverted way, it also has to grate on her a bit that Eddie "The Miser" Graziano allegedly believed he could pull off a first-degree murder scheme for a few bucks and a calzone to go.
It never occurred to the petulant husband from hell that a couple things are going to happen if you attempt a plan to make your wife sleep with the meatballs at such a cut-rate fee?
For starters, it is arguably true it is not easy to find someone for this sort of specialized chore. It is probably not a good idea to advertise for a hit man in the classified section of the paper. So you pretty much have to accept whoever walks through the door. And whom might that be? Hmmmmm?
Really, haven't we learned by now — and in the alleged case of Eddie "The Cheapskate" Graziano apparently not — that it is almost axiomatic that efforts to employ the services of a "professional" triggerman invariably lead to an undercover detective posing as the Luca Brasi of Hungry Howie's?
After all, cops are drawn to idiocy like Rush Limbaugh eyeing a buffet table.
If convicted, Eddie "The Muckworm" Graziano could be facing some very serious big house time — all because he allegedly thought he could get rid of his spouse for $2,100 and the cost of a pizza. Talk about being penny wise and pound ghoulish.
As for Mrs. Graziano, it is said that revenge is best served up cold. And that's true — but with a side of mozzarella sticks.