Ranks of "Mob Widows" Grow
As War Smolders
In a far table in downtown's trendy Triad restaurant, three women sit down for lunch. One is a Chechen immigrant, the others Gotham natives. They have met here every week, comforting each other and mourning their husbands who died in Gotham's Thanksgiving Massacre.
They look no different than the others, mostly affluent ladies that take up much of the lunch rush there. Their hair is finely coiffed, their makeup impeccable, and their taste in clothes run to Versace and Dolce & Gabbana.
But their conversation is quite different. Instead of talk about new hair salons and the hot new vacation spots, these women talk about insurance pay-offs, how to keep their property from being taken by "the feds," and hiding places where their husbands may have cached money.
"Mob widows" have often turned to comfort towards each other. But what's novel about these meetings in Gotham is that they involved widows from different warring families.
Their husbands used to try to kill each other. But today, they are trying to reach across enemy lines and feel the common, human pain of great loss.
Gotham's mob war has hit almost every downtown neighborhood. Over 70 mobsters have lost their lives in the ongoing gang war.
Mob observers say the war started with the disappearance of Carmine Falcone during the Narrows Attack. The Falcone family was weakened and considered easy pickings for the resurgent Chechen organization and the Gambol group, says longtime mafia watcher James Levine.
But today, months after the war broke out, the initial causes seem forgotten in the bloody spasms of violence continuing to wrack Gotham. Caught up in vicious cycles of assassination, counter-attack, and death grudges, the mob war that erupted on Thanksgiving shows no sign of slowing down.
"It's difficult to know what could end this one," said Levine. "These things usually end when the sides all tire of the bloodshed. I would usually predict some sort of deal, but passions are so enraged right now, I can't imagine that occurring."
While reports of cease-fires and secret agreements seem to emerge every few days, no peace has held for more than two days.
And as the death toll grows, so does the number of "mob widows" — women who have been left devastated by the loss of their husbands.
These women tell stories of having to grieve at the same time they — and their families — are forced to come to terms with what their husbands do for a living.
Due to mob restrictions on talking to the press, none of these women would allow The Times to use their names, and each has been given a pseudonym. But they were remarkably frank about what they knew, and what they didn't know, about their husbands' work.
Nirina, a Chechen immigrant married to a man who died in the first wave of mob attacks, said she knew that her husband "worked the streets" and occasionally "had to beat up people who owed his friends money."
"My husband was not a bad man," Nirina said. "In my country, he would be a respectable businessman. But here, he had no choice but to help his friends out any way he could."
Today, Nirina struggles with her life. She has received an immigration notice challenging her citizenship papers, and the federal government is seeking ownership of her husband's two homes and luxury boat.
"Nobody understands what we go through," Nirina says. "Only women like us do," she said, pointing to her lunch partners and fellow mob widows.
Cindy says she met her husband on a date — but the date was with another guy. "We were eating dinner at Paulie's House of Ribs down in South Hinkley, and there was this group of guys at the next table. They were dressed up, so slick, so smooth, so rough. I was attracted to Jonny the minute I saw him."
But the course of true love never did run smooth. Cindy's boyfriend saw Jonny eye her, and demanded that he stop. "Jonny ended up pistol-whipping my boyfriend in front of me. There was blood everywhere. I was screaming. But Jonny acted like nothing happened. He gave me his card and told me to call him sometime. Six months later we were married."
The day Jonny died, Cindy was at an all-day spa with her girlfriends. She found out the news when a special local news report interrupted a soap opera. She fainted.
But when she woke up, her first thought was an unusual one. "I thought, now my family knows Jonny was a mobster. I wanted to be honest with my family, and now that the truth has come out, it's too late. it's all too late."