“If you want to write about crime you have to meet Dickie,” said Chester Z, a friend from a former life, and that was how I met a true psychopath.
Richard Cain was sitting at the bar with a flashy looking gal in a club called The Scotch Mist, on Rush Street in Chicago. “Pleased to meet you,” he said. He could tell from my garb and demeanor (that of a mere journalist, not even a gossip columnist) that there was no point introducing me to the gal. Fixing important guys up with showgirls was one way Cain made friends in the right places.
He and I exchanged a few pleasantries, nothing memorable. By then he’d been a Chicago cop and a Mafia enforcer (at the same time), a CIA operative, a troubleshooter for U.S. corporations in the Caribbean, and a double-triple- sometimes quadruple agent acting on behalf of, and contrary to, the interests of those entities and others. According to a U.S. Senate committee, Cain made several attempts on Fidel Castro’s life. Cuban intelligence put together a compelling case that he was involved in the plot to assassinate President John F Kennedy. He served time for armed robbery under the name Enrico Scalzetti, one of his many alter egos, and immediately went back to work for the Cook County Sheriff’s Dept when he got out of prison. By the time I met him he was playing the final role of his life, bodyguard and financial adviser to the mobster Sam Giancana.
In retrospect, the only thing that struck me as pathological about Cain was his physical presence – handsome almost pretty, flawlessly groomed, not a wrinkle in his suit, not a scuff on his alligator shoes, hanky peeking out of his breast pocket just so, mild whiff of aftershave that hung in the air like a force field. He was a little too perfect. I got the feeling that spilling beer on his suit, or stepping on his exquisitely shod foot, would be a bad mistake.
I met Cain in 1971. He was murdered in 1974, a crime that was said to be the result of a Mafia quarrel. By sheer coincidence I’d begun looking into another seemingly unrelated murder around that time, and that was how I discovered who really killed him and why. Read it in “Danny’s Boat”, a story in an anthology of true crime stories – The Family That Couldn’t Sleep at Night – published by Calumet Editions.