He arrived in New York aged thirteen with the seat hanging out of his pants, his words, from Northern Greece. Nobody could pronounce his Greek name so they gave him an English one in this land of fresh opportunity.
He was good at school and good on the streets, he quickly made friends with other kids: Jewish, Italian, Hispanic, any kid. He was good-looking, tough and friendly, people liked him and he could always turn a dishonest buck.
Leaving school he got a job in a Greek shipping company and did well for them. Then he started his own company. He had little money but an idea: every Greek in New York could become a ship owner by buying a share in his boat. It went something like this: five to fifty dollars or more made you a ship owner. He found a beaten up but seaworthy boat, got a cargo, a Greek crew and it put to sea. Then disaster! The boat sank, all the crew were saved and Harry collected the insurance and the rest as they say is history.
When I first met him he was somewhat older than me, a tall strikingly good looking charismatic man with a strange courtesy. He had a beautiful, charming wife whom he adored, they’d been childhood sweethearts.
He had a penthouse overlooking Hyde Park, an office in the city he never went near and kept a permanent suite in a famous hotel and by now had many, many, many millions of dollars.
In a corner of the ground floor lounge, at the hotel he held court when he was in London, he sat with a bottle of black label whisky. An assistant and two of his boys were not too far away. You visited by appointment; there were often some interesting people waiting for the royal presence. I was always last, which flattered me as it meant he wanted to talk. You see, he could talk to me as he knew I was one of the few people who wanted nothing from him, except his company. I loved Greece and liked and got on with Greeks too.
He arranged our meeting “by accident” of course, as he found out I had contacts in Greece that may be able to help him with a small problem. My friends in Greece were of an old established family involved in politics and law. Harry had some problem with a new Rolls Royce his wife had imported,something was a bit dodgy with the paper work. My friends couldn’t really do much, but there was a small court case with a small fine, a formality really, nothing of importance. I was summoned to his presence. He thanked me for the introduction and asked if there was anything he could help me with. “Nothing, said I, it was my pleasure to be of any small service”. Then it came. He fixed me with cold hawk’s eyes. He said he knew his boys had told me he watched old black and white very romantic movies by himself and cried and tears were rolling down his face. I told him I had heard, it was very moving.
“Bullshit, I’ve never watched any of those movies, I’m crying for myself, for all the dirty, filthy, depraved, disgusting, diabolical and evil things I do and have done for money and now there is no way out.” I’d heard that Harry had his fingers in many sticky pies. The hawk’s eyes looked straight into mine, I was afraid, Harry could be ruthless. You are the only person I have told this to, Vasilly, he used my Greek name, you will tell nobody. You don’t know it yet but I have given you a great gift. One day you will know it, then thank me.
The Hawk’s eyes disappeared, we had two large black labels then went to the best Bezooki club in London with the best belly dancer the best food and the best whisky.
I never betrayed his confidence. Some time ago he got taken out, thank God it was a professional hit: a bullet in the back of the head when he was least expecting it. Long before that I did realise the value of his gift and quietly thanked him. Thanks again Harry, I do miss you. God, you made me laugh and God, could you talk. Harry, you could talk about everything and anything and then some, I loved it. I really miss you Harry, I really do.
That is all.