Blood and Bourbon
Ettore “Eddie Sistine” Bagnetto
Sangiovanni ghoul & mafioso torture-artist
“A smile will get you far, but a smile and a gun will get you even farther.”
“I like a look of agony, because I know it’s true.”
Black, freshly barbered hair, is greased into a tall, iridescent pompadour that does little to hide a receding hairline. His pale-olive skin has the tint of a chemotherapy patient. His torso, once triangular and toned, is pear-shaped and soft with middle-aged flab and a lifelong diet of cannoli and gelatos. He wears a slick-brown jacket allegedly made of eel leather; it gleams like wet pavement—or perhaps just cheap pleather. In true Cosa Nostra fashion, his silk shirt is half-unbuttoned, but his stringy chest hair and gold chain seem pitifully thin, almost effeminate. Similarly slim, seemingly pencil-drawn eyebrows crown a pair of dark eyes devoid of sentiment or moral conscience. His blade-faced expressions are sharp and distinct, yet utterly indifferent to the lies they may or may not be conveying. When not pursed around a Newport cigarette, his minuscule mouth hangs slightly ajar, revealing narrow teeth wet with saliva. His sangria, menthol, and cough-drop scented breath hangs around him like the vapors of a poisonous flower, sweet and sickening. When practicing his ‘art’, Eddie Sistine wears industrial fishery gloves and carries an arsenal of pliers, shears, blowtorches, and cordless drills.
The proud great-great grandson of Antonio Bagnetto, Ettore “Eddie Sistine” Bagnetto grew up in the French Quarter’s Little Italy, the bastard son of goodfella Jackie “Jackpot” Bagnetto and his favorite Sicilian prostitute, Angela Esposito. Between bedpost rattling visits from his father, Eddie was raised on his mother’s milk and her bedtime stories about the Hennessy lynchings, turf-wars with the Provenzanos, and prohibition bootlegging. When Angela ‘entertained’ other clients, Eddie learned to hide under the bed and be utterly silent and still. Later, when his age and size prohibited such behavior, Eddie was forced to run the streets, where he quickly joined a pack of other gangster brats, engaging in petty crimes and street-scuffles.
During one of these delinquent escapades, the 11-year-old Eddie was arrested while trying to rob a liquor store. Fortunately for Eddie, the beat-cop who busted the pre-teen was on the Mafia’s tab, and when he heard who Eddie’s father was, he turned him over to Jackie. Initially annoyed, if not enraged, Jackie eventually calmed down and decided to take Eddie under his wing (though not before beating the snot out of his bastard son). Thus began Eddie’s true education, assisting Jackie, their capo, and indirectly, then-Godfather Carlos Marcello. In the course of this apprenticeship, Eddie learned the wise-guy tradecraft of racketeering, fencing, extortion, jack-rolling witnesses, leg-breaking for shylocks, and supervising the Black Hand’s growing gambling empire. In the course of such training, Eddie spent ‘sabbaticals’ in St. Louis, Kansas City, Vegas, and Miami assisting allied crime families. After returning to New Orleans and keeping his lips shut during a five-year stint in Angola for trumped-up possession charges (which the DA tried to use to turn Eddie against then-underboss Joseph Marcello, Jr.), Eddie officially earned his ‘button’, becoming a made-man, or uomo d’onore.
A few months later, Eddie would get his revenge on the DA by giving cement shoes and swimming lessons to the man’s grandmother and beloved poodle. Despite being arrested for the ‘double homicide’, Eddie (or more properly his ‘Family’) beat all charges save possessing a firearm as a felon. After another two years at the Farm, Eddie got off early on on good behavior (i.e., the mob strong-armed the parole committee). A year later, Eddie was ‘made’ a second time by Chiafreddo “Catfish Freddy” Putanesca. In need of an obedient, experienced lackey for the diurnal management of his Teamsters and Acme Truck Line (and their related smuggling operations), Freddy ghouled Eddie. The long-time mafioso proved a reliable enough servant, but what surprised many, including his domitor and himself, was the ‘artistic renaissance’ that the Sangiovanni vitae seemed to awaken in the ghoul.
After being tasked to rough up the spouse of a DEA witness, Eddie displayed a hitherto-unseen talent. He took before and after pictures, and the results were horrifyingly effective. It did not take long before the rest of the Family noticed this burgeoning talent—and began to ruthlessly exploit it. Neither the first nor last of these critics was Don Vico. Unlike many of the others, however, Vico not only appreciated the practical merits of Eddie’s ‘art’, but became endeared to its macabre aesthetics. So enthralled, Vico informed his childe that he would be the ghoul’s new and permanent patron. A yes-man as well as a wise-guy, Eddie accepted the switch without complaint or comment, particularly since Vico’s patronage has allowed Eddie “Sistine” to pursue his artistic passions full-time, as the Don has ensured a steady stream of commissions, both personal and professional.
When not so occupied, Eddie spends his time carousing with his fellow goodfellas, blowing money at the race-track, cruising water-lined highways in his 77 Lincoln Continental (plenty of trunk-space, capiche?), and picking up French Quarter prostitutes.