Manny Hardin, a Mob Associate, confronts a candidate's fears.
The Wire Mesh Cage
Manny Hardin was an organized crime figure looking for girls to run an extremely sensitive operation. (No, it wasn’t prostitution… and in this business some questions are better left unasked.) The enterprise was managed exclusively by women and was to the Mob, what ULTRA was to the Allies in WW2. It was Manny’s job to run the selection process and make sure the candidates had the character traits and attributes necessary for the job. His very life hinged on his selections and he was very good at what he did. The process always began with a polygraph interview.
“Are you ready Ms Foster…?”
Hooked to the lie detector, the young woman answered, "Yes sir.”
"Do you like Halloween?"
"I used to love going Tirck or Treating."
"How about dark and spooky places?"
"I liked dressing up and all the different costumes."
“Hmmmm... suppose I could just ask what you’re afraid of, but experience teaches that candidates seldom volunteer this information….thus the need to probe a little deeper. Actually, you needn’t answer out loud, just focus on the image and key word shown on each card. " He flipped through the deck.
“Your Father…. Brother….A relative…. Some inappropriate touching…”
Manny watched the needle closely for a flicker. It didn’t move.
“Sex, violence, have you ever been beaten?” The needle flickered imperceptibly…
“Dogs….cats… wild animals…?” Not a twitch
“How about insects….like spiders…, roaches… and scorpions…?” Nada.
“My goodness young lady; you're a case study in fortitude…. How about dark rooms…?” The needle flickered.
Manny turned out the lights. The room was plunged into total darkness. On the polygraph the dial glowed a pale luminiscent yellow. The needle was pegged to the max. He turned the lights back on.
“Are you afraid of mice, Shirley…?” It jumped… “Ah-ha! Rats…big ones with beady pink eyes and long snouts?”
The needle pegged once more.
“I do believe we’re onto something…. Are you afraid of dark places and rodents, My Dear...?” The needle maxed out and held.
“Yes sir,” she said beginning to tremble. " I'm afraid of the dark... rats too."
“Mind if I verify this for myself?"
"You can take my word for it."
In a few minutes Mr. Hardin returned with two cages. One was a rectangular aluminum box with holes drilled in the sides. Inside she could hear the scurry and skitter of claws on a metal floor. The other was a wire mesh contraption, like a diver’s helmet, designed to be placed over the head and attached beneath the arms.
"Put this on while I cinch it down."
“What are you planning to do? “she inquired, not comprehending the full extent of what he had in mind.
“We’re going to confront your fears, Sweetheart,” he replied, “unless of course you wish to terminate the interview…By the way, this is your last chance.”
She hesitated, her eyes growing wide.
Manny secured the arm straps and clicked the hasp around her neck. Holding up a small lock he explained… “This is to make sure the face piece doesn’t come flying open." He engaged the loop and clicked it. From the top he opened a trap door. Next he reached into the box and removed a rat. It was extremely active and thrashed about as he took it by the scruff and suspended it in front of her face.
"Trick or Treat," he said wickedly, turning out the light.
“Too late,” he answered....
As the lid snapped shut, claws, whiskers and a hairy stomach skittered across her nose.