Tuesday, April 17, 2007

That's It

I hope you all enjoyed a little taste into my imagination. As I work towards getting this book published, I'll remind myself of the encouragement I've received from you.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

John Visits Regina's Place

Sliding onto a barstool, Regina told Dave, “I’ll have some water.”

“Sure thing.” Dave poured her a glass of bottled water and then looked at her with concern. “I wish you would tell me what’s wrong. I might be able to help.”

“Not yet. Just pray for me, okay?” Changing the subject with barely a pause, Regina said, “Did you see the ad in the paper about the auditions?”

“Yeah, I did. It looked good. What type of entertainment are you looking for?”

“I’m not sure yet — a band, a singer, a piano player? Whatever.”

Regina turned around in time to see Detective John Nelson walking through the front door. Her heart stopped. “Oh, no,” she said as she quickly turned back around.

“What’s the matter, Mrs. Cavelli?”

Panicking, she asked, “Where’s Vinny?”

“He left about fifteen minutes ago. He said he had an errand to run and he’d be back in an hour. Why?”

That made Regina feel a bit more at ease, but her mind started to race. She had to find a way to arrange a less-public meeting. What am I thinking? That’s not going to work. Lord, what am I going to do? He’s heading my way. Help me find the right words to say to him.

John walked over and sat down two stools away from Regina without looking at her. To Dave he said, “I’ll have a club soda with lemon please.”

Dave poured the drink and dropped a healthy slice of lemon in the glass. “Will that be all, sir?”

“Yes, thank you.”

“That’ll be two bucks.”

John reached for his wallet, but then Regina suddenly said, “The drink’s on the house, Dave.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“That’s very nice of you, Mrs. Cavelli,” John said, without looking her direction.

Dave walked down to the other end of the bar to serve another customer. Regina glanced around to make sure no one was watching. Aware that her heart was still pounding like mad, she looked down at her water, trying not to draw attention to the fact they were about to start a conversation.

“Detective Nelson, what are you doing here? I thought I made myself quite clear when you were here earlier that I have nothing to say to you.”

“Yes, ma’am, you did. I thought that maybe you’d be more willing to talk to me if we were alone.” He took a drink from his glass. “I’ve been reading about you.”

“You’ve been investigating me?”

“No, I just wanted to learn more about you. It seems that you’re a kind woman with a good heart, and you help people.”

“Oh, I see.”

“So what puzzles me is how someone like you is married to a monster like Anthony Cavelli.”

“Look, this conversation is dangerous for both of us. Maybe you should leave.”

“I need your help. You can trust me.”

“I can’t trust anyone. Trust is expensive.” She paused then continued, “If I decide to help you, you need to understand that no one must know. I would be risking everything.”

“I promise. Does that mean you’ll help me?” John glanced at her. The possibility sent butterflies through his stomach.

“Look, I’m deadly serious. I need your word that you will keep this just between us, or else no deal. You can’t even tell your partner, understand?”

Without showing any of the emotions he was feeling, John responded simply, “Yeah, I understand. And I promise.”

“Now please leave before someone notices that I’m talking to you.”

“Thanks for the drink, Mrs. Cavelli.” John got up and started toward the door. As he stepped through it, he passed Vinny coming in. He tried to keep his head down, but he knew that Vinny had seen him. I hope this doesn’t cause her any trouble.

Vinny walked over to the bar and sat down next to Regina. She was startled to see him but tried to disguise that by saying, “Oh, it’s you. Thank God. You wouldn’t believe who had the nerve to drop by again.” She made certain she emphasized that word.

“You mean Detective Nelson.”

“Yes, how did you know?” she asked, as if surprised. “Did you see him?”

“Yes, I did. Is everything okay?”

“He came in for a drink. He sat over there. I think he just wants me to know that he’s watching me, to keep me on my toes.”

“Mrs. Cavelli, I would appreciate it if you didn’t mention this to the boss.”

“Why would you want me to keep something from him, Vinny?” Regina knew how to play this game. Now it seemed she had an advantage, and she was about to take it.

“Well, he told me to watch out for you, and if he finds out I left, even though it was just for a little while, I could get in a lot of trouble. I would appreciate it, ma’am, if we kept Detective Nelson’s little visit between us. Okay? I mean, nothing happened, right? You’re okay and all — no harm done.”

“I wouldn’t want to get you in trouble, Vinny. I don’t think this will be a problem. Besides, you’re right; it’s no big deal, anyway. This is a public place and anyone can come in for a drink. Right?”

“Yes, ma’am. Thank you.”

Vinny seemed appreciative that Regina had agreed, and Regina was so grateful it was Vinny’s idea that she didn’t even stop to think about his motives.

Driving home, John started to smile to himself. He turned on the radio to relax.

He was so excited. This could be the break he’d been waiting for, and he wanted to make sure everything went smoothly. Seeing Anthony Cavelli in jail would bring this chapter of his life to a rather satisfying conclusion.

© Nadine Z. 2007

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Regina has Concerns while Anthony Plots

Regina sat in her office and tried to figure out what Vinny could have possibly been doing in there earlier. Anthony obviously didn’t trust her. She wondered if he somehow knew about the copies she’d made of his private book, but she doubted it. If he had, he would have made her life much more miserable than it already was, if not worse. She had been surprised to find out at lunch that Poppy wanted to get involved in business again; that would make Anthony even more difficult to live with.

But back to the matter at hand — Vinny.

Think, Regina, think. Use the brain God gave you.

Her gaze landed on the antique phone on her desk, and for some reason, she felt a draw to it. She lifted the receiver, unscrewed one end, and was not surprised to see a tiny electrical device hidden inside. This wouldn’t be the first time he had done something like this. Instead of being angry, she wondered if she could use this to her advantage. Anthony had no idea she’d discovered his little bug. Of course, if he’d bugged her office phone, what else had he bugged? Was her car or even her home safe?

But who was she kidding? Home was never safe. Lord, show me the way out.

The knock on her door startled her. She quickly screwed the receiver back together.

“Come in.”

The door opened, and it was Dave, one of the bartenders. “Mrs. Cavelli, I thought you might like to know that we’re out of gin.”

“Did you check the cellar? We were supposed to have gotten a shipment today. Didn’t it come in while I was out?”

“No, I’ve already checked the cellar. We don’t have any. I guess I can stretch out what we’ve got.”

“No watered-down drinks. If you run out, then apologize and give a free drink of something else.”

“No problem.” Dave started to leave, but then he hesitated, and a frown pulled across his forehead.

“Mrs. Cavelli, is everything okay?

“Sure, Dave. Why do you ask?”

“You look like something’s bothering you.”

“This is the third time this has happened in the past two weeks. I’ll have to change suppliers. I don’t like firing anybody.”

“Don’t worry, Mrs. Cavelli. If you’d like, I’ll call them for you.”

“Thanks, but no. I’ll take care of it. Thank you for your concern, Dave.”

Dave was obviously not satisfied with her answer, but there was nothing for him to do if she didn’t want his help. An ex-con, he was as big as an ox but as gentle as a lamb. Regina had hired him six months ago, believing that everyone deserved a second chance. He was a very hard worker and was getting married for the first time at thirty-five. Lauren, his fiancĂ©, led the Bible study Regina sometimes attended.

Dave was very loyal to Regina because she had done so much for him. He didn’t like Anthony, or his men. More than once, Regina had broken up some near skirmishes between Dave and some of Anthony’s crew. She would hate for anything to happen to him because he was defending her.

Sitting in his semi-dark office, Anthony was on the phone. He wasn’t happy and was getting more upset by the moment. “Look, you moron, what saved you today is the fact I had lunch with my father, and by the time we were back, you had the books ready. If he finds anything amiss, you can kiss your family good-bye.”

Anthony slammed down the receiver. He had bigger problems on his hands than that idiot, like what to do about his father. He’d grown accustomed to being the boss; his men had grown accustomed to his being the boss, too, and he didn’t relish being sent back to second place. That couldn’t be allowed to happen.

Mario knocked then stuck his head in the door. “Hey, Boss, is everything okay? I heard you yelling. You want me to take care of something or somebody for ya?”

“No. That moron accountant won’t make the same mistake again.” He rubbed the back of his neck, scowling. “Poppy is starting to . . . Poppy is starting to breathe down my neck. He wants back in, and I know he wants full control again. The old man didn’t fool me for a minute. I won’t let it happen! I’m in charge, and that’s the way it’s going to stay.”

Mario couldn’t believe how Anthony was talking about his own father. He knew Anthony was ruthless, but he almost sounded like he was threatening Poppy, something Mario had never thought possible, even for him. Mario didn’t know what to say or what to do, so he remained silent and just stood there, waiting for further direction.

“You know,” Anthony began, “if only I could find a way to distract him from this idea of coming back to work . . . but what?” He got up and started to pace.

“Well . . .” Mario began, but then, after getting that one word out, he wasn’t sure he wanted to continue.

“Well, what?”

“Well, Boss, if Regina was pregnant, he’d be busy with the grandchild he always wanted. He wouldn’t care about the business then. He’d be too consumed with chasing after a grandkid.”

Anthony looked at Mario like he had ten heads. “Are you crazy? That would mean I would have to . . . ya know. That only happened once, and I was drunk at the time. That won’t work. She hates my guts as much as I hate hers.” He hesitated for a moment and then continued, “But you know . . . Regina could be the key. I don’t get it, but the old man acts like mush when she’s around. It really bugs me. The thing is, how do we use that to our advantage?”

“I don’t know, Boss.”

“Maybe between the two of us we could come up with something. You hungry?” Without waiting for an answer, Anthony continued, “Let’s go get some pasta, okay?”

“Sure, Boss. I’ll get the car.”

Before Anthony left, he looked at the picture of Regina on his desk. He kept one there for appearance’s sake. Every man had a picture of his wife on his desk, and he didn’t want to cause suspicion with Poppy.

Anthony picked up the picture of Regina and said, “You’re going to help me get the old man off my back, whether you know it or not.”

© Nadine Z. 2007

Friday, April 6, 2007

Dinner with Frank's Family

John pulled into the parking space behind Frank’s blue sedan as his partner climbed out and headed toward him. All right, let’s get this over with. John opened his door.

“Thanks for coming. I wouldn’t hear the end of it if I showed up here without you,” Frank said, sounding relieved.

“No problem. Annie is a terrific cook, and I always enjoy seeing the little rug rats.”

As they walked up to the front door, Frank’s youngest child, Nick, came running out of the house, shouting, “Daddy’s home! Daddy’s home!” He launched himself into his father’s arms. “Oh, looky! It’s Uncle Johnny, too. Hi, Uncle Johnny!”

Nick left his father’s embrace and ran to John. At five years old, Nick already wanted to be a detective like his father and Uncle Johnny. He thought they were the best. His dark hair and big, brown doe eyes could convince you to do just about anything. As they got to the door, Frank’s middle child, Lynette, greeted them. She was a twelve-year-old beauty with long, reddish-brown hair and green eyes.

“Hi, Dad. Hi, Uncle Johnny. I’m helping with dinner,” she said with pride. Then she turned and yelled at the top of her lungs, “Mom! Dad and Uncle Johnny are here!”

“Where’s your sister?” Frank asked.

“You mean her highness? She’s upstairs in her room. She’s too cool to associate with us mere peasants. She’s in high school now, you know.”

“Now, Lynette, that’s not very nice, is it?”

Lynette just shrugged her shoulders.

“Nicole, I’m home,” Frank yelled up the stairs as Annie entered the room and welcomed them both with hugs. Annie was a very beautiful woman with shoulder-length red hair and green eyes. She looked much younger than her age. People often thought her eldest daughter, Nicole, was her sister.

“Oh, John, it’s so nice to see you. I’m so glad you came. We’ve missed you around here. Sit and make yourself comfortable. Lynette, go check on the sauce. Nick, Sweetheart, go wash your hands — they’re filthy. Honey, would you go see what’s keeping our elder daughter? I want her to set the table.”

Now looking back at John she said, “Do you want a drink? We have soda, wine, beer, water . . .” Annie said all of this without even coming up for air. She sure was a fast talker, but John didn’t mind at all because she usually could carry the conversation by herself. All you ever had to do was nod once or twice so she knew you were paying attention.

“Soda is fine, thanks,” he answered.

Finally, Nicole descended the stairs as if she were royalty making an entrance at a ball. A younger version of her mother, she had the greenest eyes and the reddest hair. Frank always told John stories about her latest boyfriends. “Hello, Uncle John. Hello, Father. Did you guys kill anyone today?” she asked sarcastically, with a smile.

“Very funny, kiddo. Give Daddy a kiss?”

She walked over and greeted him with a peck on the cheek.

“You get prettier every time I see you, Nicole,” John said. It brought a smile to her face and she graced him with a peck on the cheek.

“So who’s this week’s heart break?” John asked with a sly smile.

“Daddy! You talk way too much about us at work.” Nicole rolled her eyes at her father, but she smiled at John to let him know she had liked his question.

Annie re-entered the room with drinks for her men. “Nicole, please go set the table,” she requested firmly.

“Mom, dinner isn’t for another hour. Can’t I do it later and visit with Uncle John and Daddy?”

Annie, a very structured and organized woman, preferred things to be prepared in advance. “Just do it now and get it over with. You’ll have plenty of time to visit later when all the work is done.” Nicole left, looking unhappy. “Why don’t you fellas go into the living room and sit and relax? I’ll be back after I check on the girls, and we can have a nice visit.”

© Nadine Z. 2007

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Lunch with Poppy

The ride to Mama Rosa’s was harmless enough. What Poppy said out loud didn’t worry Regina as much as what was going on in his head. As they arrived and were seated, her worry only worsened. Poppy might be old and retired from the business, but men like him always retained their power: the power to harm, to control, and to ruin lives. That was what these men did. She just couldn’t have them influencing the future of her child; that could not be allowed to happen. This baby was innocent and helpless, and it would be up to her, and her alone, to hold on to that innocence for as long as she could . . .

Regina,” Poppy repeated. “Regina.”

Regina startled. She barely remembered getting to the restaurant, much less being seated. “I’m sorry, Poppy. How rude of me. I was thinking about some plans I have for the restaurant. What do you think about live entertainment?” It was the best save she could come up with; she knew asking it would make him feel important, and because of that, the question would please Anthony as well.

“Well, my dear, that sounds like a very good idea. I knew if I bought you that place you would make it successful. You should be very proud of your wife, Anthony.” Poppy’s face glowed with pride.

“Of course I am, Poppy,” Anthony said with a plastic smile. This was his own doing; for whatever reason, he had chosen to endure an afternoon of hearing Regina’s praises sung from the rooftop, and he wasn’t going to enjoy it. Regina could see his smile’s insincerity from across the table and wondered how Poppy didn’t.

“After lunch, Anthony, I would like to go back to the office with you and look over the books. That’s still okay with you?”

Anthony’s hesitation was barely discernable. “No problem,” he responded with the same brittle smile.

Just then, the waiter came over to the table. “Good afternoon. My name is Carmine, and I will be your server today. May I take your order, or do you need some more time?” He looked about fifteen, but Regina knew that he was more than likely a college student. He was tall, thin, pimple-faced, and had a huge smile.

Anthony seemed grateful for the interruption. “No, I think we’re ready. I’m getting hungry. Sweetie, do you know what you want?”

Regina hated it when Anthony called her names like sweetie or honey. She just had to grin and bear it when Poppy was around. But she knew one thing for certain now: Something was up with Anthony. He was so edgy. He always acted like this around Poppy, but it was more noticeable today than usual. They placed their order.

“Would anyone like a cocktail or an appetizer?”

Anthony said, “I’ll have a scotch on the rocks.”

Poppy glanced at him. “Don’t you think it’s a bit early to have a drink, son?”

Anthony ignored him. “Just bring it,” he told the waiter.

Quiet, Regina put her napkin in her lap and pretended not to have noticed how much he had just given himself away. Edgy, apparently, wasn’t the right word; Anthony was downright moody. What was his problem?

“Anyone else?” Carmine asked.

“Espresso,” Poppy said.

“I’ll just have water,” Regina added. Carmine left.

Poppy returned his attention to Regina. “When was the last time you saw your folks?” he asked, casually overlooking the way his son had just dismissed him.

“Last week. They’re doing fine.” She paused. “Thank you again for keeping them safe and hidden so well.” She said that only because she knew you could catch more bees with honey than with vinegar. He acted like she saw them regularly, when she was taken to see them only twice monthly — if she was lucky.

How could she leave Anthony . . . and still keep her parents safe? She was not allowed to call them; they could call her once a week, but the calls were always monitored. She hoped that one day, she’d be able to save them completely and have them home again. It was a situation she tried to change whenever the opportunity came up, and now seemed as good of a time as any.

“Poppy, do you think all of this secrecy is still so necessary?” As soon as the words came out of her mouth, she realized this hadn’t been a good idea. Anthony shot her a look. Questioning any Cavelli could be dangerous. She knew she took a chance every time she asked about her parents, but Poppy genuinely seemed to enjoy her and her company, so, perhaps, she wasn’t as afraid of mentioning it as Anthony would like her to be.

Regina, my dear,” Poppy started, “I do believe we have been over this before. It’s for their protection and for yours that I have them hidden. Realize that if the unpleasantness of the past did not get in the way, things would be very different now. We would all be here having lunch together. But, of course, that is not possible. You know there are people out there who want to hurt the family. As a matter of fact . . .”

He paused as the waiter came back with the drinks and salads. When he had gone again, Poppy continued, “As a matter of fact, I hear you had some interesting visitors today.”

Poppy gave them a moment to absorb what he had said.

Regina was not surprised. Of course, he would know; he was Poppy. But Anthony seemed a bit taken aback. He stared at his father, a line between his brows.

“Two detectives came to see if I knew anything about the family business. I told them I didn’t, and then they left. That was the end of that. It really wasn’t a big deal.” Regina made note of Anthony’s reaction and realized that Poppy hadn’t gotten this information from his son. Interesting how father and son didn’t trust each other; each played games to impress the other.

“I’m proud of the way you handled yourself. You have been an asset to this family from the beginning. I always knew that you would be. It was nice to see how you and my son have gotten along. Who says arranged marriages don’t work?” Poppy smiled broadly and continued on that subject for what seemed like an eternity. They finished their salads, and the waiter came over with their entrees.

“Thank you, Carmine. This smells wonderful.” The rest of the meal was spent in idle chitchat, mostly dominated by Poppy. Regina and Anthony nodded and smiled often to show they were paying attention.

Both wished they were elsewhere.

© Nadine Z. 2007

Sunday, April 1, 2007

John's Plans are Delayed

John settled down to watch some TV and unwind until it was time for him to go to the restaurant — it was still way too early for dinner. He’d been feeling a little edgy lately, and he hated having time on his hands like this; it made the loneliness seem more apparent.

Most of the time, he didn’t consider being sent home early much of a gift, but today it had given him some much-needed time to think. Spread across his lap lay his file on Regina Cavelli. He’d discovered some interesting information about her in the past few months.

For one thing, she had married Anthony during a break from college and had never returned to finish. Her father had worked for Antonio Cavelli as his accountant and had been in police protection when she had suddenly married Anthony. Antonio Cavelli had planned an extravagant wedding for his son and new daughter-in-law. The press was invited to attend, and it was front-page news in all the papers. That was where it got interesting. After the wedding, Michael Palmetto, Regina’s father, had “lost his memory” and would no longer testify.

John’s brother, Sam, was working on the case at the time.

Sam had been very frustrated by the whole thing. All his hard work had gone out the window with Mr. Palmetto’s memory. But as frustrated as he had been, Sam had had so much to live for; he never would have gotten mixed up with drugs. A short time after the Cavelli wedding, Sam had been found in his apartment, dead from a drug overdose. They had ruled it an accidental suicide, but John would never buy that. He knew his brother too well.

The doorbell rang and roused him from his thoughts. Who can that be? John slid the folder under the couch cushion and walked over to the door. “Oh, hi, Frank. Come on in.”

“Hey, John. I’m here on an important mission from Annie.”

“What’s up?”

“She told me and I quote, ‘Don’t come home unless John is with you.’ She says she misses you and so do the kids. They’ve been asking for their Uncle Johnny. They want to spend some time with you this afternoon since there’s no school today.”

“That’s sweet, but I plan on having Chinese food later. I have a craving. Then I was going to turn in early. I haven’t been sleeping so good lately.”

“Are you trying to get me into the doghouse with my woman? You know how Annie gets. Come on — you know I can’t go home without you. Besides, Annie is a great cook. You know she’ll want you to stay for dinner. Come on; we’ll drive over together.” John didn’t respond, so Frank continued, “I promise you, I’ll get you home early enough to get a good night’s sleep.”

John realized that if he didn’t go, it would look suspicious. “Okay, but I’ll take my own car. I’ll meet you downstairs.”

“All right, but if you’re not down there in ten minutes, I’m coming back after you.” Frank left with a big smile on his face.

Maybe an after-dinner drink then . . . John grabbed his keys, shut off the lights, and went out the door.

© Nadine Z. 2007

Saturday, March 31, 2007

A Happy Family . . . Not

Mario pulled into the garage next to the two-story office complex. It was about twenty minutes from Regina’s restaurant, and the Cavelli family owned the whole building. All their businesses operated from here, each with a name that sounded respectable and completely above board, but what happened behind closed doors was another story. Anthony had his men sweep the building periodically for bugs, and sometimes they found a few. As far as the city cops were concerned, their informant was usually quite reliable. But the Feds were a different story; they planted bugs fairly regularly or positioned men outside to observe the proceedings as best they could.

As Regina and Anthony got out of the car, he asked her, “Do you think you can manage to be civil to my father?”

“Of course, I can. I forgave him a long time ago for forcing me to marry you and live in hell,” Regina replied with an edge of sarcasm. She sometimes couldn’t help but give snide remarks, especially when she was around Poppy. It was a shortcoming she was still working on.

Instead of being sarcastic in return, Anthony said calmly, “That’s exactly what I mean. The old man thinks we are happily married. I’d like to keep it that way. Now just do as you’re told and everything will be all right.”

Normally he would come back at her or threaten her in some way. For the second time today, Regina wondered if something was wrong. She kept quiet, hoping to pick up on what was really going on.

Stepping into the building with Anthony and Mario at her heels, Regina tried to focus. She always found it difficult to be in Poppy’s presence, especially now in her condition. He had always wanted a grandchild. It was a topic that had been on his mind, and lips, since the death of Anthony’s mother. Lord, I need You to help me keep my cool and not give myself away.

A little prayer never hurt in stressful situations.

They walked into the outer office and a very nervous Mary greeted them. She came out from behind her desk.

“What’s the matter with you?” Anthony asked. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”

“Mr. Cavelli, your father is in your office,” Mary said with much excitement in her voice. “He came about twenty minutes ago and just walked right in. Then he started dictating letters to me. I didn’t know what to do! I didn’t get a chance to call you. I was just about to now. He’s been making phone calls and asking me questions . . .” Mary was very close to being frantic.

“Calm down, will you? Just bring us some coffee and type those letters like he asked. Don’t worry about it. Did the accountant drop off anything?”

“No, sir, he hasn’t.”

This did not seem to make Anthony happy at all. Grabbing Regina by the arm, he whispered, “Don’t forget what I told you.”

They walked in and found Poppy on the phone, sitting behind Anthony’s desk. He motioned for them to come in, as if it was his office they had just walked into. Instantly, heat shot through Anthony’s body. He didn’t like this situation at all. Poppy had no business, none whatsoever, appearing so comfortable in Anthony’s office.

Poppy hung up the phone and, with a huge smile on his face, got up to greet them.

For a second, Anthony smirked at Regina’s expression. Hugging her was like trying to hug a fence post. She never returned his father’s hugs, but it didn’t seem to phase Poppy or discourage him from trying.

“What a pleasant surprise! Anthony, why didn’t you tell me Regina was going to be here?” Before Anthony could answer him, he went on, “My son can’t seem to tell me if I will ever become a grandfather. Regina, Dear, can you give me an idea?”

“I’m sorry, not yet. You know we’re still young. There’s plenty of time for that in the future.” Forgive me, Lord, for telling such a lie. It amazed her how this man seemed to forget that he had forced them to get married. He lived in some fantasy world in which they were all one big, happy family.

Mary walked in with the coffee tray and set it up on the table.

“Okay, I’ll drop it for now. But I have a wonderful idea. Why don’t we all go to lunch together? I would love to visit with you in a more pleasant environment.”

Anthony smiled and said, “That sounds great. I guess we won’t be needing that coffee, Mary. Thank you anyway.” He turned to his father. “Why don’t you two go out to the car? I have some instructions for Mary before we leave.”

As soon as they were out of hearing distance, Anthony whispered in a low growl, “Mary, I want you to call the accountant and tell him that he’d better be here with the books before I return from lunch. Make sure he understands — wait. Forget that. Instead tell Jimmy to go there in person and pick it up. He’ll know what to do if it’s not ready.”

“Yes, sir. No problem.”

On his way out to the car, Anthony made a call. “Yeah, it’s me. Can you talk? Listen, I want to know what he is up to before it happens, not after. Why wasn’t I told about the visit? That’s not what you get paid for! No more excuses — just keep a better eye on him!”

When Anthony joined them in the limousine, he was back to his pseudo cheerful self again. “So, Poppy, where to?”

“Mama Rosa’s Seafood Palace. I’m in the mood for some fish.”

“Great. Mario, you heard him — Mama Rosa’s.”

Regina started to pray. Lord, give me strength to hold down my lunch. And help me to behave in a way that would please You. It really didn’t do her any good to be upset. Nothing ever seemed to change.

© Nadine Z. 2007