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

Friday, March 30, 2007

John Has Hope

John arrived home tired and frustrated by his day. Captain Merrill had sent him home early, since he had come in around four a.m. to do paper work. He often did that when he couldn’t sleep. John lived alone, except for some goldfish, in a small one-bedroom apartment in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

His living room was dark beige. He wasn’t sure it had been painted that color originally, but years had passed since anybody had tried to do anything with the walls. John didn’t mind the fading, since he was rarely home anyway. He was able to fit a recliner, a loveseat, and a nineteen-inch color television in the living room area. He had a small portable CD player on an end table next to the recliner. His bedroom was cramped with a double bed; a dresser; and one end table that held a phone, a lamp, and an alarm clock. The bathroom had a tub with a fish shower curtain.

The last area in the apartment was what some would call a kitchen; others would call it a closet. It contained a small oven with a four-burner stove, a refrigerator, a sink, and a small counter that separated the kitchen from the living room. He had two stools by the counter where he ate his meals. It was a small place, but he could afford it, and it was located only about twenty minutes from the precinct.

Out of habit, he went right to the answering machine and hit play. A familiar voice filled the air. “John, this is your mother. I was wondering if you could stop by for dinner on Sunday. Your sister will be here and . . . well, we all miss you. I love you, Honey. Call me.”

The next message was from some salesperson telling him he’d won free airplane tickets to Florida; all he had to do was examine a time-share in Tampa. The final message was from his sister. “John, it’s Lisa. How are you doing? The kids miss you. I miss you, too. We all hope to see you Sunday at the folks’. Mom says she’s making your favorite pot roast. Well, anyway, know that you’re loved. Bye.”

He couldn’t help but think how lucky he was to have a family who cared so much for him. They were always trying to make sure he stayed connected to them.

He felt a bit disappointed that there wasn’t a message from Mrs. Cavelli. He was about to press the button and reset his caller ID box when he noticed that it read four new calls. Funny, he thought he’d heard only three. He reviewed the calls listed and noticed that one of them was from Regina’s Place.

I wonder why she didn’t leave a message. He thought about calling her back but quickly dismissed the idea. Too risky. He didn’t want to get her in trouble. Thinking about his next move, he pulled open the refrigerator and saw there wasn’t much in there: some beer, an apple, and milk that was probably expired.

“Well,” he wondered out loud, “since there doesn’t seem to be anything for dinner, maybe I should go out to eat. And wherever shall I go? Regina’s Place seems to be as good a place as any.”

© Nadine Z. 2007

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Regina Gets Ordered Around

Driving back to the station, John didn’t say much. Regina was more stunning in person than the pictures he’d seen. Maybe she’d call him when she wasn’t being watched. Maybe that was why she had given them the brush-off.

Maybe she was afraid to talk to him in front of that big goon — or Frank. Maybe he should have gone alone . . .

Frank was the first to break the silence. “You see, John? I told you it would get us nowhere. She practically threw us out! If she knows anything, she’s not telling. Now are you gonna give up on this crazy idea of yours?”

“I think she’s just scared. That big guy works for her husband. He’s probably there to keep an eye on her. At least now she knows there’s someone out here who can help her.”

“Have you lost your mind? Help her do what? She doesn’t look like she needs any help. Do you live in some kind of fantasy world? Were we both in the same place? She’s not going to call you! She seems to be very loyal to her husband. You need to just leave this alone and look for another angle, or else you’re going to get yourself killed.”

John was quiet for a moment. “Maybe you’re right. I guess I’m just kidding myself.” He didn’t want to continue this conversation. Next time, he’d go see her alone. It would be less intimidating for her, and he wouldn’t have to hear “I told you so” from Frank.

He changed the subject. “Hey, Frank, did you watch the game last night?”

Anthony looked at Mario. “Get the car. I want to go and have a little talk with my wife before Poppy comes over.”

Mario knew that tone all too well. For Regina’s sake, she better have the answers Anthony wanted to hear.

Regina could hear the staff in the kitchen. She must have lost track of time; they were probably getting ready for the lunch crowd. She needed to go and check with the chef to make sure there weren’t any problems with the morning deliveries.

Anthony stepped through the restaurant’s front door and walked over to where Vinny sat at the bar. “Where is she?”

Startled, Vinny answered, “In the back, Boss.”

“Follow me.” As they walked toward the kitchen, Anthony instructed, “While I talk to her, you go into her office and bug the phone. Use this.” He dropped a small listening device into Vinny’s palm.

“No problem,” Vinny answered, closing his hand over it.

As they approached, Anthony saw Regina talking to the chef. He glanced toward her office door and noticed it was open a crack, which made it pretty easy for Vinny as he slipped into the room and disappeared from view.

“Hello, Darling.”

Regina jumped. “Anthony, what are you doing here?”

“Chef Paul, please excuse us,” Anthony said as he grabbed her by the arm and started walking her toward the back door. “I need to talk to you alone,” he hissed.

Before she could protest, Anthony had her outside the building. He spun her toward him and released her arm with a shove. “I heard you had a visitor today,” he said as he stood nose-to-nose with her, glaring into her eyes.

“I see Vinny couldn’t wait to call.” Regina took a step backward.

“He told me you handled yourself very well.”

“Now, what else would I do? I know how this works.”


Anthony closed the distance between them, and she hurriedly asked, “Did you come over here just to tell me that? You could have called.”

“I wanted to see your pretty face,” he replied as he reached up and brushed her cheek with his hand.

Regina wiped her skin where he had touched her. She had never liked it when he stood close to her or touched her in any way, which amused him. “Very funny. What else do you want, Anthony? I have work to do.”

Anthony didn’t appreciate her tone and made it known by grabbing her arm again and squeezing it.

“Anthony, stop — you’re hurting me! I only asked a simple question.”

“Let’s get something straight, Babe. You don’t ask me questions, simple or otherwise. I’m the only one who can ask questions. Is that clear?”


“Good.” He let go of her arm and continued, “I’m here to convince you to come back to the office with me. Poppy is coming for a visit and I know he would be happy to see you.” Regina would be enough of a distraction to buy him more time, in case the accountant was late.

Regina thought convince was an interesting word choice. Knowing he wasn’t going to accept no for an answer, she took a deep breath and said, “Sure, I’ll come with you. I’ll go get my purse and lock up first. I also need to give the staff a few minor instructions. Is that okay?” She knew that asking him for permission would calm him down and stroke his ego at the same time.

Anthony eyed her with a superior air. He always enjoyed these little bouts for power. They ended the same every time — with him on top. “Sure, go ahead. I’ll wait in the car. Don’t take too long.”

Regina walked back into the building, rubbing her arm where he had grabbed it. It still stung a little. What was Anthony up to? She stepped out of the kitchen just in time to see Vinny freeze outside her office, the door swinging slightly behind him. Wait a minute . . . Did he just come out of my office? As she approached him, she demanded, “What were you doing in my office?”

“I wasn’t in your office,” he replied matter-of-factly. “I was just standing here waiting for you, ma’am.”

Regina didn’t buy that. She knew what she had seen but decided it was best to drop it for now. Anthony hated to be kept waiting, especially by his wife. “I’m going to be leaving for a while with Anthony. Tell the staff that if there are any problems to call me on my cell phone.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Vinny said with a smile.

Regina went in and retrieved her purse from the desk drawer. She looked around her desk, and nothing seemed to have been moved. Still, she had the uneasy feeling that Vinny had been snooping around. Vinny was coming out of here — she was almost certain of it. What was he up to — and did it have anything to do with what Anthony was up to? She left and locked the door. She gave the chef some minor instructions and then went out the back way.

Anthony was waiting in the limousine. Mario saw her approaching and climbed out to open the door for her.

“Let’s go,” Anthony immediately instructed. They drove in silence, which was fine with Regina. It gave her time to think, time to pray, and time to prepare herself to be in her father-in-law’s presence.

© Nadine Z. 2007

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

John and Regina Meet

Vinny pulled into the parking lot of the Long Island restaurant. He climbed out of the car and opened the door for Regina.

"Thank you, Vinny." She went to the back door and unlocked it.

"Is there anything I can do for you today Mrs. Cavelli?" Vinny asked, following closely behind her.

Regina couldn’t say what she really thought, or she might have to repent later. Besides, it wasn’t Vinny’s fault her husband was the way he was.

"I’ll be in my office getting some paperwork done. I really don't want to be disturbed. When the staff comes in, will you let them know that?"

Vinny nodded and then walked over to the bar. The bar was made out of beautifully crafted oak, with a dark brown finish, and a dozen or so stools that neatly line the one long edge. Behind the bar was a large mirror with grapevines etched along the edges. The left side of the mirror held two shelves with all the different alcohol and mixers lined up on them. On the right were the drinking glasses. At the end of the bar a television set hung from the ceiling. Vinny walked behind the bar and poured himself some mineral water. He turned on the television. He might as well watch TV, since there wasn’t anything else to do.

Regina walked to the back office next to the kitchen and unlocked the door. The key in her hand was the only one to this room, her inner sanctum. It was the one place she could be herself and not have Anthony's eyes watching her. She’d decorated the room with soft shades of blue and gray. She had made the curtains herself; they matched the small love seat. A rectangular coffee table and a plush, round chair sat at the other end of the room. Her desk was made of mahogany, a present from Anthony's father. He loved mahogany and gave it to her when she bought the restaurant. The restaurant was a good distraction. Anthony’s father was kind to her but she resented him for the pain he caused her family. She struggled with her feelings for Poppy. If it wasn't for her bargain with him, then she wouldn't be married to Anthony. But she’d no choice. If I hadn’t married Anthony then . . . She decided that she wouldn't dwell on the past. She had done what she had to do. The future of her child was at stake now, and that changed things for her.

Regina had so much on her mind that it was hard to know what to do first. Who could she trust with the information from Anthony's black book? She knew Anthony had some cops on the payroll; one for sure. He’d been very careful not to reveal who it was, not even to his own men. And lately it had felt to her like Anthony was having her watched twenty-four hours a day. Both she and her baby would be dead if she gave the copies to the wrong person. Lord? Help me to find someone I can trust. Guide and direct me in this situation. She opened up her drawer where she kept her Bible and opened to the book of Acts. Her eyes fell right on Acts 2:25-28:

David said about him: 'I saw the Lord always before me. Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices. My body also will live in hope, because You will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. You have made known to me the paths of life; You will fill me with joy in Your presence.”

Oh Lord, thank You for Your word of encouragement to me, Regina prayed. The knock on the door startled her. She wasn't expecting anyone because she had asked Vinny not to disturb her. "Who is it?"

"It's Vinny, Mrs. Cavelli." He opened the door a crack to stick his head in and continued, "I know that you didn't want to be disturbed, but you have some visitors that insist on speaking to you. It's a couple of cops."

"Show them in."

Vinny walked in, followed by two men. The blonde haired one walked over to her with a smile on his face, holding his badge in one hand and extending the other one.

"Mrs. Cavelli, my name is Detective John Nelson and this is my partner, Detective Frank Holstrum."

Frank nodded his head in acknowledgment.

Regina didn’t extend her hand but simply looked the two detectives over, saying nothing. She wondered if God answered prayers this quickly.

Since there was no response from her, John continued. "If you don't mind, Mrs. Cavelli, we’d like to ask you a few questions." He took out his note pad from his pocket and opened it up.

Cops made Vinny nervous. He interrupted, "As I told you before detective, Mrs. Cavelli is a busy lady, and she ain’t got time for your questions."

"Does Mrs. Cavelli have a tongue or do you always speak for her?" John asked, sarcasm sliding through his tone.

Before Vinny could protest further, Regina raised her hand to stop him. "I have a tongue, detective. Forgive Vinny. He’s very protective of me. So, what type of questions would I possibly be able to answer for you?"

Vinny gave Regina a confused look.

"Well Mrs. Cavelli, I have questions regarding your husband and some of his business affairs."

"In that case, why don't you ask him your questions?” Before he could answer, she continued, "I'm quite sorry, because I don't know anything whatsoever about my husband's business dealings. He doesn’t tell me how to run my restaurant, and I don't tell him how to run his business. So I have nothing I could possibly help you with. I'm afraid you've wasted your time coming here and now you’ve wasted mine as well. If that is all, gentlemen, I have work to do. Good day to you both. Vinny, please show the detectives to the door."

Conversation over, she returned to her paperwork as if they weren’t there.

John was a bit surprised by her words and her cold manner. Everything he'd ever heard about her or read described her as gentle and kind. He was not expecting this forceful, strong-minded woman who didn't even give him a chance to speak. He decided he wasn't giving up that quickly.

"Here's my card, in case you change your mind."

Regina didn’t look up, so he placed it on her desk.

"Good day, Mrs. Cavelli. Sorry to have troubled you. Let's go Frank."

After the three men left, Regina picked up the card and looked it over. He had written his home number on the back. She quickly copied it and placed the number in her pocket. Vinny walked in to see her looking at the card. She pretended not to notice him standing there and tore up the card into little pieces and threw it in the trash. Vinny smiled as he watched her.

"Is there anything else I can do for you, ma'am?"

"Thanks, but no. If you don't mind, I'd like to finish up my work."

Vinny closed the door to her office, took out his cell phone, and placed a call. Anthony answered on the first ring.

"What's up?"

"It's Vinny, boss. I thought you’d like to know who just paid your wife a visit. It was that detective."

"What happened?"

"He wanted to talk to her, but she just blew him off and sent him packing. She was really something," Vinny was quite impressed with the way Regina handled herself.

"Interesting." Anthony paused, considering what he wanted Vinny to do next. "I want you to bug her office phone just in case she decides to contact him."

"I don't think so boss. She ripped up his card."

"Don't question me, just do as I say."

Anthony hung up in Vinny’s ear. Vinny hadn't meant to upset him. I was just that you would think a man could trust his own wife. What do I know? I do as I’m told.

Regina sat at her desk and prayed, Lord, can I trust Detective Nelson? Should I call him or not? Nelson - why did that name sound so familiar? She thought about it and then remembered the cop guarding her parents was also named Nelson. She wondered if there was any connection. It was something she’d have to look into. She placed her head in her hands and sat there for what seemed like an eternity. She could feel the God’s peace. She reached for the phone number in her pocket and dialed. As the phone rang, her heart took a flying leap. Suddenly she wasn't sure if she should do this. He couldn’t possibly be home already. His answering machine picked up. What should she do? Should she leave a message or not? She got scared and hung up the phone. Maybe she'd try again later.

© Nadine Z. 2007

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Poppy - the Head of the Family

Before Anthony left, he took another look at Regina. She was just lying there, quietly breathing. It wouldn't take much effort, he thought, to place a pillow over her head as she lay there. She wouldn’t even see it coming. That happy thought lingered a bit too long in his mind; he could almost imagine it happening. He shook his head and convinced himself that it wouldn't be in his best interest, at least not yet, to give in to that desire. Poppy wouldn't be around forever, and then he’d have more freedom to do whatever he wished to his wife. He'd be free of her one day. He walked out to the front of the building where Mario was waiting. As soon as Mario saw him, he climbed out and opened the door for Anthony. When they were both seated, Anthony said, "Let's go. I want to beat the traffic before it gets bad."

Regina looked out the window and watched as Anthony drove away with Mario. The black stretch limousine was hard to miss even from the penthouse apartment. Anthony owned many cars, but he liked taking the limousine when he had to meet someone. It made him feel important. She walked over to the desk and opened the secret drawer, but the black book was gone, just as she figured it would be. Anthony always carried it with him wherever he went. Tomorrow is another day. Maybe tomorrow.

“I’d better get ready and see what is going on over at the restaurant,” she said out loud to herself. Sometimes in this hostile environment, the sound of her voice eased her nerves.

She was nearly dressed when she heard a knock on her bedroom door. "Who is it?"

"It's Vinny, Mrs. Cavelli. I just want you to know that Mr. Cavelli asked me to drive you to the restaurant. I'm ready whenever you are."

"Just a minute." Regina finished buttoning her blouse and then opened the door to find Vinny waiting for her. At six-foot-three and pushing two-fifty, he was absolutely Herculean, and it was pure muscle. He made her nervous, but she knew better than to let it show. She was the boss's wife and had to be self-assured, even if she didn’t feel it. "I'm ready." She paused a moment to get her thoughts. "You know, I'm feeling much better. I can drive myself to work."

Vinny smiled as he said, "Mr. Cavelli was very worried about you this morning and he wanted to make sure you got to work safely. He also wanted me to hang around and drive you home later. I’m at your disposal today.”

“Isn’t that nice.” Regina replied.

“Besides, you wouldn't want me to get into trouble with the boss?" Vinny smiled.

Regina realized this was a losing battle, so she relented. "No, I wouldn't want you to get into trouble with Anthony. Let's go then."

"After you, Mrs. Cavelli." He stepped out of the way to let her pass. He didn't mind the days he had to watch her. It was an easy way to make a living. She was usually pleasant and never caused any trouble. To tell the truth, he liked her. Why the boss didn’t trust her was beyond him, but it wasn't his job to ask questions, just follow orders.

After his mom died a year and a half ago from a heart attack, Anthony wasn't sure Poppy would ever recover from the loss. It was then that Anthony had taken over the daily business operations. But now Poppy wasn't in mourning anymore, and Anthony was afraid he'd want to come out of retirement.

He arrived at his father’s house right on time. He walked up the front steps, and before he could knock, Stuart opened the door.

"Good day sir. Your father is waiting for you in his study."

"Thanks, Stuart." Anthony said as he entered the house. He always thought it was creepy how Stuart knew someone was at the door before the doorbell rang. The man had been with the family since before Anthony was born. No one knew how old he really was. His English accent added a touch of class to his persona. Stuart's thin frame made him appear even taller than his six foot stature. Poppy trusted him, and as long as Stuart wanted a job he had one. Poppy offered him retirement, but Stuart refused. Since he had no family of his own, he enjoyed keeping busy. His loyalty had been proven on more than several occasions.

Anthony walked down the long hallway and found his way to his father's study. The door was open and his father was on the phone. Poppy motioned for Anthony to enter.

Anthony sat down on one of the leather back chairs opposite Poppy's large mahogany desk and looked over at the pictures to his left. There were framed, smiling faces of his mother, of him and some of Regina. It irritated him that his father seemed to care so much for his wife. Maybe that added to his hatred of her.

The entire wall to his right contained floor-to-ceiling bookcases that held hundreds of books. His father, an avid reader, enjoyed collecting books, especially first editions. He had a separate library in another part of the house that contained even more books, but he kept his favorites in his study.

Finally, Poppy finished his call and hung up.

"Buon giorno, Poppy." He walked over to the back of the desk and greeted his father with a kiss, as was his custom. Poppy motioned for him to sit back down.

"So my son, two things I have to ask before we get started. First, how is that beautiful wife of yours? And second, am I any closer to being a grandfather?"

Anthony hated it when his father started conversations like this. How could he explain to his father that the marriage he arranged for him was not one of love. And as far as he was concerned, kids would never enter the picture. It would require more than he was willing to do.

"She's a bit sick today, but I think she'll be all right."

"Morning sickness, perhaps?" Poppy asked with hope in his eyes.

"So, Poppy, why did you want me to come by today?” Anthony was determined not to talk about Regina or having a baby. Both subjects made him ill.

"Can you only think of business?”

Anthony didn’t answer him; he just looked around the room.

“Very well then. Let's talk business. I want to discuss something with you." Poppy paused, then got up from his desk and sat in the chair next to Anthony's. "Since your mothers death, God rest her soul, I've been a little out of it. I mean, her death was so unexpected. That was why I needed some time off. I started to lose my edge. I became . . . complacent."

Anthony sighed. He did not like the direction the conversation was going.

"But I feel the time has come for me to get involved again in some of the daily operations. This is no reflection on you, of course. You've done a fine job. I don’t mean to take over the whole operation again, just . . . I would like to be kept abreast of different situations and deals that come up."

Anthony just kept silent. He could feel his blood start to boil. If the old man thinks I'm going to just roll over and play dead, he's got another thing coming to him. He enjoyed the power he now possessed and would not give it up without a fight. Poppy couldn’t just give him ultimate control and then change his mind again on a whim.

Keeping his true feelings to himself Anthony responded. "If it's not going to be too much of strain on you, then I think it's a great idea. It’ll be good for you to get involved again. I welcome all your experience." Anthony placed his hands over his heart and hoped he sounded sincere. "Look, Poppy, there's some things that need my attention back at the office. If there isn't anything else, I'd like to go."

"No, nothing else."

Anthony gave his father an awkward hug and kissed him good-bye.

When he was about halfway out the door, Poppy said, "I’ll see you over there later." This made Anthony stop in mid-step. Poppy continued, "I thought I’d look over the books and see where things stand."

"Sure thing, see ya later." Anthony said without looking back. He felt his heart start to beat faster.

When Anthony got back to the car, he took out his cell phone and called the accountant. "It's me. Did you finish?" He took a deep breath and yelled, "I don't want any more excuses! My father is coming to the office this afternoon and everything better be ready! If it's not, you and your family are going to wish you’d chosen a different profession."

Anthony snapped his phone shut, tired of all the delays. He took out his black book and flipped through the pages.

"Mario, when we get back, cancel all my appointments. Poppy is coming."

Mario, concerned asked, "Is he taking over again, boss?"

"Don't worry about it. I'm still the one in charge, and that's all you need to know."

"Sorry, boss. I don't mean no disrespect." The last thing Mario wanted to do was get Anthony angry.

The rest of the ride was spent in complete silence. Anthony still didn’t speak even after arriving at the office. He just marched in, grabbed his messages off Mary's desk, and slammed his office door.

Mary, a very pretty woman in her mid twenties, made a quite efficient secretary, which surprised most people, because her short skirts and high heels fed the assumption that she was just another pretty face.

"I guess it's not a good time to ask for a raise." Mary winked at Mario, and they smiled knowingly at one another.

© Nadine Z. 2007