Monthly Archives: February 2023
To read this serialized blog of A Relationship Beckons from the beginning, click here: Crisis Averted #1 . Then navigate to the next post using the links in the upper corners
The leaden silence following Big Tommy’s words did more than shroud Debra and Luca. It oozed around and between them like a primordial essence filled with foreboding and apprehension. Luca could feel Debra tense despite the four feet separating them in the two, cushiony chairs.
“You know why I have summoned you here tonight.”
Big Tommy’s onyx eyes did not shift from Luca to Debra or vice versa. His declaration was aimed at one person. And one person only. Luca Clivio. The mafia crime boss’s attention sliced through the absolute yet terrifying stillness. For Luca, everything fell away. Tommy’s ominous glare held him like a shot of a paralyzing agent. He could see and hear. But he was unable to move, his muscles unresponsive. But Big Tommy’s eyes seemed to reach inside him, exposing every childhood sin and every improper thought. Before this criminal mastermind, Luca was a nothing more than a fly on a steaming pile of crap.
Luca did not know how much time had passed. Each second became an hour. Each minute a year. Luca returned Tommy’s hard gaze with a futile, ineffectual one of his own. Finally, Tommy demanded a response.
I said, “You know why I have summoned you here?” His gravelly voice grated in Luca’s ears.
After an eon elapsed, Luca managed an barely perceptible nod. He cleared his throat and replied, “My tribute?”
Tommy nodded with gravity of a hanging judge. “Ah si, il mio tributo.” He moved his plump hands in a gesture of incomprehension. “You are expected to provide me with $5000 a month. Your last two payments have been less than two g’s.”
Luca opened his mouth to speak. But Tommy cut him off, the ire in his tone climbing. “My other ten capos…nussun problema. Cosa sta succedendo?”
What’s going on?
A trickle of sweat snaked down the depression along his spine. Whenever Tommy started speaking in Italian, he knew things were going downhill…fast.
Tommy who had been leaning forward angled his bulk back against the sofa which groaned under the enormous mass. He steepled his hands in front of his chin. “And?”
“They’ve taken over the area.”
Tommy pouted his lips and nodded slowly. “What do recommend?”
Luca glanced at his Rolex. It was approaching one in the morning. “We cut our prices? Cut the product to make it cheaper so we can compete.”
The smile that crept over Big Tommy’s countenance made the thick moustache over his lip appear to shrink then expand as if it might crawl off his face. “No. no. no. Mio amato. I have made my reputation on the quality of the product we deliver. That is not an option. My other guys are making their quotas. You must be doing something wrong–”
“They have not yet spread to the other capo’s territories.” Luca’s words were involuntary and they cut off his boss. Not a wise move. Luca glanced at Debra whose eyes widened momentarily at his bold interruption. The shock they communicated made Luca’s stomach clench.
Tommy closed his eyes and sucked in a deep breath. He let it out slowly through his nose as the muscles in his jaw flexed. Luca had seen this reaction before when others had been the subject of the big man’s scrutiny. When his raised his puffy eyelids, they were once again slicing through Luca with the sharpness and intensity of a searing knife. “Not a good enough answer. First, you must make your account good again. You are behind by six G’s. I need payment…now!”
“But Tommy, I have no more cash. I had been paying you out of my own funds.”
“You should have solved this sooner. Nonetheless, you owe me. Pay.”
“I don’t—what do you recommend?”
Tommy did not move a muscle. His eyes shifted to the expensive watch on Luca’s wrist. “That will do nicely. That will make you whole again.”
Luca closed his eyes and pushed it out. He slipped it off his wrist and placed it on the coffee table with a click.
“Very good. And I’m going to bring in some help. I’ll call Il Gigante in the morning.”
“Assolumente. He will make sure the job is done to my soddisfazione. And I will give you something else.”
Tommy smiled a wide grin. He lifted his right arm whose bulk was evident even through the silk robe enveloping him. Two fingers snapped twice. One of the gargantuan men near the doorway, spun to a bookcase and lifted a wooden box from it. He carried it to the coffee table and set before Romano then quickly and quietly resumed his position by the door.
Tommy leveled an expectant gaze at Luca who alternated his eyes between Tommy and the wooden vessel.
“What’s this?” Luca asked.
With great effort, Tommy hefted himself away from the back of the couch and placed two hands on the box. He pushed it across the table nudging aside the shot glasses and the bottle of Sambuca. “Look for yourself.”
Luca rubbed his hands hands along the tops of his thighs then cautiously moved them to them to the box. The hinges faced him so he spun it around. With a finger from each hand, he lifted the lid with a low creak. The inside was cushioned and lined with blue velvet. A single item dimpled the plush interior. It was a polished, nickel-plated Smith and Wesson Model 539 semi-automatic pistol.
“If you’re not going to go all they way, why go at all?”
Luca frowned and furrowed his brow. A husky lump formed in his parched throat.
Tommy smiled. “Eliminate the competition.”
The Drive Home
Debra’s stylish boots straddled the gleaming woo0den box as it sat on the passenger side floorboard of Luca’s S-Class Mercedes. As he drove mechanically along the avenues of Ocean View away from Romano’s oceanfront mansion, the pair remained silent. Debra peered out her window, biting her lower lip, trying to determine when the right time would materialize to discuss Tommy Romano’s lethal directive. Luca quickly gave her an opening.
“When we get back to my place, I need you to resume your tail on Caroline.”
Debra rotated her head slowly to look at him. Luca continued staring out the windshield. After several moments of silence, she spoke. “That’s it,” she declared. “You ask me to follow your ex-wife again. Just like that!”
Luca shot her a quick look then returned his eyes to the road. He shrugged. “What?”
“Tommy just ordered you to kill…I don’t now how many people. And you ask me to follow her like nothing’s happened?”
Luca sighed. “I’ll figure something out.”
Debra scoffed. “That’s just fucking marvelous. You’ll figure something out. You do realize I was just a witness to Tommy giving you an order. If this goes bad, it will come back on me too. Ya know! What the hell have you gotten me into?”
Caroline woke just as the first vestiges of dawn cracked over the horizon and sifted through the pines and oaks visible from her bedroom window. She felt a relief she hadn’t experienced since the day she left Luca. The decision had been made. She was going to file for sole custody of Peter. Luca would be livid, possibly, out of control. But this move was necessary for Peter’s benefit. Luca’s lifestyle, his criminal activities and his drug use. It was a easy choice but a difficult one nonetheless. For her son’s sake, there was no other option.
The digital clock on the bedside table read: 5:23 a.m. Peter would not be up for another hour and a half. Normally, Caroline woke about thirty minutes before Peter. Something had awakened her early today. She didn’t know what. Had it been a sound? But Caroline also knew that sleep would not return this morning. She was wired. Something still niggled at her. The events of yesterday were chaotic and stressful. But she was missing something. There was a dot that had not been connected.
Still carrying the burden of sleepiness, she padded into the kitchen and pressed a button to start the coffee which was scheduled to begin brewing for another forty-five minutes. As the machine hummed and hissed to life, she picked up the legal document and perused, stopping at her signature on the final page. Her steely determination from a few minutes ago dissolved like a snowball in the fires of hell. Fear gripped her again. She knew this would be an emotional roller coaster miles long.
She tossed the papers back onto the desk, poured herself a cup of brew and strode through the living room. She separated the slates of the blind and looked out onto the street. The two-residence carriage home sat at the intersection of two wide avenues. The soft glow of early morning shone a burnt orange hue over the rooftops across the streets.
Caroline sucked in a sharp, shocked breath. What her eyes registered, connected the rogue dot that had haunted her .
The vehicle, some sort of SUV. “Son of a bitch,” she spat. It sat across the intersection. Its grill facing to Caroline’s right, giving her a three-corner view of the automobile. In the growing light, she recognized the BMW blue and white logo simulating a propeller. Dark blue or black with a pristine, glowing paint job.
The driver sat behind the wheel with her head down. Probably checking out her phone, Caroline thought. The sunlight was just right. She could make out the driver. But just to be sure, she raced to the small bedroom that she had converted into a play room for Peter. Digging around in the toy box, she found what she sought.
Running back to the window, she leveled the slates slowly to allow a better view. Lifting the orange toy binoculars to her face, she studied the driver. Long, straight blonde hair. The form fitting sweater. The same white one she’d worn as she leaned on the hospital wall less than twenty-four hours ago.
“Son of a bitch,” she repeated. Moving the binoculars slightly, she read the tag number. She didn’t have to memorize any numbers. It was a vanity plate: BTCHY.
To Be Continued-
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