A Relationship Beckons: Guns and Guts(#15)

To read this serialized blog of A Relationship Beckons from the beginning, click here: Crisis Averted #1Then navigate to subsequent posts using the links in the upper corners.

Check out the special advance offer at the end of this blog for a new book scheduled for release later this year from local authors Dr. Lisa Spiller and Sylvia Weinstein Craft…


Luca wore a lightweight black turtle neck with long sleeves, a pair of comfortable jeans and a black pair of tasseled loafers without socks. With the enormous Il Gigante impatiently waiting for him at his house earlier, Luca had dressed quickly but with the Virginia spring chill in mind. He regretted the choice now. He was uncomfortable for three reasons. The weather was warmer than expected; he was still battling a headache and nausea; and his nervousness had snowballed. Sweating profusely now, his head throbbed as his system worked overtime to cleanse his body of the drugs and alcohol. He had begun to perspire and, despite that fact, was shivering like a leaf in a tropical storm.

He had parked the Mercedes behind Sabor Caribeno, a Latin American eatery on Norfolk’s Sewell’s Point Road in a mixed industrial-residential lower middle class area. The engine idled. Luca needed the miniscule comfort the thrum of the engine provided. Silence threatened his sanity. He and Il Gigante had followed the Cuban gang to this spot and watched them enter fifteen minutes ago. Luca had dropped Il Gigante at the front door of the restaurant no less than five minutes earlier. The parking lot behind the establishment in which Luca sat serviced a flea market and a rundown phone store. There was no human activity in sight. Luca was grateful. It was out of sight in a secluded spot from Gomez and his men and a thirty second walk from the restaurant. He estimated he was about fifty yards away his target’s location.

His target! The word held a sinister connotation, implying mayhem was in his near future. A more virulent shiver crept over him. He reached behind him and felt the bulge of the pistol in the waistband at his back, pressing against his spine. Before Lorenzo Esposito aka Il Gigante had departed, he’d left instructions for Luca to enter through the rear entrance and to not hesitate to shoot Gomez..

Reflexively, Luca checked his watch. His wrist was bare. The expensive time piece had been surrendered to Big Tommy yesterday as a down payment on the revenue Luca owed his boss. His crime boss. He swallowed hard. It was never a good idea to be indebted to Tommy Romano.

He rubbed the vacant wrist and instead checked the digital clock on the car’s computer screen. He had two minutes left in Il Gigante’s deadline. Bile welled in his throat. The bulge of the weapon in the waistline of his back seemed to be pulsing electric energy into his spine.

His hands shook as he removed his phone from the center console. With the dreaded deed looming, he needed, he wanted to reach out to Debra. He relied on her. She was his crutch. She made him feel important. But she was also his sounding board who frequently bore the brunt of his tirades and handled them with grace and patience.

He had gone off the deep end forty minutes earlier when she’d told him that his ex Caroline had met with another man. She’d had breakfast with the pharmacist who’d saved his son. His Italian machismo instantly kicked in, insulted and consumed with guilt that another man had intervened to abort Peter’s attack. Luca’s fragile and volatile temper, fueled by fatigue and a hangover, had exploded. Despite the fact that he was no longer with Caroline, no other man was to have her. The situation had ben worse by his stupid ex-wife’s forgetfulness.

He typed his message: I need to talk…call me.

Luca stared at the phone waiting, willing a text message to appear. Nothing.

He typed another text: I’m sorry I got angry. I really need to talk to you

Again there was no reply. Luca’s ire swelled once more. He dropped the phone into his lap and rammed the palm of both hands into the rim of the steering wheel several times. Yelling expletives in Italian for fifteen second as he did so. Then he recovered, breathing heavily, and slowly closed his eyes. His life was spinning out of control.

Pull yourself together, he chided. Marone! Luca made the sign of the cross and murmured a whispered prayer.

This was no time to let emotions dominate his thinking. He sucked in several deep breaths and pushed them out hastily. As the hammering pulse in his head slowed, he whispered another prayer. And with a lump in his throat, he pulled on the door handle and exited the Mercedes. With each step toward the rear of the ristorante, Luca’s heart sank, his head pounded and the sweat streamed from his pores.


Fernando Gomez sat with his back to the far wall, facing the restaurant’s glass front door. He glanced down at the attire he selected this morning. He looked particularly dapper in his white pants with the razor-sharp crease, matching sports jacket over a tan chemise and white white vest. A gold chain dangled like a suspension bridge from the second button of the vest to the pocket. Gomez adjusted the white fedora on his close cropped curls. A wry smile spread across his face. He adjusted the circular glasses on his nose and fingered his pencil thin moustache. Life was good at the moment. His small empire was growing every day, crowding out the competition. He and his gang were becoming very popular with the big boss back in Havana. His stock was rising.

But life in criminal enterprise–like that in legitimate businesses and politics–was always double-edged. As success grew so did disfavor with competitors, enemies and rival gangs like the Italians. Gomez knew that a war loomed. The fact made his very wary.

His three guardaespaldas surrounded the round table munching on beef and chicken empanadas, fried plantains and guzzling Modelo. Gomez had nibbled on an empanada and was currently nursing a mojito.

Gomez liked to bring his boys here each day after collecting their protection money and gambling debts. And he always picked up the tab. It fostered loyalty and comradery among his troops. You needed that in a protection detail. Especially in this business.

His guarura bantered back and forth about the state of Cuban politics and the Cuban baseball team. Smoke from two cigarettes created a blue cloud over the table. Gomez did not participate in the jovial banter spoken in a hybrid of Cuban Spanish and heavily accented English. No, Gomez was pre-occupied by the massive man that had entered a few minutes ago and was standing at the counter. He seemed out of place and edgy.

The subject–a moving mountain–probably weighed in at at least one hundred and forty kilos. If his math was right that put this hombre gordo at better than three hundred pounds. He possessed the facial features of a European–Italian or Corsican, perhaps. It was what he hadn’t done that concerned Gomez. He hadn’t looked in their direction. Had not made eye contact. There was no acknowledging head nod. But it was the way he hadn’t looked and the slight stiffness. He had glanced everywhere but at them. It was as if he were trying not to look at them.

These facts made the hair on Gomez’s neck stand up. His muscles became taut. He moved his hand over the bulge under his jacket where the Soviet-made Makarov pistol resided in its holster. It was the standard issue small arm of the Cuban Revolutionary Forces. The Cuban moved the cloth of his jacket back and silently unclipped the strap holding the weapon.

The enormous human being turned toward the group and shouted in a thick Italian accent. “Signore Gomez! Signore Gomez! I have something for you.” As he said the words, the huge intruder was flipping over one of the larger tables.

Gomez’s three guards began to turn toward the shouted words. Each reached for their weapons. Chairs scraped against the floor and toppled. The whoosh of gun metal being with drawn from leather or cloth followed immediately by the click of hammers.

A moment before he turned towards the gigantic person, Gomez caught movement out of the corner of his eye. It came from the left; the rear of the restaurant. He rotated his head and saw a man in dark clothing and a turtle neck advancing toward him and his men. A second gunman advanced on them. There was a gun in his right hand at his thigh. His eyes were a mixture of fear and hatred. Sweat coated the man’s face. The hand raised the weapon.

Instinctively, Gomez shouted Cuban Spanish, “Pistola!”


With his arm draped over the door, Jake stared into the refrigerator positioned against the wall of his garage. The contents were sparse. An extra tub of margarine, a smattering of batteries in a small cardboard box and a six pack of long necks with one bottle was missing. It was the beer Jake had drunk last night after coming home from work.

It wasn’t even noon. And yet, he could feel the pull of the alcohol calling him, no, begging him. His mouth watered. A minute shiver passed over him.

Close the door and walk away!

But Jake simply stood at the door staring into the frigid air. Being a former Marine, he had learned to drink with gusto with his fellow leathernecks. He was younger then and it was considered expected behavior in the Corps. The drinking games and challenges were commonplace. He and his buddies always had each other’s backs whether its was on TDY in a foreign land or a neighborhood bar. After he’d been discharged eight years ago, he’d managed to scale back his consumption but it remained an important part of his social life. He’d always had it under control. At least that’s what he told himself.

Olivia’s tragic and untimely passing along with that of his unborn son had unhinged something in him and his ability to control his booze intake. The day after the funeral Jake sat down while still on leave from the pharmacy and downed almost a whole case. His self-control vanished in the weeks and months following the car wreck. His drinking spiraled out of control. He numbed his grief with beer and drowned his work stress with bourbon. He frequently relied on his mother to watch Lizzie. Luckily his work schedule in pharmacy: two thirteen hour days back-to- back created an built-in hiatus in his ability to overdrink. He was too busy with irate patients, prescriptions and vaccinations to worry or grieve for extended periods. Though he still managed slug a beer or two after work before falling asleep. But on his two days off, the binging was constant.

His mother tolerated his behavior for a short time out of sympathy for her devastated son. And perhaps out of her own confusion and paralysis. Jake guessed she hoped it would all pass. After a month though, she and Cliff confronted him. While Cliff cajoled and persuaded, his mother berated him after Lizzie had gone to bed. Lecturing him that his daughter needed him. She offered a temporary solution. It was an offer that he she would not let him refuse. Moving in with him, she monitored everything and watched over him and Lizzie.

She and Cliff steered him back to semi-sobriety and the reality that his pain would not be extinguished by alcohol. After two much-needed quasi interventions, Jake dried out and cleaned himself up. Despite his plunge into near-addiction, he’d still managed to work his thirteen hour shifts and perform shots and check prescriptions. But against his mother’s prodding, Jake refused to attend an AA meeting. His work was frequently lackluster and uninspired during those days. But he’d come out of it and had turned a corner. He had controlled the demon over the last ten months.

To this day, Jake still didn’t want to admit what his excessive drinking meant. The was a word for it. The dreaded “A” word. Jake had spent many hours pondering if his fate to drink to excess had been pre-destined from birth. His father who had been dead for three years now was also a heavy drinker. The smoking and drinking had caught up with him at the age of fifty-seven. Though Jake did not smoke, he had apparently inherited his father’s proclivity for the bottle.

The stress and excessive work of his job had waged and been waging a relentless onslaught since the day he’d become a licensed pharmacist. The desire to imbibe after the grueling thirteen hour shift was formidable. Jake had managed to resist for the most part. He’d had a beer last night for the first time in a long time. It had only been one, he told himself.

He peered into the refrigerator, licking his lips as the heat from the garage air mixed with the cool refrigeration, clouding the clear glass of the quintet beer bottles.

Perhaps it was a subconscious defense mechanism in his mind, Jake’s mind shifted to the sweet, soft, cherubic image of his daughter. Lizzie was the center of his life and he had been walking the straight and narrow over the last months for her. She needs you, Jake. You can’t drink. The words had been spoken in love but embedded in the steely tinged timbre.

He turned and began closing the door. But his hand remained on the door handle. As his arm was fully-extended, Jake refused to release it. He stopped standing there holding the door open with his back to the appliance. Then, suddenly and with the dexterity of jungle cat, he spun, reached through the cold air and tore the cardboard six pack holder from the fogged, glass shelf.

Inside, Jake slumped onto the sofa. He set the first already empty beer on the coffee table. The frigid liquid hurt his throat as it went down. The cold expanded through his chest and abdomen like liquid nitrogen. In two minutes, the alcohol took hold of his mind mercifully blunting the most recent devastating news. For the moment, the beer allowed him to cram the news of the drug error into a rickety cupboard of his mind.

As he time passed and he sat there, reality managed to push its way into his consciousness every few minutes. He would grab another beer, crack the twist top and guzzle another half-bottle. This routine was repeated several time over the next thirty minutes. When the entire collection of bottles were empty and sitting on the coffee table in little puddles of condensation, Jake laid his head back against the sofa. His eyes fluttered, in an attempt to stay open, battling the effects of the alcohol. His breathing slowed and deepened. Eventually the merciful curtain descended over his consciousness and everything melted into darkness.

Deb Perry

Deb Perry placed the remnants of her early lunch–a sliced tomato, a Caesar salad and a glass of diet soda–in the kitchen sink. Her appetite had been almost non-existent. She forced herself to eat about half the fare before pushing it aside. Then she made the call. It felt good to be taking action no matter how small it seemed. The service she requested could be scheduled for two days from now she was informed by the sales person. “I cannot wait that long. This is an emergency,” she explained, her voice was iron. “It needs to be done this morning. I will pay you whatever you require to cancel other appointments and fit me in.”

The line was silent for several moments. She heard the ambient sounds of the salesman rustling papers while the line was still open. Debra smiled to herself. She’d gotten his attention. After a minute, the man came back on and quoted a figure then said, “I can have a man there at three this afternoon.” It was less money than she’d expected. “I’ll give you twice that plus your normal fee if you get him here by noon. Tell your guy there will be a handsome tip in it for him and to use this code word.” The man reduced the word to writing asking her to spell it. Then she ended the call before the salesman could object. That had been a little more than an hour ago.

The last twenty-four hours had been very stressful. She’d slept little. During her lunch, Luca had texted, asking to speak to her. What little appetite she still possessed vanished. He texted a second time. She’d lost count of all the texts he’d sent since she’d followed his ex-wife through last night and this morning. She was tempted to reply with a lame excuse, but resisted. And there was no absolutely way in hell she was going to actually call him back.

Fear rose in her chest again. Luca was a loose cannon. Tonight she would meet with someone who would demand that she take care of the problem. The doorbell chimed. It was probably the service technician. But she was taking no chances. She picked up the handgun resting on the end table–a Glock G19. Rising from the chair, she ejected the magazine and saw that it was fully loaded. She rammed it back into the handle, pulled back on the slide and chambered a bullet with the skill of a someone seasoned in the use of weaponry.

At the door, she pushed her hair back over her shoulders and smoothed her clothes. Through the small square window of the door she viewed the image of the service technician wearing a Polo pullover embroidered with the company logo over the left breast. Her anxiety eased slightly.

“Who is it?” She called through the door.

Coffey’s Lock Shop,” came the reply. “I was told to say–” There was a hesitation because she knew the man had to refer to code word which had been written on a scrap of paper. Finally, he said haltingly, pronouncing the her family’s surname, “Perochoduk”.

Debra family had changed the name to Perry from Perochoduk many years ago out of fear of persecution.

She shoved the Glock into the waistband at her back and pulled open the door. “Thanks for coming so soon,” she said.

The man replied in a thick Southern drawl, “No problem, ma’am. The boss said you offered him a lot of cabbage to git this done real quick like.”

“That’s right. I need all the locks changed on the three doors very quickly. My boyfriend doesn’t know it yet. But we’re history. And he will not take it well.” She glanced at her watch. “It’s just after noon. There’s a hundred and fifty bucks in it for you if you can have them all switched out before three.”

-To Be Continued-

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If you have a pharmacy story or a story (heroic or challenging) of everyday life in your healthcare world, send it to me by clicking the link below…

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A Relationship Beckons: Mistakes and Consequences (#14)

To read this serialized blog of A Relationship Beckons from the beginning, click here: Crisis Averted #1Then navigate to subsequent posts using the links in the upper corners.

Check out the special advance offer at the end of this blog for a new book scheduled for release later this year from local authors Dr. Lisa Spiller and Sylvia Weinstein Craft…


Caroline sat at her small kitchen table, drinking coffee. It was her third cup this morning. She’d had the first early this morning trying to settle her nerves after the incident with Luca’s bitch staking out her house followed by Joe Beck’s intervention. The second cup had been with the pharmacist named Jake on Warwick Boulevard at the restaurant of the same name. She could feel her nerves unraveling. It was a combination of the caffeine and the ominous thoughts about all the had happened recently. She needed to call in a refill on her Ativan. She fished out a small key from her purse and a sickening feeling grew in her belly. This tiny key would unlock a whole new dimension to her life. That dimension was not one she ever envisioned and one she hoped she would never have to employ.

After she’d recovered from the shock of waking up to the sight of the BMW across the street, she’d left Peter with her mother who would take him to his first grade class. The school year was winding down and soon he would home all day long during summer break. She looked forward to spending more unfettered quality time with him, uninterrupted by Luca’s disruptive antics. Unfortunately, that was a pipe dream.

As the steaming cup sat before her, Caroline longed for better circumstances for the two of them. Peter’s asthmatic episode had scared her. She’d been so frazzled about forgetting his inhaler. But the heroic pharmacist whose name she now knew to be Jake had saved the day. Her enormous relief and sense of guilt was still all-consuming and lurking just below the surface of her consciousness.

Then Jake had returned her lost phone. Her near-breakdown at Schooner’s had nearly overwhelmed her. But with his patience and assistance, she’d recovered and managed to keep it together and properly thank him. In the short time they’d spent together she had not learned much about him. He had a gorgeous daughter. There was a wife. But Jake had been extremely tight lipped about her. There was something going on there. Caroline didn’t know what. She sensed it was something less than positive. A kind of tragic desolation lingered behind his eyes. It intrigued her. He intrigued her. He had been kind to her when she was weak. He’d downplayed the whole scene. That told her a lot about the kind of man he was.

She had no business expecting romance right now. With everything, it was the last thing she needed. But there was a niggle of expectation about him. She shook the thought from her mind. She needed to focus on her situation and Luca.

Luckily, she didn’t need to work right now. The divorce from Luca had left her with a one time windfall with which she’d been able to buy this carriage home for all cash. The court had ordered her crazy Italian Ex to pay enough alimony and child support for the two of them to live a modest existence. But she knew that Luca’s money would stop someday. Probably sooner than later.

Luca technically owned a small chain of dry cleaner’s in southeastern Virginia, may be five or six total. She also knew that those businesses could not support his expensive car, decent sized home and his growing drug addiction. Luca Clivio was a mobster through-and-through. Right down to his Sicilian toes inside those ugly patent leather shoes. He made his real money running a gang for Big Tommy Romano. Guns, dealing drugs, human trafficking and an underground gambling operation. One of her attorney’s crack investigators had managed to unearth Luca’s books. He’d been running his drug money through the dry cleaners to wash it. But he and his bookkeepers had done a poor job of hiding it.  Luckily for Caroline–and Luca– the judge had admitted those books as evidence in the divorce proceedings. Luca had been ordered to pay more than he legitimate income called for. Then ordered the judgment sealed. So the Feds and the local Virginia authorities had not been apprised of his dirty dealing. If they had, Luca would probably be turning government’s evidence and headed for witness protection. That would mean her alimony and Peter’s child support would go away.

It was also very possible that Caroline would be asked to testify about her knowledge of Luca’s criminal dealings in the future. It was only a matter of time. And that would mean she–and Peter–would have to go into hiding also.

Even if none of that happened, Caroline could foresee the end. It was barreling at her like a planet-killing meteor. Luca’s drug addiction and his illegitimate profession would either land him in prison–or in an early but well-deserved grave. Caroline had to get Peter away from Luca and his destructive influence. As it stood now, Luca was entitled to see Peter every other weekend. Luckily, Luca’s unpredictable schedule and frequent benders made him unreliable. He had seen his son three times in the last four months, not counting his recent visit to the emergency room. And then all Luca did was berate her. He’d paid no attention to Peter. Only during periods of extreme lucidity and sobriety did he ask to see Peter. Caroline had learned not to expect Luca to take Peter on his appointed weekends. In fact, she prayed it would not happen.

All of these factors had played into her decision to file for sole custody. It was a necessary but calculated risk. Luca would go off the deep end when he learned of her filing.

She stood and moved away from the table to a built-in desk beside the refrigerator. She used the space to pay bills, shop  online and surf the internet. Beneath the desktop hung a small dainty drawer with a locking mechanism. Caroline slipped the key into the lock and turned. She slowly pulled it open. Resting atop a stack of restaurant menus and surrounded by pens, pencils and other assorted items was a 0.38 caliber Smith and Wesson six-shot revolver and a box of bullets. She’d scraped together five hundred dollars and purchased it two weeks ago from a local gun shop. The whole transaction made her sick. It looked sinister and alien in the drawer juxtaposed with the ordinary desk items. She had taken a concealed carry class two months ago and filed the necessary paperwork with the Clerk of the Court’s office. Her permit had arrived a week later. She had put off carrying the gun as long as possible. But Luca’s actions had pushed her into a corner. From this day forward, Caroline would not go anywhere without it.


Jake had been sitting in his Toyota Tundra for the last forty-five minutes. At least, that was his best guess. Time had stood still since he’d received the devastating news. Since Althea Downs, the regional vice president of Alliance, had dropped the pharmacy equivalent of an atomic bomb on Jake in the non-descript conference room. According to the pharmacy executive, he had made an error. And it wasn’t a minor error. It was the kind of error every pharmacist dreaded and lo Jake recalled the last moments of the conversation that had taken place less than an hour ago as the weasel Stephan Willings looked on as an ever-expanding shit-eating grin spread across his mocking visage.

“What are you talking about?” Jake demanded. A nugget of concern fanned out over his solar plexus penetrating his abdomen and over his heart and lungs.

Althea Downs frowned tragically. “You filled a prescription two days ago for an elderly man. The doctor prescribed a short-acting insulin Humalog to be injected three times a day with meals. The medication which was dispensed was a long-acting insulin, Lantus. As you know it should only be used once a day.”

Jake recalled sitting in stunned silence for a long time. A potent nexus of fear ricocheted through from one ganglion to the next in Jake’s body at the speed of a lightning bolt. He shook his head incredulously. “That can’t be,” he said reflexively. But at the same time, he knew with the horrible working conditions deteriorating every day and distractions increasing every hour the possibility of any error was real. And the chance for a devastating or lethal consequence always hung over a pharmacist’s head like the Sword of Damocles.

“I’m afraid it is, Jake,” Downs replied. Jake didn’t think her voice could sound more grave. But it did. It seemed to reach into his chest, clutched his heart and squeezed the cardiac fibers. “He used the wrong insulin three times a day for the last two days. He’s in the Tidewater Regional Medical Center in the ICU.” She hesitated then plowed forward. “Jake, he’s in a coma.” His heart felt as if would seize.

His eyes closed involuntarily. His head swam. The room began to spin. He felt like he was going to fall out of the uncomfortable chair.

Downs continued explaining the facts of the incident as Jake’s mind fogged with malignant trepidation. His body deflated. Her words sounded as if they were coming through a long, cold tunnel. The patient’s name was John Harper. A fifty-two year old a type 2 diabetic. Jake recognized the name. It was familiar to him. But because so many patient’s names and prescriptions crossed his computer every day and in such rapid fashion, he had a hard time placing a face.

A bolus of nausea surged in his gut followed by a caustic wave of bile. Jake pushed open the truck door, leaned out and emptied the contents of his stomach onto the cracked, faded asphalt. A minute later, he straightened, wiped his mouth with his sleeve and closed the door. The effort was so weak, it did not close completely. A tiny chill developed in his lower back. It expanded gradually at first then moved exponentially over him until his entire body shook. Sweat poured from his pores like he was sick with fever.

A woman who’d just parked her car nearby studied him as she approached the Toyota, concern carved on her face. “Are you okay?” She asked.

Jake waved at her and lowered the window. “Yes, I’m good now. Something I ate,” he lied. The woman hesitated and finally waved apparently satisfied that Jake wasn’t going to die in front of her. She spun and headed to her destination.

Jake watched her go for a minute. Then he lowered his head, resting it against the steering wheel and muttered, “What the hell am I going to do now?”

Debra Perry

Inside her Hampton condo, Debra woke and checked the digital clock on the nightstand.  She had slept for about ninety minutes. It was a partially restful repose. She felt better. Not great but there was more charge in her battery. With great effort, she peeled back the bed covers and swung her legs over the edge of the bed. She ran her hands over her face. As her fingers slid past her eyes, she spied her clothes scattered haphazardly on the floor. Naked, she padded into the bathroom and studied her lithe form in the mirror.

Her body was firm, tan and would make a porn star envious. Such a waste! She was a tough woman who’d been through her share of troubles In the beginning, her relationship with Luca was filled with heat and sparks. He had been charming and confident. That first night, he’d approached her at a holiday party at a hotel in Norfolk put on by Big Tommy Romano. A girlfriend had told her about Luca’s recent separation and divorce. She’d introduced them that same night. Luca and Debra spent the entire evening drinking, dancing and with their heads very close whispering intimate and carnal messages. Around midnight, he’d invited to leave with him.

They’d gone back to his place and made love three times, resting for periods between each episode. In the morning, they woke tired but sated. He made her a breakfast of bagels and sour cream, scrambled eggs and Bloody Mary’s. Debra had had great hope for their union. It had only taken six months before things began a downward slide. As she stood admiring her naked form in the mirror. She now chided herself for allowing her situation to deteriorate to its current state even as she remembered that passionate, desperate night of lovemaking.

It was time! She needed to act…to take steps. Do it now, she told herself, before you chicken out. She turned on the shower to let the water steam.  Then returning to the bedroom, Debra retrieved her phone from the nightstand. She pulled up the number and activated the call.

The gruff voice answered after after three rings.

“I need to see you,” she declared in a soft but firm tone. “Luca is becoming a problem. He’s out of control!”

“I know,” came the reply instantly. “Meet me this evening at eight and we will discuss how you will eliminate this problem.”

The line went dead. Debra expelled a long shaky breath. She tapped the silent phone against her temple. She swore out loud. “What the hell did you think he was going to say?”

-To Be Continued-

We Need to make Room

Help Us Reduce Inventory!!!

Get all Four of David Perry’s Books for $10 (that’s $2.50 per book)…use Coupon Code: 4Books10

Don’t Miss This Opportunity!

25% Off on pre-orders

I had the privilege of reading an advanced copy of Platinum Rules for Enjoying Life by Dr. Lisa Spiller and Sylvia Weinstein Craft. Platinum Rules is a self-help guide for living a better, happier and more fulfilling life. The principles and concepts contained on its pages are time-tested, effective canons for true self-realization. This book is available for pre-order right now. Click the book cover below to reserve your copy now…

If you have a pharmacy story or a story (heroic or challenging) of everyday life in your healthcare world, send it to me by clicking the link below…

Send David Your Healthcare Successes and Challenges

Check Out David’s Books

If you find this blog entertaining and informative, please share it with your contacts and on social media through the links on this web page…if you are a pharmacist nurse or doctor, please share it with your colleagues…thank you

A Relationship Beckons: Bad News Delivered (#13)

To read this serialized blog of A Relationship Beckons from the beginning, click here: Crisis Averted #1Then navigate to subsequent posts using the links in the upper corners.

Luca and Il Gigante

Luca Clivio and Lorenzo Esposito a.k.a. Il Gigante had watched Fernando Gomez leave his modest Norfolk domicile ninety minutes earlier. The pair had trailed–at a discreet distance–the commander of the Gomez Familia in Luca’s Mercedes S-class sedan to three locations in the Tidewater area. Twenty-five minutes ago, Gomez and his three bodyguards stopped at a international corner market owned by a Vietnamese couple on the outskirts of the Chesterfield Heights District of Norfolk.

Luca surmised that the Cuban Gomez probably would refer to the the establishment as a bodega. Luca and his new, unwelcome partner watched the tense interaction through a pair of field glasses the mammoth man produced from inside his coat. Il Gigante peered through the glasses for thirty seconds moving his head back for forth slightly taking in the scene. The store’s windows were half-covered with colorful signs over equally colorful inventory. Even without the  binoculars, Luca could partially make out the unfolding interaction. Il Gigante offered the glasses to Luca with a solitary word, “Pizzo.” Protection money. Luca had already concluded the same.

Luca nodded once and accepted them. Raising them to his eyes, he was rewarded with a magnified view. Two of Gomez’s bodyguards had taken up flanking positions behind the counter on either side of the petrified couple while the third stood a post outside the door. In the few minutes since the cabal arrived, this man had barred entrance to two potential customers. Just inside the glass door, Gomez partially obscured behind a bread rack was delivering a message. The Cuban leader moved his head in a calm, but authoritative manner. His words were most likely being dispensed in a soothing yet menacing manner. The man and the woman nodded apprehensively in response.

This must have been the Cuban’s first encounter with these “protectees”. His gut roiled as a growing frustration swelled in his rib cage. Luca had come to know the Cuban’s modus operandi. He himself had used it many times.

Right now, Gomez was explaining in his heavily accented English that the bodega was now under the protection of his organization. They would be required to pay a weekly protection fee, probably somewhere in the neighborhood of $150 a week. In exchange, the Vietnamese couple would be assured that no one would bother them or their business. If anyone harassed or stole from them, Gomez’s boys would take erase the problem. If they failed to pay, Gomez could not ensure a disaster would not befall their little enterprise. Luca knew these tactics well. He and his crew employed the same strategies. But Luca also knew that Gomez would ask the couple for one more assurance in exchange for their hard earned cash. Inside the crowded aisles of their establishment, drug deals and money transfers would take place whenever Gomez demanded–out of public view. And the couple would look the other way. Luca had learned this fact from one of his crew. The young man had stumbled upon a shakedown. When he told them they were on Luca’s turf he had been savagely beaten and was now recovering at Sentara Norfolk General.

Luca’s anger was not the result of sympathy for this distressed couple. This area was his territory and Gomez and his thugs were horning in, stealing his protection money and customers for drugs, whores and gambling. They were the reason his profits had shriveled. They were the reason he was in hot water with Big Tommy Romano. And this was why Big Tommy had ordered Luca to eradicate the problem, the infected vermin were to be exterminated.

Luca had not had the stones to come to the conclusion himself. No, instead, Big Tommy had given Luca the mandate, pronouncing that Luca must handle the situation. Big Tommy looked down upon him for allowing the problem devolve to this extent. For all his bluster and chest-thumping to his guys, Luca deep-down was not a killer. He was not a ruffian. He was a drug-addicted member of the Romano crime family who tried to appear tougher than he actually was.

When the Asian couple had handed over their first payment and been thoroughly terrorized, Gomez and his trio departed. They trailed the quartet to two more locations, watching them perform the same song and dance in Virginia Beach and Chesapeake. As they pulled to a stop at the last location, Luca finally summoned the courage to ask the question that had been bothering him.

“You do have some kind of plan, don’t you, Lorenzo? I mean how are we going to get past the….buffones?” Luca inserted a Hispanic racial slur before the last word.

Il Gigante’s protruding, misshapen lips spread into a malicious smile, moving like giant worms pushing the pock marked skin over his cheeks toward his ears like a living mask. “I have been following this stronzo for the last two weeks,” he grunted. “I know where he’s going next. He goes there every day…same time…same place. We will take him there.” Il Gigante rotated his enormous head to the left and leveled his malevolent pair of dark eyes on Luca. “Do not use that term… again.” Il Gigante dropped a heavy mitt on Luca’s forearm. His meaty fingers squeezed until Luca winced. “It offends me. This guy is a business man. He will be treated with respect. Right up until the time you put a bullet in his head. Capisce?”

Luca felt his Adam’s apple bob as he swallowed heavily. Shit, he thought. If Il Gigante had been following Gomez for two weeks that meant that Big Tommy had ordered him to do it. And that meant Big Tommy had been aware of what was going on for longer than Luca had intimated to Luca. He felt his stock plummeting in Tommy’s dark, evil eyes. Luca nodded once acknowledging Il Gigante. He wrenched his arm free from his grasp and croaked his next question. “So what’s the plan?”

“When they get where they’re going, I will distract the buffones. You will kill…the Spaniard.”


Jake sat in the hard uncomfortable metal and vinyl chair in the medium-sized conference room in the Alliance Pharmacy’s district office in Williamsburg as he waited for Stephan Willings, his manager to materialize. The secretary, a stout gray-haired maven who performed scheduling and other various administrative duties was the gatekeeper and resident pit bull for the five managers at this location, had pointed him to the room to wait in exile. The color scheme was robin’s egg blue trimmed in a faded white. Four inspirational posters dotted the distressed walls professing teamwork, determination and taking care of the customer. Jake found them offensive. He had come to realize that Alliance Pharmacy, his employer, only cared about one thing. Profits.

He had driven north to Williamsburg directly from his breakfast with Caroline Clivio. As he slipped onto Interstate 64, Jake phoned his mother and asked her to watch Lizzie for another couple of hours. “Work had called. They need me to meet with them,” he explained. His mother required no further explanation. She was a saint, he told himself, as he pressed the accelerator encouraging more power from the Tundra’s twin-turbo V-6.

As he left the parking lot of the restaurant, Jake had decided that he wouldn’t ignore his idiot boss, Stephan Willings, any longer. Even though that’s exactly what he wanted to do. Willings would not let the matter of closing the drive thru drop. Jake knew what was going to happen. Willings was going to write him up. He’d decided he would take his proverbial medicine and get on with things. By signing the write-up Jake knew that Willings would stop riding his ass–at least–for the moment. But Jake was not about to take the reprimand lying down. His next step would be to file a complaint with the Virginia Board of Pharmacy. As the Pharmacist-in-charge, Jake was supposed to be in complete control of the practice of pharmacy at his location. Willings–and by extension Alliance Pharmacy telling him he couldn’t close the drive thru–were usurping his authority. The Board of Pharmacy would be very interested in this development. The ever-constant rolling wheels of corporate pharmacy with their labor shortages and payroll cuts and increasing workload demands were at odds with the safe practice of pharmacy. But they weren’t about to let patient’s well fare stand in the way of the bottom line. Pharmacists and their technicians were caught between a demanding public and their even more demanding corporate task masters. It was a problem that had been growing out of control like an untreated infection. Since the start of the pandemic, the crisis had swelled to ridiculous proportions and had failed to subside. The retail pharmacy industry was in deep, deep trouble.

Their efforts to trim and cut in order to cut expenses and  save profits were not working. Alliance had been hemorrhaging cash for the last five years. They were ripe to be swallowed whole by one of the pharmacy behemoths like Walgreens or CVS. But the higher ups kept pushing the same old mantra. More shots. More prescriptions. And less hours with which to get them all done.

As he sped along the highway, Jake temporarily forced that troubling work matter from his mind. He spent the remainder of his drive focusing on the woman who’d just bought him breakfast. She seemed to be a very engaged, concerned mother to her son, Peter. She was a knockout. Curvy in all the right places with sharp, intelligent eyes tinged with a malleable hardness that rested just behind her magnetic irises. Her near breakdown was inconsistent with her bearing of composure and strength. She recovered quickly and moved on, Jake recalled. His years in the Corps as an officer had blessed him with an unique ability to read people. Caroline Clivio had seen some shit in her life. And she was stronger for it.

Their encounter had been awkward, polite and–intriguing. He had mentioned the possibility of a lunch meeting at Schooners in the future just before taking her to the second restaurant. It was something one usually said to mollify a person who was upset. A reflexive response. Perhaps, not one’s true intent. During breakfast, Caroline had asked him if he’d allow her and Peter to become his patients. It was a compliment. And Jake had to admit, he was intrigued at the thought of seeing her again even if it was professionally. The man in him was curious about this woman. The objective part of him warned to keep this potential entanglement at arms length. She had also picked up on his offhanded offer for a second meeting. The internal conflict inside him had only allowed him to manage a lukewarm response. She had also deftly managed to bring up the subject of Jake’s wife. Jake had not corrected nor informed her about the true circumstances. But she had not seemed deterred by the possibility. Caroline Clivio  But his interest had been piqued–

His thoughts were quickly interrupted when two individuals breezed into the conference room. Their gait, scowls and hurried yet serious bearing struck Jake immediately. The first through the door was Stephan Willings. The slight, hunch-shouldered weasel with the crooked nose Jake had quickly come to despise. The second appeared ready to crawl up Willings’s backside. She was a tall, lithe black woman, Althea Downs, the regional vice president for pharmacy operations. In his six years at Alliance, Jake had met her only twice. About five-seven in three inch heels, she carried herself with a regal air and walked as if her spine were a steel rod. She was polite but possessed an edge when challenged could produce a razor-sharp response that withered the unprepared. When she asked questions, she demanded direct, short to-the-point answers. She had no time for unnecessary chatter. And like most of the corporate muckety-mucks at Alliance and throughout the industry, she wanted to hear what she wanted to hear. The frontline pharmacists and technicians were motivated to comply because when these entourages made their quarterly visits to inspect operations, they had prescriptions to fill and registers to ring. Their visits always put them farther behind than they already were and adding to the stress.

Downs’s oval face was set in perfect cocoa skin with large round piercing eyes beneath a tight-curled blonde hairstyle. Her no-nonsense comportment was amplified by her sharply-attired female physique. A stark white pants suit over a lavender blouse with the aforementioned black three-inch pumps. Both wrists sported what appeared to be a dozen metallic bracelets. When she moved her expertly-manicured hands as she spoke, they rattled like the dreaded jangle of a prison guard’s key chain.

“Good morning, Mr. Murphy,” Downs said in a silky smooth but firm tone as she dropped a file folder on the table. She lowered herself gracefully into the seat beside Jake.

Jake wanted to get this over with as quickly as possible. “Look,” he began. “I closed the drive-thru because patient safety was at risk. I was down a technician and the environment was not conducive to safety. I told Willings here exactly that yesterday.”

Downs placed the knuckles of one hand against her pursed lips. “You know the company’s policy against closing the drive-thru–”

“I’m well aware of the company’s policy,” Jake interrupted. “My policy,” he emphasized the word “my”, “is the provide a safe work environment for me, my staff and my patients. An environment that reduces the chances that we will make an error.” His eyes whipsawed between Downs and the weasel Willings, finally settling on Willings. Jake held the skinny man’s gaze until the coward looked away.

“I understand your concern–”

“No you don’t.”

The vice president bristled. She paused then said as evenly as possible. “I’m a pharmacist too, Jake. I’ve been where you are. We all have.” She cast a quick  glance at her subordinate, Willings.

“Then what are you doing to fix the problem?”

“You can’t close the drive-thru. You have to increase the wait times. The drive thru must stay open. Patients depend on that service. If you wanted to close it, you need to get permission.”

“I don’t have time to wait for you or–him–” Jake pointed at his boss, “to give me permission.” Jake sighed and shook his head. “You’re here to write me up for closing the drive thru. Just give me the form. I’ll sign it and be on my way.”

Downs made a gesture of surrender. She opened the folder and produced a typewritten document. Jake had seen the likes of it before. It was the Alliance Pharmacy corporate documentation form. It was neatly filled out with several paragraphs of text. She slid it over to him along her with a fancy fountain pen.

Jake read quickly but carefully. It contained all the legal mumbo-jumbo about failure abide by corporate policy. And if it happened again, it would potentially lead to more documentations up to and including termination. Jake picked up the pen, poised it over the paper for several beats the scratched his name on the signature line.

“I promise you. This is not over. As the pharmacist on-duty and the pharmacist-in-charge, I am supposed to have complete control of what happens in that pharmacy when I’m filling prescriptions and so does my partner.” Jake’s partner was the other pharmacist assigned to his store who worked when Jake was off. Her name was Gretchen Collins. Jake dropped the pen with finality. “The Board of Pharmacy is going to hear about this.”

Downs replied without hesitation as if she had been expecting this statement from Jake. “I’d be careful about doing that. It could be bad for…you.”

“Why?” Jake shot back. Then it occurred to him that he had also made the same threat about going to the Board when he handed Willings the Pharmacy Working Conditions Document yesterday. Willings had obviously shared it with Downs. Jake’s eyes bore holes into him. He addressed the next statement to Downs but kept his eyes on Willings. “Are you threatening me?”

“I’m just saying be careful how you handle yourself, is all.”

“Again why?”

“Because you are going to want the company behind you in the next days, weeks and months.”

Jake furrowed his brow. His question was unspoken but nonetheless hanging between them.

Downs smile curtly and continued. “You see, Jake. Another issue has come up.”

“Okay.” Jake turned his hands toward the ceiling in a gesture that said, “I’m listening.”

“Jake, there’s been a drug error. A serious drug error that was reported just yesterday. It appears there has been injury to a patient. And it was your drug error.”

Deb Perry

Deb Perry, Luca’s girlfriend, vixen and surveillance expert, sat slouched in her BMW in her driveway, holding her phone and wishing it could transport her to another dimension and away from this sordid, surreal affair. She could feel everything on the verge of spiralling out of control. With great effort, she alighted from the car and trudged to the front door of the north building of the Windward Towers on the northern shore of the James River a stone’s throw from the shipyard. Exiting the elevator on the sixth floor, she needed four tries to slide her key in the lock. Exhausted, every fiber in her body craved sleep.

But she had to do one thing before her head hit the pillow. She had to make the dreaded call to Luca. Inside, she dropped her bag on the sofa, toed off her ankle boots and walked into the kitchen and pulled a bottle of water from the fridge, oblivious to the gorgeous panorama for the James River bridge and the historic river spreading out beyond her large windows.

She pulled Luca’s number up from her favorites list and thumbed the call to life. It rang several times before she heard Luca’s strained, hoarse voice. “It’s about f-cking time,” he hissed.

“Where are you?” Deb asked, trying to deflect his anger.

“I’m taking care of some business.”

“Tommy Romano’s business. Are you–you know–doing it–today?”

By the background noise, she could tell Luca was in a moving car. “What did you find out?” Luca demanded.

Deb sighed. “It’s not good.”

“I’m in no mood for games, mi cara.” The term of endearment held no love in it. The sarcasm hit her like a slap in the face. He was sobering up. His words were no longer slurred. There was a keen, desperate intensity in them.

“Well, it’s like this.” She skipped the part about following Caroline to the hospital and the pharmacy. Luca had already shown up unexpectedly after she’d informed him that Caroline had taken Peter to the emergency room after leaving the pharmacy. For three minutes, she laid out what she’d over the last twenty four hours explaining that Caroline had stopped at a lawyer’s office carrying a manila envelope. She hesitated letting that information sink in and all that it implied. Luca only grunted. The sound of his breathing seemed to quicken.

“And she had breakfast this morning…with a man,” she explained. The breathing stopped. Only the distant sound of rubber on the road coming through the phone. Deb had ventured into the pharmacy yesterday following Caroline after she entered Alliance Pharmacy in a panic. She pretended to look at greeting cards as she eyed the events outside the pharmacy. The pharmacist administered a breathing medicine to Luca’s son, Peter. During the hurried chaos, she’d gotten a good look at the pharmacist. Deb plunged ahead. “It was the pharmacist that helped your son with his asthma attack.”

The silence stretched endlessly. When Luca ended it, his next words were lethal and ominous. “Figlio di puttana.” This was followed by a lengthy, sinister tirade in agitated and speedy Italian that Deb did not understand. Unfortunately, she knew exactly what the words meant.

-To Be Continued-

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A Relationship Beckons: The Roman Summit (#12)

To read this serialized blog of A Relationship Beckons from the beginning, click here: Crisis Averted #1Then navigate to subsequent posts using the links in the upper corners.

Giuseppe and Jacques

The Roman Summit


Giuseppe Linguale sat across from his rival and French counterpart, Jacques L’Enfant, on the upper level of the Roman eatery Sacro e Profano. They were just finishing up the secondo course. Linguale had done some serious damage to his veal parmigiana and a bowl of gnocchi while simultaneously dominating the conversation. He paused momentarily to take a breath and sip his half-full glass of Chianti. Then he peered across the table at his Parisian guest as if suddenly surprised by his observation.

“Jacques, you have barely touched your food. Cosa c’e che non va?”

L’Enfant’s superior yet constipated visage relayed his consummate displeasure with the Italian fare of this bourgeois restaurant. A small Margherita pizza with a small wedge missing rested on a white plate before him looking like a smile minus a front tooth. The wedge in question sat askew with only a single serrated bite missing. The majority of a large meatball in a shallow bowl appeared as if it had been nibbled on by an oversized vermin. Only his glass of Prosecco had seen any semblance of consumption. Only an inch remained in the crystal goblet. He mumbled something in disgust under his breath in French as Linguale who could not be want any longer for a response stuffed the final square of breaded meat into his mouth.

L’Enfant brushed his lips with the starched linen napkin and dropped it onto his food and was thinking about the fine Parisian meal he had foregone to attend this tete-a-tete. At this very moment, he could have been sitting in the grande brasserie traditionelle,–Le Malakoff–partaking of un cassolette de escargots de Bourgogne followed by escalope de saumon à l’oseille and a fine bottle of champagne. Perhaps a Taittinger Brut Prestige Rose or maybe a bottle of Sancerre. His table would peer out onto the half-moon traffic circle of the Place du Trocadero et du 11 Novembre and the statue of Ferdinand Foch on his proud steed. In the distance, he could gaze out on a glorious view of the Iron Lady as Citroens, Peugeots, Fiats or an occasional Mercedes zipped around the square. No, instead he was seated here with this macaroni. He pushed the thought from his mind and delivered his next words in a frustrated and hurried manner. “Gio, you have dragged me all the way from Paris. It’s about time we get down to business. You said this trip would be worth my time.”

Linguale had dominated the conversation since they’d been seated. He had yammered on about a multitude of topics. The subjects were not where close to being germane to Linguale’s reason for calling the conference. For nearly thirty minutes, L’Enfant has endured and he rambled about: the deplorable state of Italian politics including the death of Silvio Berlusconi and his embarrassing and many controversial faux pas; the equally shameful performance of the nation’s soccer; the economy and the price of a decent pack of sigarettas.

Linguale’s lips spread into a thin, taut line. “Naturalmente. Scusa, I talk too much,” he replied. “I’ve been this way ever since I uttered my first words.” Linguale was not the least bit sorry. He hated to be sitting here with this Gaul asking for un favore. Every syllable the Italian had uttered had been calculated to irritate him and at the same time guide L’Enfant exactly where Linguale wanted him to go. “I promise you it will be well worth it.”

Sacro e Profano, the converted church once owned by the noble Roman Ficcocia family, dated from the twelfth century. The interior possessed the amber glow of golden sconces, the rugged and unyielding façades of red brick and rust-tinged tiles framed by caramel wrought iron.

The second floor dining area was an oversized balcony following the contour of the interior walls and overlooked the first floor, a centrally-located pizza oven and cooking space along with a small but well-stocked bar. Michelangelo-style frescoes set in recessed rounded arches looked down over the space. The unique juxtaposition of the ancient Roman art and the modern dining environ was not unpleasing to the eye. This upper space was unoccupied save for six men. Linguale, the Roman Don and L’Enfant, the French Parrain and their security details. L’Enfant was accompanied by a single beefy Parisian stationed at the head of the stairs, standing at parade rest. The only part of his body that moved were his eyes, keeping an unwavering vigil. A visible bulge under his left armpit foretold his lethal capabilities. His dark suit, threatening to burst at the seams, failed to conceal his brawn. Linguale’s first counterpart, equally buff and armed, stood his post a few feet from the Frenchman mirroring his stolid and intimidating mien. Linguale’s second guardia del corpo overwatched the first floor at the interior corner of the balcony diametrically across from the stairs providing a clear vantage point and advance warning of potential interlopers from below. Finally, a young waiter clad in black trousers and a starched white shirt with a white apron cinched tightly around his waist waited stiffly at the waiter’s station, trying to appear nonchalant, ready to pounce, at the next request from either of the criminal titans.

Linguale–who was well acquainted with the owner and frequented the restaurant at least twice a month–had called ahead and asked that every second story table to be completely vacated beginning the hour before his reservation and to remain unoccupied during dinner and for another thirty minutes after Linguale and his guest departed. For this privilege, the Italian crime boss paid the proprietor the equivalent of the twice the lost receipts. He also included a generous gratuity for the wait and cook staff.

“Jacques,” he began. “I have kept tabs on you and your affari. You have eliminated all your competitors and run all the rackets and drug rings in Paris from the E15 west to Normandy and north to Belgium. You have well-positioned your organization.” He smiled a broad winning smile. Behind the genial facade, Linguale dispised this tete de noeud. He was a caricature of a traditional Frenchmen. His perpetual moue. His condescending attitude. His dress. Hell, the only thing missing was the goddamned beret.

Jacques L’Enfant was immune to the Italian’s bluster. He glared back at Linguale unflinching, waiting for him to get to the point. After nearly twenty seconds, the Italian’s smile dimmed slightly.

“We have an opportunity, amico mio.”

L’Enfant nodded once, indicating the uomo had his attention. “Continuez.”

“My capos in Virginia are rapidly losing ground to the Cubans. My don there, Tommy Romano is losing control of the region known as Tidewater. He is fat and getting lazy. He is letting his lieutenants slacken. How do you say…compiacente…complacent.” Linguale’s words were stilted and heavily accented English.  Neither spoke the other’s mother tongue. Though neither were no fluent in English, it was their common language. “I would like to take back the regione and send that Spic bastard back to Havana.”

“So do it. Pourquoi are you asking for my help?”

“The mid-Atlantic area from Maryland, Virginia to Northern North Carolina is a ripe market. Many young people. The United States military is thick in that region. Lots of bases. Navy. Air Force. Lots of customers. But we are losing ground. I do not have the manpower to control the whole area. But between our two organizations, we could devour the competition. He doesn’t know it yet. But Big Tommy will be sacked. I have a man in mind in Roma who will take his place.”

L’Enfant pursed his lips, pondering the statement.

Linguale pushed two plates away to create space on the table. He removed an expensive fountain pen, unscrewed the cap and drew a crude map of Maryland, the District of Columbia, all of Virginia and a portion of North Carolina on the linen. He traced a horizontal line through the center of Virginia. “You would take the north,” he declared, tapping the nib of the pen above the line. “I would take the south. I can muster about fifteen men. With another fifteen men from your organization, we can each turn the current soldiers and recruit new Americans and take out the Cuban and his lieutenants.” Linguale paused and for emphasis said, “Big Tommy.” He stopped speaking, extended the index finger of his right hand a drew it across his throat.

Jacques L’Enfant

After Linguale signaled that his man Tommy in Virginia was as good as dead, L’Enfant held the Italian’s gaze for almost fifteen seconds. He could sense that the silence–as silence always did–ripped at Linguale’s soul. It was like a raging river swelling behind a dam, waiting to burst forth. L’Enfant silently enjoyed watching him squirm. He was intrigued by the offer. He had had a stranglehold on the drug, prostitution and gambling rackets in Paris and northern France for the last three years and was ready for a new challenge, more territory and greater revenues.

Six months ago his organization had eliminated the last competitor in a very gruesome fashion. The parrain of the smaller but pesky rival gang along with his top four lieutenants had been executed in royal fashion–literally. L’Enfant had arranged for the five men who were dining casually in a restaurant in the Sixth to be kidnapped by a squad of ten of his best tueurs a gages or hitmen. The hostages were taken to an abandoned warehouse near the Roland Garros tennis complex in the Sixteenth. Separately, they were tortured mercilessly for information for nearly twelve hours. As dawn broke and after L’Enfant was certain that every ounce of information had been squeezed from each man, the five were brought back together in a large central room. The chairs to which they’d been secured were set in a circle around an antique wooden guillotine. The device was old, the wood scratched and distressed. But the angled blade gleamed in the wash of the assassins flashlights. One by one each man was lain on their backs on the bench under the sharp, suspended trapezoid of metal ensuring that their last vision was the heavy blade careening toward them. After the deed was done, a large basket collected the severed heads and spurting blood of each doomed man.

The four lieutenants were executed first, in turn, based on seniority, to a man they pissed themselves and cried for their mothers like petrified schoolboys. The top man, the parrain, was saved for last. Fruitlessly, he struggled against his bonds as he was lifted into place on the bench, face up, and his head was placed in the lunette. His arms were were fastened on his belly.  His legs and torso were also secured to the wooden bench. With the previous four, only seconds elapsed before the blade was released and each man was decapitated. But L’Enfant had ordered that the parrain be allowed to live for a seemingly endless period of minutes as the lead executioner whispered into his ears words that L’Enfant had written himself. Of course, L’Enfant was no where near the abandoned warehouse. But the scene had been recorded. Finally, the blade whooshed earthward through the wooden vertical guides toward its victim. The parrain let out a bone-chilling scream as the blade connected with the tissue of his neck. After a fleshy, split-second thunk and the snap of the spine, the scream was cut short and the severed head thunked  into the collection basket like a discarded coconut. The bodies had been hung by the feet from poles side by side like fresh catches of tuna in the wee hours of the morning and the basket of heads left on the sidewalk. When dawn broke through a misty gray haze, Parisians were horrified by the ghastly sight.  The assassins had hung a hand made sign warning all not to incur the wrath of Le Milieu.

L’Enfant knew that if he accepted Linguale’s offer, he would make money. A lot of it. But he also knew that in a few years, inevitably, he and Linguale’s organization’s in America would clash. Now they were simply businessmen in the same field who toiled in different markets. Their paths rarely crossed. It was the unspoken code. They were of different backgrounds, lived in different countries. They peddled their drugs, dispensed their whores and ran their bookies. And they left each other alone. The American offer would place them side by side. And the proximity would eventually pit him against this annoyingly verbose but lethally ruthless Italian. L’Enfant was not afraid of the fight, he just knew it lay in his future. His greed and lust for power could not be ignored. He would deal with Linguale much later. L’Enfant made a decision.

“Giuseppe, I will bring thirty men.” L’Enfant knew that Linguale’s declaration that he would take the southern part of the region was calculated to the Italian’s benefit. Just to keep the Roman off balance and show him he would not be subordinate to someone else’s orders, L’Enfant threw him a curveball. “But,” he demanded. “I will take the southern region. You,” he pointed a thin finger at Linguale’s nose, “will take the northern region. My team will be ready in one week.”

With that simple, definitive declaration, the Frenchman stood and motioned to his bodyguard. He was down the stairs with his minion in tow and out the door before Linguale could object. And L’Enfant left him to pay the bill.

Get all Four of David Perry’s Books for $10 (that’s $2.50 per book)…use Coupon Code: 4Books10

If you have a pharmacy story or a story (heroic or challenging) of everyday life in your healthcare world, send it to me by clicking the link below…

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A Relationship Beckons: The Meetings Continue (#11)

To read this serialized blog of A Relationship Beckons from the beginning, click here: Crisis Averted #1Then navigate to subsequent posts using the links in the upper corners.

Jake and Caroline


“Shit,” Caroline blurted in frustration after tugging on the locked glass door of Schooner’s, the popular eatery on Warwick Boulevard a short drive north of Christopher Newport. The establishment was currently closed. She glanced at the signage on the glass then her Longines watch. “I forgot. They don’t open for another forty-five minutes. Damn!”

She peered over at the pharmacist named Jake as she felt her features dissolve. She pushed out a tense sigh as nervous emotion blossomed in her middle. The sensation slithered up her spine and settled in her brain. The last twenty-four hours had been chock full of mind-numbing stress and debilitating anxiety. Peter’s breathing crisis; nearly colliding with the speeding Beamer as she sped to the pharmacy; the desperate plea to the man standing before her now to save her son; the flooding relief when the color returned to her son’s lips; encountering Luca in the emergency room and their aggravated confrontation; losing her phone; realizing the lithe, well-dressed woman in the Beamer who had been following her and seeing her car parked across the street from her home; delivering the legal papers to her lawyer pleading for sole custody of Peter and all that simple act signified.

Though she knew some of these matters were not closed and would rear their hideous heads again, she was glad they were behind her for the moment. Other than her solitary ten minute breakdown after she climbed into bed last night, Caroline had taken pride in the fact that she’d handled much of the day with aplomb and composure. In the pharmacy, she had pleaded for this pharmacist to save her son. She was certain that the extreme fear had coated her words, but she’d acted with the fierceness of a lioness protecting her cub. In the emergency room, she had dealt with Luca in a calm, stoic manner though insides seem to congeal. She’d managed her rolling emotions. Only in the dark of night when Peter was asleep and she was alone, did she allow a crack in the façade to bubble to the surface. The solitary release had been cathartic. For the vast majority of the span, she’d assimilated and tamped down any visible signs of distress…until now. This minor, unanticipated setback–one of her favorite haunts being closed–hit her like an unexpected but devastating Pacific tsunami. It washed away of the crucial pebble holding together the crumbling dam of her resolve together. The tears would not be quelled.

Caroline rapidly blinked, trying ineffectually to stave off the welling moisture in her eyes. She looked away toward the humming traffic of the bustling Warwick Boulevard and gaped into middle distance. A tear escaped down her cheek. “I’m sorry,” she whispered huskily.


Jake was about to suggest an alternate location. He opened his mouth to speak but was stopped before any sound escaped. He noticed this woman’s face filling with crimson emotion. “I’m sorry,” she croaked weakly as she brushed a wayward tear from her cheek with two fingers.

“Is everything alright?”

She raised her hand toward him as if warding off the question. Her face continued to flush with a rosy hue.

“I’m sorry,” she repeated with more emphasis.

Jake fished out his key fob and unlocked the Tundra and motioned for her to move to the vehicle. He opened the passenger side door, reached into the center console and retrieved a brown fast food napkin. He held it up. “Here.” She accepted it and dabbed her eyes.

“Is there anything I can do?”

Caroline shook her head. “I’m sorry. I’m fine. It’s been a helluva last twenty-four hours.”

Jake nodded solemnly then said, “Let’s get that coffee. I know just the place. I’ll drive. I love Schooner’s too. We’ll have to try it another time.” He stepped aside and allowed her to climb in. Then he closed the door.


Ten minutes later, they were seated in a well-worn leather booth inside the Warwick restaurant.  An affable, matronly waitress with a round torso and white hair materialized. She asked if they wanted coffee. When Caroline and Jake both agreed, she left and returned with two brimming mugs of steaming java. A pair of laminated breakfast menus which had been squeezed between her arm and her torso were placed on the table before them.

Jake had slipped out of the Schooner’s empty parking lot and retraced the path they had taken. He drove past the Starbucks where they had just met, the Exxon station and hung a left into the Warwick’s parking area. This diner had been a staple in Newport News for as long as Jake could remember. The aging but well-maintained one-story flat roofed affair served three meals a day with heaping portions of meals that felt home cooked..

Caroline perused the menu. Her earlier tempest had subsided but not her embarrassment. She decided to not belabor the issue and trudged ahead. “Have you eaten? At least, let me buy you breakfast,” she asked. She was famished.

With the hectic morning that began with her knocking on Joe Beck’s door and asking the older man to do her bidding with Luca’s bitch and watch dog; getting Peter ready for school and then dropping off the legal equivalent of a ticking nuclear bomb at her lawyer’s office, she had not eaten breakfast and only managed a few sips of cold coffee.

Jake scanned the two-sided menu, flipping it over. “I only had two pieces of toast this morning after my run. I could eat.”

“Great,” Caroline beamed. “I’ve never been here before. How’s the food?”

“Excellent. Almost as good as my mom’s. I come here once a week with my daughter. She loves the pancakes.”

“How old?”


Caroline smiled. “Come on,” she chided him. “Let’s see some photos.” She truly was curious about his daughter, but she also wanted to put her emotional lapse farther in the rearview mirror.

Jake removed his phone from his coat pocket, tapped and swiped then turned the device toward her. Caroline accepted it and studied several shots of a beaming girl with crimson cheeks, dirty blonde hair and sky blue eyes. “Gorgeous,” she sighed.

The waitress returned and took their orders. When she departed, Caroline continued, “She has your mouth. Must have your wife’s eyes.”

A cloud seemed to pass over the man’s features.

“She does,” Jake replied as his voice dipped a few octaves.

Involuntarily and without reason, Caroline’s heart dipped in her chest. An awkwardness hung in the air between them for several moments. She had expected this man to elaborate on his daughter or his wife. But he didn’t.

Remembering his exceptional act of heroism yesterday, Caroline broke the silence. “How long have you been a pharmacist?”

“About eight years.”

“Do you like it?”

“It pays the bills. But the industry is killing itself.”

“That’s not a ringing endorsement.”

Jake shook his head. “No, I guess not. It’s incredibly stressful.”

“When I came running down the center aisle, I noticed you had a lot of people in line.” She dipped her head. “I’m sorry.”

For the last few minutes, she had had a chance to really study him. He was at least six-one with a lean, muscular frame that could not be  hidden by the navy blue, fleece-lined jacket, the white polo that clung to a well-toned torso over neatly pressed jean and tan leather walking shoes. His inquisitive eyes were caramel and flecked with black and hints of melancholy. Slight webs of crow’s feet had begun to take root just in front of temples which were shot with strands of gray. His hair was expertly groomed and trimmed like someone used to discipline. The jaw was strong and resolute. Caroline took no time coming to the conclusion this man was attractive.

Jake leaned closer then whispered. “You don’t have to keep apologizing.”

Caroline snuffled. “Sorry,” she sighed.

They laughed softly for a moment. Caroline crossed her heart and said, “I promise…no more.”

Jake picked up the dangling thread of conversation. “A couple of patients didn’t like it,” Jake responded. “The others understood once they saw the nature of the emergency.”

Caroline felt moisture welling again. “You were a real hero. Thanks again for saving my son.” Caroline lowered her head and blinked rapidly. Her face swam with heat. She dabbed at her eyes again with the napkin Jake had given her and which was still clutched in her hand.

A moment later, she composed herself for the third time and met his gaze again. “I need a new pharmacy and a new pharmacist. Would it be too much of an imposition to bring my son’s prescriptions to your store. Or are you too busy?”

Jake lifted one side of his mouth into a crooked grin. “That depends.”

“On what?”

“Whether or not you are going to be the kind of patient who will make my life miserable, or the kind who will be patient and appreciate that not every prescription needs to be done in five minutes.”

Caroline grinned in response. “Well, I guess the jury’s still out on that. I did cut in front of all your patients to interrupt you.”

Jake scratched his jaw with an index finger. “Well…I was quite busy and a technician down. But considering the circumstances, we’ll call that one a freebie.”

“So Peter and I can become your newest patients?”


He pursed his lips pretending to think. He paused a beat then: “Sure.” He produced his phone again and asked for her phone number. He punched in the number and hit talk. Caroline’s phone chimed in her purse. She ended the call without picking it up. “Now,” he said. “You have my number. When you’re ready, call me directly. Don’t use the store line. We’re so busy and short staffed, you’ll never get through.”

Caroline allowed herself a quick smile. “I don’t want to get you in trouble with your wife. She might get upset if she sees another woman’s phone number,” Caroline joked.

Jake had been evaluating this woman since the moment she’d jutted her hand toward him. His instinctive male response had been to size her up physically. Five-four or five-five. Distinctive, round, lambent green eyes set in a round face framed by a curtain of silky amber tresses. Her sensual but delicate lips were adorned with an understated gloss. A curvy physique with bends like a country road clad in a tight caramel chemise and hip-hugging jeans with high suede ankle boots.

Jake sipped his coffee and placed the mug back on the table. Keeping his eyes on the table, he said, “It will be fine.” He wondered what had this beautiful woman so rattled.

The waitress returned with their meals. Scrambled eggs, toast and three slice of bacon for her and a Western omelet with hash browns for him. While they ate, Jake turned the direction of the conversation toward her. He inquired about how Peter was doing and how the trip to the emergency room went. Caroline explained that Jake’s albuterol had really helped Peter’s breathing. She gave Jake a watered down version of  her experience at the hospital, leaving out Luca; his drug-soaked confrontation with her and the tall mysterious vixen who–she had learned–following her.

A thought struck her. “You used that inhaler on Peter. I didn’t have a prescription and I didn’t pay you for it?”

Jake waved away the observation. “No worries. I’m sure the Board of Pharmacy would understand.”

They finished their meals. Caroline paid the check with several bills from her purse and left a generous tip for the waitress. They walked to his truck and Jake drover her back to her car in the Schooner’s parking lot. Several cars now dotted the pavement as the lunch hour had arrived.

“Thanks for breakfast,” Jake said.

“Thanks for returning my phone…and for…Peter,” Caroline replied thickly. She licked her lips and crooked her head toward Schooner’s. “Maybe we could actually have lunch sometime.”

Jake smiled. “Uh…maybe.”

Caroline nodded then quickly fished her keys from her purse before pushing open the door. She fumbled them and the dropped to the pavement. In the open triangle of the door, she bent over  to pick them up. Jake was treated to a fine view of a curvaceous backside wrapped in tight jeans. As she stood up again, he quickly averted his eyes. Caroline gave a half-wave. Jake smiled and nodded. Caroline slipped into her Escalade.


One hundred yards south of Schooner’s, Debra Perry sat in the Beamer in front of a pizza joint, watching Caroline Clivio climb out of the unknown man’s Toyota pickup truck. Her eyelids felt like lead curtains. She needed sleep desperately. But she was coherent enough to realize that when Luca learned that his ex was seeing another man on top of the fact that she had seen her lawyer today Luca Clivio would lose his shit.

The thought that she might mislead or lie to Luca occurred to her. She quickly dismissed it. If–no when–he learned of his wife’s activities–and he would learn of them because he had eyes and ears everywhere. He would realize that she had lied to him. No, Debra told herself. She would have to level with him. But, it was a conversation to which she was not looking forward.



-To Be Continued-

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A Relationship Beckons: The Meetings (#10)

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.


Jake waited in his idling Tundra in the small square parking lot of the Starbucks on Warwick Boulevard facing the massive complex of buildings that represented Christopher Newport University. He listened to a local country music station as he absently gazed out over the perfect lawns and red-brick and white-domed buildings. He was always astonished at the royal presence and unquestionable erudition seeping from the campus’s every square inch. Former United States Senator Paul Trible who went on to become the fifth president of the then-college poured over one billion dollars of capital improvements into the school transforming it from a plain, fatigued smattering of flat-roofed buildings into a nationally-renowned performing arts institution. The campus resembled a sparkling, gleaming, updated version of the prestigious College of William and Mary, the second oldest institution of higher education in the United States and the ninth oldest in the English-speaking world. The three hundred and thirty year old school was only a modest drive north in Williamsburg.

Being an amateur history buff, Jake knew that William and Mary had educated three presidents and a regiment of historic figures vital to the founding of our nation. To pass the time, he asked himself three questions: How many potentially famous and influential men and women had already been graduated from Christopher Newport University? How many would graduate in years to come and make their mark on the world? And would the list one day be as long and distinguished as their sister school to the north?

Christopher Newport University

The answers didn’t materialize. Instead, he was jarred from his reverie by the arrival of a white Cadillac Escalade in need of a good wash rolling to a stop in the adjacent spot. The woman–he knew her name to be Caroline–glanced over at him with a friendly, vivacious smile. Jake flashed an equally inviting smile. For some unknown reason, he glanced at his blue-faced Seiko DressKX. It read 10:43am. And for an equally unknown reason, the mental image of the watch face and the position of the hands were now burned into his memory.

He alighted from the pick-up at the same time Caroline descended from the luxury SUV. They met at the rear corner of his vehicle. She extended her hand in a crisp, friendly, business-like manner. “I’m Caroline.”

Jake accepted the petite, well-manicured hand. “Jake Murphy.”

Caroline pushed a few strands of her caramel hair behind her ear. She lowered her gaze momentarily then brought her eyes back to meet his. Jake’s heart gave a ever so slight bump. Inside his chest, it felt like a major earth tremor. The hazel eyes were flecked with brown and enhanced by the silky brunette tresses. Her smooth voice sounded like liquid honey. “This is the second time in twenty-fours hours I owe you a thank you. Ah…And I haven’t even properly thanked you for what you did for Peter yesterday.”

Jakes nodded with a slightly angled bow of the head. “How is he doing?”

“He’s fine. Back to his rambunctious self. The docs at the ER checked him out and gave him a breathing treatment. We were home in about four hours.”

“That’s actually a pretty good turnaround time for an emergency room. Lucky you weren’t in there for twelve.”

She nodded then said, “I suppose you’re right.”

Their eyes met again as a polite pause yawned into a zone of discomfort. Jake spoke as he pulled her phone from his back pocket. “I guess I should get around to giving this back to you. That’s a great photo of your son on your wallpaper.” He extended the device. Caroline hesitated and then accepted it.

“Thank you…I would like to…I mean…I’m not sure what the proper protocol is here. What I’m trying to say is I don’t think a simple thank you is sufficient.” Her eyes seemed to reach somewhere deep into him, blinking rapidly. Jake thought for a moment that she might break down right here. “Can we go somewhere and talk? I don’t think a handshake and a thank you is enough. And I don’t want to offend you and offer you money.”

Jake smiled and shook his head. “Money is definitely not necessary. I wouldn’t accept it.”

“Let me buy you a cup of coffee or a beer?”

Jake gave a quick guffaw. “As much as I would love a good beer, I usually wait until afternoon.”

Embarrassed, Caroline moved her hand to her forehead and gently slapped it with her palm. “Of course, so it’s coffee then?”

Jake furrowed a brow. “Wow that was very good. Nice recovery or a very well-planned transition.”

“Believe me,” she replied. “There’s nothing in my life that’s well planned at the moment.”

Jake checked the Seiko once more. 10:48am. “I have to pick up my daughter from my mother’s.” He hesitated as if considering the consequences. “But it’s not urgent. Mimmi can spoil her for a little longer.”

“Great, follow me. I know a perfect place.” Her face see brightened and her eyes held the sparkle of the Eiffel Tower light show.

Jake nodded and watched Caroline’s hour glass figure slide gracefully behind the wheel. As he turned to return to his Tundra, the black shine of a sleek BMW sedan caught his eye. It was a hundred yards away across the street on the campus of Christopher Newport University slowing down on one of the access roads. Jake’s eye caught the driver, a woman, looking in his direction. He made eye contact. But the woman looked away or simply hadn’t seen him.

Caroline’s Escalade slid behind him. She honked once and waved for him to follow.  Jake returned the wave and climbed in. He looked back toward the BMW across the way. The car was gone.


Luca sat behind the wheel of the while Il Gigante…er…Lorenzo Esposito’s girth… consumed the passenger side of his Mercedes like Andre the Giant in a circus clown car. Equally impressive and annoying, his impressive mass caused the luxury sedan to dip to the passenger side. The blunt point of his left elbow protruded across the invisible boundary of the car’s console and dug deeply into Luca’s right shoulder. Luca tried to shrink himself against the driver’s door so as not to touch Big Tommy Romano’s assassin in any way. He was unsuccessful. This lethal, extremely offensive looking man had not spoken more than ten words since appearing on Luca’s doorstep this morning. But creepiness and lethality seeped from his pores.

Two hours earlier, Luca had managed to convince Esposito to allow him a quick shower. Three minutes after ringing the bell, his hair still dripping, Esposito had Luca out the door and driving Luca’s Mercedes. Esposito navigated by pointing and grunting, “Turn here!” Now they were sitting in the listing vehicle peering through the windshield at the modest accommodation of Fernando Gomez in a unspectacular Norfolk neighborhood

It was a two-story affair with no more than a half-acre lot covered in a mixture of weeds and grass competing for notice. The building couldn’t have cost more than three hundred grand. Luca surmised Gomez like to spend his money on cars rather than his domicile. Three brilliantly polished vehicles were lined up in the drive way: a cherry red Shelby Ford Mustang with white double racing stripes down the middle,  a white Chevy Camaro with rear spoiler and, perhaps slightly more functional, a sky blue Chevy Silverado with an oversized cab and oversized knobby tires.

Luca re-adjusted himself and checked his phone. He had texted Debra five times, hoping to glean more information about his ex-wife. What the hell was she doing? It was hard for him to focus. His head hurt from a drug and alcohol hangover. His body was sore. He could feel the burn of a fever building in his chest.

He started to compose a sixth message to her. But Il Gigante interrupted his thoughts. “There he is.” He smiled. But his eyes hardened as he watched the short Hispanic drug lord leave his house with three men. Bodyguards.

Il Gigante removed a pistol with a long sound suppressor. He chambered a round and returned the weapon to his shoulder holster. He then removed a short piece of metal. His thumb depressed a lever. The sharp metallic click announced the appearance of a thin, sharp blade.

“Today,” Il Gigante groaned. “The Spanish man…he die.”

Sacro e Profano

At the same time Caroline and Jake were meeting for the first time and Luca and Il Gigante were surveilling their target, a tall, thin and dangerous man stood in a darkened claustrophobic street four thousand miles away. Because of the time difference, it was currently approaching five in the evening in Italy. Via dei Maroniti in Rome, like many of the side streets in the Eternal City, was a quaint, narrow cobblestone passageway barely wide enough to accommodate the insectile European vehicles. During the day, pedestrians rarely saw the gleaming Italian sun for the five oor six story ancient edifici crowding the narrow sidewalk. The effect was that of a claustrophobic hallway. But nonetheless, it was the quintessential Roman experience.

Tonight, a few touristi strolled along aimlessly down this isolated street. Most were oblivious to the handsome, well-dressed man. That is except for the curious females imagining the carnal pleasures of an authentic Italian lover. His midnight blue eyes were often mistaken for black, especially after the sun went down. They were set close together over a razor sharp beak of a nose. The cheeks angled to a rounded chin. All of this was covered by deeply bronzed skin which made his smoky white hair glow under the amber lights of the restaurant.

International crime boss Giuseppe Linguale wore a double-breasted, Navy suit with white pencil stripes over a starched cotton white smoking shirt. A matching Navy tie was knotted expertly and pulled tight against the spread collar. Casual was not a term ever associated with this man.


Sacro e Profano in Rome

He scratched his temple absent-mindedly with his left hand as he scanned the via across the thin rough street, revealing a gold pinky ring. Impatiently tapping his highly polished black monk shoes against the uneven cobbles. His two body guards took up rear guard positions, close enough to be one step away from their charge in case of trouble but far enough away to allow him a modicum of privacy.

As he crossed his arms and pushed out an exasperated sigh. Linguale hated to be kept waiting especially by a rival. He began to turn toward one of his guardia del corpo when a vehicle with glistening reflection cut through the shadow and ambient light. It came to a stop directly in front of the ristorante.

Languale recognized the vehicle. His French counterpart always rented the same model, color and upgraded amenities. The fire engine red Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifiglio. The driver exited, circled the engine compartment and opened the rear passenger door. From the backseat emerged, man younger than Linguale, shorter in stature, with a three day scruff of beard who wore circular sunglasses despite the lack of direct sunlight. His white suit coat was buttoned revealing an inverted white triangle of a pressed t-shirt. The khaki trousers and a pair tans sneakers lent the ensemble a casual air. The black thigh-length over coat draped over his shoulders announced him as l’homme Parisian.

The Frenchman scanned the scene initially not acknowledging Linguale. The Italian knew that Jacques Maurice L’Enfant saw him. The Frenchies game-playing infuriated him to no end. But Linguale needed the Frenchman. He had invited him to Rome to offer him a deal.

Linguale stepped forward and raised his hand. He’d play along for now. “Maurice, Buongiorno. Welcome to Roma!”

L’Enfant forced a stiff smile. The two men politely, but reluctantly, gave each other a tight gripped handshake. “Gio.” L’Enfant muttered.

Linguale motioned toward the restaurant. “We have much to discuss. I have need of your help in America. Virginia specifically.”

-To Be Continued-

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A Relationship Beckons: Il Gigante (#9)

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

Il Gigante

The ceiling wavered like pond water disturbed by a tossed rock. It rippled outward from a single point in concentric waves. Luca tried to lift his head but was stopped by a spasm of dizziness and nausea brimming in his temples. Bile surged from his gut. He swallowed it and lowered his throbbing skull back onto the sofa cushion which felt like a block of concrete. Ever so gently and slowly, he rotated his eyes, taking in the room and trying to remember how the hell he’d ended up like this.

The coffee table was a post apocalyptic landscape of crushed beer cans, two shot glasses holding remnants of a clear liquid, several small pimples of a snow white powder dotted the glass top in a patina of fine dust. A pizza box lay toppled on the carpet its cardboard yawned revealing the remains of crusts and half-eaten triangles of baked dough. An ashtray lay at the center of the no-man’s land. A bunker of smoldering butts sending tendrils of blue smoke wafting toward the wavy ceiling. Beside that lay the wooden vessel lined with blue velvet in which rested the instrument of death.

Luca licked his lips and tasted bits of the anesthetic powder beneath his nose. A burgeoning headache was erupting behind his eyes. The acidic tang of vomit clung to the back of his throat. He rolled to his left and dropped from the sofa on the thick pile of carpet. Sucking in slow, deep breaths, he waited for the spinning to subside. Every movement was a Herculean achievement.

I’ve got to stop this, he whispered. The words sounded like a blasts of a fire alarm.

As he lay there, the vague conversation with an irritated Debra suddenly spoke to him. She’d placed the tracker on the bitch’s car. Now he would know where she was all the time. Why was Debra mad? There was something wrong. Even through his dense drug-induced befuddlement, Luca knew her words were curt and filled with disdain.

The capo managed to push himself to all fours in the narrow space between the coffee table and the sofa. He struggled to his feet and eventually pulled himself to a semi-erect posture. Shuffling toward the guest bathroom, he kicked the pizza box and the rigid wedges within re-organized themselves. It was then that he noticed that one foot was bare. The other still clothed by a sock half dangling over the toes. The naked foot revealed red dots of clotted injection sites between his toes which ached. The crack of breaking plastic under foot told him he’d stepped on the syringe. He studied his unadorned wrist. His Rolex was missing. What happened to his watch?

Eons later, he found the bathroom and flipped on the light. Daggers of white pain sliced through his brain. He closed his eyes and the intensity and the agony eased. Feeling for the toilet, he raised the seat, dropped his shorts and began urinating. The muted hiss told him he’d missed the bowl. Opening one eye, he re-adjusted and the yellow stream found its mark.

The bells of Notre Dame pealed jolting him. Quasimodo, the grotesque hunch-backed bell ringer was furiously tugging on the imaginary bell pull sending acoustic waves of agony through his ears. He finished his business and awkwardly zipped up. It was then that he realized the loud chimes were that of his own door bell, not some ancient cathedral in Paris. “Coming,” he moaned, struggling again to cover the distance. He sighed, preparing for another wave of vertigo then pulled open the with great care.

The emotionless face that stared back at him appeared to be Quasimodo himself. The dark blue eyes were set in cavernous sockets in a Neantherdalian skull beneath a protruding ridge of bushy black eyebrows. A wide scar cleaved the brow over the right eye. The crooked nose had been mashed by an unsympathetic God and possessed the angles of mountain road. The skin covering the whole bony, angular mug was scarred and resembled a pocked moonscape. The thick lips were pulled into a permanent sneer. The massive humanoid on his stoop seemed to block out the sun. Luca stared up at this behemoth momentarily dumbfounded. He moved his eyes to the neck and shoulders looking for signs of a hump. He found none.

The uncomfortable silence yawned for several moments. Luca moved his gaze back to the mountain’s butt-faced visage then Luca managed one pain-soaked word. “Yeah?”

“Big Tommy sent me,” the stranger growled in a rusty New York accent. The sunken eyes moved beneath the bony overhang and sized up Luca. “Get dressed. We got woik.”

“You Il Gigante?”

“Name’s Lorenzo Esposito.” He stepped closer. The stench of stale coffee, Tabasco and eggs hit Luca in the nose.  “And don’t you forgit it.”


Debra’s butt had gone numb two hours ago after she’d sped away from the Caroline’s Williamsburg neighborhood. The all night vigil outside Luca’s ex’s house had been interrupted only by her quick three am excursion from the car to Caroline Clivio’s driveway where she’d quickly slipped under the chassis of her Escalade. She attached the tracker just inside the rear bumper. That four minute trek of nervous pulse pounding had been followed by more hours of monotony capped off by the gray-haired black man banging on her passenger window and threatening to call the police. He’d not said so. Not in so many words. But he’d made his intent clear.

Her thoughts were interrupted by the beep and flash on the app on her phone. The blinking icon on the map indicated the vehicle being tracked. She looked up. Caroline climbed out of her Escalade, circled the vehicle and extracted her son, Peter from his car seat. She led him by one hand toward the entrance of the Newport News law firm of Weedle and Chase. Debra had googled it moments ago. It was medium-sized firm dedicated to family law. Debra thought a moment. Caroline and Luca were already divorced. So why did she need the services of a family lawyer. In her opposite hand, Caroline carried a manila envelope.

Oh shit! She thought.

She’d answered Luca’s call earlier. His slurred and slow words told her everything she needed to know. He was high or drunk. Or both. And she hadn’t wanted to see or be near him right now. She was still pissed at him. He’d brought her to Big Tommy’s house for his meet with the Don. And she’d heard Luca’s boss give him an order to kill a member of the Gomez family.

Debra wasn’t naïve. She knew what Luca did. And she knew what Big Tommy did. There were criminals. It was exciting…dangerous. Debra liked the danger…the excitement. But it had gone too far. Murder. She wanted no part of it. She knew she needed to extract herself from this rabbit hole into which she had plunged. Her relationship with Luca was over. He just didn’t know it yet. And she did not have any clue as to how she would execute her escape. But when the opportunity arose, she would become a ghost.

-To Be Continued-

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A Relationship Beckons: Returning The Phone: Jake and Caroline(#8)

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


Jake fidgeted as Olivia’s soft curves undulated back and forth over him. He lie on his back gazing up at her, drinking in her vague beauty. The cloudy lines in and around her partially obscured his sight of her. But he knew it was her. The familiar, comfortable feel of her warmth; the curve of her angelic face; the penetrating ice blue eyes and, of course, her alluring, intimate curves. He ran his fingertips over her hips moving them upward navigating the topography of the torso, guiding her, encouraging her. His body moved in perfect concert with hers, gyrating faster with each passing second toward the anticipated crescendo.

Out of the corner of his dream’s eye, he spied a nebulous figure in the shadows, murky and hesitant, lurking near the lingerie chest visible but out of focus. As his dead wife pleased herself atop him, Jake’s attention remained riveted on the mysterious form. Olivia–in silent pleading and protestations–began tugging at Jake’s subconscious, willing his eyes back to hers. But Jake’s stare stayed on the dubious silhouette. As ripples of pleasure rocked him, propelling him toward a heavenly climax. As his pleasure mounted, her unspoken words grated in his ears.

Her hips ground harder and deeper as her remonstrations grew harsher. In response, Jake pushed harder against her. When their bodies could go no faster, grind no harder, the figure moved away from the chest, stepping closer to them. It rushed to their side impatiently, interrupting their love-making. Olivia’s image disintegrated, melting away. The face belonging to the figure lowered itself toward Jake, leaving the misty shroud concealing it.

Rather than lingering the face receded and a new torrent of images assaulted him. The face of the stranger was replaced by the mug of Stephan Willings, the pinch-faced pharmacy manager, from a different angle.  The disgusted, frustrated moues of dissatisfied customers and patients clicked onto the screen of his subconscious like clinical slides showing the carnage of hatred and intolerance alternating on either side of Olivia moving body. Jake’s head jerked from side to side. There was Lizzie’s chubby-cheeked smile smeared with spaghetti sauce chopping on snippets of pasta with her plump fingers. The mangled metal and shattered glass of the devastating car wreck.

Olivia, feeling his distraction, re-doubled her efforts, pressing her body into him, lowering her breasts onto his chest and allowing her nipples to caress him. She battled desperately for his attention…

Then the little boy, blue and pale, sped past his eyes, pleading with Jake for assistance. Willings. Patients. Helen, the middle-aged pharmacy technician. More patients. Lizzie. Olivia. The wreck.

Then the first stranger reappeared jutting her face at him. It was not harsh nor an unpleasant experience. It was interruption. It was the face of kindness and gratitude. Jake was transported back to the waiting area in the pharmacy. The boy–what was his name–sitting in his mother’s lap as he administered the breathing medication. In this version of events in his dream, Jake was not focused on the boy as he had been that day. Now at this moment, his subconscious brought forth the pleasing scent of his mother, the nearness of her breasts, the soft, silken curtain of hair framing a concerned, pleasing visage.

Then everything disappeared…

Jake woke with a start. His lungs burned. His chest heaved. He was covered in perspiration. His eyes locked on the ceiling because it was above him and the only image available to him. Everything from his disjointed, sensual yet upsetting carnal episode lingered. Momentarily paralyzed, he tried to assimilate, to understand where he was and what had happened. After a time, blinking rapidly, he calmed his breathing and realized it had been a dream. An extremely realistic and jarring dream. With great effort, he pulled back the bed covers and rose to a sitting position. He dragged his hands down his face and sucked in several deep breaths. He swung his legs off the bed. Padding to the toilet, he lowered his briefs, placed one hand on the wall and whizzed into the bowl. He trudged to the kitchen, placed a K-cup into the Keurig and brewed a large cup of java. As it brewed, he moved to the sink and splashed several handfuls of cold water onto his face. He patted it dry with a dish towel and expelled another long sigh.

His vision bothered him. He hadn’t dreamt about Olivia in weeks. And it had been at least six months since he’d fantasized that she was making love to him. The memory and sensation had felt as real as it ever had. The memory pleased and shocked him. But what frightened him more was the presence of the image that had intruded, expelling Olivia from his reverie. The last few seconds, it had transformed it from a near wet dream to a breath-stealing intrusion, thrusting him into the present reality. It had been…her.

The unnamed woman. The easy-on-the eyes mother of Peter–that was his name–the boy Jake had saved at the pharmacy.

He doused his coffee with a healthy portion of creamer, stirred it. Returning to the bedroom, he retrieved both phones and tapped the screen on the unknown woman’s phone. The image of the smiling Peter reappeared as he gulped the hot coffee.

He needed to get this thing back to her…or someone somehow. The need was urgent now. Though he’d only had the phone in his possession for a few hours. Less than ten. It felt heavy and burdensome. He wanted to be rid of it. He needed to put this in his past.

A Plea For Help

Latent images rushed her. Caroline lowered Peter’s binoculars from her eyes. She stared out the window but she did not see beyond the glass or the louvres of the blind. She saw only what her mind regurgitated. Scattered disconnected images collected from the last twenty-four hours.

Pressing the accelerator of her Escalade, the monstrous vehicle fishtailing out of the soft, wet grass of the shoulder and nearly colliding with another car screaming past as Peter struggled for breath in the backseat. The sliver of a memory cut at her:…the driver making a animated gesture at her in the millisecond as it passed. No, as she passed. The vehicle was dark blue or black. The logo on the rear hatch of the SUV. The circle divided into quadrants of alternating blue and white, resembling that of a spinning propeller. A BMW.

Then that same SUV skidding to a halt behind her in the pharmacy parking lot as Caroline carried a barely-breathing Peter across the pavement. It hadn’t registered then. It was the same BMV, gleaming and polished in the brilliant spring sun. But Caroline’s mind must have recorded it as she bolted toward the pharmacy door. The image of the Virginia license plate had been burned in her mind like a searing brand on her cerebrum: BTCHY.

Later in the emergency room, Caroline remembered thinking she had seen this woman before as she angled herself against the wall. Luca’s–whatever–concubine, slut, bitch, drug dealer, whore. She recalled the thin, wry smile creeping across this witch’s features. In this revelatory moment despite her growing consternation, Caroline begrudgingly admitted that this woman was not unattractive. Caroline raised the orange field glasses again. This time she could she that the she-devil looked haggard and exhausted as she thumbed through the images on her phone in the early morning light.

But an obvious fact impatiently elbowed away her memories. Luca was having this woman follow her. That’s how he had known that Peter was in the emergency room. That’s how he had arrived so quickly even without Caroline calling him. Which she had never done. He must have been in the middle of shooting up or snorting a few lines. He had been high in the hospital.

How long had she been following her? Had she been parked on Caroline’s street corner all night long? Caroline swore at Luca and her own naivete. She was foolish for not realizing Luca would resort to such tactics. Luca’s paranoia was fueled by his criminal activities, his nature and stoked by his relentless drug use.

Caroline checked the clock over the small gas fireplace. It was still very early just before six in the morning. The man living in the other unit of this duplex was an older gentleman with whom she had a congenial relationship. They had been neighbors for about six months and spoke twice a week about neighborly, irrelevant matters. Caroline once let it slip that she was divorced. He had told her that he was retired and his wife had died two years ago. Caroline guessed he was about seventy. But he was kind and tended to look out for them.

Caroline pondered for a moment. Then she retreated to the back door and opened it slowly. She slipped outside and circled the fence partition separating her part of the backyard from her neighbor’s. Knocking three times, Caroline ran a hand through her disheveled hair. After several moments, she lifted her fist to hit the door again when it swung open.

“Oh!'” she started. “You surprised me!”

The elderly black man with a cloud of white hair and white moustache and wearing a wrinkled t-shirt and pajama pants registered surprise. “Good morning Caroline. I surprised you? You did knock on my door, didn’t you?”

Blushing, she replied, “Yes, Mr. Beck. I didn’t think you’d answer so quickly. Thought you’d still be asleep.”

“I get up at five every day. With this damn prostate, I have to pee three times a night”

“I’m sorry to disturb. But I don’t know what to do. I need your help.”

Instantly concerned, Joe Beck said, “Is it Peter? Not another asthma attack, I hope?”

Caroline shook her head. “No nothing like that.” She hesitated then continued. “It could be nothing, but something doesn’t seem right.”

“Tell me.”

“It’s out front,” she said.

Joe Beck turned and looked to the front of his unit. He spun back to Caroline and said, “Show me.”

He stepped aside and allowed her to enter. The kitchen was a mirror image of hers, small but functional with the basic amenities. The aroma of freshly brewed coffee filled the air. A steaming mug sat beside an open laptop. The Wall Street Journal website shone on the screen.

Caroline followed him into the living room around which resided stacks of novels and magazines. She spied a gun of some kind–not a revolver–lying on one of the side tables. He approached the front door and was about to grab the knob when she stopped him.

“Don’t open the door!”

Beck halted and rotated, looking confused then concerned. “What?!”

She pointed to the window facing the street. Caroline walked over and separated the slats of the blind an inch or two. “That car has been parked their all night. There’s a woman sitting in it.”

“All night?”

“I heard Peter rustling around three. I happened to glance out the window. The driver was looking at her phone and her face was lit up,” she lied. “When I got up again a few minutes ago, I saw that the car and the woman were still there.”

“A friend of yours?” Beck studied Caroline. Caroline did not meet his gaze. But she replied honestly. “No, it looks suspicious. But I don’t want to call the police if it’s nothing.”

Beck scratched his balding head. “I spent thirty years in HR. I’ll find out what’s going on.”

The Black Man

Debra read the text she’d just composed: “Been here most of the night. Her car is in the drive way. No other cars around. No signs of a man. Appears to be alone!” She tapped the send arrow.

Two sharp raps on the passenger side window caused Debra to start. Her heart jumped into her throat. Her head swiveled toward the sound. Her hand instinctively moved to the blade slipped into her open bag at her feet. A tall, aging black man with white hair and moustache bent at the waist appeared ready to knock on the glass again. He was wrapped in a tan robe and the wrinkled collar of a t-shirt created a white triangle below his chin. His eyes were hard, penetrating and not inviting.

He motioned for her to lower the window. Debra depressed the door button and lowered the glass a few inches.

“Can I help you?” She asked.


A ding told her that Luca had replied to her text. Good. Did you place the tracker on her car?

Debra hesitated and looked at her phone. “Good morning,” she replied with her eyes lowered, reading the response.

“You live around here?”

“Who’s asking?”

The black man hefted a thumb over his shoulder. “I live right back there. Noticed you sitting here for a while. Just checking to make sure you don’t need anything. I’m part of the neighborhood watch. Been watching you for a while now.”

He straightened and removed a cell phone from the pocket of his robe. Moving past the right front headlight, the stranger held the phone in such a way Debra could tell he was shooting a pic of her tag number.

Another ding. Did you place it?

“Ah….I was just trying to find…a place to have breakfast. There’s no need to do that,” she said when he returned to the window.

“Just a precaution. Can’t be too careful,” he retorted, bending back down to the slightly open window.

“I don’t mean any harm.”

A Third ding. Did you?

“Then you shouldn’t care if I record your plate.” The man’s eyes shifted to her phone. “Your boyfriend’s getting impatient?”

Debra looked up from the device but said nothing. Their eyes locked for a tortuous quintet of seconds.

The old man moved his gaze from the front to the back of the car. “Nice!” He smiled. The smile disintegrated just as quickly as it had appeared. “Not from around here, huh?”

“Not really.”

“Too much violence. Damn mass shootings on the television every week. Crazy ass kids doing drug deals, shooting teachers–each other. Like I said can’t be too careful. You should be careful where you hang out, young lady.”

“Ah…yeah…right,” Debra croaked. Her heart rate spiked. She could feel it pounding in her temples. The fatigue was catching up with her.

“You be moving on now. I got some neighbors who aren’t so patient as me. Try Shorty’s Diner. Opens at six in just a few minutes. Best home fries around.”

Debra put the phone in the console tray and pressed the car’s starter button. The Beamer fired up. She rammed the shift into drive and punched the accelerator. The car lurched taking the corner in a high squeal.

The phone rang through the car’s speakers. The displayed showed it was Luca. She hit the talk button and shouted, “What?”

Luca’s tired and drug-addled voice slurred. “Did you put it on her car?”

“God Damnit! Yes!”

Finding The Phone’s Owner

Ninety minutes later, Jake entered through the garage. Sweat stained his Semper Fi t-shirt in circles under the armpits and in an imverted V down the middle. It clung to his torso over a pair of red shorts trimmed in gold. The thigh of the right leg was emblazoned with the Eagle, Globe and Anchor. Jake had pushed himself harder than normal this morning. Normally, he covered the five miles in about forty-five minutes. Today, he’d done it thirty-five.

He needed to exorcize the visions. He figured he could accomplish this in three ways. First, the exertion pumped the blood hard through his veins, clearing his head and cleansing his soul. Second, he was going to get the damn phone off of his person and out of his house. Then he was going to get Lizzie from his mom and they would go do something fun. Distraction. Focus on what’s important.

He ate two pieces of toast slathered with jam and downed a second cup of coffee then hopped in a steamy shower. Twenty minutes later, he donned a pair of jeans and pulled a blue Polo over his head. He grabbed his phone from the night stand along with the unknown woman’s.

He sat at his computer desk in the downstairs office and touched the screen. The smiling image of Peter again stared up at him. In the upper left hand corner of the screen, he saw in small letters the name of the provider. He searched for the nearest outlet for that company. They opened at nine. The time on his computer screen read 8:23am.

He needed to cool his heels for about twenty minutes. He would leave then and he should get there when they opened.

His phone rang. He checked the screen and saw the name: Stephan Willings. He would keep calling until Jake answered that’s the kind of dickhead he was.


Willings did not even bother with a greeting. “I need to see you this morning. I am writing you up for closing the drive-thru.”

“It was in the best interests of my patients and my practice. It was unsafe to have it remain open. We were understaffed and the chance of mistakes happening were too high.”

“Company policy does not allow you to close the drive-thru with approval.”

“I don’t care, Willings. I don’t need your approval. My name is on those prescriptions. Not yours. I’m the one who will have to answer for any mistakes made.”

“I’m not asking. I’m demanding. You come into the district office today.”

“We’ll see what the Board of Pharmacy says. It’s my day off. We’ll talk when I get back to work two days from now. Go haunt someone else!”

The benefits of the run and the shower dissolved. His ire returned climbing high in his back and neck along with a bolus of bile in his gut. I’m calling the BOP laterhe told himself. This crap is going to stop. He paced around the house for a good five minutes stewing. The retail pharmacy industry was killing itself because of management’s lack of concern for its employees and their work environment. Boards of Pharmacy around the country including Virginia had begun to take action to correct the dire situation. The public was in danger from understaffed and overworked pharmacists and technicians.

Jake knew that Virginia’s Board had issued a guidance document stating the expectations for the work environment. Corporations were being advised to no longer place quotas on pharmacist for immunizations, prescriptions or time expectations. They were also mandating that staffing be appropriate. The document also said that the pharmacist on-duty had the final say as to what happened, if it happened and how it happened, not the corporations. Though the document did not have the force of law, Jake also had read that it soon would, at least, in Virginia.

His belly roiling he checked his watch. He bounded out the door and into his car. He arrived just as the customer service associate unlocked the front door.

“What can I help you with?”

“I found someone’s phone and I need to get it back to them.”

Jake place the device on the counter. The young woman turned it to her, tapped the screen and read their company’s names in the upper left corner. “Okay, I see we are the provider. I assume since you are here that you do not know whose phone it is.”

“No, I don’t. I thought maybe you could look up a serial number or something?”

“No, can’t do that. But if you want to leave it with us. Since they use our service, I can try to re-unite it with its owner if possible.”

Jake considered the offer. Considering his torment from this morning, he should take her up on it. “Ah,” Jake hesitated. “No, is there anything else you can do?”

She pressed the side buttons on the iPhone then re-started it. She explained. “Sometimes folks will put ‘In Case of Emergency’ on the Lock Screen or will put emergency contacts there as well.” The phone rebooted. The woman swiped up on the screen and the “Enter Passcode” screen appeared at the bottom the word “Emergency” and “Cancel” appeared. She tapped emergency. “They can also set up the Medical ID with emergency contacts.” She swiped at the screen again. “But that has not been done with this phone.”

“Crap,” Jake muttered.

With some effort, the woman removed the phone case and examined it. “Sometimes folks will put contact info on the phone for just this reason. But I don’t see anything. She put a finger to her mouth as she thought. “Let’s try this.” She held the phone to her face and said, “Call Mom.”

An ID popped onto the Lock Screen. The image of an elderly woman appeared and the name, “Mom”. The attendant pressed the call button. and placed the call on speaker. It rang several times and then gave that frustrating three-note tone followed by a computer voice: The voicemail box has not been set up.

“Looks like I’m outta luck,” Jake sighed.

“Well, that call should be registered on the mom’s caller log. Perhaps she’ll call back. Then you can explain you have the phone. ”

The young woman shook her head. “Sorry none of those things worked. I’ll be happy to hold it for you and see if she calls back. Or you can turn it in to the police.”

Give her the phone and be done with it!

“No,” Jake replied, tapping the phone. “I’ll think I’ll hold onto it…for now.”

Back in his car, Jake navigated back onto Jefferson Avenue headed to his mother’s to pick up Lizzie. As he braked for a light, the stranger’s phone chimed some kind of peppy tune. Jake picked up the device and clicked on.


To Be Continued-

If you have a pharmacy story or a story (heroic or challenging) of everyday life in your healthcare world, send it to me by clicking the link below…

Courtney Johnson and Yezellia Bray of Victra, an authorized Verizon dealer, in Suffolk, Virginia for their assistance with the research for this month’s blog.
The author also utilized the New York Times article (04/24/2019) How to Return a Lost Phone

Check Out David’s Books

Send David Your Healthcare Successes and Challenges

If you find this blog entertaining and informative, please share it with your contacts and on social media through the links on this web page…if you are a pharmacist nurse or doctor, please share it with your colleagues…thank you

A Relationship Beckons: The Plan: Caroline and Debra(#7)

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 Plan

The Mansion

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.

Luca licked his lips and swallowed. “It’s the dam…Gomez gang. They moved in several months ago. They’re undercutting us…me. Selling more blow, smack and rainbows cheaper.”

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.”

“Il Gigante?”

“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?”

The Tail

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-

If you have a pharmacy story or a story (heroic or challenging) of everyday life in your healthcare world, send it to me by clicking the link below…

Check Out David’s Books

Send David Your Healthcare Successes and Challenges

If you find this blog entertaining and informative, please share it with your contacts and on social media through the links on this web page…if you are a pharmacist nurse or doctor, please share it with your colleagues…thank you

A Relationship Beckons: Luca/Big Tommy (#6)

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.

Big Tommy

The Mansion

Luca and Debra were shown into the massive living room. The brawny henchman with the permanent scowl adorning his face patted down Luca first. His rough hands ran roughly over every inch of Luca’s frame and sparing no part of him including his crotch. He then did the same to Debra utilizing the same lack of finesse over her curves including her breasts and the upside down V of her womanhood.

Immediately after the frisks were completed, their eyes were drawn to the two-story floor-to-ceiling glass wall that fronted the lower Chesapeake Bay. At this late hour, it was a black tableau played out through vertical, rectangular panels set in tracks along the floor and ceiling. Apparently, the panels could be opened like folding doors to allow access to a wide balcony with stairs leading to a lower level and a swimming pool. Beyond that lay more stairs descending to the beach. A high, glistening curtain framed the glass wall ready to be deployed when required.  The faint sound of the gentle surf caressing the beach sifted through the thick glass along with a gentle whiff of salty air.  The twinkle of orange sodium lamps to the west belied the south island of the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel complex. Tommaso Romano had purchased several oceanfront tracts on Willoughby Spit, demolished all the buildings on them and built a towering three-story regal edifice that rivaled European castles. It bespoke the vast amount of money Romano’s crime family earned through its various arms of illegal activity.

Debra knew that Luca was oblivious to any of the history behind the residence. But when she’d first visited Romano’s stately home, she’d done a bit of research on the area and Romano’s part of it. This peninsula took its name from one Thomas Willoughby, a pilgrim who arrived in Virginia in 1610. Legend had it that this finger of land materialized overnight, created by a terrific storm–possibly a hurricane–in the mid- seventeenth century. The Willoughby family quickly took ownership of the newly created acreage and their named had become attached to it forever.

Debra could feel the cold sweat against Luca’s hand as it grasped hers as they walked stiffly and tentatively into the colossal space. The vaulted-ceiling of the room dwarfed the furnishings which were rich and expensive and coordinated with a professional hand. An assortment of comfy, over-sized chairs and two large sofas dotted the space amid coffee and end tables of light-colored mahogany. The arrangement lent an inviting and–at the same time–intimidating air.

“The view’s much better during the day.” The words came from behind them and emanated from a deep, accented voice thick with the gravelly timbre of a longtime smoker and bolstered by the sharp, confident resonance of success.

Debra and Luca turned. Though they both were quite familiar Big Tommy’s vocal signature. Luca instinctively released her hand and clasped both of his together in front of his crotch. Romano stood just inside the nine foot doorway. Two linebacker-sized men in dark suits with sizeable bulges in their jackets took up a rear guard position behind their boss.

Tommaso Romano was as wide as he was tall. No more than five-nine, he carried at least two-hundred and fifty pounds around his torso and prodigious legs. His dark features both in hue and expression were captured in a bowling ball-like face punctuated by black eyes, thick black eyebrows and a curved, black Saddam Hussein moustache that looked like a large equatorial caterpillar had taken up residence beneath his bulbous nose.

“We normally open the panels to let in the night air. But this April evening–as you know–is a little chilly. I must have you both back during the summer for a swim and a meal.”

Luca nodded and said in a rough whisper. “That sounds…wonderful, Tommy.”

Debra added. “That’s very generous, Mr. Romano.”

“Nonsense,” Tommy replied. “Please call me Tommy, we are family. Are we not?”

“Of course…Tommy,” Debra replied hesitantly. She looked in the direction of the door and saw Romano’s bodyguards standing like statutes on either side of the doorway.

He motioned to two overstuffed chairs separated from a wide couch by a wide sand-colored coffee table. Romano plopped his gelatinous frame onto the sofa, taking up a goodly portion of its seating space. When they were seated and without prompting, a liveried waiter in a short white tunic and black trousers appeared with a tray on which sat three shot glasses, a bottle of Sambuca and a long-reach lighter. The servant who appeared to be of Spanish or Mexican descent set the tray on the coffee table. In each shot glasses rested three coffee beans. The houseman poured generous amounts of the anise-flavored liquor. He then picked up the lighter and clicked it so that a long finger of flame curved up from its barrel. He touched the flame to the contents of each shot glass. Each glass seemed to erupt.

Tommy Romano waved away the waiter who left the lighter and the Sambuca on the tray. He studied his guests over the flames that were growing smaller. “We wait for the flames to turn blue. Then we drink…”

Luca held up a hand indicating he did not want to partake. “Tommy, I’m not…”

Romano’s hard gaze turned to granite, cutting off Luca without a sound. “You come into my home and refuse an offer of hospitality. You will drink. We have an urgent matter to discuss…as you know.”

By now, the flames had dwindled to a blue haze. Tommy placed his meaty paw over the shot glass smothering both the fire and the vessel. He nodded to his guests that they should do the same. Luca instantly covered his glass with his slender almost emaciated hand. Debra did the same, wincing as she did so, anticipating some pain. But none came…a brief warmth.

Tommy lifted his glass. “Cin Cin alla nostra salute!” Luca and Debra touched theirs to his. They tilted their heads back and downed the fiery liquid. Debra winced as the burn fell to her belly.

Romano relaxed his bulk deeper into the cushions.  He steepled his hands in front of his chest. His black, emotionless eyes bore into his capo. “You know why I have summoned you here tonight.”


Caroline could not sleep. The events of the day clung to her like a skunk’s spray. She padded into the kitchen in her in her t-shirt and short. A coating of sweat dampened her clothes. She moved down the hallway. Cracking the door to his bedroom, she checked on Peter. In the faint moonlight sifting through the window, she could see his angelic face deep in the throes of slumber. His breathing was deep and regular with a slight snore. He cradled a football in his arms. The sight of him safe and unharmed comforted her.

Caroline moved back into the kitchen and the small desk area built-in near the pantry Their Williamsburg carriage home was small compared to what she was used to when she mas married to Luca. It was a four thousand square foot domicile in Newport News. Trading the luxury for her sanity was worth an untold price.

She sat at the chair before the desk, opened the drawer and removed a large manila envelope. Undoing the clasp, Caroline removed the sheaf of documents. She read over the legal document from her attorney that had been sitting untouched for two months:

Request for Change in Child Custody

Without hesitation, she plucked a pen from the coffee cup on the desk, clicked it and scribbled her name on the second page. With a heavy sigh, she closed her eyes and prayed for strength. This was going to be the flight of her life. And she was not looking forward to it.

To Be Continued-

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