"Lenny? Is that you?" she called. I assured her it was me, and could I come in the bedroom? I had news I wanted to share with her. She invited me in. I limped to the side of the bed and sat down.
"You're limping, why?" she asked.
"I solved my mystery, and got shot in the foot for my troubles. Frankie is the one who did it."
"Frankie? You're kidding me."
I told her everything that had happened. "Angel says Frankie will probably be shipped out of state, someplace where they can keep an eye on him and where he can't get into any trouble. He's damn lucky if that's all that happens to him."
Bekka smirked. "And you didn't get a chance to get drunk. There's still plenty of beer in the fridge, if you want to go that route."
"Oh? And you wouldn't mind me getting a buzz on in the living room while I watch TV?"
"No I wouldn't." A single tear ran down her cheek. "And you could sleep in your own bed when you're finished drinking. A married couple should share a bed whenever possible."
I leaned forward and hugged her. "I fully agree. I promise to not make too much noise when I do come to bed. You go back to sleep, we'll talk more in the morning."
There were still eight bottles of Anchor Steam left in the fridge. To save time I grabbed three of them and set them on the coffee table. Then I grabbed the remote and started spinning through the channels, settling on David Letterman for the time being. I'd find a movie after Letterman was over, preferably a western. In westerns, it was of no concern to others if you were wearing a gun. Hell, it was expected of you.
I lucked out and got 'A Fistful of Dollars' on channel six. Clint Eastwood killed more people than a smallpox outbreak. By the time it was over I'd gone through seven of the eight beers and I was ready for bed. Despite all the speed I'd lashed up my nose earlier I felt exhausted. My bed called to me. I stumbled only slightly taking off my pants. Then I got in bed and snuggled up against the woman I loved.
I beat Bekka to the mansion in the morning. She was working in the afternoon, and saw no reason to get up before noon. Since I hadn't fallen asleep until five, I envied her.
The phone was ringing when I walked in the office. I scooped it up.
"Lenny, this is Angel. Drop whatever you're doing and get up here. Don Ventimiglia wants to see you as soon as possible."
"Just give me his address in Bel Air and I'll find it on my own. No sense in you having your morning interrupted."
Angel laughed at this and said, "It doesn't work that way and you know it. I gotta blindfold you again for the ride over, too. He's waiting for us, so be quick."
"Lemme get gas in my car and I'll be right there. Later."
I was curious as to why the don wanted to see me again so soon. I'd provided bad news to him, so it was probably to set a time and date for my execution.... If they simply didn't do it this morning and get it over with. My gun and holster were sitting in my bag back at our place --- Dr. Liu insisted they come off before he started working --- so I'd be facing someone down with no protection. I gassed up and headed north.
Angel was pacing in the driveway and chewing on his thumb when I arrived. I got out and he ushered me to his Maserati, tying the bandanna over my eyes as soon as I sat down. I asked Angel, "So, they're in that big of a hurry to kill me?"
He said, "Lenny, I have no clue as to what this is about. All I know is I got a call from their butler asking for our presence this morning. Technically it'll still be morning when we get there, but I've gotta hurry."
He ripped over the Sepulveda pass and into Bel Air. Once again, I was guided by Angel through the house and onto the patio by the tennis court. Then he removed my blindfold.
Don Ventimiglia didn't seem to have moved since I saw him last. He was in the same chair and still dressed for tennis. What was possibly the same couple volleyed on the court. And Paul the enforcer was sitting across from Ventimiglia again. This did not make me happy.
"You provided us with unfortunate news," don V. said. "Our friend Frankie is in hot water because of you."
"Well sir, I'm sorry you're unhappy. I was as surprised as you were when I figured out that Frankie killed the Mexicans."
"How did you reach your conclusion?"
"Through circumstantial evidence and some guessing. I figured out Frankie had been spending a lot of time in Chatsworth, and he had no business to be there. I also learned he'd picked up a Beretta like me and Vinny wear. The Beretta is a 9mm gun, and that's what was recovered by the crime lab guys, 9mm slugs. And Frankie showing up at the wake for the Hernandez brothers was just weird. What would he have to gain? So I confronted him with this totally flimsy evidence and he 'fessed up. He could have laughed in my face, and I'd be tracking down street-level coke dealers up in the Valley right now. Personally, I think he had to get it off his chest, it was eating him up."
"Thank you, Lenny. That will be all. You may consider our appointment next week to be cancelled. I have the information I need."
A wave of relief swept over me. "I'll make a note of it, sir." I made to stand up.
"Oh, Lenny?" I sat back down.
"Have you considered visiting a haberdashery? They can fit you out better, and in better clothes, than you currently wear."
I smiled at him and said, "I've thought about it. Comfort always seems to win out over style."
He found this entertaining. "And metal spikes are comfortable?"
"You get used to them, sir." This also amused him.
A thought struck me. I said, "Tell me sir, do you own any property in Florida? In the Fort Lauderdale area, perhaps?"
"Yes, I do. Wait, are you part of the couple who took that cat home with them?"
"That's me, sir. I thought your voice sounded familiar. We named the kitten Squeak, and right now he's probably asleep on the sofa."
"You are rather observant, Lenny the punk."
Don Ventimiglia called for Gaines while Angel pulled the bandanna back over my eyes. Cool, I thought, I'm gonna live longer than I expected. I can't wait to tell Bekka she won't be a widow.
Before Gaines arrived, Paul said to me, "I'm glad things worked out. I like you. I'm glad we didn't have to do business together."
"You and me both, Paul." I had three inches and maybe forty pounds on him, but there was no way I'd want to go against him, even in a fair fight. My heart wouldn't be into it.
I arrived back at the mansion in the middle of shooting. I waited quite a while for the red light to go off, and was nearly stampeded by several performers heading out on a smoke break. I stepped in the room to find Bekka pulling on panties and a t-shirt. Calm Steve was also there, but I ignored him. Still too much anger.
"Good news," I said to Bekka, "I'm not gonna die next week. At least not at the hands of the mafia."
"So that's where you've been all day!" she exclaimed. "Honey, that's wonderful news. How did things work out?"
"It came down to a two hour drive for a five minute meeting. I seem to keep don Ventimiglia entertained, for whatever reason. Probably has nothing to do with the fact that I still look like a suburban street punk, even at the ripe age of twenty-one."
"Be true to yourself, and no one else," she reminded me. "I notice you're not wearing your shoulder holster. Is this a positive development?"
"I'll be true to you, ahead of myself.... Baby," I retorted. "And I knew there was no point in strapping the damn thing on when I'd just have to ditch the gun at Angel's place. I mentioned that I still don't know where this cat Ventimiglia lives, right? That I go there blindfolded?"
"You told me, yeah. It was after you drank seven beers, so I wasn't sure how serious to take you. So are you giving up the gun?" she asked hopefully.
"It seems to be a tool of the trade," I told her. "It's going to be around, but not as a permanent part of my fashion. I've never wanted it to be. It's always been just,,,, a tool."
"But it won't be poking me every time I hug you."
"Only part of the time."
"I told Steve today that him and me were through."
"How did he take it?"
She sighed. "Not quite like a gentleman. Keep in mind that him and me go back five years, and I think he liked that dependability. But we broke one of our rules, which was at least one of us had to be unattached when we got together. You and I are married, and he's living with his girlfriend. We're both attached. Game over."
"Will you miss him?"
She scowled up at me. "In some ways, yes. In other ways, no. Do you want the details?"
"Not really, no. Did you tell him I wasn't really going to shoot him last night?" Last night. It seemed like a month ago. Hard bits of it were frozen in place in my mind.
"Yes. It was the only way he'd come to work."
I said, "You know, I have no intention of firing him. He'd be too hard to replace. And screw him, anyways."
"I thought you might say that. Shit, people are coming up and I haven't had my cigarette yet. Delay things for me if you can, okay?"
I did something nice and deductible. I polled everyone on what pizza toppings they hated, then ordered three large pizzas for delivery from Round Table. This brought a smile to everyone's faces. Sometimes dealing with contingencies is the most important part of being a boss. Pizzas ordered, I went and checked my messages for the day.
One was from Angel, called in while I was still on the road. He wanted me to drive up to the Southwest Air freight terminal, pick up a suitcase, and deliver it to a residence in Long Beach. No trading of bags, just a drop-off. A cake walk.
I called him back and said, "I don't have much choice in this, do I?"
"I'm afraid not, Lenny."
"Okay, lemme go home and strap on my gun, then I'll be headed for LAX. Anything else you need?"
"Yeah, for my low-level soldiers to not bitch about the jobs they're given."
I laughed into the phone and told him I'd think about that.
The job went smoothly. I had Bekka with me, so naturally we had guns pointed at us. I pointed mine back and reminded them of who they were trying to cross. They saw the error in their ways and we departed peacefully.
Finally, someone who believes me when I say I'm in the mafia. And all I had to do was point a gun at them. We drove away blaring the Dead Kennedys out of the car stereo.