By Jim Colombo (USA)
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It was Thursday afternoon at Los Angeles Airport. Milan had quit smoking three
years ago so that he could continue playing soccer. Soccer was his passion and
women were his pleasure. Milan’s nerves were fried, tangled in knots, and he needed
her again, so he bought a pack and a newspaper, and waited for Dominic. Milan held
her for a while and enjoyed her smell. He had missed her and in moments she would
cascade through his body with pleasure and satisfaction, as only she could. She was
his mistress tobacco and he set her on fire. He inhaled deeply, letting her run through
his body, soothing him with her delicate touch, numbing his senses. His nerves relaxed
and his anxiety was diminished. He took another deep drag and she raced through his
body filling his lungs with nicotine. He would only use her for a while, until Paolo’s fate
was known. He felt renewed and gratefully discarded the half-used mistress in an
ashtray. He skimmed the headlines, and found a story about an unfortunate lady who
had died a gruesome death. Her head and hands were missing and there was a
birthmark on her left buttock resembling a red strawberry.
The sound of a car horn distracted him. He looked up and Dominic waved.
Milan grabbed his suitcase, walked to the car, and swung it into the trunk. Milan fell
into the seat, tilted it back, and closed his eyes. “Let’s go to the restaurant.” Dominic
drove cautiously, while Milan drifted into a comfortable rest. He could hear the sounds
of traffic. His eyelids were heavy and his body was limp. He sunk deeper into the seat,
in a peaceful calm. Paolo and Milan had helped Dominic, his parents, and his sister
find a place to live when they arrived from Genoa seven months ago. They were
relatives of Paolo. Dominic and his father Leo worked in the kitchen, but since getting
his driver’s license, Dominic now delivered takeout.
“We’re here, Milan,” said Dominic.
Milan focused his eyes and saw the neon sign: Bella Rosa. “Grazie, Dominic.”
Milan slowly removed himself from his restful confines, stood, and stretched.
Dominic carried his suitcase into the restaurant. Milan followed and was greeted by
Leo with a hot cup of espresso. Milan sat and was greeted by all. It was good to be
back in the restaurant with friends and good food. The euphoria quickly evaporated
when Leo handed Milan a business card that had LAPD in bold type. There would be
time for that later, but for now he wanted to rest in the backroom.
The last customer had left at nine-thirty when Leo and Dominic entered the
backroom with trays with plates of pasta and Italian sausage, a basket of garlic bread, a
bottle of Chianti, and three glasses. Dominic ran out to get utensils and cloth napkins.
Milan woke up to good friends and good food. He poured, “Salute!” The glasses
chimed and each took a hearty drink. Dominic’s eyes began to water when he felt a
warm rush shoot down to his feet and bounce back. Leo smiled and rubbed his son’s
bushy brown hair. They ate and engaged in small talk about family and sports. After a
friendly hour Dominic removed the plates, and returned with two cups of coffee. He
placed them on the table, and left Milan and Leo to discuss what next? Milan told Leo
about Paolo, the money, and his belief that Paolo had paid the ultimate price when
stealing from a thief.
An hour passed and it was eleven-thirty. More wine had been drunk and Milan
was fading. His tongue was thick and his words were falling off the sentences as he
spoke, so Leo bid Milan good night. Milan laid back on the bed and quickly fell asleep.
Leo turned off the light and closed the door. He checked the restaurant, all of the
dishes were washed, the food was refrigerated or sealed, he turned on the security
system, and locked the entrance. Dominic and Leo drove home.
Leo and Dominic returned the next morning and found Milan preparing breakfast
for the crew. Joey and the others arrived a few minutes later. The coffee was brewing,
bacon and eggs were frying on the grill, and the toast was burning.
“Who likes his toast well done?” asked Milan.
Joey gathered the burned slices and began scraping them rhythmically to
accompany Milan who was singing “Volare.” Milan enjoyed life and celebrated it every
day. He felt sorry about Paolo, but there was nothing that would change fate. Milan
wanted to recall the good times he had with Paolo.
After breakfast Milan called Ron De Luca at home. “Hello, Ron. It’s Milan.”
“I was concerned. You didn’t call last night at eight-thirty.”
“It was a long day.” Milan told Ron what had happened the past two days.
"I will put the pouch with the personal documents in my safe deposit box in
Saratoga and the pouch with the money will stay in the restaurant's safe deposit box. I
paid cash for the airfare and used the name Joe Green because the lady ticket agent
couldn't spell Giuseppe Verdi."
Ron chuckled. Milan told Ron the police would conduct an investigation, but
not like family. "I want to know what had happened to Paolo and who was responsible.
Contact Mike Tornello in New York City. Franco knows his number. Have him come
here for a week and see what he can find out. Make the arrangements, Ron. Detective
Bowen left his card. I’ll call tomorrow and cooperate. I’ll be back Friday Night.”
“Careful with this detective. You’re concealing evidence and withholding
“Okay, Ron. Did you have lunch with Joe Steckle? How did it go?”
“Joe is one step closer, but he hasn’t jumped on. He is a very cautious man and
I respect that to a point, but he has to realize reward has risk,” said Ron.
“What does he need to feel comfortable?”
“I imagine what he’s making now and the stock option. I’ll have lunch with him
again, and explain that there are no guarantees in life. He could die tomorrow.”
“Ron, emphasize the loss if he doesn’t join.”
“I’ll hook him, Milan.”
“I know you will. That’s why I hired you. You’re a good CPA and a better
Consigliore. I’ll call tonight at eight when I get back. I need to check in at Honeywell
Burbank. I still have a regular job.”
“We’ll talk later, Milan. So long.”
Milan thought about Paolo and the money. He would have to call Paolo’s
parents and try to tell kind lies. He wasn’t looking forward to breaking their hearts.