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When Tommy arrived at the arena the next morning, things were running smooth — as usual. The team had a big game that evening, and it seemed to be the only thing anyone wanted to talk about. Everyone except Frank. A message awaited Tommy when he arrived, requesting a meeting with him at 9 a.m. When Frank arrived, he walked straight through the facility without a word to anyone. Since smoke signals move faster than feet, word of Frank’s stern demeanor reached Tommy before he. 

“You look pale, Frank, and that is hard to do with that sunbed tan of yours.” Tommy deadpanned as he closed the door behind him. 

“Tommy, I don’t mean to be rude, but I have some serious shit going on, and I need to talk business. Serious business. Don’t bullshit me this morning, okay.” Frank said as he ran his fingers through his gray and receding hair. 

“Sure, sure, Frank. What’s the story.” 

“Well, this is Chicago business. Joey is dead. I can’t fucking believe it, Joey is fucking dead.” 

“Joey Battano? Holy shit. That old son of a bitch kicked the bucket? What happened? Did that young chick give him a heart attack or something? 

“The hell if I know. I only got a phone call. It went down at Giocando’s Restaurant. They got Tony that maitre’d down there, too. These local cops are calling it a robbery gone bad. Will you call Chief Montoya and find out what the hell is going on?” 

“Of course I will.” 

“Son of a bitch. I don’t have to tell you what this means, do I, you naive son of a bitch? Of course I do. We’re through. He brought us here, both of us. And without him, I’ve got no protection anymore.” 

“Nonsense. Nobody is going to come after you anymore. It has been almost 30 years. That debt has been paid.” 

“Our old ones, yes. But not my new one.” 

“Your new one, Frank? What new debt do you have with them. When I said I would come out here to Phoenix, you promised you were through with that shit.” 

“I was, I was. But after I ran that franchise restaurant thing into the ground, I owed a lot of money Tommy. A lot of fucking money. Uncle Joey came through for me. He may have been a gangster, but he always looked after me. He gave me a loan-a family insured loan if you know what I mean-and I paid back what I could when I could. But now, the agreement won’t be the same. The new boss won’t be as forgiving, I mean, why the fuck should he care about me? He’ll fucking wring me dry.”

“How much money, Frank? Thousands, millions, what?” 

“The team. My 60 percent of the team.” 

“You put the team up for those fucking restaurants? You son of a bitch?” Tommy demanded, full of fire from months of pent up anxiety. “Why the hell didn’t you tell me about this? This is my life too, you know. In this league, GM’s get fired every fucking season. Who knows what fucking mafioso you signed my job away to? How could you have been such a jackass, Frank?” 

Frank sat writhing, head in hands. “I don’t know, Tommy, I don’t know, god-damnit. What the hell you think I’m here for? We have to figure something out, or else a grave will find me. I never thought anything like this was going to happen. Uncle Joey was in a semi-retirement out here in Phoenix, and if he would have stayed alive for a few more years I would have been free and clear. Fifty years in the mob, and Joey gets it in Phoenix. Can you believe it?” 

“OK, okay. But if I get you out of this one, you owe me big. You understand, me?” Tommy exercised his faith and optimism, rather than flowing his anger at his old friend. “Have these so called “lenders” called you yet? Do they know or about the loss of Uncle Joey?” 

Frank sprung with optimism, “I haven’t heard from them, no, but they’ll be calling. That I can promise you. I got word about it from the police. They called me down to identify the body. It was sad, Tommy, he was torn up. I never did find out what happened to Joey’s driver. They didn’t tell me anything about him, so he might have gotten word out already, that incompetent son of a bitch.” 

“Then go home, because you look like shit. I’ll tell everyone your Uncle has died and take care of things here. Go up to the place I have in the mountains for a day or so. It’ll do you some good. The fresh air, the serenity. If you’re out on vacation, the heat will be delayed for awhile. Joey was semi retired anyway. It’s not like they’re gonna send someone out on a plane this afternoon. Take Monica with you, and I’ll tell Janice you had to go to Cleveland on business.” 

Frank’s weary grin perked at the mention of Monica-she had been his secretary until Janice had made him shuttle her over to Tommy after an extended business trip last year. Until this moment, he feared memories would be the only way to re-live the splendor of that amazing woman. 

“Maybe you’re right,” Frank said. “A little company might be just what I need to get my mind right. But listen, I want to know what’s going on-you keep me posted. I don’t want to be disturbed by a piece in the middle of the night, understand?” 

“Just calm down Frank, I’ll take of everything. You know you can trust me.”

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