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Episode Nine "Curtain Call"


Tommy and Frank spent the rest of the night talking and conniving. Tommy did most of the heavy lifting, but since Frank had known mobsters since he was born, he had plenty of insights. Especially after a couple more drinks. By the time Tommy stepped out of his apartment building to meet Frank, he had reviewed and predicted his and Frank's play. He felt the flush of the rush and was confident the plan would work because there was no other alternative. If he had time to think about it, instead of merely adapting to what had been thrust upon him, he might have been a little peeved that despite all of his attempts to stay away from Frank's family, it had finally swiped him.

Frank was worried because the variables were too numerous and the ability to think quickly was never an attribute that he could perform well. They had agreed that when possible, Tommy would do most of the talking. But as Tommy told him many times, Uncle Joey would not let Frank stay quiet, so he needed to be prepared to think on his feet and keep the story moving. Frank prayed to the virgin Mary as pulled up to Tommy's building.

"So, you ready?"

"As ready as I'll ever be."

"I'm sorry, Tommy."

"You don't have to tell me that again. I know. And, you owe me good if we get out of this."

"Yea, yea, I know. But first we got to get out of it."

"We will. We just stick to the plan and it will all be OK. Let's go over it one more time."

"When we get there, we first try to find out as much as we can before saying anything just in case we can find out if anyone saw me with the bag. But even if someone does does say that, we don't get rattled, we stick to the story — that we have no idea about nothing. You just gave me a lift home."

"Good."

"We stay calm and cool like this is all just a big misunderstanding. If Tony is there, as soon as Uncle Joey is on our side, I say a little something that will piss him off — possibly the same thing I said to him the time he kicked my teeth in. When he gets pissed, it will make it look like he just don't like me."

"OK, OK, we're gonna be fine. Just don't forget to not be a pussy and looking at me all the friggin time. It can't look like we are lying here, remember that."

"Stop talking about it. I can't talk about it anymore."

"So the bag and the money are all taken care of?"

"Yea."

"You hid in the cash?"

"Yea."

"In the confessional?"

"Yea."

"And the bag?"

"I threw it in the back of the donations room."

"Good."

They sat there silent for the next few minutes before stopping in front of Uncle Joey's bakery. After stopping the car and cutting the engine, Frank stared straight ahead.

"I'm sorry, Tommy. If we don't make it out of here, I just want you to know I'm sorry."

"We are going to make it out of here. For sure, if anything happens, they will take us from this place before doing it. They don't want to spoil the breads and cakes and such. Come on paisan. You are innocent, remember, you have got to get it together or you will virtually pull the trigger yourself."

"Right, right. I'm just saying, just in case, I'm sorry."

"OK then."

The smell of the bakery was always the strangest part of Uncle Joey's persona. No one ever called him "the baker" but he always smelled like he could have been one. A few years back, Frank told Tommy that Uncle Joey conducted his business in a bakery because he thought the smell caused people to be respectful and truthful.

"It always makes me hungry."

"I know. He'll have something out."

One of the employees called out as they walked in and through to the door in the back.

"Hey there, Frank. How have you been? I saw your Mom yesterday. She told me you haven't been coming over as much lately."

"I know, Stella, I'm a bad son, but even if I went over everyday, she would still complain. Is Uncle Joey here yet?"

"Sure, he's been here since 6. His guests got here about a half hour ago."

"Thanks...and if you see my Mom before I do, tell her I miss her, OK?"

"Oh you."

They knocked on the office door and waited. Vinny opened the door with an emotionless grin.

"Sit down, boys, sit down," Uncle Joey said, standing up to motion at the two chairs which lay directly in fron of his desk.

The room was filled with smoke and wiseguys. Tony was there as were a couple of guys in his crew. Uncle Joey also had at least four of his guys just hanging out. Big crowd, Tommy thought.

"I ain't gonna bullshit you guys. Frank, you are my nephew and I love you. Tony here says you stole a briefcase from him. I'm gonna ask you again — did you take it?"

"No, Uncle Joey."

Tony shifted and sighed in the corner. Uncle Joey swung his chair around and looked at him for a moment, saying nothing, and then turned back to Frank.

"We all know you two have bad blood between you. It's like you were born hating each other, or something. But I tell you Frank, you better be telling me the truth. The money in that bag was not only Tony's but it was mine, too. And I do not like losing money."

He swung back around and stared at Tony once again.

"Some smarter people might not be so stupid to leave a bag of cash like that in the backseat of their convertible — where any punk with a blade could nab it."

He swung back to Tommy.

"So tell me, Tommy, what happened that night."

"Well, I was driving and I saw Frank but he didn't see me so I went around the block and picked him up."

"Did he have anything with him."

"No."

"No?"

"No."

"What if I told you that Vinny was there that night?"

"I'd say that I didn't see him."

"You didn't see him, huh? Well he saw you. He saw you and Frank get in your car and speed off."

"I was just driving Mr. Battano. I don't know what else to tell you. I had seen Frank later in the day and we were supposed to meet later that night. When I saw him walking home I stopped to see what was going on."

"Did he tell you what was going on?"

"Yea, he told me Tony and him had gotten into it, but I thought it was like the old days. Scared me though because this isn't the schoolyard."

"So Frank didn't have a bag?"

"No."

"This is all bullshit," Tony spewed from the corner. "This fucking guy..."

"Shut the hell up Tony, or you will owe me more than $2 million. You got anything to add that does not piss me off?"

"I'm sorry, Uncle, but I believe it was Frank," Tony said.

"Tony, it could have been anyone. You left the money in the backseat of a car. You made a mistake, and luckily I am a business man. If you can make up to me what you lost that is mine, you can deal with what you lost that is yours. And, if you ever lay a hand on my nephew, I will skewer you myself, capisce?"

"Capisce."

"Now get to work. You need the money."

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