Cylus stood across the street from Tino’s restaurant. His cigarette had nearly burned down to his fingers and he debated lighting another one. His other option was to go inside Tino’s. He knew Frank was inside, because his fancy car was parked outside. He even watched Frank and his driver pull up that afternoon. Cylus had ducked into the alleyway to avoid being seen.
The thought of meeting Frank after all these years unnerved him, but he had little choice at this stage. It had been a long road home. Cylus ground the cigarette into the pavers with his shoe. He stepped off the curb into a puddle of dread. His feet felt heavy as if he were wading across a river of history. He pulled open the door of Tino’s and walked past the host podium.
Cylus stopped just inside the dining room. A bartender stood behind the counter wiping glasses.
“We’re not open for lunch yet,” he called. Cylus shifted his weight. He wanted to turn and walk back out into the street, but he had nowhere else to go for help.
“I’m…um…here to see Frank,” Cylus stuttered. The man’s hands froze on the glass he was drying.
“Frank? Don’t know no Frank,” the barman said as he surveyed Cylus’ bulky frame from head to toe.
“Frank Sicero,” Cylus stated, daring the man to deny him, “I’m an old friend.”
“Do you have a name, old friend?”
The man put the glass down and tossed his towel over his shoulder. He disappeared into the back of the restaurant. Cylus shifted his weight again and peered around the restaurant. It was dim and cozy. The harsh sunlight from the street windows encroached on the plush booth seating and splashed on the tile floor. It was a tense few minutes as Cylus waited.
Two heavies came out of the back room and approached him. To be precise, it was one heavy, an apeish looking man with a near unibrow and a young pup of a not-quite-made man. Cylus stayed put, he half expected to make a run for the door until the skinnier of the two spoke.
“You’ll need to be patted down…as a precaution.” He waved the bigger guy forward. Cylus nodded. He wasn’t packing anything anyway. In a minute he was cleared to follow the pup to the back. The ape brought up the rear. He was led through the kitchen and into a dim office. Piles of money lay on a poker table in the corner. A mousy accountant sat there calculating a ledger. When he caught sight of Cylus, he quickly tossed the bundles into a metal cash box protectively.
Cylus barely noticed him. His eyes were on the man sitting behind the overcompensating desk on the other side of the room. Frank leaned back in his chair and blew out the smoke from his cigar. He looked the same as he did years ago when they were partners.
“Hey Cannoli,” Frank said, he jabbed his cigar at the other men, “Get out, except Spots, sit in the back and shut up.” The accountant and the ape sidled out of the room. The pup sat at the now empty poker table. Frank motioned to a chair for Cylus.
“Spots?” Cylus commented as he sat. Frank’s greeting made him relax, maybe this would be like old times.
“Yeah, he still has his spots,” Frank tapped his ash off, “Like a baby fawn.” Cylus chuckled.
“What gives, Cannoli?” Spots snapped. Frank leaned forward in his chair.
“Spots! Shut the fuck up or get out!” He growled. Spots looked at the floor and sulked. Frank waited. Spots got the hint that his only real choice was to get out. He slunk out of the office.
“Sorry, he’s supposed to be learning something about business. Actually I’m not sorry, Cylus. You’re the last person in the world that I need to be fucking sorry to.”
Cylus took off his hat and nodded. “Yeah, I should be apologizing to you,” he said.
Frank studied his old friend. His hair had thinned and he was little wider than he had been years ago. The bags under his eyes and the droop of his lips gave him an utterly defeated expression. Frank found himself feeling a little sorry for the guy. But Cylus was tan and that reminded Frank of where Cylus had been and why. His resolution hardened.
“You should be apologizing to Caroline,” he said.
“I…I don’t know where she is.”
“I hope not. I don’t think she would want to see you anyway.” Frank could see Cylus’ broad shoulders slump under his jacket. “It’s cold what you did, Cylus. She did three years in the clink for you. Not a damn card or letter for her? Your own wife?” Cylus met his gaze. Frank continued.
“She came to me when she got out. I’m all she had. I put a roof over her head and gave her a job. Her heart was broken and I…ME…I put her back together again. Yeah, Cylus, I fucked your wife.”
Cylus shook his head darkly and growled, “I’m sorry about Margot, Frank! I’m sorry, I didn’t mean for it to happen!”
“Don’t you say her name!” Frank stood up and leaned forward on his desk. “I don’t want to hear you ever talk about my wife!” Cylus remained silent. He regretted crossing the street and entering Tino’s. “Margot, God rest her soul, is with the angels, not here with me like she ought to be. Because of you, she trusted you and she died for it. You should have never done that last job. Not without me. I told you that bank was a bad idea.” Frank was winding down. He was starting to show his age. He slowly collapsed back into his chair and wiped an errant tear away from his eye. “Margot,” he sighed. A few minutes passed in silence. The only sound was the ticking of the wall clock.
Frank pulled two glasses and a bottle from his desk drawer. He poured and shoved a glass at Cylus. His old friend took it gratefully and downed it. Frank poured him another.
“I got sick of tequila in Mexico,” Cylus said.
“How does this taste?” Frank asked.
“Alright, what is it?” Cylus sipped the second glass.
“It’s partially Canadian, blended down. I still sell it like liquid gold though,” Frank studied the amber whiskey in his glass. “Why are you here, Cylus? I wasn’t expecting a walk down memory lane today.”
“I’m hard up. I was wondering if I could get my share of the loot, that’s all.”
“You crawled out from under your goddamned rock in Mexico and you thought I’d just hand out some spending money?” Frank drawled.
“We were partners. We split 50/50. After the…the incident, I didn’t have time to pull my share of the savings…”
“Because you ran to Mexico with your tail between your legs. You left Margot behind to bleed out and Caroline to take the fall!” Frank slammed his fist on the desktop. He continued more calmly, “And now you want your money?”
Cylus sheepishly replied, “Yes.” Frank leaned back in his chair again.
“Well, I don’t have it. We didn’t know where you were or if you were coming back. I gave it to Caroline and I’m not telling you where she is. She made me swear not to if you ever showed up.” Cylus rested his elbows on his knees and rubbed his face. He was on the verge of tears.
“You have to tell me where she is. She’s my wife,” Cylus pleaded.
“No, she’s not your wife…not anymore,” Frank replied calmly. “If you want money, you’ll have to work for it.”
Cylus nodded, he still had his head in his hands. He sniffed loudly. Frank refilled their glasses. He smirked. It would be nice to have his old friend around again, but little did Cylus know how big of a debt he had to work off. Caroline had made Frank swear to make Cylus pay for Margot’s death and it had been an easy promise for Frank to make.