“No, that needs to go upstairs. Take it through there and watch the doorframe,” Caroline ordered. The workmen were carrying in the new furniture for the lounge. The last thing she wanted was scratches on newly varnished woodwork. She watched the men stop at the base of the stairs and set the chairs down. She looked back down at the table linens that had been laid out for her.
“No, this isn’t white. It’s ivory,” she muttered as she compared a tablecloth with a napkin. “The tablecloths are supposed to be white.”
“No, those are white. It’s the lighting in here,” the salesman assured her. She held the two cloths together and shoved them under his nose.
“Do those look like the same color to you?” she asked. The man’s eyebrows rose as he wasn’t sure how to respond.
“You must be color blind…I’m coordinating colors with a colorblind salesman,” Caroline laughed unapologetically as she tossed the linens down. “Did you find the black at all?”
“No, ma’am. I have a lovely burgundy that might do,” he pulled out a burgundy napkin from his case. Caroline snatched it and turned it over in her hands.
“Hmm…try and find the black. If not, the burgundy will do… and white tablecloths. I’ll be inspecting the order before you see a penny, so they had better be white.” Caroline handed him a tally of quantities she needed.
Frank came in the front door and glanced around at the hustle and bustle of the dining room. He spotted Caroline and hurried over.
“You look like you could use a break,” he said, “Let’s go to the office.”
“But Frank, I have a lot of things to do if we’re going to have everything ready for our opening night.”
“Quiet, Caroline,” Frank reassured her, “Everything will still be here when you come back in twenty minutes. I think everyone else can carry on until then.” He lightly put a hand on her elbow and steered her towards the staircase. They went past the empty lounge and into Frank’s new office which only held two comfortable chairs and a stack of building plans on a table. The room had been freshly wallpapered the day before and the air still smelled like paste. Frank shut the door behind them.
“Remember, when I said I had to figure out one other problem before we opened?” he said.
“The one concerning Prohibition?” she asked as she sunk into one of the chairs.
“Yes, everything I have stockpiled isn’t going to last long in a place like this, but I’ve found an alternative,” Frank procured a small bottle from his coat pocket and handed it to her. She pulled the cork out and sniffed it.
“This was made in the U.S. after Prohibition and I’ve tracked down the guy who made it.”
“Is it safe?” she asked. Her eyes studied the amber liquid through the glass.
“Yes, it’s safe, despite what you might hear. Sample it.”
“What do you mean despite what I hear?” she asked shocked.
“Trust me and take a sip,” Frank insisted. Caroline’s eyes narrowed, but she appeased him and tasted it. She stared at the bottle as she let it roll over her tongue.
“Yes, I could drink this,” she approved and followed with another sip.
“The guy that makes this is just a small time crook. He was arrested a couple of times growing up and did a short stint when he was nineteen. He’s been clever about not getting caught since he got out. He dabbles in too many vices though, a jack of all trades where minor crime is concerned. An opportunist, I think, but he hasn’t learned to apply himself on the long game.”
“And he made this?”
“And he’s agreed to supply us?”
“Well not yet. I’ve been doing some disinformation about his product quality to keep anyone else from zeroing in on him until I’ve made my move. I wouldn’t want him to hear my offer then go make a proposal to a boss in New York or Chicago. Dauterive is going to be on his way out there in a few days to talk to him.” Frank plucked the bottle from Caroline’s hand and helped himself to a drink.
“Does this man have a name?” Caroline asked. Frank smiled at her.
“They call him Micky O.”
A crash of breaking porcelain nearly shook Caroline out of her seat with fright. In an instant, her face turned from fright to anger and she got to her feet.
“Those sons of bitches!” she hollered as she stomped out of the room. The door slammed behind with the momentum of her passing. Frank could hear her muffled shouts from the lounge where some piece of new furniture must have been broken. A lamp perhaps, Frank thought. He leaned back in his chair and stared at the ceiling. He closed his eyes. He was tired from all the stress of trying to get the dinner club off the ground, but it was going to be worth it.