Louis P. Dauterive mopped the nervous sweat from his brow. He continued to organize the papers in front of him. They were things from Mr. Sicero. Contracts and papers for a dummy company that they dispensed funds from for certain “business activities”. Things that would be difficult to trace back to Sicero. It was about all that Dauterive’s law degree was good for since the scandal. His practice had been shuttered and now he rented a single office, no secretary. When the telephone had rung that morning, he had picked up without hesitation. The following message had knocked him over.
An old connection he had at a prison spoke very succinctly.
“Caroline Connolly will be released next Thursday.”
The caller hung up without another word as the gravity of the message washed over Dauterive. He instantly broke out in a cold sweat as he fumbled to reset the ear piece. He hadn’t concerned himself with the woman for three years. Now he would have to tell Mr. Sicero. It would have to be dealt with.
Frank Sicero sat at his own desk in the backroom of Tino’s restaurant. He was perusing Sal’s accounting books, even though he was confident in their accuracy he liked to stay abreast of his business. There was a lot of money moving around and of course, sums must be skimmed off to be reinvested in other enterprises. His current concern was to clean up all the remaining liquor in a hundred-mile radius. He was going to knock out his competitors one at a time. Liquor was where the money was going to be now. He would make a killing, but he had to be very, very careful that he didn’t get caught.
A nervous knock sounded on the door. Frank flipped the ledger shut and shoved it in a desk drawer.
“Come in,” he ordered. Louis P. Dauterive poked his head in first before admitting the rest of his body.
“Louie, what brings you by?” Frank asked. Dauterive removed his hat and wiped his brow.
“I’ve had a message…” his voice shook as he spoke. The wound caused by the Connolly gang still festered and he was about to poke it. “That Connolly woman is being released from prison next week. I think…” Dauterive stopped talking as Frank laid his head on his blotter with an exasperated sigh.
“Are you…are you okay?” Dauterive asked tentatively. Frank sat back up.
“What, what were you thinking?” Sicero asked gruffly.
“I think our best option is to confront her and have her sign a confidentiality agreement. That way she can never sell her story.”
Frank stared at the desktop as he considered it.
“No, I don’t think she would do that,” he said without looking up. “I hope she wouldn’t do that. Besides no one talks about that anymore. I doubt the newspapers are interested.”
“We have already invested all of the money left from that…era,” Dauterive reminded him. “Including the Connolly share.”
“She wouldn’t know how much there was. She won’t ask for it.” Frank opened a drawer and pulled out a piece of stationary.
“She may have been in contact with…him,” Dauterive pointed out. Frank shook his head.
“I’m pretty sure, he is only concerned with himself at this point. She doesn’t have anyone and she’s not as conniving as you believe. No, I think it would be better to give her the benefit of the doubt.”
Dauterive was clueless in his seat. He didn’t understand Sicero or why he wasn’t more apprehensive about the situation. He was about to argue for the confidentiality agreement again, but Frank held up a hand to quiet him.
“Why don’t you get something to eat? I’ll give this issue some thought.”
Dauterive’s mouth opened to speak.
“That’ll be all, Dauterive,” Frank cut him off. His tone left no room for argument. The lawyer got out of his chair and walked hesitantly out of the office. There was more he wanted to say, but he knew it would be a losing battle. He would only succeed in bringing out Frank’s dark side and that was something Dauterive would rather not do.
Frank watched the door close. He pulled open another drawer and pulled out a photograph. It was a young woman, she was sitting with the ocean in the background and a parasol shading her face. She was smiling up at the photographer.
He tried to imagine what she would have told him if she had been there. It was becoming harder for him to do so. He got older, she stayed the same age. Her answers held less and less wisdom as she lacked the life experience to back them up.
In this case, he felt that Margot would try to remind him that Caroline was her best friend, practically a sister. Frank sighed and pulled out a pen. He scribbled a few words on a piece of paper as if Margot was looking over his shoulder.
Dauterive was looking at a plate of fettuccini, but found it hard to eat. His stomach was in knots. It was almost an hour before Mr. Sicero reappeared. He came over to Dauterive’s table and set down an envelope. The lawyer slowly set down his fork.
“I want you to drive out there on her release date. Give her the envelope. That’s it. Don’t mention anything about money, our business investments or signing documents. Just give her this,” Frank directed. His voice was quiet as he spoke. The other diners barely noticed him.
“What is it?” Dauterive asked nervously. Frank laughed and clapped him on the shoulder.
“It’s a birthday card, Louie, relax!” Frank left the dining room without further explanation. Dauterive took the envelope and stowed it in his pocket. He didn’t feel much better. He was not looking forward to the long drive out to the prison that lay in the middle of nowhere. Perhaps this missive would be the end of it and they could put the whole Connolly business behind them.