Caroline rolled over on the bed. The morning sun spilled over her. The silkiness of the white sheets gently caressed her skin. It was like waking up in a heavenly cloud. She couldn’t get enough of it. She had spent several nights in a bed that wasn’t her own and it made her giddy. She felt young again.
The shower ceased running. Caroline pulled back the sheet and exposed her leg as she sprawled on her stomach hugging a pillow. A few minutes passed, she started to get bored and sleep threatened to overcome her once again. Then the door latch of the bathroom clicked and Frank emerged.
“Good morning.” She smiled sweetly as he paused in his tracks to take in the view. He shook his head.
“You’re bad for business,” said Frank. He started getting dressed as Caroline pouted behind his back. He sat on the edge of the bed to pull his socks on. Caroline got onto her knees and wrapped her arms around him. He was completely aware of how purposefully she had pressed her assets against his back. He took her hand and kissed the back of it.
“Come on, Caroline. I have some important work to do today,” he grumbled.
“Oh come on, baby, don’t be so uptight,” Caroline cooed. She started to rub his shoulders. “You’re too stressed as it is.” Her hands slid down his back and around his front.
“I said knock it off, Caroline. I have a meeting.” Frank stood up abruptly. He turned around to see the furrowed brow and jutting lip of a grown naked woman staring him down. “Aren’t you more concerned about the opening of Night Owl today?” he asked. She sighed.
“I suppose, but if it’s half as successful as Libellule, we’ll be fine.” Her tone was sharp and her words clipped. She bounced off the bed and started pulling on a silk robe. She tied the sash in a huff as Frank watched.
“What, Frank?” she snapped. He slipped his hands around her waist.
“I know you’re trying to make up for lost time,” he murmured, “but you gotta slow down a little. Smell the roses. At this rate you’re going to use me up like one of your cigarettes then stub me out with you’re through. I’m not as young as you.”
“And I’m not that young, Frank. What are you trying to say?” Her eyes were still dark with frustration, but she wasn’t fighting him.
“I’m saying, lie down, lounge about in bed all morning if you want, because we’re going to have a late night tonight. Take all the time you need before you go to the Night Owl to tie up loose ends. We’ll meet for dinner at Libellule and head over for the opening together. Does that sound alright?” Frank gently herded her back into the bed.
“I suppose that sounds reasonable when you put it like that,” Caroline giggled as she let Frank tuck her back in. He leaned over and kissed her. She gazed up at him through her eyelashes and said, “You know what would help me sleep?”
“Come on, cupcake, enough with the teasing. I got an appointment I can’t miss.” Frank pulled away and finished getting dressed as Caroline watched. As he combed his hair in the mirror, his reflection winked at her.
Charlie met Frank at the door and drove him to Tino’s. Jack was already sitting in the dining room sipping coffee. Charlie filled two coffee cups from the carafe resting on the bar as Frank pulled out a chair. Jack surrendered his newspaper to the boss.
“You two are going for a drive today,” Frank said as he opened the newspaper.
“Oh yeah?” Charlie set down one of the coffee cups in front of Frank as he took a seat. Frank lowered the newspaper slightly to look at Charlie over it.
“Yeah, is that a problem?”
Charlie shook his head and focused on his coffee. Jack watched Frank’s expression. The boss was playing it cool, but Jack knew how delicate this job would be. Why else would he be called in so early in the day.
“Does this have to do with what we talked about before?” Jack asked. Frank nodded.
“You two are going to make a welfare check on Micky O. If he’s working hard with no results, then give him a little encouragement to make a product I can use. If he’s dicking around squandering my money, then you have my permission to put a bullet in his head.” Frank refolded the newspaper and set it aside. He picked up his coffee and took a sip as the instructions sunk in.
“And if he’s lucky enough to have something?” Jack asked calmly. Charlie chuckled, but a sharp look from Frank stifled him quickly.
“If that’s the case, there’s a telephone at the diner in town. Call me immediately.” The men nodded and continued to sit. Frank unfolded the newspaper again with a snap. “It’s an awfully long drive, you ought to get going,” he commented.
Jack stood and straightened his coat. He was already prepared. Charlie, on the other hand, tried to gulp down the bulk of his coffee before he stood. As the two men went out the front door, Frank sighed. The door squeaked behind him and Frank looked over his shoulder.
Sal came out timidly. He carried various ledgers in his arms.
“Good morning, Sal. What is it you wanted to talk to me about?” Frank said as he waved the man over. Sal’s comb over was pasted to his scalp with sweat. He dropped the ledgers on the table, took out a handkerchief and mopped his brow.
“Mr. Sicero, I appreciate the confidence you have in me, being good with the numbers and all…” Sal opened a ledger to show what he had been keeping track of for Tino’s, then another for Libellule, another tracking money going between operations and a fresh one marked up for Night Owl. “But I’m at the end of my ability. This is… too much. I cannot keep track of all this, the coming, the going.”
“Isn’t losing track a good thing when it comes to taxes?” Frank chuckled as he made light of Sal’s predicament, but the other Italian was not laughing.
“Mr. Sicero, I’m good with numbers, yes…but you need a real accountant. Someone who can make money disappear and reappear. Before I did just Tino’s and I skimmed, it’s easy. Then you have me do a bit for the cat house and the card room. I say okay, it’s easy enough. Libellule, liquor, the Night Owl, more girls and now you mention a hotel?” Sal’s fingers went to his scalp and ran through his limited hair in anxiety. He shook his head and shut his eyes.
“Sal, are you trying to resign?” Frank asked in disbelief. “If it’s the stress I can compensate you better.”
“No, boss. I don’t want more money,” Sal collapsed in Jack’s vacated chair. “And I don’t want to be the one to screw up. You need someone better.”
“So you are quitting?” Frank growled. Sal didn’t make eye contact.
“No, I want to stay at Tino’s. I will keep running it for you. You never have to worry about it. I’ll do the book for Tino’s, skim off the top like old times. Someone else needs to handle the numbers for your other business.” Sal bit his lip as he waited for Frank’s response. He remained silent, stony faced as the gears inside his head turned.
“I know you’ve trusted me for years, but trust me now. This is too big for me,” Sal repeated.
Frank finally nodded in agreement.