WHAT YOU SEE….
Isn’t Always What You Get.
by Ann ♥♪HB♪♥
As the dark haired Hardy brother left the Italian restaurant, complete with the take-out order he’d promised his hungry sibling, his steps slowed slightly as he saw a few guys hanging around his ride. He’d even parked over in the furthest and potentially safest spot available. You’re not going to park a Corvette just anywhere. Great, now what, he wondered, hoping they were just admiring the car. He should be so lucky……
“Frank Hardy?” asked the one with the air of a leader about him.
“Who wants to know?” came the wary, unhurried question.
“I want to know.” The guy stepped near the taller Hardy, who looked back at him unimpressed.
“And you are?”
“Gino,” the guy said, adding with pride, “Gino Contardo.”
“Good for you. What does that have to do with me?”
“That guy you were talking to in there?” Gino indicated the restaurant and waited for a nod. “He’s bad news. You know what I mean? He’s always trying to muscle in on others, offing people if they just look at him unfriendly. He thinks he’s the greatest thing since spaghetti.”
When Gino made his next observation, he had a look of disgust on his face, as did the other two guys with him. “The guy ain’t even Italian.”
“At the risk of sounding repetitious, what does this have to do with me?”
“You’re a detective, right?” Gino asked.
Dark eyes narrowed, “So?”
“We wanna hire you.”
“You….want…to hire…me….” Okay, he hadn’t been expecting that. “Why?”
“We just want to raise our families, keep our streets safe like anyone else, and live in peace. Freedom. We figure, that’s not too much to ask, right?” He waited for a nod. “This guy, he’s not interested in any of that. And we’re getting sick of it. We want him taken down. Legally. If necessary.”
“Uh, yeah, okay…..” A glance at his watch told him he had five hours until Jimmy was going to expect the book. A book he didn’t yet have.
“So you’ll help us?” Gino looked pleased, a grin spreading over his pleasant face.
“What do you want me to do?”
Gino moved his hands around in the air, “Whatever it is you guys need to do to put his sorry butt away. That’s what.”
The dark haired Hardy resisted the urge to run a hand over his face. In just a few hours time circumstances had compounded, putting him in the middle of a mob war. That had to be some kind of record.
“We’ve got that book with all the info,” Gino told him quietly.
“Yeah, we let it slip that you had the book, knowing it would get back to Jimmy through his people,” Gino explained.
“Why?” Gino repeated in disbelief. To answer the Hardy brother’s question, Gino pulled out his phone, and after a couple flicks of his finger, he held it up to show him. “There’s your picture from yesterday’s paper and the online article about how you and your brother cleaned up that crooked politician’s racket. Oh yeah, the article mentioned your brother, Joe, got hurt. How’s he doing?” There was no doubt of Gino’s sincerity and honest concern as he asked about the wounded brother’s injury.
“My brother’s going to be okay.” His words were positive, but his tone gave away his uncertainty.
“I hope so. Knowing he was injured, that’s why we only mentioned you,” Gino explained.
Frank had talked with Joe on the phone as he waited to pick up the order of food just before leaving the restaurant.
The Hardy brother in the hospital wouldn’t win any awards as a ‘patient’ patient. He shifted, trying to get comfortable. The injury was really giving him trouble and he finally accepted that he was just going to have to settle for least painful.
His eyes strayed over to the window of his hospital room. Bright light streamed through from the afternoon sun, muted slightly by the blinds. He thought over the conversation he’d just had with his brother, who hadn’t answered until the second time he had tried to contact him.
“Yeah?” had come the distracted greeting over the phone.
“Hey. Where are you?”
“Uh, out right now. Picking up some Italian food for you. No need for you to suffer with the crappy hospital food.”
“Thanks, I appreciate it.” He had frowned slightly, wondering. “So everything okay?”
“Why wouldn’t it be?” his brother had answered. “You got my note, right?”
“I left it on the table. You were still sleeping and the nurse said you’d probably be out for awhile.” There had been a pause. “Really sorry I wasn’t there when you woke up.”
“Hey, that’s okay, as long as everything’s fine.”
“Like I said, why wouldn’t it be? See you later.”
He had stared thoughtfully at the phone before hanging it up. Everything better be okay…….
He would have been even more concerned and demanding answers if he’d known his brother had also requested the presence of a security guard to stand outside his door.
His dark haired sibling was busy trying to find out answers to many of the same questions.
“Exactly what book is it we’re talking about? I’m guessing it must be a real bestseller. An overdue library book he let someone else borrow, no doubt?”
Gino laughed, an easy sound that let a person know it was something he often did.
“Yeah, the book. Well, there’s this bookkeeper of Jimmy’s who fell in love with my cousin, so he wants to go legit for her. He’s an expert on the computers, a real nerd, and he knows that they can crash and all that crap. So he makes paper back-ups. In other words, his daily reminder that he writes in has some real incriminating info on Jimmy and other ‘businessmen’.”
Gino watched as Frank glanced back at the restaurant for a moment before speaking again, trying to guess his thoughts. “We were going to talk to you before Jimmy found out, but that didn’t exactly work out.”
“No, it didn’t.” The Hardy brother regarded the guys talking to him. They seemed sincere and on the level. “Why didn’t you guys just go to the police?”
“Some of us have records. But a person can be rehabilitated. It’s possible. We didn’t think the cops would believe us. You, on the other hand, your own dad was a New York City police detective. So we figured, this plan to take down Jimmy, with you taking care of it, would be perfect.”
Perfect wasn’t exactly the word Frank would use to describe the plan.
“Okay, I’ve got to make some calls myself before I get back to you. You don’t happen to have the book with you?” After Gino shook his head, the Hardy brother told him where to bring the ledger and also noted Gino’s phone number.
After that was agreed to, the other guys didn’t leave until they watched him get into the sports car. The Hardy brother had a feeling they weren’t very trusting and wanted to make sure he didn’t go back in the restaurant and cut a deal with Jimmy.
He waved to Gino and friends, started the engine and had his hands on the steering wheel, good to go. The sound of a song Frank had chosen for a ringtone filled the luxurious interior of the car. Answering the phone quickly, the sound of Jimmy’s smarmy voice rudely replaced the tune.
“Oh, just to make sure you bring me that ledger, and if you have any thoughts of double crossing me, you might wanna consider how much you care about that baby brother of yours. Sometimes I’ve found people need to see I mean business. I hope you don’t underestimate me.” Jimmy hung up after his threat, leaving the Hardy brother sitting there for only a moment, his hand having tightened around the phone at the mob boss’s words. He called the hospital to warn his brother but the system was having problems and he couldn’t get through.
Flinging the phone onto the seat, he threw the car into gear and shot out of the parking lot, fear twisting his stomach. It was impossible to get to the hospital as fast as he wanted to. And if he wasn’t careful, he would be riding in an ambulance.