This week Joe finds himself in the lap of luxury, but quickly finds out that money doesn’t solve every problem, especially if the source of that money is murky. This timeline has its positives and negatives, but Joe needs to evaluate how serious the negative aspects are and if there is any way to change them.
Please enjoy this installment of Extra Innings.
If you want to catch up on the previous installments of this serial, you can click on these links:
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14, Part 15, Part 16, Part 17, Part 18, Part 19, Part 20, Part 21, Part 22, Part 23, Part 24, Part 25, Part 26, Part 27, Part 28
Also, if you enjoy my writing, I am giving away the boxed set of my first three books in the Frank Rozzani Detective Series this weekend. This is for the Kindle version of the books. You can download them HERE.
“You don’t mean that,” Joe said to his wife from the current timeline.
“Just test me, Sophia McLean responded. “If you’re not happy in this marriage, be a man and divorce me, but you better get out your checkbook.”
“I don’t want out.”
“Of course, you don’t. You’ll lose your money and there’s no telling what my family will do to you. You’re pathetic.”
At this point, Joe decided the best response was no response. He didn’t know the history behind Sophia’s comments and arguing with her would be reckless, maybe even dangerous, based on her remarks.
“I’m just going to do some work. What time is dinner, again?”
“It’s at 7:30, just like every week. Are you drunk?”
“No, I’m not. Just a lot on my mind; work stuff,” Joe quickly added.
“That better be it. I’m going to change and get the kids ready.”
“Okay. I’ll be ready,” Joe said.
Once the hurricane that was apparently his wife left, Joe returned to his computer and started digging beneath the surface. Apparently, RPM owned a lot of property and was invested in many businesses in Langerton. This included a share of Dominick’s, the restaurant they were headed to this evening. RPM had provided a great deal of funding toward the renovation of the business about five years prior. Among the other properties owned were multiple apartment buildings, a couple of strip malls, and some warehouses along Lake Erie. On the surface, the investments were not cause for alarm, but Joe needed to dig more into the types of businesses these buildings housed. He was already concerned at some of the neighborhoods that the apartment buildings were in, but he didn’t want to jump to conclusions until he had time to check them out. Perhaps the neighborhoods had improved in this timeline.
Joe glanced at the Rolex watch on his wrist. It was 6:45 and it would take 30 minutes to get to Dominick’s. He felt like he was a bit overdressed for the place until he saw Sophia, Joey and Maria fill his doorway. They were dressed as if they were going out to a five-star restaurant.
“I’m ready, just let me use the restroom and freshen up,” Joe said.
“I’ll have Eric bring the car around. Are you driving tonight, or should I ask him to drive.”
“I’ll drive,” Joe said.
He stepped into the bathroom that was attached to his office. It appeared that he used it quite a bit. There were toiletries, shaving gear towels and a robe. This made sense when he thought about the pillow and blankets that were on the sofa. Perhaps his marriage was not good at all. He splashed on some cologne. He noted that it was a Christian Dior fragrance that went for about $350 a bottle. Financially, Joe seemed to be doing very well, even if his marriage seemed to be in shambles. As he came out he thought that his family, in this timeline, at least looked very good on the surface. His son was dressed in a suit very similar to his own and looked like a younger, more prosperous version of Joe. His daughter was striking; a strong resemblance to Sophia with dark eye makeup and nails. She was absorbed by her smart phone and oblivious to the humans around her.
“Eric brought up the Mercedes. Let’s get going,” Sophia said.
She was trying to be pleasant, likely for the sake of the children, but Joe could feel the chill subliminally hidden in her voice.
They walked out through the front entry to the waiting car, a new $200,00 black Maybach sedan with Napa leather seats and would trim. Joe was a bit intimidated to drive it, but as he maneuvered out of the driveway and up East Lake Road, he realized the car practically drove itself. On the way, his wife was silent, his daughter was still transfixed by her phone and his son was busy with an iPad. The thirty minutes to the restaurant was an interminable and awkward silence.
Joe noticed that the neighborhood around Dominick’s was a bit more upscale than it had been in his other timelines. Many of the pre-World War II houses had been restored and the roads were smoothly paved and clean. Ironically, it looked as it might have back in the 1950s, in his grandfather’s time. As he approached the restaurant, he was struck by how much larger and fancier the façade of the building was. He pulled into the front entrance and noticed a valet stand. Valet parking at Dominick’s? This was a place that had very good, home-style Italian food for a reasonable price and portions that required you to take a bag home with you. It now looked like a fancy eatery. Joe held his opinion on whether this was a positive change.
Upon entering the restaurant, staff swarmed the McLean’s. Joe followed Sophia’s lead and they walked to the rear of the restaurant to a private room. They were apparently the last to arrive as there were four empty place settings on one side of a table for twelve. Seated at the table enjoying cocktails were Joe’s parents, alive and well, his brother Mike, Johnny Provenza and a companion that was much too young to be his wife, and a couple that he didn’t recognize. Sophia walked around the table with the children offering and receiving hugs to everyone. Joe followed suit, although hugging was not part of his family’s usual style, at least in the other timelines.
His parents looked very healthy and well dressed as did his brother Mike. Johnny Provenza looked well-tanned and coiffed. His companion was all over him and was at list 15 years his junior. The other couple hugged Sophia and the kids, so Joe joined in as to not arouse suspicion. Joe ended up next to his parents and across from Mike who was noticeably alone.
Very soon after Joe was seated, the wait staff entered the room with various Hors d’Oeuvre plates including Clams Casino, Calimari and crab cakes. Dominick himself followed the staff and shook hands and hugged all around the table before standing behind the man Joe didn’t recognize who was seated at the head of the table.
“It’s good to see you all tonight,” Dominick said. Mr. Mike, I know the Mrs. and the kids are doing college visits and couldn’t be here this week.”
“That’s okay, I’ll eat their portions,” Mike said which resulted in the table erupting in laughs.
“Tonight, our chef, Angelo, has put together a special feast for you. I hope you enjoy it.”
Dominick bowed to the room and left his staff to serve, refill drinks and remove used plates and silverware.
The meal progressed through the soup and salad courses. The food was spectacular. After the salad, Joe excused himself to go to the restroom. As he was washing his hands, Johnny Provenza entered the room. They were the only two occupants. Johnny straightened his tie in the mirror at the sink next to Joe.
“So, are we all set with moving the funds tomorrow?” Provenza asked.
“Funds? Which funds are we talking about?”
“C’mon, Joe. Quit screwing around. The shipment goes out tomorrow. I want to make sure the funds are ready to move as soon as we get them.”
Joe decided to play along and then investigate later.
“I was just messing with you, Johnny. I’ll move the funds. No problem.”
“There better not be, Joe. This is a huge deal.”
“Don’t worry. I’m on it,” Joe lied.
Johnny left the restroom and as Joe prepared to follow, many alarms and thoughts were going through his head. It sounded like something nefarious, but maybe Johnny was nervous about the funds for legitimate business deal. Joe vowed to find out.
The rest of dinner was uneventful as was the drive back to the house. Joey fell asleep in the back seat and Maria was busy texting her friends. Sophia was silent, but Joe decided to break the silence and go fishing for information.
“I’m going to do some work when we get home to get ready for the shipment tomorrow,” he said to Sophia.
“That’s fine. Do what you need to do. Johnny is nervous about it. It’s his first deal that he brought in solo and his first time using that new warehouse out on Maritime Drive for the shipment. It needs to go well.”
Joe now had more information to go on, but not quite enough.
“Why is he so nervous?” Joe asked.
“Joe, you know how he is. If this deal goes south, he’ll take it personally. He feels like he is being tested by the Rosellis; like they are comparing him to Daddy.”
“I’ll make sure it turns out right,” Joe said.
“You better,” Sophia said returning to her dragon lady persona.
Joe had a bit more information to go on, but he didn’t know what time the shipment was or what was being shipped. That information would tell him what he needed to know and what he needed to do.