“Looking for work, huh?” The short heavyset man said from behind the bar. He rested one hand on the bar and the other on his hip as he took in deep breaths like he had just finished a race. “Who’s your employer now?” The boss got out.
“Unemployed at the moment.” Michael started. “I used to run with Rory and Rob — Jennifer. Just got back into town and could use some extra work.”
“You look like Frank,” the man said in an almost nostalgic tone, “the good years, I knew him pretty well. You must’ve got balls like your old man, never thought I’d live to see this day. I actually figured you were dead too.”
“Nah, after everything went down, I had enough of this city. Just as well people thought I was never coming back.” Michael confessed.
“So first your pops, your crew, and then your brother?!” The paunchy man said pulling out a handkerchief and dabbing his wet forehead. “I can’t blame you for wanting a fresh start.”
“Yeah, well, Frank drank himself to death, completely lost it at the end.” Michael offered. “I tried to protect Rory and Rob, but they had their own demons. My brother was supposed to come stay with me, just couldn’t hold on.”
Michael didn’t mind this little trip down memory lane, but he was there for a reason. He kept his eye on the goon reading the paper sitting at his periphery. He noticed that the burly man had taken an interest in their conversation. Michael knew that these were dangerous men, the type that could smile in your face while sticking a knife in your back. He needed to proceed cautiously.
Glancing over Michael’s shoulder, the aging barkeep seemed to make eye contact with someone and gave a quick nod. “Well, alright then, kid, we don’t want to keep the man upstairs waiting.”
“I’m ready, sometimes I feel like I’m living on borrowed time anyway.” Michael said trying to anticipate the next minutes; this was the moment of truth.
“Not the big boss in the sky.” The man said from behind bar laughing as his plump jowls moved like a waterbed. “But you might as well left your rosary at home. There’s only one person here who gets to decide your fate now.”
Suddenly from behind, Michael was towered over by the man he had made earlier; a gorilla-sized hand now grasped Michael’s shoulder. Michael studied the bar boss one last time for any clues as to what was going to happen next. “Take a walk with my friend, here.” The boss commanded with fixed eyes. “Good luck.” He said turning away, slightly breaking the tension. Michael got up and followed the bullnecked thug.
By the time they reached the elevator and had gotten in, just as the doors were about to close, another husky man in a dark suit stepped in. When the doors closed, the first man turned to Michael and delivered a short uppercut to Michael’s mid-section. The man hadn’t said a word, but absorbing the sudden blow and folding over in pain, Michael figured that they weren’t hired for their linguistic abilities and right now Michael was short on words himself.
“Fuck you, too.” Michael mustered up as the second goon pushed him against the wall and began a rough search of him. The elevator chimed as they settled on an upper floor and doors opened.
With one guy leading in front and the other following Michael, the three men walked down a short hall adorned with large paintings and ornate lighting fixtures. They proceeded through a heavy door into a room with gorgeous women lounging in skintight dresses and draped in dazzling jewelry. A few men were off in a corner smoking and talking amongst one another. Making eye contact with a woman possessing piercing blue eyes, Michael slowed his step to take in the room before the thug behind him nudged him forward.
Stepping through a second door, Michael was lead into a large room that resembled a conference room. A massive wooden table was at its center, surrounded by great, leather chairs. At the end of the table a man shouted out, “Michael, come!” The floor-to-ceiling windows flooded the room with light momentarily blinding Michael and all he could make out was a dark silhouette and a row of sparkling white teeth. Michael took a deep breath and forced a smile as he walked forward.