CHAPTER ONE THE MEETING
"Not now, James. I may actually have a winning hand here."
"Um, but I think it may be important."
"Either it is or it isn't. Which is it?"
"Um, there's a girl at the door who would like to see you."
"Girl? I'm too old for girls, James. Send her on her way."
"Um, she said she wanted to talk to Uncle Tony?"
Tony Russo paused and slowly put his cards on the table. Sitting to his right, his brother, Paul, did the same and looked over at Tony. James stiffened up in the doorway, not knowing if he had done something wrong.
Tony looked up, directly at James, who felt an underwear change was needed.
"Boss?" voice steady, but hands shaking behind his back.
"You didn't recognize this girl?"
Still with a steady voice, "No, Boss. She's kinda short but she was wearing a red hoodie. Didn't get a real close look. Pretty, though."
Tony stared at James for what seemed to James a heart stopping long time. Then he got really confused when Tony broke into a smile and looked over to his brother. He didn't have to say anything, Paul spoke, "I'll keep an eye on the front door." He grabbed his jacket off the back of the chair to hide his shoulder holster and 9 mm.
They both got up from the poker table. "A red hoodie. James, you really have to work on your observation skills. But right now here is what I want you to do. Circulate through the bar and make sure no one points a camera in my direction. Or to my booth. And most importantly, my guest."
"Um, and if..."
Tony didn't let him finish. "If they don't put it away, act like a boss. Comp their dinner and drinks and these two gentlemen," nodding to his card table companions, "will quietly and discreetly escort them out. Got it? All of you?"
All heads nodded in agreement.
Tony and Paul went out into the busy bar first. When he rounded the corner and walked between the long bar and tables, he spotted the small figure standing alone just inside the main doors. As Paul walked by, they quietly touched arms and whispered hi. She turned to Tony and gave him a big hug, wrapping her arms around him as far as they could go. He just about swallowed her up in return. She was still just under his chin.
"Hey there runt," looking down at that beautiful light olive face.
"Hey there, Tony."
"Let's get to my booth." He put his arm around her, pulled her hoodie a little farther forward and headed to his private booth. It was one of the few things, other than the bar itself, left over from the old days. Leather and polished mahogany. The rest of the bar and restaurant had been modernized nearly six years ago and had become the popular, neighborhood, place to go every night of the week.
She sat with her back to the patrons. They held hands across the table. "I'm ashamed I haven't been back since you upgraded the place. I hope you forgive me, Tony. It looks so bright and alive."
"I'm happy with the results. I hope you approve."
"I don't have the right to any complaints."
"Hey, little girl, you've been a little busy in the past few years. Your career has gone over the top. Are you sure you should be here?"
Before she could answer, they were interrupted by Emma, his youngest and most enthusiastic waitress. She was taken aback momentarily by the hand holding across the table, but recovered quickly. "The usual for you, Boss?"
"No, make it a dark coffee tonight."
"I'll make a fresh pot just for you. And what can I get for..." She stopped in mid sentence when she saw who was looking up at her from under the red hoodie. The mouth stayed open, but no words came out.
Tony spoke up before anything attention getting happened. "Emma. You will be cool about ou