Well, folks, this is it. Mickey's been up all night coming up with this plan. Can he pull it off?
This week's post is a bit wordy, but that's to be expected. I mean, one shouldn't mince words with a fearsome crime boss, right?
Part Twelve: Troll in the Dungeon
It was a richly appointed room. The dark wood and aged leather blended seamlessly with the deep red upholstery. Sitting in the middle of this sumptuous and stately room, in stark contrast to the ornately carved desk she was sitting behind, was a woman wearing a bright yellow dress and powder blue ribbons in her bouffant hair.
Mickey was momentarily astounded by the sight before him. The woman looked up when he entered the room and ran her heavily made up eyes over him a few times before smirking.
“What can I do ya for, hot stuff?” Her voice was light and wispy despite her rather generous physique.
“I’m here to see your boss.” Mickey tried his best to remain calm under the weighty gaze of the secretary, but found it rather difficult as she leaned forward to get a better look at him.
“He’s not seeing anybody today, sweetie. But perhaps I can help ya with something else?”
Mickey cleared his throat, “I think he’ll want to see me.” He pointed down to his feet and the secretary sank back into her chair. She heaved a sigh and pressed a button on her intercom.
“Hey, boss. The mook with your shoes is out here.”
There was a crackling sound and then Mickey heard Rudy’s voice, “Send him in Queeny.” The secretary nodded toward a door on the other side of the room. Mickey strode quickly toward the door fearing that he might run if he actually thought about what he was doing. He took a deep breath and entered Rudy’s office.
Rudy sat behind a grand desk with the only light in the room shining down upon him. His authority was nearly palpable, and Mickey almost turned to run. Then he remembered the look on Lulu’s face, the genuine worry she had for him as he was leaving her aunts house. He had promised her that he would fix this mess and he had every intention of keeping that promise. With more confidence than he really had, Mickey stepped forward into the light.
“So, you’re Rudy. It’s nice to be able to put a face to the name.” Mickey took the seat opposite the notorious crime boss. “I’m Mickey Gardner. I’m the man you’ve been chasing all night.”
“That’s funny,” Rudy looked straight into Mickey’s eyes, “I thought you were dead.”
“Oh you’re talking about that lovely woman you sent to kill me.” Mickey produced Mimi’s knife from his coat pocket. “She didn’t do her job.”
“Well, in that case, how can I help you Mr. Gardner? I don’t suppose you’ve come here to give me back my brother’s shoes?”
“I have, actually.” Rudy cocked an eyebrow and sat back as he motioned for Mickey to continue. “Listen, Mr. Rudy. All I want is to be left alone. I don’t care about you, your, uh, business, or your secret.” A shiver went down Mickey’s spine when he saw Rudy’s brow furrow but he took a deep breath and finished his rehearsed speech.
“I just want to walk away from this. The problem is, what’s to stop you from killing me once I hand over these shoes and this note from your brother.” Mickey held up the paper that had been the cause of his long and tiresome evening.
“What exactly did you have in mind?” A vein throbbed in Rudy’s temple.
“I’ve placed a copy of this note in sealed envelopes and taken them to some very good friends of mine; a lawyer, several bankers, some policemen, and a few politicians. They were told that, unless they heard from me otherwise, they are to release the content of those envelopes to the press and the proper authorities. So, if you kill me, they will tell your big secret. If you do anything to prevent me from telling them, each week, that I’m ok, then the whole town and all your little minions will know what you and your brother were up to. It’s as simple as that.”
“Is that all?” Rudy’s tone was flat; Mickey wasn’t sure if he was asking in earnest or not.
“No. The bartender and the dancer, they were just trying to get these shoes to you. They don’t know about the note, or my plan. They want to stay in your good graces. There is no need to take any action against either of them.”
“And my hit man, where is she?”
“She is fine. I have her tied up. As soon as I have your word that there will no more attempts on my life, I’ll let her go.” There was a brief silence. Mickey held his breath and hoped for the best.
All the sudden Rudy laughed, a deep gravelly laugh. “Kid, I’ve got to hand it to you, that is a damn good story and I almost believed it.” He laughed some more and leaned over his desk as he looked Mickey squarely in the eyes. “But you forget, kid, that I have this whole town in my back pocket and I’ll wager you any money that your good friends in the banks and town hall are really my good friends.”
Mickey’s breath caught in his throat. He hadn’t thought that Rudy would refuse, given that his secret might be released, but the crime boss seemed completely unperturbed.
“Now, I’ve gotta give you props for thinking this up. You’ve got a good head on your shoulders, and I can respect that.” Rudy relaxed and reached into his desk for a cigar, like he was used to dealing with threats everyday. “So let me make you a counter offer. I won’t kill you, or your sweet mother, or that fine girl you were sharing drinks with last night. In return for not ripping apart all the things that you love, you are going to start working for me.”
Mickey’s mind ground to a halt. “Work for you?” Of all the things he expected Rudy to say, that was not one of them.
“Yes. You see, you may not realize it, but you are just the kind of guy I need to run Rita’s. You’re intimidating, so the lower ranks won’t try to pull anything over on you, but you’re also honest and decent, so I know you won’t try to pull anything on me. Plus, the dames are going to be pouring in just to get a look at you. It’s good business.
“Think about it kid; financial security, respect, the lives of your loved ones will all be guaranteed. Not to mention that if you work for me, that fluffy haired barman and the dancer will also be spared, and Mimi won’t rip your throat out. It really is a deal you can’t refuse. I’ll even let you keep the shoes. They look good on you.” The smoke from the cigar wreathed Rudy’s face and that, combined with the harsh lighting, put Mickey in the mind of a pantomime devil.
Mickey felt his whole world shudder and stop. He tried to think but quickly realized that he really had no choice. He was clearly out of his depth here and he had to accept, for his mother, and for Pearl. And for those two kids who were expecting him to set everything straight. “Alright.”
“Good man, it’s the right choice.” Rudy smiled as best as his scarred face would allow. “You know fortune favors the bold; this really couldn’t have happened at a better time. My cousin Chauncey has been running Rita’s into the ground.”
Rudy stopped when he saw the look on Mickey’s face. “Don’t worry kid. This isn’t really as bad as it seems. I’m not the evil overlord that everyone has painted me out to be. I’m a business man, and as long as you do right by me, I’ll do right by you.”
So it was that Mickey found himself back in Rita’s and he was still the center of attention. Only this time, no one was trying to take his shoes or slit his throat. Rudy was standing next to him with a glass of whiskey in one huge hand and a fat cigar in the other. He was leading the entire hierarchy of his business in a toast to their newest addition.
“Gentlemen, and esteemed ladies,” Rudy tipped his glass toward Mimi, who was sulking in a corner with murder in her eyes, “please join me in welcoming a new member to our family. I give you, Ginger Mickey.”
Mickey choked on his cocktail. “What the hell?”
“It’s a moniker, kid. Everyone’s got a moniker in this business.” Rudy was grinning for perhaps the first time in years. Mickey felt a wave of apprehension and, strangely, excitement. He raised his glass to his lips and had to laugh at the absurdity of it all. It would be a great story to tell his kids someday; the tale of how a pair of shoes had gotten him involved in the mob.