Daddy's Here(5)By: Lucy Wild
When Tony Matteo tells you to do something, only a fool would refuse. He told me to go see Jonathan Fleming so I went. That’s how I ended up walking up the steps into the house of a man I’d never met before. That’s how all of this began.
I was in the middle of a job when he called. He never called in the middle of a job. That was how I knew it was serious. The job was a simple collection and I was almost done. A restaurant owed Tony money and it was my job to get it from them.
“They’ve been holding out on me,” he said in the thickest Sicilian accent he could manage. Matteo was a dangerous man but the nearest he’d been to Sicily was watching the Godfather films. He’d never left England, yet to hear him speak, you’d think he’d only just arrived here. You’d never catch me telling him his accent was stupid though, I liked my fingers attached to my hands. “I’ve given them long enough, Jake. Go get my money.”
I nodded. “Consider it done.”
The restaurant was owned by a slimy little guy called Alberto. Every week he had a different excuse for why he hadn’t paid his cut. If he’d been on my patch, the problem wouldn’t have happened but this is the thing about being only one man, you can’t be everywhere at once. The others are nowhere near as persuasive as me, they needed to up their game, I couldn’t clean up everyone’s mess, there weren’t enough hours in the day.
I drove through the city and stopped across the street from the place. The sign was missing a letter. ‘Al-erto’s,’ it read. It wouldn’t have surprised me if his excuse was he was saving up for a new letter for the sign. I sat for a moment and watched, casing the street just to be sure. Better to be cautious than dead.
The street was quiet enough. It was half past three, the lunch time crowd had gone and dinner wouldn’t pick up for a few hours, the perfect time to pay a visit to a restaurant.
I crossed the road and weaved between the outdoor tables, pushing the door open before pausing, scanning the interior in under a second. A couple on the table near the bar, a middle-aged guy on his own to my left, a group of three by the window. Waiter by the kitchen door, another walking my way. No sign of Alberto.
“Can I help you, Sir?” the waiter asked, stopping in front of me. “Table for one?”
“You’re new here, right?”
“I am, Sir. Just started today. Are you a regular?”
“He went out, Sir.”
I leant towards him, just far enough to fix him in my hardest stare. “I said I’ll wait.”
He crumbled at once, blinking and swallowing at the same time, taking a step backwards before stuttering, “Of course, Sir.”
I walked round him, taking the table furthest from the door. The sound of conversation faded away as I waited. He’d be back eventually and there was no way I was returning to Matteo without the money.
I was sat there for an hour. Every now and then the waiter would look across at me, as if he was thinking about coming over and asking me to leave. Then he’d think better of it and continue on his way. The middle aged guy left, followed by the trio. There was only the couple and me. When the door swung open and Alberto walked in, I waited, observing in silence as he struggled with too many carrier bags in his arms. He passed through to the kitchen without stopping.
Before the door had swung closed, I was across the restaurant and through, watching the colour drain from his face when he saw me.
“Mr Murdoch,” he said, his voice quiet. “What are you doing here?”
“It’s been a long time, Alberto,” I replied.
My phone rang a second later. I held up a finger to silence him before answering.
“Where are you?” Matteo asked from the other end of the line.
“Get over to the Fleming place when you’re done. He needs you to do something for him.”
He hung up before I could reply, leaving me wondering what the hell was so urgent as to need to interrupt me at work.
Alberto was still staring at me, pressing himself against the counter top behind him. “What do you want from me?” He sounded scared. He looked as if he thought I hadn’t seen him pick the knife up and hold it behind his back while I was on the phone.
“You know exactly what I want.”
“I…I haven’t got it. Things have been running a little slow recently.”
“No excuses, Alberto. I leave here in two minutes either with the money or with your thumbs in a bag. What’s it to be?”
He swung the knife towards me so slow it was laughable. I caught his arm and twisted it back towards him, not far enough to break it but close. He dropped the knife with a squawk as I pushed him down to his knees.