Archive for the ‘Advice’ Category

A Dying Wish

Posted: September 4, 2020 in Advice, Experiences, Thoughts
Tags: , ,

As most of you know, I work for a mob boss. He knows my secret that I can read minds, and he coerced me into working for him. Now, I call him Uncle Joey, even though he’s not really my uncle, and he treats me like family. Who would have thought I’d become a mob boss’s niece? Not me.

My ability comes in handy for most of Uncle Joey’s needs, and he pays me well for my time, so I can’t complain too much. Even crazier, I’ve developed a soft spot in my heart for him, and he has for me, so I guess it’s not so bad.

Yesterday, he needed me for an unusual task. It involved visiting his father’s old friend whom he hadn’t seen in years. In fact, the old man was in hospice care and fading fast, but he wanted to see Uncle Joey one last time before he died.

At first, I didn’t understand why Uncle Joey needed me, but on the way he explained that things hadn’t been good between his father and this man for a long time. In fact, they’d had a falling out over a business deal and it had brought his father a lot of pain and remorse. He didn’t know much about what had happened, so this visit might shed some light on that.

The last time Uncle Joey had seen Brent was at his father’s funeral. Brent had come to his father’s funeral with a chip on his shoulder. He had been brusque, and seemed to hold a grudge against his father, even though he was dead.

Uncle Joey figured that Brent wanted to meet with him to settle things before he died, but from past experience, he didn’t trust him, and wanted my special help to know exactly what was on his mind.

Intrigued by the story, I looked forward to meeting the man, and hoped I could figure out the mystery between him and Uncle Joey’s father.

We arrived at a large mansion and rang the bell. A man answered, telling us he was Brent’s caregiver, and Brent was expecting us. He led us up the stairs to a large master bedroom. An old man lay propped up in the bed, with an oxygen mask over his sallow face. The fringe of hair around his head was white, and sticking up in places.

The caregiver stepped to his side and jostled him awake, telling him that the Manettos were there. He moved away and Brent’s eyes landed on Uncle Joey. He brightened with anticipation, and brusquely told the caregiver to leave us.

I picked up that the caregiver didn’t like Brent much, but he paid him well, and Brent would be dead soon, so he’d stick it out.

Brent licked his lips with anticipation, and I picked up his relief to finally get something off his chest that had been bothering him for years. “Did your father ever tell you what happened between us?”

He was thinking that he’d probably poisoned his son against him, and that’s why he’d never reached out to him to make amends.

Oops… this didn’t bode well. Uncle Joey glanced at me before responding. “No. He never said anything about it.”

Brent shook his head. “I meant that little to him? Did he ever tell you anything about me?”

“Of course. He told me you were great friends once, and he regretted what happened between you, but he kept the particulars to himself, so I never knew.”

“That’s hard to believe. Your father ruined me. Not just with the business we were involved in, but my reputation. I lost everything, and I had to start all over because of him.”

Hate poured from him, and I took a step back in response.

Uncle Joey wasn’t as concerned as me, thinking this old man couldn’t hurt him now. “I understand you hold a grudge against my father, but all that happened in the past. What do you want from me?”

“I made a promise to your father all those years ago. Now that I’m dying, it’s time to fulfill it. Come closer, and I’ll tell you what it is.”

Alarm spiked through me, and I grabbed Uncle Joey’s arm before he could move. “Don’t do it. He’s planning to kill you.”

Brent’s eyes widened and he moved his fingers to the gun under his blanket.

“He’s got a gun under the covers!”

Uncle Joey reached across Brent and held his hand down before he could raise the gun to shoot him. Brent’s dismay turned to outrage. “Let me go. You can’t do this.” His outrage gave him uncanny strength, and he grabbed Uncle Joey around the neck and squeezed.

Uncle Joey grasped Brent’s wrist and pulled his hand away from his throat. Brent doubled his effort to use the gun, but still couldn’t get his hand away from Uncle Joey.

I ran to the other side of the bed and pushed down on Brent’s arm. Between the two of us, Brent couldn’t move. He struggled, cursing at us, before all the fight went out of him, and he fell back against the bed, his breathing ragged and harsh.

The caretaker had overheard the commotion and rushed in, just as I pulled back the covers and took the gun from Brent.

“What the hell’s going on?” he asked.

“Brent was planning to shoot Uncle Joey,” I said. “Maybe you’d better put this somewhere safe.”

Before he could move, Uncle Joey stepped forward. “If you don’t mind, I think I’ll take that.”

I nodded and handed it over. Uncle Joey checked the chamber and took the bullets out of the gun. He glanced at Brent, his brows drawn together. “Why kill me?”

Brent had a hard time catching his breath. “Because your father… pushed me out… because of you. I swore I’d kill you before I died. Now… it’s all for nothing… you… you…”

Brent never finished that sentence. His eyes turned glassy and he died right there in front of us.

“Whoa,” I said. “Is he dead?”

The caretaker swallowed, then checked Brent’s pulse just to make sure. “Yup.” Nodding, he glanced at his watch for time of death, so he could write it on his report. “I guess that’s it. He’s gone”

“Wow.” I glanced at Uncle Joey. “He really wanted you dead.”

Uncle Joey nodded, then sent me a tiny shrug. “So much for dying wishes.”

“Yeah. You can say that again.”

We left the house. Uncle Joey kept the gun and the bullets, since the caretaker wanted nothing to do with them. On the way home I glanced at Uncle Joey with a raised brow. “So you really have no idea what that was all about?”

He glanced my way and grinned. “Of course I do. That’s why I wanted you to come along. It’s a good thing I did, too.” I nodded, and he continued. “Well, at least that’s one less person I have to worry about who wants to kill me.”

Shocked, I turned his way. “Yeah… I guess that’s positive. How many more are there?”

“Hmmm… I’d say only two or three now that he’s gone.”

He smiled, and I picked up that he was teasing me. “You’re terrible. You had me worried there.”

He chuckled and I couldn’t help chuckling as well. Still, I picked up a name… I think it was something like Sonny… and I knew that someday, he might come calling. I’d just have to make sure I was around so he didn’t succeed.

So there’s my story for the day. It made me realize that having a dying wish is probably not a good thing.

It’s much better to live life with no regrets, and if you have issues with someone, take care of it while you’re alive. Right? Uh… as long as it doesn’t involve killing anyone….

I don’t know about you, but it’s been so hot here I’ve hardly wanted to venture outside after nine am. It’s even hot enough that I’ve given in to Savannah’s pleas to take her to the country club swimming pool. Josh, my fifteen-year-old son is a life-guard there because of Uncle Joey, the mob boss for whom I work. When people tell you it’s not what you know, but who you know – they’re telling the truth.

I’d recently helped Uncle Joey with a tricky problem and ended up saving him a lot of money. He’d invested in a start up tech company, which, I guess, is the thing to do these days. I was even in on the first meeting, just to make sure they were the real deal. Since I can read minds, I’m Uncle Joey’s ace-in-the-hole.

At that first meeting, I’d picked up a lot of positive thoughts about the start-up and how much money they could make. Looking back, I should have picked up the signs that their enthusiasm and positive thoughts were just that… and not too much more.

On paper, it all looked good, and they were so excited about the prospects that it didn’t seem like much of a risk. Uncle Joey handed over a big chunk of change so they could take it to the next level.

That was a few months ago. We met again yesterday, and it was a good thing I was there. They’d done their best to get the software up and running, but they’d run out of money, and needed a lot more to keep going… like… close to a million.

It still sounded like a good investment until I picked up that one of them had used some of the money for a trip to New York to catch a Broadway show and have a good time. Another one had paid for his daughter’s braces, and then splurged on a motorcycle. The last guy seemed to be the only one who wasn’t taking advantage of all that money.

After they got done with their pitch, I caught Uncle Joey’s gaze and raised my brows.

“Did you have a question for these gentlemen?” Uncle Joey asked.

“Yes.” I turned back to the men. “You’ve got some problems we need to address. First of all, this investment money wasn’t meant to be used on a trip to New York.” I nodded at the guilty party, then turned to the next man. “Or a new motorcycle and to pay your debts.” That guy flushed and his eyes widened. How did I know?

The last guy’s mouth dropped open. He didn’t know anything about their exploits, and he could hardly believe they’d gone behind his back and used the money on themselves. Couldn’t they wait for the big pay-off? He turned to them. “Is it true? Did you really do those things?”

Neither one of them wanted to admit it, but they couldn’t lie… not with me there. They stammered a little before nodding, and I picked up a few other things they’d done with the money that sounded even worse.

I shook my head and turned to Uncle Joey. “Can you get your money back?”

“Whoa, no. Wait. We can still work this out.” That came from the only honest guy there.

Uncle Joey shook his head. “I’m disappointed in all of you. I made my investment in good faith, and you’ve let me down. How am I supposed to trust you again?”

“I didn’t do anything wrong,” the honest guy said.

“True, but can you finish this without those two?”

“Yes.” He didn’t think he could do it, but he wasn’t ready to let go of his dream, and he’d say anything to get the money he needed to finish the project.

Uncle Joey glanced my way and I shook my head. He blew out a disgusted breath. “It’s a good thing I insisted on signing a contract between us. You should know that the contract gives me the power to take over the business if any of you are less than forthcoming with me. In light of that, you two bozos are fired.”

They hadn’t expected that, which concerned me. Didn’t they know Uncle Joey was a mob boss?

“You can’t do that. This is my… our… company.” Their protests stopped when Uncle Joey held up a hand.

“Not anymore. Now get out. And remember… nobody crosses me… nobody. Now leave before I change my mind about letting you live.”

That had the desired effect. They both turned toward the door and found Ramos holding it open. He’d been standing there and they’d forgotten all about him. “I’ll make sure you don’t get lost on your way out… unless…” he glanced at Uncle Joey.

“No… you don’t need to rough them up. They won’t be any trouble, right boys?”

They both quickly agreed, even if it rankled, and hurried out the door before Uncle Joey changed his mind. Once the door closed, he turned back to the other guy. “It looks like you’ve lost your partners, and I’ve lost my investment, but I have a proposition for you. Do you want to continue or let it go?”

“Continue, of course, but, I can’t do it alone.”

“I know people,” Uncle Joey said. “But you’ll have to give up ownership of the company and work for me. I believe in your tech, or I wouldn’t make such an offer. We can negotiate the deal if you agree. Otherwise, we’re done here. But I should warn you. Once investors find out what happened, no one else will give you a dime.”

The guy let out a breath. He didn’t want to give up his company, but Uncle Joey had made him an offer he couldn’t refuse, and he wasn’t ready to give up on his dream. “I agree.”

Uncle Joey smiled. It reminded me of the cat who caught the canary. “Good. Let’s go over my terms and I’ll have my lawyer draw up the papers.” Uncle Joey turned to me. “Thanks Shelby. You’ve been a real help.” He was thinking that I could leave now, but he had the perfect payment in mind.

I raised my brows and he shook his head. “I want it to be a surprise.”

I smiled. “Okay. See you later.” I had to admit that I liked some surprises, but most of the time I ruined it by trying to figure out what it was. I mean… I was already thinking about how fun it would be to find a new Tesla in my driveway, but that wasn’t going to happen. It was probably better to forget all about it and not be disappointed.

You’re probably wondering what this has to do with the heat and the country club. Well… I took Savannah to the pool this morning so we could get in a swim while Josh was there. Even though we’re not members, we’re allowed to use the pool because of Josh.

When I got there, the manager hurried over with a big smile on her face. “Welcome to the club. I just wanted you to know that we’re thrilled you’re now full-fledged members. Your Uncle must be quite fond of you. If there’s anything you need, please let me or any of the staff know. Here’s the brochure about the club and everything that comes with your gold membership.”

“Oh wow… that’s great. Thanks so much.”

She smiled, thinking that it was nice we were finally paying members after all the times we’d used the pool for free. “After you’ve had the chance to look it over, we’d be happy to give you the tour. Enjoy the pool.”

“Thanks.”

Well… Uncle Joey certainly outdid himself this time. I was totally shocked, but at least now I don’t have to feel guilty about using the pool, so that’s a plus. This just reinforces that old adage all over again – it’s not what you know, but who you know, right?

Still, I hate to admit it, but I am just a little bit disappointed about the Tesla.

Last night, I stayed up late reading a book. At midnight, I was still going strong when my phone rang. My heart rate went into overdrive, because… let’s face it… a phone call in the middle of the night usually means something’s wrong. I answered quickly so the ringing wouldn’t wake my husband. “Hello?”

“Babe. Sorry to call so late, but Manetto needs you. Can you come to his house?”

“Uh… you mean right now?”

“Yeah.”

I waited for him to explain what was going on, but he didn’t say another word. “So… should I be worried?”

“No. There’s been an incident and Manetto needs your expertise.” He was talking about my ability to read minds, and, since I was at the beck and call of the local mob boss, it didn’t really matter what time it was.

“Okay. I’ll throw on some clothes and be right there.” I disconnected and pulled on a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, with ankle boots on my feet.

Next, I splashed some water on my face, combed through my hair, and added a tint of lip gloss. Ready to go, I shrugged on my black, leather jacket, and hurried to my car.

As you might have guessed Uncle Joey lives in a mansion, and it didn’t take long to get there, especially so late at night. Ramos’s motorcycle was parked in front, so I pulled up next to it. I’d expected the lights in the house to be blazing, but it was mostly dark.

Not sure if I should ring the doorbell, I sent Ramos a text. He came to the door and let me in, happy that I’d made it so quickly.

“So what’s going on? Is Uncle Joey okay?”

“Manetto’s fine. There was a thief who broke in. Manetto caught him, but he’s not talking. That’s where we need you.” Ramos was thinking that he could have made him talk, but my method was faster and less of a mess, and he hoped I didn’t mind too much.

I shook my head and rolled my eyes. “It’s fine, I was awake anyway, and this is probably better than the book I was reading.”

Ramos chuckled, and I followed him inside, then down the hallway and into Uncle Joey’s study. Uncle Joey sat behind his desk in an elegant bathrobe. A man dressed all in black was trussed up and tied to a chair. His bottom lip was swollen and bloody, and he leaned forward as if his stomach hurt.

“Shelby… thanks for coming. Sorry it’s so late. Have a seat.” After I sat, Uncle Joey motioned to the captive. “This man tried to rob me tonight, but he won’t tell me what he was after, or who he’s working for.”

I studied the man, taking in his dark eyes and short beard. He was thinking that he’d made a big mistake tonight, and all of his carefully laid plans had gone up in smoke. He wasn’t sure how to get out of this mess, or what was worse… the humiliation of getting caught… or facing Manetto. He never should have taken the bet.

“So,” I began. “Tell us about this bet.”

Shock rippled through him. How did I know that? “How… uh…” He glanced at Uncle Joey and shook his head. “I don’t know what you mean.”

“Of course you do,” I countered. “You made a bet with… James Patton that you could break into Uncle Joey’s house and steal his… Rolex Cosmo… something watch.” I glanced at Uncle Joey.

“It’s a Cosmograph Daytona worth about twenty-four grand.” He frowned at the man. “James Patton put you up to this?” Uncle Joey had a friendly rivalry with the billionaire philanthropist. But he’d never gone this far before.

The man stared at me. “How did you know? This was just between us, there wasn’t anyone else involved. There’s no way you could know this.”

“We have out sources,” Uncle Joey said. He didn’t want this guy to think about me too hard and figure out my secret. “I knew James admired my watch, but I didn’t know he wanted it so badly.”

The man was still confused, but since the jig was up, he wasn’t going to play the game any longer. “My name is Oliver Chutney.”

Uncle Joey’s eyes widened, and he realized Oliver was supposedly one of the best thieves in the business. “So this was a dare?”

“I was trying to prove a point.”

I snickered. “He was trying to prove how good he was, but that sure backfired. Is your reputation on the line now?”

Oliver’s lips turned down and his eyes narrowed. He didn’t like how easily I read him. What was it with me? How did I do it? None of this could be explained and it didn’t make sense. “What was your name again?”

Uncle Joey didn’t want me to get under James Patton’s radar. James would want me for himself, and that was not negotiable. “I think you should forget that you ever met my niece. If you can promise to do that, I’ll make you a deal.”

Oliver’s eyes widened. A deal? With a mob boss? This might be the worst thing that could happen… or the best, depending on what it was. “What’s the deal?”

“You do a job for me, free of charge. I’ll let you take the watch and tell James that you were successful. If he decides to hire you for something else, I want to know what it is. If it’s something I want, you’ll give the item to me instead of him.

“But I’ll lose the money he’d pay me.”

“That’s not my problem.” Oliver didn’t respond, so Uncle Joey continued. “Or I can call the police right now, and they’ll arrest you for trying to steal from me. What will it be?” Uncle Joey picked up his phone.

“Okay, okay. I’ll do it.” He was thinking that he didn’t have to tell Uncle Joey anything, as long as he got away with the watch. But deep down, he knew it wouldn’t be that easy. For his reputation alone, he’d have to keep to the deal.

Uncle Joey glanced my way, asking me if Oliver could be trusted to follow through with the deal. I shrugged and he nodded, deciding that was good enough.

He opened the safe behind his desk, and pulled out a box. He’d been saving this decoy for years and now it was finally going to be put to good use.

A decoy?

“Untie him.”

Ramos loosened the bands, and Uncle Joey handed Oliver the box. “It’s inside.”

Not about to trust Uncle Joey, Oliver opened the box and took a look at the watch. Satisfied, he stashed it in his pocket. “I’ll be in touch.”

“Ramos will walk you out.”

After they left, Uncle Joey turned to me with a grin on his face. “I wonder how long it will take for James to figure out the watch isn’t real?”

“How did you know he’d send Oliver after it?”

“James has been itching to get his hands on that watch for years. I had the fake watch made a long time ago, and I’d just about given up. The other day, I may have let it slip that I kept it in my safe here in my office, but I was thinking of donating it to a museum. I knew he’d hate that, so I’ve been waiting for someone to show up.”

I just shook my head. “How did you catch Oliver if he’s so good?”

He shrugged. “It’s easy if you know he’s coming.”

“I guess.”

Ramos came back in, and I picked up that he’d been in on the whole thing.

I let out a breath. “Well, that was fun, but I guess I’ll go home now.”

“Thanks for coming,” Uncle Joey said.

“You bet.”

Ramos walked me out to my car. “So was that better than your book?”

I chuckled.”Yeah… it was pretty darn close. Only in my book there’s a torrid sex scene, and that didn’t happen here.”

“It could,” he said, giving me his smoldering smile. He leaned in close enough for me to smell his aftershave, and I felt his warm breath on my cheek.

I inhaled deeply, then quickly ducked into the front seat of my car and closed the door. I sent him a jaunty wave before driving off.

Whew, that was close. I should know better than to tease Ramos… but did that ever stop me? Nope. At least everything worked out well for Uncle Joey.

I got home pretty late, and decided to get some sleep instead of reading. It made me realize that sometimes my life was way better than a book. After that, I fell asleep with a smile.

Car Wash Blues

Posted: May 26, 2020 in Advice, Thoughts
Tags: ,

Yesterday, Uncle Joey asked me if I needed to get my car washed. Since I couldn’t remember the last time I’d washed it, I told him yes. He handed me a paper bag and told me to give it to the operator, who would in turn give me a free super-deluxe wash job.

I probably should have been a little worried because he told me not to look inside the bag. Naturally, I listened to his thoughts to find out what he was hiding. As a mind-reader, it’s hard for most people to keep a secret from me. But he put up his mental shields, and I couldn’t pick up a thing.

“For your own protection,” he said, “it’s better that you don’t know.”

“Fine.” I took the bag, along with the address, and drove to the car wash. I’d never been there before, and when I drove up, I found it was one of those old-time car washes, where you sit inside the car and watch while the machine goes through the wash and dry cycles.

The attendant came out, so I told him I wanted the super-deluxe wash, and handed him the paper bag. He seemed confused, so I told him that Manetto sent me. I raised my eyebrows up and down which finally did the trick. The attendant nodded vigorously, then glanced around to see if anyone was watching.

“Pull inside and stop when the light changes to red.”

Before I could say a word, he rushed back inside, leaving me on my own. So I did as he asked and drove inside the washing garage and stopped when the light turned red. I turned off the car, since this was the super-deluxe wash, and I might be here a while.

A moment later the doors on both ends of the garage came down, shutting me in, and the whirring motors began. A couple of machines sprayed down the car from the front, sides, and back. Then the biggest mop I’d ever seen began to spin, and started whipping at the front of the car, flapping against the windshield, and over the top and then to the back of the car.

Other whirring mops spun and came at the car from the sides, sending soapy splashes everywhere. The noise was louder than I liked, and I cringed every time one of the mops hit the windshield. Then came another spray and the process started all over again.

After the second time, I figured the wash was done, but it started up a third time. I knew I’d asked for the deluxe wash, but this was getting ridiculous. After the forth time, I was starting to get nervous. Was this ever going to stop?

Miraculously, all the mops pulled away and my hopes rose. Then a big blast of air blew down on the car, going from the front to the back several times. It was a relief when the dryers stopped, and I let out a sigh, ready to start my car and get out of there.

I watched the light, waiting with bated breath for it to turn green. After it still hadn’t changed, I wondered if I should honk my horn or roll down my window and start screaming to get the operator’s attention.

To my horror, the process started all over again, with the nozzle spray going over the whole car. The whirring mops began and traveled the length of the car, hitting the windshield with that awful thwapping noise, and sending soapy suds all over the place. What the freak?

It went through the whole cycle again, ending with the blowing dryers, howling around me. They finally stopped, and I held my breath for the light to turn green. The garage doors began to life and my hopes rose. Before opening all the way, they slammed back down and the whole process started over.

No! No! No! This was like an episode of the twilight zone. I picked up my phone and called Uncle Joey. “You’ve got to do something. This car wash is holding me hostage.” After I explained what was going on, Uncle Joey said he’d send Ramos and disconnected.

At last, the cycle ended, and I could hardly wait to get out of there. The garage doors slowly opened, and I let out my breath. As I drove out, I spotted Ramos waiting by the doors, a frown marring his handsome features.

I parked and jumped out, happy to see him. “Thanks for coming. What happened? Where’s the operator?”

“He’s gone, along with the bag. I think he must have set the car wash to cycle through a few times so he could get a head start.”

“Dang. I hope it’s not my fault.”

“Nah… I called the owner, and he’s on his way. We’ll find him and get the bag back.”

“What was in it anyway?”

Ramos smiled. “It’s better you don’t know.”

I shook my head, picking up that there was a large amount of money inside, one the operator couldn’t seem to resist.

“Oh… that’s what I thought.”

“Yeah. But we’ll get it back, so don’t worry.” He was thinking that the boss knew where the guy lived, so it wouldn’t be too hard to track him down. And, since he’d saved me again, it was totally worth it to see that look of adoration in my eyes. Even better, now i owed him one. He liked having me in his debt, and his devilish grin sent butterflies through my stomach.

“Uh… I don’t think this qualifies.”

His brows rose. “What? You don’t think saving you from a car wash qualifies?”

“Well… yeah, but—”

“No buts,” he said. “I saved you fair and square. Now… I’ve got to go, but I’ll be thinking about how you can pay me back.” With a saucy wink, he turned on his heel, and jumped onto his motorcycle. A few seconds later, he was gone.

After he left, I smiled, something I would never let him see. Sure… he was a big tease, but I had to admit that I enjoyed it. And, even better, my car was shiny and clean.

Still, I think that the next time it needs a wash, I’ll do it myself.

 

 

A Major Award

Posted: April 13, 2020 in Advice, Experiences, Thoughts
Tags: , , , ,

A few weeks ago, my friend, Billie Jo Payne, asked me to help her with a story she was writing. She’s a newspaper reporter, and she needed to know if her source was telling the truth. Naturally, she thought of me and my ‘premonitions,’ since I’m highly successful at that sort of thing.

She doesn’t know the truth that I read minds, which is for the best, as I don’t want that little secret to get out. So I call it premonitions, which mostly works out as a good explanation for what I do.

Anyway – While at the newspaper offices, I picked up someone’s thoughts about shooting the big boss. Since Billie and I were talking to him at the time, it made for a tense few moments.

To make a long story short, I was able to stop the shooting spree before it happened, thus earning me a bit of notoriety I didn’t necessarily want, and firmly cementing my reputation as the Queen of Premonitions, and hero of the day.

That led to a whole new threat that I won’t go into right now, but since trouble follows me… well, you get the picture. Needless to say, it wasn’t long before Billie called to ask if I’d come to her office. She was receiving an award for the special interest story that I’d helped her with that day, and she wanted me there.

I wasn’t so sure I wanted to go back. I mean… look what happened the last time? But she persisted, telling me that my help had been one of the main reasons she’d won the award, and she wanted me by her side to enjoy her special moment.

How could I turn her down now? Since I didn’t want to ruin her day, I agreed. Walking into the lobby brought that day back to mind, but I didn’t let it bother me too much. I took the elevator to the third floor, and found Billie waiting for me.

Her delight to have me there offset my reservations, and I was happy to join her and her new husband, Dimples, for the award ceremony. Dimples was my partner with the police, and they’d just recently returned from their honeymoon.

The ceremony involved the newspaper staff and a few family members of the person being recognized, and it took place during their lunch hour in the big conference room. In addition, lunch was provided after the award was given out.

“So, does this happen very often?” I asked Dimples, just before they got started.

“I think the last time they did this was about three years ago. So… it’s a pretty big deal. I guess the board, along with Michael, the editor-in-chief, decide when a story warrants this special recognition.”

“Oh… no wonder Billie was so excited.” She was always thinking of getting a journalism award of some kind, so this was great.

“Yeah, totally. They’re not Pulitzer Prizes, but they’re still nice to get.” He was thinking that this was the first time Billie had made the cut, so it was a huge deal to her.

Michael began, proceeding to explain Billie’s great work on the article she wrote. He spoke of how it got picked up by several news syndicates and boosted their paper’s credibility. He ended with high praise for Billie’s excellent work and tenacity.

Next, he presented the award to her amid a round of applause, and she beamed, gratefully accepting the plaque with her name in bold letters. She fairly beamed with pride, and I picked up that she could hardly wait to hang it on her wall.

With that over, Michael caught everyone’s attention before they could move to the buffet table. “We have one more award to present.” He glanced at me with a smile, and my heart sank. Oh no… it was for me.

“We don’t usually do this, but our editorial board and the newspaper owner felt it appropriate. We’d like to present a small token of our gratitude to Shelby Nichols for her quick thinking and extraordinary measures to keep us from harm on that fateful day. Shelby, would you please join me?”

As I snapped my mouth shut, all eyes turned my way, and I forced my feet toward the front of the room. I tried to smile, but I don’t think it worked, since a few people were thinking that I looked shocked… and how could I be taken by surprise when I had premonitions?

Once I reached Michael, he told the story of that day, making me sound like some sort of super woman. Instead of a plaque, he handed me a beautiful, crystal paperweight with the newspaper logo in gold, and my name engraved underneath.

With a smile, I thanked him and took the lovely triangular shaped object, impressed that this was an award I could actually use.

He insisted that I join them for lunch, and I gave in, sitting by Billie and Dimples. It was a relief that Billie didn’t mind that I got an award too, and it was great to catch up with her and Dimples.

Just before it was time to leave, Michael joined us, and I picked up his satisfaction that I’d been surprised. He’d made sure that no one knew about my award but him and his assistant.

He wasn’t sure what that meant about my premonitions, but he was hoping that I’d agree to a personal interview. He’d mentioned it to me before, but the timing hadn’t been right. Maybe now it would work?

Before he opened his mouth to ask, I jumped in. “Thanks for the award, but the answer is still no.” His mouth dropped open, and he stuttered a little. “When I’m ready to give an interview, I’ll let Billie know. How does that sound?”

“Uh… sure.” He shook his head. “I’m… uh… just so you know, the award wasn’t meant to make you feel like you had to do an interview.”

I smiled. “Oh… I know, and I appreciate it.” He wished me a nice day and left us, thinking he was more convinced than ever that my premonitions were real.

Billie shook her head, and Dimples sent me a knowing smile, thinking that I sure knew how to use my superpowers when I needed to. Since he knows my secret, I nodded and smiled back.

“So where are you going to put it?” he asked. He thought it would look good on my desk at the precinct, but I had other plans.

“I’m taking it home so Chris and my kids can see how great I am, since they’re not always convinced of that.”

He chuckled and we finished up our lunch. Soon, it was time to go. As I carried my award to my car, I knew where it needed to go. I’d use it on my desk at Thrasher Development. It would fit in much better with the decor there than at the precinct, and I wanted to show it off to my boss and the hitman who worked for him.

All in all – that experience hadn’t turned out so bad.

It still proved that my life is a little mixed up and crazy… but hey… now I have a Major Award to show for it, so it’s not all bad. In fact… I think things are looking up. Next week, I’m going on vacation with my family to New York, and it’s going to be a blast!

Until next time ~ Shelby.

 

What Do You Think?

Posted: February 7, 2020 in Advice, Thoughts
Tags: , ,

Recently, I was reading an article about how people think. The author was blown away by the fact that not everyone has an inner-dialogue going on in their heads. Basically, he couldn’t get over that fact that not everyone talks to themselves all the time – like he does.

The post got a lot of attention on social media, and I really wanted to chime in, because that just happens to be an area of expertise for me. On the other hand, I don’t like to blab about my mind reading ability, so if you’re reading this, please keep that part to yourself. But… you can certainly see how I could be considered an expert in the matter.

It gave me an idea that it might be interesting to run an experiment or two, just to understand the whole thinking process a little better. Plus, an added benefit might also help me understand how my mind reading ability works.

Naturally, I wanted to test it out on someone who might not mind too much. This person had to know I could read minds, or I couldn’t ask the right questions.

Since I was in my office at Thrasher Development, I could probably talk to Uncle Joey or Ramos about it. Uncle Joey’s the mob boss who knows my secret, and who pays me to help him out, and Ramos is his right-hand man.

As luck would have it, Uncle Joey and Ramos stopped by my office. “I need you to go visit Nick Berardini,” Uncle Joey said. “Ramos will take you.” After explaining what he wanted, I readily agreed to go. Not that I had a choice, but how could I turn down spending time with Ramos?

Usually, going with Ramos meant riding on the back of his motorcycle, but since it’s winter, I managed to take it in stride, knowing it would give me the perfect opportunity to study Ramos’s thought processes on the drive.

Of course, he knew something was up right away. “What’s going on?” he asked, thinking that he didn’t like the way I kept looking at him. What was I up to?

“Uh… well. I’m trying something out. Do you mind answering a question?”

His brows rose, then his lips twisted. He was curious, but skeptical, especially if it was about him.

“It’s not exactly about you.”

Now he was even more curious. “Okay. What do you want to know?”

“When you were thinking that you didn’t like the way I was looking at you… you know… because it meant that I was up to something… were you talking to yourself?”

“What?”

“It’s called ‘inner-dialogue.’ It’s what people do when they’re talking to themselves… it’s a thought process.”

He shook his head. “I don’t do that.”

“Really? Then how do I know what you’re thinking?”

He couldn’t believe I was asking him that.

“Okay, maybe that was a dumb question. I mean… I can pick up what people are thinking, but I always thought it was because I could hear their inner-dialogue. But if you don’t talk to yourself, then how do I do it?”

He let out a chuckle and glanced my way with a teasing light in his eyes. I held up my hand. “Okay… another dumb question… I get it.”

Taking pity on me, he asked, “How do you think it works?”

“I don’t know. I mostly hear thoughts, but sometimes I get images or feelings, or maybe all three. Then there are other times when it could be called premonitions.”

Now he laughed.

“I know that sounds funny,” I agreed. “Since that’s what I’ve been telling people I do. But just go with it for a minute. What is a premonition?”

“I guess it’s a feeling or a vision that something specific is going to happen.”

“Yeah. But when you think about it coming from someone’s mind, and I’m picking it up, it would come across like that… right? Or maybe more like an intention. So… we could call it an intentional thought. Does that make sense? So maybe not words, but intent. It’s hard to explain, and the fact that you’re not always thinking in words kind of surprises me.”

Ramos nodded and smiled, then added, “I know how to explain it.”

I didn’t know what he was going to say, but I knew he thought it was clever. “What?”

“It’s magic.”

This time I laughed. “Hmm… I like that. To be honest, that’s a much easier way to explain it.”

“Yes,” he agreed. “But don’t get a big head about it. It still gets you into a lot of trouble.” He thought it was a beautiful thing… like me. But still got me into more trouble than it might be worth.

I snorted, but my heart warmed just the same.

SO…. in conclusion, I’ve decided that it doesn’t really matter how we think the way we do. Somehow, it all works out, right?

And, as far as I’m concerned. I’m not going to try and explain how my mind reading ability works.  Not anymore. I can read minds… and it’s magic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As most of you know, I have my own consulting agency, but I get most of my income by working for a mob boss. Uncle Joey and I have recently become more than employer/employee since he told the whole Manetto family that I was his niece. I’ve been calling him “Uncle” from the beginning, so it only made sense to continue the charade.

Now when he introduces me to his business associates, he always tells them I’m his niece, and they always look at me differently. I used to think it was bad to be his niece, given the mob boss aspect. But there are times when it’s pretty awesome. In fact, I probably enjoy it way too much – but I try not to think about that part.

We recently met with a used car dealer who runs a gambling business on the side that he didn’t want Uncle Joey to know about. The main reason for that was because he used Uncle Joey’s name, claiming Uncle Joey ran the business. Saying that gave him an edge, and made it lots easier for him to collect the gambling debts his customers accumulated. Of course, Kurt couldn’t keep that secret from me and my mind reading ability.

So yesterday, Uncle Joey asked me to pay a visit to his gambling establishment.

I usually don’t jump at the chance to work for Uncle Joey, but playing poker is fun for me because I always win. Being a mind reader has some really great benefits, and that’s just one I can’t resist.

Of course, it didn’t hurt that I was going with Ramos. He’s Uncle Joey’s hitman and let’s just say… he’s every woman’s dream; tall, dark and handsome with a little sexy danger thrown in for good measure – only he’s real. And he rides a Harley… what more can I say?

I met him in the parking garage at Thrasher Development. Since we were going on his motorcycle, I wore my black jeans, boots, and black motorcycle jacket. He waited by his bike, and my temperature rose just to see him standing there, decked out in black, and his lips tilted into a lopsided, sexy grin.

“You ready?” he asked, admiring my outfit.

“You know it.” I slipped on the helmet he handed me, and got on the bike behind him. The thrill of motoring up the drive out of the parking garage sent butterflies through my stomach, and I clutched him tightly around his waist. Yup. No matter what else happened tonight, this more than made up for it.

We arrived at the bar. After paying the requisite fee, we were allowed into the basement where the gambling took place. That’s when I got a little nervous, since I’d basically forgotten how to play Texas Hold’em. I didn’t play much on account that nobody liked playing with me since I always won.

Ramos picked up on my nervousness, but I just shrugged and told him that I’d forgotten how to play, but I’d pick it up pretty quick. By then we were sitting at one of the five poker tables and, hearing that, the other four players glanced at me with happy smiles on their faces.

After a few rounds, those smiles were long gone. I won’t bore you with the details, but I cleaned them out. By then, a crowd had gathered to watch me play, and a few brave souls had taken the loser’s places, eager to prove their worth.

The tension in the place rose with each game I won, and one of the players, who’d lost ten grand, began to get angry. After I cleaned him out, he jumped to his feet, shoving his chair back in his rush. “You’re cheating,” he said, pulling a knife from his pocket. The blade flicked open and he held it toward me, his hand shaking with menace.

Before he had a chance to follow up on his threat, Ramos stepped beside me. “What did you say?” His voice was low and held a challenge that wasn’t lost on my accuser, who took a step back and lowered his weapon.

“I’m just… there’s no way she can be that good,” he said, trying to explain. “Something’s going on, and I want my money back. This place is rigged.”

The manager in charge came to our table, and told my accuser to calm down. After glancing at Ramos, he decided the accuser was the least dangerous of the two, and gave him the line that the business was run by the Manetto Organization. “Dude, do you want to piss off a mob boss? Maybe you’d better think about that before you make accusations you’ll regret.”

I’d heard enough and stood, sending them both a disgusted frown. “Stop lying. I know for a fact that my Uncle… Joey Manetto… has nothing to do with this place. In fact, he sent me here to find out what’s going on.”

At their shocked expressions, I continued. “So I think it’s time we cleared this matter up.” I pointed at the manager. “You. Call your boss and tell him he needs to get down here right away to straighten out a disagreement.”

I glanced around the room at all the patrons, who had frozen at the mention of Uncle Joey. “If the rest of you want to get out of here alive, I suggest you leave now.”

Most everyone grabbed their chips and scrambled up the stairs, dropping a few in their haste to leave. The guy who’d accused me of cheating stood his ground. He didn’t want to leave without the money he’d lost.

“I don’t cheat,” I said, glaring at him. “So either scram, or answer to my uncle. He’ll be here soon to deal with Kurt Johnson and these bozos.” I gestured at the rest of the workers.

The guy let out a disgruntled breath, then hurried up the stairs. Under Ramos’s prodding stare, the manager made the call to Kurt who replied that he would be there in half an hour. The manager then left, taking the rest of the dealers with him and leaving us there alone.

“Do you think he’ll come?” I asked Ramos.

“I have no idea,” he answered. “But if he doesn’t, I know where he lives.”

“Okay… good.”

A few minutes later, footsteps came down the the stairs and Kurt appeared, his face a mask of confusion. Not one soul was left in the bar upstairs or in the gambling room down here, and he could hardly believe his eyes.

“Hello Kurt,” I said. “Looks like you have a problem.”

As the truth dawned on him, he turned white as a sheet and swore under his breath. Panic set in and he turned to run. Of course, he didn’t get far before Ramos intercepted him. Ramos grabbed his shirt and jerked him around before shoving him against the wall. “You’ve made a grave mistake,” he said. “And now you’re going to pay the consequences.”

I picked up Ramos’s desire to kill the guy, and alarm shot through me. “Uh… Ramos… don’t kill him… uh… yet.” Ramos worked hard not to smile, but he glanced my way, thinking I was doing exactly what he’d wanted. He turned back to Kurt. “It looks like you get to live a little longer.”

“I’m… I’m… I didn’t think… I’m sorry… I’ll do whatever you want. Whatever you want… it’s yours… just don’t kill me. Please.”

Ramos let him go, but locked gazes with him. “Shelby?” He didn’t look at me, but wanted Kurt to think I was in charge. Since I had no idea what to say, I listened to his thoughts and basically repeated everything he was thinking.

“Fine. As much as you don’t deserve it, I’ll talk to my Uncle and see if he’ll spare you life. Maybe you can make a deal with him?”

“Of course, anything. Whatever you want.”

“Okay. We’ll expect to see you at Thrasher Development at nine tomorrow morning. As of right now, this bar and your little… enterprise is done.”

“Sure, whatever you say.”

“Oh… and I need these cashed out.” I picked up all my chips and followed him to the till. Kurt practically threw money at me without counting it up, hoping that would make his life a little easier.

After tucking the bills into my purse, I smiled. “See you tomorrow… right?”

“Yes, yes. I’ll be there.”

Ramos followed me out, and we climbed on the bike and drove out of the now-empty parking lot. He was thinking that I’d taken to bossing Kurt around like a pro. Who would have thought? He could just see me taking over Uncle Joey’s organization someday, with him as my right hand man. It would be fun.

I entertained that thought for a few minutes, just for the pure indulgence of it. As soon as we pulled into the parking garage and I took off my helmet, I handed it to him with a smile. “That’s not going to happen.”

He grinned. “Yeah… maybe not now, but you never know.”

I punched his arm. There was no way that would ever happen. I was feeling way too guilty as it was for scaring Kurt so bad. On the other hand, it had felt pretty good to catch a liar, and I could do that any day.

So tomorrow… I think I’ll see if Dimples needs help… just to balance it out a bit, and keep me on the right side of things… just in case.

 

 

 

 

 

Summoned

Posted: November 22, 2019 in Advice, Experiences, Thoughts
Tags: , ,

As most of you know, I work for a mob boss. He summons me quite regularly to help him with various tasks, most of which are a little on the shady side.

Of course, he pays me for my trouble and, I’m ashamed to tell you, it’s another reason I help him out. What can I say? He knows how to make me an offer I can’t refuse. As long as it’s not too far on the illegal side, I can’t turn him down.

Yesterday, I met him at Thrasher Development. He wanted me to go with him to a bid for a construction job at the airport. Uncle Joey’s company is big in construction, and he’s made some friends as well as some enemies in the business.

Lately, he’s been the recipient of a few nasty letters, all from the same person. The letters are threatening Uncle Joey to stay away from bidding on the airport construction job or he might end up dead.

It sounds like something a mob boss would threaten instead of the other way around.

That’s where I come in. I’m his secret weapon, because I can read minds. This poor sap won’t stand a chance around me, and I feel a little sorry for him. But just a little. I mean, what kind of a person threatens a mob boss?

Thrasher Development is in the running with four other companies for the job. The airport planners invited the companies to a presentation where they will outline the job in full detail. This will give each company the opportunity to submit a reliable bid from which the winner will be chosen.

So, not only will I help Uncle Joey find out who is sending the threatening letters, but I’ll also have the inside track of what the competing companies are bidding. That part might not be quite as legal, but it’s not like I’m getting hard insider information, right?

We drove to the meeting in Uncle Joey’s new Tesla. He’s really proud of that car and it’s self-driving ability. I had to admit, it was pretty cool. I asked him if I could drive it sometime. He wasn’t sure he wanted to let me drive, but then he shrugged and said maybe I could drive it home.

Looking forward to that made this whole trip worth it.

I spent the next hour and a half doodling in my notebook since I found out who was sending the threatening letters within the first ten minutes. I wrote down the person’s name and which company he worked for, and showed it to Uncle Joey.

From his thoughts I picked up his surprise before everything he knew about them clicked into place. Since I didn’t want to know what he was going to do about it, I switched my attention to the estimators.

It was their job to come up with a bid. No one wanted to come in highest, or be the lowest, since those bids were usually thrown out. I picked up that Uncle Joey’s bid was usually on the high side, but he sweetened the deal by throwing in a few things without charge which seemed to work well for him.

By the end of the meeting I had written down all of the bids from the other companies, including Uncle Joey’s. Since he’s really good at bidding, I don’t feel too bad about cheating, since he’d probably get the bid anyway.

After the meeting, I showed him the estimates, and he knew exactly what to bid to get the job.

“I think you’ve earned the right to drive the Tesla home,” he said.

“Saweet!”

We got out to the parking lot, and Uncle Joey stopped on the sidewalk. “Want to see something cool?” At my nod, he continued, “I can summon the car, and it will come and pick us up.”

“Seriously?”

“Yeah. Watch.” He took out his phone and opened the Tesla app, then opened to the summons button. He held it down, and, sure enough, the black car backed out of its parking space, executed a perfect three-point turn, and headed our way, all by itself.

The only hitch came when it went through the stop sign in the parking lot. Since there wasn’t another car around, I didn’t see the problem. But what neither of us had noticed, was the police car parked next to the stop sign.

He pulled out and turned on his lights to chase down the driverless car. Uncle Joey swore, but kept pushing the summon button until the car pulled up in front of us.

The police officer got out of his car and came to the driver’s side window, only to realize the seat was empty. Uncle Joey smiled, but motioned at me to explain, since he didn’t want to get involved with the cops, and my pretty face might help with the outcome.

I shook my head and hurried to the officer’s side, explaining that I was just summoning my car, and I had no idea it was against the law. He said it wasn’t, but the car ran the stop sign. At my sad expression, he said it wasn’t a real traffic violation, so he’d just give me a warning.

I thanked him profusely, and he asked me several questions about the Tesla. With Uncle Joey feeding the answers to me from his mind, I did all right. In fact, the cop was impressed that a women knew so much about the car. Of course, he didn’t say that, but it made me mad. In the end, he didn’t give me a warning ticket, so I let it go.

When it was time to leave, Uncle Joey got in the passenger side, and I got to drive home. I had a blast. Merging onto the freeway was the best part. Zero to sixty in a few seconds was like taking off in a jet.

Now I want a Tesla. Only I want a red one. After Uncle Joey cuts me a check, along with selling my car, I should have enough to pay for it.

So next time Uncle Joey summons me to his office, I’ll just focus on how exciting it will be to get my own Tesla. In fact, I think I’ll go online today and see about ordering one. See what I mean about working for a mob boss?

 

 

 

Dirty Deals

Posted: October 4, 2019 in Advice, Experiences, Thoughts
Tags: , , ,

As most of you know, I work for a mob boss. As a mind reader, Uncle Joey finds my services invaluable, and he’s more than willing to pay me the big bucks to keep me around. I used to help him so he wouldn’t kill me. I’m not sure he’d do that anymore, but I don’t want to find out, so I accept the money, and try not to feel too guilty.

Recently, he asked me to meet him for lunch with one of his friends. Usually, I help him in the privacy of his office, so meeting him in a public place didn’t seem like a good idea. I mean, what if I saw someone I knew? How would I explain that?

He didn’t seem too concerned, so I agreed and he filled me in. His friend, Kurt Johnson, owned several used car dealerships, and was starting to make a name for himself. Uncle Joey had heard rumors that Kurt had a side business going on that involved some of Uncle Joey’s contacts. Naturally, Uncle Joey didn’t like that, but since no one would give him a straight answer, it was time to bring in the big guns – me.

I met them at a fancy restaurant under the pretext that Uncle Joey wanted to reach out to Kurt because of his recent success and perhaps offer him a business deal.

Uncle Joey introduced me to Kurt as his niece, and explained that I was an invaluable part of his team, and I would be involved if an arrangement was made between them.

Kurt glanced at me, surprised that I had so much power in making the decision. Did that mean he needed to impress me, offer me a discount for a car, or pay for my lunch? It put him on edge.

But, after a moment, he brushed away his concern. He relished the idea of being in the same league as a mob boss, and he was happy to listen to an offer, thinking he could use the mob boss’s money and influence – as long as it was a partnership.

I picked up some nervousness about the side business Kurt had going. If the mob boss made him a really good offer, he could always shut down his side business. That way Uncle Joey would never know what he’d been up to, and it would all work out.

“So,” I said. “I understand you have a side business as well. What’s that all about?”

Kurt’s eyes widened and his face paled. He swore in his mind and couldn’t seem to form a coherent sentence.

“Yes,” Uncle Joey said, following my lead. “Mind explaining?”

Kurt’s heart raced, but he reasoned that, if we were both asking what it was, then he still had the upper hand. “Oh, that… it’s nothing much. I just have a side business offering warranties on all the cars I sell. It brings in some income, but not nearly as much as I’d like, so it was hardly worth mentioning.”

Kurt was lying. The warranty thing was standard procedure and not a side business. No, it was something else entirely. I listened real close and began to piece it together. Kurt was thinking about poker chips and face cards, along with black jack and Texas hold’em. It all fit together as a gambling club he operated in the basement of the new bar he owned.

He’d started the enterprise about three months ago, and it was a real money-maker. Not only that, but he rarely lost out on collecting the debts the gamblers owed due to the fact that he claimed the business was run by Uncle Joey. His two enforcers didn’t have a problem collecting after they mentioned that detail.

Holy cow! It reminded me of the two men who had accosted me at the antique dealer’s place a few weeks ago. They’d said Gino owed them money from a gambling debt, and he’d better pay up because they worked for Uncle Joey. It couldn’t be a coincidence could it? This had to be Kurt’s business, and he was using Uncle Joey’s name to run it.

I came back to the conversation, grateful Uncle Joey had filled up the silence with questions about Kurt’s dealership and the warranties while I’d been busy gathering information.

As we finished up our lunch, Uncle Joey asked, “Do you have any other questions for Kurt?”

“Nope,” I said. “I think I got it all.”

“Good,” Uncle Joey said, sending me a pleased smile. He turned to Kurt. “I’ll get back to you with a proposal, and we’ll go from there.”

“Okay,” Kurt replied. He mentally wiped his brow, relieved that he’d deceived us, and thinking that he’d only accept the offer unless it was too good to refuse. If that was the case, he’d shut down his gambling operation, and Uncle Joey would never know. He could still come out on top.

I hated to burst his bubble, so I just sent him a smile.

“I’m sure you have to get back,” Uncle Joey said, dismissing him. “So I’ll pick up the tab. I’ll be in touch.”

“Okay, thanks.” Kurt stood, thinking he may have missed something, but since he was eager to leave, he just smiled instead.

Once he’d left, Uncle Joey turned his attention my way. “So what’s going on?”

I explained it all, even telling him about the two thugs at the antique shop. He seemed more upset about that than the rest. “You should have told me about that.”

I shrugged. “I know, but I thought they were just making that up, you know?”

He nodded absently, his mind already racing ahead to how he was going to deal with Kurt. I wasn’t sure I wanted to know that part, so I asked him if he needed me for anything else.

“Not right now. Thanks for your help though.”

“Sure,” I said. “It’s hard to believe he’d use your name like that. Has that ever happened to you before?”

He shook his head. “No. Or at least, not that I know of.” He caught my gaze and we shared a smile. “Thanks again. I might want you and Ramos to visit his gambling establishment, but I’ll let you know.” He needed names, and, with my help, he wouldn’t have to torture anyone to get them.

“Okay, sure.”

We said our goodbyes and I drove home, knowing I had one more crazy thing to look forward to.

Who knows when it will happen, but once it does, I’ll be sure and tell you all about it.

Until next time…. Shelby

Yesterday, Uncle Joey sent me to visit one of his ’employees.’ The guy was behind on his payments and Uncle Joey wanted to know why. Because of my special ability to read minds, I’d pick up the truth no matter what lies he was likely to tell to explain his delinquency.

I used to complain about those kinds of errands, since I didn’t like ‘leaning’ on the poor people Uncle Joey had under his thumb. But since Ramos was going with me, and we were taking his motorcycle, I jumped at the chance. I guess Uncle Joey knows how to make me an offer I can’t refuse.

We arrived at Gino’s Antique Shop, where “one man’s loss is another man’s gain”… or at least that’s what the sign said. Inside, Gino stood behind the counter going over his books. As we entered, his eyes widened and his whole body jerked with alarm. Then he backed away before Ramos even had a chance to get close.

“Hey Gino,” Ramos said. “The boss wants to know why you haven’t paid him for the last couple of months.” Ramos stepped right up to Gino. The man cowered, and his eyes darted back and forth as if looking for an escape route.

“Uh… things have been real slow around here, and I haven’t been able to pay all the bills, let alone your boss, but I’ve got a big sale arranged for this afternoon. If you’ll come back tomorrow, I should have it covered.”

Ramos glanced my way, lifting his brow to question if Gino was lying. Since he was, I nodded. I would have told Ramos what was going on, but I didn’t want to take away all his fun.

“You’re lying,” Ramos said, pinning Gino against the wall. “So what’s really going on.”

“What? No I’m not. It’s the truth, man. I know better than to lie to you.”

“That’s not true,” I said, stepping forward. I knew Ramos didn’t mind roughing him up. Mostly because he had to protect his image, but he didn’t like doing it in front of me. “He’s got a stash of cash upstairs under his mattress. I think it’s enough to pay what he owes.”

Gino’s mouth dropped open. How did I know that? As Ramos tightened his hold, he gave in. “Okay, okay. It’s upstairs.” He was thinking that it was a good thing he had more than one hiding place for his money, since he didn’t want to give all of it to Ramos.

As they left, I didn’t mention that little tidbit to Ramos, since I felt a sorry for Gino. While they headed upstairs for the money, I roamed around the shop in case there was something of value I might want.

Hearing the chime of the door opening, I hurried toward the counter, and turned to find two men stepping inside. With their scruffy faces, graphic t-shirts, and ripped jeans, they didn’t seem the type to be looking for any antique treasures.

“Can I help you?” I asked, planting my feet firmly in front of the cash register.

With surprise on their faces, they sized me up, wondering when I’d started working for Gino. As their gazes roamed over my body, they thought a few other things that aren’t appropriate for this blog, but let me tell you, my heart rate spiked with alarm.

“Hey sweetheart, where’s Gino?”

“Uh… he’s in the back. But he’ll be right out.” As they stalked closer to me, I backed up, just like Gino had earlier with Ramos. When my back hit the counter, they continued toward me, invading my personal space.

I swallowed. “What do you want Gino for?”

They both smiled, then one of them spoke. “We’re just here to collect the money he owes us.”

“He owes you money? What for?” Pushing away my fear, I planted my feet and straightened, ready to send my fist into the guy’s throat if he got any closer.

The other guy flanked me, ready to grab my arm, and spoke. “Gino has a bad gambling habit. He bets more than he can lose, and then he thinks he won’t have to pay up. Not too smart of him is it?”

“Uh… no.”

“So we’re here to collect. Our boss doesn’t take kindly to losers who don’t honor their debts.”

My brows rose with surprise. “Your boss? Who’s that?” I knew what they were thinking, but I needed to hear it out loud.

“Joey “The Knife” Manetto. Ever heard of him?”

I couldn’t help it. I laughed… in their faces. They didn’t like that much, and one of them stepped even closer. “What’s so funny?”

That made me laugh even harder, and I doubled over in uncontrolled mirth. The guy closest to me grabbed my arm and told me to shut up. I used an Aikido move to get out of his grasp. It worked just like it was supposed to, but the other guy grabbed me around the waist before I could step out of his reach. I slammed my elbow into his jaw, but he held on tight and started cursing me… loudly.

“What the hell’s going on?” Ramos roared. “Let go of her. Now!” He rushed around the counter and grabbed the guy holding me by his neck. The guy released me and tried to pull Ramos’s arm from around his neck. He kicked and yelled, but he was unable to get Ramos’s arm to budge.

The other guy took a step forward to aid his friend, but wisely held back and spoke instead. “He didn’t do nothin’ wrong. Let him go.”

“Ramos. Don’t kill him. I’m fine. Really. They didn’t hurt me.” I’d never seen Ramos so upset. He was usually cool and calculated. But right now, he was contemplating snapping the guy’s neck.

He slowly released his hold on the man, and the guy coughed and rubbed his neck. That’s when it dawned on the guy that I’d called his attacker Ramos. What the hell? Was it really him? Damn! He was so…  I won’t repeat what he was thinking, but you get the idea.

The guy knelt on one knee and began to beg for mercy. The other guy went down on both knees to do his begging. Whoa. Who would have thought? They couldn’t tell Ramos they were sorry enough, and kept mumbling apologies until Ramos finally told them to shut up.

“Uh… Ramos… do you know these guys? Because they said they work for Uncle Joey.”

His brows rose, and he turned to them. “Is that right?”

If they weren’t groveling before, they were now. Shocked that “The Knife” was actually my uncle sent them both into quaking masses of blubber.

“They said Gino has a gambling habit, and he owes them money.” I glanced behind me, but Gino was nowhere in sight. Go figure.

Ramos heaved a sigh. “Get up.” After they stood, he continued. “I don’t know who you two think you are, but Manetto doesn’t like liars, grovelers, or cheats. I don’t recall ever seeing your ugly faces before, so, if you want to live, I’d suggest you stop using his name for your own purposes.”

He stepped closer to them, and they both backed up. “In fact, I think you’d better take your lying, cheating, skum-sucking selves somewhere else, because if I ever hear of you again, you’ll both be wearing cement shoes at the bottom of the lake. Now get out of here.”

They ran out of the shop faster than I thought two men could move.

I caught Ramos’s gaze and grinned. “Wow. You are so bad-ass.” That earned a chuckle from him. “So did you get the money from Gino?”

“Yeah.”

“You have to admit that was pretty funny.”

Ramos shook his head. “I don’t know.” He didn’t like finding me being manhandled by those two thugs.

“I get it. But you missed the best part.”

“What part’s that?”

“When they were threatening me because they worked for Joey “The Knife” Manetto.” I started laughing again, but Ramos just shook his head.

“Come on. Let’s get out of here,” he said, turning to leave.

I followed behind, chuckling all the way out to his Harley.