Archive for the ‘Consulting’ Category

You’d think that after working for a mob boss for over a year and a half that nothing would surprise me anymore, especially since I can read minds. But, after today, I’m convinced that nothing could be further from the truth.

In the past, being summoned to Thrasher Development by Uncle Joey made my heart race and my palms sweat. Now, I reveled in my role as the mob boss’s human lie detector. I liked the power of catching people in lies and making them answer for their deceit.

But today was a different story. Instead of one of Uncle Joey’s clients doing the lying, it was Ramos. For those of you who don’t know, Ramos is Uncle Joey’s hitman, bodyguard, and all around right hand man. When he’s the person lying, it has to be for a good reason, but it still threw me for a loop.

I met with Uncle Joey in his office, where he explained that he had a client in the conference room who was late making a payment. He wanted me to get to the bottom of it, since the client had insisted she’d already paid.

Ramos was keeping her entertained, and, after we entered the conference room, she was introduced to me as Mrs. Robinson. I immediately started singing the song about Mrs. Robinson in my mind and sort of missed the rest of her introduction. That was probably because she looked beautiful, sophisticated, and sexy, even though she was in her early sixties, and I hoped I looked as good as her when I reached that age.

I couldn’t help but admire her tenacity when it came to dealing with Uncle Joey, but it was Ramos who surprised me the most. He seemed under her spell, and went along with her explanation that her husband, who had recently died, had paid his debt to Uncle Joey in full.

Uncle Joey had no record of that ever happening, and wondered if her late husband had deceived her, or if she was just saying that so she didn’t have to pay up. Since I needed more clarity about what was going on, I had to ask some questions and get her thinking.

“I’m so sorry to hear about your late husband,” I began. “Was it sudden?”

Her eyes widened. “Why yes, it was. He had a heart attack and died before the paramedics arrived.” She wasn’t exactly lying, since his heart had given out, but it wasn’t because of a heart attack. It was because she’d pumped him full of adrenalin, and, because of his heart condition, it was fatal.

“Oh, I’m so sorry. That must have been a shock.”

“Yes. It was. He was in such great shape, that it took us all by surprise.” She was thinking that it took his mistress by surprise the most. But, now his mistress wouldn’t see a dime of his money. “In fact, he was full of surprises.”

She’d acted just in time, too, since he had begun the divorce proceedings and would have left her with nothing. As far as she was concerned, his debt to Uncle Joey wasn’t her problem, and if Uncle Joey insisted that she pay, he might find himself in the same condition as her husband. It wasn’t the first time she’d killed a man who’d crossed her, and he wouldn’t be the last, since she still had her brother-in-law to deal with. But he could wait until she had everything settled here first.

Yikes! She was downright scary. As she continued to explain all the ways her husband’s death had been a shock, I swallowed and glanced at Ramos. He was thinking that I needed to handle Mrs. Robinson with kid gloves. The money her husband owed to Manetto wasn’t worth dealing her kind of crazy. He didn’t know what had happened to her husband, but, after chatting with her, he had a bad feeling about it.

“I’m sure your husband paid his debt to us,” Ramos said, even though he knew the man hadn’t. At this point, he didn’t know what I would pick up from her, but he hoped I’d go along with him. Ramos knew Manetto wouldn’t agree, since he rarely let anyone get away with anything, but Ramos had seen something alarming in her eyes, and his gut told him that the money was not worth the price. Even if I had to lie to Manetto, he hoped I’d go along with him.

Wow. He didn’t know how right he was. “I’m so sorry for your loss,” I began, once she stopped complaining. “I’m sure your husband must have taken care of his debt to Uncle Joey. We’ll go over our records again. It must have been deposited in a different account. We’ll look into it. In the meantime, don’t give it a second thought. You have enough on your plate.”

“Oh, that is so thoughtful of you.” Her eyes filled with tears. “I won’t forget your helpfulness during this difficult time.” She turned to Uncle Joey. “What a wonderful niece you have. You were right when you said she would know what to do. Thank you so much. If that’s all, I’ll be going.” She took my hand. “Thank you Shelby.” Her smile warmed my heart, and I was grateful to see it after all that darkness.

“You’re welcome.”

She exited the room, and Ramos followed her out. He came back a second later and blew out a breath, grateful she was gone. Uncle Joey glanced between us, knowing something had gone on, but he had no idea what it was. “Do you mind telling me what that was about?”

“Sure, but you’re not going to believe it.” I related her murderous ways to both of them, adding the little tidbit that her killing spree had started with her father. “He was awful to her, totally abusive, so I can’t blame her, but it was all a little bit surreal. How much did her husband owe you anyway?”

Uncle Joey shrugged. “Around a hundred grand, but he had just paid half of it, so she must have thought it was enough. I still hate to see her get away with murder though, even if he deserved it.”

That kind of surprised me, since Uncle Joey got away with murder all the time. “What is it about her that makes you say that?”

He snorted. “I guess because she’s a threat to men everywhere. But at least she’s not a threat to me, so it all worked out.” He glanced at Ramos. “How did you know?”

Ramos shrugged. “What can I say? I’m a pretty good judge of character, and I’ve seen her type before.” He glanced at me. “You were kind of like that when you first started working here.”

“I was not!”

His lips turned up in that sexy grin that always made my chest flutter. His dark eyes intense, he leaned toward me. “I said kind of like that. I knew you were thinking of ways to get rid of Manetto, even if you don’t want to admit it.”

I glanced between the men and my face heated up. “Well, I was desperate. You both scared me to death. Naturally, I wanted to get out of the situation. But… that’s all changed now.”

“Has it?” Uncle Joey asked, his brows lifted and he had a sad, lost, and hopeful shine in his eyes.

I smacked him… lightly… and smiled. “Of course I have. You’re really going to make me say it?” At his nod, I continued, only slightly rolling my eyes. “I love working here… there.”

“But you left out a part,” he insisted. “You love working for me.”

I chuckled and nodded. “Well… of course… that goes without saying.”

“And what about me?” Ramos asked. “Admit it, you like me better.”

I glanced between them and shook my head. Ramos was thinking about all the motorcycle rides he took me on, so he would win, hands down.

“I’d better get going.” I stepped to the door and glanced over my shoulder. “And just so you know, I love you both.”

I left the office with a smile, which I’m still wearing as I write this. Yes… it’s true that I love my job, and I hope that’s okay to say, because, despite, or maybe because of the surprises, I wouldn’t change a thing.

Last week, Uncle Joey called me about something that was stolen from his home. He’d already questioned the hired help, but none of them admitted to taking anything. That’s where I came in. Since I can read minds, he knew I’d get to the bottom of it.

I met him at his house, since that was the scene of the crime, and he invited me inside.

“Thanks for coming,” he said.

“Sure.” It was nice that he thanked me, even though everyone knows you can’t say no to a mob boss. “So what’s going on?”

He scratched his jaw, feeling a bit foolish, since the missing item had no value except to him. “I just noticed that my grandfather’s old set of golf clubs is missing. I’ve kept them in the storage shed for years and I just noticed they’re gone. I’ve questioned everyone, but no one will confess to taking them.”

“Were they worth a lot of money?”

“No. That’s why I can’t figure it out. I mean… they’re old, so maybe someone would think they were worth something, but I’m pretty sure they’re not.”

“Why’s that?”

“Because they’re relics from the past, and they’re made out of wood. Nothing like they make them today, and totally worthless in today’s world. I guess I’ve been keeping them for sentimental reasons.” He shrugged. “But I suppose they could be worth something to a museum, but that’s hardly a reason to steal them. All my workers are still here. Would you mind talking to them for me?”

“Okay.”

I followed him to his office. “Wait here, and I’ll send them in.”

The first worker to enter was the cleaning lady. She’d been cleaning Uncle Joey’s house for years, and she was miffed that he suspected her of stealing from him. I smiled and asked her about the golf clubs. “I’ve never seen them. I don’t clean the storage shed, so I don’t know anything about them.”

She was telling the truth, but there was something she was nervous about. “That makes sense,” I said. “And you’ve never seen anything missing around the house?”

She frowned, wondering why I was asking that. “Like what?” Her thoughts flashed to the master bedroom closet where she’d helped herself to a few items of jewelry that Jackie, Uncle Joey’s wife, had kept in the panel of drawers. The worker knew the real stuff was in the safe, but Jackie had so many sets of similar earrings, that she’d never miss the few she’d taken. Besides that, the drawers were stuffed so full of jewelry, it was like a browsing in a jewelry store. There was no way Jackie would remember what was in there.

“You know who my Uncle is, right?”

The skin around her eyes tightened. “Of course.”

“So it’s probably not a good idea to take anything from… say… his wife’s stash of jewelry, right?”

Her face paled. “Of course not.”

“Good. You’re free to go.”

She swallowed, and hurried out of the office. The next person to come in was the groundskeeper. He admitted that he had access to the storage shed, so I figured if it was anyone, it would be him. I asked him about the missing golf clubs and he nodded. “Yes, I know. Mr. Manetto is quite upset about them, but I don’t know who took them. I think they’ve been gone for a long time, though, and he just noticed it now.”

“When was the last time you saw them?”

He shrugged. “A year ago, maybe two.”

“Oh wow. Okay. That helps.”

He was thinking it was around the time that Jackie and Manetto got married. After she moved in, she made several changes, and he remembered that she’d cleaned up a lot of old junk. Maybe she did it?

“Thanks. You’ve been very helpful.”

After he left, the pool maintenance guy came in. He was more nervous than the others, but that was because he’d overcharged Uncle Joey a lot of money, and it had something to do with the pool filters.

“So do you keep an eye on the pool filters?”

His eyes widened. Why was I asking him that? “Yes. That’s part of my job.”

“How many filters are in Uncle Joey’s pool?”

“He has three.”

“Wow. So how often do they need to be cleaned or changed?”

He swallowed, completely thrown by my questioning. “It depends on how much the pool is used. I test it weekly.” He was thinking that he’d told Uncle Joey he needed the pool filters replaced every month, but it was more like every six months to a year. During that time, he just exchanged the filters with some he already had, but charged Uncle Joey the full price. But there was no way I could know that.

I sighed. Was everyone a cheater? “Look… I know you’re overcharging my Uncle for the pool filters. I don’t think he’ll be happy to know about that, but you’ve brought this on yourself. If you’d just been honest, you could have saved yourself some pain, now I can’t promise anything.”

“What? How? Wait… you don’t know what you’re talking about.”

My brows rose. “Yes I do, and I’m telling him.” I shook my head. “If I were you, I’d leave while you’re still in one piece.” He jumped up from his seat and hurried out the door.

I wandered into the kitchen to find Uncle Joey. He was pouring himself a soda and offered me one. I thanked him and he smiled. “So how did it go? Did you figure it out?”

“Not exactly, but I have an idea. Before I tell you what it is, I have some bad news. You’re going to have to hire a new pool maintenance company.” I explained what I’d found out and watched his face darken.

“Anyone else?”

“You might want to find a new cleaning lady too. The gal you have has taken a couple of things that don’t really matter, but I wouldn’t trust her in your house, either.”

“Damn.” Uncle Joey took a breath. “I guess it’s a good thing you came, but what about the golf clubs?”

“None of your workers had anything to do with them. But… you might want to ask Jackie. The groundskeeper said she cleaned out a lot of junk when you first got married. She may have gotten rid of them. Did you ever tell her they had sentimental value?”

He shook his head. “No, I guess I didn’t.”

I patted his arm. “Well… that might be what happened then.”

His lips twisted, and he gave a resigned sigh. “You’re probably right. I’ll ask her when she gets home.” He shook his head. “Well… that’s not what I expected, but thanks for helping me out.”

“You bet.”

“It’s kind of discouraging to think people aren’t as honest as they should be.”

“I know, and I wish it was different. I mean… they all know you’re a mob boss, so you’d think they’d be more careful, right?”

“Exactly.” He was thinking that he’d have to brush up on his image, so this wouldn’t happen again. Maybe make a few threats, that sort of thing.

I shook my head. “I don’t think that’s necessary. These guys just got complacent. But your groundskeeper’s a good guy, so it’s not everyone, and I’ll be happy to come over and check out your new workers, just to make sure.”

“Thanks Shelby.”

We said our goodbyes and I left, glad I could help.

Who knew being rich came with so many problems?

So that’s my story for today. If you’re at a thrift store and you happen to see some old wooden golf clubs, be sure and let me know. There might even be a reward!

Until next time,

~Shelby

Have you ever just needed a change of scenery? After I took my kids to school this morning, I decided to make a pitstop at the coffee shop on my way home. For a change of pace, I went inside to order and got a frothy cold drink of yumminess.

The place was nearly empty, so I took a seat at one of the tables and enjoyed the atmosphere. I put in my earbuds to listen to a podcast on my phone and watched the birds in the trees out the window. While I was lost in my own little world, a man took the seat across from me.

It shocked that a man I didn’t know was invading my space, and I just sat there with my mouth open like a dummy.

“Hey. How ya doing? Are you listening to something good?” he asked.

“Uh… yes… I am.”

“What is it?”

I proceeded to tell him that it was a podcast about the significance of dreams. I probably shouldn’t have done that because he wanted to know why I was listening, and was it because I had weird dreams? Then he started telling me about some of the dreams he’d had.

As most of you know, I have a secret ability that allows me to read minds. So I listened real close to his thoughts, hoping to figure out why he was talking to me. Was he lonely? Did I look like an easy mark? Was he interested in me? At the moment, he was too involved with his story so I didn’t get far.

When he finally finished, I smiled. “Maybe you should listen to the podcast. It might help.”

He shrugged. “Sure. Where is it?”

I proceeded to show him my phone and where he could find it. During this time, I still couldn’t figure out why he was talking to me. Then he said he’d better get going, but it was good to see me. “Be sure and tell your husband I said hello. Maybe we should all go out to dinner sometime. When was the last time we went out together? Two or three years ago?”

Since I had no idea who he was, I managed to mumble a reply. “Uh… I honestly can’t remember.”

“Yeah? I think we went to that steakhouse out on Union Boulevard. I don’t remember the name. What is it?”

This was starting to feel like the twilight zone, because I’d never been to a steakhouse there. I didn’t even know there was one on that street. “Uh… I don’t know.”

“Oh well… hey did your kids get the dog they wanted?”

I brightened. If he knew that, he had to know me, right? “Oh yeah they did.”

He sat back down. “What kind did you get?”

So I told him all about Coco, and how we’d found him at the animal shelter. I kept studying his face, hoping for something to click, but it never happened. I must be going nuts.

Not able to take it anymore, I stood. “Sorry, but I’ve got to go.”

“Sure… I should go too. I didn’t mean to take up all your time.” He followed me out to my car and watched me get in.

Before I closed the door, he waved and I picked up that he’d enjoyed talking to me, mostly because his plan had worked like a charm. Who knew? It just went to show that all you needed was a little information, and it was easy to strike up a conversation.

People were just so nice. Now the next time I saw him, I’d think he was my friend, and it wouldn’t be long before he’d insinuated himself into my life. That’s when the fun would begin. And, if he played his cards right, he might get close enough to Manetto to take him down.

“Oh wait just a minute.” I grabbed my phone and quickly snapped his picture. “There. Now I can tell my husband that we met today. He probably wouldn’t believe it without the picture.” I took a few more, determined to find out who this guy was.

He quickly got in his car and took off, but not before I managed to snap another photo of his license plate number. Armed with this information, I knew I could track him down.

Now I’m off to visit Uncle Joey to show him the photo. If he doesn’t know the guy, I can head to the police department and look him up on my computer there. One way or another, I’ll find out who he is… But what the freak? How can just stopping at the coffee shop end up complicating my life?

I’ll keep you posted, but in the meantime, watch out for strangers who act like they know you!!

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.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My last post was all about Career Day at the high school and guess what? The lady in charge got back to me. I said I’d come as a consultant for the police. Naturally, I asked Dimples to come with me, and he was planning on it, but had to cancel at the last minute because of a murder.

Sure, that was a good excuse, but it ruined all my plans, and I had to go it alone.

So instead of focusing on police work as a detective, I’d have to tell them about my work as a consultant for the detectives. But it could still work. I could use the brief outline I’d prepared of what happens when a person is charged with a crime, and how a detective would go about investigating it. That seemed easy enough, and whatever time there was remaining, could be turned into a Q & A session.

That might have worked out just fine, but when I got into the classroom, everything I was going to say changed in a flash. Josh and his friends, who included Chloe, had all decided to come to my session. They all knew that I’d helped Chloe out of a dangerous situation because of my premonitions.

With Josh there, I couldn’t get away with anything, especially lying. So I stumbled my way through my initial outline about the investigative process. It only took about five minutes. With nothing left to say, I opened it up to questions.

The first question, of course, was about my premonitions. They wanted to know how they worked… even asking if I got visions. I had to explain that it was more like a hunch after I spoke with someone. Another student asked if I needed an object that the murder victim had touched, or something like that.

I picked up pretty quickly that they were basing most of these questions on TV shows they’d seen. I hated to burst their collective bubbles with the truth that none of that stuff was real, but how could I even think about saying that? Needless to say, it got a little awkward.

At last, someone asked if I could tell them about an experience I’d had helping the police arrest someone. Since I’d actually thought about an experience I could share, I sighed with relief, and began to tell them about a guy who’d been arrested for killing his girlfriend. They ate it up, and it was actually kind of fun. The time flew by, and before I knew it, the bell rang.

The teacher wrapped it up, telling everyone to thank me, and the kids filed out. Josh and his friends each gave me high fives, which was kind of cool.

After they left, I gathered my things. The teacher thanked me for coming, but he didn’t think I’d offered much more than entertainment. It was supposed to be career day – not story-telling day. I hadn’t given them any information about the “real” world.

It might have hurt my feelings, but I had worse things to worry about. I’d picked up that Josh was thinking seriously about becoming a private investigator… because of me. He liked the idea of being his own boss. More than that, he thought it sounded interesting with lots of excitement and never a dull moment. He’d definitely look into it.

Crap! I guess I made it sound too good. I should have added the bad side of the job, like all the times I’d nearly been killed, and how the strain of working for both a mob boss and the police was sure to give me an ulcer.

Of course, didn’t he already know most of that? There were some things I didn’t tell my kids because I wanted to spare them the worry, but now I wasn’t sure I’d done them any favors.

I guess it all comes down to this. Do I want my child to follow in my footsteps? No way! Not even a little. It’s way too dangerous, and bad enough that I’m involved, let alone, him.

So, now it looks like I’m going to have to do a little career searching, so I can suggest other careers for him to consider. It will have to be something interesting and exciting without the worry of death hanging over his head. Maybe Chris could talk to him about being a lawyer. That was interesting, right?

If you have any suggestions, I’d love to hear them!

Until next time…

~Shelby

 

Recently, I attended my son’s parent-teacher conference. While there, the lady in charge of career day stopped to talk with me. She asked if I’d be willing to talk to students on career day who were interested in becoming private investigators. I could tell them how I got started, give them an estimate of how much money they could make, and explain what the job entailed.

I immediately imagined telling them that I’d gotten my start at the grocery store while shopping for carrots. I’d explain that I’d been caught in the cross fire by a bank robber and gotten shot in the head, thus giving me the ability to read minds – which led me into this perfect career.

I had to admit that I’d get a kick out of seeing their eyes bulge while they wondered if I was for real, or if I was just messing with them. At least it would get their attention, which is a big deal for a bunch of teenagers. Just thinking about doing that brought a smile to my lips.

The lady cleared her throat, wondering what was so funny.

My brows drew together, and I tried my best to look interested. “Do you really have that many students who’d be interested in a career like that?”

“Well, to be honest, I don’t know. I thought I’d ask if you could speak first, and then if there was enough interest from the students, I’d have you as a resource. What do you think?”

I hated to let her down, but I wasn’t a licensed private investigator. “I’m sorry, but I’m a consultant, not a P.I.” Her lips turned down, so I continued, “I consult for the police and I have my own consulting business. It’s different from being a P.I. So you’d probably need someone else.”

“Oh, that’s too bad,” she said, then her eyes brightened. “But maybe you could talk to them about your consulting business, and how you got involved with working for the police. I imagine your work is quite interesting, and something the students might want to know.”

“Uh… well that’s a possibility.” I immediately thought of my consulting work for a mob boss. I was sure they’d love to hear about that! I let out a little chuckle.

The lady frowned and scrunched up her nose, wondering why I kept smiling and laughing. Did I think this was a joke or something?

“Uh… but I have a better idea,” I continued, not wanting to give her the wrong idea. “If there is interest in that kind of a career, why don’t we ask a detective with the police? I have a friend on the force who would be happy to come.”

She nodded, thinking that would be a great way to go. “Sure,” she agreed. “But only if you come with them. Your friend can talk about being a detective, and you can share what it’s like to be a consultant.”

“Well… yeah… I guess that would work.”

“Great! Career day is usually in April, so you should be hearing from me soon.” She smiled, excited to have me on board, and thinking she was sure there would be a lot of interest from the students. “Talk to you soon.”

As she walked away, I let out a sigh. What had I gotten into now? I could imagine that Dimples would have enough information to take up most of the time. I’d just have to hope that no one would have questions for me.

Then the biggest realization of taking part in career day hit me. Since I’d built my career on the fact that I could read minds, or as I called it, “premonitions,” how was I supposed to talk about that? I was a consultant for the police because of my psychic abilities. Did they have a career path for psychics? Not in a million years.

If she’d known about that part, I was sure she never would have asked me. Now what was I supposed to do? I sighed, deciding I’d just have to wait and see what happened. There was a chance she wouldn’t call me, but if it ended up that she did, I’d just have to let Dimples do the talking, and pretend I knew something about it.

On the other hand, I could always tell the career day lady that my expertise was in psychic abilities, and if she wanted me to talk about that, I’d be more than willing to share what I knew. That would probably get me off the hook, and I’d never have to worry about hearing from her again.

Yeah. That makes the most sense, but now I don’t know what to do. Which is best? SO – Now I’m asking you. What do you think I should do? Go with the whole premonition thing, or just play along like a normal person? Let me know in the comment section below – but tell me soon, April isn’t too far away!

Thanks for reading!!

~Shelby

 

 

 

 

 

This morning I got a call from Uncle Joey, asking me to come into the office to help with a problem. Of course, he didn’t tell me the nature of the problem, only that he needed my special mind reading skills to help him solve it. And he didn’t sound happy.

The first few times I helped Uncle Joey, I often wore a black wig and fake glasses to keep my identity a secret. I mean… the less people who knew I worked for a mob boss, the better, right? Plus I didn’t want it to get back to my husband and kids.

But of course, things didn’t work out like I had expected. Now, I even have my own office at Thrasher Development. Still, getting summoned there by Uncle Joey often sends a tendril of dread down my spine.

What will it be this time? Will my involvement mean that somebody’s going to die? Or will it mean catching someone in a dreadful lie? I tend to like catching liars the most.

But you get the picture. My part in the scenario can be stressful and fascinating at the same time.

As soon as I walked into the office, I felt the tension, and my stomach clenched. Jackie, Uncle Joey’s secretary and now his wife, glanced at me with trepidation. She doesn’t know my secret that I can read minds. Like most people, she believes I have psychic powers, or premonitions, as I call them.

She pulled in a deep breath to settle her nerves, thinking that now Uncle Joey would know the truth about her past, and she wasn’t sure she was ready for that.

What did that mean? What had she been hiding all this time?

“Hi Shelby,” she said with resignation. “They’re waiting in the conference room for us.”

She didn’t wait for my reply, so I followed her into the large room across the hall. A man in his mid-twenties sat at the table. His shoulders twitched nervously and sweat gleamed on his forehead. As we entered, he stood, rubbing his sweaty palms on his pants.

“Sit down,” Uncle Joey told him. He quickly sat, and Uncle Joey turned his attention to me. “Thanks for coming in Shelby. Please have a seat. You too, Jackie.”

After I sat, he glanced at the man. “Weston. Please tell Shelby what you told us.”

Weston glanced at me and licked his lips. He didn’t like the way I looked at him. Was I a cop? No, that couldn’t be true, now that he knew Jackie’s husband was a mob boss, that wasn’t a possibility. Still, coming here might have been the biggest mistake of his life. He hoped it wasn’t his last.

“I’m here because I believe Jackie is my mother. I told them all of the details. They match up with everything I know.”

Surprise rippled through me. I hadn’t expected that. I listened closely to Weston’s thoughts and picked up that he’d done his best with the information available. Gavin had made it sound easy, and he was the best hacker around.

Too bad nothing in the database indicated that Jackie’s rich husband was also a mob boss. If this didn’t work, he was totally screwed.

“Are you willing to take a blood test?” I asked him.

“Of course,” he answered, thinking that was part of the plan. Gavin could easily hack into the system to change the lab results, so that wasn’t a problem. He’d done it a few times already, but now he realized they’d been lucky.

He glanced at Jackie, hoping she’d crack just a little. “Look, I thought you might want to know that I’m doing all right. My mom recently passed away. Before she died, she told me I was adopted, and gave me the information I needed to find you. I just wanted to connect if you were okay with that. Here’s a card with my number. I’ll go now, but call me if you want to talk.”

He handed her his card, then stood to leave. He wanted to get out of there before he got caught, and even hoped that she didn’t call him back. She hadn’t come across as the sentimental type, and his deception might not work on her.

Then there was her husband. He was the real reason Weston was ready to call it a day. He felt like he’d stepped into the lion’s den with that one. Even if he could get a lot of money out of it, he wasn’t sure the deception was worth the risk of getting killed.

Now I had to decide if I should call him out now, or wait until after he left. Because of his misgivings, I wasn’t sure that he’d answer if Jackie called him back. All I knew was that I didn’t like his plan of preying on women who’d given up a child for adoption.

“Just a minute,” I said. He glanced at me with widened eyes. “I know you’re lying. You’re not Jackie’s son. You and Gavin have quite the scam going, but it’s over now. We know all about it.”

He froze in shock. Then self-preservation kicked in and he bolted. We followed him out of the office, only to hear the sound of rushing footsteps in the stairwell before the door clanged shut.

“Are you going after him?” Jackie asked Uncle Joey.

“No,” he replied. “I’m in good shape, but he’s faster.”

He gave me the evil eye, thinking that I should have let Jackie call him so they could have had a chance to get to “know” him better, and teach him a lesson he wouldn’t soon forget.

I smiled and shrugged, but with Jackie there, I couldn’t exactly tell him that he might not have answered her call. Plus, I wasn’t sure if Weston would survive the teach-him-a-lesson part. At least now he would be looking over his shoulder for a long time to come.

Uncle Joey shook his head, then glanced at Jackie. He felt bad that she hadn’t told him about her past. Then he wondered if she regretted giving up her child for adoption, and if she’d want to find him now.

“I think we need to talk,” Jackie told him.

His eyes softened and he nodded, then turned my way. “Thanks for coming Shelby.”

“Sure. I’m glad to help. I’ll see you later.”

With that, I left them to work it out. I didn’t know if Jackie wanted to find her son, but I knew she was ready to tell Uncle Joey the story.

I was also glad that she’d been so wrapped up in the possibility that Weston was her son that she didn’t think to question how I knew so much about his devious plans.

All-in-all, this visit hadn’t turned out so bad. In fact, that powerful feeling of catching someone in a lie gave me a lingering sense of euphoria.

Because of that, I was determined that the next time I got summoned to the office, I’d look forward to it.