I woke up in Vito’s guest house. I was alone. Except for the large bald man standing over me.
“Who the fuck are you?” I asked
“Luigi. Michaela wants to talk to you.”
“Can you give me a minute? I still got morning wood.”
Luigi escorted me through the garden to the large chateau. There, standing in the kitchen, was Michaela holding a glass of brandy.
“Vito died”, she said.
Luigi punched me in the stomach and I fell to the ground. While on my knees, I tried to catch my breath.
“My condolences, Mrs. Stararo,” I said.
“Don’t give me that shit. What happened to Vito? Where were you?” She asked.
“I think you know where I was.”
Luigi then socked me in the face. I got up and wiped the blood from my nose.
“Does it look like foul play? The man was 90 years old and drunk as hell last night,” I said.
Michaela downed the brandy.
“No,” she replied. “I need to know if I can trust you.”
For good measure, Luigi kicked me in the dick.
“I don’t know who any of you are! I was just hired by some man with a leather briefcase to find Isabella!” I said.
She waved Luigi out of the room and handed me a towel.
“Is this how you treat all your guests?” I asked.
“Sorry, a lot of people have wanted Vito dead for a long time. With him gone, I don’t know if they will come after me,” she said.
Michaela grabbed an ice pack and put it over my eye. “I’m going to need protection,” she said longingly.
“I just got my ass kicked. Are you sure you’re asking the right person?” I replied.
“Don’t go back to LA. Stay here with me.”
“I gotta find Isabella.”
“I don’t know where she is. But as long as she stays away from here, she’ll be safe.”
“I can’t take that chance.”
I grabbed my bowler hat and coat. “I’ll check on you soon. If things get tough, come to LA,” I said.
I took a shot of brandy and departed.
It was clear that Michaela was behind the death of Vito. I’ve seen these cases hundreds of times: wife gets jealous of husband, wife kills husband, wife takes husband’s place as head of a crime family. It’s a tale as old as time.
But one thing was clear: Isabella was certainly in trouble.
I arrived at the LA office. The secretary said that the strange man looking for Isabella was sitting in my office. I walked in and hung up my coat.
“Well well well Mr. Italian Leather, perhaps you have answers for me,” I said.
“That’s what we’re paying you for Jimmy,” he replied.
I sat down at the desk and put my feet up. “Who’s ‘we’? Vito’s dead,” I said.
“I know. I see that Luigi paid you a visit,” Mr. Leather said referring to my bruises. “She’s dangerous you know?”
“You don’t say?” I said sarcastically. “Do you really think this is my first rodeo?”
“I know that you’re a busy man, so I don’t want to take up too much of your time. But I want you to meet me on the campus of UC Irvine on Thursday,” Mr. Leather told me.
“You could have told me this by email,” I replied.
“I just wanted to make sure you got the message.”
Mr. Leather stood up and as he was walking towards the door, I said: “if you’re gonna make me drive all over SoCal, I’m gonna start charging by the mile.”
“Keep sending me the bill,” he said. Then he shut the door.
I told the secretary that I didn’t want any interruptions. I popped open a beer and a Vicodin and took a nap.