Arrio limped to his room, stripped off his vomit-soaked pants, and pulled himself beneath the thick covers of his plush bed. He was drifting to sleep when a thought struck him: Had Louisa shown up? Arrio remembered waiting for her, but he was too tired to search his alcohol-muddled mind. So he slept soundly, and deeply, through the afternoon.
He awoke with a start at three o’clock and realized that he had agreed to see Don Manuel in fifteen minutes. He grabbed a clean, pinstripe suit from his closet and ran into his bathroom. There was no time for a shower, so he ran a wet washcloth over his body and rinsed his hair in the sink. As he came out from beneath the water, he hit his head on the faucet.
“Shit,” he mumbled. He felt the area for blood, but found none.
He continued to brush his teeth, wash his face, shave, and get dressed. He ran out of the bathroom and slipped into a pair of shiny Oxfords as he wrestled a diamond covered watch onto his wrist.
“Shit,” he mumbled again. It was 3:15, and Arrio was late again. He raced down the stairs and across the mansion, to the West Office Wing.
“Sir,” a young, slender receptionist stopped him outside his office, “Luke has taken Don Manuel out to the gardens, and these were left for you.”
“Thank you,” Arrio said as he received a small stack of cards from her. He turned to leave for the gardens as he pulled out a cell phone with one hand and began looking through the cards with another. He called Luke, and the phone had only rung twice before Arrio came upon Louisa’s call card. Her name was written in shiny pink lettering that danced gracefully across the stiff whiteness of the card. He turned it over, to see when he could call on her. The blank line read ‘Never’.
“Damn it!” he yelled.
“What?” Luke had picked up the phone.
“Nothing,” Arrio replied, “It’s just something Jaclyn gave me. Where are you?”
“In the gardens,” Luke said, “Was it her card?”
“Yeah,” Arrio said, “Where in the gardens?”
“I’ll explain her later,” Luke said, “We’re not too far down the Red Riding Hood path.”
“Good. I’ll catch up to you in ten minutes. Apologize to the Don for my tardiness. Tell him a family emergency came up.” Arrio hung up and began jogging to the path.
When he caught up to them fifteen minutes later, the Don didn’t look as upset as Arrio had expected. He was a plump Caucasian man – the name and title were obviously fake.
“Good afternoon,” Arrio offered his hand to the Don, “Would you like to continue outside or go to my office?”
“I prefer the outdoors,” Don Manuel said, with a German accent, “There are fewer intruders.”
“I agree. Except for the birds, few eavesdroppers appear,” Arrio said.
They began to walk down the wide path. Arrio was on Don Manuel’s right, and Luke was on his left.
“So, why did you arrange a meeting with me?” Don Manuel inquired.
“Ah, good,” Arrio smiled, “I hate it when businessmen beat around the bush. It’s so cumbersome, and takes me away from my profits.”
“We would like to ask you to do less business in our area,” Luke told him.
“Your friend is outspoken,” Don Manuel said, “But I will not. One’s empire can never grow too large.”
“Indeed,” Arrio allowed the side of his mouth to twitch into a smile. This man was an idiot, and idiots don’t have empires. “But I believe mine is larger than yours, with more influence.”
“But you’ve heard of me,” the Don refuted, “I have more friends than yours, in more places.”
“Oh, no,” Luke said, “Our friends are more powerful and numerous than yours.”
“An alliance, then.” The Don was becoming nervous, and therefore desperate. “I will give you five percent of all my profits.”
“I don’t think you understand us,” Arrio said, “Our friends are more powerful and numerous than yours. Take, for instance, Van Weigen.”
Luke and Arrio saw Don Manuel blanch. “He does not like traitors, and he has promised us one hundred percent of your profits if we get rid of you.”
“You can’t do that here,” the Don said with confidence, “The sun shines, and this trail is well-packed. It is frequented too often to kill a person and hide their body.”
“Who said anything about killing you?” Arrio laughed, “We deal justice, not death.”
At that phrase, five men in black, bulletproof vests burst from the foliage. Don Manuel was shocked stiff, and soon overwhelmed. Two guns were pointed at him while handcuffs were slapped onto his wrists. He didn’t see the back of the jackets that read ‘FBI’ until he was being shoved farther into the woods, where a truck waited.
Arrio and Luke laughed as Don Manuel cursed at them. They had won again.