Malachi gripped the arms of his desk chair and glared at the phone on the desktop. "You assured me," he said, teeth gritted, "your men were reliable."
"They are, Brother," said the voice on the other end of the line.
"Then explain." He shot a glance at the bank of video monitors on the wall nearest to him. "It's being carried over five major networks."
"I...can't," said the voice.
"You'd better hope that fool didn't jeopardize the plan," Malachi said.
"I don't think he did."
"I'm not confident with your answer at the moment, Captain. Fail again and I will end you."
Malachi cut the connection and slumped back in the chair.
Ten months of planning nearly ruined by a moment of stupidity.
He felt his jaw tighten and took a long deep breath, willing himself to relax. He closed his eyes and let out a long exhale.
Lord, give me strength...
The intercom buzzed at him.
Malachi tapped the TALK button. "Yes, Sister Rebecca?"
"Call for you on line two, Brother."
"Thank you." He keyed the phone. "Yes?"
"Malachi, are you insane?" came the reply. "What the hell--what in blazes are you thinking?"
Malachi smiled, frustration disappearing. "Vice Mayor Jeffries. How are you this evening? Are you working late?"
"I sent you the package," said Jeffries, his voice tight and pitched high. "I agreed to cooperate and I have been. Now this?"
"Your tone, Mr. Jeffries," said Malachi. "Remember."
"I remember, damn you. That's still no call for this."
Malachi frowned. "And what exactly do you mean by 'this'?"
"Don't play coy with me. You know damn--you know exactly what I mean. Your people tried to blow me to kingdom come."
"A simple misunderstanding," Malachi said.
Malachi frowned. "Language, Mr. Jeffries."
"This is getting nuts. This...I can't...I don't know..."
"Did you know, Mr. Jeffries, that Amanda is with child?"
"What? That's--that's not possible! It was five months ago--"
"With God all things are possible," said Malachi. "Think of it, Mr. Jeffries."
"No," said Jeffries, and the word came out choked.
Malachi smiled. "I'm glad we still have an understanding. I must go now, Vice Mayor. Until next time."
* * *
7 September 2042
Giovanni Vittorio frowned and drummed thick fingers on the blotter of his huge oak desk. "How long ago?"
In the highback red leather armchair across from him, Joseph Manfredi, Vittorio family consigliere, tall and dapper with a narrow-face and thick salt-and-pepper hair, said, "Ten minutes."
Vittorio nodded. "And Righetti? Does he know?"
"Only a matter of time."
"Call him. We'll need to talk."
Vittorio shook his head. "No time. You said tomorrow, si?"
Manfredi nodded. "Si."
"Then as soon as possible. By phone."
"Righetti first," said Vittorio.
(to be continued...)
"Taking Care of Business"