Mistaken Identity by Lisa Chapter 20

Republisher’s Note: More classic Manny fanfic. Michelle is in the Witness Protection Program.

Mistaken Identity by Lisa Chapter 20

Michelle raced across the quad heading for the building that housed the college bookstore. The hands on her watch were reading nine-thirty. Traffic had been horrible.

“I’m so sorry, Mr. Rodgers,” she puffed trying to catch her breath, “It’s a zoo out there. Now I remember why I don’t go shopping the day after Thanksgiving.”

“No need to apologize. You are the one doing me the favor. Sit down and catch your breath girl. I certainly don’t need you to pass out from lack of oxygen,” he chuckled.

Michelle watched as he went into the backroom emerging with steaming mugs in hand.

“What’s this for?” she questioned his smiling face.

“The shipment can wait. I want to hear about your first holiday in my home land of Texas.”

“There’s really not all that much to tell.”

“Why is it that I don’t quite believe that?” he countered with a twinkle in his eye, “I may not have had a daughter of my own, but I most certainly have seen the that look in your eye many times before. I know I might be divulging a great male secret, but boys have that same goofy look on their faces too when they have met someone they are attracted to.”

“I think you must be mistaken,” Michelle hid a smile as she took a sip of the hot chocolate he offered her, “As for divulging any male secrets I have a brother so I know all about their goofy looks. I remember Rick being head over heals in love with…..” Michelle caught herself before she could say anymore. She could have kicked herself right about now. What the hell was she thinking rambling on and on like that? It was just that Mr. Rodgers had been so easy to talk to and she needed that right now. She needed an objective sounding board to discuss whatever it was that was going on in her head about Danny Sampson.

“In love with?” he questioned waiting for her to finish.

“If I could only remember their names…..he had so many,” she covered.

“You can’t fool me my dear. I know a love struck girl when I see one. Remember I have worked in this bookstore for over thirty years now. I have seen my fair share of them and you sweetie have been bitten by the love bug and hard I might add.”

Michelle was at a loss for words. She feared that if she spoke she would find herself spilling parts of her life that didn’t exist anymore but if she didn’t talk she thought that she just might explode.

“First let me ask you, how was your holiday?” Michelle said buying herself a little time.

“Very uneventful. It’s pretty much the same year after year. The boys bring their new girlfriends around, my wife spends the day cooking and sizing her new potential daughter-in-laws and me, well I kick back and catch as many bowl games as the little woman will allow.”

“Sounds nice.”

“Nice and boring,” he joked, “I think your day was far more fun.”

“I would have to say that I think I should have taken you up on your offer for dinner. The entertainment sounds far better.”

“Not hardly. So stop stalling. Tell me about your day,” Mr. Rodgers pushed.

“Actually it wasn’t like any Thanksgiving I have ever spent before. My friend Sarah, the girl from the other day,” Mr. Rodgers nodded his acknowledgment, “Well her father is the manager of this club. The Two Step, you know the one on the other side of campus. Well they were having a grand reopening and she invited me to attend it with her.”

“I know that place. But I thought it was just a restaurant. Since when has it been turned into a nightclub?”

“I guess just recently. According to Sarah the owner’s nephew is in town to spice things up a bit.”

“A there it is….that twinkle. I would have to say this nephew is the one who has your head all turned around.”

“What!?!?!? No!” Michelle gasped at how in tune this man was with the pulse of the young blood of the campus.

“You can’t fool me honey. It’s written over every inch of that pretty face of yours.”

Michelle felt the blush growing on her cheeks. “I must say he is rather attractive.”

“Attractive? And here I thought the latest term was HOTTIE?”

Michelle almost choked on the swallow of hot chocolate that she had just taken. “Hottie?!?!?”

“What????’ he feigned shock, “You think I live under a rock? I listen and I watch you young ones. I know what I need to know to keep up with the trends. How do you think I have stayed in business this long?” he asked as if the answer was as plain as the nose on his face.

“You are a shrewd one, Mr. Rodgers.”

“Please call me Tony. Mr. Rodgers makes me sound so old.”

“Tony it is then.”

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.”

“Where do you think you’re going?” he questioned as Michelle stood up from the table.

“I was going to get to work. You surely aren’t paying me to sit here and chat with you all morning.”

“Don’t think you are off the hook yet young lady. I will find out about this nephew. Don’t you worry about that.”

“My lips are sealed,” Michelle countered as she pretended to lock her lips with an imaginary key tossing into the air.

Before Michelle had even realized it the morning had slipped into the afternoon. The clock on the wall read quarter to one. there was no way that she would be able to meet Sarah now.

She felt her heart sink in her chest knowing that she had missed the opportunity to run into Danny. But never the less, there was still hours of work to be done before she would be able to leave.

Michelle pulled the slip of paper from her purse that she had scribbled Sarah’s number on this morning. She let the number ring through and awaited the wrath.

“Where are you?” Sarah asked before Michelle had the chance to speak.

“Still at the bookstore,” she returned meekly.

“Why?”

“Things are taking longer then I thought they would,” There was no need to go into details of how her and her boss had spent the better part of the morning discussing their respective holidays.

“How about we meet for dinner and then a night out on the town?” Michelle offered.

“What am supposed to do until then?” Sarah wasn’t actually mad at her friend she was just disappointed that she would have to postpone her match making. She had just spied Danny and his Uncle coming into the dining room. She had wanted Melanie to be there by now.

“Spend some more of your daddy’s money?” Michelle laughed thinking back to their earlier conversation.

“Now I am liking the sound of that.”

“I thought you might. So are we on for tonight or what?”

“Of course. How about I pick you up? That way there will be no slipping out quietly tonight.”

“Sure.”

Sarah was shocked that she had agreed so quickly. Maybe she wouldn’t have to work that hard after all. Maybe Melanie was finally coming to her senses, “Here’s my address,” Sarah pulled the napkin out from under her drink and jotted down the street name and apartment number, “See you about eight or so?”

“Sounds like a plan to me.”

“Great see you then.”

Michelle was shocked to see Agent Jeremy Lucas standing outside with his face pressed against the plate glass window of the store. She walked over to the door wondering what it was that he could want.

Danny and Albert made their way around the dining room all the while Danny’s eyes darted from Sarah’s table to the door and back again. His uncle had been talking but Danny hadn’t heard a word said. His thoughts were completely focused on willing Melanie Branson to walk through the door.

“Jackson, I’d like to introduce you to my nephew Danny,” Albert said to the man seated at the table before them.

“Nice to meet you, Danny,” the man extended his hand to Danny.

“Daniel,” Albert nudged.

“Ah, I’m sorry,” Danny said realizing the he had better pull it together, “My mind is lost in thought. I just want to be sure that everything is running smoothly.”

“So Albert tells me this nightclub action is your brain child. Well I have to say that it’s a wonderful way to capitalize on the youth market.”

“My thinking exactly. If last night’s crowd is any indication of what is to come I expect us to do very well.”

“So Al, what are you going to do now? Retire?” the man jabbed at Albert’s stomach.

“Me? Retire? I highly doubt it. I’m far too young for that. But I think I might sit back and enjoy my life a bit more. You know reap the benefits of having Danny here.”

Carl stood in the corner out of sight listening to the conversation before him. It made his blood boil. Suddenly he was merely a toy that had been replaced by a new more expensive version.

Carl had repeatedly pitched his ideas to Albert. Ideas that were so similar to Danny’s that they could have been a carbon copy. But they had fallen on deaf ears. Albert would always put his hand in the air as if to stop the words from spilling from his lips. Carl could still hear him say……”Business is fine. We have a loyal following. I don’t want to upset the balance we have here by introducing live entertainment into the mix. We are too old to be listening to blaring rock bands,” he would joke.

But that’s exactly what Danny had done. He had even gone as far as recruit the band he had scouted for six months now. It was like everything that Danny touched turned to gold. What had taken Carl months to accomplish Danny had done in weeks. It was infuriating.

“Danny,” Carl said interrupting the men’s conversation.

“Not now Carl,” Albert injected.

“I need to discuss a problem with Danny,” Albert stressed not having a clue what he was doing but he just wanted to be part of the action again.

“Handle it!” Albert said in a gruff tone, “Isn’t that what I pay you for?”

“It’s all right, Uncle Albert. It was very nice to meet you Jackson. I’d love to discuss business with you sometime.”

“We’ll do that son. And congratulations on a fine start here.”

“What’s the problem Carl?”

“What are we doing for entertainment tonight?” Carl said the first thing that came to mind.

“What?” Danny returned starring at him in disbelief.

“There’s no band booked for tonight. I thought……..”

“Carl, you are kidding right? You know that we have a standing order for the next month of Fridays to have DJ’s from the University of Texas local station play here.”

‘Shit that’s right,” Carl said slapping his hand against his forehead trying to feign surprise.

“What’s really going on here?” Danny questioned doing his best to read Carl’s face.

“Nothing man. It’s just that I want to be sure that everything runs smoothly. That is what your uncle pays me for,” Carl’s tone was mocking.

“So Fridays are taken care of but what about Saturday? I know that you don’t have anyone lined up to play here yet,” Carl jabbed thinking he had Danny boxed in.

“Well I made a deal with the band from last night. They agreed to play tomorrow. That gives me all of next week to scout some new talent.”

“You are having them play again? Don’t you think that’s a bit too soon?”

“No…..no I don’t. They are a great band. You said so yourself. And they bring in a lot of the college kids. That’s what we are looking to do. I was even thinking of making them an offer to play here once a month.”

“Seems like you have all the answers,” Carl said not able to hide his sarcasm.

“Damn right I do!” Danny’s voice held a tone of anger. His fuse was short and he by no means intended on holding his tongue with this man. “You had better start getting used to the fact that I am here. HERE TO STAY!!!” Danny said in a violent whisper, “There’s the door if you have a problem with those facts!” Danny turned to go before Carl had gotten a chance to even open his mouth to return fire. That had been a good thing though. He saw the way that Albert was starring him down. He would have to bide his time, but he would bring Danny to his knees if it was the last thing that he did.

Danny’s breath came out in short hard bursts as he paced back and forth outside the kitchen door. He was annoyed at himself for letting Carl play him. In a flash Danny had reverted to his old ways. In his head he calculated what it would take to have Carl removed from the equation. That scared the hell out of him but he couldn’t stop thinking about things in those terms. He wondered if Albert still had the same difficulty.

“Danny?” It was though Albert could read his mind, “Don’t beat yourself up. Thoughts are only thoughts until you act on them.”

“Does this ever really go away? Am I ever going to stop thinking of life in terms defined by my mother?”

“They are not terms defined by Carmen. They are terms of a way of life. The only life that you have ever known. So my guess is no. In all instances that life will always rise to the surface. It’s just how you chose to deal with those thoughts. That’s when you know that you have truly changed.”

“I wanted to take him by the throat. That arrogant son of a bitch!”

“But you didn’t, Danny. You are not a killer. You never were. You said so yourself that you have never even ordered a hit. Be thankful that you were far too young to be asked to make your bones before Miguel died. And Carmen had Mick to fulfill that part of the family business. Taking a man’s life is something you would have never been able to shake. Believe me I know.”

“Albert?” Danny looked deep into his uncle’s eyes.

“I have killed for the family, Daniel. More times then I choose to recall. So I can say that I’m glad that you never had to do that.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Sorry for what? I did what needed to be done. If there was a threat I took care of it. If someone needed to be taught a lesson I was there to teach it. How do you think that I made underboss for the family? It wasn’t just because Miguel was The Don. It was because I was an earner. I did what was necessary.”

Danny looked at his uncle through a completely different set of glasses from that moment forward. There was more then Danny would ever know about la familia and maybe more then he would ever want to know.

“So don’t let Carl yank your chain, okay? He’s not what’s important here. You are and the life that you want to begin here. And one more thing……don’t beat yourself up over a life that wasn’t of your choosing.”

Danny digested Albert’s words as he returned to the dining room. Part of him wished that he had been taught the true version of the way The Costra Nostra had been in the days when his father and uncle were at the helm rather then the warped version it was now. Maybe then he would have learned the things that Miguel and Albert had learned about the separation of things. How to keep a balance between the business and the family. That was something that his mother had never quite understood. Carmen spent far too much time in her own greed to ever put the good of her family before her own agenda. Maybe for him that had been lucky, because if that hadn’t been who knew where he might be right now. Possibly in a coffin along side of his brother and father.

Danny let his eyes search the dining room once more. Sarah was still seated at the same table and the seat across from her was still vacant. Easily he walked over to her. He listened while she completed her phone call.

“Great I’ll pick you up at eight. And no bailing on me,” Sarah laughed, “Oh,” she jumped realizing that he was standing behind her.

“Excuse me,” he said, “I didn’t mean to startle you. I wanted to wait until you had finished your phone call.”

“Quite all right. I just didn’t expect anyone to be behind me. Seeing as how my lunch date just canceled on me.”

“Sorry to hear that.”

“Had to work.”

“You know us men….we are always trying to get a leg up on the next guy.”

“Men?” Sarah couldn’t help but laugh, “It wasn’t a man. It was Melanie. She got stuck at the bookstore.” Sarah noticed instantly how Danny’s posture changed at the mention of her friend.

“I see,” was all Danny could manage to say.

“Seems like she is too busy to break for lunch,” Sarah laid the bait hoping that Danny would grab for it.

“We can’t have that. How about I get Reggie to whip something up that you can take to her?”

“BINGO!” Sarah thought to herself, “That would be really nice of you but I don’t think I will be able to run it to her. I have an appointment in less then fifteen minutes,” she lied smiling.

“But I thought you were going to be having lunch with her?” he questioned a bit confused.

“Yes, we were but that was supposed to be over an hour ago,” what was one more little white lie she thought.

“Well,  she still has to eat. I could run it to her if you would like. What bookstore does she work at?” All the bells and whistles in his head were sounding but he wasn’t listening. The only thing he could think about was seeing Melaine again.

“The one on campus. Do you know it?”

“No, but I’m sure that I can find it.”

“Thank you so much Danny. I know she will really be surprised,” Sarah hid a sly smile that was steadily spreading across her face. Match making had never been this easy.

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