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#41628

Herr D
Participant
Chapter 10: Too Fancy For A Hole In The Wall

Thirty minutes later, Jennifer was seated at a table feeling badly underdressed in her blue business casual. The doorman to the ridiculously expensive-looking restaurant had moved them to the head of the line and showed them straight in. The concierge had blandly handed Young Mike a striped tie that somehow clashed with his plaid shirt, his suspenders, and even his solid-colored pants. The table was in a hidden corner of an elegant and dimly lit dining room.

Despite the long line outside, the dining room and all its twenty-some tables were empty save for them. Menus without prices had been handed to them without a word, and a waiter was standing twenty feet away waiting for a signal. What are we doing HERE? Are you trying to impress me? Did you think any other guy was actually trying to date me at ALL? She peeked around the menu.
“What . . . do you recommend?”
Young Mike lowered his menu. “I think we should wait for Mr. Machiavelli before we order.”
Jennifer’s eyes widened. “You think he’s coming to our table? The owner?” Who are you exactly, Mike?
He smiled. “I normally speak to the doorman and ask if it’s a good night. They seat me when they can and don’t usually hurry. And they never want me to pay. Of course, they usually only offer me two choices, and I’ve never brought a guest either.”
“Why do they feed you gourmet food for free?”
“I’ve done research for them for free.”
Research on how to charge people ninety dollars a plate? Research on how to get people to wait an hour in line hoping a reservation cancels? Research on how to blackmail the Mafia? “Huh.”
Mr. Machiavelli himself walked into the dining room. Eighty, morbidly obese and pale, wearing a tailored suit that looked expensive, he walked slowly up to the table. “Mr. Claren.”
“Hello, Mr. Machiavelli.”
“I had hoped I’d see you tonight, but I didn’t expect you to have a guest.”
“I can pay for her, M–”
Mr. Machiavelli stopped Young Mike with a small gesture, just lifting a finger. “Your money is no good here young man. What is it young lady?”
“It’s nothing, sir. Good to meet you.”
Mr. Machiavelli raised an eyebrow. He motioned for the waiter to leave. “Tell me, young lady.”
Jennifer paused, looking at the eighty-something who looked closer to sixty. “Is your accent part Irish?”
Young Mike and Mr. Machiavelli looked at each other in surprise. “How did you know?” they said almost in unison.
“I do sound editing for a living. I’d say you have a little Irish, some Italian, and maybe some old Chicago in your voice.”
“Do you know who I am?”
“You’re Mr. Machiavelli. You own this restaurant. Historic Italian and gourmet food.”
“Who would you tell that to that I might be Irish?”
“It’s none of anyone’s business.”
Young Mike said, “I have seen her keep a secret before.”
“It’s easier for me to keep secrets if I know no laws are being broken.”
Young Mike started to say something, cut off by the same gesture of Mr. Machiavelli. “You’re a nice girl. Someone Michael would bring here and offer to pay for. You’re law-abiding and keep secrets, and you have good ears. Tell her.” He sat down, barely fitting in two chairs.
Young Mike looked surprised, nodded. “Mr. Machiavelli is his legal name, but his grandparents were named MacPherson and McVale. They are a distant relation to the Claren family. My research made the connection in our ancestry. Then my research uncovered that the McVales may have been coerced into bootlegging by the mob. Backington was a likely hiding place. It just happened to be a convenient stopping point on a bootlegging route–a really small town without even a single speakeasy to draw attention. Then suddenly, a month before Prohibition was repealed, five people were murdered in Backington. Mr. and Mrs. McVale and three men who worked for them. No evidence was ever uncovered implicating Mr. and Mrs. ‘Machiavelli,’ his parents, who ran this restaurant. It was fashionable to hint that a restaurant had mob ties but not really have any. Italian food sold a lot better than Irish food in those days.”
“You’re saying that Mr. Machiavelli’s parents changed their names?”
“Not legally, but they took the trouble to file his birth certificate legally. So HIS name really is legal.”
“Okay–so you two are related.”
“That’s not all,” said Young Mike, “This property was the only one they owned besides the family home. The home was torn down decades ago. It and the cars were sold off to help pay for their son’s upkeep.”
“So?”
“Where did they hide the booze?”
“You mean you think it’s in THIS BUILDING?”
Mike pointed. “I think it’s in that wall.”

[coming soon, Chapter 11, and I DON’T mean bankruptcy]