Alone inside his wine cellar, Michael Nicholas pecked away at his computer keyboard, clicking onto the gold Byzantine Orthodox cross icon and then typing in the password his brother had set up . . . just before he “died.”
It was a year ago but, for Michael, it seemed like an eternity. And for Alex Nicholas, it was.
Alex had been gunned down while enjoying a plate of sizzling veal parmigana in a Queens restaurant. The shooter had been hired by Joseph Sharkey, an aging former Mafia hit man and certifiable psychopath.
Alex had been a bookie, a very successful one. He had owned one of the largest sports bookmaking and loan sharking operations in New York City.
Thinking back upon the wake, when Donna, his brother’s widow, asked him to briefly help settle Alex’s affairs, Michael never could have dreamed that Alex’s shadowy world would have drawn him in. But none of that compared to what he was about to do tonight – just as he had been doing all along – since his brother’s death.
No matter how often Michael typed in the password, he always expected the screen to turn blank. And the moment Alex appeared on the screen, as he always did, Michael made a mental leap into an abyss, stretching any remaining sense of reason and rationality that he still retained.
Alex’s image appeared, his powerful presence concealing his fifty-five years, just as it had in life and the fact that he was dead; his facial expressions, body movements and mannerisms were just as real as his gruff, deep voice which gave Michael the warning.
“You don’t have much time,” Alex said. “They’ve sent someone over from Rome just to kill you. I don’t know too many details yet except that his first name is Frank.”
Michael could feel his stomach tighten, he was falling, dropping quickly, and there was no net to break the fall.
“Just days,” Alex said.
“How do I find this guy?”
“Michael, I’m afraid he’s going to find you.”