Philomena Grasso had granted Mr. Constantine an audience on the day after her husband’s funeral. She did so because Andrew Constantine had been her husband’s lawyer and counsel for more than 20 years. She assumed that he had something important to discuss. Personally, she had never liked Andrew much – he only spoke English, but Gino had trusted him; and she thought it might be important, so she had agreed to see him.
Her son, Scott pushed through the pivot hinged kitchen door with Andrew trailing right behind, “Mom, Mr. Constantine’s here.”
“Thanks, Scotty. Can you go see how your brother’s getting on in the den?”
“Sure thing, Mom.” He pushed out through the door again. Philomena and Andrew watched the door swing back and forth a few times until it came to rest in the closed position.
There was an antique oak table with two chairs pushed up against the wall under a window. Philomena took her alligator skin bag from one of the chairs and sat down. She indicated that Andrew should sit in the other. “Can I get you something to drink?” she asked, “coffee, tea, water?”
“No thank you.”
“Tell me, Mr. Constantine, what is so important that you had to see me on the day after my husband’s funeral?”
“It’s about the business, Philomena.” He started, speaking quickly, “With the Don gone we need to appoint a successor. We need to show strength or the other families will try to move in on our markets. Scotty can’t do it, neither can his brother…”
She stopped him right there. “First of all, Mr. Constantine, it makes me uncomfortable for you to address me by my first name. You should call me Mrs. Grasso. Second, if you don’t think my boys can fill their father’s shoes; then whom, exactly, did you have in mind? Huh?”
“Well me, of course, Mrs. Grasso. I’ve worked with the Don for years. I mean – I know where the bodies are buried.” He laughed.
Philomena did not laugh with him. She studied him instead. He didn’t look good. He looked nervous. His pallid skin hung loose on his neck. His hair was stringy and thin. It was that awkward color that occurs between blonde and grey, when it’s not really either one. She didn’t know if this was simple aging or if it were stress. “Are you speaking literally, or figuratively, Mr. Constantine?” she asked.
“Well, both I suppose,” he shrugged his shoulders. “We all know how Gino earned a living.”
Philomena scowled, “Did you call my husband Gino when he was alive? Or did you address him as Don? Perhaps: Mr. Grasso?”
She didn’t wait for a reply. “Perhaps, Mr. Constantine, you can delineate, for me the reasons I should allow you to assume the reins of my husband’s business when you cannot even respect him enough to speak of him properly on the day after his funeral. If you have nothing constructive to discuss then this meeting is over and you are dismissed. I’ll have Max give you a ride back to the island.” She stood, clearly indicating the meeting was finished.
“Scott,” she called for her son.
Andrew sputtered, “Uh, Mrs. Grasso – perhaps this was not the most opportune time to bring this up. We can talk again in a few days. Alright?”
Scott Grasso pushed into the kitchen, “Yeah, Mom?”
“Can you find Max and ask him if he’ll drive Mr. Constantine home. He and I discussed it earlier and I don’t want Mr. Constantine to have to take a cab. Have him pull the car around to the front. Mr. Constantine will wait for him there.”
“Sure thing, Mom.”
The lawyer continued to back pedal, “I’ll call you in a few days,” he said, “we can talk more then. I loved Don Grasso like a father and I meant no disrespect.”
“You’d best go out front,” Philomena said curtly, “we don’t want to make Max wait. Do we?”
“No, of course not.” Constantine took her hand when she extended it. He held it briefly, then dropped it and took his leave, heading to the front of the house.
Scott came back in the kitchen as the lawyer went out. He stood with his mother.
“Scotty honey, when Max comes back; tell him to take a few days off and, make sure that there’s something extra in his envelope this week. We’re going to need new counsel. Can you ask your brother to come see me please?”