“So this is a shakedown, right?” said the restaurant manager. He took a sip of his wine.
“I really take exception to that,” she said “It’s exactly the kind of negative stereotype we Italians have been fighting since we came to this country.”
“Oh, please,” said John, lacing his fingers behind his back and looking at the ceiling. “You come here, and just assume that because I’m not Italian, I’m going to let you buy me out because you want to expand, and…”
“First of all,” Lucy said, cutting him off, “we offered you twice what your business is worth. Second, we don’t want to expand. In fact, our real issue is with the fact that it’s you who wants to expand.”
He drank some more of his wine, and it emboldened him to be even more abrasive.
“Blah, blah, blah,” he said. “I’m more successful than you, and you don’t like it.”
“Fast food burger joints do more business than steakhouses,” she said. “And yes, you sell fast food, and sell more than we do.”
Lucy leaned back in her chair.
“And that’s just the problem. You call yourself a place for, and I quote, ‘good hearty Italian fare.’”
She shook her head.
“And you serve pasta covered with sauce that comes from a jar.”
“So, what?” he said, “Look, people eat what they want to eat.”
“No,” she said, “they eat what’s fast. If they’d just slow down and maybe except that the only good sauce comes from a kitchen that uses whole tomatoes, they’d never go back. In my family...”
“Oh, there it is,” said John, clearing his throat. “You Italians and that word. Family. Next your gonna tell me that you come from good family.”
“Yes, I come from a powerful family,” she said.
“I figured,” he said. “What do you specialize in, construction? Garbage pick up.?”
“Royalty,” she said. “Dukes, Princes, and even Cardinals and Popes.”
She glared at John.
“And I’m proud of my country’s food. I’m very proud of it.”
“And I have no problem with your not being Italian. It’s the fact that you disgrace my country’s heritage.”
John’s coughing became uncontrollable.
“This all could have gone so smoothly,” Lucy said, opening and closing the ring on the hand that had, a minute before, she had moved over John’s wine when he was staring at the ceiling.
John began to gasp for breath, and fell off his chair.
“This isn’t a shakedown,” said Lucy, “it’s justice for the crimes you’ve committed against fine dining.”
He looked up at her uncomprehendingly.
“Do I have to spell it out for you? Okay: In the name of the Borgias, I sentence you to death.”
John had stopped breathing, and was turning blue.
The chef from Lucy’s restaurant came in through the window with three busboys.
“It’s done?” he asked hopefully.
“Yes,” she said. “Odorless. Colorless.”