"You must be Mr. Vercetti."
Michelle Rosenberg presents herself at the doorway of her family's modest two storey in Kendall. She's been expecting him but had hoped until that moment that her husband would also be stepping out of the Benz. The flicker of disappointment in her eyes aren't lost on him.
He's charming and courteous but keeps his hands locked behind his back in a formal upright manner. She's conscious of the smear of crayon on her cheek and the neighbours pulling in across the street. "Care for coffee?"
The inside of their home is open and spacious for its size and Tommy finds himself momentarily taken aback by the unease he feels at stepping into suburbia. Six by eight remain the dimensions he's accustomed to and he'd never transitioned out of the South Bronx. He hovers awkwardly.
"You certainly look the part," Michelle, coming in behind him, considers his six-three and the light it's taken out of the room. "But we're not used to having bodyguards around the home."
He smiles and casts a hand over the children's toys strewn over the lounge and the two young girls among them. "I can see that."
She guides him to safety at a small table and, once he's seated, bears down into his eyes. "Is my husband in trouble, Mr. Vercetti?"
"He feels the need to take more precautions than usual.”
"Okay," she wants to leave it at that but her mind refuses. "Black?"
She fills two cups and rests her hands.
"It's all been going so well for Ken lately," she begins, her confusion evident. "All he's been able to talk about is our future. We were planning on taking a break," she laments, "Down to Nassau, just us and the kids."
The idea of a break lingers in his mind. "Something specific draws you there?"
"Ken and I were married there," she smiles and states proudly: "Fifteen years. The girls have never seen it." She sighs. "They ask for him."
"They're used to having Ken around?"
"Until lately. He's worked long hours before; it comes with the territory. But I haven't seen him so dedicated to his practise for a long time."
"He doesn't usually take big cases?"
"With the clients Ken represents," she begins to explain, "There's been a shift towards RICO trials. They're demanding; he's even taken on new people. But they can take years to develop. In some ways," she reflects, "It's been a relief."
"When Ken first began to practise, he had a lot of run-ins with the more violent criminals. You know that article in TIME magazine, Paradise Lost?"
He shakes his head, recalling only the moral conflict of the Bible and Playboy.
"Around that time, there were thousands of Cuban refugees competing for the drug markets in South Florida. One day they had nothing, and the next... They could afford to buy up the top lawyers in town - and Ken was good."
He smiles politely. "I'm sure."
"Look, Mr. Vercetti - can I trust you?"
"If you know someone who might want to hurt your husband, Mrs. Rosenberg," his eyes slowly settle into Michelle's with an evident implication of danger, "Then you're going to have to."
"It was a long time ago," she retreats inward, standing and retreating to the kitchen sink. "It seems almost silly to dredge it all up again."
"Mrs. Rosenberg," He follows, looms. He leans down into her ear. "You may help me stop something before it has to happen."
She turns and considers him, then looks over her daughters and safely assures herself they're close by.
"Ken was involved with gangsters - Marelitos; Cubans. I'd known something was amiss for a while, all I had to do was ask around," she retrieves a glass from a cupboard and takes a steady gulp, lubricating her throat for the confessions ahead. "He never mentioned anything specifically but I knew it was cocaine," Sharp breath, another gulp. "They kidnapped him outside his office - he was in Brickell then - and they drove him out of town. It wasn't long after the girls were born and they held a gun to his head and told him they were going to execute him. They actually pulled the trigger..."
Resonating with him: "The ultimate scare tactic..."
"Oh, they terrified him. He'd wake up in the night screaming, 'No!' and begging for mercy. It was terrible."
"I imagine so."
"He wouldn't let me go anywhere with the girls. He'd sit up in the lounge until the small hours with one of his pistols and drink himself to sleep. And then, a year later, almost by magic, it stopped." She too stops, lingering upon Tommy for a moment, as if searching for answers. "I can't lose Ken a second time, Mr. Vercetti."
He places a comforting hand on her shoulder. "It won't come to that, Mrs. Rosenberg."
She reaches back, clasps it. "Thank you," She feels refreshed and Tommy presumes, perhaps correctly, that it's the first time she's retold those events through anyone other than her husband. "I'd better get the girls together."
"Yes," He chuckles lightly, "Do you mind if I use your bathroom?"
"Down the hall on the left."
He throws the rest of his coffee into the sink and begins to recall the checklist in his head.
Down the hall and to the right, he soon learns, is their bedroom.
It's a beige and inoffensive affair, with department store linen and the scent of perfume lingering in a way he finds unusually overpowering. Decorating the wall above the bedspread, he discovers, is Ken's law school diploma. "University of Mars, Alabama..." Tommy repeats to himself, chortling at its incredulousness. He moves to the dresser, running his fingers over but not onto the laid out jewellery on show, and spots Ken's timepiece, a gold-toned and what he judges to be fake Rolex. Just like the Benz, appearances matter.
But the selection of photographs catch his eye and prompt his attention. While Ken and Michelle's wedding are the centrepiece, he's drawn to a framed shot of Ken looking very comfortable aboard the deck of a yacht. Immediately, by the presence of the man himself, Tommy deduces this is the personal launch of Colonel Juan Garcia Cortez, the powerful figure responsible for arranging his deal in the first place. He's also able to familiarise himself with the sweaty, sleazy persona of Gonzales, the Colonel's right hand man. Tommy commits this to memory.
He feels his eyes widen, however, upon coming across a selection of photographs that are yet to be framed. The individual within them gives rise to a shudder in his bones: Giorgio Forelli. Twenty-four karat chain draped around his neck, Ken with a flute of Cristal in the snapshot next to him, Giorgio is distinctive by his blonde hair and Calabrian taste in flashy suits, even gaudier as the years have passed. Tommy studies the reverse: Mutiny Club, 1983. He considers if this is before or after Ken's run in with the Cubans and ponders if Giorgio is the reason his problems with them suddenly disappeared.
Suddenly there are footsteps and he places the photographs back in their place. He turns and his brain prompts him to replicate an emotion.
The voice is at his feet. It's one of the girls.
"Howyadoin', little lady?"
Polite and sweetly spoken for a four year old: "I'm fine, thank you. You look angry."
He scoops her up under his arm and studies her face.
"Shall we go for a little drive with your mother?"
A journey along the South Dixie Highway and across the bridge into South Beach and they arrive at the Hotel Harrison, a nondescript Art Deco dwelling that formally hosts Rosenberg & Co. partners in law. It's the first address committed to memory by Tommy upon his arrival in Miami and by now he's just about familiarised himself with the most direct routes to get there.
He lets the girls assist him in parking the car and one daughter under each arm into the elevator, allowing them to press the button to take them up to the third floor. Michelle, in the mirrored walls, notices the smeared crayon on her cheek, wets her finger and tries her best to remove it. She looks to Tommy for reassurance and he smiles understandingly.
"How bad is he?"
"You've seen him worse."
She grimaces. "Don't I know it."
She barrels out of the elevator and down the hallway without a second thought.
Ken Rosenberg sits in his big leather chair, eyes bagged, pumping its height up and down with repetitive amusement.
He's going out of his mind.
The sight of a figure moving into his doorway startles him. He reaches for the desk drawer and the revolver but stops himself at realising it's his wife.
"Michelle, baby." A huge gasp of relief soon stricken by panic. "Where are the girls?"
Tommy appears and Ken, at the sight of Tommy's eyes burning into his own, feels his heart begin to thump. Something's amiss.
He paints on a smile and lowers himself into a crouch, embracing his daughters and taking in their scent for a moment before directing them towards Michelle. "You can come back and help Daddy with his work in just a second, girls." He toys with them. "Who's the best lawyer in this town? Me, muh-me, muh-me..."
With them out of earshot, he turns to Tommy and bounces on the heels of his Bass Weejuns.
"Tommy, Tommy. I've been going out of my mind, with me in here and you out there..."
"You're getting pale, Rosenberg."
"I'm three days without a bump," he pleads. "What'd you expect me to look like, Raquel Welch?"
He's got the curls, Tommy thinks. Then levels with his lawyer firmly. "How's our man?"
"Fine, fine, it's on..." Ken confirms. "Listen Tommy, we've really gotta start thinking what the hell we're gonna do about Sonny..."
"Let me worry about Sonny," Tommy dismisses the conversation. He's already made up his mind to cut Ken out of his plans for dealing with the Forellis. Pictures of the lawyer cosing up to Giorgio only reaffirm his decision.
Michelle returns to the office. The kids have ice cream from the cart across the street.
"Thanks for the coffee," Tommy smiles and passes her by, waving to the girls as he heads out onto the warm streets of Miami armed with new information.
Michelle, in a better state of mind, settles herself into one of the desk chairs.
"He seems nice."
"Darling," Ken, wide-eyed in red Persol spectacles, shakes his head. "You always were a terrible judge of character."
"I know," she quips. "Look at the schmuck I married."