Mr. Dark 4

By: Lauren Landish

"Drive on, oh brave sir!" I said, both of us snickering at the jokes. It didn't take us long to drive to Mar De Napoli, and I had to admit, it was a cute little place. Near the Northside where the docks gave way to the beaches and the high end houses of the Heights, it was built to look like a Mediterranean Villa, complete with white walls and blue accents. The smells coming from the pizza oven drifted deep into the parking lot, and I knew immediately what I wanted.

"Yeah, it's that good," Scott said, reading my expression. "Come on, we've got a table already reserved."

The atmosphere inside was quiet, mostly due to the design of the tables. The restaurant had done a masterful job of sound baffling, so that instead of echoing ceilings and sound drifting all over the restaurant, conversations were muted and you didn't feel like you were yelling over everyone else. The lights weren't exactly dim, but they weren't glaring either. Maybe the best you could describe it would be cozy. "So how'd you find this place?" I asked Scott after we had been seated.

"We do the HVAC for the restaurant," Scott said simply. "While I wish that would score me some free food like we get from the chocolatiers near the Gaslight District, but I guess I'll just have to be content with the pizza instead. I'm just glad it wasn't the calzone."

"Oh, what's up with the calzone? Is it terrible?" I asked, curiously munching on a delicious oregano and parmesan breadstick.

Scott shook his head. "No, exactly the opposite. But, a pizza is big, it's open, it's supposed to be shared. A pizza is for a date. A calzone is closed up, it's by itself. It's the meal I order when I get stood up or I break up with someone. Trust me, I'm happy to be ordering a pizza tonight."

I was touched by his thinking, even if it was a bit weird. "As long as you don't like anchovies, I think I'm happy about it too."

"I promise, no anchovies. Hey, can I ask you a question?"

"Of course. Isn't that what dates are for, getting to know someone else," I said, taking a sip of my ice water. "And it's a lot more fun than just filling out a paper questionnaire."

"That is true," Scott told me, "then I know you'd turn me down due to my horrendous handwriting. I'm the sort of man that keyboards were invented for. But anyway, what led you to the financial services industry? You told me your family had car dealerships, and I understand not wanting to go into that if you don't want to, but why finances?"

"A couple of reasons," I said, my answer interrupted as the waitress brought our pizza. It was too hot to cut up yet, so we let it cool, the smell of the cheese and Italian sausage tantalizing us as I tried to finish my answer. "First, because I've always been good with numbers, but not so good I wanted to become an engineer or something like that. But second and more importantly, while I was in on the wrench side of things with my parents, I always loved the business side of it more. So when it came time for me to go to college, I knew I was going to go for business, and get at least my MBA. After that though, I just wanted to stand on my own two feet, and my current job allows me to do that.”

"So how'd you get so lucky as to start working the Smiley contracts? I figured a high roller like him would be getting the VIP treatment from some higher ups or something," Scott said, dishing out the first slice of pizza onto a plate. He passed it over to me, then got a slice for himself, sprinkling extra Parmesan cheese and chili flakes over top. His taste in pizza was another thing to like about him, in my opinion.

"It was luck, actually," I said, falling into the story that Sophie, Mark and I had put together. "When I started with my current job, one of the things that every newbie is handed is a pile of dead weight files. These are ones that, if they pan out, gets you a nice bonus check, but nobody expects them to pan out. Estates that have been caught up in litigation for years, decades long overseas claims, stuff like that. I happen to have been handed Mount Zion."

"Where the Smileys live," Scott said, doing the mental math. "So when they came to the firm, you met them."

"Something like that. Actually, Marcus' corporation bought the property before they ever arrived in town. However, our firm did have some property records that the Smileys wanted personally, so I was invited over and got to meet them at Mount Zion. Sophie Warbird and I are the same age, and as we started discussing things, Marcus asked me a few questions about business. I guess what I said impressed them, because the next week,I got a message from my bosses that I was to be the manager for the Smileys for all of their purchases in the city."

"So half luck, half your actual ability," Scott said, taking a bite of his pizza. "Don't sell yourself short."

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