Triad Ch. 01

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The sound was horrible: metal against metal; screeching, tearing, popping. The steering wheel jerking and twisting in his hands “Keep your thumbs up!” He thought. A dark shape loomed over him.

When the car came to rest Frank Russo took a deep breath and looked around. To his left a vehicle door with the words ‘Aurora’s Nursery’ inches from his shoulder. Straight ahead a shattered windshield and beyond that the left fender and hood crumpled like tin foil. He pried himself up in his seat and looked over at the other driver; a blonde woman slumped against her steering wheel, the airbag deflating. He mentally checked himself. Except for a sore left elbow and tightness over his chest from his belt, he seemed to be intact. He made sure the ignition was off, then scanned his Alfa Spider again; the left side had taken the brunt of the hit; luckily he had seen it coming in the corner of his eye and had automatically turned away from the impact. Otherwise he might have taken the hit in the door.

The cars were jammed against each other, and he had to clamber over the passenger seat to get out. Walking around the front of his car he could see the whole left side crumbled and torn. “Damn! I think she’s totaled” he thought. Walking around the front of the pickup he looked at the woman through the windshield; she appeared dazed and just sat, staring at him. He choked back the rising anger, knowing calmness was necessary.

At the driver’s door, he signed she should roll the window down, but she just sat as if unable to comprehend anything. Testing the door, he was relieved to have it open. “Hey! Are you alright? Do you need medical attention?”

Not getting an answer he called 911, giving their location and asking for police and medical.

When she heard “Police” she broke into tears, and then deep sobs. “Well, why not? What else can happen?”

“Do you have insurance? … Are you hurt? … Is there anyone you need to call?”

“Uh, yeah, I have insurance … No; I think I’m ok … what was your other question?”

“I’m Frank Russo, you just ran into my car. Do you need to call anyone?”

“No, no, there isn’t anyone to call. I’m Aurora Pratico. I’m sorry; I guess I didn’t see you. Did I hurt you?”

“I’ll survive. Is your ignition off?”

“Oh … no … there. Should we call someone?

“Cops and Fire are on their way. You seemed stunned so I want them to look you over, just sit there.”

He began to take in more details about her; mid-thirties maybe, nice blue eyes, soft blonde hair in a ponytail, hands a bit rough. She wore jeans and a flannel shirt, boots on her feet. He remembered the sign on the truck door read ‘Aurora’s Nursery’. “So, how’s business?”


“Business, Ms. Pratico, I see you have a nursery. How’s business?”

“Mister … Russo, right? If you’re counting on a big payoff, forget it. I’m barely hanging on. This will probably finish me. Insurance on a small business like mine is bad enough already, what this will do to my rates, well …”

The aid crew rolled up, and while they checked Aurora, Frank went back to his car for documents. The left side was mangled for sure, this was going to take time to fix, but the car was his baby, and Alfas were getting rare on the road. He placed a couple calls; one to a wrecker service, the other for a cab.

When the motorcycle cop finally showed up –twenty minutes after the call–Frank gave him his information, and then watched as the bored officer took Aurora’s, and then wrote her a ticket. She numbly accepted the paper, tears on her cheeks.

“Do you have someone coming for your truck?”

“I … I didn’t think of that. I don’t know who to call.”

“I’ve a truck coming, do you mind if I tell them to send another?”

“No, thank you. I’m afraid I’m not doing this well. I never had an accident before. I don’t know what to do.”

“Well, neither had I. I guess we’re not virgins anymore.”

“What do you mean by that? Are you implying something?”

“Whoa! That was just a joke. We’re no longer accident virgins. That’s all.”

“Oh … I’m sorry. I guess I’m a bit touchy.”

“It’s ok. Look, I have a cab coming, can I drop you off? We still have to exchange insurance stuff; we can do it in the cab.”


By the time he’d dropped her at the nursery she was more relaxed, and actually gave him a small smile at one of his light jokes.

But when she called the insurance company her mood darkened again. When she relayed the details of the accident it was clear in her mind she was at fault, and the mental picture of Frank’s (yes, she thought of him as Frank) car, her tears began again.

Business was slow already, and without her truck she wouldn’t be able to get more supplies or make deliveries. She was competing against two much larger nurseries, and a Home Depot, all within five miles. Her specialty plants were keeping her going, but just barely. She had automatically turned the ‘closed’ sign back to ‘open’ as she came through the door, but now, as the adrenalin illegal bahis drained from her, she felt a drowsiness sweep over her. She didn’t have the strength to lock the door, let alone climb the stairs to her apartment. She put her head down on her arms and slept.


Frank made three calls at home; first he arranged for a rental car, then called the specialty shop the Alfa was headed for, and finally his friend Phil. “Hey bud. Looks like no ball game for me tonight. No, I won’t make it. I had an accident today, the car’s a mess, and I’m a bit sore. Yeah, look, I’ll fill you in tomorrow at lunch.”


Frank Russo had met Phil Blussey at a Mariners game. Sitting next to each other, casual nods early in the season had turned to introductions. Offhand comments in May became conversations, and by June they would share interests; Phil taught Frank sailing on his 32 foot sloop, Frank ignited an interest in older cars when they went to the Northwest Vintage Races in early July. Politically both were moderate; Frank more the conservative, but they were close enough that they could disagree on issues with humor.

Phil had an MBA and was a mid-rank executive at a large software company; he’d grown up in Oregon, and after college accepted the offer that moved him to Seattle. Frank was a product of the Seattle area and after passing the bar worked as an attorney at a small and prestigious firm specializing in corporate law.

Their Sunday habit before a ball game was to meet at one of the several hot dog carts outside the ball park; often leaning against a building while munching. “You don’t look too banged up. How’s the car?”

“Yeah. The car took the worst of it. The shop has to look it over, so it’ll be several days before I hear the total. I’ve got a few bumps and bruises, had a bit of a headache last night. I really feel for the gal that hit me though.”

“Why? She hit you, didn’t she? So she’s at fault and her insurance will cover it. It’s not your problem.”

“It’s not that. She has a small nursery; I suspect she’s just barely hanging on. I doubt she can afford her own deductible, let alone the bump in rates. Maybe if I’d been a little more alert …”

“Let’s go watch the game; there isn’t anything you can do about it anyway. Let the insurance companies fight it out. Hell, that’s what you pay them for. Remember?”


Wednesday the shop called, asking him to drop by for a walk through and estimate on the Alfa, he arranged to be there in the late afternoon, and cancelled a meeting at three.

The shop had been thorough in their exam of the car, and when he arrived it was on a lift waiting for him. “Well, Mr. Russo,” Said the manager, greeting him; “I have the classic good news-bad news here. Let’s walk through her and then I’ll tell you the price.”

“For openers it looks like the left front wheel and fender took the main hit. Obviously the wheel and tire are ruined. But that also took care of all the suspension components in there, plus bending the frame at the mounting points. The rest of the frame looks straight, but we’ll check. The hood and front valance are wracked, but we may be able to straighten them. If not, well, we can get parts. Further back, the A pillar is ruined, the door skin is ruined, and the window inside shattered. Obviously the windshield cracked, but that’s available. The rear fender is fixable, that’s just pounding and painting.”

“What’s the total?”

“Your car was pristine before the accident, and I assume you want it the same after?”

“Of course, these are getting hard to find.”

“Assuming we don’t find any more damage, it’ll be close to ten K, luckily your insurance is the best, so I’m sure they’ll ok anything we do. The other insurance company … well, let’s just say they’ll try shaving corners.”

“That’s why I paid the higher premiums. Let’s let them fight about it, you just concentrate on the car. If there are problems, let me know.”


As he was leaving the shop, he realized he was less than a mile from Aurora’s nursery. Turning left rather than right, he wondered why he was going to see her. She did look good, in a simple sort of way, but he wasn’t looking for a girlfriend. “She just looked in shock when I dropped her off. I should have made sure she was alright. But she did have a pretty smile for a moment there. And that hair … damn, watch it boy, you’re just checking on her. There’s no ‘there’ there.”


Aurora was busy in the nursery yard; watering plants and mentally taking inventory. When she heard the car pull in, she turned off the water, and wiping her hands on her apron, strolled out to greet the customer. She stopped when she saw Frank, and a small gasp caught in her throat. Quickly running fingers through her hair, she smiled and stepped out to greet him.

“Mr. Russo, how are you? To what do I owe this visit? No problems with insurance I hope?”

“No, no. I just thought I would swing by, see how you’re doing. I was just down the road at the illegal bahis siteleri … um … shop. You know getting the estimate.”

“Oh … that’s right … your car. I’m really sorry; I guess my mind wasn’t on my driving. Please forgive me.”

“Damn! Deep blue eyes. What a sexy voice. She looks pretty good …”

“Mr. Russo! Frank! Hey! Are you okay?”

“Huh? Oh, sorry, um, a moment of brain fog I guess. Um, what were you saying?”

“Well I was apologizing for hitting you. But I am happy to see you’re not hurt. How is your brain? Foggy?”

“Ok, I earned that. Can I buy you coffee or something? I saw a shop up the street.”

She studied his face for a moment, then with a slight nod placed a sign in the widow, and locking the office door, she joined him for the short stroll up the street. Neither said much until after placing orders with the barista.

“What’s happening with your truck?”

“Oh,” she sighed, “The insurance company hasn’t even sent an adjuster to look at it yet.”

“What are you using for a truck now?”

“Nothing. I can’t afford a rental, and … well. Oh never mind. It’s not your problem.”

“Hey, I’m a guy, and I’m Italian, and a lawyer. Any one of those characteristics makes me a problem solver, but put all three together …well, it’s Super Solver!”

She laughed; “I’ll tell you what; when I need an Italian lawyer, I’ll call you. How’s that?”

“It works for me. You know, you have a nice laugh.”

They spent the next half hour learning about each other; She was originally from Philly, he from Seattle. His grandparents from Campania in Italy, hers from Calabria. “My mother’s maiden name was Russo.” (They laughed about maybe being cousins.) He’d never been married, she once, and it didn’t last.

Only when she noticed a customer pull into the nursery did they finally leave the coffee shop. He automatically took her hand as they walked, and with only a quick glance up at him, she squeezed his hand softly and leaned slightly towards him. A small smile lit her lips.


“What the hell just happened back there? One moment we’re just walking along, the next I’m holding her hand? And she liked it? Hell, I liked it! Frankie boy, you may be heading for trouble. Yeah, but wait ’til Phil sees her. Wait, what? Did you just think that? Oh Christ, what’s going on? Dude! Wake up! She’s just someone you ran into. Literally! Yeah, but she does have a sexy walk. Betcha she has great legs too.”


“So I was over at the shop, checking on the car, and realized it was just a short jump over to the nursery, so I dropped in to see how she was doing. Her insurance company hadn’t even done anything! Damn that sucks ’cause she has a business and all, so I took her for coffee and we talked, she has the softest voice, and a great laugh. You have to meet her.”

Phil gave him a long stare. “Look, I’ve only known you a few months, so if I’m out of line, just say so, and I’ll shut up. But it seems to me you’ve fallen for this woman. Other than she’s a poor driver, and apparently a less than stellar business woman, what do you know about her?”

“Blue eyes, blonde hair, maybe 5-3, cute nose, sweet looking lips …”

“Never mind!” He laughed. “So when do I get to meet her?”

“We have a day game next Wednesday; I’m going to invite her. If she says yes, you can meet her then.”

“Hmm, I was going to pass on that one, but, ok, I’ll see you then.”


She was pleasantly surprised by his invitation, and then felt a flush as she agreed. “He is nice, and I haven’t been anywhere in ages. What should I wear? Jeans? No, maybe a sundress and sandals … I don’t know anything about baseball, would that be appropriate? And the way he took my hand, it felt so … right. Wait a minute; aren’t you getting ahead of yourself? You just met him. You don’t know anything about him. Maybe he’s an axe murderer and he’s setting you up as his next victim. No wait, he said he’s Italian, and a lawyer. Maybe he’s in the Mob. Oh great, you’re attracted to a mobster! But he is cute.”


Frank whistled when she answered the door.

And she blushed. But smiled.

“You like?” As she spun; the dress rose to show legs almost to the top.

“What’s that old saying? Oh yeah, … Ooh yeah! Aurora, you are beautiful. “

She couldn’t help it, a giggle spilled out, “Really? You think I’m beautiful?”

She didn’t tell him, but the dress was new, the sandals too. She’d spent an hour getting her hair and makeup just so. And waited breathlessly until he arrived. When he rang the doorbell she forced herself to count to twenty before opening the door. She almost threw herself into his arms, the counter effort causing her to quiver.

Frank didn’t have such a problem; right after “wow” He pulled her into his arms looking into her eyes for permission, and finding it – he bent to kiss her. What had started as a simple kiss turned into a prolonged tasting, when they pulled apart, they looked into each other’s canlı bahis siteleri eyes; and both whispered ‘wow’.

“Um, we should go, “Before I throw you on the floor” I’d like you to meet my friend Phil at the ball game. It’s going to be a beautiful day. Man, you look great in that dress. “I knew she had great legs.” We’ll meet my friend Phil at the game. Did I say you look great?”


Frank had never been so flustered when with a woman. She wasn’t the most beautiful he had ever been with. He knew that. But still…


He walked proudly; chest puffed out, a small smile on his face, as he led her to their seats.

She felt his pride and it pleased her. Not as an ego thing, but because he was proud to be with her. She stood a little taller, held her stomach in a touch more, lifted her chest just a bit. And when he introduced her to his friend Phil … the sparks shocked her.


Phil had arrived a little early; the team was still warming up as he took his seat. He’d come from the office, and as usual found the ballpark a welcome refuge from the tensions of twenty MBAs competing for the next rung on the corporate ladder.

His tie went into a coat pocket, and a cold beer helped him relax. He’d known Frank for just a few months, but felt a tie with him he’d never felt before. It never felt sexual, almost familial; like Frank was a brother he’d never had. This business with the woman from the accident concerned him. Not because he might lose a friend, he just didn’t want Frank hurt.

When Frank and Aurora joined him he was taken aback. She wasn’t a beauty in the classic sense; too short, a little too curvy, the face not perfect. But she was beautiful. He felt the breath catch in his throat. And when they shook hands, he felt electricity.

Her eyes widened on contact.


She found herself seated between the two men. The game was … “interesting” … She had no idea what was going on; someone would hit a ball, the crowd would roar. Or someone else missed the ball and the crowd would roar. And the men tried explaining the game. All she knew was that she had difficulty breathing and she didn’t want to be anywhere else. She enjoyed the attention, didn’t want it to stop, and at the same time felt guilty that she was enjoying the attention of both men, and not just Frank’s. Phil was different from Frank; quieter, shyer. But he kept looking into her eyes, and she saw a longing that she echoed.

Dinner after the game was ….”Interesting”… They took her to a small restaurant in Bell Town, intimate, but friendly. Frank had driven her, of course, and Phil followed, but both men good naturedly vied for her attention at dinner. She relished being the center of attention, yet worried that she was intruding in a friendship. And being attracted to both men? What about that?


Phil called Frank Saturday morning, asking what he had going on as the team was on the road. “I thought I’d swing by Aurora’s, see how she’s doing.”

“Oh, I thought we’d take the boat out, maybe have a couple beers and relax.”

“It’s tempting. Let me see how she’s doing. I’ll call you back in a bit.”


Aurora woke feeling the best she had in months. Saturdays were usually her busiest day of the week, and she felt good about this one. And that was in spite of sleeping fitfully the past two nights. She’d find herself waking, thinking about Frank; and then a little later waking again, but with Phil in her mind. To say Aurora was confused would be an understatement; she’d had time to get a sense of Frank Russo, but Phil? She didn’t even know his last name, and aside from the fact that he dressed pretty good and had a charming smile … and an electric touch …she knew nothing. “Well, there isn’t much I can do about it today. Business calls and I hope business is good.”

A sunny Saturday brings shoppers to nurseries. Aurora had been wise to specialize in Bonsai as no one else in the area had, but she also featured some unusual plants for gardens as well. Many customers stopped for the trees and were captivated by the bananas or gingers, and the giant cannas stopped everyone in their tracks. When Frank drove up, there wasn’t a parking space available; he ended up parking down the street.

Aurora was chatting with a couple while standing next to one of the banana trees. Frank stood in shadows and watched the smile on her face, the animation as she explained about the plant. “God, she’s just glowing. She so loves what she does, she’s beautiful. I need to know her more!”

She glanced up; saw him standing at the gate, and smiled. “He’s looking at me and likes what he sees. He looks pretty good too…” She was interrupted by the couple’s question and then the woman glanced over at Frank and whispered a question: “Husband or boyfriend?”

“Hmm,” said Aurora, “He might be. I met him by accident, and he keeps coming around. He is cute, isn’t he? I think I may keep him.”

“He’s cute. If my husband wasn’t here …”

“If you weren’t here, I might make a pass at him.” Laughed her husband.

“Mmm, maybe we could both ..?

“Hey, he’s mine.” interjected Aurora with a laugh. “Can I show you some other plants? I have some Chinese Gingers that will blow your mind.”

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