Once back at the training camp, Manny told Bruno that he’d be training a promising young welterweight from Liverpool. Bruno couldn’t conceal his disappointment.
“You’re not missin’ anything,” Manny half apologized. “The next two fights in the states are a done deal. There won’t be any real trainin’ to speak of.”
“I know. I just thought…”
“Nah, we need you here!” Manny insisted. “I think this new kid has real possibilities.”
“You’re the boss,” he smiled half-heartedly.
Manny clapped him on the shoulder.
“I’m givin’ you and Mrs. Gruber both a couple weeks off,” he said. “We could all use a rest.”
After Bruno and Mrs. Gruber had departed, Manny and Rufus drove to the airport and caught a flight to New York.
“There she is,” Rufus murmured as the jumbo jet glided down over Long Island in its final approach. He and Manny both stared at the lights that stretched to the horizon.
“Just like we left her,” Rufus mused.
“Greatest little town on earth,” Manny added.
“Where we gonna train our boy?” Rufus asked.
“Well,” Manny answered, “there ain’t really much trainin’ to be done. We’re gonna have him work out at the club in Brooklyn.”
“Awright!” Rufus exclaimed. “I still be on the team?”
“Oh yeah,” Manny assured him. “I don’t think Sean would have it any other way.”
Rufus grinned. He was clearly pleased.
“Yeah, we be brothers,” he murmured. “Who gonna train him?”
“You know Louis?” Manny asked.
“I know Louis? What, Rocky’s old trainer? O’ course I knows him! He gonna train de Fiddler?”
“Yeah, we thought that might be a good match,” Manny said.
“Oh yeah, I hear tell Louis ain’t no friend o’ Rocky’s since he jump ship.”
“Is that right?” Manny mused. “Ver-r-ry interesting.”
Rufus was glad to be back on his old turf. His brother, Seth, was the club’s equipment room manager. When Seth’s wife learned that Rufus was back in town, she insisted that he come over for Sunday dinner. Rufus loved his niece and nephew like they were his own and eagerly accepted. When he arrived, he got down on the living room floor and the two youngsters wrestled with him.
Manny went to work at Skopelli’s office the following Monday morning. Skopelli of course knew about the Dublin win.
“A close one, huh?” he grunted, after Manny had settled into a chair.
“Very close,” Manny agreed. “Our boy learned a hard lesson.”
“He cuts easy, huh?” Skopelli continued.
“Wel-l-l,” Manny answered carefully, “maybe, maybe not. He took a very hard left hook.”
“What is he, some kind o’ stupid?” Skopelli growled. “Why’d he hold back and let dat bum get to him? He could o’ blown everyt’ing.”
“I know, I know,” Manny conceded. “He’d be the first one to agree with you.”
“So what happened?” Skopelli pressed.
“Well, he boxed for a couple minutes. I think he wanted to give the hometown crowd their money’s worth. After I got his attention from ringside, he went for the kill. But he missed.”
“And Smythe nails him.”
“To the wall!” Manny confirmed. “I thought it was over! But, he made it up and then the bell saved his butt.”
“And the next round … Wham!” Skopelli mused.
“Like nothin’ you ever saw. He ties Smythe up and goes in over the top. I tell yuh, for a moment I thought he killed him.”
“How many ribs?” Skopelli queried.
“Three, I read. Pushed right into his lung.”
Skopelli grimaced. It was like nothing he’d ever heard about in the boxing world.
“I bet dat stung,” he joked.
“He was pukin’ up blood.”
“No kiddin’! Dat must o’ been a sight,” Skopelli said, leaning back in his big leather chair. “Oh, well. All’s well dat ends well. The important t’ing is, we get the title shot.”
“And …” Manny murmured.
“No change. Rocky lays down in the eleventh. Our boy just has to make it look good. But o’ course he really only gives Rocky a love tap.”
“And after?” Manny asked.
“Rematch, like we discussed. Rocky takes his crown back.”
“Interesting. I’m surprised Car … Mr. Carbino is so trustin’,” Manny mused.
“What, trustin’?” Skopelli barked. “You mean he might t’ink we don’t keep our agreement in the rematch?”
“Well, somethin’ like that,” Manny answered.
“Are you nuts?” Skopelli stormed. “You don’t unnerstan’ how dese t’ings work! Me cross Carbino? Sure, when pigs fly.”
“You’re right,” Manny admitted. “I’m not suggestin’ you ever would. I’m just … it’s nice to know that Mr. Carbino knows that.”
“Yeah, well, Vito and me are gettin’ on real good dese days. We worked all dese details out over dinner one night, his invite.”
Manny arched his eyebrows.
“Wow!” he remarked. “Pretty soon you make capo, no?”
“Who knows?” Skopelli smiled. “Stranger t’ings have happened.”
Back across the Atlantic Sean rented a car in Dublin and drove home. The Irish countryside was as beautiful as ever. Emma fell on his neck in tears when he knocked on the cottage door. She pulled the bandage on his cheek back and examined the stitches.
“If I’d known it’d come to this, I’d o’ never let you get into it,” she scolded.
Sean nodded humbly. He didn’t even try to downplay the cut, knowing it would be futile.
They had a quiet supper that night, and Lester and Emma pumped Sean for every detail of his time away. When he told them that he’d had a friendship with the housekeeper, Emma took particular interest. She was properly incensed when Sean related how Vicki had eventually hooked up with her ex again.
“Why the little tramp!” Emma seethed. “Playin’ with you when it fit her purposes.”
Sean laughed and Emma was relieved to see that his heart hadn’t been broken.
“All o’ the girls you used to know are fascinated by your success,” she said breezily.
“Are they now? And how would you be knowin’ that?”
“Oh, I talk with their mothers,” Emma smiled demurely. “You’ve become quite a catch, you know.”
“It’s the unvarnished truth!” Emma insisted.
“Aye,” Lester agreed, tamping tobacco into his pipe. “I expect it is at that. You know, Sean, nothin’ stirs a woman’s heart like a handsome bank account.”
“Not all women,” Emma complained.
Lester looked at her with twinkling eyes.
“Aye, not all,” he agreed. “There are always one or two pearls among the dross.”
Before they turned in for the night, Emma told Sean to keep the next night open. She was having her father and Lester’s parents over for dinner. The prospect pleased Sean. The only down side in his mind was that Grandma Mary wouldn’t be there.
“I think I’ll visit Grandma’s grave tomorrow mornin’,” Sean murmured.
Emma’s eyes softened.
“She’d like that, Sean. She’d like that a lot.”
“Is Peck’s flower shop still in business?” he asked.
“Oh yes,” Lester answered, smoke swirling around his head. “They’ve still got the prettiest roses in all o’ Ireland.”