Mr. Neeley gave Frankie a knowing nod. "How about if you come back later when you get off work and do the job yourself? I'll pay cash and no one ever has to know."
Frankie smiled at his co-conspirator and asked, "How about if I come back tomorrow? That's my day off. Would that be okay with you?"
"Sure," Mr. Neeley said. "Tomorrow's just fine. I can let you in, but then I have to go out. You don't need me to be here, do you?"
"No, I don't need you to be here. And this isn't an emergency. It can wait until tomorrow. I'll be back first thing in the morning."
"How much you gonna charge me?" Mr. Neeley asked, wanting to make sure he was getting a good deal.
"I'll charge you half," Frankie said. "But you gotta promise never to say anything to anyone at my company. And there can't be any paperwork."
"What if something goes wrong after you leave?" Mr. Neeley asked. "What sort of guarantee are you gonna give me?"
Frankie wrote his name and home phone number on the back of a company business card. You just call me at home if there's a problem and I'll straighten it out. And if I don't, you can always call my boss and get me fired. I need my job because I've got a family. I'm not gonna mess with you."
"Okay," Mr. Neeley said, pocketing the card. "Just do the job right and we won't have any problems. I'll see you tomorrow."
"Okay, Mr. Neeley," Frankie said and started to leave. But as he was going up the basement stairs he added, "And if you have any neighbors that need work done at half-price, have them call me at that number too. But before you give out my name, make sure you can trust them."
They were going through the kitchen when Mr. Neeley said, "You know, now that you mention it, Jack McNab across the street has been talking about replacing his boiler. He's retired and I know he's home right now. Let's take a walk over there and I'll introduce you." Then Mr. Neeley grabbed Frankie by the arm and added in a whisper, "And maybe you could tack a bit more onto his bill and then take some off of mine. You know, like a finder's fee?"
Frankie smiled in appreciation of Mr. Neeley's larcenous soul and nodded. "I know exactly what you mean," he said. "How does fifty bucks sound? If I get the job, I mean"
"Fifty bucks sounds very good, Frankie. Very, very good."
As they were crossing the street, Frankie said, "Give me just a second to radio in." He jogged over to his service van. "I'll tell 'em you're jerking me around on the price and that's why I'm taking so long."
"But won't they want to know what's going on when you don't bring in the business?" Mr. Neeley asked, concerned that Frankie's possible dismissal from the company might screw up his own deal.
"Nah, my boss is an idiot. When I go back to the shop I'll just tell him that you decided to wait. You're one of those people that can't make a decision. You know?"
Mr. Neeley laughed and shook his head in appreciation of Frankie's creative nature. "You got all the angles covered, that's for sure!"
And then they were on Jack McNab's stoop. Mr. Neeley knocked on the door and a moment later McNab opened it. "What's up?" he asked.
"I wanted you to meet Frankie," Mr. Neeley said, pointing at the serviceman. "He moonlights and his prices are half what his boss charges. You can't go wrong with this guy. He's gonna do my job on his day off. I knew that you were looking to get your boiler replaced so I figured I'd put you two fellas together."
Mr. McNab, who was born with an ice pick in his back pocket, reached out and yanked Frankie into the house. "C'mon in, kid. Half-price, eh?"
"Half-price," Frankie said. "But you gotta keep it quiet. If my boss knew what I was doing he'd fire me in a New York minute." Frankie looked over his shoulder, and then winked at McNab.
"He'll never hear it from me, kid," McNab said.
A half-hour later, Frankie had McNab scheduled for a boiler installation on the following Saturday.
"You gonna have enough parts with you to do the job right, kid?" McNab asked.
"Oh sure," Frankie said. "I use my boss's stuff. He lets me take the truck home at night and on the weekends." Frankie winked at McNab. "He's a real idiot, my boss. Never does inventory. He says it takes too much time to count stuff. He says he trusts us." Frankie rolled his eyes and smiled at McNab, who smiled back.
"What he don't know can't hurt him, right?" McNab said.
"That's the way I figure it," Frankie said. "And if you know anybody else who needs good work done at half-price, let me know. There's a finder's fee in it for you." Frankie handed McNab a few of his boss's business cards with Frankie's home number on the back. "Just have them call and leave a message on the machine. I'll get back to them right away."
"You know, come to think of it, I do," McNab said, mentally spending the finder's fees. "There are a couple of guys down at my lodge who have been talking about getting some work done. I'll give them your card."
"But make sure you tell them not to call the number on the front of that card. That could get me fired."
McNab put his index finger over his pursed lips. "Mum's the word, kid. See you on Saturday."
When Frankie got home that night he and his wife Sandy had a nice dinner and then they went over the work schedule for the following week. "Are you gonna be able to get to all of this," Sandy asked. "There's an awful lot here."
Frankie walked around behind where Sandy was seated and looked down at the paperwork. He put his hands on her shoulders and massaged them gently. This made her purr. "Yeah," he said, "I can get to it all. It would be different if I was working for someone, though. I honestly don't know how those moonlighters do it."
"These customers all think you're working on your day off, though. Right?"
"Right," he said, bending over to give her a peck on her cheek.
"Did you price the jobs like you always do?" Sandy asked, working the numbers into her calculator.
"Yep," he said, clearing the dishes from the table. "I just doubled our going rate and then told each of them that I'd do their job for half-price, and on my own time. I told them that my boss is an idiot. The usual routine."
"And you told them not to call the number on the front of the card, right?" Sandy asked, pushing her eyeglasses up on her nose.
"The number for the answering service? Yeah. But none of them are gonna call that number."
"You think we still need the answering service people?" Sandy asked, turning around to face him. "Hardly anyone ever calls the answering service to complain. Maybe we should dump them. That could be extra money in our pocket, you know."
Frankie considered this for a moment and then said, "Nah, let's keep them for a while longer. They may not do much for the money we pay them, but they do add spice to the conspiracy. And everyone in America loves a good conspiracy. Especially when they're in on it."