Sempre redemption, p.18
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       Sempre: Redemption, p.18

         Part #2 of Forever series by J. M. Darhower
 
Page 18

 

  He was too strong, too stubborn, to let it seep into his lungs or burrow in his chest. Instead it skimmed the surface, bristling his hair as it crawled across his skin, unforgiving and stifling. He had killed his sister, disposed of her, but the demons that possessed her, the pride and envy and vengefulness and bitter rage, remained. And he could feel it all around him, shoving against him, trying to force him back out with each step he took.

  Doing his best to ignore the sensation, he spent the next hour going through the house, sifting through desk drawers and scouring rooms, looking for anything the girl might want. He thoroughly tossed the place, turning furniture upside down and destroying things with no regard in his search. He came up empty in the way of personal effects, but he found a bit of hidden cash and some jewelry he could sell for her. The rest wasn’t salvageable in his eyes, nothing worth saving.

  No photographs. No mementos. No nothing in the way of admitting she was family or that anyone who ever lived in that home cared she existed.

  He was in a downstairs closet, throwing things around, when he hit a wall panel and knocked it loose. He kicked it aside, peering into the hole, and caught a flash of something silver. He reached inside, felt around, and grabbed a handle, having to use some force to yank it out, a heavy cloud of dust coming with it. Corrado coughed forcefully as it infiltrated his lungs, his eyes stinging.

  After stepping back out of the closet, Corrado surveyed the object with puzzlement. It was a vintage Halliburton aluminum briefcase, heavy and expensive. Age had dulled the outside, but it held sturdily together.

  He tried to pry it open to no avail, striking at the lock, before conceding and throwing it to the floor. He considered leaving it there, frustrated, but something nagged him not to. It had clearly been hidden away for years, maybe decades. He couldn’t fathom what the briefcase contained that warranted such protection.

  It was a riddle to him, a puzzle . . . a mystery he needed to solve.

  Giving up, he snatched it from the floor again and headed outside, tossing it into the back seat of his rental car. He stared at the house, still feeling his skin trying to slink away. Dusk had come upon him, nighttime approaching fast as the sun dipped behind the desert cliffs. After debating for a long moment, he went back inside and gathered some books and clothing in the room with the open window. Finding a container of paint thinner in the cellar, he splashed a bit on the belongings before pulling a book of Luna Rossa matches from his pocket. He struck a single match and stared at the flame briefly before tossing it onto the pile.

  It ignited swiftly as Corrado made his way back out to the car, leaving the front door wide open. He pulled away from the property, heading for the highway out of Blackburn. There was enough wind blowing and dirt in the dry air to cover his tire tracks, enough oxygen in the house to be certain the entire thing would go up in flames. Given the isolated location and the darkening sky, it would be hours before someone spotted the smoke, sufficient time for it to burn to the ground.

  An orange glow lit up the bottom floor of the house when Corrado glanced in the rearview mirror. Mixing with the burn of sunset, it illuminated the ground surrounding it. The tension in his muscles receded as he watched it, the clawing at his skin fading away.

  A small smile lifted the corner of his lips. What better way to send the evil back to Hell than a fiery grave?

  13

  While Dia was on her way to Durante to visit her parents, Haven awaited a visitor of her own. She sat in the living room of the quiet apartment, the notebook from the federal agent laying on her lap. She had flipped through it countless times, rereading passages as she hoped the words would somehow change.

  They weren’t, though. Every time she looked at them, they seemed to get worse. It was all there in black-and-white, everything she had promised to never tell spelled out with utter simplicity.

  She felt like she was going to be sick.

  There was a knock after a while, firm and determined. Haven set the notebook down and opened the door, her heart hammering against her rib cage. Dr. DeMarco walked in without a word and she closed the door behind him. “I’m sorry to bother you . . . ”

  “You’re not bothering me,” he said, pausing in the living room. His eyes lingered on the wall splattered with art and photos before he turned to her. “I’m glad you called. Where is it?”

  She pointed to the table where the notebook lay. “I had no idea they had it. ”

  Dr. DeMarco picked it up and sighed. “I did. ”

  She gaped at him. “You knew?”

  “Agent Cerone showed it to me. He thought I would crack if I knew what you’d written. ”

  Her stomach dropped so hard it was like she had taken a ten-story fall, stopping just shy of slamming into the concrete. She swayed, needing to sit down. “You read it?”

  “He read a few passages to me, but I couldn’t help that. ”

  Her head swam as she ran through possibilities of what he might have heard. “I’m sorry. I really am. I was upset when I wrote some of it and—”

  “Don’t apologize,” he said, shaking his head. “You have every right to feel how you feel. ”

  “But they know the truth,” she said. “The government knows about me now. ”

  “Yes, but there’s nothing they can do about it. You have an expectation of privacy with your diary. They can’t use any of it without your cooperation. ”

  Those words sent waves of relief through her. “They can’t?”

  “No, but it doesn’t mean they’ll forget about it either. The journal may be inadmissible legally, but there are other ways for them to utilize it. And trust me when I say they will. They already are. ”

  “How?” she asked. “What can they do?”

  “Exactly what they’ve done. ” He held up the notebook. “He didn’t drop this off out of the kindness of his heart. He did it to get to me . . . to prove a point. ”

  “What point?”

  “It doesn’t matter,” he said. “It’s between me and him. ”

  His voice was quiet, his tone clipped. She didn’t ask any more questions. She knew she wouldn’t get any more information from him.

  “Do you have any more notebooks?” he asked. “Any more diaries?”

  She nodded hesitantly. “A few. ”

  “Get them for me. ”

  A few turned out to be closer to a dozen. She lugged them out from her room and set them on the small table in front of Dr. DeMarco. He eyed them thoughtfully, surveying the covers, but he didn’t open a single one. “These will need to be destroyed. They’re too dangerous to keep laying around. ”

  “But you said they can’t use them,” she said.

  “You’re right, but it’s not just the police you have to worry about. Some of this information, if it falls into the wrong hands, would be like handing an atomic missile to a deranged man. ” He paused, shaking his head. “Completely catastrophic. ”

  She didn’t argue. She wouldn’t. She couldn’t.

  Dr. DeMarco turned away from the journals after a moment and strolled over to the window. He looked out at the street below, the early evening sunshine bright on his face. “They know where you’re living now, so I suspect this is just the beginning. ”

  “I don’t know how they found my address,” she said. “I tried to lay low like Corrado told me to do. ”

  “You didn’t do anything wrong,” Vincent assured her. “It was all me. ”

  “You?”

  Vincent pointed at his foot. “I forgot they were monitoring me. ”

  Haven’s gaze drifted toward the GPS monitor around his ankle, the small scar on her back weirdly itching as she thought of the chip she used to have under her skin. “They tracked you. ”

  “Yes. ”

  “So they know you’re here now. ”

  “Yes,” he replied. “They’ll be keeping an eye on this place now that they know for certain you live here. Dia confirmed it when they drop
ped off the box. ”

  “But . . . why? Why can’t they leave me alone? I haven’t done anything. ”

  “True, but I have. ”

  His explanation made little sense to her.

  “We should think about moving you,” he continued. “The choice is yours, obviously, but I think Corrado will agree with me when I say you’ll be in much better shape if you drop far off their radar until all of this blows over. ”

  “If I don’t move?” she asked. “What then?”

  He waved her over to him. Slowly, she stepped in his direction, hesitating beside him at the window. He motioned across the street at a man lingering near a tree, a cell phone to his ear as he casually kicked some acorns on the sidewalk. It was nothing out of the ordinary to her. The guy was vaguely familiar, a neighbor she assumed—the one with the hat who held the elevator for her.

  “Meet Agent Cerone,” he said quietly. “And if you don’t move, expect to see a lot more of him. ”

  * * *

  The vast RICO indictment was neatly arranged on the desk, the small bold typeface spelling out more than twenty years of criminal conspiracy. There were thirty-two counts total, hinting at involvement in dozens of crimes. Murder, assault, kidnapping, extortion, gambling, loansharking, theft . . . the list formally and apathetically detailed the violence and mayhem that had ruled the windy Chicago streets for decades, as if they were outlining something as simple as a shopping list.

  On or about March 20, 1988, in Chicago, the defendant, Corrado A. Moretti, together with others, intentionally caused the death of Marlon J. Grasso. On or about April 13, 1991, in Chicago, the defendant, Corrado A. Moretti, together with others, intentionally caused the death of . . .

  On and on it went for forty-eight pages.

  Corrado had spent the good part of the past hour silently reading through the charges, reliving the moments he could easily remember and a few he wished he could forget. He took it all in, absorbing the summarized case, and felt nothing even close to distress except for a simple phrase on the first page that troubled him:

  Trafficking in persons for servitude . . .

  “This is wrong,” he said, glaring at the words. “I never did that. ”

  “Which part?”

  Looking up from the pile of papers, Corrado eyed his lawyer across the room. Rocco Borza sat at a small round table, studying the hundreds of documents and photographs sprawled out in front of him. Three others worked alongside him, silently and studiously sifting through the stacks. Mountains of evidence surrounded them like thick fortress walls, threatening and mocking, the only thing standing between Corrado and his future.

  Somewhere in their midst, tucked into the boxes or hidden in the audiotapes, lay the final nail that could be pounded into his coffin, taking his life away. Their job was to find it and make it disappear.

  Exasperated, Corrado stood and strolled to the window, peering down at the street below. The office was located on the fifteenth floor of a newly remodeled skyscraper in the heart of downtown Chicago. People appeared to be little more than flecks of colored dust at this distance, tiny pests doing their best to not be squished as they went about their days.

 
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