Sempre redemption, p.19
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       Sempre: Redemption, p.19

         Part #2 of Forever series by J. M. Darhower
Page 19


  “All of it,” Corrado muttered. “Every bit of it is wrong. ”

  A sharp, sudden laugh echoed through the room, cutting off as quickly as it had sounded. Corrado didn’t turn around or try to figure out which man it had come from. It wasn’t worth it. He would only want to kill them for mocking him, and the last thing he needed was another death on his hands.

  Besides, if his life hadn’t been on the line, he would have likely laughed, too.

  Corrado had little hope of finding help anywhere in that room. The indictment, while vexing, mostly rang true. The government had done their homework. His only saving grace would be sabotaging their case.

  “Do you want to take these audio recordings home to listen to them?” Mr. Borza asked after a moment.

  “Depends,” Corrado said. “How many are there?”

  His question was met with silence. Corrado turned around, glancing at his lawyer, and saw the man peering into a massive box. “Two hundred and twenty CDs, I believe. ”

  Corrado blinked rapidly as he took that in. Two hundred and twenty, each one eighty minutes long. “That’s almost three hundred hours of recordings. ”

  “That it is,” Mr. Borza said. “Had they included Vincent’s, it would be double that. ”

  The prosecution had been granted its request to separate Vincent’s and Corrado’s cases under the assumption they had a better chance of a conviction that way. Mr. Borza opted to defend Corrado, likely because he was terrified of rejecting the man. And while Corrado sympathized with his brother-in-law, having to start over on a defense with his life on the line, he certainly wasn’t upset about the new development.

  For Corrado suspected Vincent was a man who had already given up hope.

  Corrado let out a deep sigh as his cell phone started ringing. He pulled it from his pocket, shaking his head when he saw it was his brother-in-law. Speak of the devil . . . “Yes?”

  “We have a bit of a predicament with the girl,” Vincent said, pausing before adding, “again. ”

  Frustrated, Corrado rubbed his hand down his face. She had turned out to be more of a problem than he originally thought she would be. “I’ll be there as soon as possible. Tomorrow, maybe, or the next day. Keep her out of trouble until then. ”

  He hung up, turning back to his lawyer. “Get them to throw out the recordings. There’s too many for me to go through. ”

  Mr. Borza shook his head. “It won’t be easy. ”

  “I didn’t say it would be,” Corrado replied. “But do it anyway. ”

  * * *

  Drops of rain trickled from the overcast sky, just enough moisture to annoy Vincent. He sat behind the wheel of his car, listening to the rubber of his wipers scraping against the mostly dry windshield. Wincing, he turned them off, only to turn them right back on again. Back and forth he went—on and off, on and off, until he finally said the hell with it and turned them off for good.

  His car idled in a vacant section of the park in Charlotte, tucked in along some trees that led to a jogging path. Even with his headlights off, Vincent could see the rugged dirt trail weaving past, disappearing into a dark section of woods.

  Perfect place to hide a body, he thought.

  After a few minutes, a bright glow turned the corner nearby, a car slowly driving straight toward him. He cringed as the headlights shone right through his windshield, blinding him temporarily until they turned off. Vincent blinked a few times, trying to clear the sudden colored splotches from his vision, as the car came to a stop a few feet in front of him.

  Vincent didn’t hesitate, anger and frustration fueling the adrenaline rushing through his veins. He climbed out of the driver’s seat, the evidence bag containing Haven’s notebook gripped tightly in his hand. His feet carried him briskly toward the other vehicle as the door opened, a man stepping out. The guy started to speak, a single syllable barely escaping his lips before Vincent was upon him, shoving him back against his car. He thrust the notebook against his chest so hard he nearly knocked the wind from the man. “You have some nerve, Agent Cerone. ”

  “Ah, Vincent, I don’t think—”

  “Doctor,” he spat, cutting him off immediately. “I’ve told you before—it’s Doctor DeMarco. ”

  “Vincent,” he said again. There was no humor in his eyes, no yielding in his expression. “I don’t think assaulting a government official is in your best interest. ”

  “Oh, now you want to play by the rules?” Vincent asked. “You never seemed very concerned about that before. ”

  “Nonsense. ” Agent Cerone pushed Vincent’s hands away, shoving the notebook into his chest in return. “Let us act like real men, shall we? Use our words and not our hands? Or is that too difficult for the likes of you?”

  Vincent glared at him in the darkness as he took a step back, putting necessary space between them. “Leave my family alone. ”

  “Family?” Agent Cerone let out a bitter laugh. “Strange choice of word given the circumstances, isn’t it?”

  “She’s a part of my family—always has been and always will be,” Vincent said. “Just because you can’t comprehend that, because you can’t get it through your thick skull that we actually care about her, doesn’t mean we’re wrong. ”

  Agent Cerone scoffed. “The fact that you actually think you’re right—that you think this situation is okay—astounds me. ”

  “Don’t talk about things you know nothing about. ”

  “Oh, I know plenty. I read the journal, remember?”

  “You invaded her privacy! You stole her thoughts!”

  “So?” he replied. “It doesn’t make any of it less true. ”

  “Maybe,” Vincent countered, “but tell me something, Agent Cerone. Do you have any deep, dark secrets that you’d do anything to keep the world from finding out? Even kill to keep it from being exposed?”

  “Are you threatening me?”

  “No,” Vincent said. “I’m just trying to make you understand. ”

  “Understand what?”

  “That you have to leave her alone,” Vincent said, taking a step forward again, getting right in the special agent’s face. “You won’t get her. You can’t have her. ”

  “Why not?”

  “Because . . . ” Vincent’s eyes instinctively darted toward the dirt path. “. . . Because if you do, she’ll die. ”

  Agent Cerone stared at him blankly. “Now that’s a threat. ”

  “No, it’s not. ” Vincent shook his head as he turned away from the man, wiping the stray raindrops from his face. “But it is a guarantee. ”

  * * *

  “You really want to do this?”

  Haven stood beside the Mazda later that week, staring down at the faded lines of the parking lot. She could feel Corrado’s piercing eyes from the other side of the car, stabbing through her with his doubt. He looked exhausted, but judgment was clear in his tone. He didn’t believe she could do it.

  “Yes,” she replied. “I do. ”

  He continued as if she hadn’t spoken. “I can make alternate plans if you’re not sure about this. I have the resources to keep you hidden away. ”

  “No, I’m sure. ” She shook her head. The last thing she wanted was to drop out of civilization again. There was no point going forward if she couldn’t live. “I want to go. It’s my choice, right?”

  “Right,” he said, still staring at her with skeptical eyes. “I guess we’ll be leaving then. ”

  Haven avoided his gaze as she climbed into the passenger side of the car. All of her belongings were in boxes stacked along the back seat, her entire life once again packed up in the car. She had left a note on the kitchen table for Dia whenever she got home, saying her good-byes. She didn’t say where she was going, no other explanation except she thought it was time for her to set out on her own. She promised to stay in touch but as Corrado pulled the car out on the road, heading toward the highway to leave Charlotte, she wondered just how plausible the
ir friendship could be.

  “You might want to get comfortable,” Corrado said. “It’s a long drive. ”

  “How long?”

  “Twelve hours, maybe. ”

  She settled back into the seat and turned her head to gaze out of the window. “The trip to California last year took three days. ”


  Carmine stood in a dank hallway, leaning against the wall beside a door. It was cracked open, the flimsy wood barely hanging on its rusted hinges. Muffled screams of agony rang out of the apartment, keeping Carmine locked in place. Whatever was going on inside of there, he didn’t want to see it.

  The prepaid cell phone in his pocket vibrated with a message for the second time that day. He slowly pulled it out, not having to look to know who it was. Sal had given it to him so la famiglia could constantly be in touch, the name untraceable and messages safe from wiretaps. It had gone off for the first time less than an hour ago with nothing but an address. He had dressed, slipping out in the middle of the night, and ran the few blocks to where he was needed.

  But getting there and going inside were two different things.

  He glanced at the new message on the phone.

  Where are you?

  He started to type a reply when the apartment door was ripped open from the inside. It slammed into the wall and Carmine jumped as a man stepped out. He was short and husky, a stern expression on his round face and a pair of bolt cutters slung over his shoulder. He said nothing, stalking away as Salvatore stepped out behind him.

  “There you are,” Sal said, eyeing Carmine.

  “Yeah, I, uh . . . just got here. ”

  “Ah, well, you missed the fun!” Sal said. “It’s over now. ”

  “Damn. ” Carmine slipped the phone back in his pocket, relief washing through him. “I got here as fast as I could, sir. ”

  “It’s all right, dear boy,” he replied, throwing his arm over Carmine’s shoulder. “You missed the demonstration, but you can still take notes. ”

  He pulled Carmine into the apartment before he could object.

  The place was vacant of furniture, the old wooden floor covered in grime. Sal led him to the bathroom and Carmine froze in the doorway the moment he caught sight of the body in the bathtub. The man’s arm was slung over the side, his hand secured to the nearby sink with a pair of metal cuffs. He was stark naked and covered in blood, his brown eyes wide open and a look of sheer terror covering his pale face. Duct tape was wrapped around his head, completely covering his mouth.

  A blue tarp carpeted the floor, catching the excess blood splatter, but most of it coated the bathtub and sink, the white porcelain wet with bright red. It smelled like metal, the sickening taste of copper tingling the back of his throat.

  Carmine averted his gaze, trying to avoid the dead man’s eyes, and Sal laughed at his reaction. “First dead body?”

  “No,” he said. “You know it’s not. ”

  “Ah, yes, Maura. How could I forget?”

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