Sempre redemption, p.23
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       Sempre: Redemption, p.23

         Part #2 of Forever series by J. M. Darhower
 
Page 23

 

  16

  The knock on the office door was so timid Corrado barely heard it over the music in the club. He ignored the faint tapping, his gaze trained on the dingy briefcase on the desk in front of him.

  After a minute or so, another knock sounded. Still weak. Hesitant. Again, Corrado ignored it.

  Mafiosi knew they were supposed to carry themselves with confidence, especially when dealing with the most dangerous of men. He didn’t care if his men were staring down Lucifer personally, surrounded by brimstone and hellfire leading them straight to eternal damnation. They needed to keep their composure, be prepared to fight, and never ever let their fear show. The streets were ruthless and their rivals wouldn’t hesitate to make a move at the first sign of weakness. Vulnerabilities were exploited, and the worst thing they could do was come off as uncertain. It didn’t matter if they were wrong—they needed to always appear right.

  And Corrado, most certainly, was not convinced.

  It took a while for the third knock to come. It was louder, more determined. “Come in,” he yelled, sitting back in his chair and glancing at his Rolex as Remy Tarullo entered, tentatively shutting the door behind him.

  “You wanted to see me, sir?”

  “I did,” he stated. “I told you to be here at nine. It’s nine oh three. You’re late. ”

  “But I was here,” he said defensively. “I was out in the hall. ”

  Corrado raised his eyebrows. “You have the audacity to make excuses?”

  “No, I, uh . . . ”

  “I’m not interested in what you have to say. It’s meaningless to me. I don’t care if you’re run down in the parking lot. You had better drag your mangled body in here with enough time to be in my office when I tell you to be in my office. Nothing short of death is reason enough to be late. Do you understand me?”

  “Yes, sir. ”

  Corrado could smell his fear. It reeked, filling the office with the sickly-sweet scent of sweat and panic. Remy was tall and skinny with shifty eyes, but they were more about his sudden fear and less about deception. Was he hiding something? Maybe, but he didn’t let it show. He had been called into a Capo’s office—a wise man knew those situations didn’t often end well. But he came, shoulders square, head held high.

  What he lacked in brains he made up for in guts.

  Remy was a decent earner and good at what he did, never once getting caught, which was why he had entrusted Carmine to his crew.

  “Word around is you’re the best at picking locks,” Corrado said.

  “Uh, yes,” he said. “Not to brag or anything, but I’ve yet to find a lock I couldn’t pop on the first date. ”

  Remy grinned, trying to break the tension, but Corrado didn’t find it funny. He just stared him over, pondering whether he was the right one for the job.

  Tense silence ensued. Remy stood in place, making no move to sit. “Aren’t you going to have a seat?” Corrado asked.

  Remy’s eyes darted to one of the empty chairs, but he still didn’t move. “You didn’t invite me to sit down, sir. ”

  Maybe he was smarter than Corrado originally thought.

  “Can you get this open?” he asked, turning the briefcase around to face the boy. Remy took an immediate step forward, his eyes narrowing as he studied the small lock.

  “Uh, yeah, I think so. ”

  “Think so or know so?” Corrado asked. “If you’re not certain, turn around and walk out that door. I’ll find someone better equipped to do the job for me. ”

  Remy cleared his throat. “With all due respect, sir, there is no one better equipped. If I can’t get it open, nobody will. ”

  Touché. Corrado nodded, motioning toward the briefcase, silently permitting him to prove his worth. Remy eyed the lock for a moment before reaching into his pocket and pulling out a small tension wrench and a pick. Corrado watched, fascinated that the boy carried them with him. “Do you make it a habit to keep tools in your pocket?”

  “Yes,” he replied. “You never know when you might need to pick a lock or hot-wire a car, so I try to keep what I’d need on me just in case. Same reason you always carry a gun, I’m guessing. ”

  “Do you carry a gun also?”

  “Not always,” he admitted. “I tend to only have it when I think my life might be on the line. ”

  “Do you have one with you now?”

  Remy hesitated. “Yes. ”

  Corrado smiled at that and relaxed back into his chair, tapping his foot to the beat of the music from the club. Two songs from Sinatra’s Greatest Hits passed before Remy made any progress, a smile lighting the boy’s face as he finally jimmied the lock. The briefcase cracked open, not wide enough to see inside, but enough for Corrado to take over.

  Remy returned his tools to his pocket and took a step back. “It’s all yours. ”

  “You’re not going to ask me what it is?”

  “No. ”

  “You’re not at all curious?”

  “Well, of course, but it’s none of my business,” he replied. “If you wanted me to know, you would’ve told me, right?”

  “Right. ” Corrado stood up, motioning for the boy to follow him as he stepped out of the office and met up with one of the security guards in the hallway, standing watch outside the office door. “Tell the bartender Tarullo’s drinks are on the house. Anything he wants, he gets—no questions asked. ”

  The guard nodded. “Yes, Boss. ”

  Corrado stepped back into his office, shutting the door and locking it before strolling over to the desk. He pried the briefcase open and blinked rapidly as he eyed the contents.

  A lone VHS tape.

  Corrado had considered a lot of things—guns, money, gold, even body parts—but an old movie had never crossed his mind.

  The worn carton encasing it crumbled as soon as he picked it up. He tossed that part aside and surveyed the black tape, finding no label. It was seemingly blank, but Corrado knew better. Someone had gone to great lengths to hide that videotape.

  Stepping back out of the office, he looked at the security guard again. “Fetch me a VCR. ”

  The man’s brow furrowed. “A VCR?”

  “Yeah. ” Corrado waved him off impatiently. “Make it fast. ”

  Twenty minutes passed, then thirty, and finally forty-five before the guard returned with a used VCR cradled under his arm. He passed it off to Corrado, who took it into the office and closed the door. Plugging it in, he hooked it up to the small television on the corner of his desk that displayed the security feed.

  Immediately a movie started playing, a cartoon with a princess and an obnoxiously catchy tune blaring in the background. Corrado grimaced and ejected the tape, throwing it aside before carefully inserting the one from the briefcase.

  Nothing happened for a moment; the numbers on the VCR counted away, but the screen remained as black as night. Corrado was about to give up, feeling duped, when the screen flickered and up popped a face he hadn’t seen in years.

  Frankie Antonelli.

  The footage jumped and rolled. Corrado pushed the tracking button, trying to straighten it out, but nothing helped. He gave up and sat back in his chair as Frankie started to talk, the sound cracking and buzzing when he turned up the volume.

  “I, uh . . . I’ve never been a religious man. I come from a religious family, my pop’s a devout Roman Catholic, just like my granddad back in the old country, but me? Naw, I never believed it. I don’t believe in prayer or salvation, don’t believe in Heaven, but I do believe in Hell. I got to. I live in it. ”

  Frankie ran his hands down his face as he paused. “I don’t believe in confession . . . you know, asking for forgiveness and all that . . . but I get why the guys do it. We ain’t never gonna be forgiven for the shit we do, but it eases the conscience. It’s hard to walk around every day, carrying so many secrets. And I got secrets. I got plenty of sins in my book. And I ain’t asking to be forgiven for them, I ain’t aski
ng to be saved, but I gotta get them out. I can’t carry them around anymore . . . not when I spend every day in this Hell, staring at them in the face. ”

  Corrado’s stomach dropped, coldness creeping through him. He felt the urge to eject the tape, throw it in the trashcan and set it on fire. What kind of wise guy—what kind of man of honor—breaks his vow of silence on video? He was disgusted, disgruntled, and downright angry.

  But another part, deep down inside, rendered him immobile. Maybe it was curiosity, or maybe instinct, but something forced him to keep watching the tape.

  For the next thirty minutes, Corrado stared at the screen, stunned speechless as a man he once considered a mentor, a friend, a brother, who turned into a traitor, a coward, a rat, spilled a secret that shocked even him. He had seen it all, he had done it all, but the words Frankie spoke, the horrific truth that spilled from his lips, was something Corrado couldn’t begin to fathom.

  Unimaginable. Appalling. He felt sick.

  Corrado’s disgust only grew with each word, his contempt now unwavering. Everything he believed, everything he knew, had been put into question by a shaky half hour of spineless confession.

  “So, yeah, that’s the truth,” Frankie said quietly, shaking his head as if in disbelief at his own words. “I have to live with what I did . . . what I helped do. I ain’t gonna apologize for it, or like I said, ask forgiveness. I had to do what I had to do. But I carried it with me for a long time, and I couldn’t carry it anymore.

  “If someone’s watching this, I’m probably long dead. I won’t be surprised if it’s this that gets me killed. I’ve been feeling it lately, the feeling that something’s going down that I don’t know about, so maybe it’s only a matter of time before this comes out. And maybe I deserve to die for this, but I ain’t the only one. No, if this is how it ends, if this is how I escape from this Hell to go to the next, I hope the devil goes down with me, too. It’s only fair, since he controlled it all. ”

  Frankie leaned forward and shut off the camera. Corrado stared at the black screen, the office swallowed in uncomfortable silence.

  Shell-shocked. It was the only word to describe how Corrado felt.

  Getting his bearings straight, he ejected the tape and locked it in a desk drawer. He unhooked the VCR and grabbed the cartoon, meeting the security guard in the hallway once more. “Where’d you get this?”

  “Stole it,” he said. “Broke into a few houses down the block until I found one. ”

  Corrado shoved it back to him. “Return it. ”

  The guard blanched. “What?”

  “You heard me,” he said. “What kind of jackass steals from a little girl?”

  17

  Time heals all wounds. Il tempo guarisce tutti i mali. It’s been said time and time again, but what they don’t talk about are the jagged scars left behind. What they don’t tell you is that sometimes, when ignored, the wounds fester.

  What started as a scratch, barely scraping the surface, will turn into a gaping gash, ripping and tearing at the flesh, until all that is left is a jumbled mess of frayed nerves and broken organs. The pain demands to be felt, and you don’t even notice until it is too late. Until it cripples you, bringing you to your knees.

 
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