Sempre redemption, p.35
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       Sempre: Redemption, p.35

         Part #2 of Forever series by J. M. Darhower
Page 35


  “Where the fuck were you?” Carmine spat, hastily approaching the table.

  Remy looked up at him, his bloodshot eyes widening. “Shit, man, what happened to you?”

  “What happened?” Carmine laughed bitterly, pulling the towel away. Blood seeped into the white material, the sight of it making Carmine even dizzier. “What happened is we had a fucking job tonight and you were nowhere to be found!”

  Remy sat up abruptly, reaching for his phone. “Shit, shit, shit,” he chanted, scrolling through his missed calls and messages. “I didn’t hear my phone, man. I swear. ”

  Carmine grabbed the closest chair and shook it, nearly knocking the girl sitting in it to the floor. She jumped up and Carmine took her seat, shaking his head. “Yeah, well, it was a fucking ambush anyway. ”

  “No way!” Remy shook his head with disbelief. “The docks?”

  “Sycamore Circle. ”

  “Fuck. ”

  Fuck. Carmine shook his head. Fuck was right.

  “Look, man, have a drink or something,” Remy said, standing up. “Let me check on the others. ”

  “Give me what you’ve got,” Carmine said, grabbing his arm before he could walk away. “I need . . . fuck, I need something. ”

  Reaching into his pocket, Remy pulled out a small packet of powder. “You might want to take it easy on it. It’s not what you’re used to. ”

  Carmine ignored him as he walked away. He dished some of the powder out onto the table and inhaled a bunch of it, breathing in line after line, carelessly, recklessly. He needed the excitement . . . needed the fear erased.

  Relaxing back in the seat, he waited for it to hit. Two or three minutes passed before the euphoria washed over him, intense and blinding. He reveled in the sensation, letting out a shuddering breath of relief, and waited for it to level out, but it didn’t. It grew and grew, mounting deep within him and overtaking every cell in his weary body until there was nowhere else for it to go. It seized his frantically pounding heart, slowing it so intensely that it nearly stalled the beats.

  His breath left him in a whoosh as his entire body was swarmed in a sense of peace—no more fear, no more anxiety, no more nothing.

  It overwhelmed him, too much, too fast, too intense. The burning in his cheek was replaced with pins and needles, his eyelids drooping so fast he nearly lost consciousness right away.

  “Fuck,” he muttered, running his hands down his face in an attempt to stay awake, smearing the blood from his wounded cheek.

  The music suddenly stopped, the atmosphere shifting as the darkness in the club grew. It took over everything, consuming him, but a familiar voice cut through it and called his name. “Carmine!”

  Carmine looked in the direction of the sound, blinking a few times, and saw Corrado’s rapid approach. It seemed in slow motion, shuddering movements like a spastic strobe light. He tried to speak, but he couldn’t get any words to form.

  “Stay awake, kid,” Corrado said, his voice calm and collected. Carmine started at him briefly, trying to obey, but the drug was stronger. Despite a crack across his face that sent stinging exploding under his skin, Carmine’s heavy eyelids closed.

  The club erupted in chaos, but Carmine was only vaguely aware before he slipped completely into the drug-induced blackness.

  * * *

  Beep . . . beep . . . beep . . .

  What the fuck?

  Carmine pried his eyes open, squinting from the harsh fluorescent lights. The beeping echoed through the small, secluded room, coming from a cardiac monitor to his left. The monitor spiked with each beep, coinciding with each heartbeat in his chest. It was strong, steady. He stared at it, following the wires straight to his body, surveying the IVs and tubes connected to his skin. He lay in an uncomfortable hospital bed, draped in a flimsy gown and covered with a white sheet.

  Something moved on the other side of the room. Carmine turned his head, his attention suddenly shifting away from his own predicament. Corrado stood in front of the window, peering out at a large parking lot. He didn’t turn or speak, his hands shoved in the pockets of his pants.

  Before Carmine could make sense of any of it, the door to the room opened and a nurse walked in, followed by a doctor. The doctor, white haired and clad in a lab coat, carried a thick chart in his hands. He looked at Corrado with hesitation before turning his gaze to Carmine in the bed. “Mr. DeMarco, it’s nice to see you awake. ”

  “Uh, yeah. ” Carmine’s throat was scratchy. He cleared it before speaking again. “What am I doing here?”

  “You don’t remember?” the doctor asked, glancing down at the chart. Carmine remembered going on the faulty job and then making his way to the club to wait for Corrado, but the rest was a black haze. “Well, you were brought in a few hours ago, unresponsive from an overdose. ”


  “Your labs indicate a few drugs in your system, but you overdosed on heroin. ”

  Carmine blanched. Heroin?

  He absorbed nothing else as the doctor talked about Narcan and counteragents, drug rehab, and long-term side effects. Dread once more bubbled up inside of him, brewing in his bloodstream. His muscles were locked up, everything strained and painful. He felt like a fucking Mack truck had hit him.

  “We’ll run a few tests and have you out of here by tomorrow,” the doctor said. “Until then, try to get some rest. ”

  The man’s eyes darted to Corrado again before he excused himself, the nurse leaving with him. The tension in the room quadrupled upon their exit. Carmine lay there, trying to find the words to address the situation, but Corrado beat him to it.

  “The rules are simple,” he said, still staring out the window. “We don’t have many, but the ones we do, we expect to be followed. Stay away from drugs and stay out of the limelight. Which part of that didn’t you understand?”

  “I, uh . . . look, I didn’t mean for it to go that far, I . . . ”

  “I don’t want to hear your meaningless excuses, Carmine. How long have you been doing it?”

  “A few weeks,” Carmine admitted. “Two months at most, I guess. ”

  “You guess?”

  “Well, I haven’t kept a fucking calendar or anything. ”

  “You will talk to me with respect. ” The tone of Corrado’s voice sent a chill down Carmine’s spine. He wasn’t speaking as family—he was addressing Carmine as his superior. “Do you understand?”

  “Yes, sir. ”

  “Good. And what in the world possessed you to do a job out at Sycamore Circle? Everybody knows that’s Irish territory!”

  “I, uh . . . I got a text. ” Carmine looked around for his phone, spotting his clothes laying in a heap on the floor. “I thought you ordered it. ”

  “Must’ve been Sal,” Corrado muttered to himself, shaking his head. “Three men were hospitalized, you know. One nearly died. And you just fled the scene . . . fled to go get high. ”

  “I went to find you,” Carmine said defensively. “It was an ambush. They were waiting for us. ”

  “Of course they were. They warned us weeks ago. ”

  Carmine said nothing. He didn’t know what to say.

  “Do you know the history between the Italian and Irish in Chicago?” Corrado asked, glancing at him and raising his eyebrows.

  He nodded hesitantly, clearing his throat. “They hate each other. ”

  “It’s deeper than that,” Corrado said. “We’ve clashed since before Prohibition, when John Torrio was building our empire. He was diplomatic, believed just because we were criminals didn’t mean we had to be savages. Bugs Moran, the underboss of the Irish Mob at the time, tried to kill Torrio. He was severely injured in an assassination attempt, which forced him to hand over control to Al Capone. Capone continued what Torrio started, but he wasn’t above equal justice. ”

  “An eye for an eye,” Carmine muttered.

  “Exactly,” Corrado said. “Moran tried to kill Capone a few times but
failed. He wasn’t a very good hit man. A peace conference was called, where Capone said he believed Chicago was big enough for all of us. Said it was like a pie, where every gang should have their fair slice. ”

  “Makes sense,” Carmine said, even though he had no clue where the conversation was going.

  “Makes sense to me, too,” he said. “For a while, after that meeting, the bloodshed ceased, but it didn’t last. You know what happened next, right?”

  Carmine stared at him. “Uh, sorta. I was never good at history. I failed it in high school . . . both times. ”

  Corrado laughed dryly. “This is the history that matters . . . our history. Moran started killing Capone’s friends. Capone’s patience wore thin until he finally decided enough was enough. He sent some men dressed as police into Moran’s warehouse, lined six of his associates against the wall, and slaughtered them. ”

  “Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre. ”

  “The bloodshed stopped after that. And it’s only because we’ve respected those boundaries, because we’ve shared the pie, that we’ve had peace. ” Corrado paused. “All of this ends now, Carmine. If I ever hear of you touching drugs again, if it doesn’t kill you, I will. I won’t allow you to become a heroin addict. ”

  “I didn’t know it was heroin,” he said. “It was supposed to be Molly, you know, MDMA. ”

  Corrado turned from the window. “This is Molly? I thought you had a girlfriend by that name. ”

  “You thought I was seeing someone?” he asked. “That’s crazy. ”

  “No, crazy is infecting your system with illicit intoxicants for a thrill instead of indulging in something safer, like a woman. ”

  Carmine shook his head. “There’s only one woman for me. ”

  Corrado ignored that, turning to stare out the window once more. “This is the same room, you know. It’s been remodeled, but it’s where they kept you when you were shot. I felt déjà vu this morning, seeing you lying in that bed. The only difference is your father isn’t here now. I can only imagine how he’d feel, seeing you treat your life so carelessly . . . a life Maura died to protect. ”

  The beeping from the monitor was momentarily erratic at the mention of Carmine’s parents. Shame seeped under his skin as his uncle continued his lecture.

  “I need to be able to trust you, and so far, you’ve given me every reason not to. You can’t continue to disrespect me, to disrespect the organization your grandfather helped build. It’s bad enough your father . . . ” Corrado trailed off, his posture going rigid. He stood frozen, a cold stone statue, and his voice matched it when he spoke again. “Don’t tarnish the DeMarco legacy any further. ”

  Carmine’s voice was hardly a whisper. “Yes, sir. ”

  Corrado strolled over to the hospital bed. “Where’d you get them, anyway?”

  “Get what?”

  “The drugs, Carmine. Where’d you get them?”

  Carmine shook his head. “I, uh . . . ”

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