Sempre redemption, p.39
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       Sempre: Redemption, p.39

         Part #2 of Forever series by J. M. Darhower
Page 39


  Vincent glanced around. Corrado was blocking the main exit of the church. There was nowhere for him to go, no way to leave unless Corrado allowed him to pass. “It’s been six months since my last confession. ”

  “Six months,” Corrado repeated. “I’m sure you have a bit of repenting to do then. ”

  Vincent scoffed. “Probably not as much as you. ”

  Corrado let out a laugh as he pulled his hands from his pockets. Vincent’s hair bristled when he saw the black leather gloves. It was a sight he knew well, the sight of the man at work. He was like a reaper, a malicious spirit ripping the life from men before vanishing undetected, leaving no trace of himself behind.

  Corrado’s victims rarely knew what hit them. Most never even saw him as he snuck up on them in the night, firing a single shot through the base of their skull, severing their spinal cord and killing them instantly. It was neat and tidy, painless and quick. He was in and out and on to the next thing within a matter of minutes. Corrado wasn’t in the business of torture . . . unless you made him mad.

  When Corrado got angry, when he took things personally, a different side of him emerged. The ugly, green monster burst forth, ripping through his calm skin, and nobody was safe from his rage when that happened. He never made a mistake, never got sloppy, but the otherwise unruffled man was no longer merciful. He would tear a man to pieces, slowly, methodically, until everything left behind was no longer recognizable.

  “Did Sal send you?” Vincent asked, trying to keep his voice even.

  Corrado shook his head. “I came on my own. ”

  Not business. Personal.

  Corrado took a step forward then, tugging his gloves to make sure they were on tight, and Vincent instantly took a step away. He did it again, and again, and again, like the two of them were doing a deadly tango.

  “I don’t want to believe it,” Corrado said, “but seeing you here—seeing you like this—I can’t help but wonder if it’s true. ”

  “It’s not how it seems,” Vincent said.

  Corrado shook his head. “It never really is, is it? But that’s irrelevant, and you know it. You crossed a line, and it doesn’t matter why you did it or what you planned to do on that other side, the fact that you went over there is inexcusable. Lupo non mangia lupo. How many times did we hear your father say that when he was alive? How many times? Wolves don’t eat wolves. We don’t turn on our own. ”

  “You’re right,” Vincent said. “If you can’t trust your own kind, who can you trust?”

  “No one, according to your son,” Corrado said. “Non fidarsi di nessuno. Did you even stop to think about how this is going to affect him? How this is already affecting him?”

  Thoughts of Carmine made Vincent’s chest ache. “Is he okay?”

  “Of course he’s not okay. He’ll never again be okay! It’s his job to kill you!”

  Flinching from the hostility, Vincent took a few quick steps back. “You can’t let him do it. ”

  “I don’t plan to. ” Corrado stealthily moved with him, not missing a beat.

  A loud voice echoed through the cathedral then, stalling them both. Father Alberto stepped out of his office, scowling. Corrado backed up, putting some space between him and Vincent, as the priest swiftly approached. “Gentlemen, I’m not a man to judge, and I’ve never condemned you for your life choices, but there comes a point where enough is enough! You don’t bring that into the house of the Lord. This is a place of worship, of love, of acceptance. We’re always open, but only to those who check their sinning at the door. ”

  “You’re right. ” Corrado shoved his hands back into his pockets. “This isn’t the time or the place for this. ”

  “And what, exactly, are you two squabbling over?” the priest asked. “You’re family!”

  “It was a misunderstanding,” Vincent said. “That’s all. ”

  “Right, a misunderstanding,” Corrado agreed, clearing his throat. “If you’ll excuse me, I should be going. I have business to handle later tonight. ”

  Father Alberto raised his eyebrows at him. “I hope not too late. I expect to see you planted in one of these pews tomorrow morning. ”

  “I wouldn’t miss your service for anything, Father,” Corrado said, looking from the priest to Vincent. “It’ll all be finished before the sun comes up. ”

  He turned, casually strolling toward the exit as if he had not a care in the world. Vincent and Father Alberto both watched, remaining silent until Corrado disappeared outside into the night. Vincent sighed, running his hands down his face in exasperation. Not good. Not good at all.

  “Oh, Vincenzo, what have you gotten yourself into?”

  “A situation with no way out,” he said quietly.

  “I don’t believe that,” Father Alberto said. “There’s always a way out. ”


  Father Alberto was quiet, staring at the door Corrado had disappeared out of as he pondered Vincent’s question.

  “That’s what I thought,” Vincent muttered when the priest supplied no response. “I guess there are worse things to be than dead. ”

  “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest,” Father Alberto said, quoting Matthew 11:28. “As true as that may be, I don’t like you sounding so defeated. You should never give up. ”

  “I’m not giving up, Father. I’m giving in. I’ve fought against the current for a long time, but in the end I got swept downstream anyway. And I can’t keep swimming. I can’t. I’m too damn tired to do it anymore. ”

  “So, what, you just let yourself drown?” Father Alberto asked with disbelief.

  “No,” Vincent said. “I wait for someone to throw me a lifeline, and then I drift away. ”

  “And what if no one does? Certain things are unforgiveable. Don’t do anything you’ll regret. ”

  “I have faith I won’t have to. ”

  Father Alberto shook his head. “You look terrible, Vincenzo. Come, I have an extra cot in the back for you to get some sleep. ”

  “I shouldn’t. ”

  “Then at least eat something and freshen up. ”

  He wanted to refuse, but the thought of food and a shower was too tempting to resist. Following Father Alberto to the back, he scarfed down two sandwiches and a bag of chips as the man sat across from him, studying him with his concerned eyes. “Is there a reason you came here tonight?”

  “Advice,” he said. “My father used to have this saying: chi tace acconsente. I just wondered what you thought about it. ”

  Chi tace acconsente. Silence gives consent. Antonio DeMarco believed if you wanted something, if you believed in something, it was your responsibility to fight for it. If you remained silent, if you just stood back and did nothing, then you had no one to blame but yourself when nothing happened.

  “I believe your father was a wise man,” Father Alberto said. “I may not have agreed with his choices, but I always admired his beliefs when it came to family and responsibility. And it’s true—if you stand for nothing, you’ll fall for anything. ”

  Vincent’s brow furrowed. “Is that scripture?”

  Father Alberto smiled. “No, I believe it was Alexander Hamilton. ”

  “Thanks, Father. ” Vincent stood. “I’ll take that shower now, if you don’t mind. ”

  Father Alberto showed him to the small bathroom. Vincent stripped out of his clothes, sighing as he pulled the simple gold necklace from around his neck, setting it on a shelf beside the towels. He squeezed into the shower, the stall so tiny he barely fit inside, and scrubbed with a bar of unscented soap. After washing his hair, he got out and dried off, putting his dirty clothes right back on again.

  Vincent walked away, avoiding Father Alberto and any sort of good-bye as he made the inevitable journey to the exit. He covered his head with his hood again when he stepped outside, his hair still damp. A nice breeze hit his face as he stopped on the top of the church steps and peered ou
t at the empty street.

  A chill ran through his body, but it had nothing to do with the cool night air.

  “Corrado. ” He greeted him quietly, not bothering to look at the figure lurking in the shadows beside the steps. He knew he would be out here, waiting for him.

  “Well, Vincent, we could call you a lot of things, but a coward certainly isn’t one of them. ”

  * * *

  “Come on! We’re running behind!”

  Corrado stood in the upstairs bathroom, early morning sunlight streaming in the window as he stared at his reflection in the small mirror. He was already showered and dressed, but he had done little else to prepare for the day. Exhaustion infiltrated every cell in his body, clearly visible in the lines on his face. He studied them, surveying every mark and blemish, every gray hair on his head and every blood vessel in his tired eyes.

  “Do you hear me, Corrado? We’re going to be late!”

  Celia stepped into the bathroom, frowning. Without saying another word, she walked up behind him and fixed the collar of his shirt.

  “Twenty-seven years,” he said, meeting her eyes in the mirror. “We’ve been married for almost three decades and you still have to fix my tie most days. ”

  She smiled. “It’s hard to believe it’s been that long. ”

  “I know,” he said, glancing from her reflection back to his. “I’m showing my age. ”

  Celia laughed as he turned around to face her. “You’re still as handsome as the day we met. ”

  “And you’re even more beautiful. ”

  He leaned down and kissed her softly, enjoying the feel of her lips on his own. She broke the kiss within a matter of seconds, though, and wrinkled her nose when she pulled away. “You’re quite a bit scruffier now, though,” she said, rubbing the prickly hair on his jaw.

  “I didn’t feel like shaving,” he said. “Don’t have the energy today. ”

  “You do look tired,” she commented, her hand moving from his face to his hair. “Did you get any sleep at all?”

  “Some. ”

  “You got in really late last night. ”

  “Yes. ”

  He gazed at her, seeing the questions in her warm brown eyes. Where were you? Where did you go? What did you do? Who were you with? Who did you hurt? They were questions that nagged her, always on the tip of her tongue, but she would never ask and he was grateful for it. He didn’t want to lie to her, and there was no way he could tell her he had stalked her only brother a mere few hours ago like he was prey, cornering him like a wounded animal in the same church they were headed to.

  “Well, come on,” she said, looking away from him. “We still have to pick up Mom, and you know she hates being late. If we don’t hurry, she’s going to complain the entire time. ”

  Corrado stepped out of the bathroom, shutting off the light, and followed his wife out to the car. Neither said much on the drive to Sunny Oaks Manor where Gia DeMarco had resided for the past few years. Corrado was never fond of the woman and her harsh tongue, but he had the utmost respect for her.

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