Sempre redemption, p.4
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       Sempre: Redemption, p.4

         Part #2 of Forever series by J. M. Darhower
Page 4


  “Look, Corrado was clinically dead. The human body is resilient, but the brain is vulnerable. It’s rare for someone to make a full recovery if they’re down for more than three minutes. ”

  “How long was Corrado down?”

  “Four. ”

  Carmine seemed speechless, his mouth open but no words coming out.

  “I’m not saying he won’t be fine,” Vincent continued, not wanting to alarm his son, but he couldn’t lie. He couldn’t sugarcoat it. “I’m just saying it’s too soon to tell. There’s no way to say what type of long-term effects Corrado will endure. ”

  “You mean like brain damage?”

  “Yes, but not just that. ” Vincent absentmindedly fumbled with the case file on his desk again. “Death has a way of changing people, son. When faced with our own mortality, we tend to start seeing the world differently. What once mattered may not be a priority anymore, and that’s not always easy for others to accept. We rejoice when people are saved, when lives are spared, but sometimes you have to stop and think, At what cost? Are we just prolonging the inevitable? Are we intervening when we have no right? Are we tampering with fate? We want them to live, but we have to consider that maybe they’re better off . . . not. ”

  It wasn’t until Vincent looked over at his son that he realized he had said too much. Carmine’s eyes were wide yet guarded, his mouth once again agape.

  “I’m just rambling,” Vincent said, backtracking. “I’m exhausted and stressed and don’t know what I’m saying. Your uncle is going to be perfectly fine, Carmine. He defied medicine by even waking up, so there’s no reason to believe he won’t continue to do so. After all, according to the media, the man’s made of Kevlar. ”

  “I’ve heard,” Carmine said. “Mom tried to keep us from it all, but Dom and I used to see the newspaper headlines in Chicago. Corrado Moretti, the Kevlar Killer . . . arrested dozens of times but never convicted for any of his crimes. ”

  “Alleged crimes,” Vincent said. “I lost count on how many times he’s walked away from things that should’ve taken him down. ”

  “That’s a good thing,” Carmine said. “Since he has a record of beating charges, the two of you will probably get off of this RICO shit. Problem solved. ”

  “It’s a nice thought, but there’s a problem with that theory,” Vincent said. “The prosecution filed to have our cases tried separately, so I think I’m on my own. ”

  Carmine started to respond, but a voice stopped him before he could even get two words out. Vincent stiffened as he glanced past his son, seeing Corrado in the doorway to the office.

  “You’ll be perfectly fine,” Corrado said, his voice flat.

  “You think so?” Vincent asked.

  Corrado nodded slightly. “We both will be. ”

  Vincent would have said more had he not been alarmed by his brother-in-law’s sudden presence. He had showered, his slightly curly hair still damp, his face smooth from a fresh shave.

  “I’m going to bed,” Carmine muttered, standing up and bolting out of the room before Vincent could wish him a good night. Corrado stood in place for a moment before strolling into the office, sitting down in the chair Carmine had just vacated. He said nothing, but his eyes stared into Vincent intently.

  “How much did you hear?” Vincent asked.

  “Enough. ”


  “And I think you’re right about people changing,” Corrado replied, “but I don’t think you were talking about me. ”


  The shrill sound of a familiar ringing phone shattered Carmine’s light slumber. He forced his eyes open, slapping beside the bed to find the offending object. He cursed as he accidentally knocked it off the stand, sending it crashing to the bedroom floor.

  “Turn it off,” Haven mumbled, not even opening her eyes.

  “Fuck, I’m trying,” he said, snatching his phone off the floor. He groaned as he answered it. Salvatore. Again. “Yes?”

  “You don’t like to answer promptly, do you?” Salvatore asked with a hard edge to his voice. Definitely not a social call this time.

  He glanced at the clock, seeing it was a few minutes past four in the morning. Haven had been asleep when he made it upstairs . . . or pretending to be asleep, more likely. He could still feel the tension between them, the conversation she was obviously avoiding having with him.

  “Sorry, sir,” he said, covering his burning eyes with his forearm as he lay back down. “It’s just kind of fucking early. ”

  “You’re full of excuses, aren’t you?” Sal asked. “And you didn’t have Corrado call me like I asked. ”

  “He was asleep, and I, well . . . ” He had forgotten. “I fell asleep, too. ”

  “Well, it’s a good thing you’re awake now, because you need to pick up a package in Charlotte. ”

  “Now?” Carmine asked incredulously. Charlotte was two hours away, and it was Christmas Eve. The last thing he wanted to do was leave Haven alone all day.

  He laughed bitterly and Carmine clenched his free hand into a fist. The sound grated on his nerves. “Yes, now. ”

  Salvatore rattled off an address. Carmine jumped out of bed and rooted through his desk for something to write with, grabbing a cheap BIC pen with a chewed-up cap. He spotted one of Haven’s notebooks and grabbed it, flipping it open to the back and scribbling down the address as Sal hung up.

  “Just great,” he muttered, staggering over to the closet. “Just what I need. ”

  “Where are you going?” Haven asked.

  He glanced at her, seeing her eyes were open now. She watched him with confusion, and he spouted off the first thing that came to his mind. “I need to finish Christmas shopping. ”

  “Now?” she asked with disbelief. “Is anything even open?”

  “They will be by the time I get there,” he said, hoping she wouldn’t press him about it. He dressed and kissed her quickly, running his hand across her cheek as he brushed some wayward hair out of her face. “I’ll be back later, tesoro. ”

  Haven mumbled incoherently, her eyes closing once again.

  Carmine grabbed his things and the notebook, heading out of the house as quietly as he could, and climbed into the Mazda to start the trip to Charlotte. He had a hard time focusing on driving, his vision hazy from exhaustion, and ran off the road a few times. He cursed, agitated, and turned up the music while rolling down the windows, hoping the noise and cold air would keep him awake.

  He arrived in Charlotte shortly after dawn and drove around for twenty minutes to find the address. It turned out to be a dingy hole-in-the-wall barbershop, the bricks crumbling and the barber pole barely hanging on to the ancient building.

  Carmine grabbed the gun he kept tucked under the seat and stuck it in his waistband before getting out of the car. He headed toward the building and grabbed the door but it wouldn’t budge, so he pressed the square black doorbell underneath the mailbox. A loud buzzer went off and he cringed at the obnoxious noise, hearing commotion inside before the door opened.

  A light-skinned black man stood before him, a tattoo on his neck and his hair halfway braided. Carmine could see the gleam of gold teeth in his mouth, his neck and ears framed with diamonds. He didn’t look to be someone Salvatore would ever do business with. He briefly wondered if he had the wrong address.

  The man stepped to the side before Carmine could consider fleeing, motioning for him to come in.

  The interior was just as raggedy as the outside, everything covered in wretched-smelling filth. Carmine surveyed it with disgust as the guy slammed the door behind them and staggered across the room. He reached into his pocket for a pack of cigarettes, sticking one in his mouth and another behind his ear before crumpling the empty pack and tossing it on the floor.

  “DeMarco’s kid, right?” the man asked. “You don’t look like your daddy, though. You sure you’re his? I think your mama might’ve fucked around. ”

ing his eyes, Carmine’s hands violently shook as he reached for his gun.

  The guy caught on and put his hands up defensively. “Damn, you might be his boy, after all. Neither of you can take a joke. ”

  “Don’t talk about my mother,” Carmine spat as the man turned his back to him and opened a cabinet.

  “Whatever you say,” he muttered. “Tell me something . . . do you have a girlfriend?”

  “Excuse me?”

  “You fucking deaf?” he asked, turning back around. Carmine tensed when he saw him grab a Glock 22 from the cabinet and point it without hesitating. Carmine aimed his gun quickly, his heart racing wildly in fear as they locked in a showdown. The amusement had faded from the guy’s expression, his eyes sparking with anger. “I asked if you had a girlfriend. ”

  “Yes,” Carmine said, trying to keep his composure, but the guy was clearly unstable. The thought that it could be a setup ran through Carmine’s mind but he pushed it back, not wanting to consider that Salvatore would do that to him. Not now. Not like this. He hadn’t done a damn thing to deserve any punishment.

  “What’s her name?” the guy asked. “And don’t lie to me. I can find out on my own, but I don’t think you want me to. ”

  “Haven,” he said. “Her name’s Haven. ”

  “Good. ” The guy lowered his gun and grabbed a duffel bag from the cabinet. Carmine took it from him hesitantly, keeping his gun aimed just in case. “You have twelve hours to bring me my money. If it isn’t here by seven tonight, at a minute after seven I’m gonna be in my car and on the way to visit Haven to make her pay me for it. Understand?”

  “If you ever fucking touch—”

  “I said do you understand?” he snapped, raising his gun again.

  Carmine took a step back on instinct. “Yes. ”

  “Good. Now get out of my fucking shop before I shoot you for the hell of it. ”

  Shoving open the door, Carmine bolted outside in haste, the duffel bag feeling like it weighed more than him. He tucked the gun back away as he sprinted to his car, fumbling with his keys and cursing as he got the door unlocked.

  He heaved the duffel bag over to the passenger seat and sped off, wanting to get away from there. A few miles away, he glanced in the bag curiously and saw it was full of guns and ammunition. Slamming the breaks, stunned, he whipped the car into the parking lot of a nearby restaurant. He stared at the bag, wondering what he was supposed to do. He wasn’t sure if Salvatore had told him, considering he hadn’t paid attention, and he suddenly worried he was missing something.

  Carmine grabbed his phone and scanned through the list of contacts, stopping at his father’s name. He hit the call button and waited as it rang.

  “Carmine?” Vincent answered, sounding concerned. “Where are you? I saw your car was gone this morning. ”

  “I, uh . . . I think I need some help. ”

  “With what?”

  “I’m in Charlotte,” he said. “I got a call this morning to pick up something from some guy. He gave me this bag and said he wanted his money by tonight, but I don’t know what the fuck I’m supposed to do about any of it. What money?”

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