Sempre redemption, p.45
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       Sempre: Redemption, p.45

         Part #2 of Forever series by J. M. Darhower
 
Page 45

 

  “Do it,” he barked on the tape. “When I wake up tomorrow, I better not hear about him still breathing, or you might not be by the time I go back to bed. ”

  Corrado ran his hands down his face in frustration. How would his lawyer explain that one away?

  Tape after tape, threat after threat. Little in the way of proof but a whole lot of damning insinuation.

  They were all restless when the prosecution put on the last recording of the day. Corrado sat back in his chair, tensing when a familiar voice spoke through the speakers.

  “It’s done,” Vincent said. “Happened tonight. Finally. ”

  Corrado pinpointed the conversation immediately. He had been sitting at home when his brother-in-law called from Blackburn to say he had gotten Haven.

  “About time,” Corrado said. “How much did you pay?”

  “A quarter mil, cash,” he replied. “I’ve given more than that, though. ”

  “I know,” Corrado said. “You’ve paid a lot for that girl. ”

  “Yeah. ” Vincent sighed loudly on the line. “We all have. ”

  When those words hit him, Corrado shook his head. Trafficking in persons for servitude. Those words on his indictment made sense. Intentions hadn’t mattered, and often never do.

  DAY SEVENTEEN

  Expert witnesses.

  Corrado’s attention wavered as the prosecutor questioned an accountant on the stand. They were going through his financial records one transaction at a time, trying to find a large sum of money they could prove was acquired illegally. Corrado was quite bored, knowing they would find nothing substantial. As far as he was concerned, a few dollars here and there didn’t count.

  “Objection!” his lawyer interrupted the line of questioning. “I fail to see why it’s important to note how much Mr. Moretti spent for bathroom supplies in July. ”

  “Overruled. ” The judge motioned for the prosecutor to continue.

  More questions. More prying. More desperation. Corrado glanced at the jury, who appeared just as bored. Juror number six turned to him at that moment. He caught her eye, expecting her to look back away, but she didn’t. She stared, studying him, a look of curiosity in her eyes.

  “Objection,” his lawyer said again. “I fail to see the relevance in any of this. ”

  The judge sighed. “Overruled. ”

  It went on for two excruciating hours before the prosecution finished. Mr. Borza stood then. “Based on your calculations, what’s the total amount of money that went unreported at Luna Rossa last year?”

  “Uh, $15,776. 49. ”

  Corrado cringed. More than a few dollars.

  “Seems like a lot,” Mr. Borza said, verbalizing his thoughts. “But we’re talking about a club that made more than three million dollars last year, correct?”

  “Yes. ”

  “This unaccounted for money equals what, half of one percent?”

  “Fractionally more than that, but yes. ”

  “So more than ninety-nine percent of Luna Rossa’s revenue is right there in black and white. That half of one percent is the equivalent of blaming a man for losing a few pennies when he broke a dollar at the store. That’s hardly what I’d call an elaborate money laundering scheme. ”

  “Objection!” the prosecution declared. “He’s trying to distort the math. ”

  “Sustained. Move on, Mr. Borza. ”

  The ruling didn’t put off the lawyer. He had gotten his point across. “Could this half of one percent merely be a mathematical error?”

  “It’s possible. ”

  “So there may not be any missing money at all. ”

  “Objection!”

  “Overruled. ”

  “It’s possible,” the accountant said. “It’s usually why taxes are audited during a series of years for consistency and accuracy, since mistakes happen. ”

  Mr. Borza smiled as he sat back down. “Mistakes happen. I couldn’t have said it better myself. ”

  DAY TWENTY-TWO

  Testimony.

  Witness after witness took the stand, answering questions being fired at them. Former associates, a few La Cosa Nostra, testified to tales of mayhem, while shop owners and unlucky bystanders swore to what they knew. Not a single one of them would finger Corrado directly, but there was enough to loosely link him to the crimes.

  “Mr. Gallo,” Corrado’s lawyer started, addressing a former street soldier on the stand, “you testified that you, along with three others, were involved in a string of robberies in March of ninety-eight. Is that correct?”

  “Yes. ”

  “And what role do you assert Corrado Moretti played in all of it?”

  “He ordered us to do it. ”

  “Personally?”

  “Through text message. ”

  “So there would be record of these messages, correct?”

  “No, it was on a prepaid phone, a disposable. ”

  “And the messages came from my client’s number?”

  “No, it came from a private number. ”

  “Do you still have that disposable phone?”

  “No, it was destroyed. You know, uh, disposed of. ”

  “So, let me get this straight . . . you robbed these places because you received anonymous text messages telling you to, which you have no evidence of, and you expect us to just take your word that it came from Corrado Moretti?”

  “It was him. ”

  “What if I told you the three others you named in these robberies claim to not even know who Corrado Moretti is? They say it was a scheme the four of you cooked up on your own. ”

  “I’d say they were lying. ”

  “It’s possible all three are lying,” Mr. Borza said. “But isn’t it more likely it’s just you?”

  * * *

  A pin drop could be heard through the strained silence of the courtroom. The prosecutor stood beside his table, shifting through paperwork while everyone waited for him to speak. Nerves frazzled, the spectators were on the edge of their seats, eyes darting toward the big set of double doors every time there was a noise.

  A month into the trial, the prosecution was down to the last name on their witness list.

  Carmine held his breath, as did what seemed like half of Chicago crowded into the stifling room. He had avoided most of the proceedings—out of respect or selfishness, he wasn’t sure—but today was one day he couldn’t miss. He had to be there, had to see with his own eyes, face reality and learn the truth.

  He needed to know if his father was still alive.

  Had Vincent been located and taken into witness protection, nobody would know until he walked in, escorted by armed U. S. Marshals. But if he didn’t show, well . . . Carmine didn’t like to think about what that meant.

  He glanced around, his eyes drifting to his uncle. Corrado seemed relaxed, borderline bored as he leaned back in his chair, his eyes focused on the restless jury. Had he been like that the whole trial, confident and calm, or did he know something the rest of them didn’t?

  Carmine shifted his attention to the other side of the room where his aunt sat with Dominic. Neither had seen him come in, and he appreciated that. The last thing he wanted was forced family time.

  Mr. Markson cleared his throat. “Your honor, the prosecution . . . ”

  Carmine closed his eyes . . . Calls Vincenzo DeMarco to the stand . . .

  “. . . Rests its case. We have no more witnesses. ”

  Carmine reopened his eyes as the silence was abruptly shattered by a wave of murmurs. The judge banged his gavel for silence as Carmine stood, slipping out of the courtroom before they could continue.

  32

  Gavin became a regular fixture outside the art building on the west side of Manhattan. It was rare that he wasn’t standing there when Haven got out of her painting class, casually leaning against the wall as if there were nowhere else he needed to be.

  Haven spoke to him on the days she saw him, and he would
occasionally walk with her to the library on his way to the construction site a few blocks away, but he didn’t push his luck by asking for anything more.

  It was comfortable and easy, and she grew used to their strange arrangement after a while, enjoying their short conversations before they went their separate ways. It wasn’t much, but it was something. It was a connection, a blossoming friendship she found herself looking forward to those three days a week he infiltrated her life.

  Haven smiled to herself one Friday afternoon when they were strolling down the sidewalk, the crowd moving briskly around them, but they were in no hurry to get anywhere. Gavin filled the time by telling a joke he had heard at work, a vulgar one Haven didn’t quite understand, but she laughed at what she figured were all the right places. “You know, you kind of remind me of someone I used to know. ”

  “Really?” he asked, raising his eyebrows. “A boyfriend, maybe?”

  “No, not at all. He was just a friend. He liked to tell jokes. ”

  Gavin’s expression fell. “Am I being friend-zoned already?”

  Haven looked at him. “I don’t know what that means. ”

  He waved her off. “This friend of yours . . . was he anywhere near as handsome as me?”

  She laughed. “Not quite, but few are. ”

  “Shit, is that a compliment?” He stopped walking, dramatically blinking his eyes. “Are you flirting with me?”

  Haven rolled her eyes and refused to respond, continuing to walk. He had no choice but to move again to catch up with her.

  “Seriously, was that a compliment?” he asked. “I can’t tell when you’re being sarcastic. ”

  “I’m never sarcastic. ”

  “Oh. ” He paused. “Wait, was that sarcasm?”

  Haven shook her head. “It was a compliment. I meant it. ”

  “Wow, I’m shocked,” he replied, grinning widely. “I honestly thought you were still entertaining the idea of a restraining order. Good to know I’ve worn you down enough that you like me a little bit. ”

  She laughed. “I never said I liked you. I just said you were handsome. That says nothing about your personality. ”

  “Now I know that was sarcasm,” he declared.

  “I wouldn’t be so sure. ”

  He clutched his chest. “I’m hurt. ”

  Haven nudged him playfully with her elbow. “You’ll get over it. ”

  * * *

  A sheet of notebook paper was taped to the glass of the locked art studio door that Friday, class cancelled scribbled on it with pencil. No explanation—just no class.

  “Awesome!” Kelsey dramatically fist pumped in celebration. “No class!”

  Haven frowned. She always looked forward to painting. “Wonder why?”

  “Who cares?” Kelsey asked. “I have extra time to hit the computer lab and work on my design project now. Maybe I won’t be stuck in the house all weekend after all. ”

  “I guess that means I have time to . . . ” Haven trailed off, unable to think of something to do. “go to the library. ”

  Kelsey laughed. “You spend more time there than at home. ”

  Haven shrugged. It was probably true.

 
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