Sempre redemption, p.69
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       Sempre: Redemption, p.69

         Part #2 of Forever series by J. M. Darhower
 
Page 69

 

  “So you are?” Kelsey asked. “You’re moving?”

  Haven turned to her friend, guilt flaring inside of her. “I am. ”

  “Why?” Kelsey’s eyes darted from Haven to Carmine. “Let me guess . . . because of him. ”

  Carmine stood there, arms folded across his chest, mouth twitching like he was fighting the urge to interject.

  “No, not because of him,” Haven said. “For him. ”

  “Is there a difference?”

  “A smart man once told me there was. ”

  Kelsey sighed. “Look, Hayden, I—”

  “Hayden?” Carmine interrupted, brow furrowed. “What the fuck?”

  Haven frowned as she explained. “That’s my name here. ”

  “Why?”

  “Corrado’s idea,” she muttered. “He picked it. ”

  “Wait, what?” Kelsey shook her head in confusion. “Your name here? Jesus, is that not your real name? Who are you?”

  Uh-oh. “I can explain. ” Haven paused. “Well, actually, no I can’t. ”

  “You can’t?”

  She slowly shook her head. Kelsey’s attention moved to Carmine, who shrugged just as his phone rang. “I can’t explain either,” he replied, glancing at the screen before holding his phone up. “But maybe he can. ”

  * * *

  An hour later, after awkward bouts of strained conversation between the three of them, Corrado showed up at the apartment. He stood in the middle of the living room as Kelsey sat on the couch, watching him warily.

  “Do you know who I am?” he prompted.

  “An officer of some kind?” she asked. “Isn’t that what we decided?”

  Corrado smirked. “I’m Corrado Moretti. My father, Vito, died in prison while doing a life sentence for a murder commissioned by Antonio DeMarco. ” He pointed to Carmine. “Antonio was his grandfather. His name’s Carmine DeMarco, and his father, Vincent, died in a shootout at Salvatore Capozzi’s house. ” He pointed to Haven. “Salvatore was her great-uncle. Her name’s Haven Antonelli, and her father, Michael . . . well . . . let’s just say it all comes full circle. ”

  Kelsey gaped at him, her mouth hanging open.

  “We’re a family,” he continued. “Sometimes we fight, and sometimes we go our separate ways, but at the end of the day, we’re still a family. Do you understand what I’m telling you?”

  After a few seconds of hesitation, Kelsey nodded. “I grew up in New York. I know all about the, uh . . . ”

  “The family,” Corrado said, finishing her sentence for her.

  “The family,” she repeated. “My dad, he . . . ”

  “He’s a senator who was ushered into Congress based on his last name. His father—your grandfather—was the senior senator from New York who headed a special committee to investigate organized crime. It was because of his committee that my father was eventually convicted. ”

  “I, uh,” Kelsey stammered. Something flashed in her eyes. Fear? “I didn’t—”

  “I don’t believe in punishing the son for the sins of the father,” Corrado continued, cutting her off. “Your father doesn’t believe in it, either. He and I have a mutual understanding of sorts about it. ”

  “You do?”

  “Yes, you see, there’s no such thing as coincidence. There are no accidents in life. Everything that happens is the result of a calculated move that leads us to where we are. And where we are, Kelsey, is right here in this apartment, having this conversation that never happened. Capisce?”

  She nodded slowly. “Yes. ”

  “Good. ” Corrado started for the door. “Haven, Carmine, we’ll leave in the morning. I have one more loose end to tie up tonight. ”

  * * *

  The construction site stood still at near midnight, the equipment switched off hours earlier. There was no drilling, no shouting, no sawing—not even the hum of the generator echoed through the lot. It appeared abandoned, but a sliver of light shining from a window of the small trailer indicated otherwise.

  Corrado quietly slid through the lot under the cloak of darkness, avoiding going near the motion-sensor security lights that aligned the place so not to draw any unnecessary attention. He headed to the trailer, walking swiftly yet silently, and gripped the door with his glove-clad hand. It was unlocked and gave no resistance when he pulled on it, opening right away.

  Gavin sat hunched over at a small desk along the side, facing away from the door. His spine straightened when Corrado stepped inside, his shoulders tense and body rigid, but he didn’t turn around to look. His focus remained on the notebooks scattered in front of him, illuminated by a dim lamp on the corner of the desk. Lines and columns of names and numbers filled the notebook pages, various statistics written down as probabilities were worked out in the margins like elaborate algebra problems. To a naïve person it might have looked like he was a student studying diligently for an arithmetic exam, but Corrado wasn’t naïve . . . nor was he ignorant.

  “You should never sit with your back to a door,” Corrado said. “Didn’t your father teach you that?”

  “My father taught me a lot,” Gavin replied coolly. “One of the biggest things he taught me is that if Corrado Moretti shows up at your door, you’re about to have a really bad day. ”

  The corner of Corrado’s lips twitched. “It’s good to see you, too. ”

  Gavin’s shoulders relaxed a slight bit as he slowly turned around to look at him, his expression guarded. Corrado couldn’t blame the boy for being on edge.

  “Did you need something?” Gavin asked tentatively. “I’m just going through the neighborhood books, but if you need me to do something . . . ”

  “No, quite the opposite, actually,” Corrado replied. “I stopped by to tell you your services were no longer needed. ”

  Corrado reached into his coat swiftly and Gavin tensed once more, pushing his chair back against the desk as far as it would go. Fear shone from his eyes as he braced himself for something that never came. Corrado merely pulled out a thick envelope and held it up. “What’s the matter? Did you think I was here to kill you?”

  Gavin answered at once. “No. ”

  Knowing it was a lie, Corrado let out a sharp laugh as he tossed the envelope down on the desk, on top of one of the notebooks. “You haven’t done anything that warrants death . . . that I know of. But I appreciate your help and wanted to give you a little something to express my gratitude. ”

  Hesitantly, Gavin reached for the envelope and glanced inside. In it, wrapped together, was ten thousand dollars in crisp, new one hundred dollar bills. Gavin blinked rapidly as he skimmed through the cash but said nothing. Corrado had commissioned him months ago to keep an eye on Haven. Gavin had kept her safe during his absence, even periodically sending coded messages to the jail to update him.

  “That’s all I came for,” Corrado said. “I’ll let you get back to your books. ”

  He reached for the door to leave when Gavin jumped up from his seat, clutching the envelope. “Wait. ”

  Corrado turned back around. “What?”

  Gavin shook his head as he stepped forward. “I can’t take this. I know it was supposed to be a job, that I was supposed to keep an eye on her for you, but it doesn’t feel that way. It feels wrong to take your money. It feels . . . dishonest. ”

  Corrado raised his eyebrows. “That’s an awful lot of feeling, Amaro. Your father also should’ve taught you there’s no place for emotions in this life. ”

  “I know that,” he said, “but she’s not really a part of this life. I know you said she’s important to your family, but she’s just a girl . . . a regular girl. Being with her wasn’t work. It was kind of nice. And my father . . . well . . . one thing he did teach me was you don’t rob a friend. And taking this feels a hell of a lot like stealing. ”

  Corrado took the envelope and slipped it back into his coat with a shake of his head. “How did she get to you?”

  “Huh?”

&n
bsp; “I’m just curious how she won you over,” he replied. “How she got under your skin and made it worth risking offending me by refusing my money. ”

  Gavin sighed, his eyes drifting across the room to where a small white kitten lay, fast asleep in the corner. “Honestly? I don’t know how it happened. ”

  Corrado stared at him for a moment before turning to leave. “They never do. ”

  44

  Carmine stood quietly near the doorway of the art studio, leaning against the wall with his arms crossed over his chest. The large room looked almost like a warehouse, everything painted off-white except for the dark concrete floor. Bright fluorescent lights hung from the ceiling, illuminating the dozens of colorful paintings on display around the room. The artwork shone prominently, begging for attention, but nothing stood out more than the scene in the middle of the room.

  Haven sat on a small brown stool, a canvas set up in front of her. Crumpled paper littered the floor around her feet, sketches she had discarded tinged with splatters of paint she had spilled throughout the day. The messy chaos that surrounded her fascinated Carmine, considering she was the most naturally organized person he had ever met. She couldn’t let laundry pile up, floors needed to be swept every day, and dishes had to be washed as soon as they were dirtied. She believed everything had a place where it belonged, but at times like these, all of that went out the window.

  When Haven painted, it was just her and the canvas. A tornado could hit and take the roof off the building and she probably wouldn’t flinch. The apocalypse could come and Jesus could be standing right behind her, trying to take her to Heaven, and she would keep him waiting until she finished. No one interrupted her, not even Carmine, which was why he just stood there, waiting by the door.

  He didn’t mind, though. He enjoyed watching her. Seeing her there, listening to her humming as she worked a mere few feet in front of him, set his soul at ease. Not long ago he had been so close to giving up, exhausted by life’s sudden twists and turns, but she showed up right when he needed her the most.

  It had been a few months since she had moved to Chicago. A new school year started, and she had enrolled at a small art school downtown, while Carmine continued on with his life . . . the same life he had been involved in since leaving Durante. It was the same, the shift in power not altering his circumstances at all, but yet something was different. He approached it another way. He wasn’t as reckless . . . not now that he had a reason to come home at night.

  He still fucking hated it, though. Hated every second of life in La Cosa Nostra with every fiber of his being.

  Haven sighed loudly, the sound exaggerated in the empty room. She stood and pushed her stool back to pace back and forth in front of the canvas. The painting of the tree looked fine to Carmine, but he could tell she felt something was wrong with it. She added a bit more color to the trunk before blending some yellow in with a few of the leaves, setting her paintbrush down as she took a step back. She eyed the canvas intently, tilting her head to the side as if looking at it from a different angle would somehow change the image.

 
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